Monday, November 27, 2017

Life's Like a Movie: Coco (and Olaf's Frozen Adventure)

Hi, Everyone!

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Let's talk Coco....

Immediately, I'm going to tell you I LOVED it. Loved, loved, LOVED it.  See it, see it twice.

Wait, I have to say more? Seriously?

Ok...well, I can try...

The storyline is fairly simple, little Miguel living with his shoe making family in Mexico wants to be like his musician great-great-grandfather, Ernesto de la Cruz.  He accidentally lands in the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos, as souls are crossing over to see their living families.  In order to get back to his family (his living family) he needs his dead family's blessing.  And I will say not another thing until you get to see it.

The film is steeped in Mexican culture in the best sense.  I cannot stress this enough.  Mexican culture is....a tricky business.  We either look really good or...not so good. And I think Pixar captured the best without overly sugar coating Mexican culture or patronizing it, either.

I read reviews noting that the storyline was typical and you saw the twist coming.  In some ways, yes, but I don't see that as a criticism.  For one thing, I think a lot of reviewers tend to forget they watch movies for a living.  Whether they've studied story structure or not, you get the sense of story structure in a vague sense after awhile and can anticipate certain parts of the story.  So, personally, I think the story was in good Pixar levels of shape.  There was a fair amount of juggling characters and storylines and you didn't feel the pull of one person's journey over another's.  Pixar always manages to intertwine all that nicely.

I think the sign of a good piece of cinema (as opposed to a good movie) is not just a theme, but shading of theme.  What I mean by that, is when a movie is so good, people bring their own themes to it.  Whatever the individual audience member saw, or sometimes what they really needed to learn, fits into the movie.  Coco's theme is definitely about family remembering your ancestors, but there are also themes of the price of ambition, determination, forgiveness, death and faith (in an abstract sense, not in a religious sense).

Here's another interesting thing about Mexican people...being related to a few myself, we're all into humor, and a morbid people (hence a holiday celebrating our deceased ancestors).  Being Mexican and Irish, I feel like I've had an abundance of morbid and funny in my life.  And Pixar movies are always funny, no doubt about that, but I felt it a little more in Coco. And very much that sense of humor that comes with being kind of morbid.  Yes, it's how you make a movie set in the land of the Dead work, but there was also such a range of humor.  Even in moments where the story was really ramping up, things would happen or a character would say something that wasn't laugh out loud funny, but funny in such a real and organic way, I'm not even 100% sure it's the cultural humor that got infused into the story or just a side effect of trying to keep death light...

Pixar, while a top rate animation company, has never been as focused on music.  They've never had a musical film, per se, but this movie is pretty close to it.  Music is, obviously, the focus of the story, and of Mexican culture, so Pixar had to really get this aspect right.  Which....they did. Not only was the music great (despite entries from the Lopez's of Frozen fame- I just think they tend to be a little too "Broadway" for my taste) but also diverse.  The diegetic music (the music within the story, not score) hit a broad range, and the score by Pixar favorite Michael Giacchino, just from my listening, was beautifully authentic.

A few last things I'd like to say about Coco, but I don't know if I can put it into words.  Another thing that made this movie magical lies in its ability to take the traditions of Dia de los Muertos, and MAKE them magical. But at the same time, I don't know that anyone could accuse it of being exclusionary in any way. I read an article by an Asian author who wondered how Coco managed to invoke her own family while she had no prior knowledge of Dia de los Muertos traditions. There is something to be said for that. I'm Hispanic, yes, and while I didn't grow up in Mexico quite this steeped in the culture, there were definitely aspects of the movie I inherently understood by proxy. Certainly, Abuela's use of her chancla (her shoe) as a weapon cracked me up.

And it may be that connectedness that made this movie so special to me, but that's what makes it so special on the whole.

Olaf's Frozen Adventure

Before I forget, the movie was accompanied, not by a Pixar short as usual, but the highly anticipated "Olaf's Frozen Adventure", a 30-minute short taking us back to Arendelle and our friends from Frozen.....if you aren't so sick of Anna and Elsa yet.

