"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

59 Days: Wordless Wednesday MNSSHP 2012

60 Days: FastPass Day!!!!!

I know I already wrote of my FastPass+ plans, but 60 days out is FastPass Day, so I thought I'd tell you how it went.

We finally got John's band schedule nailed down, and we are going to be leaving for Disney from Cary on the Saturday night before Halloween, so our park visits will begin on Sunday, October 30 and we'll leave about lunchtime on the following Thursday.

My FastPass+ strategy is pretty unique to our trip. Most of the published touring plans have the goal of getting as many attractions fit into as little time as possible. We have different priorities. It's a good example of why you should either know Disney's systems well enough to sort out your own plans, or talk to someone who does before you make your own plans. To be right for you, they need to fit your needs. In our case, we have some sort of special circumstance affecting each day's plans.

On Sunday, we're headed to Hollywood Studios, but doing so on likely just a few hours sleep. We will be leaving directly from a band competition on Saturday night, maybe as late as 8 or 9 pm, so we may not get to Coronado Springs until the very wee hours. I don't know how early we will get up, but we will definitely not be rope dropping.  We only get two FastPasses for this park, and Rock'n Rollercoaster wasn't available (hoping that doesn't mean it's closed....), so our first reservation is for Tower of Terror in the early afternoon. I looked through the other options and didn't see anything that was likely to offer a huge line we needed to avoid, so I made our second FastPass for Fantasmic, ensuring us seats for a show we haven't seen in probably ten years.

Monday is Magic Kingdom day but we have the Keys To The Kingdom Tour in the morning and MNSSHP at night, so our window for FastPasses runs from about 3-7 pm. I made one for Jungle Cruise at 2:30 thinking we may be able to make the hour-long window, then for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and finally one for the Dumbos just before the party begins just because I had one more and Dumbos fit.

Tuesday is Epcot, but we are looking to spend a good bit of time at the Food and Wine Festival, so I took that into account. I figure we'll rope drop this park and hit Soarin' first so I made my first FastPass for Test Track at 10 am as our second stop (or third if we can fit Livin' With The Land in first). I spread our next two out into the afternoon and evening with Mission space around 3 pm and Spaceship Earth around 7 pm. My idea is bounce back and forth between Future World and World Showcase so we can graze at the food booths. We'll see how that works.

Wednesday is the most "normal" day we have and it will be Animal Kingdom day. We'll rope drop the safari then head to Expedition Everest with our first FastPass. It's an Extra Magic Hours day, so that should work out well. Our next FastPass is for Dinosaur in the early afternoon and our last is Kali River Rapids just before the park closes at 5 and we head off to dinner at Morimoto Asia, hopefully giving us ample time to dry.

We'll be leaving Thursday, but will spend a good half day at Magic Kingdom first. I just fit in two FastPasses for this day with Space Mountain early then Tomorrowland Speedway at 1 so we can keep that our traditional last ride before we leave.

I think I've done well. The only other advance FastPass experience I have was on a one-day Epcot trip, but it worked well so I believe I have a handle on this. I will certainly be reporting back on the results!

Monday, August 29, 2016

61 Days: Mainstreet Electrical Parade LiveStream

I've been a huge fan of the Disney Parks Blog's LiveStream segments. Lisa and I watched the Fourth of July fireworks and I saw the Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire show on the Cinderella Castle forecourt stage. Both were the same format, introduced by a host who would talk to a guest or two with some connection to the upcoming show, then show the event, then the host came back on to say goodbye. But last night's was different.

First, a positive. While the past LiveStreams were only viewable during the live broadcast, this one is still up and watchable on YouTube. Here it is, for now. I understand it won't last forever.

Now for the downside. This wasn't nearly as well done a show. It began well enough, with the usual intro. Sure it was a bit longer than the past introductions, but that didn't bother me. The problem came about halfway through the parade when they went to an "on the street reporter" to interview a family of spectators. The a bit more parade and then back to the host for an interview. After that it was a mess, with a bit of parade then more spectators. What the heck?

