Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is Star Wars Land Coming to Walt Disney World? I Have a Good Feeling About This...


Recently, rumors have been ripping through the internet about possible new “lands” being added to Walt Disney World theme parks. The latest and hottest rumors, as reported by many sites (most notably speculate that a Star Wars Land and a Florida version of the immensely popular Anaheim Cars Land, are planned for Disney’s Hollywood Studios park within five years. Although Disney refuses to fuel the fire of these rumors, one thing is clear. If you are a fan of Disney World and Star Wars, you probably have a lot to look forward to in the next few years.


When Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm was announced on at the end of October 2012, it was logical to assume that the Mouse would want more Disney in his house in the future. After all, there has been a Star Wars presence in Disney World since 1989 when Star Tours opened in the then-named Disney-MGM Studios, and even further back in California with the opening of this same attraction at Disneyland in 1987. In fact, Star Tours was the first Disney park attraction not to be inspired by a Disney film. Considering all this, it is almost hard to imagine that a Disney park has not expanded its Star Wars presence in the quarter century since the Force was first felt in Anaheim. 


With the Force and the Mouse becoming one, Disney would be foolish not to capitalize on expanding the Star Wars presence in their parks. After all, Disney Chairman Bob Iger’s business plan is to build the company’s future by acquiring companies like Pixar and Marvel, who are ripe with franchise-worthy characters that will drive the various entities of their brand (movies, television, theme parks,
darthmaz314merchandising) in the future. So while Disney’s official statement was that “they have nothing to announce”, their silence may be only temporary. It is likely that if there are official plans to build Star Wars and/or Cars lands in Orlando, Disney will make their official announcements at the D23 Expo (Disney’s Official Fan Club convention) which will be held August 9-11 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Consider also that with Disney’s plans to not only release Episodes VII through IX, but also spinoff films focusing on individual characters from the Star Wars universe, the promotional and merchandising opportunities are as plentiful as stormtroopers in the Imperial Army. Starting in 2015, for better or worse, we will be able to experience an almost endless wave of Star Wars films coming at us at light speed. Could there be a better time to expand on the Star Wars presence in the Disney Parks? It is hard to imagine this not happening, particularly since Disney has not been able to parlay their purchase of Marvel into theme park expansion due to exclusivity deals with Universal in Orlando.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Monsters University: Does it Make the Grade?

It is hard to name another creative team that has repeatedly hit the mark as many times as Pixar. Each and every year, this animation studio rolls out another film that not only rivals any animated film released to compete with it, but has the cinematic credibility to stand toe to toe with most live action films as well. Disney/Pixar's latest offering is a sequel to the hugely successful Monsters Inc. Pixar proved that they could produce a successful sequel with Toy Story 2 and then proved that they could deliver on a third installment with the cinematic gem Toy Story 3, which was nominated for Best Picture. And while Cars 2 may not have had the chops to ride with its full throttle predecessor, Monsters University,more than makes the grade.

Creating great cinema is easy. Easy for me to say. Yet, there is one element that every great film has, regardless of it's budget, its box office take, or how many Oscars it wins...a great story filled with characters that the audience can connect with and embrace. Monsters University has both. Of course, the character part was already prefabricated in the original film, so it was easy for Pixar to mail this one in, right? It may have been easy, but as they have consistently proven in the past, Pixar never mails it in.

In Monsters University, the first Pixar prequel, we are introduced to the lovable Mike Wozowski and James P. Sullivan back in their college days, when they were not yet scarers and not yet even friends. In fact, when they meet, and for the first half of the movie, the two can barely stand one another. This movie shows us how the duo became friends and how they overcame all the odds to become Monsters Incorporated's best scaring team ever.

Monsters University paints the portrait of Mike Wozowski as the hardest working scare program student in the monster world, who dreamed of becoming a scarer ever since an elementary school class trip to the Monsters Inc. factory. Everyone counted little Mike out and no one ever took him seriously. But his boundless enthusiasm and hard work landed him a spot in the scare program at Monsters University, where Mike was determined to make a name for himself as the best candidate the program had ever seen.  He never fit in with the "cool kids" and may not have ever really been very scary, but he worked harder and longer than anyone at honing the craft of scaring.

