And on a MUCH happier note, I'm very pleased that after a few delays on my part, The Disney Readwatch has started up over on Tor.com, with Snow White.

I look forward to destroying more childhoods.
1. Flashmobbing can be indeed organized with a few days notice (like, two) and two hours of practice.

2. When following the directions of flashmobbers, it will often feel as if Google Maps is your best friend. Or even your only friend.

3. As is shade. Shade is good. Shade is very good. What happened to Florida this April? I miss you, delightful Florida Aprils! Oh, wait. This is supposed to be about flashmobbing not weather. Back to that.

4. Astonishingly, about one third of the people who show up will claim to have never flash mobbed before. About half of them will claim to be unable to dance.

5. You will wonder just how this is going to work.

6. As it turns out, this works by choreographing a dance specifically for people who can't dance. Also, fist pumping.

7. As it also turns out, thanks to this, people who are not, in fact, professional dancers can, in fact, do flash mobbing on a regular basis – say, at least once or twice a week.

8. Which also means that Orlando and Tampa are the sorts of cities that host flash mobs at least once or twice a week.

9. Orlando and Tampa may be a bit weird.

10. You can, as it turns out, fist pump and air guitar from the wheelchair.

11. Hiding in the back corner will not prevent people doing what is apparently meant to be a King Tut dance move from King Tutting right into your wheelchair.

12. You will be told that the one thing you never, ever do as part of a flash mob is call it a flash mob.

13. You will then decide that you are calling it a flash mob anyway.

14. First grade teachers join flash mobs to get out their frustrations. "At a certain point you need more than crayons."

15. Since everyone has to type things into tiny, tiny, keyboards, it will take a surprisingly long time to tell everyone where the flash mob is actually going.

16. "Everybody knows this Hilton, right?" "It's the one across from downtown Disney!" "Right!"

17. That will turn out to be wrong.

18. Orlando has far too many Hiltons, even if the first Hilton you head to turns out not to be a Hilton.

19. The second Hilton is, in fact, a Hilton, but is not the Hilton you are looking for.
20. Google Maps is your friend.

21. Parking garages are not your friend.

22. This particular Hilton will turn out to have not only a convention center and a splendid view over a championship golf course but also a lazy river and 24 hour chocolate.

23. You will realize that certain things have been missing from your life: namely, lazy rivers and 24 hour chocolate.

24. What high powered, wealthy attorneys call "business casual" and what the rest of us call "business casual" are two entirely different things.

25. You can be in "business casual" and feel terribly, terribly, underdressed.

26. Until you see some people in Mickey Mouse hats and gloves and cheer up.

27. All of the planning that goes into a flash mob can be destroyed in a second when the flash mob realizes that the area they can flash mob in is considerably smaller than the already not large rehearsal area.

28. It is nearly impossible to have a casual conversation about not having enough space for a surprise flash mob without letting the audience know that a flash mob is coming.

29. Hint: if part of your flash mob experience includes having to put on bright orange sunglasses, make sure that you have not placed your bright orange sunglasses into a bag with a zipper that more than occasionally gets stuck. Otherwise the sounds of "WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK AND ROLL!" will boom out and you, rather than fist pumping, will find yourself wishing you had indeed bought a second bag with a working zipper from Target.

30. You can fist pump while putting on bright orange sunglasses.

31. Conga lines are much more difficult in a crowded room full of attorneys. They are much much much more difficult in a wheelchair in a crowded room full of attorneys.

32. A surprising number of people will want a picture of the group afterwards. You, however, will want chocolate. Because.

Frozen

Dec. 17th, 2013 10:30 am
And continuing in the spirit of the season -- Frozen! Which I actually saw a couple weekends back, but forgot to post about. Anyway.

I should hate Frozen. I really should. It's a blatantly commercialized Disney film with several elements carefully designed to sell toys (hi, cute trolls that otherwise have no role in the plot, hi cute snowman who was less annoying than the trailers suggested) and several other elements clearly designed to make the obviously forthcoming Broadway adaptation much easier. It features princesses, two of them, that can easily be added to the incredibly popular Disney Princess lineup. (I swear, I run into little Disney princesses at the grocery store these days, and I live around Disney employees, not Disney tourists.) It has two scenes that can be made into Disney rides.

Essentially, it is as if Disney employees sat down and said, ok, what do we need to make money and make as many cross promotional products as possible and how much of this can be thrown into the movie? Got it? Great.

Also, for some reason Disney marketing keeps insisting that Frozen is "inspired" by Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen.

They, er, both have snow.

And yet, despite all this –

I loved it.

Primarily because of a seriously awesome scene where one of the princesses announces that she has just HAD IT with being good and SINGS AND SINGS AND SINGS and a GIANT ICE PALACE THRUSTS UP (don't think I didn't notice, Disney) as her Oh So Innocent Costume is transformed into a slinky number that seriously but seriously shows off her legs.

Also, ice art.