In the short, Anna and Elsa realize they don't have family traditions to celebrate the season, so Olaf takes it upon himself to ask ALL the citizens of Arendelle about their own, so he can offer the girls options.  This goes predictably wrong, but with a nice ending.

One thing you should know about me as an audience, I'm an easy movie crier.  I had NO expectation that this was going to make me misty, I just like Olaf. And.....big baby over here got misty. I think focusing on Olaf in this way was the best idea.  He's a great mix of sincere and mentally blank without being stupid and cloying.

The music in the short was just ok.  I felt like it was lip service to the concept of Frozen.  I could almost hear the executives complaining, "But it's Frozen, so there must be songs!"
It's ok.
You can tone it down.

One of my main criticisms of Frozen is that the songs are mainly in the first half of the movie, bloating the first and second acts. in a half hour short, they really could have done with...maybe one song that had verses and themes.  Save it for the sequel, which incidentally, should just be about Anna and Elsa going to therapy for all the trauma their separation has cause because YEESH!

So, in conclusion....see Coco.  See it 20 times and bring tissue.  ALSO, stay until the end of the credits! You should anyway, but you should this time.

See you all soon!

If you have any comments or questions, PLEASE feel free to leave them at the bottom of the page!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pixar's Coco in the Parks

Hi, everyone!

With the frost on the pumpkins and the Halloween pumpkin spice lattes now pumpkin pie spiced lattes, I thought we'd take a look at what DCA did for Pixar's upcoming Coco.  What we saw is just so special, it needed its own post.

The preview for Coco is apparently moving to the Bug's Life Theater for the actual preview of the movie starting this past Friday.  I believe, with Christmas (the season at least) upon us, the ¡Viva Navidad! mini-parade will most likely take its place. I hope that Disney decides to integrate Coco into that celebration, they've put such loving care into the props and decorations they have now.

All of the decorations related to Coco were so specific to the film's art, and it was just fantastic.

Besides face painting, Disney had the beautiful Árbol de la Vida, or Tree of Life, where you could leave a remembrance of a family member who has passed. To see all the names and memories, not just in English and Spanish but Asian languages, nicknames and memories.  It's really a simple "activity" that, if you go about it with the right intention, can be absolutely meaningful. 

To see that in a theme park is exactly what does and should set Disney apart. 

Someone make me these....please.

And, further into the Plaza, there is a recreation of the ofrenda Miguel has made for singer Ernesto de la Cruz.

Please note, I'm trying to give accurate information while remaining as spoiler free as possible. I want to see this with as much of a blank slate as I can.

I can't lie, I teared up.  Not just because I'm a big baby who cries at everything (because I am), but it was just so moving to see, for something temporary, the care taken by Disney.

Like in Carsland, the Papel Picados are specific to the film. Those are the strings of flags you see up there.

Flameless candles, both safe and pretty!

Not real marigolds, I checked.

In the gazebo, the two Mariachi groups come to perform at various times in the day.

I didn't get to see the Coco celebration mini-parade, but I got to see the performers head out there!

Also, I'm including the videos I Periscope'd of both Grammy-Award winning Mariachi Divas, a female group (in case the name didn't make that clear), and Mariachi Espectacular, a wonderful men's group.

The Mariachi Espectacular performance was quite long, so YouTube made me post it in two parts, by the way.

So, how did Disney portray Hispanic culture? 

Well, as an American of Hispanic was incredibly moving.  If Coco is half as good as this display makes it look, it will be huge in so many ways.  It will really shine such a positive light on Hispanic culture.  While sitting for both Mariachi groups on two different days, I was amazed at a few things....

  • Hispanic people enjoying the music of their own culture,
  • Children of all colors stopping, and enjoying the music,
  • Adults of all races stopping to take pictures and video as they passed by the performers. 
The response people of all stripes had to the music and the performers was astonishing, and a beautiful picture of what the world is, people being interested and entranced by another group's culture, or their own group, for that matter.  in my opinion, this is what Disney can do and be. THIS is what Epcot Center was meant to do, not just educate people, but to excite their interest. Coco has already succeeded as an ambassador of a culture, and if I could thank directors Lee Unrich and Adrian Molina for this, I'd be thrilled. 

