Journey to a Galaxy Far, Far Away as Disney Twenty-Three Gives Fans Unprecedented Access to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Featuring exclusive interviews with J.J. Abrams, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Lawrence Kasdan, and Kathleen Kennedy, Disney’s Official Fan Club celebrates the epic saga.
To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Disney twenty-three unlocks the power of the force to give fans a look behind the making of the newest installment in the Star Wars saga.
The issue opens with “guest editor” C-3PO admitting he is unfamiliar with D23: The Official Disney Fan Club (“…although I am very familiar with the R2 series of droid, I am less familiar with the D23 line. Would it be R2-D23?”) and continues with candid interviews with the original Star Wars leads—Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford—looking back (and ahead) at the ongoing strength of these out-of-this-world films.
Director J.J. Abrams—whose long-standing history with Disney goes back to the TV show Felicity—sits down for a revealing Q&A, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy talks about inheriting one of the most beloved franchises of all time. Plus, Imagineer Scott Trowbridge gives fans a peek at what’s in store for guests at the parks, following Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger’s announcement at D23 EXPO 2015 of Star Wars-themed lands coming to Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
And the Star Wars adventures continue. Also included in the publication, available exclusively to D23 Gold Members:
· Stories behind the movie poster artwork for all seven films
· An exclusive interview with Star Wars Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni, who talks about his first, nerve-wracking meeting with George Lucas
· The incredible collectibles—past and future—that allow guests to bring the movies into their homes, including the story of the groundbreaking BB-8 toy
· A salute to George Lucas by Star Wars authority Steve Sansweet
Plus, there’s plenty of Disney magic in the winter issue of Disney twenty-three including:
The story of how the new Disney•Pixar film The Good Dinosaur came to rule the Earth
A look back at the creation of Fantasia, as it celebrates its 75th anniversary
How The Finest Hours went from an unbelievable true story to a gripping new film
Regular features including A Walk with Walt, D Society, and Ask Dave
Disney twenty-three, which is delivered directly to fans’ doorsteps, is offered exclusively to D23 Gold and Gold Family Members as a benefit of their membership. The latest issue will begin arriving in mid-November.
The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his first studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s 90-plus-year history. It gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication, Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; member-exclusive discounts; and special events for D23 Members throughout the year.
Fans can join D23 at Gold Membership ($74.99), Gold Family Membership ($99.99), and General Membership (complimentary) levels atD23.comand at DisneyStore.com/D23. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.
Recently Disneyland announced they’d be adding a new meal experience at the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. This Jungle Cruise breakfast goes for $300. per guest (including tax and gratuity) and also includes the chance to helm one of the Jungle Cruise boats while reciting skippers’ lines. Also, as a souvenir, guests will receive a tiki mask reminiscent of those seen on the ride. The Jungle Cruise Sunrise Safari Breakfast will be served in the African section of the attraction, and will take place on select days between September 21 and December 2, 2015.
This got me thinking, what if we had this here at Walt Disney World, but not in the Jungle Cruise? Where would I like to have the meal, and what themed souvenir would I pair with it?
In the Magic Kingdom, I’d like a dinner in the Carousel of Progress Christmas scene. I know this may not be particularly original since there’s already a dining room table and kitchen there, but I think it would be fun. As a take home souvenir, I’d like one of the Mickey Mouse nutcrackers from the mantle of the living room.
At Epcot I think I’d most enjoy a meal in the Living with the Land attraction. I’d want to set up right near the pretty little waterfall just across the water so I could enjoy the view while having a meal featuring foods from the Land. I think it would be cool to get a ceramic replica of the Mickey pumpkins they grow, along with the plastic mold and pumpkin seeds.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios presents a bit more of a challenge. I’ve both been to dinners in attractions and known friends who have been to meals in others. I would love to eat in the Great Movie Ride, but I know that’s a real thing, so I don’t want to cop out. I will go with one of the best themed Disney attractions anywhere, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I think it would be amazing to have an outdoor meal on the terrace part of the extended outdoor queue, or in the ballroom that we don’t see other than the door as you exit the ride into the gift shop. For a souvenir from the Hollywood Tower Hotel, I’d love a plate setting maybe minus the silverware.