You go, Disney Princess. You go.
To my surprise, I found myself at the Children's Miracle Network PGA Tour event (this means "golf") last weekend, this a surprise largely because I forgot it was last weekend.

Anyway. The Children's Miracle Network is hosted by the PGA Tour at Walt Disney World on their Magnolia Course, this important mainly because that means that officials and employees and volunteers from multiple different groups – Disney, ESPN's Wide World of Sports, the PGA Tour, Children's Miracle Network, and the Orange County Sheriff's Department are all meandering around, not always consistently or agreeably. Since it's at the end of the tour, it's typically attended mostly by golfers who have not exactly done brilliantly in the past year and are thus desperate to earn their tour card for the following year, which adds another touch of tension to the event. Fail here, and, well, it's a lot of work to get back into the PGA tour.

We could not help noticing a few small differences between the Children's Miracle Network Golf Tournament held at the Magnolia Course at Disney, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, held at Bay Hill, and a few small differences between this event and literally any other event held at Disney. For instance:

1. This is the only golf course where you enter and leave through a Disney gift store, which sells very cheerful golf shirts embroidered with Mickey.

2. This is also the only golf event where one of the bunkers is shaped like Mickey Mouse. (The accompanying sign cheerfully says that the bunker "never fails to draw a smile" no matter "where the ball happens to land on this very difficult hole. On a related note: no kidding: in order to avoid the water you almost have to aim your ball directly at Mickey's ears. Now that's a sentence I didn't think I would be typing.)

Also, this is the only golf event featuring a topiary of Snow White and one of the dwarfs. And where the PGA volunteers hold up signs saying "Please be as QUIET AS A MOUSE" because ha ha.

3. This is also the only golf course where you can constantly hear the Mickey Mouse train in the background. In fact I think it's easier to hear the Mickey Mouse train from this golf course than from inside the Magic Kingdom. Maybe the Seven Seas Lagoon echoes and enhances the sound. I don't know. It does go along with the various Mickey signs telling you which hole you are at and the nice signs giving the Storied Histories of each hole.

4. Disney is absolutely fine with everyone bringing in Nice Big Bags as long as they are more or less inspected and are not concealing guns or other things that go bang. The PGA Tour is Noticeably Not, because, and I'm sure you can all understand this, Big Bags could have CAMERAS, the EMBODIMENT OF EVIL for the PGA. As you are informed upon entering, absolutely no pictures whatsoever are allowed especially from your cell phone or other mobile device and any images that might just happen to pop up while you are there ALTHOUGH THEY SHOULDN'T belong absolutely and permanently to the PGA Tour. Since I'd completely forgotten about this I accidentally brought a nearly empty bag (which was, I hasten to add to you all, completely CAMERA FREE) but which was TOO TOO BIG which led to us having to leave the bag at the lost and found, which was about when my brother remembered that I also had the completely empty bag attached to my wheelchair, so we dumped that too and then finally headed out to the course, me clutching my clearly dangerous sunscreen in my little hand.

5. The PGA Tour also informed me that I absolutely, positively, could not tweet any of the results while on the course. So, despite knowing that a grand total of zero of my Twitter followers were eagerly awaiting my reports of golf scores, since those would not be widely available, say, on CBS, Yahoo, or any of a number of different entities faster than I could type in the results, I was very very good and just typed things like, "Also I was very very close to stuart appleby but I won't tell you what resulted!" (I think it's safe to tell you now – he hit a ball very close to us.) Also I told everyone about the topiaries. Only not where any of the PGA volunteers could see us.

6. Also, because we are no longer on Daylight Savings Time and the days are getting shorter, this tournament is still played on both sides of the course even on Sunday with three golfers per group, which makes it easier to see lots of golfers than it ordinarily would be on Sunday.

7. Anyway, we wandered around the golf course, watching golfers, and finding a surprising lack of food for Disney, and surprisingly decent bathrooms for a golf event. (Go Disney!) Also, a large flock of wild turkeys that were not exactly into golf, two eagles, lots of herons and ibises, some ducks, some squirrels, two lizards, and a very cute little bunny rabbit which technically was outside the course but which I am counting anyway.

7. There was a touch – just a touch – ok, more than a touch of tension between the Disney Wide World of Sports people/Disney workers and the PGA volunteers. The Disney workers had always run this event up until this year, and well, now they were only running PARTS of the event, but not the cool part that involves telling people to shut up and keeping track of the scores. You could tell the difference since the Disney people proudly wore nametags and the PGA volunteers did not. Also, the PGA volunteers, oddly enough, more than once did not know when to tell the spectators to shut up, forcing the caddies to interfere, or where exactly spectators can go around, which led to one interesting bit of pushing me over decidedly uneven ground which left me kinda dizzy. (The PGA volunteers at the Arnold Palmer Invitational are better trained, but that is a better paying event attracting a stronger field of golfers.)

