TouringPlans.com Lines: Consumption, Contribution, & Gaming

For those that don’t know, TouringPlans.com is the website for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (*ding*).  “The Guide” is a favorite among travelers to Walt Disney World, and the Disney online community, especially fans of the WDW Today Podcast.  The greatest asset of the book and the site is the sheer amount of data that sits behind them.  This is not stagnant data taken years ago that is only somewhat correct, or worse, mostly incorrect.  Instead this is a very up to date set of data that is constantly being tweaked, finely tuned, and analyzed by their team to bring to us, the consumer, as accurate an experience as possible.

Back in November of 2009, TouringPlans.com  announced a new web based application for the iPhone called Lines.  Since that time it has grown to include versions for Android, Palm, and Blackberry devices.  At it’s core, it is a means by which, from your smartphone, you can access what is generally the most coveted of all Disney Theme Park knowledge, “How long am I going to have to stand in this line?” Continue reading “TouringPlans.com Lines: Consumption, Contribution, & Gaming”

Unboxing: Disney Marathon ChEAR Squad Swag Bag

Tomorrow I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before, and it sounds like a ton of crazy fun.  I’m going to go cheer on some friends who are running in the Disney Half Marathon: Katie (kidanikatie) and Ed (superedo).  It’s always nice to have a new Disney experience after close to 40 years of Disney in my life.  As such I signed up to be a part of the Disney Marathon ChEAR Squad.  This comes with a simple swag bag that I picked up last night at the Milk House at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.  And I just wanted to present for you a few shots I took of the swag.

But before I do, a little motivational announcement for Ed & Katie.  They’ve already seen this last night on Twitter, but here’s the shot of the message Cheryl and I wrote for them on the Marathon sign in board last night:

Message for Katie & Ed
Message for Katie & Ed

And now on to the swag…

ChEAR Squad Swag Bag
ChEAR Squad Swag Bag
ChEAR Squad Swag
ChEAR Squad Swag
ChEAR Squad T-Shirt & Clapper
ChEAR Squad T-Shirt & Clapper
ChEAR Squad Clapper
ChEAR Squad Clapper
ChEAR Squad Seat Cushion & Keychain Fob
ChEAR Squad Seat Cushion & Keychain Fob

Just in case you missed the fob in your pack, it’s the piece that pops out of the seat cushion that has a hole in it.  Just thread the little chain found in your swag bag through the hole and viola a keychain fob is all yours.

ChEAR Squad Swag Bag Headphone Port
ChEAR Squad Swag Bag Headphone Port

Note: iPhone barely fits into the carrier pouch inside, certainly not good positioning for the headphones.  Made for a smaller device like a nano.

Movie Review: Avatar

Rating: ★★★¼☆ 

For my last movie of 2009 I opted to see Avatar.  It is the latest in line of what are considered to be some of the best cinematic experiences of all time by Writer/Producer/Director James Cameron.  And Avatar succeeds in continuing that line.

It’s not because this movie has a great story, because it doesn’t.  No this story is one you’ve seen many times before.  It’s a comfortable story, one you know, one with few surprises.  And that’s because if this movie had a complex story that you actually had to focus on, you would not be able to appreciate the splendor and beauty of what you’re seeing before you on the screen.  And that is the entire point of this movie: eye candy. Continue reading “Movie Review: Avatar”

Movie Review: The Spy Next Door

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Jackie Chan's House
Jackie Chan's House

I have to be honest with you up front, I’m a huge Jackie Chan fan.  I’m not just talking the modern day “American” movie star Jackie Chan that has come about with movies like Rush HourAround the World in 80 Days, and The Tuxedo.  No, I’m talking about classic, pirate fighting, Project A Jackie Chan.  I’ve even included the picture on the left to show that I’ve whizzed past the man’s house at 30 mph on a Hollywood tour bus just to catch a glimpse.  And I confess all this to you because while the cinema student in me says that this movie was only 3 stars, my appreciation for all things Jackie Chan has required me to give it an extra half star – just on principle. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Spy Next Door”

Movie Review: Disney’s The Princess and the Frog

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

This past Sunday I went with my wife Cheryl to go see Disney‘s new animated feature The Princess and the Frog.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  While I had seen the trailers for the movie, I really tried to stay mostly spoiler free.  After all, this was a big event for Disney as it marks a return to traditional 2D animation after a 5 year hiatus from it in favor of a more modern computer animated approach.  Personally I’m not one who’s particularly for one style of animation over the other, as I feel they both have a place in this world.  I’m also far more story oriented anyway.

For the most part I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free as I realize that with the holidays and the recent “Snurricane of ’09” that many might not have seen it yet.  For me, if it hadn’t have been for the WDW Today Podcast ’09 Reunion on the movie’s opening weekend, I probably would have seen it a week earlier than I did.

The movie is set in the early pre-Depression era 20th century, and begins right around the time when Woodrow Wilson first became President of the United States.  There is one shot to establish this time period early on in the movie as we see a headline declaring that Wilson was elected President.  And from that moment I was immediately hooked.  From the previews I had just naturally assumed it was going to be set in modern times, and was happy to find it was not.  I don’t think the story would have otherwise worked.

Cinematically there were some very clever things done with the animation, and, to me, two of them stood out.  The first was the consideration made by the artists in providing a sort of depth of field focus to the frames as they were presented to us.  The characters and elements that were the focus of the “shot” were always in focus, and those things around, in front, and behind it were not.  It lent an air of almost realism to the movie.  This is in stark contrast to the crisp, clean large scale computer animated scenes mixed in with the traditional animation of Beauty and the Beast.

The second was the use of a second style of animation that we saw during Tiana’s “Almost There” number.  Granted this has been done in a number of other Disney films, including Hercules (one of my favorites).  But this time there is a moment toward the end of the movie where they bring the style back, but only partially as it is mixed with the animation style of the rest of the movie.  It is a clever play, and it works well to cement that moment.

This takes me to want to discuss one more aspect of the movie that won me over:  the music.  When Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), a singing and Jazz playing alligator who reminds one of his namesake Louis Armstrong, starts belting ot the song “When We’re Human” I was immediately flooded with the sorts of warm and happy feelings I get from my all time favorite Disney animated movie song “I Wan’na Be Like You” from The Jungle Book.

Now with that said, not all things with this film are perfect to me.  For example, I feel that much of the story lacks the impact that so many of the great Disney animated features have.  The story is highly telegraphed throughout, and it has no great surprises, save one which would be a spoiler to speak specifically about.  You could tell that Disney was playing it safe.

But this story redeems all that with one simple number, “Dig a Little Deeper” sung by Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis).  This moment in the film isn’t just one of the most visually stunning and fun moments.  It’s also the entire message of the movie summed up in one great song, and that message is this:

Life isn’t about what you want, it’s about what you need and appreciating what you have.

And if every kid who sees this movie walked away with that message they and the world would be better for it.

So many are likely wondering then if this movie is kid friendly, and I’ll say this.  It does have what could be construed as scary moments and some very poignant ones also.  But they are things that are no more scary than Hercules battling a Hydra, Ursula, or Jafar turning into a giant snake.  And they are no more poignant than what happens to Bambi’s mother, or Simba’s father.  So if you think your kids can grok though those things, then they can absolutely handle everything Doctor Facilier (a.k.a. “The Shadow Man“) can throw at them.

One last thing is this, before I saw this movie I never would have thought that the most touching, and heartstrings pulling moments of any movie would involve a lovesick Cajun firefly named Ray.  Thank you Jim Cummings for that.