I have no idea what they were thinking here. This was my, and many other people's, last chance to see this parade before it moves to Disneyland. I kind of feel cheated. I guess the first couple LiveStreams spoiled me.

Another plus, though, was watching this while on Skype with the crew of the upcoming (really, I promise) MouseLife podcast. I had hoped to record a practice show and a live viewing of the MSEP LiveStream, but the recording software wasn't cooperating. But even so, we had a ball watching together. It's a fun group. This bodes well :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

62 Days: Bringing MouseLife to Life

I mentioned in a earlier blog that I've been working with some new Twitter friends on creating a podcast. I volunteered to be producer and take on the technical side of things. Well, tonight is our practice show. I'm calling it a Tech Rehearsal, and I'm feeling about like I do before one of those.

It's been a fun few weeks, really. Everyone is pitching in and doing what they can to get this thing off the ground. Thanks to our Social Media Dude, John, we have a Facebook page and a Twitter (@MouseLifepod) account (Hint: you should go like and follow them). Shelby, who has volunteered to do the news, has done a bang-up job gathering tidbits and writing a truly professional-level script. Everyone has been offering great ideas, offering expertise in all sorts of Disney-related stuff and cheering each other on. Barry, who brought this group together, is the biggest cheerleader of all and we all owe him one for this incredible opportunity.

For my part, I've been having a ball. I like fooling around with tech, so while it took a few tries, getting to the point I was able to record a conversation on Skype was fun. I'm fascinated with the capabilities of the freeware Audacity, so playing with that today in preparation for editing tonight's show next week was cool. But the part that really blew me away has been talking to a real composer guy about show music.

We were in a quandary over intro music, not sure how to find something we were allowed to use.  Kathy in our group mentioned she had a composer friend and put me in touch.
Since then we've been back and forth over what will work best. We've chosen a song and now we are working on finding what kind of pieces he can break it up into to serve as intro, outro and even bumper music (for between segments). It's so cool, and a bit surreal, to be talking about this stuff wit a professional.

Speaking of professional. I got to buy Real Radio Announcer Headphones for this gig. Let's hope they are good luck. We begin less than an hour from right now. Wish me luck!


Saturday, August 27, 2016

63 Days: I'm On A Mission

An article I shared last year on Facebook popped up in my memories thing today and now I'm on a mission. World of Walt had an article last year about a new (then) "rest area" in the New Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom. It occupies the circus tent location of what used to be a Fantasyland FastPass distribution kiosk and features some chairs, stools and sofas along with some outlets for phone charging in a nice shady spot off the beaten path.

Wat's so exciting about some furniture and electrical outlets in an unused faux circus tent you ask? Well, you clearly haven't seen THIS SOFA!!!

See it? SEE IT???!!!??? That red and white and pink and for some reason also yellow thing with only one arm? My life won't be complete until I have my photo taken lounging on that glorious thing. It's calling out to me, I tell ya. I can see me now, my head on one end, my feet dangling where no arm is......it will be perfect.

Surely there will be PhotoPass photographer stationed by such beauty, but it was made for Instagram :-)

Friday, August 26, 2016

64 Days: Guy Fieri Comes To Disney Springs

I have no idea why this hasn't been bigger news among the Disney social media crowd, but Guy Fieri's signature sandwiches are coming to Disney Springs!

According to the OrlandoMyWay website, part of the refurbishing and re-imagining of the old Planet Hollywood will include Guy Fieri's signature sandwiches on a new and improved menu.