8. Towards the end of the tournament, we meandered back to the 18th hole to watch the last groups come in, only to be stopped by Disney employees who asked if we would prefer to be up in the bleachers, which had a nice elevator and everything.

This was a nice and kindly thought, and it's not exactly Disney's fault that it went wrong. The elevator was not exactly an elevator, but rather an elevator lift, which a) scared me, and b) could only be operated by one (1) key and person – the same key and person operating the two other elevator lifts including the one for the People Considerably More Important Than You Tent, which meant that getting on the lift required waiting and waiting and hearing – not seeing – one of the golf groups go through until the key guy ambled up and let us up.

"Last year we ALL had keys," said the Disney people mournfully. "This year they TOOK THEM AWAY. We're TRYING to show them that we all NEED KEYS. We don't know WHY they did this and gave the keys to only one person. [a PGA, not Disney person, even though these were Disney bleachers with Disney people]"

I could not help but feel that I had been in some small way dragged into a Disney/PGA power struggle.

Apart from this, the bleachers bounced every time anyone walked, clapped, stood up, shifted, or in fact did anything that might be placed under "movement" which was pretty much all the time, with the result that after about five minutes I was feeling a bit dizzy and ten minutes later feeling very dizzy. Getting off the bleachers, however, meant Summoning the Key Guy again, which was a process that I felt was somewhat beyond me. So instead I tried to watch everyone gathering at the 18th hole (bounce bounce), and by "everyone" (bounce) I mean "spectators, volunteers, and the Mickey Mouse band (bounce bounce bounce)," and tried to send out "sit still. sit very very still" vibes at the bleachers which if nothing else proved that I do not, in fact, have the mutant ability to mind control complete strangers. And now you know. (bounce)

9. Most tournaments end with various people coming out to congratulate the winning golfer and handing him or her a trophy. This tournament ends with Mickey Mouse striding onto the green followed by the Mickey Mouse band playing zip did dee do dah, zip did de day. And since I am no longer reporting live or on Twitter, I can now tell you that the winner was the same guy who started the tournament suffering from a major panic attack requiring hospitalization, so that was kinda cool. Also he has a very very cute kid.

10. By that time I was really feeling that I had to get off the bleachers, like now, and since I'd been warned this was a long process my brother pushed me over to the lift, then looked at me skeptically.

"Do you think you can get down the stairs on your own if I carry the wheelchair?"

"Maybe."

"...We might end up doing that."

I sent him back to watch Mickey shake the hand of the winner (who had to sign his golf card first) and get the trophy and listened to Mickey songs while I waited and waited and waited....

10. And finally I was off the bleachers and at the lost and found and then at Shades of Green which quite apart from giving military families a nice discounted place to stay at Disney also has very nice bathrooms and a lovely waterfall thing. (Really a lovely waterfall thing that helps lead military families to the Shades of Green buses which whisk them to the parks where they can spend lots of money all relaxed from the waterfalls.)

11. Pretend point 11 contains something bouncy.
Video of squirrel versus Disney monorail. No, really.

Sure, Disney claims no one was hurt, but for all we know, squirrels, not mice, are writing their press releases.

Heh

Apr. 9th, 2011 07:10 pm
From Fandom Wank comes a cheery tale of a comics conman, which I mention only because I briefly saw this guy at Mega-Con. (Briefly, because, as I mentioned, crowded. What's entirely left out of this story is how remarkable it is that Ethan Van Sciver and Mark Waid managed to get to his table at all.)

Anyway, I'm amused because my main thought at the time was, this guy is trying to sell Disney art in the Orange County Convention Center? Does he not know where he is? (I'm sure that Granito would claim that he was inspired by the original E.H. Shepherd illustrations, not Disney, but the pictures I saw at MegaCon were pulled directly from Disney, not Shepherd, and in any case I believe the Shepherd illustrations are still under copyright.) Then again, I thought I remembered seeing the guy before, so, maybe he did have permission. Not my problem.

Right after I thought that, I heard someone behind me say, "He's selling Disney images HERE? Is he insane?"

Apparently we were all the same page. Except, as it turns out, Disney. So far.
I thought about writing a year end summary, but figured I hadn't even really talked about December yet. So, lessons learned in December:

1. Butterbeer is indeed foamy, sweet, delicious, and, to be truthful, just a teensy bit nauseating. Or more than a teensy bit nauseating.

2. Hogwarts can be explored in many ways. Some of these ways have elevators. Some of these ways lead you through the final store. Some of these ways involve lengthy communication with team leaders and discussions of just exactly where the damn Universal parking lot is and why is it unlikely that any wheelchair user barring a marathon trained one is overly likely to be able to manage getting a manual wheelchair from the damn parking lot to Hogwarts. Suggestions, again, that Universal consider a) moving its disabled parking, b) expanding its disabled parking, c) telling its parking attendants where the disabled parking is so that people do not go round and round and round lakes and find themselves going through the entire parking lot AGAIN.

3. You can, indeed, spend considerably more time in December contemplating disabled parking than you had ever wanted or wished to.

