Oct 30, 2012

The Calories of Horror

Lee Unkrich of Toy Story 3 fame is a big fan of The Shining. The other day he posted a link to a study by The University of Westminster that details how watching horror movies can actually burn some calories. The results were as follows.

Title Calories
The Shining 184
Jaws 161
The Exorcist 158
Alien 152
Saw 133
A Nightmare on Elm Street 118
Paranormal Activity 111
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 107
The Blair Witch Project 105
[Rec] 101

Being the nerd that I am, I thought it would be fun to see which film burned the most calories per minute. Run times on some of these films is longer than others and I wanted to see which film was most effective at burning calories, not just which one was really long.

Title Calories Length(m) Calories/min
The Exorcist 158 132 1.97
Alien 152 117 1.30
Saw 133 103 1.29
[Rec] 101 78 1.29
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 107 83 1.29
A Nightmare on Elm Street 118 92 1.28
The Shining 184 146 1.26
Jaws 161 130 1.24
Paranormal Activity 111 99 1.12
The Blair Witch Project 105 105 1.00

So if you're looking to burn calories the most efficiently by watching horror films tomorrow, watch The Exorcist. It clocks in at nearly 2 calories a minute, just from watching the movie.

Jun 5, 2012

DCA Grand Re-Opening

With the Grand Re-Opening just 10 days away for Disney California Adventure, Disney has been pumping out new merchandise to match the new look of the park entrance. In particular, this new logo blew me away.
Image Courtesy {link} Click image for full size
The park has come so far since its opening day 11 years ago. This poster really captures, in a very classy way, the new feeling of the park while making Walt and Mickey a central focus. There are references to all the lands: Pan Pacific entry gates, Buena Vista Street buildings, Red Car Trolley, Carthay Theater, a plane for Condor Flats, pine trees for Grizzly Peak, World of Color, Screamin` and the Fun Wheel for the Pier, a section of the Cadillac Range for Cars Land. It's subtle and the color choice gives it an antique feel. A massive improvement on the original park opening day poster:
Image Courtesy {link} Click image for full size
It was bright and colorful, but kind of leaves you wondering. There's only one iconic "California" image and that's the Golden Gate Bridge. Strangely, there is a futuristic Monorail coming through it. There is no Disney reference at all in the image except the word "Disney's." It really leaves you wondering what this place is.

The new artwork and merchandise has a quality that has long been absent from California Adventure as well as an intangible "Disney" feel. I am beyond giddy June 15th and what it means for the future of the Disneyland Resort. Finally, the 2nd gate has come of age as a real Disney park. Despite all this talk of the end of construction and the new park opening, this is not the end. Disney will continue to add to, change, develop and modify California Adventure well into the future. This is just the beginning really. And what a beginning it is!

Wreck-It Ralph 1st Image

Click for full-size
So we got our first look at Wreck-It Ralph today. From this image, I'm loving it already. The idea of out of work video game characters is kind of funny to me. It's apparent that the animators and story writers have delved into the world of gaming. The joke on the cardboard sign, "Will NPC in FPS for food" is just perfect. I love the idea of the fuses leading to all the different games in the arcade as well.

For those who don't know, here is the official synopsis:
Walt Disney Animation Studios and Emmy®-winning director Rich Moore (TV's "The Simpsons," "Futurama") take moviegoers on a hilarious, arcade-game-hopping journey in "Wreck-It Ralph." Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," "Step Brothers") is tired of being overshadowed by Fix-It Felix (voice of Jack McBrayer, "30 Rock"), the "good guy" star of their game who always gets to save the day. But after decades doing the same thing and seeing all the glory go to Felix, Ralph decides he's tired of playing the role of a bad guy. He takes matters into his own massive hands and sets off on a game-hopping journey across the arcade through every generation of video games to prove he's got what it takes to be a hero.

On his quest, he meets the tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch, TV's "Glee") from the first-person action game Hero’s Duty. But it’s the feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman, "The Sarah Silverman Program") from the candy-coated cart racing game, Sugar Rush, whose world is threatened when Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade. Will Ralph realize his dream and save the day before it’s too late?

I honestly can't wait for this one. November can't get here soon enough. Quite a risky departure for Disney who normally stick to the princess/fairy-tale style. While this film definitely has a typical Disney plot, the presentation is anything but what we expect from the Mouse. I'm glad they are branching out and exploring areas traditionally left to Pixar. It will be good for them.

May 9, 2012

Tomorrow is Stark's Today

I wrote the following as a post on MiceChat over a year ago (Apr 19, 2011) when the rumor that the Stark Expo would be coming to Disneyland was fresh. Given the huge success of the Avengers over the past two weeks - $744 million so far - it was only a matter of time before Disney announced plans for putting Marvel things in the parks. I'll bet there were quite a lot of phone calls between executives and teams all over the Disney company over the weekend. Indeed, yesterday, CEO Robert Iger announced that a sequel is being planned and made mention that Avengers based attractions are being worked on for the parks. In light of that news I thought it would be good to post this again. At the time I was writing specifically about the Stark Expo, but the sentiments are applicable to all of the Avengers.