Looks pretty cool, huh?
I've never even had an inkling of a desire to visit the Planet Hollywood at Disney Springs. We went to the Myrtle Beach location while it was open and that was plenty. But I'm kind of loving what Disney is doing to their version. To make it fit into the new Disney Springs vibe, the outside globe motif is giving way to a sort of planetarium kinda thing. The artist's renderings look really good. I just figured that would make me less annoyed by what seemed to be an intrusion of Universal's City Walk onto Disney property, but if I can get a genuine Guy Fieri burger, I may be tempted to actually venture inside once it's finished. And as John is a HUGE Guy Fieri fan, I may not have a choice..... :-)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

65 Days: New Bus Routes To Disney Springs

I'm not saying Disney noticed that I needed to get from Animal Kingdom to Disney Springs during our trip this October, but I DID just make Morimoto Asia ADRs two days ago and this announcement came out today, sooooooooo......

Whether it was my vacation panning that brought it on or not, as of this Sunday Disney will begin offering Disney Bus Transportation from each of its theme parks to Disney Springs. Buses will run from 4 pm to 11 pm, or two hours after park closing, whichever comes first. There will be no transportation the other way, from Disney Springs to any of the parks. You'll still need to transfer at the nearest resort for that trip. Buses will depart Disney Springs for the resorts as always, making a trip for drinks after a day in the sadly dry Magic Kingdom easy as pie.

The awesome Kenny the Pirate has a good article on this addition where he predicts buses will arrive bound for Disney Springs about every 10-20 minutes at park exits.

Clearly this is Disney's way to encourage after-park dinners and cocktails and shopping, but it's another one of those win-wins, ya know? I WANT to go to Jock Lindsey's for a nightcap after a long day in the parks. Thanks, Disney!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

67 Days: To Plan or Not To Plan

I read this morning someone saying that planning out each part of a vacation is bad as it makes the entire experience seem like it goes by too fast. It makes even something you've not done before too predictable and robs you of potentially great spontaneous experiences. As someone on Twitter pointed out, that's about the opposite of what Disney pushes us to do. We are asked to plan dining reservations six months out and even schedule rides 60 days in advance. Is that a bad thing?

I'm in general a big fan of spontaneity in travel. I've decided upon waking up that I'd rather be in Charleston and off we went. We've gone on day trips and decided not to come home at the end of the day. It's not unusual for us to just want to GO and leave the driveway without any clear destination in mind. You'd think the planning and scheduling required for a Disney trip would drive me nuts. But it doesn't.

In reality, I am a huge fan of Disney planning. I even go on the Disney website and plan imaginary trips. Just for fun. For a real trip, I am online the minute I'm able scheduling ADRs or FastPasses. I know what we'll be doing and where we'll be doing it most every hour of our trips. Jeez, as I write that, it doesn't even sound fun to ME. But it is.

Done well, proper and thorough Disney trip planning can lead to a truly stress-free vacation. I'm lucky. I know my way around,between and through Walt Disney World's resorts and parks intimately and I plan accordingly. I know my family and what we like and thankfully we're a very mellow bunch, so scheduling to make sure we see everything in the least time isn't required. As odd as it sounds, I manically schedule us into relaxation.

Monday, August 22, 2016

68 Days: I Lack Adult Supervision

I mean you just innocently go on to check availability for adding a night to your October trip and before you know it you're talking yourself into Wilderness Lodge for that night instead of remaining at Coronado Springs. It's totally the website's fault. And my new friends' of the Small World Club Twitter community. They are, in the words of the lovely Miss Lisa, enablers. Not that she was any sort speed bump, she's just sitting next to me on the couch saying "Oh yeah, that sounds great. Do it!"

I lack adult supervision.

Adult supervision is totally over-rated.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

69 Days: FastPass Dreamin'

Home from our end of summer trip and finally got the final (hopefully) schedule for John's high school marching band competitions. That finally settles which day of our trip will be spent in which park, and just in time as my window for making FastPass reservations opens one week from Tuesday! How exciting is that?

We'll be leaving straight from John's last competition on Saturday, October 29 in Cary, NC. Not ideal, as we'll be driving through the night and that will make Sunday a bit sleepy for us. Seeing as Hollywood Studios is very much under construction, we'll spend Sunday there. Monday will be Magic Kingdom Day with the Keys To The Kingdom Tour and then Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. We'll hit Epcot and the Food and Wine Festival on Tuesday and Animal Kingdom on Wednesday. We'll leave Thursday, but are in no hurry so will probably be hitting Magic Kingdom again until lunchtime.

