Happy Birthday, Walt!

Walter Elias Disney, 1901-1966

111 years ago today a man who would alter the course of entertainment was born. Though most would not be aware for quite a few more years, the effects of his influence continue to be felt to this day, some 40 plus years after his passing.

The accomplishments of Walter Elias Disney are quite numerous and can be found on many websites, books, and documentaries. They can be witnessed through animation shorts such as “Steamboat Willie” and “Flowers & Trees”, feature films such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “Mary Poppins”, and in theme parks worldwide. His legacy is evident in the company name alone.

To many people, the adoration of the man can tend to near the point of worshipping the man; faultless and amazing at every turn. The man who believed in the power of dreams and imagination – a true hero worship. I personally find myself fascinated with him because he was human. He had many failures, financial struggles, bad ideas, could sometimes be gruff, even impersonal to many he worked with. Yet through it all, he was also a hard worker, a master storyteller, a man with outlandish and genius ideas. Yes, a dreamer with a huge imagination. But someone who was willing to work and sacrifice to make those dreams come true. Someone who would learn from his mistakes and keep moving forward. Someone who didn’t take no for an answer. That’s the man I admire and pay tribute to today.

So happy birthday, Walt. Thank you for your contributions you made to animation, film, music, theme parks, technology, and so much more. Thanks for being the man behind the magic – and for making that magic happen with hard work, determination, stubbornness, and yes, dreams.

Millions of fans, both casual and otherwise, are grateful.

As is this DisNerd.

Secret Of The Wings – A Review

(Note from a DisNerd:  I promise in any movie I review here to keep the reviews short, sweet, and spoiler free – I encourage anyone who wants to see this or any movie to make up their minds for themselves and enjoy the magic!)

Images in this post copyright The Walt Disney Company

I’ll be the first to admit, I was taken by surprise by the Tinker Bell series of movies. Somewhere along the line, I went from, “Oh look, a blue fairy…” at Pixie Hollow in Disneyland, to insisting on picking up and immediately watching the latest movie in the Disney Fairies franchise, “Secret of the Wings.” I’m sure it has something to do with a certain blue-eyed little girl, but it also has a lot to do with quality film making.

For anyone not familiar with the series, it follows Tinker Bell’s origins and her adventures among other pixies in Pixie Hollow, an apparent appendage of Neverland. Will we ever find out how she comes to meet Peter Pan and his Lost Boys? That remains to be seen, but the stories being told in this realm have been entertaining enough to keep bringing fans back. Stories of friendship, loyalty and courage – these are values that good family stories are made of.

Needless to say, expectations for this one were pretty high, and it didn’t disappoint.

In “Secret of the Wings,” we learn that unlike other pixies, winter fairies live in a separate area of Pixie Hollow: the Winter Woods, which are off limits to everyone but winter fairies (and the rest of Pixie Hollow is off limits to winter fairies as well). The reason? Apparently, the change in climates can damage their wings; if that happens, there is no cure and the fairy can never fly again.

However, this doesn’t stop the curious Tink from setting out for the Winter Woods, where she seems drawn by some mysterious force, noticing her wings appear to sparkle when she steps foot in the forbidden land. The reason her wings sparkle, she soon discovers, is because she is in the presence of the frost fairy Periwinkle – her sister, born of the same laugh. While thrilled at the prospect of having a sister and someone with so much in common, the joy is short lived; as mentioned before, it is forbidden to cross over into each others’ respective land. This doesn’t stop Tink and Peri from trying, however. Let’s just say the results are far from successful, and soon it’s up to fairies from both lands to work together and save the day. Of course there are a few more twists and turns than that, but what fun would spoiling the movie for others be?

Sisters? There were never such devoted sisters!

As I stated before, the Tinker Bell movies are a big hit in our house, as is anything to do with the realm of Neverland. This movie seemed a little slower to start than the others, but once it got going it was really quite a treat and lots of exciting fun and quite a few laughs as well. The little girl loved it. Even though there were a few heart tugging moments, including when Tink and Peri thought they would have to say goodbye forever. Sometimes it’s hard to watch those goodbyes, even for adults! However, as the fairies worked together to save Pixie Hollow, she sat on my lap with rapt attention. Afterwards she informed us she was Periwinkle – a sure sign that the movie was a hit!

