You Could Make it Plainer

No, we’re not odd, its true
No fam’ly could be saner
Except one uncle who…well, maybe let that pass
In all you say or do
You couldn’t make it plainer
You are your mother’s daughter; therefore you are class

-Maurice in “No Matter What” from the Beauty and the Beast, the Broadway musical

I understand the impetus to write new songs for musicals based on animated films. Sometimes it’s necessary to expand the singing portion of the production. At other times it’s in order to solve an issue posed by the dramatic structure.

For this song, the creative conversation probably involved the desire to not only give Maurice a song, but to solidify his emotional connection with his daughter before they are separated. However, the song feels like it delays the plot rather than advances it. In addition, the film dialogue it replaces is remarkable for its casual tone. It’s a conversation that could have happened any day. Belle encourages her father by saying she’s always believed he’ll “become a world famous inventor” and Maurice expresses his love for his daughter telling her not to worry about not having someone else she can talk to because “this invention’s going to be the start of a new life for us.”

By making the characters literally profess their sanity, “No Matter What” has the effect of protesting too much. Exploring each other’s eccentricities isn’t the point of the scene, rather it is to present their unconditional love for one another. For this father and daughter to conjure the issue of social acceptance into song here seems unnecessary given the clarity and strength of their relationship which could be conveyed in a much better way as evidenced by the film. If this dynamic was in question, then perhaps the song would be more appropriate since the intended effect of song in a musical is to give voice to that which cannot be spoken. Instead, “No Matter What” draws attention to insecurities that are likely not so deeply rooted as to merit a melody.

Mostly, I just wanted to say that last line isn’t likely to catch on as an affirming adage for young women.

Film Viewings 2011

As I went to compile this list of films I saw in 2011-my fourth annual since Kj helped inspire me to start in 2008 (Click through for 2009 and 2010)-I looked back on last year’s post which began with “This year marked a dramatic decrease in the number of movies I screened compared to last year.” I fully expected this year to continue the downward trend, but I actually saw nine, yes, a whole nine more films in 2011 than in 2010.

“Do I not like going to the movies anymore?” I’ve often asked myself. I still do, certainly, but my qualifications for going have perhaps become more rigid: right time, right people, right movie. Also: Oh, to not have class or a thesis to write.

I still relish my Seattle days when I could walk to two major movie theaters within five minutes. That said, there’s a part of me that also misses being able to hop on the A train down to Times Square and see a Broadway show for $35 (or better, free) as a student. Now? At the moment, I live in suburbia, not quite as fulfilling in terms of entertainment options. Most of the movies I see, I do so from the comfort of my bedroom.

Will this change in 2012? Probably not, because…as of next week, I will be graduating to my first HDTV and Blu-ray player. Will it be world changing? Probably.

Disclaimer: The list you see before you and the “awards” reflect only those films that I have seen, different from your list and those of critics.

Total Films Watched in 2011: 75 (Note: the last film I watched in 2010 is the same final film I watched in 2011-TRON: Legacy-the first year in the theater and the second at home.)

Average per Week: 1.44

Films Seen in Theatres: 10

Most Frequent Cinema Companion: Kj (4 movies)

Film Watched Twice: Sleeping Beauty 

Top Films of 2011 (New/In Order of Viewing):
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
X-Men: First Class
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Most Disappointing Films of 2011:*
Cars 2
Bridesmaids
Attack the Block

*Disappointing because of heightened (or even in the case of Cars 2, lowered) expectations or the typical quality of the talent involved in each production.

Viewings 2011
*denotes theatrical viewing

Mars Attacks!
Religulous
The Muppet Movie
The Great Muppet Caper
Tangled*
The Tempest*
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
How to Train Your Dragon
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
High School Musical
Sleeping Beauty
High School Musical 2
Pinnochio
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
17 Again
Dune (1984)
The Lion King
DreamscapeDumbo
Song of the South
The Social Network
Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan (2003)
Krull
Through a Glass Darkly
Sleeping Beauty
Gnomeo & Juliet*
127 Hours
The Three Caballeros
Walt: The Man Behind the Myth
Jaws
Jaws 2
Jaws 3-D
Jaws: The Revenge
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Edward Scissorhands
Sherlock Holmes
Treasure Planet
Sharktopus
The Blind Side
Hot Tub Time Machine
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The King’s Speech
Chinatown
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Pixar Story
Toy Story 2
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Black Cauldron
Megamind
Thor*
Bridesmaids*
The Phantom Tollbooth
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2*
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Father of the Bride Part II
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
X-Men: First Class
The Addams Family
Addams Family Values
Coraline
Captain America
Cars 2
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Attack the Block
Elf
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Ratatouille
Super 8
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows*
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn*
Hugo*
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol*
TRON: Legacy

It Gets Better

This is just wonderful. I am so happy The Walt Disney Company and its Cast Members have made this effort along with The Trevor Project to make a difference in people’s lives by sharing these deeply personal stories.

It does get better.

Happy Birthday, Walt!