I'm thinking play it safe and secure afternoon FastPasses in the Studios, Rock-n-Roller Coaster for sure and also Toy Story if we can. We'll need to squeeze Monday's at the Magic Kingdom between the end of the tour and 7:00, so I'm think Seven Dwarves and Haunted Mansion (thinking it'll packed on Halloween). We may miss the new Frozen ride at Epcot in favor of the new movie version of Soarin', but definitely in the morning so we can hit the Food and Wine soon as it opens. I'm thinking we rope drop the safari at Animal Kingdom and use the FastPass for Expedition Everest later in the day.

This is just a basic, preliminary plan. I haven't even researched exactly how many we get in each park and what the tiers look like yet. I feel so behind already :-)

Any suggestions on the plan as it is so far?

70 Days: Adding To The List, Pisgah Inn Edition

This trip was in reality a business trip for the lovely and talented Lisa. The North Carolina Association of Municipal Clerks held its summer conference in Asheville, and since Lisa had a room anyhow, she wanted John and me to tag along. This was great for John and me as we got a vacation in Asheville, but we didn't get to see as much of Lisa as we'd have liked. Nor did Lisa get as much time to tour around as she's have liked. But Saturday afternoon afforded us time between lunch and a dinner reception to go adventuring as a family, so off we went.

Finally together on an adventure
Since John and I drove north on the Parkway on Thursday, we decided to take mom south, somewhere none of had yet been. It was raining as we left, but we were undaunted, because, I mean, why worry about something you can't change? We found a very nice visitor center, which everyone enjoyed despite my family mocking me on the way in over my love of informational signage and maps. Oh, and speaking of maps, I was woefully unprepared for this trip as I felt miserable the night before and didn't study my books or maps before we left. We survived.

Not only did we survive, we made a new discovery, the Pisgah Inn, the Peak of the Parkway. Well, it wasn't completely a surprise. I may have a little bit of a fascination with maps and my have (as John predicted on the way in) found one I didn't have in the visitor center. I saw on that map, while the boy drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway (how cool is THAT!!??!!) and I was in the back seat, the little dude-in-a-bed symbol on the Parkway and hoped we'd make it that far before having to turn around.

The clouds made it even more beautiful
The ride up was awesome. The rain stopped, or we drove above it, and we were treated to cloud-covered mountain views to the east and clear as a bell mountain views to the west. It was a pretty package and quite a treat to get such different views on one short trip. And there were tunnels, which are always fun.

Lisa took a few tunnel photos....
We finally did make it all the way to the Pisgah Inn, which sits plop on the side of the mountain at nearly 5,000 feet. All the rooms have porches or balconies looking out over the Pisgah National Forest, there's a restaurant and a general store. Rooms are not cheap, but nothing in Asheville or the vicinity is and at $155/night, it is really pretty reasonable considering the view.

So now we have unspecific yet very real plans to go stay there for at least a long weekend. Turns out the drive to the Asheville area isn't as long as we thought. We could leave here in the morning and be in Asheville by early afternoon. It's a totally do-able long weekend.

So, one more destination added to the list :-)

71 Days: Pinball Inflation

I'm a little behind on the blog, but catching up, so here goes :-)

There's really few better father/son bonding experiences than a pinball museum

Anne Margaret's boob lights up. Perfect.
On Friday, John and I visited the Asheville Pinball Museum. I can't say enough about this place, it's so cool! For a $13 admission you get to play all you like on dozens of pinball and classic video games. They are all set to "free play," so you're 13 bucks is all you all need. They limit the number of visitors, so you'll need to get there at opening as John and I did or call ahead and check to see how long the wait is. This is a great system, though, as it keeps it from getting too crowded and having people wait for a game to play. We jumped from table to table for a couple hours and had a complete blast.

