If you’d like my review in very shortened form, it is this – Mary Poppins Returns was a visual delight, I cried several times, and left the theater full of hope, joy, and love. Now, let’s dive in to the long version…
I have a problem. I love (most) all things Disney, but at the same time, I can be pretty critical (not necessarily publicly) about choices they may make either with the parks or movies etc. but it’s still Disney, it’s still a theme park, it’s still a movie. And I love those things. So I was a little worried about Mary Poppins Returns, because I LOVE Mary Poppins (and yes, I realize I am not unique in that love, it’s pretty universally well-loved and adored) and was worried about tampering with that practical-perfection. But as already stated, I loved it.
I am not going to post huge spoilers in my review below, but I am going to cover the already-revealed-in-trailers portions of the film, and a few other topics, and the movie’s out now, so go see it and then come back and discuss with me! Now, let’s begin!
A Love Letter to the Original Story
What I love about Mary Poppins, the original film, is that in 2018, it is not just a classic family movie. It is a time capsule of Walt Disney Company history. We hardcore Disney fans know all about the history of making that movie. The involvement and disapproval of P.L. Travers, Walt’s personal connection to the books with his daughters, and the fact that it was made during the golden age of the Walt Disney Studios, with some of the best players and names of the time. So when I watch Mary Poppins, I don’t just watch that story and hear those songs, I think about the Sherman Brothers composing the theme songs to our lives. I think about how people didn’t think Dick Van Dyke could do a Cockney accent, but he became one of the most beloved names in Disney history because of this film. I think about Walt strolling through the studio and watching it all unfold and adding his own touches to the story. I think about how I sang these songs to my children when they were babies, and how I have friends that do the same.
Adding to this story would be like saying, I know It’s a Wonderful Life ended perfectly, but what if we went back 20 years later when George and Mary Bailey were both dead and their kids are not doing so well…It definitely would be a story, but should it be told? That’s what I was worried about with Mary Poppins Returns. And honestly, I’m still not sure it needed to been done, but we could say that about most things these days. The way I came to terms with it is: you just have to know that the original existed, and leave it at the door. Mary Poppins Returns, while technically a sequel, is really more of an homage to the original, a love letter, a beautifully hand-written thank you card.
From the very first scene to the last, we are treated to an updated tribute to the original Mary Poppins. Both movies open with Bert/Jack setting the scene, followed in the original by Peter Ellenshaw matte paintings, and in Mary Poppins Returns, Ellenshaw-esque paintings to accompany the overture, giving us a hint as to what we are about to enjoy. The similarities don’t end there, with each song or story point almost mirroring the original, sometimes expanding and updating our Mary and how she would act.
Not My Mary!
At first I took some issue with this, as I thought “Mary Poppins would never sing about someone being “on the sauce” or dance that way!” But then I had time to reflect on it and came to this conclusion (whether it lines up with the intent is up to Rob Marshall I guess!): Mary Poppins is timeless, ageless. She’s always been elegant, yet could hang with the chimney sweeps as if they were kings. So when she returns, 20-some years later in the middle of “The Great Slump” or Great Depression, she isn’t the same Mary that appeared in Michael and Jane Banks’ nursery. She is a modern nanny equipped with modern clothes, mannerisms, and a catalog of songs and dances in keeping with the timeline in which she appears. So of course she is going to a music hall and able to sing in a variety act-like comedic-song-and-dance. It all made sense to me when I thought of it that way.
In addition, something that struck me the second time I saw the film before finishing up this review was how Mary Poppins herself was acutely aware of the passage of time, nostalgia, and how things may disappear, but are never really gone.
During the song “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” there were several times when Mary looked around the nursery or touched an original toy from when Jane and Michael slept there, and looked wistfully as if she realized that this song she was singing to comfort the children at the loss of their mother, was also a comfort to her, at the loss of the original Banks’ children being children. She has this look many other times throughout the film, when Michael says something particularly adult-like, or sounds like his father, seemingly missing or wishing he would remember the lessons she taught so long ago.
Emily Blunt is a marvelous Mary, and she could tell a story of a thousand words with just one look – I loved her. She sang beautifully as well, making repeat listens of the soundtrack something that will definitely happen.
Speaking of Music…
I really loved almost all of the songs from the movie. I found Michael’s melancholy song in the beginning to be one of the sweetest and most emotional, and of course when the children sang the Lost Things song back to him, it was a definite tear-jerker. One of the best decisions however, is how the orchestral parts in between scenes or songs are nods back to the original score and the Sherman Brothers classics we all know and love. Make sure you take note of that while watching, it really is lovely.
Again, when I first saw it, my initial reaction to some songs were, “oh, they’re just trying to make this be the ‘Step in Time’ of the movie!” and later, when I had my moments of realization and it all made sense, I thought, “Oh! They’re making this be the ‘Step in Time’ of the movie!” and I appreciated it all the more.
The only song I wasn’t super into is the only scene I wasn’t super into, which was the Meryl Streep/Cousin Topsy “Turning Turtle” song. I get that that was the “Ed Wynn” moment of the film, but it just seemed out of place and forced a bit. But they all learned a lesson, so that was good at least.
The over-the-top numbers were all perfectly over the top as they should be and grand and fun to watch and listen to. The slower songs served their purpose too and overall everything flowed together nicely (except “Turning Turtle“ :P)
It’s Today or Never, I Always Say
Much like the original Mary Poppins, this movie is chock-full of Mary-isms that will have you smiling and remembering what’s truly important in life; having fun, using your imagination, remembering that everything is possible, and to sit up straight because we are not sacks of flour!
I love the dynamic of Mary and the children in this film, because much like the original Banks children felt they didn’t need a nanny, these three have proven that they don’t, as you see right from the start they’ve been taking care of themselves and the family. But as Mary reminds them, they are children, they can have fun and still help the family.
One of the things even my 10 year old noticed when we saw the preview screening back in November, was that there are villains in this movie. And while we could say that in the original, the bank and even to an extent Father was a villain, in Mary Poppins Returns, there is a scene where the children are literally in danger from the villains of the film. Of course we are then left to wonder if it was real or just a dream, but the villains are there nonetheless. I think, much like Mary growing with the times, the storyline itself grew with it as well. Times were tough during The Great Slump, and it affected the Banks family in more ways than one. Their biggest problem wasn’t cleaning their rooms, but the fact that they lost their mother and were about to lose their house. Not exactly kids stuff. But Mary guides them through (the older Banks children too), and of course they are all the better for it.
I’m sure there are a million things I’m forgetting to say that I wanted to discuss, but that’s what edit buttons are for, right? Overall, I loved this film, even more the second time I saw it, as I thought I might. It is truly a feast for the eyes, ears and heart. I cried many times, but not because it was all sad (it was in places), but mostly because of the great nostalgia it stirred within me. I wasn’t born when Mary Poppins came out, and I don’t even remember when I first saw it, but over the years, it became a well-loved favorite and as mentioned at the start, a huge part of Walt Disney company history. Just seeing Dick Van Dyke on screen filled me with joy, as did Angela Lansbury. Ms. Lansbury was not in the original Mary Poppins of course, but was in Bedknobs and Broomsticks with David Tomlinson, and she is a Disney Legend. Seeing these two icons on screen was truly a gift to us all, as is Mary Poppins Returns.
Mary Poppins Returns is now open in theaters everywhere – go see it! I was invited to a pre-screening by the Walt Disney Company, but as always, my opinions and thoughts are my own.
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns? What did you think? What was your favorite part and your favorite song?
You may have noticed that Walt Disney World has been experimenting over the past few years with various “add-on” events. Whether it’s a dessert party that comes with fireworks viewing, or a dinner package for a nighttime event, or realizing that they can close down a park early and re-open it for a separate ticket and people will love it, Disney has been pretty successful with this. But are these extra additions, like Disney After Hours, worth the price? We’ll discuss that below and let you decide. But first, a little backstory…
It’s no secret that Walt Disney World Resort is more crowded than ever and it’s not slowing down any time soon. It wasn’t too long ago that there were blissful “slow times” at WDW. Those were the times that locals waited for, and during which smart planners booked their vacations. Times when the lines were down, the weather was better, and it made all the difference. Disney noticed these times too, and thought “Hey, we should make a reason for people to come down and visit when our numbers are down….maybe a….festival or something? And the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was born.