Even though it is open to the elements, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I would select a nice alfresco meal in the Maharajah Jungle Trek between the tiger enclosures. Like one of my favorite restaurants, Sanaa, this would offer a fantastic view of the animals. I believe a replica of one of the beautiful bird cages along the trek would make a great souvenir. There’s a bright red and gold one I’d particularly fancy.
If you were to choose to have a meal in a Walt Disney World attraction, other than the Jungle Cruise since we are getting the new Skipper Canteen later this year, what would you pick? What would your souvenir be? Are you doing the meal in Disneyland? If so, please let us know.
This year I had the opportunity to attend the D23 Expo in Anaheim for the first time. Did I wear a costume? No, but I did get complimented on my awesome and unique tshirts each day (one Bing Bong, one Black Widow, and one Agent Carter). One of my favorite things I experienced during the convention was actually checking out costume and people watching. The cosplay and Disney bounding was amazing! Here are a few of my favorites from the three days I attended. Some people were in a hurry and a bit reluctant to pose, so I apologize some costume angles are from the side or behind.
Which costume was your favorite? I can’t choose just one, but the Lava volcano costume together was one of mine. I also give major props to the dude who wore the Jungle Cruise Skipper costume complete with working microphone on his boat and a passenger. The Robin Hood costume is pretty awesome too. Let me know in the comments which costume you’d choose to wear.
We’ve all done it at one point or another. Many Disney and Pixar movies these days seem to have crying triggers that will bring even the strongest willed person to tears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the movies and openly weeped at certain scenes. It can be even brought back by a musical cue, a phrase, and sometimes even a single word. Have these ever gotten you to the point of crying?
Inside Out – Bing Bong is a character that joins the film about halfway through and steals my heart. I don’t know that I’ve seen more grown men crying than during Bing Bong’s story arc.
Frozen – Again with the sacrifice that Olaf is willing to make for Anna, by saying some people are worth melting for, that little show tunes singing snowman makes me melt.
Big Hero 6 – When Baymax sacrifies himself after teling Hiro “I will always be with you,” how can you not find yourself crying?
Wreck It Ralph – Vanellope tells Ralph, “You’re my hero,” and it validates his existence and the medal he receives is priceless.
Toy Story 3 – The incinerator is not the end of Woody and the Toy Story gang (spoiler alert), but it still tugs at my heartstrings every time and gets me crying.
Tangled – Flynn most definitely wins with one of the smoothest and most swoonworthy moments in a Disney movie. He is also responsible for my crying every time I see lanterns or hear “I See the Light.”
The Princess and the Frog – Ray is the very heart and soul of this movie. When he goes to meet his Belle Evangeline finally, it simultaneously crushes my heart and makes me happy they’re together forever. If you’re not crying at this one, you’re likely a robot with no emotions.
Up – The married life montage with Carl & Ellie kills me. I remember seeing the film in the theater and a man with his son were seated in my row. The man glanced over after the montage and he was crying as much as I was. This score is enough to get me crying some days.
Wall-E – When Eve holds Wall-E’s hand at the end and he just looks at it, and then at her, and then there’s this moment of realization, how can you not cry? Damn you Pixar for making me cry at a robot love story!
Lilo & Stitch – The ‘ohana scenes where Lilo explains how she lost her parents and where Stitch understands he is a part of Lilo and Nani’s family always get me.
The Lion King – A single word. Dad? World of Color scene that made me lose it. When Simba realizes Mufasa is gone, I am crying along with the lion cub on screen.
Dumbo – Mrs. Jumbo singing “Baby Mine” to her son Dumbo is one of the most touching scenes in movie history. Anyone who has been a parent, or a parental figure to someone, or even if you’ve had parents, you’re crying at this song.
I know a lot of these are from the last decade or so. I don’t know if that’s because I have watched them more recently, or as an adult or what. The crying is well worth it for the emotional journeys and adventures that these films have taken me on over the last 70 plus years. Did I miss any of your favorites? What scenes get you crying? Let me know in the comments. All of these movies are available now on Disney Movies Anywhere, other than Inside Out, which will be released in a few weeks.
SPECTRE … the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence Terrorism Revenge and Extortion. A cooler name for a criminal organization cannot be found. It made its first appearance on film back in Dr. No in 1962, and SPECTRE is the title of the newest and 24th official James Bond film.