Turned out to be both John's and my favorite
The pinball machines ranged from a fairly modern Lord of the Rings to some really simple older ones from the sixties. One thing really struck me.....pinball has been hit with inflation. I don't mean the price to play, but rather the scoring. The oldest machines had four digit score counters (they flipped after 9,999) and the bumpers got you ten points. The machines from the '70s added a digit and the bumpers generally got you 100 points. The newest machines were digital and went up into the tens of millions, one I noticed required 15,000,000 for a free game.

Of course part of this that as technology grew there were more "things" that got one points, so I suppose you had to hike up the total possible. But I wonder if some of it was sociological. I'm thinking people liked scoring high and moved to machines that gave them a higher point total for about the same skill level. It's human nature, I think. And it's kind of funny to see it play out in pinball machines.

As one of my favorite college professors would say, "Someone needs to do a thesis on that."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

72 Days: Always Go A Little Farther

That's today's lesson from our adventures in and around Asheville. Twice today we didn't settle for what we found and pushed on and found something even better.

Our first mission was breakfast. We walked down to the part of town where we ate dinner last night and had seen lots of restaurants and such. We quickly found out much of Asheville begins work at 10 am, and this was only a bit after nine. We saw a bakery and cafe that looked like a likely spot, but decided to walk down the street a bit and see what else was open. A second option appeared and looked more our speed, but seeing there was only about a block more of businesses on the street, we walked on a little farther.

The very last business on the road was Mamacita's Taquieria. And they served breakfast. The sandwich board outside advertised a $4.20 Wake-N-Bake Special. We felt this was our spot. It was unbelievable! John's breakfast burrito contained tater tots. Tater tots. And I can't even begin to tell you how delicious the huevos rancheros were. They played Bob Marley music and the staff laughed as they went about serving customers and prepping for lunch. The place, and the experience, was perfect.

Since the weather turned out to be absolutely beautiful, we made today our Blue Ridge Parkway and Mt. Mitchell excursion day. It was a wise choice as blue skies combined with some poofy clouds low in the valleys made for an almost otherworldly experience at the high altitudes. After walking up to the summit and the viewing tower (more of a platform) at Mt. Mitchell's peak, we saw a little nature trail that went out into the woods and doubled back to the parking area, so off we went.

There were a few paths leading off this well-marked trail and John led us off on most of them. One in particular was great. It led to a big rock outcrop forming a nice little overhang. But the trail went on, getting a bit narrower, but still clearly there. As that path went on, it got more and more sketchy, but we thought we could and should go a little farther. It ended on the south side of the mountain offering views similar to the peak, but without the other tourists and through a curtain of alpine trees. It was spectacular. And quiet. And a bit awe-inspiring.

The point is, in both instances we could have stopped at the first thing, which was good, or the next, which was better, but by going a little farther we found more personal experiences with less company and more satisfaction in feeling like true explorers. We are "hey, what's around the next bend?" kind of guys, John and I. And I'm very thankful for that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

73 Days: Off To Asheville

I had planned to make this another Wordless Wednesday using photos from today's trip out to Asheville. But we've only been here about 4 1/2 hours and I already gots words!

Today's trip was long, but with a couple stops it wasn't horrible. Our first stop was Guilford Community Technical College for a tour of the Entertainment Technology department. John is interested in pursuing a career as a sound engineer and this was recommended as one of the best programs for such in the nation, so Lisa scheduled a tour led by Tom Johnson, head of the department. The tour went great, and Mr. Johnson and the facility and program look to be all we could hope and more.

John was impressed with GCTT, here he is in front of their amphitheatre
We left High Point and I took a wrong turn somehow and headed east instead of west on I-40. After I figured that out and turned around and backtracked, we were off with plans to visit the quaint little mountain town of Hickory for lunch. We did get to Hickory for lunch, but as it is the least well-signed and most convoluted pile of street names (they are all numbers, going every way, with at least two Main Streets I saw neither of which leads to any sort of pleasant part of town) in the state, we ended up at Mellow Mushroom just off the ramp back onto I-40 WEST (heh heh), which was delicious, but not what we envisioned.