Why the Stark Expo Belongs in Tomorrowland
The more I think about this, the more it makes real and actual sense... and I'm talking "Walt" sense here.
"A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements... A step into the future with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals, the atomic age, the challenge of outer space and the hope for a peaceful and unified world."
~Tomorrowland Dedication Speech
"Now it is time for a preview of the world of tomorrow. We step into the future and find fantastic atomic-powered machines working for us. The world is unified and peaceful, outer space is the New Frontier. We walk for a time among the strange mechanical wonders of tomorrow, and then blast off on a Rocket to the Moon."
~Walt Disney, 1958 Audio Tour of Disneyland
At first glance, some of this stuff may sound antiquated and old, but in all reality, we're not really there with most of it. Sure, we have nuclear power plants, but I would hardly call this the "atomic age" as many people are afraid of nuclear power and there are plenty of not so peaceful uses for it. Our use of atomic energy is not very mature and there is a lot of room for growth and development to a point where our devices are atomic powered.

The world is far from unified or peaceful; and though since 1958 we have made some pretty amazing progress towards that goal we are far from fully achieving it. We're still Europeans, and Americans, and etc... rather than Humanity. Idealistic? Maybe, but that was Walt's stated and intended purpose for Tomorrowland. "New frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals" are the exact words he used. I don't think he meant anything like a Utopian Society, but one in which we all at least get along and have worked out the issues between us. That is an attainable goal and one that would have far ranging benefits for everyone.

The challenge of outer space has also not really been met either. Yup, man has walked on the Moon. Of the billions of people who have lived on this Earth, of the nearly 7 billion currently living, only 24 have ever set foot on the moon. I would hardly consider that meeting the challenge of outer space. That's a brave first step, after which we fell down and crawled around on the floor for the next 40 years. In ten years we went from no space program at all, to walking on the Moon. In the 4 decades since then, we haven't left low Earth orbit. It's like we stepped out into the darkness and were frightened by what we saw and now we won't leave the warm comfort of our own planet. Since when has humanity feared things? We are driven by our desire to explore and discover. That is what humanity does best. We look at the impossible and we find ways to make it happen anyway. We see the moon and we decide we want to go there, so we do. We have set foot on a small stone a skip away from the shore. There is a whole ocean out there to explore and we've barely left our sandy little beach. It would be like Columbus, Magellan and de Gama being scared to leave port. They pushed the boundaries of what people thought was possible. They set out into the unknown facing incredible danger and very probably death. Look what they discovered. Whole continents and wondrous new things. We have the same opportunity. The push out into space has incalculable benefits to all of humanity. The technology it takes, the science, the bravery and leadership... all of it benefits us all and ties into the other goals of Tomorrowland: uniting humanity, truly harnessing and using the power of the atom, advancing science, setting out on the grandest adventure human kind can imagine, strengthening our ideals.

Now, what does this have to do with the Stark Expo?
"Stark inventions were first displayed at the World Expo in 1941. In '54, my Father returned to Flushing Meadows, Queens to show off the new tech he used to defeat global tyranny. This was the first ever Stark Expo.
In the decades that followed, my Father invited the world's greatest minds to contribute to the Expo and put to task corporations to create better living for all. When the 1974 Expo closed, we lost that glimpse into humankind's amazing future." ~Excerpt, letter from Tony Stark regarding opening of the 2010 Stark Expo

That sounds remarkably like what Walt wanted for Tomorrowland, doesn't it? Bringing together the best and brightest of humanity to promote peaceful uses of science and technology. To promote our exploration of the frontiers of space, the peaceful uses of atomic power, to shape the future of humanity for the unified and peaceful better living of all people.

Just as the world of Iron Man "lost that glimpse into humankind's amazing future" when the '74 Stark Expoclosed, so to did our world lose that glimpse when Tomorrowland lost its direction.

Tomorrowland's problem has long been one of keeping pace. The future changes so quickly in the short term. You try and predict things out a few years and within months, that has changed. Tomorrowland, since about the mid 70s has stopped dreaming big enough. It became What's-About-to-Happenland. More recently it became In-Stores-Nowland. In order to keep Tomorrowland relevant for quite some time to come, Imagineers must dream big, and then admit that even that isn't big enough. The task they have is to dream crazy, dream insane. They have to push the future out to a point where near term changes in technology won't affect the vision.

They need to portray a world in which we have put aside differences and are working together. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we come together and bring our differing points of view to bear on a problem and compromise to find a solution. The very forces of nature tumble before us when we do. They need to portray a world where we have found ways to solve our energy problems. They need to portray a future where humanity has spread outward from our home planet to conquer our Solar System and maybe even other planetary systems, travelling over vast interstellar spaces.

Just as the fictional character Gustav Tinkerschimidt provides a fictional world in which to build the story of Paradise Pier, the fictional Tony Stark provides an entrance to a place where we can glimpse the fantastic and amazing future of our species.

Science fiction has long been a driving force behind science fact. Many scientists were inspired by Flash Gordon, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. They saw these amazing places and things and wanted to make them real, to discover what was out there. Tomorrowland used to represent this, but in recent years it has become representative of what we ARE doing. Through the fictional world of Tony Stark, it can once again be made to represent our bright future, to inspire adults and young children alike to become the next generation of scientists and leaders.