Pixar is known for their research and attention to detail.  The French, wary of outside depictions of their culture, actually embrace Ratatouille to the point where a land dedicated to the film had to be built in Disneyland Paris.  I have always had faith in Coco, but to see it actually coming to fruition has excited more than I even thought it would. 

And I sincerely hope this movie does well enough to warrant a land. I don't think that's asking too much.....

I will criticize Disney where I need to, but here, they've knocked it out of the park. Thank you to ALL those involved in putting the Celebration of Coco together and I'm so looking forward to the film.

And before you ask, yes, I will review the film once I get to see it.  

Have you also gone to Plaza de Familia? Did you enjoy it? Please let us know in the comments.  If you like this post or the blog, PLEASE share it on the social media platform of your choice. 

I'll be back soon, depending on what I can get done in the meantime.  Any suggestions? Questions? Again, head over to the comments here at the bottom. 

Have a great week! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Trip Report: Halloween

Thought I was gone for good, huh?

Hello, Everyone.

Sorry for the absence.  There have been a series of unfortunate events which led to an unexpected hiatus.  Nothing requiring a stay with Witness Protection, I assure you. 

I know it's a little late in the season, but I'm sure no one would hate a stroll through the Disneyland Resort at Halloween.

Mickey's Halloween Party

This post will mostly cover DCA.  My family and I went to Mickey's Halloween Party early on in September, but I didn't get many pictures.  Disneyland's holiday offerings haven't changed much, and I was there mostly to heard cats....cats being my aunt's three kids. We had the teenager in a wheelchair as Rey, a magpie of a Snowtrooper, and a little Leia who refused to say her line....I went to keep the ratio of adults to children even. 

Like I said, the decor in Disneyland was typical, always nice.  It seems the attempt to step things up mostly went to DCA. And with the Halloween party moving there next year, it was smart to get prepared early. 

And if you think you're getting me on Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy, y'all are crazy. 
It's scary. 
And the 7 year old threatened to ask me to take her on it......

But I did get half decent pictures of the parade! 

Seriously, when it comes to parades, I don't do so well.  Partially because I'm short and people have NO worries standing in front of me. 

Now, the Headless Horseman isn't new, but not pictured (because I'm short) was an added Ichabod Crane himself coming down the street just ahead of the Horseman, seemingly unaware of his nightmare following behind. This was accompanied by a nice little narration. 

Now, I'm going to pause a quick second because I want to talk about Disney using less well known IPs (intellectual properties) in the parks.  In this day and age, when you can just open up your phone and find out what something is, if you're unfamiliar, using Ichabod Crane in the parks (because the Horseman will pop up again later in the post) is a smart idea, and I encourage Disney to continue. 

I think there should be a quota, for every Guardians or Frozen thing you permanently (or semi-permanently) put in the parks, you need to incorporate something like this, or the Three Caballeros, etc. Hopefully, on a similar scale, but let's take this step by step....

The Frightfully Fun Parade is a neat little parade.

Gotta love these vampires.

The man himself, good old Jack Skellington!

The Party did have, as its only offering for Annual Passholders, a special meet and greet with Jack and Sally, which is nice, but so much less than previous years.  Kind of a disappointment.

Baroque Thriller.

Again, couldn't get a good shot, but the gravediggers making sparks with their shovels, just awesome.  
I think one of the strengths of the ...Halloween people in Disney, is their ability to look at what Disney World is doing and incorporate it in a way that works for us.  You're not just copying and pasting a parade, but taking some of the show stopper elements (i.e. the gravediggers and the Horseman) and making them seem organic to the west coast celebrations.

One thing I love about Halloween is the use of Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog.  He might be my favorite villain.  He's got an interesting motivation, he's smart, and doesn't have dumb minions working for him. Plus, he'd voiced by Keith David, so, that makes him perfect right there. 