Way back in 1994, Epcot would create fun springtime topiaries, and thought turning it into a festival was a natural answer to the slower time between Mother’s Day and the start of summer. The next year, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began, during the usually slow time in the early Fall when school was back up but before the holidays started.
Over many successful years, these festivals filled in the gap of less crowds, leaving only one major time when the park had noticeably less guests. A new experiment, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts filled in that gap. This festival was born of the former “Festival of the Masters” that took place at Downtown Disney, before it was rejuvenated as Disney Springs. Now, I cannot even fathom having a festival at Disney Springs on a weekend, the crowds would make it impossible to even move. The festival takes place in the weeks between January and February before February vacation and then Spring Break begin. It is the favorite time for many a local. The weather is usually cold, or at least cooler and not humid (though nothing is a guarantee in central Florida), and because of the time period, less families are taking off and going on vacation. It is glorious. Or it was.
Nowadays, there aren’t many times when you can find a Disney park or Disney Springs “less crowded.” There are events, either festivals or races or seasonal parties filling in pretty much every day of the year. Sure, going during the week, when school is in session will be slightly more manageable, but long gone are the days when you didn’t have to plan ahead and could just roll up, expect to walk on a ride or walk in to a table service restaurant and expect to be seated. It is a different time, one of FastPasses, ADR’s (neither of which guarantee a quick wait) and constant crowds. But I’m not here to comment on the changing times and yell at you kids to get off my lawn. I’m just giving some background as to how these events have been creeping up over time. What once was a display of flowers and topiaries has turned into a mini food and wine festival itself. What was once a festival to try some new international dishes, sample some wines and beers and see demonstrations from chefs around the world, has turned into Drinking Around the World with t-shirts to match (that’s another post on its own from me :P) And the latest addition to these free (minus attendance and cost of food/drinks of course) events, has been dessert parties and the like.
Don’t want to worry about where to stand for the perfect fireworks or parade view? There’s an add-on package for you. Getting “free” candy or cookies and treats during the already separate ticketed event of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party not enough? There’s a dessert party add-on for you too! But the truth is, in the last few years, the hard-ticketed parties are more crowded than they’ve ever been, and while yes, wait times are reduced compared to a typical day, there are still a LOT of guests there, especially during the fireworks and parade times. So what’s the answer for those that want to enjoy a bit of the old reduced-crowd Disney parks experience? The answer is – Disney After Hours.
Yes, this event is very limited to specific dates over the course of the year, and yes, it is $129 per person – adult or child. BUT – it IS worth it – in most cases. Let’s figure out why.
First, I understand that many people reading this may not be locals or passholders, but guests who plan for years and need accommodations and park hopper passes and a host of other items locals don’t normally have to worry about. So while it may seem flippant for me to say “it’s worth the extra $130!” I promise, I am taking vacationers into account.
What I am suggesting is that, if you are able to work an After Hours event into your existing vacation dates, that you could perhaps do it on a day where you visited a water park or Disney Springs during the day, enjoy a dinner there, at a resort, or even off-property, saving a day of your Park Hoppers. Then return to the After Hours park and enjoy multiple (and I do mean multiple) rides on the available attractions of your choice, which are traditionally either impossible to get FastPasses for or easily have over 100 minute waits daily, no matter the time of year. In addition, you get unlimited ice cream novelties and select bottled beverages during the event! Other locations are open during the event to purchase food and drink items (and merchandise) too. It would also make planning the rest of your days easier. If you know you’ll be able to ride your favorites After Hours, you could take the time to enjoy attractions or places that you put off seeing during a normal visit when everything is action-packed and scheduled to the minute.
I have now experienced two parks at After Hours events, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and I was truly worried I would not think it was worth it. But the lack of stress while in a Disney park; no worrying about waiting in line, having time to see it all, making sure everyone gets to ride their favorites, is quite simply, heavenly. It reminded me of a time gone by, when you could stroll the parks and drink in all the details and still enjoy attractions as well. The fact that it’s at night and everything looks extra magical and lit up is just a bonus in my opinion.
EDIT: I have now experienced all 3 parks Disney After Hours events (I don’t think Epcot could ever offer this because it’s just SO big, maybe if they did Future World only, but then there would only be 2 real attraction draws, although the same could be said for Animal Kingdom I suppose?). I worried at first that Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be more crowded because there are quite a few attractions that have a huge wait or are difficult to get FastPasses for. However, I was surprised to see that because the popular areas of the park are spread out, it wasn’t really an issue. We went to Slinky Dog Dash first, and the wait time was 10 minutes, and it truly was 10 minutes. But as the night went on, it was down even lower to the usual 5. And that’s for the newest attraction in any park. Rock ‘n Roller Coaster was a walk-on, as was Tower of Terror and every other open attraction.
I think Hollywood Studios was my favorite for this event, because it’s always been one of my favorite parks to just stroll and enjoy the details, but add Christmas decorations which DHS has really bumped up in the last 2 years, and the fact that the projections on Tower of Terror, now with snow and lasers were going on all night, and it was truly a magical experience.
So is it worth it for everyone? Does the cost make sense for the value (amount of hours, attractions you can ride in those hours, free snacks)? Well, the answer may be different for every guest, depending on your vacation style or if you’re vacationing at all. I think for the price and experience, if you are a single or couple visitor, the benefits are a no-brainer. If you have many little kids that may not take advantage of the attractions available, it might be a great time to try out the on-site kids clubs. 😉 I think it was a great time and love the atmosphere and feeling like you truly have the parks to yourselves. Click photos below to scroll through the gallery:
Here are the Disney After Hours Facts:
Admission to Disney After Hours can be purchased in advance for $125 per adult or child, plus tax—or purchased on the day of the event for $129 per adult or child, plus tax. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members can take advantage of specially priced tickets for just $95 per adult or child, plus tax. – So very similar to passholder rates for the seasonal parties.
Magic Kingdom dates and info:
Guests with Disney After Hours tickets can enter the park at 7:00 PM every event night.
The event takes place from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM:
- Monday, November 26, 2018
- Monday, December 3, 2018
- Monday, December 10, 2018
- Thursday, March 21, 2019
- Thursday, March 28, 2019
- Thursday, April 4, 2019
- Thursday, April 11, 2019
And 9:00 PM to midnight:
- Thursday, February 14, 2019
- Thursday, February 21, 2019
- Thursday, March 7, 2019
And 8:00 PM to 11:00PM:
- Monday, January 7, 2019
- Thursday, January 17, 2019
- Thursday, January 24, 2019
- Monday, January 28, 2019
- Thursday, February 7, 2019
- Thursday, February 28, 2019
Magic Kingdom Attractions:
- Astro Orbiter
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Disney Princess Greetings at Princess Fairytale Hall
- Haunted Mansion
- “it’s a small world”
- Jungle Cruise
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Peter Pan’s Flight*
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- And much, much more!
*Please be aware that Peter Pan’s Flight will be closed on January 7, January 17 and January 24 in 2019.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios dates and info:
The event takes place from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM:
- Saturday, December 8, 2018
- Saturday, December 15, 2018
- Saturday, December 22, 2018
- Saturday, January 5, 2019
- Saturday, January 12, 2019
- Saturday, January 19, 2019
- Saturday, February 2, 2019
- Saturday, February 9, 2019
- Saturday, February 16, 2019
- Saturday, March 2, 2019
- Saturday, March 9, 2019
And 9:00 PM to midnight:
- Saturday, March 16, 2019
- Saturday, March 23, 2019
- Saturday, March 30, 2019
- Saturday, April 6, 2019
- Saturday, April 13, 2019
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Toy Story Mania!