While Tony Stark may be a comic book character, he resides in a world of science fiction. His character is as flawed as any human. However, as with most comic book heroes, he makes mistakes and learns from them. He grows and attempts to become better. To make right the wrongs he sees in the world around him and leave it a better place than he found it. Comic book heroes are often ordinary people who do extraordinary things because they have to, because they are there at the time and no one else will. These sorts of ideals and drives are represented in Disney (and Pixar) films as well. The hero who makes a mistake and has to rise above themselves to put it right. The one who sacrifices themselves in order to save another. The ordinary doing something extraordinary because they have to.

I think many of the negative comments about this possibility stem from the fear of having Iron Man stomping around Tomorrowland. I don't think Disney would do that. A decade ago this would have been believable. The people in charge now seem to have a much better grasp on brand and how to properly use it. I see the Stark Expo being used as a "world" only. A place in which to set this glimpse of the future of humanity that allows for it to be as fantastical as it is fictional and yet still able to show where our real future may lead us.
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." ~Walt Disney
Tony Stark had the courage to stand up and change the course of his future and by so doing, change the course of many others. His character represents that courage which resides in all of us to change the future and make it better. That courage and joy and enthusiasm within is one of the things Disneyland represents and embodies most strongly. That sense of adventure, exploration, discovery, fantasy, dreams; all of them come together in Disneyland. Nowhere can that be more evident than in Tomorrowland.
"And now, it is an honor to continue the legacy of [dear old Uncle Walt] and re-open the Expo to explore the technological wonders that will enhance lives everywhere. Please join us [...] to experience the exciting world of tomorrow today." ~paraphrased excerpt, letter from Tony Stark regrading opening of the 2010 Stark Expo

May 6, 2012


Comparison of Full Moon at Perigee vs. Apogee (Courtesy NASA)
Sorry for another non-Disney post. I promise, I'm working on a park related post but this whole "supermoon" thing is bugging me. For those that didn't hear, last night's full Moon occurred at the same time as the Moon's closest approach (perigee) to Earth. On average, the Moon is 238,855 miles away. Last night, it was only 221,800 miles away. Now 17,000 miles closer may sound like quite a lot, but when you are talking about something that is a quarter of a MILLION miles away, 17,000 is really small.

I decided to do some math and see just how big a difference there was between the April and May full Moons.

Distance to April full Moon: 222,645 miles
Distance to May full Moon:  221,800 miles

That is only an 800 mile difference! That is less than the diameter of the moon (2,158 miles)! So why was no one talking about how huge the April full Moon looked? Because the media called attention to the fact that the May 5th/6th full Moon occurred at its perigee (April's did not even though it was a similar distance at time of full) and mentioned that this would cause it to look a little bigger. People went outside with what is called an Expectation Bias. Essentially you see what you expect. People expected the moon to look bigger and so the saw it as bigger.

If you do a bit more math and determine the angular diameter (like on a protractor) of the full Moons from April and May, you end up with a difference of 0.002 degrees. From Eastern to Western horizons, the sky is 180 degrees wide. If you cut it in 180 equal parts and then cut 1 of those in 2000 equal parts, last night's full Moon was a mere 2 of those (two thousands of 1 degree) larger. If you had pictures of both and put them side by side, you could see the difference, but lost in the vastness of the sky, with no reference frame to compare it too, you can't actually see that small of a difference.

Now some people went out and saw the Moon as it rose and are right to claim that it looked significantly larger. This had nothing to do with the Moon being at perigee though. The atmosphere is only 65 miles thick directly over your head but when you look at the horizon you are looking through several hundred miles of air. Light bends when it travels through air of differing temperatures. This is what causes mirages. When the Moon is near the horizon, it must travel a long way through many layers at different temperatures and this distorts the moon, kind of like a lens, making it look much bigger. This can be seen quite often around Halloween as part of the "Harvest Moon." When the moon rises overhead and is travelling through much less air, it returns to it's normal apparent size.

Now in November we will have the opposite, a full Moon and apogee (furthest point from Earth). The difference between that full Moon and last night's will be about 14%. That amount is definitely noticeable, but again, because both won't be side by side, you won't notice it in the sky.

For those who would like to do the math themselves, the formula for angular diameter is:
ς = 2 tan-1 (1/2 d/D)
ς is the angular diameter in degrees (sigma)
d is the diameter of the object
D is the distance between you and the object

Apr 24, 2012

Save Main Street From Swing

Image Courtesy {link}
Given the furor that this is creating across the fan boards I figured I'd chime in on it.

As you've probably heard, Disney will be closing the Carnation Plaza Gardens next week to re-theme them to a medieval village square for the Princesses. The stage that has been used for swing dancing for many long years will remain, but be re-themed. Once this area is complete, the swing dancing will indeed continue in this area.

I'm pretty certain that 99.8% of Disneyland's guests don't really care, but the self proclaimed "hard-core" fandom is raging about this. There are complaints that the stage is a hugely historic location given that many famous Jazz artists have performed there including Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Still others complain that changing this area to match Fantasyland is an invasion of theme upon Main Street. Yet another oft seen complaint is that the swing dancing will be out of theme with the new area itself, the only valid concern here.