If you’ve seen the other Tink movies, this one stands well with the rest. If you haven’t, it also works well on its own, but I recommend the rest as well! Mae Whitman brings a great voice personality to Tinker Bell, a character who I previously thought was best to remain voiceless. The new characters are a treat as well, and of course, the stories are great ones of courage, strength, loyalty, faith, trust, and pixie dust.

Anyone else out there fans of the Tink movies? Have you watched this one as well? What did you think? Can’t wait to hear from you!

(Disney’s Secret Of the Wings is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.)

Disneyland, September 2012: A Photo Essay (Part 1)

Hello, dear readers! Really, it’s been too long. Having arrived back from a trip to Walt’s original Magic Kingdom last week, I thought I’d share some pictures with you via this blog. Before we begin, I would like to note a few things:

First off, I am not a professional photographer. The pictures you see here were taken either with my cell phone or our family point-and-shoot, either by myself or my lovely wife. We do not claim them to be works of art (although some of them turned out pretty cool), just pictures we felt like taking.

Second, while there may a few things we noticed this trip that may not have been there before, this is not intended to be a photo update or trip report. Just pictures I felt like sharing. You won’t see twenty five pictures of construction walls and dirt.

Lastly, I have no intention to make Confessions of a DisNerd a running commentary or “watchdog” type site. There’s plenty of those already, and you can follow lots of people on Twitter for that. I just want to have fun, and enjoy the magic of Disney – and I hope you do too.

So without further adieu, here’s the first of our pictures from our latest trip (you should be able to click on them to see bigger versions) – hope you enjoy!

 

How many of us actually wait for a Main Street vehicle to show up as opposed to jumping on because it happens to be there? My little girl loves the vehicles and was very willing to wait for the double-decker Omnibus to arrive!

 

Always love seeing this most welcome sight – the horse drawn carriages, the train station announcements, the music playing…. Main Street doesn’t need the words to say. “Welcome Home.”

 

One thing you will notice is that City Hall (as well as the fire station) was under construction. One thing I love when they do these refurbishments on Main Street is the facade covers they put in place. The details are great, and still give a feel of Main Street, U.S.A. For example….

 

If you look closely in the window of the fire station, you can’t help but notice: the light is still on for Walt!

 

One of my favorite places to visit is the gallery at the front of Main Street – I love seeing the concept art, renderings and models. Right now, the focus is on the various castles of Disney theme parks. What a beautiful exhibit to behold!

 

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant from Disneyland Paris is a sight to behold, even in scale!

 

I love seeing Main Street this time of year. Before the fall decorations are put up, when it’s in all of it’s non-holiday glory. It’s second only to…

 

Christmas!?!? In September???

 

It was only on a couple buildings, so we figured there had to be something promotional going on.

 

Yep – this explains it!

 

We saw filming going on that night, or at least prep for filming. Whatever the reason, it was a prefect tease of the season coming in just a couple months!

 

Might as well enjoy the short lived holiday spirit! I must say, nothing makes you ready for Christmas on a 90+ degree day like seeing these decorations. I’m ready!

 

But, as it turns out, those few shops on Main Street weren’t the only ones ready to get in the holiday spirit!

 

Over in Pixie Hollow, things have been getting their own winter touch in preparation for the latest Tinker Bell movie, “The Secret of the Wings.”

 

Little touches, like the statues in Pixie Hollow make the wait so pleasant! Can’t help but love the details (and the music) in this area!

 

Fortunately, we happened to be among the first group of people to meet the newest pixie friend, Periwinkle!

 

Pixie Hollow is always a fun time, especially for the little ones. The fairies are always so entertaining! It helps when you’re as into the movies as we are, but on that end, they really are surprisingly good movies!

 

Well, as we’ve reached the end of Main Street and enter the realm of Fantasy, we’ve also reached the end of this entry. Look for part two to come within the next day or two – I appreciate your patience in waiting for this post and hope you’ve enjoyed!

 

Credit goes to the lovely Mrs. DisNerd for taking this awesome sunset shot – seemed like a great way to end this entry!