- Twilight Zone Tower of TerrorTM
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Character Greetings with Toy Story Land Pals, Mickey, Minnie and Olaf
*All attractions and entertainment are subject to change without notice.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Dates and Info:
The event takes place from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM:
- Tuesday, December 4, 2018
- Wednesday, December 12, 2018
- Tuesday, December 18, 2018
- Tuesday, January 8, 2019
- Wednesday, January 16, 2019
- Tuesday, January 22, 2019
- Thursday, January 31, 2019
- Tuesday, February 5, 2019
- Wednesday, February 6, 2019
- Tuesday, February 12, 2019
- Wednesday, February 13, 2019
- Tuesday, February 19, 2019
- Tuesday, February 26, 2019
- Tuesday, March 5, 2019
- Wednesday, March 20, 2019
- Wednesday, March 27, 2019
- Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Animal Kingdom Attractions:
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Pandora Drummers – Swotu Wayä
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Rivers of Light
- Tree of Life Awakenings
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- TriceraTop Spin
- And more!
Disclaimer: I was invited by Disney to experience Disney After Hours as a hosted guest. My opinions and thoughts are, as always, my own.
I will be experiencing Disney After Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios tomorrow (12/8) and will add to this post any further notes. Be sure to follow along on my instagram story throughout the night to see what it’s like!
Are you planning to experience Disney After Hours? I’d love to know your thoughts below!
There’s a special magic to blinking open your eyes from a long sleep and realizing it’s somehow both still dark and very bright out that morning – only to discover the reason for that is the windows and all outside are covered in snow. Tiny frozen stars etched onto the glass, snow glistening as it drapes over each tree branch and coats each pine needle. It was only yesterday you were stomping around in that very grass, crunching the fallen leaves under your feet releasing that earthy smell, combined with the crisp air that could only mean snow was on its way. There is nothing quite as magical as the blanket of freshly fallen snow, except maybe on Christmas morning…These are some of my fondest memories from growing up, along with, of course, the entire Christmas season and all it promised each year.
Being a December baby, it was always a time of surprises and never-ending wonder at the beautiful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the season. My family would always wait to get our tree (real of course) till the weekend before my birthday, which is two weeks before Christmas every year. Decorating that tree was such a special tradition. Every ornament had a story, and we all had our favorites. Of course my mother had already been baking for weeks by that point, every family member, friend, and neighbor got a carefully packaged container of her famous Christmas cookies, wrapped in clear plastic and tied up with a red ribbon. She would store the dozens of them between sheets of wax paper in white 5 gallon tubs from the restaurant where my father was a M’aitre D’. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sneak quite a few back in the day. The Russian Tea cookies have always been my downfall (and my favorite).
Another favorite tradition was driving through the neighborhoods to see Christmas lights. For some reason, growing up, both my grandparents and our house only ever did white candles in our window at Christmastime. (I think my grandmother thought colored outdoor lights looked “tacky”?) We had colored lights on the tree, candles in the window and a wreath on the door. No colorful C6 bulbs stapled to our rooftop or wrapped around our bushes. But what that austere decor made me do was appreciate everyone else’s lights all the more. Many towns in New England have a town square or green with big old trees, which are usually covered in lights, sometimes twinkling, sometimes not, including Watertown Square, which we would pass on the way to my grandparents house. The Boston Common in downtown Boston also did this with many of their trees, and we’d sometimes take a drive to the city just to see them, ending at the big tree outside the Prudential Center. I can still feel the cold vinyl of the backseat in the family car, as the dark winter night was suddenly lit with thousands of lights before my eyes.
Of course I have other memories too; taking part in the Christmas pageant at school where I got to be an angel, the smell of the incense during holiday mass, and the opposite of extremes, watching all the holiday specials on tv, usually with a mug of hot cocoa and some of those famous Christmas cookies I mentioned above. Snow days off of school, walking up to the hill on the other side of our own town square and sledding down all day with friends till my socks were soaked and my toes and nose were frozen from cold. And I’m sure I’m not alone with these memories, and they probably still exist today for kids in New England towns or anywhere up north that gets snow. I know I’m not unique in that regard. By stark contrast to my current location, I never once visited Walt Disney World during the holidays as a child. Even when we moved to Ocala in 1985 and became annual passholders I did not experience a Disney Christmas, since we drove back up to Massachusetts to have the holidays with my grandparents. After college, I moved back to Florida from Massachusetts in 1995 to work at Walt Disney World, and finally experienced the holidays in the parks first hand, as a cast member on Main Street. U.S.A.
Which brings me to the purpose of my post today. If you asked any of my children to write about their holiday memories, they would have a very different answer, and not just because 25+ years separate our childhoods. Some parts would be similar; we still make cookies, we still watch those holiday specials (although I may be the only one that appreciates their vintage charm), I have managed to break the “only candles in the window” decorating rule, and of course we still drive around and look at lights, it’s just that our neighbors do a bit more decorating down here. In fact, there’s a castle down the street that really goes all out. All of my past memories and traditions are why, if I let myself pause long enough, seeing those icicle lights on Cinderella Castle brings me to tears. Because as many years of memories as I have riding in the backseat and looking at lights through the car window, I now have many more of myself and my children walking down Main St. U.S.A. and seeing the Castle lights for the first time, or images in my head of my oldest two side by side in a double stroller, looking up with eyes wide, mouths agape, and hands outstretched to catch the “snow” as we strolled through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. And later, my youngest, now 10, dancing in the Streets of America to Feliz Navidad as a tiny 5 year old, laughing and spinning around, as I captured it on video. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. Don’t even get me started on Candlelight Processional and how I’m moved to tears every year as the songs swell and the voices sing out and you realize all the things you are truly, truly grateful for on this earth.
These are the holiday traditions and memories my children grew up with. And I know they wouldn’t trade them for the world. We are extremely blessed to be so close to all of these amazing holiday experiences, and to have been able to attend them for so many years so that they have become traditions, not just holiday happenings, but part of the ever-growing tapestry of our family story. One could say that these new traditions couldn’t possibly mean as much, since they take place at the globally dominant headquarters of capitalization and money-hungry corporate messages of “buy this!” abound. And you would be right, and wrong. Yes, Disney parks are corporate wizards at marketing their way into your wallets and making you think you need more and you need it now. But if you sift past the mind-numbing amounts of instagrammable offerings thrown at you, you can experience the holiday spirit in its refined, concentrated form. Christmas lights, traditional holiday storytelling, holiday treats from around the world, parades, cookies, holiday music and trees and decorations everywhere. Gingerbread houses, caroling, Santa and Mrs. Claus, the story of Christmas….These are the takeaways and the memories created at the Place Where Dreams Come True (and the Happiest Place on Earth because we’ve been to Disneyland during the holidays too and they are pretty darn magical over there as well), which will carry my children into adulthood as they create their own traditions with whatever and whomever the future holds for them.
My holiday story has gone from one where you never know who would show up at the front door for some coffee and Christmas cookies, to walking through a Disney park and never knowing which friends and neighbors you’d bump into. My oldest children drove right around the Magic Kingdom every day on their way to and from high school. And now they walk into a park and see friends working as Cast Members, or work there themselves, sharing the magic that they grew up enjoying with thousands of guests each day. I know they realize how “magical” their lives are as far as our connection to Disney and Orlando in general, and it amazes me to see how grounded and inspired they are by those connections that have become their backstory. And as happy as my memories are of waking up to new fallen snow and the promise of a day of sledding, theirs are just as happy of celebrating birthdays and milestones at favorite Disney restaurants or riding through Fort Wilderness to see the holiday decorations or attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party each year. Times change, the backdrop may change, even family shrinks and grows over the years, but the holiday memories still abound, no matter where you may find them.
Have your holiday traditions changed over the years? What are some of your favorites? I’d love to hear them.
Let me preface this by saying I don’t think of this as a review that I’m writing. I usually say in my movie review posts that I’m no movie critic, so take all of this with a giant grain of salt. That said, I do like to think of myself as a critical thinker, sometimes…and thinking critically about Disney movies is about as scholarly as I get at this point in my life. Think of this more as a discussion of the movie, if we saw it together and talked about it on the way home from the theatre (because this is pretty much the conversation my husband and I had on the way home). I will also say, because I’m just going to discuss things, there probably will be spoilers. But really, there’s no “King Candy was Vanellope’s dad!” (he wasn’t – he was Turbo, remember?!) level of spoilers here, it’s pretty much the movie it portends to be in commercials, except for one part of the end, so be forewarned. If you want the kind of review that will say “It was great, go see it!” then you should probably head on over to some other blog now, I will not be offended.