Here's how I see it. The swing dancing has always been out of theme here, if you count this area as part of Main Street at all. Swing dancing began in 1926 in Harlem at the Savoy Ballroom. Hot Jazz and Swing Jazz were newly emerging music forms and quite popular to dance to. In 1928 at a dance contest in New York City, one of the winners coined the name "Lindy Hop, " in honor of Charles Lindbergh's "hop" across the Atlantic, as an off the cuff name for his fancy footwork in response to a reporter's question. The name stuck and Lindy Hop became the first swing dance. Later the name was changed to the Jitterbug. Main Street USA represents a turn of the century, small mid-west town's main street. As such it is decades and  miles removed from the world of swing. Swing did become popular across the country but not until the 30s and 40s.

On top of this, the Carnation Plaza Gardens are located in the Hub, not on Main Street. In fact, they are on the far side of the hub with the entrances to two lands, Adventureland and Frontierland, intervening. The Hub is an area where many themes meet and co-mingle. You have the Astro Orbitor, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the Tiki Room, Jolly Holiday Bakery, etc all existing in this area together. There really isn't a theme here at all. Calling it Main Street is no more valid or true than calling it Tomorrowland. It is simply the Hub. As such, there really is no theme and extending the Castle theme out behind trees and on the far side of the moat river can not be considered a thematic invasion at all. Even under the strictest of interpretations. In fact, looking at park maps throughout the years, this area has been listed as belonging to both Fantasyland and to Frontierland at times.

Really, the only valid concern is that having swing dancing in an area themed as a medieval town square is breaking theme. However, even here I would advise caution. We do not yet know what the final layout or look of the area will be. Nor do we know if there is a planned change of decor for the dancing. In fact we know next to nothing about this whole project. All we have are less than a handful of concept art sketches. Making such harsh judgments at this stage of things is completely impossible. Expressing concern or worry is another matter and completely understandable. Unless you are a member of the team working on this, or have regular access to the inner sanctum of Disney Imagineering, we simply do not know enough to make informed judgments.

We can say a few things with certainty though. 1) If you believe that the area belongs to Main Street, then the swing dancing is horribly out of theme. 2) If you believe that the area isn't part of Main Street, but part of the Hub where themes collide with impunity, then the swing dancing is perfectly okay, but you must also believe that it is okay for Disney to change the theme of the gardens without breaking thematic rules.

Apr 19, 2012

The Great Attractor

The Milky Way over Devil's Tower - courtesy {link}
This post is going to be a bit of a departure from theme parks and movies. I got a question on twitter about an astronomical phenomenon and the best way to discuss it was through a blog post. Stick around though, I'm going to try and blow your mind.

The question asked was "What is The Great Attractor?" In order to explain what it is we need to look around our local neighborhood in the universe.

As I'm sure you know, we live in the Milky Way galaxy. It's an average, run of the mill, spiral galaxy about 120,000 light-years in diameter. Remember, a light-year is how far light can travel in one year, or about 6 trillion miles. To put this in perspective, light travels from the Sun to Earth in 8 minutes and makes it to Pluto at its farthest point in just over 6 1/2 hours. Our fastest spacecraft will take 10 years to make the trip to Pluto. The Milky Way contains roughly 200 billion stars and close to that number of planets. It's a very big place. The Solar System lies about 2/3 of the way out from the center in the Orion Spiral Arm. Essentially we are in the suburbs of a very busy city and when you look towards the Milky Way in the night sky, you are looking in towards the bustling downtown.

The Milky Way galaxy itself is part of larger group of 54 galaxies known as The Local Group. We are the 2nd largest member of the group, The Andromeda Galaxy being the largest member at 2.6 million light-years away from us. The Local Group is actually a suburb itself of a much vaster metropolis known as the Virgo Supercluster. This supercluster is made up of about 100 smaller clusters, like the Local Group, and assorted individual free galaxies. It is 110 million light-years in diameter.

Now we come to The Great Attractor. It is a region of space about 250 million light-years away from us that is thought to contain roughly 10,000 times the mass of the entire Milky Way galaxy. That much mass exerts a fairly significant gravitational pull over a large distance. Large enough that it is affecting thousands of galaxies in the region, including our own Virgo Supercluster. Astronomers can measure the distance to galaxies by using something called redshift. It is similar to what happens the the sound of a car as it passes you. When it is approaching you, the sound waves are piling up and being pushed together, causing them to become higher frequency (pitch seems to go up). As it passes and moves away the sound waves stretch out and the pitch falls. Light does the same thing, except when the frequency goes up, the color changes to blue and when it falls, the color changes to red. By measuring the amount of shift in red or blue we can determine the speed and direction galaxies are moving. By further measuring the variations in the speed and direction of thousands of galaxies, an anomaly was discovered and named The Great Attractor. By knowing the amount it was influencing galaxies by we could calculate its mass.

Recently though, studies have discovered that The Great Attractor is not the object that is pulling galaxies towards it as its mass is far less than we originally thought. As our telescopes have gotten better we refine our estimates and understanding. We know now that the object really pulling us is the Shapley Supercluster which sits beyond The Great Attractor a whopping 650 million light-years away. It is the largest concentration of galaxies in the local universe, though not the largest structure by any means.