4. Four people can attend Gatorland and have a very different idea of it. Possibly because two of the people sat on gators; three of the people bought fudge, and only one person (to my knowledge) got mad at the bathrooms.

5. Alligators, are not, for the most part, the cutest creatures on earth. Baby alligators, however, are still remarkably adorable, even knowing that they will happily remove your fingers.

6. One issue with living in Florida too long, and spending extensive time in the Everglades, is that the response to a 16 foot and very fat gator is, oh, whatever.

7. The fudge at Gatorland is, hands down, the best fudge at any theme park in Florida, bar none, hands down.

8. I can on occasion be repetitive and wordy.

9. Some of you are doubtless thinking we all learned lesson 8 well before this December.

10. Sea lions are awesomely cute, even when you are hearing a story about how one of them nearly ripped the head off a fellow sea lion leaving him with a bloody and kinda bare scalp. And by awesomely cute, I mean, dangerously awesomely cute.

11. Dolphins are best appreciated under the influence of fudge. And coffee. And coffee and fudge. I think you get where I'm going with this.

12. A restaurant can be perfectly adequate and even enjoyable until you take relatives there, hoping they will enjoy themselves.

13. Waiters who are unable to talk will also find it difficult to deliver correct orders.

14. This sort of combination will lead to skipping any form of tiramisu and heading right on to the Coldstone Creamery. Which, all in all, is not an entirely bad thing.

15. The Sanaa restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually an interesting way to see Animal Kingdom without venturing into it; animals wander by, people bang drums, plus, creative and wildly exciting booze.

16. We, as humans, can design amazingly entertaining and even artistic electrical fences.

17. A woman from the Philadelphia can go to great lengths to try to convince a British magician that she is not, absolutely not, anything like anyone on the Jersey Shore, whatever her accent, while wearing high heeled boots, fishnets and a miniskirt that barely, but barely, covers her butt.

18. Some Americans are, alas, unable to distinguish between images of Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Liberty.

19. It is not as easy as you might think to perform card sharks for an extremely drunk man, also from Philadelphia, and also, absolutely, and completely, not like anyone on the Jersey Shore, however much said drunken man may be appear to be impersonating several of the cast members of the Jersey Shore.

20. The combination of drunkenness, miniskirts and questionable assumptions about the British Royal Family will send even the most warmth-loving British magician out to do card tricks in the cold.

21. From [personal profile] fizzgig_bites and myself: the word of the staff at the Big River Grille & Dining Works at Disney's Boardwalk is not to be trusted in pretty much anything. Except perhaps the beer. Which we didn't order.

22. Fireworks.

Ok, that wasn't a lesson, exactly, more a moment to be savored—it was a pretty amazing show. Hmm. Lesson. I like fireworks, although again, we all kinda knew that one already.

23. It is, indeed, possible to back out of an elevator only to confront a clown.

24. The longer spiced apple cider simmers, the better it tastes. If you are clever, you can conceal this as a cooking technique. If you are not, everyone will yell at you for concealing the spiced apple cider from everyone.

25. A clown can throw a light at a child, and steal it back again.

26. An egret directly outside your window can end up being a rather aggravating experience, especially if the egret is also aggravated.

27. You can spend several minutes trying to sum up visits from friends before realizing that you actually can't, and should have spent this time eating chocolate or baking brie instead.

28. You can spend much of the month barely discussing either of the three most lifechanging things that happened in it.

29. Your very best holiday present may come from a very unexpected place, and may actually end up getting delivered in March.

(Traditional publication/writing summary for the year probably coming up soon. Probably.)

(And as I was typing this out, last lesson: my cats are really never going to get used to fireworks, are they?)
Back in high school, when I was well under 17, a friend and I walked into an R movie. Quite openly. Our plan had been to buy tickets for a PG movie and then sneak into the R movie we wanted to see (one reason to always be slightly skeptical of movie ticket sales as an indication of actual viewership – I can't imagine the American teenager has changed that much in the years) but as it turned out, we didn't have to: I knew the person in the ticket booth, another teenager who let us buy the R tickets without blinking and without an adult anywhere present.

Skip forward a few years, when I was down in South Florida, heading to see South Park with [personal profile] wolfblade and [profile] orianna33. I stepped up to get my ticket –

--and the guy – another teenager – asked my age.

This is where it gets embarrassing; I couldn't remember. (I've found that post age 23, individual years don't matter as much, and I often have to think about how old I am. I'm expecting that to change when the individual years matter again, when, say, I'm over 90 and loudly and annoyingly announcing that fact to people who just don't care, but honestly, most of the time it's hard for me to remember my own age.) I stumbled, blurted out a number which turned out to be wrong, corrected myself, and tried out a second number. By that time [personal profile] wolfblade and [profile] orianna33 had fallen over in stitches. The unamused teenager said he didn't believe me, and the other two had not been introduced as my parents and guardians. I had to pull out an ID, which was studied (and showed that the second number was correct), and finally got the ticket, with my two friends laughing gleefully that I'd gotten carded for South Park.