5.) The new tv trailer that dropped Tuesday night during the NBA finals looks incredible! It has enough action to whet any 007 fan’s appetite for SPECTRE. Cars, explosions, gun battles, girls, Daniel Craig saying, “Bond, James Bond.” Full of win!
4.) Daniel Craig looks like a complete badass and the ultimate spy in the SPECTRE teaser poster.
3.) Christoph Waltz, an amazing Oscar winning actor, and Dave Bautista, WWE star who played the fantastic role of Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, are both playing baddies in SPECTRE. These guys are both intimidating in completely different respects, so it will be very interesting to see how they both fight Bond.
2.) SPECTRE, the organization, is back for the first time in decades now that the legal brouhaha has been resolved between EON Productions and Kevin McClory. It has been since Sean Connery’s appearance in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 that we last saw SPECTRE in any official form. A character looking much like Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who couldn’t be credited as such due to the aforementioned lawsuit, was seen briefly at the beginning of For Your Eyes Only with Roger Moore as Bond in 1981. SPECTRE dominated the early Bond films, featuring prominently in six of the seven first official 007 films from Dr. No to Diamonds Are Forever, with the exception of Goldfinger in 1964.
1.) The ring is back!!! The SPECTRE logo ring made me literally scream out loud with joy when I saw a quick glimpse of it in the teaser trailer that was released in March. November 6th is so close, yet so far away!
With the Tony Awards coming up in just a couple of months, I thought I’d start a new series of posts about musicals to gear up for the awards ceremony. You may have seen me mention in the past my love of musical theater. I performed some as a kid in school and camp, but never anything serious. I have always had a love of Broadway and show tunes and wanted to share some of my favorites on film.
A while back I was having a discussion across multiple social media platforms about what are some of people’s favorite movie musicals. I thought I’d compile a listing of my collection of movie adaptations of musicals that I own on DVD and Blu Ray to start. To try to keep this list from being never-ending, I will exclude things like Disney animated films, and focus on the more traditional incarnations of movie musical and shows.
1776 – This 70s classic about the founding of America, and specifically the writing of the Declaration of Independence, was a staple in school history class for me. Favorite songs: But, Mr. Adams and Sit Down, John
Annie – I have both the 1982 Aileen Quinn version I grew up with, and the 1999 Disney/ABC remake of the story of the lovable orphan. Favorite songs: Maybe, It’s A Hard Knock Life, and You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile
Chicago – The 2002 film about murderesses during the Jazz Age has some seriously catchy tunes. I especially enjoy Queen Latifah as Mama Morton. Favorite songs: Cell Block Tango, All That Jazz, and Razzle Dazzle
Grease – This is 1978 classic first entered my life in second grade when the fifth graders at my elementary school performed We Go Together at the school concert. I have seen this movie literally dozens upon dozens of times. You may say I’m hopelessly devoted to it. Favorite songs: We Go Together, Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, Summer Nights, and You’re the One That I Want
Les Miserables – I was first intrigued by the 2012 version when I heard about how the singing was being recorded for this film on set with music as opposed to in a studio. Throw in Hugh Jackman, and Samantha Barks and her amazing performance and I was sold, despite Russell Crowe’s singing. Favorite songs: Master of the House and On My Own
Mamma Mia! – Gorgeous setting in the Greek Isles, Christine Baranski, and ABBA? This was a no brainer for me. I remember laughing incessantly the first time I saw this musical, and on subsequent viewings with friends and family, despite Pierce Brosnan’s singing. Favorite songs: Dancing Queen, Chiquitita, and Take A Chance On Me
Moulin Rouge! – This tale of love in turn of the 19th into 20th century Paris was not adapted from an existing stage show before being made into a movie musical. I will say that I hesitated to include it because it doesn’t consist of original songs, but rather regurgitates (albeit in often very unique ways) familiar songs with a twist. Favorite songs: Elephant Love Medley, Complainte de la Butte, and Sparkling Diamonds
The Music Man – Although I’ve seen and enjoy the Matthew Broderick version of this musical, I tend to favor the original Robert Preston film from 1962 with Shirley Jones, despite the song Shipoopi existing. Favorite songs: Lida Rose, Marian the Librarian, and Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little
My Fair Lady – I remember seeing a high school performance of this while in middle school and falling in love with it before I saw the film. Then I fell deeper in love with Audrey Hepburn’s charming portrayal of Eliza Doolittle. Favorite songs: Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, I Could Have Danced All Night, and On the Street Where You Live