And the "Friends of Dr. Facilier" are always SO talented! 

Another new addition is Ursula.

Halloween is also fun because it gets the Villains together. There is just such a range in personalities with the Villains, it's an interesting mixed bag.

(Hey, Imagineering, when y'all gonna get on that Villains Village thing in Magic Kingdom? Or a Villains park? Get on that, you have my blessing.)

OK, I'm not a fan of Hercules. I've seen it several times and i just can't get into it. If y'all want, I'll do an entire blog post on it, but let's not get off the subject too much.

However, Hades is kind of cool. I won't deny that.

This large Maleficent dragon is...imposing. 

Look, it's my grandmother!

(Yes, my grandmother looks like the Wicked Queen. And that's the look she's going for...)

With Gaston as a nice little piece of eye candy for the end of the parade.

Cadaver Dans

I won't talk too much about the party (logistics, etc.) since it's kind of late in the season, but the party was fun as always. My aunt's kids loved it.  For the two little ones (Olivia, 7, and Reuben, 9), it was their first time and while they ran out of gas after the parade and fireworks, we figured it would be a one time thing and they're planning next year amongst themselves!

One other thing I'll add, the Cadaver Dans (usually the Dapper Dans) usually perform on the Rivers of America during the show.  They were on a Tom Sawyer Island raft as usual, but were closer to the water.  As we were in line for the Treat Trail, the two little ones  were absolutely entranced.  Olivia asked my mother "How do they have such beautiful voices?!".  Olivia is...hard to impress.

So, that's kind of it. Let's move over to DCA and look at their Halloween festivities.

Buena Vista Screams

Ok, moving onto the main event...ish.

Wait wait....this is Downtown Disney.

OK, this is kind of a prelude.  Even outside the parks, there were nice pumpkin displays like this.  I often do, but we should all continuously sing the praises of Disney Horticulture.

Mickey, Minnie and the gang have adopted a semi-Dia de los Muertos theme this year in their Halloween dress and merch all reflect this cute as heck look. this cultural appropriation? What, they don't have a Mice culture costume? I'm outraged! 


Here is the Oogie Boogie marquee, as shown in the concept art Disney shared at the D23 Expo. And he talks too, which is awesome.

(It's a miracle I got this shot, it was so sunny!)

I kept hearing some mechanical whirring sound though, and not getting the opportunity to see things at night, I was wondering if it was some kind of fog machine. fog. So why noise?

Me confused.... 😖

I wonder what Halloween offerings they have.....

Buena Vista Street looks really nice with plenty of bats and purple banners that coordinated with the bats. I mean, I think it coordinates with the bats.  Prove me wrong.

It's nice, I'm just not sure how period accurate it is.

Mortimer's Market even got some pumpkins.

And this is my usual call to Disney Merchandise.  Can I have these little stain glass banners?
I'll pay! That's a good $30-40 set.

Now, this has to be the smartest thing.....


Whoever said this in a meeting, Mr. Iger, give them a gosh darn raise.

And, they got the Headless Horseman in the plaza.
Again, it's nice to see Disney utilizing their older IPs. And this fits kind of closely into the time period of Buena Vista Street  (like the cartoons in the windows of Elias & Company, but it was hard to get pictures of them).

It's a really nicely put together piece. Is that fiberglass or what?
Can we get an engineer to comment?

Carsland Haul-O-Ween

Now, the big deal since it was announced at the Expo, was Carland's Haul-O-Ween.

And they did NOT disappoint.

First of all, new holiday themed marquee with a scare-car witch. Cute. do hippies feel about Halloween? Because it appears Filmore is down with it. 

He's even got demons on his own sign at the Taste-In.

A lot of the barrels had these nice demonic disintegration barrels.

Even the tops of the light poles have traffic cone/witches hats. I mean, who's looking up there?


Sarge has a nice crop of scary pumpkins.

By the way, I love that Sarge's lawn is just so tidy.