I don't get carded much these days, although to my surprise I was carded twice this weekend, which made me think again about these arbitrary age standards. They were roundly ignored at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival this weekend, if I'm any judge, where despite Disney's careful "only two drinks per ID" rule, some younger looking people were getting two drinks, passing them to a friend, and popping right back in line again, suggesting that this was not quite as effective as intended, especially given that some of the younger looking people were bragging about this.

Which is a rambling way of getting to my main point: these age limits aren't effective. In college, about all they did was keep me out of certain clubs where my friends could go, but I couldn't; they certainly didn't keep me from getting alcohol. (They were also responsible for a couple of exciting trips up to Quebec, then known to a certain subset of young New Yorkers as an easy place to buy booze if you are under 21 and willing to endure a long lecture from the U.S. Border Partol about the evils of underage drinking. I never bothered to find out what Quebec thought about that designation.)

Which in turn is a rambling way of linking to James Berardinelli's essay on film ratings, which notes that film ratings have had a negative effect on film making, with screenwriters and directors needing to add or subtract elements just to get the right rating for marketing purposes. I tend to ignore movie ratings, but it's mildly annoying to realize that screenwriters had to take a moment to say, wait, must add a bit of profanity here to get my PG-13 rating, or, hey, must go fade to black here to keep the PG-13 rating, whichever. And I agree completely with his point that it says something

And even there, it fails: I remember watching Quills once and thinking, man, I'm not old enough for this (although this was in the I've forgotten my age stage) and feeling stunned that it received the same rating as Bridget Jones Diary, which, gasp, showed an actress in her underwear about to have said underwear removed. And that was about it, in stark contrast to Quills massive levels of violence and sex and various kinks. Placing the same label on these two films defeats the entire point of a ratings system.

************

In other rambling news, I had a surprisingly active weekend, what with a short expedition to the Winter Garden Music Fest on Friday night and a Scavenger Hunt at Epcot on Sunday. Well. Sorta. I lost the Scavenger Hunt, and quite badly, because I couldn't find it. In my defense, other people couldn't find it either, so we instead attempted to scavenge food and other things at the Food and Wine Festival. It just happened to be one of those clear, perfect fall days in Florida – cool to warm, not hot, with merry little birds, without any major crowds until the afternoon started to lengthen, and I had to leave, acknowledging complete and utter failure on the scavenger hunt front, but success on the molten chocolate lava cake front, which counts as success of sorts.
So I finally got around to watching last year's The Princess and the Frog last night. I liked it.

But.

It took some time for me to nail down the source of that "But." My general mood? The tiny issue that my left hand was still burning from an excess of juice from a surprisingly hot chili pepper which had turned my hand red, red, red and made me wince whenever anyone in the film discussed making food just a little bit hotter?

Well, possibly.

But in thinking it over, I realized that this was less my mood than something lacking in the film itself. And here, I'm not just talking about the problems of going YAY we are FINALLY FEATURING A BLACK CHARACTER AS A DISNEY PRINCESS EXCEPT SHE'S NOT REALLY A PRINCESS BUT A WAITRESS WHICH WE'LL KEEP REPEATING OVER AND OVER GO US and then having her spend the majority of the film actually being green, problematic though that may be. (I say may because I liked the frog bits.) Or the fact that the film takes a while to get going, unlike the best of the Disney films which use their short length to plunge straight to the point.

No, the real problem is the lack of the villain.

Oh, the film has a villain – two, even – who are Appropriately Evil and even deal with Nasty Evil Things. But neither feel particularly menacing, and neither has the now customary Funny Evil Sidekick, and neither seem to be, I dunno, very motivated. Possibly because one of their goals – marry the cute blonde girl and take all of her money – just seems entirely too easy (the blonde girl wants to get married) and also, well, let's face it, although Disney avoided the cliché of the wealthy mean blonde girl, she's not exactly a character that we're overly worried about, which means that much of that plotline comes off as, well, whatever.

And, oh yes, quite possibly, thanks to the villains, Tiana and Naveen might just have to spend the rest of their lives as frogs. Which might be terrible and awful and completely villain worthy, except for one teeeeeeeenny tiny problem:

Tiana and Naveen, after their initial shock, seem to like being frogs.

And why not? They can leap vast distances, play music with jazz loving alligators, dance, swim, sing, enjoy romantic riverboat meals and even still talk to their fellow humans. Being a frog barely even halts Tiana on her gourmet cooking path – she cooks up a marvelous pot of gumbo and advises other people about their recipes. And it doesn't keep Naveen from playing music and flirting and in general having a pretty good time.

In other words, it's hard - very hard – to worry whether or not they'll ever get to be human again. (Plus, it's Disney, so it's easy – very easy – to guess.)