The Universe is unimaginably vast and full of incredible wonders which we are just barely beginning to gain glimpses of. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and there are trillions of galaxies in the universe. It can be difficult to visualize the extreme scales and sizes involved, but this interactive page does a great job: The Scale of the Universe

Hopefully that answered the question. As with all things science related it probably brought up quite a few more questions in your mind. Feel free to ask any time on twitter (@mycroft16) or via the comments.

Apr 3, 2012

We Blew it as Fans and Missed This Completely!

This summer Disney will be unveiling the newly remodeled entry for California Adventure, Buena Vista Street. Watching the buildings and street take shape has been a lot of fun. Photos and videos from intrepid park guests have detailed the demolition and rebuilding of this area into something beautiful. Disney itself has been showcasing the work through models and videos in the Blue Sky Cellar. I think we missed something in all the excitement though, and it's pretty awesome!

In a very brief 10 second long clip from one of the Blue Sky Cellar videos about Buena Vista Street we can see a projection mapping test on the Carthay Circle Theater model. Here, watch for yourself. Skip to 4:22.

The camera is panning up the model and you can clearly see video being projected on it. An arm is clearly moving on the right side towards the end of the 10 seconds. You can see ceiling lights overhead in the room the test is being shot in and even the shadow of the table the model is sitting on at the beginning.

Disney has been investing a lot of effort into projection mapping recently. The World of Color tour, Let the Memories Begin shows on Cinderella Castle and the it's a small world facade and just this weekend Paris' Disney Dreams show. DCA already has World of Color so I don't expect this to be anything huge like Dreams, just a small, several times a night display, maybe a couple of minutes long. It would make sense to make it about the premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs since that is the time period and historical significance of the Carthay. In fact, it actually looks like the arm and peasant sleeve of Snow White being projected in the video clip.

So, if they are planning on doing this, there would need to be a place for the projectors to sit. I am not an expert in setting up projection mapping, but there are two possibilities here. To cover the entire theater facade there are two possibilities:
Three projectors to cover the entire facade
Two projectors may be enough as well
Three projectors seem to offer much greater coverage and overlap, but it might be possible to cover the whole thing with just two as well. Like I said, I'm no expert in setting something like this up and it would depend a lot on the angles between the BVS buildings and Carthay as well as any obstructions (trees, lighting poles, etc). It looks completely doable.

It might be worth watching the construction of the skyline around the circle area for possible projector emplacements. Has anyone noticed anything yet?

This may just be wishful thinking, but it is fairly obvious that they at least had this idea at some point. Whether it is still happening or was just a test that later got canceled, I don't know. I think it could work really great within the theme of the area as a tribute to the movie that made all of this possible and that actually premiered in the locations real life namesake. Here's hoping this actually happens.

Apr 1, 2012

Premier of Disney Dreams - Disneyland Resort Paris

Image Courtesy {link}
Yesterday marked the official opening of the 20th Anniversary celebration for Disneyland Resort Paris. Hard to believe it's been 20 years. I still remember when it opened its gates as Euro-Disney. They've had an awfully hard time of it over there, but they've grown and changed so much though it all.

The nighttime show Disney Dreams is a spectacular addition to the park, rivaling California Adventure's World of Color. Enough talking, here it is:

Best to make it full screen and turn up your volume. Truly an amazing job by Steve Davison and all the creative team as well as the construction crews who installed it. I hope to be able to see this one in person someday. For the time being, a very happy birthday to Disneyland Resort Paris.

Mar 28, 2012

Won't You Join Me in a Cup of T?

All Images Courtesy of Disney
I'm just going to say it... I think this is a wonderful idea and it should be quite a lot of fun. Mad T Party will be the 3rd such street party in DCA and is looking to be the best of them all.

First came Glow Fest. It was nothing but a street party. It's theme was almost non-existent and consisted solely of "bright neon colors. Oh and also monkeys and belly dancers." It was a huge hit. Not because of the theme, but because of the atmosphere it created.

Next up Disney took a crack at creating their own version of this. Being Disney, they really themed this one up and gave us elecTRONica. Instead of recorded music, we got live DJs that rotated out so the music and styles were different each time. They added entertainment CMs throughout. The created a story and show and a place for this party to live in. They brought in dance crews and Laser Man. Created competitions and various areas within the party. It was a huge step forward for the concept. But the TRON theme is kind of dark and heavy. While the music was still awesome and amazing, the overall vibe was heavier and more atmospheric than the very light and bouncy Glow Fest.

Glow Fest was much more for the whole family while elecTRONica was much more geared towards adults.

Hatter, Alice, Cheshire Cat, Dormouse, Caterpillar and
March Hare are the house band
Now Disney is set to unveil the 3rd in this line of night time parties: Mad T Party. With the Mad T Party, Disney is working to combine these a bit. We get the brighter and more psychedelic design of Glow Fest mixed with the atmospheric lighting and street performances and live music of elecTRONica. They are creating a live band (guitar, synths, vocals, etc) composed of the film's characters. We're getting a DJ for when the band isn't on. The playing cards end up in the role of crowd dancers, interacting with the people dancing and keeping crowd energy up. elecTRONica had "programs" in this role but they didn't actually do much beyond play disc frisbee with people while the Go-go programs were isolated from the crowd on podiums. This should prove to be much more interactive and energetic. As gate keepers to the T Party and bouncers we get the Tweedle's, Dee and Dum.