I’ll just jump right in and say, I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I saw the preview at the D23 Expo in 2017, with the Disney Princesses scene, and the fact that Disney as a company allowed itself to be poked fun of in that way was refreshing. Honestly, that was my favorite part of the movie too. The problem I had with it, is that it just kind of went all over the place, with no real coherent story, or “moral” as the first movie had. I feel like the take away with Wreck it Ralph was that life is what you make of it, you can change your circumstances, it’s good to be bad, and winning is everything. Hmm, wait, I may be getting some of those wrong, but anyway…This new storyline, 6 years later (which they mention a LOT for some reason), has a very vague take away. Don’t be insecure? Don’t smother your friends? It’s okay to leave friends and responsibilities behind if you get bored in life. I dunno. I feel like my review is now also all over the place, but the point I’m trying to make is that the avenues they decided to go down in a movie that is supposed to be discovering and sharing all or parts of the internet today, could’ve been done a lot better. Or at least made more sense.
They touch briefly on the phenomenon that is “trending” and “getting likes” and how that is currency in today’s world. Then we momentarily learn about comments and how comments online are bad and you shouldn’t read them. I just felt that in today’s day and age when online bullying is still a thing and places like instagram are virtual breeding grounds for creating, fostering, and magnifying insecurities, fomo, and feeling “less than,” they fell short of actually making a statement about how bad that is and how it’s not reality. I have luckily not had my children affected by online bullying (that I know of), but I have seen a good mood turn into one of feeling like crap when my daughter just scrolls through instagram. I’ve certainly felt that myself. That’s a hard message to learn, as a child or an adult, that what you see online isn’t all there is to life – that joy doesn’t come from the likes you receive, the views you get, or the followers you have. On a personal level, I’ve definitely seen that what it takes to be “successful” in this online world is creating a brand and being that non-stop forever until you don’t really know where that ends and you begin. Sure, some have been able to balance it, but it is a harsh reality that some people may never find a way out of. Certainly I didn’t expect or need an animated documentary on the pitfalls of the internet in 2018 and how to combat them. I just thought more care could’ve been taken with a platform as large as this, about the downside of instant internet fame of today. That said, I guess the Disney synergy of countless online presences might prevent that message, since they want you to buy the things and wear the styles and eat the cute foods (or take photos of them anyway).
Which brings me to my next point, I really don’t know if young kids will find this entertaining. There is quite a bit of waxing philosophical from the main characters and while I guess young kids could miss that and just think “haha that guy has big eyeballs and a funny name” or something, it just didn’t have the same entertainment value in my mind, and most kids aren’t going to make the connection from computer insecurity to human insecurity. I will definitely be interested to hear what my 10 year old thinks when he sees it.
Again, the Princesses part was funny, as a commentary on Disney characters as well as I guess a dig at millennials, when all the princesses get new “costumes.” Maybe just I saw it as a dig at all the “Disney instragram uniforms” you see in stylized photos with carefully placed branding. I am reaching the “get off my lawn” age of internet usage, so it could be that. I’d love to see Disney turn that scene into a series of shorts like they’ve done with the new Mickey Mouse cartoons. Any time a giant corporate entity can see the smart humor to be found within its own walls, that’s a good thing.
I also really enjoyed the post-credit scene as well, so stay tuned for that. It was cute (but I also expected it to end sooner than it did and really leave us hanging).
Overall, it was a fun but very very generic glossed-over look at the internet. Many internet horrors were of course not mentioned, as I wouldn’t expect in a family film, but I don’t know, maybe more of a warning about how you shouldn’t actually try to make a ton of money doing stupid things on video, and how that hard truth isn’t necessarily a good thing would’ve been wise to add. The fun innocence of the first film definitely lost its luster, which again, could be a metaphor for the real internet. I’m not sure it would be a multiple-viewing title in our house, which is our usual mark of success.
I’d love to know what you think! If you have seen Ralph Breaks the Internet, did you love it or agree with anything above? Let’s discuss!
Disclaimer: I attended a complimentary screening, but my opinions are (obviously) my own.
Ok yes, I know, Halloween is SO 24 hours ago…but if you’re reading this, you probably know that planning a Disney cruise isn’t really a last minute thing, and something you should plan in advance and prepare for…unless you’re me and my family of course. I’d say about 75% of the Disney cruises I’ve been on have been booked within a couple of months of cruising, which, I’m not recommending. I’m just a spontaneous kind of gal, and when my daughter says in August, “Ahhh, a Halloween cruise would be so funnn!” I think, “yes, yes it would. Let me look into that.” And here we are. I don’t recommend this, because with Disney especially, prices usually go UP the longer you wait, not go down. It’s very rare that Disney Cruise Line is thinking, “gee, I sure wish we could fill these empty staterooms…” It happens, but not on a 3-night Halloween on the High Seas cruise, ya know? So my first piece of advice, is plan ahead. I personally recommend MouseFanTravel.com* for all your travel planning needs!
Now let’s get to the point of this article – IS IT WORTH IT?! Well, let me digress here a bit and say that I am a little biased in that I do love Disney Cruise Line. It’s who I’ve cruised the most with, and who my children (2 of which aren’t children anymore I guess at 18 and 20) have cruised the most with, and we are all therefore extremely spoiled by the impeccable service but down to earth fun, and just overall experience of a Disney Cruise. We as a family tend to cruise for the ship, not the itinerary. [Unless it’s somewhere new that we haven’t been, we don’t even get off the ship until Castaway Cay. [We always stay onboard in Nassau (it’s the best time to visit Senses Spa!), and don’t really disembark in the Mexico ports either. In fact, last time we went on a Western Caribbean itinerary to Grand Cayman, I couldn’t convince them to get off the ship then either, and I actually love Grand Cayman. I of course love traveling to new places, but I feel like most cruise ports, especially in the Caribbean are extremely homogenized to the tourist experience: duty free shops that are the same in every port, locals trying to make a quick buck, and even dining that isn’t really authentic. I know there are places to find real experiences, and with research or talking to locals, you can then explore like a local, but that hasn’t really been a priority for us as a family up to this point.] For us, we have traditions that we love to continue on the ship. The familiarity of the dining rotation, the Cabana’s buffet, the pizza-or-ice-cream-whenever-you-want-it…ok I just realized these are all food related but what can I say…we also enjoy killing it at Disney Trivia every single time we sail (Trivia Winners 4 cruises running :P).
Anyway, my point is, we like the experience of a Disney Cruise. What better way to enjoy a Disney Cruise that much more, than a themed cruise? Here’s what I thought of Halloween on the High Seas:
First, we went on a 3-night cruise on the Disney Dream. Due to Disney cruises being more expensive to begin with, our last minute booking, and the fact that we had pretty much just come back from summer vacation when I booked it, I thought this would be a good quick getaway with minimal time away from work/school. A 3-night is my least favorite cruise to take, we always feel like we just got on board and then have to get back off again. Now add to that Halloween activities, and it felt even more rushed. But a cruise is a cruise, we had fun. Let’s run down all the Halloween extras on board.
We aren’t usually into waiting in line for characters, we can do that down the street any time, but for those that are into that, the lines were long but moved pretty quickly, and there are many, many opportunities to meet various characters in regular and Halloween attire. Keep in mind there are some character greetings on Disney Cruise Line where you can make a reservation to receive a ticket to meet with them. You can find more about reserving Disney character meetings here. You can also see the characters in their Halloween costumes during the smaller shows on board your sailing.
This is what I was most excited about, just because it was new to us. I loved the Pumpkin Tree, which apparently used to “grow” jack-o-lanterns overnight on HotHS sailings, but either they don’t do this any more, or don’t do it on 3-night cruises because when we got on board, the pumpkins were all fully grown. It’s still super fun to see, and we did enjoy the Pumpkin Tree show that happened the first night, with the Caretaker narrating and kids chanting to bring the tree to life. You can see the full video of the Pumpkin Tree Lighting on the Disney Dream below!