Newsies – Despite my friends Traci and Carrie professing their love for this movie musical throughout middle and high school, I am ashamed to say I didn’t actually see this movie until about three and a half years ago when our friends at the Disney Film Project Podcast covered it in one of their episodes. This is an instance of the film as the predecessor to the hit Broadway musical, but I’m including it. Favorite songs: Carrying the Banner, Seize the Day, and King of New York
The Phantom of the Opera – Quite possibly the quintessential example of musical theater, this classic from Andrew Lloyd Webber was made into a rather enjoyable film adaptation. Emmy Rossum stars and shines brightly, despite Gerard Butler’s tendency to overly growl through his songs. Favorite songs: Think of Me, All I Ask of You, and Masquerade
The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Even though I was admittedly introduced to this too early at the age of 12, it remains a favorite musical of mine and a cult classic for 40 years now. Second Tim Curry appearance on the list. 😉 Favorite songs: Dammit Janet, The Time Warp, and Sweet Transvestite
Singin’ in the Rain – What can I say? They just don’t make stars like Gene Kelly anymore it seems. He was a triple threat who could sing, act, and dance, but still be masculine and a great romantic lead. This story of the transition from silent films to talkies is definitely towards the top of my list of the best of the best movie musicals. Favorite songs: Singin’ in the Rain, Good Morning, and Make ‘Em Laugh
The Sound of Music – I don’t know if there’s a way to improve on this musical, other than maybe make the Baroness Elsa Schrader less scheming, but it’s fun to hate her. Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way. 😉 Favorite songs: Sixteen Going on Seventeen, My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Edelweiss, So Long, Farewell, and Something Good
West Side Story – Remake Romeo and Juliet and set it in the early 1960s on the West Side of New York and you’ve got the Jets vs. the Sharks instead of the Montagues and Capulets. The musical is no less tragic, but beautiful with moments of levity. Favorite songs: Tonight, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere, and America
White Christmas – I remember singing along to so many of these songs on repeat viewings even well outside the regular Christmas season. Favorite songs: Sisters, The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing, Snow, Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me, and Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Although the tunnel scene used to scare the living daylights out of me, I will gladly stop and watch this movie musical almost any time I find it on tv. Favorite songs: The Candy Man Can, Cheer Up, Charlie, I’ve Got a Golden Ticket, and I Want It Now
The Wizard of Oz – From what is arguably the best year in film history, this 1939 classic musical even spawned one of the most interesting sci-fi films in my collection (Zardoz – see this film if for nothing else than Sean Connery running around in the equivalent of a red cloth diaper and red suspenders). Favorite songs: Over the Rainbow, If I Only Had a Brain, and We’re Off to See the Wizard
Did I miss any of your favorite movie musicals? I know there are dozens more out there, but these are just some of my favorites that I like enough to go out and buy. I will continue my musicals series by talking about some of my favorite shows I’ve seen on stage. All images courtesy of IMDb.com.
Last week the new Mall at University Town Center opened in Sarasota as a new location for upscale shopping and dining. I had the chance to check it out this past weekend and thought I’d share a few pictures. My mom and I had seen the location last as a dirt patch before construction started, so it was quite impressive to see the change. The grand opening was last Thursday, with celebrities like our friend David Bromstad in attendance to celebrate the opening of the mall at their Macy’s location. Some of the stores are still not open yet, but I would say a good 80-90% are currently open.
The retail center has a range of stores throughout with anchor stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s. High end offerings also include Stuart Weitzman, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, and more traditional mall mainstays like the Gap, Express, Banana Republic, and Victoria’s Secret. One of my favorite aspects of the Mall at University Town Center is the collection of home, kitchen and housewares stores like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Williams-Sonoma. I could get lost in these stores along for hours checking out all the fun gadgets and gizmos as well as great decor.
For the opening weekend they had quite a bit of entertainment going on throughout the Mall. I don’t know if this will continue on a regular basis, but it definitely made this feel unlike any mall I’ve ever been to. There were living statues similar to those that used to appear in Epcot. Multiple musicians were spread out throughout the Mall at University Town Center playing music ranging from steel drums, to Celtic violins, to solo guitar players, and even some singing Jack Johnson. In addition to this there were a couple of gymnastic troupes performing in different locations. It made this much more than just your typical shopping experience. I even got to meet Hello Kitty!