So. No threat. No real motivation, except perhaps a worry that Tiana might not get her restaurant after all, which, while frustrating, doesn't exactly provide the same sort of dire threat that the great Disney films offer. (A scene where the frogs stop to make a nice gourmet dinner of gumbo just adds to this feeling – I mean, don't, you know, hurry to try to turn human and stop the bad dudes or anything, now.)

And the film's cheery emphasis the importance of working hard for your wishes and dreams is rather undercut by its equally strong emphasis on the importance of being a princess instead of a waitress, but for that, I fear we must blame the Marketing Power of Disney Princesses rather than Disney storytelling.

The film wasn't bad enough to snark – although I must ask, have we seriously hit a point where every animated film from Disney/Pixar has to have a revealing underwear visual joke? It's amusing a couple of times, but this time it felt flat. But apart from the carping – and I realize I've done a lot of it – I liked the jazz loving alligator, and I thought the banter and flirtation between the frogs was one of Disney's better attempts at romance. And, I rather like the conceit of falling in love with a star.

Dumbo

Jul. 29th, 2010 07:02 pm
Incidentally, it seems to be a week of fulfilling childhood dreams. Not that this particular one was mine.

I pretty much never venture to theme parks in the summer, for one critically important reason: it's hot. Very hot. I may not be emphasizing this enough. On the other hand, Disney's Electric Lights parade was on. So. We put my scooter in the car, and I braved the heat with my parents and their friends G and B (I think B? I might have this wrong. Then again, I'm fairly sure that no one ever calls him just B, so…we'll go with it).

Arriving was interesting, since at first glance, it appeared that Disney had shut off access to the disabled parking, which, no, but which did mean going around in little circles until we could reach the not actually closed off entrance to the disabled parking and try again. Once that was done, we headed directly towards the boat (with the disabled parking, you don't take the little trams, but you're not that close to the boats, either, in yet another demonstration of why, in some ways, Epcot is distinctly better planned; then again, Epcot isn't trying to hide the full scale of its parking lots, the way the Magic Kingdom is. But I digress) since my father likes the boat. It was early evening, but it felt like mid-afternoon.

We had hoped, watching the ratios of people leaving to people arriving, to find the park a little less crowded. Alas, not. I have seen worse crowds there once – on the Millennium Celebration, when the park filled to capacity and closed its gates, and about the same crowds when a group of us made the mistake of heading there the day after Thanksgiving, but, still, crowded to the point where only cell phones kept us from losing each other entirely.

We had successfully hunted down food when my mother, to our surprise, announced she wanted to do Dumbo.

Now, you have to understand: my mother is not really a ride person. She did them with us, when we were younger, not all that happily, and although she likes Buzz Lightyear, it's not her thing. But here she was, demanding Dumbo.

"See," she explained, "When they opened Disneyland, they showed pictures of everyone flying around on Dumbo and I thought, I want to do that."

Alert readers might be noticing that this happened in 1955.

Still, there's nothing like waiting for fifty-five years to fulfill a childhood dream. And so, after Buzz Lightyear and Laugh Floor, she stood in line, got into a Dumbo, flew up in the sky, and waved and waved.

After that, it was off to the Electric Light Parade and critical ice cream replenishment and fireworks (which, this summer, were really good), and then, moving through the masses of crowds exiting the park, and decisions to return...if not again, ever, in July. Some other month, when no one has to wait those few extra minutes (plus fifty-five years) for Dumbo.
So, as I mentioned, yesterday my parents and I headed off to see Oceans, a French film brought to the U.S. by Disney with revised narration by Pierce Brosnan. I have no idea if the English narration is the same as the French.

First, let me mention the good parts: the photography is stunning, with particularly vivid pictures of crab armies (the highlight of the film), a blanket octopus, a ribbon eel, a blue whale, and some cute little baby turtles getting eaten by hungry birds (this film is probably not suitable for very small children, whatever the G rating.) It looks glorious. I wanted to take several of the images and turn them into screensavers. And I adored all of the bits about the sea lions. (I love sea lions, and these were particularly adorable sea lions.)

But it is not without its problems, some from the editing, some from the narration, and some stemming from the sad truth that I have spent way, way too much time in my life staring at dolphin noses.

1. Presumably to emphasize its overall "all of the oceans are connected" viewpoint, the movie jumps around and around and around the oceans, and I do mean all of the oceans, with little to no identification; if you didn't know better, you could easily believe that the cute little sea otters just off of Monterey Bay are in fact swimming over the coral reef that the film showed just moments earlier.

This continues to happen through the film, giving little to no context for most of what is going on. We have a shot of what was probably an Atlantic barrier reef almost immediately followed by kelp forests presumably in the Pacific (difficult to tell) switching to Japanese waters and so on.

2. Speaking of editing issues...those dolphins.

The film has quite a few scenes of jumping and swimming dolphins. In all of these scenes, we are meant to think that the film crew just happened to manage to get images of the same dolphins, first under the water and then over the water and then in the afternoon and then in the sunset. Except for one major problem: the shots are of different dolphin species. (If you see the film, watch the noses.) In the most egregious example, the underwater and initial swimming shots are of either Pacific or Atlantic white-sided dolphins, which then through the magic of movie editing become spinner dolphins.