There were plenty! Crafts for kids in the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab, The Pumpkin Tree show above, Trick-or-Treating, Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party, Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream-along movie showing, and even adults-only Halloween events and a costume contest. I honestly thought there was a family costume contest which is part of why we went with a group costume and were dressing up, but since we had gone to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom in costume, we were okay with just dressing up and letting my 10 year old trick-or-treat. I can definitely see how having a family costume contest with THAT many kids involved would be a subjective and “let me speak to your manager”-nightmare with some parents. We couldn’t compete in the contest without our Bert, so we chose not to leave him behind and go to the adult events.
Click to see more of our costume night!
Halloween Food Items:
Honestly, I didn’t realize there were specialty food items until I took the Disney Cruise Line survey that arrived in my email this week. Ooops. I did see a fun Pumpkin cupcake in Vanellope’s, my youngest son, who was celebrating his birthday early on board, was given a special spider dessert, and I noticed the Oogie Boogie and Cauldron popcorn buckets and Poison Apple cup for sale at the Walt Disney Theatre, but I totally missed the themed drinks or anything else. That said, I really wasn’t looking anyway. If that’s your thing, you’ll find plenty of ways to spend your money and get an instagram-worthy photo!
I have a confession. I did not buy one piece of merchandise on this cruise. I know. I know. Who even AM I? I’ll tell you who I am, a crazed mother of 3, on a 3-night sailing with so much going on, I never even had the TIME to go to the shops. I walked through a few times after the shows, and said “Oh, I’ll come back when it’s less crowded.” But we had late dining, and were so tired after, we usually just went to the cabin. Then on the last night, “I said I have to go!” but that was also the night for Disney Trivia, at 10:45, and while it was only 15 minutes long, with the stores closing at 11pm, that was just enough time to not be able to go. At all. I could stare through the closed gates, cry my invisible tears, and wonder if I knew anyone going on a HotHS cruise in the next few weeks. I always get a t-shirt, and usually one for my son or husband or mom too. I always get a Christmas ornament. I was really debating getting a giant Tervis Tumbler themed to the cruise. ARGHHH. It really took me a moment to get over it. But at the end of the day, it was the universe saying “you spent enough….you have 4329 t-shirts….” but the tumblerrrrrr. Ok, I’m over it, I swear. I’ll just have to go back. I know there’s ebay, but with a cast member husband getting 35% off, I cringe at paying not only sticker price, but MORE because it’s on ebay. I’ll survive. Anyway, there is a ton of themed merchandise, make sure you go before 11pm when you are in international waters! 😉
Sooo, that was mostly a list of what there is to do or eat or buy, but what did I really think? Well, I’m glad we did it. It was a fun family adventure. And let’s be honest, they could have a Superstar Limo on the High Seas sailing, and we’d have fun. It’s a Disney Cruise. What I will say is that it’s a LOT of stuff going on for 3 nights. Things are already action-packed without adding in additional, this-sailing-only activities and events, and it’s hard to do it all. The Halloween Mouse-Querade and trick-or-treating happens the same night as Pirate Night on the 3-night, so there was a lot of hemming and hawing about wanting to be in costume or pirate attire for dinner that night and the show before dinner too. There are of course, no wrong answers about what to wear or participate in (except forgetting to go shopping), it’s all fun, you’re going to have a great time, whether you are in full costume participating, or just watching it all around you. We did a little of both and it was a great mix. It did feel rushed, but if we were on a longer sailing, I’m sure that wouldn’t be an issue.
My final ruling would be, definitely go, but maybe not as a first time Disney Cruise Line experience. I think there are sometimes too many things going on for the theme and it felt like you constantly had to make sure you didn’t miss something. But again, a longer sailing probably wouldn’t have that problem. If it is your first sailing, try to go for a longer cruise so you can experience the best of both worlds.
Things to Consider:
Costume Storage: We had quite a few articles of clothing and accessories for our group ensemble. A penguin suit, 2 full suits, 3 hats, dresses, a petticoat, high heels, dress shoes, and accessories (and that was with leaving Bert’s cane in the car by accident). SO, keep in mind you may need more luggage than normal. I also had shark onesies for my older two for Pirate Night, so we had a whole huge suitcase just for those items. We also are locals, so it wasn’t a big deal in any way to have one extra suitcase for us. If you’re flying in, it’s definitely something to organize and plan for ahead of time.
What’s Most Important to Everyone: Back when I was on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, this was my main piece of advice for people overwhelmed by their first visit. It’s impossible to do it all. So make sure each member of your party figures out what they don’t want to miss, and try to plan those things into your schedule. If you want to take photos with characters, do some of that. If you want to see all the special shows, or play BINGO, figure out when to do those things. The best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator app. It has all of the info from the paper Navigators placed in your cabin each night, organized in your phone. You can set up notifications, and favorite items to get notified before they are about to start. You can also easily text everyone in your party, with nary a wi-fi package charged to your stateroom. Also make sure to plan in some down time. It is a cruise, it’s supposed to be a relaxing way to unplug from the real world. Don’t forget to actually do that, despite using your phone for the Navigator app, it’s so freeing to have no emails piling up in your notifications.
It Will Be Crowded: There were definitely more small children than I’ve noticed on our other sailings. The Pumpkin Tree lighting and the Mouse-Querade Party were swarming with tiny princesses and Captain Americas and Jedis and various Disney Channel characters in miniature form. All Disney Cruise Line sailings will have a lot of kids, but it seems this is amplified with the Halloween theme. I’ve sailed the Merrytime Cruise as well and didn’t find that to be the case here. The draw of costumes and candy are too great. Here are the dates Halloween on the High Seas sailings will be next year:
2019 Sail Dates
September 25, 2019 – October 27, 2019
October 4, 2019 – October 27, 2019
September 9, 2019 – October 28, 2019
September 7, 2019 – October 27, 2019
All in all, it was yet another wonderful time on Disney Cruise Line. This sailing was especially memorable as it was my oldest two children’s first time sailing as adults. They got to experience Palo brunch for the first time, and the Senses Spa as we enjoyed the Rainforest during the Nassau day in port. It was a wonderful day with them and I’m sure the first of many times they stuff themselves at Palo and sweat it all out in the sauna!
What about you? Have you been on a Halloween on the High Seas sailing on Disney Cruise Line? What did you think? What was your most and least favorite part?
*I also work for MEI & Mouse Fan Travel but I paid full price for my cruise and my opinions are my own. ☺️
It’s no secret that LEGOLAND’s Brick or Treat is one of my family’s favorites. My youngest son, Gio, has had the good fortune of being a part of a few of their local social media campaigns, but we were fans far before that. It’s such a fun, family experience and included in park admission on those dates! This year they are offering even more dates, and some new surprises too. Here’s the complete rundown, and you can always take a look at the past posts on LEGOLAND Florida fun.
The Halloween party built for kids returns to LEGOLAND® Florida Resort on nine dates in October. Brick or Treat features a lineup of kid-friendly, Halloween fun! No extra ticket is require
d to enjoy a brand-new show, loads of candy along a uniquely LEGO® trick-or-treating trail, interactive character meet-and-great experiences, a fireworks spectacular and much more.
New this year, a pair of curious trick-or-treaters will sing, dance and chant their way through solving “A Candy-Coated Curse,” a new show on the LEGO City Stage – showing on event dates only! Also, making her Brick or Treat debut, LEGO Spider Lady will be weaving webs of fun inside LEGO Kingdoms.
Except for Wednesday, Oct. 31, each Brick or Treat date will conclude with a ghostly show featuring the “Tale of Pirates’ Cove,” and a Halloween fireworks spectacular in the skies above Lake Eloise. Wear a complimentary pair of viewing glasses for a brick-tastic LEGO twist.
Guests can sip in spooky style with an event-themed Coca-Cola Freestyle® collector’s cup, indulge in Pumpkin Spice Granny’s Apples Fries and nibble on a variety of Halloween-themed snacks. Back after popular demand, Be-A-Minifigure Costume Shop will offer more than 20 LEGO minifigure outfits for boys and girls allowing kids to dress up as their favorite LEGO characters. Guests who spend $50 will receive a special gift-with-purchase item, LEGO Penguin Girl Snow Hut. The seasonal retail shop is available for a limited time only.