Leaving Hickory, we finally saw the mountains I was looking forward to seeing. They were covered with rather impressive clouds. Then those impressive clouds sprouted some spectacular (and a bit scary) lightning. Then rain. Lots of heavy rain. On mountain roads in a car prone to slip and slide under any sort of dampness. That wasn't fun. By the time we emerged from the storms were finally closing in on Asheville.
Safely through the storms :-)

We found the hotel lickety split and checked into a 7th floor room with a terrific mountain view. Then it was time to get out into a new city and have a look around.

Room with a view :-)
Charlton Heston got is start right here!
Turns out our hotel is directly next to Thomas Wolfe's boyhood home, now a museum, and the Asheville Community Theatre. We are right in the thick of Asheville's downtown, which is totally cool. So, off we went.

Asheville, if you aren't familiar, is North Carolina's Hippy City. John and I started counted Bernie bumper sticker as soon as we got here. It's that kind of town. We were looking forward to hippy watching and boy were we not disappointed!

We weren't out of the hotel 15 minutes before overhearing someone asking for "vegan nail polish remover." Oh, and it had to be animal cruelty-free, of course. Upon leaving that store we saw a guy sort of wandering in a circle banging on a tambourine. I don't think he was busking, I think he was just wandering in a circle banging on a tambourine. The real buskers were more professional, and quite good. We shopped Mast General Store, ate at a noodle house and had chocolate from a chocolate shop. All in all a great beginning.

Tomorrow, it's more exploring, hippy-watching and a trip to the Pinball Museum. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

74 Days: Adventuring At Home, Town Creek Kayaking edition

I began a 4-day vacation today but don't leave for Asheville until tomorrow, so John and I took the opportunity to have a little adventure at home. We had planned to take the kayaks across the river and paddle out to Shark Tooth Island, but the marching band scheduled a practice for this afternoon, so with our time cut short we decided to stay in Brunswick County. The Brunswick Nature Park offers a great kayak launch on Town Creek and we'd never been there so off we went.

Brunswick Nature Park is a wonderful little spot with minimal facilities and a focus on the "nature" more than the "park." The park borders Town Creek, a smallish river that runs from Brunswick County's northern interior into the Cape Fear River, and the kayak launch is a perfect access point for the lower reaches of the creek. We had intentions of paddling all the way to the NC133 bridge over the creek, but didn't quite get that far on our 3 1/2 mile round trip (band camp beckoned, ya know).

A good kayak launch takes some of the adventure out of setting off....
The scenery was gorgeous. The creek is bordered by wetlands with stark, bare trees sticking up throughout. We saw two osprey nests, a bunch of ospreys, crabs and an alligator. Yes, an alligator. We both hoped to spot one, but the reality was a bit of a shock. We say a "thing" moving up the creek against the current. At first I thought it was schooling fish but it soon became clear it was one critter swimming very close to the surface and sticking a nose up occasionally. We thought it was a turtle, so we went to get a closer look. We did get a closer look alright, especially John, and saw that what we thought was a largish turtle was in fact just the head of an alligator. I couldn't guess the size of the thing, we really only saw about half its nose, but it wasn't a baby.

An osprey nest
We decided we'd let Mr. Gator go his own way and carried on downstream excited and more than a little unnerved. We discovered a tide data collection station, a fallen tree making a fun little bridge to paddle under and lots more (less exciting) wildlife on the rest of our journey. The paddle back to the dock was a little more strenuous than we had anticipated (darned tide), but we made it back, packed up, stopped for Dippin' Dots and made it home in plenty of time for John to head to band practice.

Tidal Data Station
All in all, it was just the start to a vacation I had wished for. I'm looking forward to the rest. Hope you don't mind the break from Disney, Pooh Sticks is going on the road!