 

Disneyland Prep – Movie Nights: The Documentaries

One of our “counting down to Disneyland” traditions has always been movie nights. We’ve done different things throughout the years. One year, we decided to theme our movies by lands. Tarzan, Swiss Family Robinson, and  Indiana Jones for Adventureland, Star Wars for Tomorrowland, a number of animated movies for Fantasyland…. you get the idea. We’ve even attempted to watch movies in chronological order, starting with Snow White and working up. Many times, the only criteria needed is whether the movie is Disney or at least in a Disney vein. Lately, (and my wife has been thankfully been going along with it) I’ve been in documentary mode.

One thing to know about me and my taste in movies: I’m an escapist. I don’t look for realism in my movies; I look to be entertained. There’s enough real in the world, and I’d rather have two hours of good storytelling than two hours of depressing realism followed by another two hours of deep thought.

With that being said, it’s amazing what good storytelling and entertainment Disney documentaries provide. They are among my favorite movies – not just documentaries. This week, we’ve watched two such docs – “Frank & Ollie” and “Waking Sleeping Beauty.” What great movies to bookend each other.

 

 

“Frank and Ollie” chronicles the journey of two lifelong friends who happened to be animators at the Disney studios – Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of Walt’s “Nine Old Men.” Aside from being great guys and storytellers, the two were geniuses in the animation field. To watch them describe their work, through drawing and facial expressions, you can’t help but feel in awe of the animation process: the nuances of the characters, the humanizing of non humans – it’s truly amazing. The examples given, from Baloo agonizing over telling Mowgli it’s time to go back to the man village in “The Jungle Book”, to Archimedes the owl laughing hysterically at the idea of man someday mastering flight in “The Sword in the Stone,” really make me want to play closer attention to these little sequences of animation.

Guess it’s true what was said in Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles:”

 

 

Of course, the other focus of the movie – the friendship of the two – is truly touching. These two neighbors had different interests, different ways of doing things, but there was a genuine connection between the two. Knowing this movie was made toward the end of their long and amazing lives makes the final (wordless) few minutes incredibly poignant – Frank playing a tune on the piano while Ollie rides his trains (both their lifelong passions outside of animation) – it’s just about perfect. As were their animations.

 

 

If you’ve followed my Facebook page, I’ve made it no secret that not only is “Waking Sleeping Beauty” my favorite Disney movie, but it’s at the top of my list of all time favorites. Not bad for a film that wasn’t even made by Disney (only distributed)!

WSB follows the story of Disney animation through the turbulent years of 1984-1994. These were the years that saw “The Black Cauldron” get beat out at the box office by “The Care Bears Movie,” that saw the animators get evicted from their own building, that saw a drastic overhaul of the Walt Disney studios. But this was also the era that brought us “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and so much more. The story is told through the eyes of the animators – their successes and their failures. Ideas that worked and many that didn’t. Masterfully narrated by Don Hahn, and filled with interviews from those that were closest to the situation, including those involved in upper level power struggles (including Michael Eisner, Roy Disney and Jeffery Katzenberg) – this movie is master storytelling at its best.

Besides being informative and many times funny, the movie is a bit of a tear jerker as well. The filmmakers deftly chronicle the late Howard Ashman’s role in the resurgence of animation. Without him, one would question whether The Little Mermaid would have ever stayed afloat. Many of us knew of Howard as the other half of a songwriting team with Alan Menken; very few of us saw his creative process with the animators, the voice actors and the musicians. By the time the segment covering his passing arrives in the film, we really feel as though we’ve lost an amazing influence.

I’ve linked a bonus feature from the DVD on Howard here, but it’s nothing compared to the segment in the movie:

After I posted on Facebook, my friend and reader of the blog, Debi shared this with me:

“Feeling grateful again to my friend Craig, who turned me on to Don Hahn’s documentary, WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY. I bet I can do an RTI enrichment class based on this movie. Just watched the “Part of Your World” recording piece. Fabulous. The piece about losing Howard Ashman is very powerful and kids will lean from and relate to that story in an important way.”

I couldn’t agree more, Debi. This movie means that much to me, too.