Staying the night at the LEGOLAND Hotel is getting a lightly-frightful touch with Halloween-themed rooms. Guests will be able to boo-k a night – or two – beginning August 20 by calling 1-888-690-5346.
2018 Brick or Treat Dates
- Oct. 6-7 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.)
- Oct. 13-14 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.)
- Oct. 20-21 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.)
- Oct. 27-28 (Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.)
- Oct. 31 (Wednesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Oh hi, Zannaland readers, readers, readers…hmm, bit of an echo. I’m prefacing this review with a touch of editorial mea culpa. I’ve been embarrassingly absent from my beloved site, focusing mostly on instagram to share my mini-blog posts and thoughts and pretty photos. In addition, I’ve been working full-time, as I’ve mentioned before, but I really shouldn’t use that as an excuse for neglecting this place. Before opening up this “Add New Post” page, I re-read my cathartic 2014 post The State of Zannaland (don’t read it now, it’s really long and we have a movie to discuss. But if you want later, feel free.) and I was shocked at how 4 years later, I could’ve written the same thoughts today. Basically, I get too busy to post, rely on the quick and easy places, then get down on myself and wonder if I should continue writing at all. It’s a vicious circle, which, as I read my own words expressing the same emotions years later, was a bit of a wake-up call. I’ll get into more of that in a future post. For now I’m just acknowledging that yes, I’ve neglected this place, and I’m really going to try my best at more writing and less neglecting. And now, Black Panther!
I am a Marvel fan. I’m not, however, a Marvel nerd, by which I mean, I don’t know all the backstories and original comics and what parts in the movies are canon vs. artistic interpretation – though I will admit to looking many things up in the Marvel Universe to better educate myself before and after movies because, let’s face it, there are some confusing storylines and characters out there. After watching Thor: Ragnarok in theatres, which I loved, I felt the need to re-watch Doctor Strange (and look stuff up online), because hey, Doctor Strange was in there and everything’s connected and wow…so yeah, that’s where I am on the scale of Marvel fangirl.
When I first saw a preview for Black Panther, I was IN. Actually, I was in when he appeared in Captain America: Civil War and as he first appeared and was trying to kill “the good guys” I thought “oh no please let him be a good guy I love him and want him to be a hero not a villain!” Which really, says a lot about heroes and villains because as Civil War pointed out, who’s to say what is on the side of “right” and the side of “wrong?” Sometimes there are various indistinguishable shades, and just as half the internet may see a dress as blue, the other half sees it as gold. And certainly in this real-world of political divisiveness, taking a knee, gun control, healthcare, taxes, and more, we often see people on both sides who believe without a doubt that they are fighting for what’s “right” and “good” even if, in our minds, they are completely wrong. Before I get into that, I will just say again, I was very excited to see trailers for the Black Panther full length film.
Now, dear reader, we come to a bit of a difficult point. I am, as most of you know, a suburban, white, middle-aged (gah that’s the first time I’ve admitted that one), wife and mom. The emotions I felt and the thoughts I have been trying to organize regarding this film, left me saying, “who am I, to have an opinion on this? Who am I to have a say in the themes presented on the screen? How can I rally in support of things I have had pretty much zero experience with in my real life? I don’t want to sound, as is so easy to do, like the person that says, ‘some of my best friends are (insert character descriptor here)!’ ‘Some of my favorite shows are Atlanta and Insecure!’ ‘I love Kendrick Lamar!’ or look like a bad YouTube video of someone trying desperately to be hip and relevant.” It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. My thoughts are my thoughts and my opinions and acceptances and loves are my own, but do they matter in a real-world environment of discrimination and brutality and defamation of character that by default I was born into the wrong side of? And then I realized, this is the point. This is the purpose. To feel uncomfortable. To get to that point where all you want to do is shout from the rooftops how amazing something is, even if you look like a fool for doing it, because it’s the right thing to do. To have the thoughts that make you question the way things are. To see the world from a different perspective. With discomfort comes growth. If we are comfortable with the way things always were, we will forever be living with the way things are vs. how they could be. So yes, here I am, a middle-aged (nope, still stings) white lady, discussing the film which is life-changing for many people of color and I’m just going to do it and it’s going to be a good time, I promise.
You may be starting to think, “Is this still a review for a Marvel super hero movie or did I accidentally click on a HuffPo link? It’s *just* a movie. A fun, action flick, not a commentary on the real world.” Yes, and the Princess and the Frog is just another animated cartoon. To many. To many more, it was the first time they got to go to a store and get a costume representing a character that looks like them. A princess that isn’t blonde with blue eyes with fair skin. A super hero that doesn’t look like he is a Viking god (sorry Thor). A friend of mine in the Disney community (I asked her permission to link to her 🙂 ) went with her sister and her nephew to DragonCon this past year, where he proudly dressed up as Black Panther. They took a group photo of all the Black Panthers there at the convention that day, and he was among all the other little guys looking like a mini army of Wakandan princes. And I teared up seeing the photos she shared because I felt just one tiny, miniscule, microscopic fragment of the pride of representation that they were feeling, and a big ol’ chunk of happiness. I don’t think I ever told her that, because, well, I felt dumb and again, like it wasn’t my place to celebrate that victory. That’s the thing with privilege, even if you don’t think you display it, seeing an instance where generations have gone without it, is very eye-opening. A little uncomfortable. And in that discomfort, you grow in understanding. This is not just an action movie.
Imagine a world, where a country was able to rely only on itself and its people, rich in resources, dependent on no one for trade, or benefits of any kind. Where your land and your people were not a place to be, in their terms: colonized, civilized, converted, saved – in our terms: exploited, suppressed, and oppressed. A place where your land, your people, your culture, your traditions, and your history was preserved, celebrated, venerated, expanded upon, magnified, glorified. This is more than just a list of adjectives, this is Wakanda.
In the Marvel universe, Wakanda is the richest nation in the world. Completely self-sufficient, it has never been colonized, and more than that, because of their great wealth and technological power, they have for the most part hidden themselves from the rest of the world. Why? Because they didn’t need us. To see the downtown city of Wakanda is to imagine our cities, if they weren’t built by people with no cultural traditions, no history to celebrate. I know that I’m painting the developed world with a very broad brush, but it’s true. You can’t celebrate traditions and history and tear it down to build the next biggest high rise full of multi-million dollar condos. You just can’t. We only see this downtown area briefly, but that is the “what if?” that struck me. How the modern was mixed with the traditional. You have a skyscraper with a thatched roof added on to the side or on top, because that is how your traditional buildings were built. The people of the different tribes of the country might wear the traditional attire and markings of their ancestors, or a modern suit paired with a lower lip plate and stretched earlobes. It is literally the best of both worlds, the past and the future living in cultural harmony and peace. I watched in awe and wished I could live in Wakanda. Sadly, this place is fictional, but it certainly makes you wonder, at least it did me, what if. What if centuries of colonization and conquering and oppression and yes, slavery, hadn’t taught the world how “progress” worked.
Now imagine our reality and the world we live in, with the struggles, and persecution, and keeping down of marginalized peoples. And as a marginalized person, you discover that Wakanda exists. Would you want to move there and live out your days? Or would you want to expose the overflowing resources and seemingly endless solutions to the problems the rest of the world faces, in hopes of creating a perfect world everywhere, at any cost? Therein lies the dilemma of Black Panther. Some of these same sentiments are felt by citizens of Wakanda as well. So the new king, T’Challa, must decide how he is going to rule. Will he save the world, or protect Wakanda?
That’s all I’m going to discuss in the way of plot details, I won’t spoil this for anyone because there were some great surprise moments in the film. I will say that Black Pantheris enjoyable from start to finish. From the sweeping Wakandan visuals, to the uber cool Black Panther tech, to the up to date(ish) pop culture references, it’s smart, funny, and everything you’d expect from a Marvel movie. With one token white guy. Martin Freeman is a great foil against the typical “token” character and I love how the movie embraces that, making us white folk squirm just a teensy bit, and doesn’t just pretend that isn’t a reality of the situation in this world.