Happy boy :-)

Monday, August 15, 2016

75 Days: Disney Rocks

Disney Rocks, courtesy of Blog Mickey's wonderful photography
I'm not saying Disney rocks here, though it does, what I am writing about are the rocks in Disney parks. Blog Mickey put up some very nice photos of some new rocks emerging at the entrance to Tomorrowland. They are in the process of being painted, it would seem. They are very nice, and because they are new, I'm sure I'll be compelled to photograph them extensively in October. But that's really just a hook to what I really want to write about.

Our family has a running argument about the Disney rocks. It gets heated. It did just yesterday as I mentioned I was planning to write this blog post. You see, way back on our first trip to Walt Disney World together, a graduation present trip with my parents and sister in the summer of 1993, Lisa asked the fateful question while standing in a queue (I think for Big Thunder Mountain).

"Are these rocks real?" she said.

I think I just looked at her kind of slack-jawed. My dad was even at a loss for words, a rarity. When we regained our composure, much mockery ensued, and continues to this day. I thought it was cute, I gotta say. I figured she was caught up in the Disney Magic and was Believing in the the man-made boulders. But as time has gone by, Lisa has put forth an interesting argument. She says that since the man-made boulders are made of some sort of cement-like material, and that cement is made from basically lime (a rock) and sand (also small rocks) that Disney rocks are indeed "real" rocks. We, on the other hand (me, my dad, my son), argue that since they are man-made, they aren't "real."

It's an argument on the scale of chicken vs. egg, of Coke vs. Pepsi, of Less Filling vs. Tastes Great. It comes up whenever a rock (real or man-made) is around, which is pretty often. We'll be walking on a trail on Grandfather Mountain and John will wonder aloud whether those rocks are real. Then it begins. There's yelling. And laughing. And sometimes pouting. But it's one of those things that ties our family together, and I'm happy for it never to be resolved.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

76 Days: Pete's Dragon reboot

I'm a huge fan of the original Pete's Dragon. I believe I still have the soundtrack LP downstairs as a matter of fact. I will be the first to admit that I wasn't thrilled with the idea of a remake. Then, when the first images were released and I saw the forest setting, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be going to see it. It wasn't that I wanted a carbon copy of the first film, going in a new direction was a great idea to not spoil the original for people like me. I was afraid this was going to be another Lorax, yet another preachy morality tale about how evil capitalist loggers are and how the underdog spirit of the forest has to teach them to conserve Mother Earth's vital resources. But the more I heard and saw from the movie, the more intrigued I was. The CGI Elliot was undeniably cool. Matter of fact, it's the resemblance of his facial expressions to the looks of the original animated Elliot that made me decide I really must see this film. And I'm so very glad I did.

I walked in still not convinced I wouldn't be watching a Sierra Club commercial. When I saw it set in a logging town and a logger was confronted about "going too far in," I thought "oh well, here we go." But that plot line never developed. The loggers were portrayed as real human beings who happened to pursue forestry as a career. The man who owned the logging company, or at least ran it and stood to inherit the business, was one of the "good guys." His younger brother was the closest the film has to a human antagonist, but he isn't driven by greed. His failing such as it is, is that he's in the shadow of his older brother and wants to be someone on his own. He's not a bad guy at all. Disney portrayed loggers as people. I love Disney.

Pete's Dragon is about family and acceptance and loyalty. The real antagonist is misunderstanding. Oh, and it's about magic. That is what has me sold on this movie. It contains that little nugget of magic that makes all the best Disney stories great. Robert Redford completely owns this film, in my opinion, thanks to his grandfather character's 30 second explanation of magic to his grown daughter. It's absolutely brilliant and something Walt would have loved and something you, as a Disney fan, need to see as soon as you can.