The dancing cards

Seriously, this look has quickly become
my favorite of all the designs.
Most things dealing with the Alice in Wonderland stories allow the psychedelic aspect to creep into architectural details and set design, but costumes stay more or less normal looking. Without much architectural stuff going on for this T Party, it has been incorporated in the costumes. The checkerboard patterns on Tweedle Dee & Dum's boots. Bold stripes and high contrast colors along side solids. Overall it looks like a fusion of the gothic, grunge and lolita styles.

There are elements here that can appeal across demographics. Adults get the darker slightly edgier more club feel of this Alice party compared to Glow Fest. It looks like kids will have the brighter colors of this compared to elecTRONica as well as much more interactive looking walk-around characters. Teenagers get a harder rock, Hot Topic/Spencer's sort of vibe from the costume/character design.

"House of Cards" bar and dance area
This is based on the little we've been shown so far. I guarantee Disney is keeping the best surprises from us, despite appearing to leak quite a bit. One area we know almost nothing about is the lighting design. Given the massive projection mapping undertaking elecTRONica had I can see them combining that with the bold color splashes Glow Fest had as well as the crowd dancing projections. There will be areas that are darker and more subdued such as the house of cards bar area. There will be areas with lots of color and motion, most likely near the dance floors. I expect surprise, impromtu performances throughout each night as well.

Glow Fest was a straight up dance/club party. elecTRONica was more the experience of being pulled into the grid. It suffered from large areas not really being used for more than projection mapping, heavy music and walking through. Glow Fest didn't have enough areas where non-dancing was happening. The Mad T Party looks like it will bring the best aspects of both of these together while dropping out items that didn't work so well all behind a unified, cohesive, well known (so it doesn't need an explanatory pre-show) theme. We even get pretty cool looking merch! No idea why, but I'm loving the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum art and shirt. It just has a really cool look.

When Glow Fest was announced it was widely worried that this would encourage a drunken orgy of sorts. It didn't. elecTRONica caused this concern to resurface, especially given it's much more adult feel. Again, not really a problem. Concerns and worries about Mad T Party are also surfacing. I don't forsee this being any more of an issue now than it was for the previous two parties. In fact, it will probably be even less of an issue.

I really look forward to visiting the Mad T Party when I'm at the resort this summer. It should have all the energy of Glow Fest and all the atmospheric story-telling of elecTRONica with what looks like some new ideas thrown in for good measure. Clean cup! Move down elecTRONica!

Additional images:
The bank playing for the crowds.

DJ White Rabbit. Kind of a Deadmau5
thing going on with the ears.

Hatter characters as "hosts"

Mar 23, 2012

How Not to Market a Film

Disney recently announced that they are going to take a $200 million hit on John Carter. They really don't have to look any further than the marketing department for this one. It's sad really as it is one of the best movies I have seen.

Just about everyone I know who has seen it has loved it and can't stop talking about how good it was. It has a 7.1 rating on IMDB which is nearly equal to what the Harry Potter films got. It's audience rating on RottenTomatoes is also sitting at 71%. That's pretty awesome. Especially for a genre of story that is so old. So with so many positive feelings among audience members, why on Earth is the movie not doing well?

If you go out and ask the average Joe on the street about it, you're going to get a lot of blank stares. Either that or people will say they've heard of it but have no clue what it is. What those are the reactions from people on the street your marketing department has a problem.

Looking at the trailers the problem is pretty clear. If you had read the books you knew the story and the trailers made sense. Otherwise, they were just a series of beauty shots that didn't really say anything about the movie. The fact that it took place on Mars wasn't even readily apparent. Many people complained that John Carter looked like a rip off of Star Wars or Avatar when in reality those two movies borrowed heavily from John Carter's source material.

Several things could have been done differently here.

  1. Play up the director. Pixar trailers always make mention of their other hits so you associate this new film with something you already like. "From the creators of The Incredibles, etc." John Carter should have stated clearly that it was from the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E to associate that quality of story telling with John Carter.
  2. Play up the author. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan, one of the most enduring and widely known stories and a huge favorite thanks to Disney's re-telling of it. "From the author of Tarzan" should have been included in the trailer.
  3. Play up the story. It should have been made abundantly clear that John Carter is the original sci-fi/fantasy story and not some rip off of the very films that borrowed from it.

Epic Voice-over Man should have said something along these lines:
"From the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E and the author of Tarzan comes first and greatest story of interplanetary love ever told."
Inter-cut that with shot orbiting Mars and then a high speed flight down to Earth. Give us the disaffected soldier who just wants out of all fighting. Brief shots of getting transported to Mars. Tell us that's where he is. Then lay out the broad brush strokes of conspiracy and fighting for love and what is right.

While the teasers and trailers that were shown were pretty cool, they didn't give you any information about what this movie was beyond an action movie that looked like it could be vaguely ancient Greek in origin. I don't know about where you live, but here the marketing was non-existent up until about 5 days before release and then the same jumbled trailer was played every hour on TV.