The performances by all the actors were amazing. I loved the character development and the juxtaposition of the modern outside world against Wakanda’s isolated one. I loved the costumes – so many details. I can only imagine the amount of research that went into each tribe’s backstory, traditional garb and appearance. There is a whole Wakandan language that is spoken and written! The level of realism to create the country of Wakanda and all its history is a standalone success even without the acting, writing, backgrounds, and music too. And I loved the messages throughout the film. They are all important. It was wonderful to see strong (physically and emotionally) women represented on film without a second thought as well. This film on a whole is a great commentary on culture, traditions, rituals, and family; how even the mightiest of men can be flawed and, at the end of the day, we are our choices, so make good ones. And, it’s never too late to make up for the sins of the past and attempt to heal the damage done – and, to be open to new solutions.
So there you have it. My review, peppered with the lightest of social commentaries. I am not 100% sure I have expressed everything I wanted to express about Black Panther, but I am going to see the movie again tomorrow with my 17 year-old daughter, who is also dying to see it, so I may have more to add to this post. I look forward to hearing her perspective on it, as a member of the generation that has been a part of more social change and inclusion since perhaps the 60’s. Things like how the standard of beauty has done a 180 from a generation ago. The standard of human rights and representation is growing exponentially. We still have a long way to go, and I think we have seen recently that what has been the ‘norm’ cannot be the norm anymore. Change is afoot, and movies like Black Panther are the stepping stones to those changes.
Edited to add one more thing: IF I have, in fact, offended anyone, please – let me know. I tried to be completely open, honest, and transparent with some very important real world issues, but I completely understand if I have overstepped any bounds or if my tone did not come across as intended. I come in peace and love, and I hope that’s how it appears. I have had people I know tell me that they actually had no desire to see this movie, and when I asked why, they said (and I’m not making this up – I wish I was), “I’m just not a fan of the urban-ness of it all…” and that, my friends, is a very sad sentiment, which unfortunately is still all too common in 2018. So if anything, I wanted to show whoever did read this, that this IS an important and fun movie and if you can’t handle the “urban-ness” of a country full of peaceful, technologically advanced beyond anyone on the planet, and ridiculously rich citizens, then perhaps it’s time to move to a new galaxy.
Like BLACK PANTHER on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlackPantherMovie
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BLACK PANTHER arrives in theatres everywhere on February 16, 2018!
Like many others, I will admit to being afflicted with a bit of “live-action overkill” when it comes to Disney animated classics being “reborn” with live actors, or in the case of Jungle Book, an actor and a lot of computer animation. Disney has waved its magic wand to varying degrees of success when it comes to live-action reboots, and while some did indeed steal my heart (Cinderella), others, well, didn’t. So I approached Beauty and the Beast with great caution, having been such a fan of the original.
The animated Beauty and the Beast premiered a few weeks before my birthday the year I graduated high school. I had been obsessed with the story-line for years, having been entranced by fairy tales all my life, and watching the Ron Perlman / Linda Hamilton television show that wrapped up right before the animated film debuted. I was super into books and reading. I always felt out of place. Typical high school to just-out-of-high school emotions that made Belle such a relatable character. I suppose I should also note that at the time I was very into Phantom of the Opera too, so I kind of had a thing for “unlikely love interests,” I guess. This was also a great era for Disney Animation. Leaps and bounds were being made with technology, and the ballroom scene, quite hyped at the time, did not disappoint. My favorite bit of animation will always be how Belle tilts her head during her opening song, and a little piece of hair falls into her face. It made Belle so real, so perfectly imperfect. So in short, the film had a great impact on me, and I was a little bit worried that Disney was setting itself up to fall short by reinventing the wheel. Boy, was I surprised.
Beauty and the Beast delighted me from start to finish. It was a feast for the eyes and ears. I’ve been trying to put my thoughts into words since I saw a screening of the film on Tuesday, and now as it premieres tonight, I still find myself searching for the best way to convey just how wonderful it was. A thought that kept returning to me as I watched was how Walt Disney himself used to talk about “plussing,” of course referring to his creation of Disneyland park:
“I wanted something live, something that could grow, something I could keep plussing with ideas, you see? The park is that. Not only can I add things, but even the trees will keep growing; the thing will get more beautiful every year. And as I find what the public likes—and when a picture’s finished and I put it out—I find out what they like, or they don’t like, and I have to apply that to some other thing; I can’t change that picture, so that’s why I wanted that park.” — Walt Disney
Now, Walt may have been referring to Disneyland, and even noted that he can’t change a picture once it’s released, but future generations have proven it can be done, and done right, if you have the right folks involved. Something that made this production of Beauty and the Beast so special was the gift of two original production members: Don Hahn and Alan Menken, working to “plus” this version. Don Hahn, a producer of the original (among many other Disney films) returned as a producer. Alan Menken, who wrote the score of the original, working alongside the great lyricist Howard Ashman, had previously written new songs for the Broadway musical adaptation with Tim Rice. Menken wrote even more new music for the 2017 film, which he managed to weave in seamlessly to enhance the story we all knew and loved. Who better to retell the tale than those who gave so much to the original 1991 production?
Back to plussing, that was my overwhelming take away from this new Beauty and the Beast. The costumes, the sets, the characters and the music were all enhanced and improved upon. I realized, upon listening to the original songs, that most of what we learn about the characters within the animated feature is told to us, through narration or song. We learn that the Beast was a jerk and was punished for that. We hear that the townsfolk think Belle is weird because she reads. In the new film, we get backstory. Belle’s father Maurice isn’t just “crazy old Maurice, always good for a laugh,” he is an artist, who sacrificed the love of one for the safety of another. I really loved Maurice’s portrayal by Kevin Kline. I thought he was the perfect fit and we understand so much more through that performance. We see Belle’s mother, and where she came from. How did they end up in this poor provincial town? You’ll find out in the film. Why was Beast a jerk? You’ll find that out too. The character development is done really well and just enough to lend itself to the story without giving too many details or seeming implausible.
We still learn through song in this version too, with beautiful new music from Alan Menken. I daresay the new songs are my favorite part, with a couple of them causing me to shed a tear or two. “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” sung by Kevin Kline as Maurice is simple and poignant. “Days in the Sun” is a heartbreaking ballad sung by the enchanted castle residents and Belle. And “Evermore” is a show-stopping Broadway-worthy number sung by Beast as he lets Belle go free to help her father. These new songs, and additional lyrics from Howard Ashman that were cut from the original animated film, made me download the soundtrack the minute I left the theatre. The special effects, dance numbers, and sets that go along with many of these musical numbers are so rich and full of fun details, it really makes for a film you want to see again and again, which I think is the perfect tribute to the original.
As for the shocking news that LeFou is a gay character, it was truly much ado about nothing in my opinion. What I saw on screen was someone who had a huge love and admiration for Gaston as a person, and wanted both the best for him, and to be a part of that Gaston persona. But LeFou is also later confused when Gaston’s behavior doesn’t align with what he (or anyone with a heart) thinks is right. LeFou is not simply a bumbling sidekick in this version. He has evolving feelings of right and wrong. You can see him struggling to align his conscience with his adoration of Gaston, leading to an epiphany about Gaston’s personality (granted it takes a while, but he gets it). As for LeFou being gay, if anything, I’d say perhaps he’s bi-, or still just figuring it out. Which is just A-OK to feature in a Disney or any other film. Because, guess what? There are allllll different types of kids in the world, who become all different types of adults in the world, and wouldn’t it be great if all of them saw someone they could identify with on a big screen? Goodness knows I’d much rather have more LeFous in the world than more Gastons, and I’m sure I’m not alone there.
The other performances did not disappoint, even though I wasn’t initially convinced about Belle’s casting. Emma Watson won me over and became the perfect Belle. I also loved seeing the relationship of Lumière and Plumette, as well as the love between Garderobe and Cadenza. You truly felt for these humans-turned-home-décor-items and their interrupted lives. Don’t even get me started on Chip and Mrs. Potts. As a mom of two older teenagers and one 8 year-old boy, Chip just about killed me. But unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last 25 years, you know it all works out in the end. Oh, one last side note: I’ll take Belle’s flowered “Celebration dress” at the end over the yellow ballgown any day – it was simply stunning!