The rest of the film is hugely entertaining as well. The CGI Elliot is every bit the dragon you may remember, and will work his way into the hearts of kids who've not seen the original just as animated Eliot worked his way into mine. Oakes Fegley portrays Pete expertly. He has few lines, really, as a child who raised himself in the woods should. He conveys his thoughts and feelings with facial expressions and body language that is impressive for a young actor. The rest of the acting is good as well, and everyone is Disney-pretty as they should be. The film was shot in New Zealand, so the scenery is out of this world beautiful. The story has ups and downs, it pulls on the heart-strings and may elicit a tear or two on the way to a suitably happy ending.

Pete's Dragon is great for any child old enough to sit through a movie and is a must see for any adult who has any spark of magic alive in his or her soul.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

77 Days: #5ThingsINeverDidAtWDW

This hashtag has been floating around Twitter this week and I figured I'd take a stab at it as a blog post. I'm thinking the caveat is that it should include things I haven't done but want to do, so that's how I'm coming at it. These are in the order as they come to me :-)

#1--Kali River Rapids-- We've tried to ride a few times, but the line was longer than we wanted to wait. Also, the lovely Lisa is hesitant to hit this too early as she doesn't want to wander around in wet clothes all day. I'm going to make a concerted effort to fit this in on this trip because I really do love this kind of ride, and I think John would really enjoy it.

#2--Wilderness Lodge-- I hadn't even been to visit the place before our anniversary trip last September, and now that I have it's on my list of have-to-do's. It doesn't enjoy monorail service to the Magic Kingdom, but it the alternative is a BOAT ride!!! I love that, and it reminds me of the Fort Wilderness trips with my family growing up. The resort is absolutely beautiful, too, and seems really tucked away. I think it would make a perfect home base.
I totally want to stay here

#3-- Amphibicar--I mean if I'm going to drive one as my Dream Disney Job someday, I had better ride one first, right?

#4-- Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table-- This is quite pricey. We're talking over $200 per person with an additional $100 for wine pairings (and how could you not do the wine pairings?). But this is one of the very best restaurants in Florida if not the nation and with up to 13 courses prepared just for you right in front of you by some of he best chef's in the business, we're really and truly planning to indulge in the experience. Disney Food Blog has a mouth-watering review. 

#5-- Treehouse Villas-- I remember seeing these when they were brand new and they captured the imagination of our family. I had about forgotten them until John and I chanced upon them while cruising the Sassagoula River in a rented boat. If you haven't ever seen these, they are built like treehouses, with the living area in a round, second story space. It's soooo cool. They've apparently been refurbished and are ready to rent as part of the Saratoga Springs resort and Spa. They sleep up to 9, so I'm thinking maybe a trip with my sister and brother-in-law and the kiddos someday....
The best way to tour the Sassgagoula River

Friday, August 12, 2016

78 Days: Rogue One Is Going To Rock

A new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered during the Olympics last night. I missed it, but just watched it on YouTube, and OH MY GOD!

One of the things that struck me about The Force Awakens was the way in which it took old war movie visuals and repackaged them in the Star Wars universe while managing to keep them somehow authentic. The troop ships that drop the stormtroopers to attack the village in the opening scenes are very much like WWII landing craft. The flamethrower segment was one of the most intensely war-like in any Star Wars film to date, because it was our time and place's tech being used. The tie fighters coming out of the sunset was straight out of Apocalypse Now, and in a good way, in a tribute but not a copy way. The dog fights scene between the ties and x-wings over the lake was totally reminiscent of Tora! Tora! Tora!. It all served to make the fantastic world of Jedi and the Force and spaceships and laser rifles seem much more believable, more relatable and more real.

The Force Awakens

Apocalypse Now
It looks like Rogue One is doubling down on this concept. The city fight scene involves what appears to be stormtrooper riot police, and I think that because they look and act like real riot police we see on the news. The thing in this movie's trailers that captures my interest most, and has since them very first one, is the tropical beach setting. Seeing AT-AT walkers on a tropical beach complete with palm trees is blowing me away. And in the foreground we now see a good bit of the infantry battle going on in the water and on the beach. This too strikes me as very Apocalypse Now-ish. The whole thing looks like a traditional war movie translated into the Star Wars setting.

Is it December yet?