This post has gotten rather long winded, but I do feel it has given you, dear readers, an insight to the mind of this DisNerd. And I’ll be going to Disneyland soon, thinking of these stories as I ride rides and see shows that they have influenced – can’t wait to share that with you as well!

 

Disneyland Prep – Counting Down

If you haven’t noticed by now, my family’s a little nuts about Disneyland. Aside from the trip itself, one of our favorite times is the time when it starts getting close enough to have “countdown” activities.

 

4…3…2…1….. Blastoff!!!

 

In the past, we’ve done advent type calendars where the kiddo can put stickers on each day as we creep closer. We’ve had Disney-themed meals from an alfredo pasta resembling  the Countdown Chicken Fusili from Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port to freshly popped popcorn served in Disney souvenir bucket. We play games – the latest being a yard sale find of “The Magic Kingdom” board game. We watch Youtube videos of rides. We listen to music – the “Musical History of Disneyland” 6 CD set is practically memorized around our house!

And of course, there are movies. Videos that range from classic Disney films and shorts to old Disneyland television specials to home movies. After the little one goes to bed, my wife and I may put in something that wouldn’t hold the little girl’s interest, like a documentary or opening day coverage (I know what you’re thinking, but our daughter is four – I’m sure she’ll appreciate it someday!).

As our next vacation is rapidly approaching, I thought over the upcoming days, I’d share Disney related activities we’ve done here on the blog. Whether it be music that catches my ear and inspires me to write about it, movies that I watch that inspire thoughts, or activities that inspire a story I think you might enjoy, I’ll share it here.

I hope you enjoy and have fun reading – if signal permits, maybe I’ll even be able to share pictures from the park once I’m there!

Until then, I ask you, fellow readers: Do you do anything special to countdown the days until your Disney trip? If so, I’d love to hear what you do in the comments below!

Raising A DisNerd, Part 2

There’s no two ways around this: This morning did not start off on the right foot.

Literally.

When my four year old woke up at 4 in the morning to go potty, I noticed the canopy netting above her loft bed was out of whack, so I climbed up to straighten it out. On the way down the stairs of her bed, my left foot went straight through the wooden step, not only rendering the step useless, but twisting my ankle pretty good as well.

Now, some people, even kids, tend to go into a mothering mode when people injure themselves. Not my kiddo. She goes into Rapunzel mode. “Flynn, are you okay? I’m so sorry! Let me sing to you Flynn, I’m sure that will help!”

This is not uncommon for my silly goose. She’s constantly breaking out into character, depending on the situation.

If we’re on a trip to someplace she’s never been to, it often turns to Rapunzel time. “Flynn, I’ve never been to the outside world before!  Everything’s so beautiful!” If someone’s hurt, it’s Rapunzel as well; however, Doc McStuffins has been popping up into role play more often. When she’s dealing mostly with her cat, she turns into Alice, coddling Dinah. When she feels like swimming, she becomes Ariel – her cat becomes Scuttle, and her dogs become Max and Fruit Snack (Don’t ask – really no idea on that one).

She also plays Peter Pan a lot. However, that one can get a little confusing. Between, Peter Pan, Peter Pan 2:Return To Neverland and Jake and the Neverland Pirates, she fluctuates between Wendy, Jane, Izzy, or even the Pirate Princess. So many characters and so little time!

From being Disney characters to playing with playsets; from watching Disney movies to playing games like Disney Sorry and The Magic Kingdom board game, I’m just amazed with this little girl’s imagination and love for Disney. I realize to many it’s a no-brainer: “Well, of course she’s that way, you’ve saturated her with so much, it’s all she knows!” Yes, there’s no doubt in my mind that Mom and Dad are big influences in that. However, there is a genuine love that cannot be forced. Sometimes it grows on you, and other times you’re just born with it.

Considering on her first trip to Disneyland, she walked with a purpose down Harbor Avenue, map in hand, as if being drawn by some invisible force….

…I’d say “born with it.”

I can honestly say I’m looking forward to enjoying the ride in the years to come, holding on to every second I can. And if I’m doing that as Flynn, Peter, King Triton, Jake, Prince Phillip, Beast, Grumpy, or anyone else – that’s fine with me.