I think this is a result of the ridiculously over-sized, though unabashedly awesome, campaign for TRON Legacy. That was so huge and didn't get the results they wanted so now they've gone to the minimalist extreme. Hopefully they now realize that reality lies somewhere in between. It just saddens me that the movie that had to suffer for it was John Carter. It is a phenomenal piece of cinema. If you haven't yet seen it, please go. You'll feel like a kid again, just enjoying a movie for the pure fun and adventure of it. Beautifully told and imagined by master of his trade Andrew Stanton.

May the Odds Be Ever In Your Favor

Image Coutesy {link}
So thanks to my work, I got to see Hunger Games this evening. It's a lot of fun to waltz in past the midnight crowd as they line up outside.

I went into this movie with some pretty high expectations as it was a book I really enjoyed. It had a clever story and some really good political machinations. It had a love story that felt far more real than recent films. Fantasy is a genre that I enjoy quite a bit. Needless to say, the bar was pretty high already.

The movie didn't disappoint. The actors were all really good at their roles. They all felt believable. The story stuck pretty close to the book. As with all films based on books, there are things that either just can't be done on film, or not done simply, so they shuffle things and re-write bits. The changes weren't bad in anyway and worked well within the film.

The look of the locations, from District 12 to the Capitol to the arena, were all perfect. Even a new location that you didn't get to visit in the books but that you know exists was far cooler than I ever imagined it would be.

Stanley Tucci is awesome as Caesar Flickerman, and Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith were perfect choices. Lenny did an awesome Cinna as well. He was completely believable.

There were only a couple things that I found a little disappointing. One was the shaky camera during action. I hate that. I feel that it is lazy. It means you don't have to fully choreograph complex sequences and it makes it hard for the audience to follow something. To me it doesn't add tension or make me feel the disorientation that the character must be feeling.

The second thing is some pacing. There were a mere handful of scenes that really lagged. The movie didn't feel long though. It felt just about right to tell the story. There were some cool things that didn't make the cut, but that is always the case.

In all honesty, this was a really fun movie. It was true to the books and just a good time. While the film does now gloss over the deaths of the tributes, it doesn't make them needlessly overdone or gory.

I give The Hunger Games 4.75 out of 5 stars. Go and see it.

Feb 29, 2012

Avenge This!

The new trailer for the Avengers was released this morning, and boy is it an amazing piece of cinematic editing epicness! Feast your eyes in full HD for best effect.

I have no idea how they do this, but with each trailer they have released, this movie gets better and better! Looks like there will be some very good character development and character driven moments as well as some insane action sequences. Great mix of humor and seriousness as well.

All who know me know that I am an absolute nut for Lord of the Rings and am looking forward to The Hobbit this year more than anything else, but this may just have gone into a tie for 1st place with me. I don't know what you're doing this May, but you' better be seeing this movie. It's going to be one really awesome, really wild, really fun ride!

Feb 13, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I am REALLY looking forward to this. The whole idea is just silly awesome fun. The cinematography looks great, the casting. Just a fun movie. Guess I should read the book huh?

Feb 11, 2012

Face it George, Han Shot First

Image Courtesy {link}

Why does George Lucas insist on changing Star Wars decades after it was already popular?
The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. [1]
Ok, fine. Lucas is the creator and does know what his original intent for the character was because he wrote him. However, George seems to be missing two crucial points here.

First, people have never thought of Han as a "cold-blooded killer." He is a space pirate in a space opera. He's a rogue, a Jack Sparrow kind of character if you will. Ok, not a great comparison but it makes the point. He didn't kill Greedo in cold blood but in self defense. Greedo was holding him at gun point and going to turn him over to Jabba the Hut. Han was built up through A New Hope as a man who has a code of honor and lives by it, but it is his own and he can't be expected to live by anyone else's. This is what makes it so cool when he comes back to save Luke later on. He has grown as a character. By changing the scene with Greedo you remove that rough, roguish edge from his character and the eventual change of heart becomes less meaningful.

Second, why change it in the first place? It wasn't clear in the original scene and yet several generations of fans loved that scene and what it meant about the character. So why, after all that time, would you go back in and change it? Yes, it is your film Mr. Lucas, but when a film is released to the public and has been out for decades, the fans take a bit of possession of it as well. Not to mention that it was another decade and a half before this explanation. It's just not a smart decision.

For those too young to remember how things really went down, here's a video:

But that's not all. Darth Vader suffers from this as well. In the original trilogy, Vader is the archetypal bad guy. Wears all black, deep voice, doesn't hesitate to kill those of his minions who disappoint him. He is single minded in his focus and is intent on ruling the galaxy. He came, over the years, to define "bad guy." Then George Lucas brought us the prequel trilogy and Anakin Skywalker's backstory. Suddenly Darth Vader goes from being the archetypal bad guy to tragic hero. He's just a kid who loved his mommy too much. Somehow, the bad guy Darth Vader is no longer as scary, or bad.