Setting itself further apart from most malls, the Mall at UTC for short, doesn’t offer a food court per se. There are tons of places to eat, but most of them are table service restaurants, with a few counter service locations with seating mixed in here and there. There are also counter location like Auntie Anne’s pretzels, Starbucks, and Cold Stone Creamery where you just walk up to the counter and order. We opted for lunch at Seasons 52, a restaurant that was first mentioned to me by our own Gail a while back when talking about their fantastic meals on twitter.
Being that this was the opening weekend at the mall, we decided it might be a good idea to get there not long after the mall opened at 11am on Sunday. This was definitely a good call because parking was even scarce when we arrived a little before 11:30. We also had the good sense to make a reservation ahead of time for lunch at Seasons 52 using the Open Table website. We actually checked in about half an hour before our reservation time since neither of us had eaten breakfast, and thankfully they were able to seat us right away. Others were being told the wait was about 45 minutes unless they could find a seat at the bar, so we were very happy to get in early.
I will say the service was a bit slow, and also our server wasn’t as familiar with the menu as we were from just looking at it online ahead of time, but I will give them a pass since it was only four days after opening. The food was all fantastic. We thought we’d prefer to try several small things, so instead of ordering any entrees, my mom and I split several appetizers.
We started off with one of the recommended flights and flatbreads, where you can choose from several flatbread options and three wine flights for either $15 or $20 for three tastes of different wines and then a full glass of your favorite of the three. This would be a great lunch in and of itself for future reference. We tried the blackened steak & blue cheese flatbread with the Acclaimed wine flight, which consisted of reds that were all rated 90 points or above by Wine Spectator, the Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast or International Wine Cellar. We liked the cabernet the best, but none of the wines were as full bodied as we’d hoped, so we probably wouldn’t choose that flight again. The flatbread was quite tasty as long as you like blue cheese.
Next up we tried some of the seasonal appetizers on the Autumn menu. One that had caught my eye was the cider-glazed chicken skewers. They were served over a fuji apple slaw with sun-dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. This was our favorite selection we tried. Mom didn’t care for the slaw as much as I did, but still enjoyed the dish overall. We tried a cup of the porcini mushroom bisque in hopes that it might be similiar to the Portabella mushroom soup at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, but it was different. Good, but not as creamy as I’d hoped. I liked dipping the small garlic breadstick that came with it in the bisque to combine the flavors. Mom also ordered the carmelized brussel sprouts with crispy bacon, garlic and a parmesan crust. I’m not usually a fan of brussel sprouts, but paired with the bacon and cheese worked really well. We also ordered the organic baby spinach and carmelized pear salad with toasted walnuts, gorgonzola, and a sherry walnut vinaigrette. The salad was very good too, as long as you like blue cheese. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of blue cheese, in case you hadn’t guessed, but I did like what we had.
Last up was our dessert. Seasons 52 has a tray of mini desserts called mini indulgences that are about shot glass size and very affordable at only $2.75 each. These do change seasonally, so the offerings may very, but there were several intriguing choices. We opted to split the lemon and blueberry curd, and the pumpkin pie with a ginger snap cookie. We enjoyed both desserts, but mom and I both agreed we liked the pumpkin pie the best.
The food at Seasons 52 is all 475 calories or less per menu item, which is nice to know. They use seasonal and fresh ingredients to mix up the selections every few months. Their name, in case you were wondering where the 52 comes from, refers to the 52 different wines that are available by the glass. The food pictured above was enough for two adults to get two full meals each out of it and it was very reasonably priced coming to less than $60 before tip. The leftovers were even great the next day! I really enjoyed this restaurant at the Mall at UTC, and it will definitely be one of the reasons I come back. I’d also like to try their Kona Grill, The Capital Grill, and Brio restaurants. Friends have also recommended the Rise pizza restaurant here, which offers gluten free and traditional pies with your choice of toppings.
If you are looking for a different place to get some of your shopping done, the Mall at University Town Center offers a unique sense of style, mixed with Florida casual fun. This will now be my go to location for the Apple store, which cuts my drive time in half to the next closest location, and it is more than twice the size of the one in Brandon. I also like I can now go here for my Cheesecake Factory fix when I need one. Check this new mall out when you get a chance and let me know what you think.