First, wasn't the Hall supposed to open at some point to show Mater's Tall Tales? Or just the Tall Tale that discusses Stanley's founding of Radiator Springs? What happened to that? With the outbreak of heat, that would be a great little AC moment.

Anyway, while I'm rambling, they had these great movie posters.

Deep cut with Escape to Hitch Mountain there...

Got some Hocus Pocus in there.

I don't know what this reference is.  Help.

Love the little scary faces up here.

The not-so-Cozy Cone Motel.

Flo's went with a spider theme. So....I'm steppin' away from that.

Dracula Mater. Lookin' fly...

Dude...Mater...your rust is showin'.

Also, because of the white wall tires, I'm picturing mater as a human, dressed as Dracula with that wrong or hilarious?

Even Luigi's got in the spirit.  He's got orange reverse jack o'lanterns on his leaning tower....

...and pumpkins in his window....

Nice banners in harvest colors.....

And a lovely little Horn-O-Plenty. Or Car-nucopia. 
Is there a pun department at Disney? 

Tin Lizzy got herself a willow and creepy claws on her shop...

Got to catch Lightning McQueen in his super hero costume.

Now, what I really think of as the triumph of Haul-O-Ween is Ramone's House of Body Art.

Full disclosure, I'm Hispanic.

I know, shocker!

Anyway, between this and the Coco display (which is getting its own separate post), Dia de los Muertos is getting such a great representation in the park. Not to mention, they have a display in Frontierland as well!

And Ramone is hooked UP for the holiday!

He's got great little flag thingies (I don't know what they're called. I'm not that Mexican, I guess...)

And this cute as heck car-davera (pun on cadavera) out front was a popular picture spot.  Disney even designated a PhotoPass person.

The car hoods in the windows were changed to reflect the holiday. I seriously would use each one on my own car. The best might have been either this or the Magnolia pattern, but that one was REALLY hard to get a shot with no glare.

Ramone apparently made an ofrenda (altar) to Doc Hudson in his shop. During the holiday, people build little altars like this to their deceased loved ones, and Ramone did an awesome job.

Again, with the nice custom Cars themed flags. 

The details of Doc's life portrayed here are simply astounding.

John Lasseter (or most likely LasseTIRE) signed Doc's degree to practice...medicine? mechanics?

I know it's a Cars themed alter, but it really touched my heart to see the detail and care taken by Imagineering.

Good job, Disney. Good job.

Even Stanley got into the spirit!

OK, the Cozy Cone Motel.  I didn't get to try any of the treats (also, there's only so much pumpkin in the world....let's try to keep it special, people), but the area is also pretty well detailed.

Inside the motel lobby there's an additional little surprise, if you're smart enough to go look...

An homage to Psycho! In a motel! LOVE IT!

Norman Brakes up there in the house..., it wouldn't be Janet Leigh, Marion Crane.....hmm, how do we pun that up? I'll take suggestions. 

And, over at Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, the waiting tractor/cow is now a Mummy cow.

Look into those soulful, murderous eyes...

Both Mater's and Luigi's have additional music tailored to the holiday.

And back in the pass towards A Bug's Land, Red is hiding taking meet and greets as a clown!

Though, I imagine, if you're scared of clowns, a HUGE ass firetruck clown isn't your cup of tea.

Last few notes...

Again, I just had to give another shoutout to Horticulture.  Just look at these flowers! 

Look at 'em! 

Getting ahead of yourself

Ok, I love Christmas.  I really do....but walking through Redwood Creek down towards Soarin', I spy Christmas decorations...

Reportin' for work early, huh there, little paddle?

The lovely bottles are up in the trees.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love these decorations....but I love them AFTER Halloween.

And I get why they start Christmas early. People have Christmas cards to do, sometimes they use the park as a canvas. Some people can't come in December, so it works.

But this? c'mon, y'all!!!

In Conclusion...

Thanks for hangin' in with me while I work out some stuff.  I promise to have more content for you in the coming weeks.  

Have a suggestion? Question about the post or what you see? Go ahead and leave a comment here at the bottom.

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