I left the theatre lifted up and galvanized, as if I’d just seen this tale for the first time (in forever), despite it being as old as time. What a triumph to successfully breathe life (literally) into a beloved story that seemed to hold no place for improvements. The love and veneration of the original is present in abundance. The fresh take and inspired additions show us something there that wasn’t there before, making it an instant classic, yet again.
I love a good festival. Art, Food, Renaissance, Fools, I’m always up for a festival. I’ve written many times before about the various established Epcot festivals. Originally begun to bolster lower attendance weeks at Walt Disney World, the first modern, well-promoted festival at Epcot was the International Flower and Garden Festival, which began in 1993. I missed the first couple of years, but when I moved down in 1995 and began working for Walt Disney World, it became a tradition to attend. The Flower and Garden Festival always revolved around Mother’s Day and back then, Disney provided a free photo op (much like they also used to at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party). It became a Mother’s Day tradition to attend with my mom, enjoy all the fun topiaries and floral displays, dine in France, and get our photo taken together. Also in 1995, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began. I remember how exciting those first years were; being able to stroll around World Showcase and sample smaller bites from countries that may not have a full pavilion, but have some great flavors to offer. It was a fun time.
Now, there are very few “low attendance times” at Walt Disney World. People now plan their visits around the festivals, in order to try the food items, or take part in the many seminars and sessions offered. Another addition over the years was runDisney appearing on the scene, with some races around the festivals, making it even more well-attended. And, of course, Epcot drinking teams also became a thing, giving Food & Wine bit of a reputation for drunken hordes roaming the World Showcase Promenade. That is not to say these festivals are not still enjoyable, just that they have considerably changed over the years, and become an entity unto themselves. As a local, it’s still fun to go on a weeknight and try the foods, or perhaps splurge on a dining event offered. My husband and I did the Parisian Afternoon last year and had a lovely time. There is always something new to see or experience, so you really can get out of the festivals what you want.
Enter #ArtfulEpcot. Quietly sauntering into the festival scene in the middle of January this year, the Epcot International Art Festival became an INSTANT hit. And I do mean instant. There was very little info provided about this festival far ahead of time. We saw a few photos of “artsy food” which, yes, looked amazing, but I don’t think I was alone when I thought, “oh, it’ll be Food & Wine in February…” and also wondered how they would pull off these artistic food creations under the usually extreme conditions of festival food booths. Then, I walked into Epcot the first Friday it opened, saw a perfectly crafted Figment topiary, complete with two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow, horns of a steer…he really was a lovable fellow. Sorry, it’s impossible for me not to break into song when discussing Figment. Anyway, I sort of fell in love, again, with Epcot.
Of course it was more than just a Figment topiary to make me appreciate this new festival. I attended an event which highlighted the various food creations, merchandise, and entertainment offerings within the festival. Every cast member on hand who spoke about their area of expertise was so passionate and excited. That excitement was contagious, and I soon realized this was something very different from just another festival. As we strolled around Epcot, I saw more and more reasons why this was going to be a big hit.
There are many different types of Disney fan out there. I’ve spoken about what kind I am before, and though there are most certainly no wrong or right type of fan, there are many others like me, who love the history of the Walt Disney Company, the pioneering advances and different thinking that made it succeed, even while it was doomed to fail. We Disney history nerds love the original concept, hopes, and ideals that EPCOT Center stood for both in Walt’s initial idea, and the 1982-1994 incarnation of the theme park once known as EPCOT Center. I have professed my love for this park endless times. That park doesn’t really exist today, but you can see glimpses and sparks of it if you know where to look. As an EPCOT Center fan, it’s completely normal and acceptable behavior to stare at wall carpet, marvel at the ride system within Universe of Energy (Ellen’s Energy Adventure), or watch Impressions de France on repeat, while the rest of the park may be lining up for characters or Frozen or Test Track. That is not to say we can’t also enjoy some of the park’s current lineup. It is to say, we miss original EPCOT and all that it represented to us.
What the Epcot Festival of the Arts has done is found the perfect mix, to entertain the masses, and delight those who dearly miss what EPCOT once was. How? Well, for starters, the entire design of the festival speaks to EPCOT in a modern way. Muted, watercolor style images of park icons, including the original EPCOT Center logo, make my 1980’s heart sing. Figment is the “mascot” of the festival, but not in an annoying, or out of place way. He represents the very spirit of art, appearing in each World Showcase country, in a work of art hailing from the country you are in, only Figment-ized. A perfect way to get kids (and adults) interested in art and seek out more knowledge about the pieces featured, the countries, and art in general. This “scavenger hunt” featuring Figment is actually available as a paid activity. You purchase a Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt map for $6.99 from several possible locations, and then match the Figment artwork to the artwork featured in the World Showcase pavilions. Turn in your map when you’re done, and you’ll get a prize. It’s fun either way!
Speaking of art, there are not one but two mini-galleries of original and concept art at the festival. Artists, Imagineers and Disney Legends Herb Ryman and Mary Blair have their artwork displayed within (another EPCOT Center holdout) the Odyssey restaurant. There we can see huge versions of Ryman’s original concept art for EPCOT and its Future World pavilions, as well as a selection of Mary Blair’s South American-inspired art pieces. Also within the Odyssey are free – yes FREE – informational sessions from topics like the animation ink and paint process, to different types of tea. There are also paid sessions on specific art topics which include take-home items from the lesson too. As you stroll around World Showcase, there are also classes like origami making or anime drawing in Japan, various chalk displays around the world, and fun photo ops where you become part of a famous work of art. Animation Academy, once held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, also makes a reappearance in Innoventions during the festival.
The hit of the festival since it opened has been the Paint By Numbers Mural found between Future World and World Showcase. You are given – again, completely free – a tiny cup of paint and a paint brush and told to paint anywhere from 3-5 (depending on how busy it is) squares matching your color to your number. For the first few weekends, it was a Future World image, the full size version of what is available at character meets as the backdrop in the front of Epcot. Last weekend, the mural design was changed to a World Showcase image, which was also a big hit. When the murals are completed, they are changed out for blank canvases and guests can start all over again. It is sponsored by Glidden’s line of Disney-inspired paint names, so that adds for a fun connection.
The seven “Food Studios” (see full list of menu items at that link)as they call the food booths at this event, may be small in number, but the varied items almost all take a unique spin on a classic food item, or highlight favorites with an artistic twist. My favorites were the Classic Reuben, which looks anything but classic with it’s futuristic “rye curl” in place of traditional bread, and the Scallop with Chorizo found in America at The Artist’s Table. Oh, and don’t forget the jaw-dropping Piet Mondrian-inspired cake at Pop Eats! as well as adorable “chocolate easels” which are an edible work of art in the form of Figment, Mickey and Pluto, or Mary Blair designs. (Click to read full captions below)
Bridging the gap from classic art to modern, there are also many booths around World Showcase, featuring Disney artists and local artisans alike. Many of the artists are on hand to sign their work. It’s a great way to build your art collection with some originals or prints and meet your favorite artists at the same time.
To top off all that this festival has to offer, at the end of the day, Disney on Broadway Concert Series stars appear at the American Gardens Theatre three times a night, perfoming hit songs from the ever-growing catalog of the Disney Broadway productions. As a huge Broadway musical fan, these shows were the perfect fit. I’ve seen two sets of performers and every show was incredible. Such amazing talent. The shows always seem to have a full house too, so I think this series has been very well received.
Word has spread fast online about this incredible festival, which has quickly become my favorite of the Epcot festival lineup. Every aspect of Artful Epcot fills me with joy, and I hope it returns for years to come, running all week long instead of just long weekends. My only fear is that this charming, quaint, interactive festival that offers so much for so many, will lose that charm if it expands too much. However, I’ll put my confidence in the designers behind the scenes to ensure that doesn’t happen. Part of what made the Festival of the Arts such a success is the way it mixed history with present day, classic with modern, and just enough included opportunities that you don’t feel like you have to shell out premium prices (other than a ticket to the park), to experience all this festival has to offer.
There is just one weekend left to the Epcot Festival of the Arts, so I urge you to get down there, get some paint on your hands and chocolate on your face and ENJOY! If you’ve been, I’d love to hear what your favorite part of the festival was or what you hope is added next time around.