Then, in the recent BluRay re-re-re-re-release, another nail went into the coffin of Vader's awesome-bad-guy-ness. In Episode III when he learns of Padme's death, Vader let's out a cry of anguish. George added a similar cry of "noooooo" to the climax of Return of the Jedi as Vader watches Emperor Palpatine torturing his son. Fine, I get that we're supposed to see the parallel between Vader's anguish at losing his wife and now about to lose his son, but that scene was one of the most powerful moments in cinematic history. Vader's silence, watching the torture and impending death of his son at the hands of his mentor and master, is powerful. Even though he wears a full mask that is all black, you can see the internal redemption and change in the masks "eyes" when Vader moves to save Luke. It needed no words, no vocalizations beyond the purity of Luke's agonized screams. Thanks George, once again ruining what was an incredibly deep and moving character arc.

Oh, but it doesn't end there either. Boba Fett has also been ruined. From the original trilogy we know Boba Fett as a stone-cold killer. A mercenary for hire. Enter the prequels and suddenly he is a little boy with daddy issues. Suddenly the most feared assassin in the galaxy is a little less cool.

I just don't get it. The original trilogy was near perfection. For an operatic space fantasy film, not the most amazingly deep genre, to garner the love and respect that it has is beyond phenomenal. Fine, add in some cool background details and such, no problem. Change character story arcs? Cheapen the villains? Destroy one of the hero's redemption? WHY George? Why!?

Don't get me wrong, I love the prequel movies, albeit not as much as the originals, but somehow, they weaken and make the originals a little less powerful. George's incessant meddling isn't helping matters any.

Feb 7, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph Looks Great

Image Courtesy {link}
Can I just say, I am REALLY looking forward to this film? I think it has a huge amount of potential. It's a risky kind of story and setting for Disney, and that's why I support it. It's branching out and doing something kind of crazy but that still has the heart and soul of a Disney movie. Plus, I'm a bit of a gamer myself and look forward to seeing how they interpret the world and characters. From this artwork, I like it so far.

Synopsis and more artwork at ComingSoon.net.

Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney

Image Courtesy {link}
Disney confirmed[1] this morning that the sandwich chain Earl of Sandwich will be coming to Downtown Disney by early summer this year. It will be taking the place of the Compass Bookstore right next to the AMC Theater location.

I am very excited by this news. We have loved eating at the Vegas location for a number of years now, and having one in Downtown Disney will provide another great place to get a quick bite to eat.

Feb 4, 2012

The Woman in Black

Image Courtesy {link}
Last night I saw The Woman in Black and had a really good time. This was a ghost story along the lines of The Others. The movie was well acted, didn't drag and had a simple, straightforward story to tell.

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a lawyer sent by his London firm to the town of Crythin Gifford to examine and put in order the documents of the late widow of Eel Marsh House, an old estate home on an island in the coastal marsh near the town. Upon arriving the townsfolk try to get him to return to London both with their brusque manner and by refusing to aid him. He persists in going to the estate anyway. In going through the vast collection of papers and letters he finds, we begin to learn the tragic history of the family of Eel Marsh House and how it has involved the terrified villagers.

The film relies heavily on the setting to build an uneasy feeling. The village is small and feels devoid of color. There is a persistent coastal fog and mist the seems to have leeched the color, and thus life, from the village and the people. The island is accessible by a dirt track that is washed out twice a day by the tides, leaving a boggy marsh at low tide. Trees have grown rampantly on the island, the house looks disheveled. Inside are layers of dust, cobwebs, dark woods and faded colors that seem to suck what little light enters right out of the air. It is just what you have always imagined a haunted house to look like. It is adorned with the trappings of a wealthy family that has traveled. Creepy statues, busts and dolls fill alcoves along the hallways and heavy cast iron candelabras add a sense of unease and weight. The set design and art direction were really very good.

Daniel Radcliffe is alone for the majority of the movie and must carry it himself. No easy task for any actor, having to act with the sets rather than another person, but he does it very well. I was curious to see how he would do as he hasn't done  much besides Harry Potter. Happily I did not spend the duration of the film picturing him as Harry Potter. He did a great job presenting the character. The only other major characters in the film are a wealthy land owning couple Arthur meets on the way to the town, Mr. and Mrs. Daily. Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) is the one person Arthur can confide in and trust, though it turns out even this couple, often shown symbolically in full sunlight rather than foggy grey, has been touched by the tragedy of Eel Marsh House and hide their secret.

Though it follows the usual method of escalating haunts, the film doesn't feel tired. I think having Daniel Radcliffe in a setting we are so unaccustomed to seeing him in helps it feel fresh. There are several "gotcha" scares, but they are well executed. Most of the time, it is what you don't see that brings on the creepy feeling. Motion on the edge of a frame, in a mirror, a shadow in the dark distance. Shapes that were steady suddenly moving, etc. There are a couple of shots that I hadn't seen anywhere else and got a bit of a jump out of me.

I won't spoil the ending of the film, but will say that it was absolutely perfect. I can not think of any other way this film could have ended as happily as it did while still maintaining the horror of the story. I know some of you will be scratching your heads in wonderment, but I promise, this was actually a happy ending.

It isn't a groundbreaking horror film by any means, but it was very well executed and genuinely acted and that made it a lot of fun to watch and buy into. My wife and I both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and would recommend it to anyone.