I get that this is going to be lost on the vast majority of viewers. I also get that different dolphin species, less interested than we are in these sorts of distinctions, often swim together, and if I'm not mistaken there was also a shot of some spotted dolphins swimming along with bottlenose dolphins, demonstrating just that point. But combined with the constant shifting from ocean to ocean made me not want to trust the film.

3. If I see an ocean area solely filled with medusae (jellyfish/jellies, whichever term you prefer) and absolutely no other fish, my first thought, Disney, is not, ooooooh, what an exquisite pristine ocean environment, but rather, holy )(*)(, what an overfished area.

The numbers of ctenophores and jellyfish do appear to be increasing in ocean waters. This is not necessarily something to celebrate, since their numbers appear to be increasing just as fisheries are collapsing. It is probable, if not proven, that they are taking advantage of the reduced competition for food.

I suspect [personal profile] magnifelyn had other concerns.

But these quibbles aside, I did find myself loving the film – largely because so much of it really looked cool. Oh, and the sea lions. And the otters. And the blue whales.

*******

We also took a moment to watch – not go up in – Disney's Big Balloon Thing at Downtown Disney, which is a big balloon featuring Mary Poppins which goes up a few hundred feet, hovers there for a bit, and then comes down – all for the low, low price of...$18?

As far as we could tell, the entire Balloon Thing lasts for about five to ten minutes, which, well, great, but given that in the same location you can take in a movie for $7.50 to $10.50 (depending when you get there) or spend several hours at the considerably more exciting Disney Quest at $35 to $41, or (in the evenings/weekends) listen to free sidewalk entertainment, I have to wonder just how well the Balloon is doing. It certainly wasn't attracting many people when we were there, although, granted, we were there during a largely unbusy weekday afternoon.

Also, my mother figured out how to work her moving sand picture thing, which had failed in its potential awesomeness by not actually, as it happened, moving. As it turns out, like so many artistic things, the sand pictures are…dare I say it? A bit temperamental, requiring just the touch of fiddling and kindly if slightly irritated tapping to get moving. I can sympathize.
This blog entry has been getting a bit of local attention lately: it details a recent and unauthorized night time trip to Discovery Island, now abandoned for about ten years. Local and as far as I know completely unproven rumor suggests that Disney will be turning it into a Lost attraction just as soon as they and everyone else find out what the hell the show is actually about. That would be, like, AWESOME, Disney, especially if you provided a little smoke monster to go round and round, but I digress. Meanwhile, the island is apparently retreating to its former function as a bird habitat.

River County, which they used as an access point, used to be my favorite of the Disney waterparks. I'd always wondered why it was completely abandoned, especially given that Disney's two remaining waterparks do fill to capacity in the summer (which is way but way too many people) sending people off to rival water parks not on Disney property, which is not exactly the way Disney would prefer to do things. The bacteria explanation is one of the more believable ones. I had heard other explanations: that it never attracted enough people (probable, given that River Country was smaller than the other waterparks and was only accessible via a bus and then a walk through Fort Wilderness) and thus could never meet Disney's profitability standards, and that Disney wanted to focus on waterparks that could remain open year round. I don't know.

I'll just add that, yes, I have seen the occasional alligator on that lake, one of many reasons swimming to Discovery Island is probably not the best idea (that and I am betting Disney security is not going to take kindly to people they catch on little outings like this one). Oh, and that I'm kinda sad I never went back when it was open. Even if I have a chance to see it later in the company of a little smoke monster.

Play ball!

Mar. 4th, 2010 10:08 pm
So I headed out to start looking around for a new laptop, only to find myself at a baseball game instead.

Hey, look. That sort of thing can happen to anybody.

Anyway, we had six seats at the Atlanta Braves/Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports for all of two of us, which felt slightly like overkill.

Despite innumerable trips to Disney, this was my first trip to Wide World of Sports, which I must say did not exactly live up to the theme park standards on this particular visit, given that the entire place is undergoing massive renovations and planning for a small marathon this upcoming weekend, forcing people wanting valet parking (not us) to drive along an exciting dirt road that was rather less smooth than dirt roads tend to be, and people with preferred parking (us) to see a truly spectacular collection of Porta Potties. If you like that sort of thing, and don't tell me if you do, that was absolutely the place to fulfill your Porta Potty fetish. We ended up parking on one of the football fields, in a place that was not exactly marked for disabled parking, and went over some intriguing terrain to get to Wide World of Sports. For once I was exceedingly grateful that we'd selected the wheelchair and not the scooter. We then went through what I think are usually basketball courts but were now filled with sparkling Disney Princess and Lady Foot Locker supplies, up an elevator, and finally into a nice café, and then, finally, into the more official Wide World of Sports entrance. It was precisely the opposite of my general Disney feeling of wow, look at the parking lots.