“Somehow I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true.”

Born in Chicago December 5, 1901, Walter Elias Disney would have turned 110 years old today.

Happy Birthday, Mickey!

Today, Mickey Mouse turns 83! It is a date determined by the release of the 8 minute black and white animated short, Steamboat Willie, in November 18, 1928.

Was this the first time the public saw Mickey Mouse? No, but The Walt Disney Company recognizes it as the character’s official debut. May 15, 1928 saw the first screening of Plane Crazy, which also featured Minnie.  Mickey appeared again in The Gallopin’ Gaucho beginning August 2, 1928, but, like its predecessor, did not enjoy wide distribution until after the success of Steamboat Willie. It was also thereafter that sound was added to these other two cartoons to follow in the footsteps of Steamboat Willie‘s use of sound synchronization.

On his 50th birthday in 1978, Mickey Mouse becomes the first animated character to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 6925 Hollywood Blvd.

Stars and Stories

This morning, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) announced the winners of the 18th Annual Thea Awards. Among the winners of the awards which recognize industry achievements in the creation of engaging places and guest experiences, Disney was, naturally, well represented.

Winning the Award for Outstanding Achievement-Attraction Refresh was Star Tours: The Adventures Continue which has been making daily flights from Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to a handful of random destinations with a random assortment of characters since this past spring. Eleven variables across four different sections makes for a total of 54 possible visually stunning combinations. Side note: it’s really the best 3D experience I’ve ever had with an incredibly crisp display and non-intrusive or distracting dimensionality. Since the attraction opened on June 3rd of this year, I’ve been on the attraction over a dozen times and I have yet to experience the exact same combination as a previous journey.

You can see the full list of combinations numerous places online. This one  not only offers the complete list of potential itineraries but a spreadsheet on which one can mark completed trips. Technically, since the “rebel spy,” central to the attraction’s narrative is indicated by a Cast Member-selected image of one of the simulator’s riders, the combinations are truly endless.

Obviously, it’s a vast improvement over the original attraction which offered one trip all day every day with a degrading film reel. Like the other George Lucas-produced attraction in Disneyland, Indiana Jones Adventure, which possesses the potential for some 150,000+ combinations albeit on a more minute scale, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue will help drive the future development of attractions with branching narratives and customizable experiences.

The next evolutionary step in attraction development, in my view, will be active audience participation and recognition. Riders will be implicated within the context of the narrative to an unprecedented degree. This will be accomplished through hand-held implements on the ride vehicle, RFID enabled accessories with personalized information, and technology that will allow visitors’ every movement and sight lines to be tracked throughout the experience in order to trigger unique effects and story lines. A simple example of this would be to imagine instead of Indy telling the occupants of your ride vehicle to drive a certain way, he called the occupant of the driver’s seat by name. Or by turning the wheel one way, a rider or group of riders were able to determine a different track for their experience on the attraction. These possibilities are coming. Through refreshes of existing attractions like Star Tours and brand new experiences like those that will be developed for the future Avatar-themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, “NextGen” technology is transforming themed entertainment and providing the basis for narratives that are yours and yours alone.

Star Tours is an admirable start and worthy of the Thea Award. While there have been no official plans announced to update the original Star Tours attractions at Tokyo Disneyland or Disneyland Paris, I can’t help but wonder when even more combinations will be added to Star Tours. The infrastructure is already there; why not let us visit Alderaan as appears in the destination posters upon the attraction’s exit? And when we do exit, why not have a couple of stormtroopers call out that “rebel spy” by name and escort him off into Tomorrowland? The story shouldn’t have to end when you unbuckle your seat belt.

Each of Disney’s winning projects and individuals will be honored as part of the Thea Awards gala March 17, 2012 at the Disneyland Hotel. I wonder what I’m doing that night…

UPDATE: A day after Star Tours: The Adventures Continue won a Themed Entertainment Association award, the Oriental Land Company, which operates Tokyo Disneyland, announced it would revamp the original attraction for a debut  in 2013.

Entrances

Pan Pacific Auditorium Los Angeles, CA May 18, 1935
Disney-MGM Studios Orlando, CA May 1, 1989
Disney California Adventure Anaheim, CA July 15, 2011

Disney Imagineers take us back to 1930s Hollywood once again with the opening of the new turnstiles at Disney California Adventure today at the Disneyland Resort.

This new entrance and that of what is now Disney’s Hollywood Studios is modeled after the Pan Pacific Auditorium, which played home to countless events for more than 40 years, the new entrance to Disney California Adventure pays homage to the iconic architecture that greeted Walt Disney when he first came to California.

Though the original Pan Pacific Auditorium was destroyed in a fire a mere three weeks after the unveiling of the Disney-MGM Studios entrance at Walt Disney World Resort, millions of people a year can relive the experience of entering a place full of exciting potential as they enter under the gates.

The new California Adventure gateway is only one part of the $1.1 billion makeover of the resort’s “Second Gate” which originally opened just over 10 years ago February 8, 2001.