The Disney Olympic Team – Final Entrants

As the Olympics come to a close, I thought I’d throw just a few more Disney athletes into the mix. I know this is in no way a comprehensive list, and if anyone would like to add to it, feel free! Without further adieu, here are my choices for Disney characters and their Olympic events:

First off, in the category of high jumps, I give you that spring-tailed master of bounce!

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The Disney Olympic Team – More Entrants

With the Olympics winding down, I have more characters and events I’d enlist from the Disney stable of athletes. I will be listing as many entrants as I can over the next couple days. Hope you enjoy!

In the Equestrian field, I give you one of the most agile competitors, with her trusty horse, Khan:

Bet she’d love to see her reflection in a gold medal!

 

For track and field, someone whose name is consistently used in many events!

 

 

If his parents don’t make him settle for silver, that is.

 

In boxing, I give you a family. From “The Happiest Millionaire” I give you the Biddles:

 

I hear Sister Cordy has dynamite up her sleeve!

 

I mentioned in my first Olympic post this swimmer as a runner up, but there’s nothing slow about him, so without further delay, our addition to the swim team:

 

He so totally rocks! Duuuude…..

 

And for weightlifting? In the spirit of the ancient Olympians….

 

Look! He’s holding up the whole blog post!

 

More to follow tomorrow! I’d love to hear about others you’d pick for these events!

 

 

The Disney Olympic Team – Archery

I have to say, looks like the U.K. has this event in the bag, with two strong competitors – both with a penchant for splitting already bullseyed arrows in two.

First up, on the women’s side: while new to the scene, she is the most formidable archer we’ve seen in a long time, if ever.

She’ll be shootin’ for her own medal!

If ever there was a woman destined for the Olmpics, it would be Merida. With her fierce determination and spot on accuracy, she would be a shoo in for a gold medal among the females in competition (and most of the males as well!). As well as she shot in the archery contest in Disney/Pixar’s Brave, imagine how amazing she would be in a non-constricting uniform instead of that ripped dress! It begs the question, “If you had a chance to win a gold, would ya?”

 
And for the men?

 

Sir Robin of Foxley…er…Locksley.

Robin Hood has been, and always will be, as accurate an archer as any. With his sharp eye and quick arm, he can even change the direction of an arrow in midair! Of course, the judges are still checking to see if that move would be legal on an Olympic field. Of course, Robin would be nothing without his fan support. The people love him – they cheer him wherever he goes. The main reason for this? As good as Robin is on the field, nobody can top him in giving back to the community.

 

So there you have it, folks. Anyone else have great picks for archery?

The Disney Olympic Team – Swimming

These posts are starting a little later than I had hoped. Like others, I’ve been wrapped up in the Olympics. I can’t help it – if we’re home and awake, the TV is on, many times flipping between three channels. For sports fans, what’s not to love? Basketball, gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, track and field, table tennis… the list goes on and on!
Yet, in all of this excitement, I can’t help thinking of which Disney characters would excel at certain Olympic events. Obviously, if there were an event for defeating dark wizards, Mary Poppins would win hands down. But what about the Olympic events that are actual events? Surely, there are favorites that would be hands down favorites to medal! Therefore, over the upcoming days, I’ll be revealing some of my thoughts and reader opinions on The Disney Olympic Team. Today, we’ll focus on swimming, and the top pick should be pretty obvious.

Ariel from Atlantica, with her coaches Flounder and Sebastian!

In swimming, no one could come close to Ariel. Not only can the girl out swim sharks, she looks good while doing it, maneuvering with grace and finesse. Of course, we’re assuming that fins are approved swimwear; the aerodynamics of those things are amazing!

“How am I supposed to dolphin kick with these things?”

One could argue that without the fins she wouldn’t be as good – after all, when she was knocked out of a boat right before kissing Eric, he did have to pull her out or the water. But I’d like to think once she got more used to her land legs, she could kick in the water with the best of them.

Of course, we know Eric won’t be winning any rowing medals anytime soon….

Other runners up  would be King Trition, Nemo, Crush, and perhaps even Monstro!

How about you guys? Who would you pick for your swim team?