We did, however, have excellent seats – right behind home plate. We could not possibly have chosen two teams that I am more neutral about, so naturally I cheered for the Pirates, because, well, pirates. (Equally naturally I shall spare you any tension – since I was cheering for the Pirates, naturally they lost.) This decision was to have a more momentous impact than I'd anticipated. But I anticipate.

It'd been years since I'd gone to Orioles spring training games with the Venezuelan down in Fort Lauderdale. I'd forgotten just how relaxed and laid back they are, even by baseball standards. (Which are not exactly high on the tension scale.) And I'd also forgotten just how much is lost when watching baseball on the small screen – most of the point, really, even if you have bought a little box of Cracker Jack to munch on at home.

(Incidentally, we did not get ANY Cracker Jack because some people felt that popcorn fulfilled that traditional need, which no. I was also amused to see the added Disney touch of menus placed by each seat featuring overpriced food that can be ordered and delivered to your seat, and even more amused to watch pretty much everyone selecting hot dogs and beer instead. It's baseball.)

Specifically, what you miss are the spectators, including:

To my left, a highly excitable Atlanta Braves fan with a remarkably booming voice and a penchant for colorful language and surprisingly creative metaphors that had at least one person saying, "Daddy will explain that later," followed somewhat later by, "Daddy really doesn't know. No, Daddy's clueless." He broke the genius of Daddy.

Directly above me, a former player for the minor leagues, now playing softball, and his two friends, one of whom runs a fairly successful home contracting company offering expert service on circuit breakers. One could hardly fault his work ethic since he was continually answering calls during the game, switching delightfully from a fairly foul mouthed baseball fan to an educated, utterly polite, professional and rather slick salesman who was easily able to convince people to upgrade all kinds of things to circuit boards.

Directly behind them was a diehard Pirates fan ("We're REAL Pirates fans. We don't just PRETEND to be Pirates fans," making me wonder just how big this fake Pirates fan movement is) who we'll call L, who treated us to an extensive, and I must say, very persuasive, explanation of just why the current owners of the Pirates are the Worst People on Earth and how terrible it was that the other potential buyers had not in fact bought the Pirates at all. (Names were listed and I'm sure I could look them up, but I'm not going to bother.)

Moment one: So, diehard Pirates fan L is shouting, at some length, about the multiple, multiple inadequacies of the guy at bat (a Pirate) below, who apparently, is just awful, because the owners won't spend money on the right player, and all we need is a new owner and this guy at bat is totally overpaid and like )(&^&**& _)()*(*&(&*^*(&() and )(**(&*(&*( and )(*&*(&*()*( and also totally overpaid –

And with that, the guy hit the only home run of the game.

"God," said the minor league player in awe. "Talk shit about a player, watch him hit a home run."

"YAY!"

Moment two: So, it's the bottom of the 9th, and things are not, it must be confessed, looking too good for the Pirates, since although they have two men on base the score they are two runs behind and have two outs already and the batter already has three balls and two strikes, and the remaining crowd is roaring and roaring and –

"Yes, ma'am," said the contractor in an exceedingly polite voice. "I am at a baseball game. No ma'am, work comes first. Of course. Yes, ma'am."

Fly ball and OUT!

"Turns out she's a Marlins fan and taking her kids up to their game," he explained.

"You have a customer for life," said the minor leaguer.

Moment three, which had nothing to do with any of the above people: So someone else has noted that I was clapping for the Pirates, and told me that I was too pretty to be a Pirates fan, to which I answered that I'm really more of a Cubs fan anyway, because, well –

"That's just sad," he said, before I could go on to explain about the Red Sox and the Marlins.

It is, really. At least until some goats are sacrificed. Go Cubs!

Incidentally, based on this small and completely unrepresentative sample of the U.S. population, the current proposal to put Ronald Reagan's face on the $50 bill is not popular, not particularly out of a love for Ulysses S. Grant, but because, as a few people put it, Reagan should be put on a "real )(*(^ bill" that people will see. If I were Andrew Jackson's ghost, I would be getting a bit concerned about my fate here.

******

Small note: As you might have guessed, this computer is not in a very happy state of mind at the moment, what with fan failures, keyboard failures, and, well, ok, not enough ram to make me happy, although that's less a thing of the moment than an ongoing feature.
Disney buying Marvel Entertainment for about $4 billion.

It probably says something about me that I immediately thought, but, all of the Marvel heroes comics rides are at the Islands of Adventure theme park, and not at any of the Disney parks, so what is Disney going to do with its rival park merrily making use of its now owned superhero icons?
Cirque du Soleil tries to set new world records for stilt walking.

Not even mildly incidentally, it was insanely hot today, which means those costumes are either considerably more or considerably less appropriate than they may look. Certainly not a day for long sleeves. Fortunately, the heavy rains are cooling things off now - if a bit too late to help out the stilt walkers.

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