Enter Jimmy Sullivan, a hulking mass of pure bred scarer, whose family name was steeped in the great tradition of scaring. With his snarling and menacing visage and his blood-curdling roar, Sully could scare a kid straight out his pajamas. But with his cocky attitude and a lack of interest in learning the theory and techniques that make a truly great scarer, Sully soon finds out that his family name and his ability to belt out a good roar may not be enough to make it through the scare program.

In this film, Mike and Sully are the furthest from friends that they could be after they meet one another. They develop a bitter rivalry that eventually escalates in their both being thrown out of the scare program by the head of the School of Scaring, Dean Hardscrabble, voiced by Helen Mirren. The boys eventually team up with a band of misfit
students and enter an MU competition called the Scare Games, the winner of which is granted entrance into the scare program. Mike and Sully must learn to work together with their team and with each other if they are to prove Dean Hardscrabble and everyone else on campus, that they are wrong about their chances of making it as scarers.

What make Monsters University a good movie is that it takes millions of little dots on a computer screen and infuses them with more humanity and emotion than many live action films can muster even in their best scenes. The story, the animation, and the vocal performances all combine to bring computer generated characters to life in a way that is hard to imagine is possible. These characters are believable because they are real. They are flawed. They make mistakes and they don't always save the day. True, the endings are usually happy, but Pixar blends human weakness and fallibility into their characters, creating a complexity and a reality that makes them transcend their computer generated limitations and brings them to life in that uniquely Pixar fashion.

The result it that we can all see a glimpse of ourselves in these characters. Whether it was Mike's inability to be accepted as the smallest guy in the room, or Sully's in-crowd disregard for the rules and refusal to put in the time to make the grade, these are characters you have met. They are the pimply-faced kid who was pushed into the urinal. They are the jerk wagon jock who thought he descended from the divine. Their flesh and blood counterparts may not have had one enormous eye or been covered in electric blue polka-dotted fur, but you know these characters. Some may even see the shadows of these characters every day when they look in the mirror.

Like nearly all the other Pixar films, we become invested in the characters. We have seen them in action at a later stage in life in Monsters Inc. Now we see how the meld into the characters that we fell in love with more than a decade ago. As usual, the message is a positive one in this film. Hard work, dedication, perseverance, and true friendship, are what eventually land Mike and Sully at the door to Monsters Inc. In fact, it is refreshing that this story does not tie everything into a neat little bow for our
heroes within five minutes of the ending credits. Mike and Sully earn their spot as the top scarers and never have anything handed to them on a silver platter. It may be cliché, but even the most cynical of us has to love a story like that.

In a world that seems to value cutthroat tactics and making your way by stepping on the backs of others to get ahead, darthmaz314 applauds Pixar for telling a story about how being a decent person (or in this case, a decent monster) pays off in the end. With competition infused into nearly every form of entertainment, overwhelming us at every turn, it is important to take a step back and question what it is that we are all competing for. Monsters University reminds us all that it is our relationships that are the true rewards in life. Mike and Sully make be the most unlikely duo at a glance, but it is who they are inside and how they grow and work together that make them an unstoppable force in the world of scaring.

Monsters University has plenty of laughs, some for the kiddies and some only the adults will be able to catch. It has stunning visuals that will make you wonder how a computer can recreate life so vividly and crisply. It has the endearing characters we love from the original, and a few new ones that make for a solid supporting cast. It delivers on the Disney/Pixar track record of good family entertainment and it has the previously referenced positive message. What more could you want for your family entertainment dollar?  

If you saw “Monsters University” this weekend and would like to share a comment, please do! darthmaz314 welcomes your comments and shamelessly asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walt Disney World Trivia: Part 1

This is darthmaz314's first installment of Walt Disney World trivia. There are questions for the casual Disney fan, as well as the seasoned expert. Scroll down for all answers and don't cheat...or the Mouse will know.


1. What is the connection between President Richard M. Nixon and the Contemporary hotel?

Richard M. Nixon - courtesy

2. Just beyond the entrance to the Magic Kingdom park, at the foot of Main Street, there is a bronze statue which features Minnie Mouse sitting next to someone on a bench? Who is that someone?

3. How many ghosts are said to inhabit The Haunted Mansion?


4. Which Imperial war machine stands guard over Star Tours: The Adventure Continues in Disney  Hollywood Studios? 

5. What is the official name of the attraction commonly referred to as “the Epcot ball” or the “giant silver golf ball?

What is this called again? - courtesy darthmaz314

6. What was the name of the first Walt Disney World water park?

7. What is the name given to the unique underground service tunnel system upon which the Magic Kingdom was built?

8. Name the “Disney Legend” who sings the Christmas classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and whose classic deep voice made the song “Grim Grinning Ghosts” featured in The Haunted Mansion” so memorable.


9. What other famous animated character’s voice was performed by this same “Disney Legend?”

HINT: This animated character is not associated with Disney and did not appear in an animated film or television show.
10. True or False? On Main Street, the buildings are built larger at the base and progressively smaller as they rise up into the sky to create an illusion of being taller than they actually are?
Main Street Forced Perspective - courtesy darthmaz314


1. Nixon delivered his famous “I am not a crook” speech from the Contemporary hotel.

2. Walt Disney’s brother, Roy Disney.

Minnie Mouse and Roy Disney - Courtesy darthmaz314

3. The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom was long advertised to be inhabited by 999 “happy haunts .” These ghosts and ghoulies are now referred to using the more politically correct term “unearthly specters” on the Walt Disney World official website. Perhaps they sued for defamation of character.

4. The Imperial AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport)

The AT-AT That Guards Star Tours in Disney's Hollywood Studios - courtesy darthmaz314

5. Spaceship Earth (read darthmaz314's posts on Spaceship Earth by clicking the links below)

6. River Country
Disney's River Country - courtesy

7. Utilidors

8. Thurl Ravenscroft. Thurl’s voice work is also featured in a dozen Disney animated features from 1950 – 1970, as well as several other Disney attractions.

9. Thurl Ravenscroft was the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger for over fifty years.

Thurl Ravenscroft - courtesy Wikipedia

10. True! Disney Imagineers used a technique called “forced perspective” when constructing the buildings on Main Street to make the buildings appear taller than they actually are.

Check out the other rounds of darthmaz314's Walt Disney Trivia by clicking on the links below:

Walt Disney World Trivia: Round II

Walt Disney World Trivia: Round III

Walt Disney World Trivia: Round IV

darthmaz314 always welcomes your comments and shamelessly asks you to share this and all our posts with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see. Also, please visit, follow, and like our facebook page...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Internship: Should You Apply?

If you’re looking for some lighthearted comedy this week, type in “The Internship” and hit that “Google Search” button. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson reunite onscreen for the first time since Wedding Crashers in The Internship, which opened Friday night. In a summer movie season filled with a boatload of potentially big movies, which has already seen The Hangover III under-perform, it is hard to predict if this comedy will resonate with audiences and score big at the box office. But the real question is “Should you apply?” darthmaz314 will try to prep you for a possible interview with The Internship.

The Internship tells the story old friends Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) who work together as watch salesmen until their employer unexpectedly closes up shop, leaving them middle-aged and unemployed in the sluggish Obama economy. The two friends embark on a journey to start fresh in life and decide to roll the dice by applying for an internship at tech giant, Google. After a bumbling and comical online interview, the boys arrive at the Google headquarters only to discover that they will be required to spend the entire summer competing against hundreds of intellectually gifted, yet underemployed young techies for a shot at full-time employment at Google. Billy and Nick, who are about as tech savvy as Tibetan Monks, are lumped together on a team of three other misfit “Noogglers” (Dylan O'Brien, Tiya Sircar, and Tobit Rapael) and assigned to a mentor (Josh Brener) that fits in even less than they do. Their team’s main rival is captained by an arrogant British elitist named Graham Hawtrey (Max Minghella), who seems to revel in their every defeat and takes personal delight in taunting Billy, calling him out as an underachiever who always manages to screw up a good thing.  

All this sets the stage for a “misfits make good” movie that mixes in lessons about friendship, commitment, learning to love yourself and let go, and proving the naysayers wrong. The film’s message is a positive one as Billy, Nick, and their team never stoop to retaliation and revenge against their detractors and seem intent only on striving to meet their goal, against all odds. It’s that “Little Engine That Could” mentality that propels the group forward as they slowly let down their individual defenses and allow themselves to become not just the unlikeliest of teams, but also good friends. Throw in a sub-plot of Nick’s romantic pursuit of a tightly-wound and work obsessed thirty-something Googler named Dana (Rose Byrne), and a cameo of Will Ferrell playing Nick's sister's sleazy mattress peddling boyfriend, and you have…The Internship.