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BEST OF DISNEY
Our friends over at Love Our Crazy Life have asked some of their blogging friends (like me) to participate in a Blogging Challenge. So for four weeks in April, on every Monday morning, I will be covering a different Disney-related topic. You can click the link above to find all of the other participants and their entries. Enjoy!
A good thing about Disney movies is that they are populated with great characters. You can cheer them on and delight in their life journeys. Some even touch your heart and stay with you for a lifetime! But who are the best of the best?
Please check out my Top Five List of the best Disney characters, and my reasons why:
Number Five – Mickey Mouse (The Little Guy)
The underdog has always been an endearing character in history. Charlie Chaplin certainly took his Tramp persona to unprecedented levels in the silent era of film, and in so doing spawned a long line of imitators–of which Mickey Mouse is certainly one of the best!
Mickey led the world out of the Depression. He taught our children how to be nice. And he showed us all that good guys don’t always finish last. He was the little guy who never gave up.
What really endears this mouse to my heart is that he never puts himself first. In a world where selfishness and Me-ism seems to be the norm, even celebrated, Mickey just keeps on showing that when you put others first, that’s when you gain real happiness!
Number Four – Uncle Remus (Song of the South)
At a time in history when there were many justifiable reasons for hatred and resentment, one African-American man decided to show unprecedented love. No matter the skin color of the child in need, he was there with a story to make everything better again!
Song of the South is presently ‘banned’ from release due to alleged racism in its content, but I see a very different story within this important film. I see an older man of color respected and relied on by his former owners, a leader amongst his own people, and a person who shows just how big the human heart can be. Uncle Remus is a man everyone in this present world needs to meet and learn from!
James Bassett deserves better than to be robbed of his due for his portrayal of such a pivotal character in the Disney canon.
Number Three – Anna (Frozen)
Mention the Disney movie Frozen and everyone will immediately think of Elsa, the Ice Queen, who finally learns to ‘let it go’ and be her true self. Sounds good on the surface, but have they actually seen this movie? We have a person who damages her own Kingdom, runs away instead of staying and trying to fix things, abandons her duty and her sister, almost kills her sister (twice!), and basically adopts the attitude that it’s not her problem anyway. And this is a woman for little girls to look up to?
Anna, on the other hand, has no negative qualities. From childhood, she desperately tries to make a connection with her sister. Even though she is alone and rejected for years, her love never cools. When the Kingdom is in trouble, she steps up. She tries again and again to save her sister. And in the end, she is willing to die for someone who has done nothing to deserve such a sacrifice. This is a woman for everyone to look up to!
Just because a character has a hit song doesn’t mean they are one of the best Disney characters. Billions at the box office doesn’t do it either. Anna is one of the best Disney characters because she exhibits qualities that we all should strive to emulate!
Number Two – Baymax (Big Hero 6)
“Hello. I am Baymax, your personal healthcare companion.” Those who dedicate their lives to serve others, like nurses, are to be commended and respected. And although Baymax is a robot who was programmed to serve, we learn as his story unfolds, that there is more to him than computer code!
Two things emerge about Baymax during the film Big Hero 6. He will bend over backwards to do what he is asked by a ‘patient’ up to the point that it would harm them. Then he refuses to comply and explains why. Secondly, at the end of the film, we see that he is willing to lay down his own life, or terminate his program, to save others. Again, self-sacrifice is a big part of why Baymax is on this list!
“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate this character?”
Number One – Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins)
Practically Perfect in Every Way. Using the word ‘practically’ means that there are a few things, or at least one, about this Nanny that could be better. I guess she is a bit full of herself, but in a prim and proper way! So why is this lady number one on my list of the best Disney characters?
First, she is selfless. She has given up a life of her own to serve and protect the children of the world. We find hints that she loves Bert and could pursue a relationship with him, but not without compromising her mission. So she goes on alone.
Secondly, her love of children is strong, but she can never have any of her own. In the final scenes of the movie, we see her shed a tear as she has to leave yet another set of children whom she has come to love as her own. Imagine going through that pain each and every time you accept a posting, knowing that you will have to leave!
Thirdly, even though she is a bit of a bossy flossy, she usually lets her hair down and joins in the fun.
Oh, and Supercalifrajalistic makes her expialidocious. And who else can you say that about?
Bonus Character – Herbie (The Love Bug)
Just look at that face! Adorable and plucky, this little VW Beetle probably has one of the most endearing personalities of any Disney character. Whether it’s bringing two people together, winning a race, foiling a plot, or falling in love himself, Herbie does it all with a ‘Meep Meep’ and a ‘Vroom Vroom’!
Perhaps no other character better personifies the no-quit spirit. He has been sabotaged, stolen, ripped in half, and heart-broken, but never has he been beaten! Sometimes it’s the smallest amongst us that have the biggest hearts.
Be sure to check out all four of my posts in this series of Monday Topics:
Topic One – Disney Essentials
Topic Two – Disney Tutorial
Topic Three – Best Of Disney (You are here)
Topic Four – Looking Back at Disney
There can be only one ULTIMATE ACTION FIGURE on the market. The one to whom all others bow down and acknowledge. Year after year new contenders arrive to vie for the title, but just being new won’t necessarily win first prize. Old toys can have powerful legs that carry them to victory from yesteryear… to infinity… and beyond!
Today I give you my picks for the TOP TWO contenders:
Let’s take a close look at these two heavyweights. What makes them great? Do they have the cool factor to both win over and retain consumer loyalty? Hey, who’s Just. Plain. Awesome? First up, the older contender from out of this world:
Buzz has had some trouble along the way. He is prone to visions of grandeur and even greater heights of delusion. But when push comes to shove, or it’s time to fall with style, you can always count on this Space Ranger to get the job done!
FEATURES: If we take the “You! Are! A! Toy!” factor out of the equation, Buzz can fly. And not just through the air, but in Space itself! And he has that cool blinking light (a.k.a. laser) to blast his enemies with. He has natural fighting skills (not to mention latin dance moves) and superlative tactical ability. Oh, and he has a cool ship!
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Buzz rocketed to popularity so quickly that he got his own show on Toon Disney where we got to meet many more Cadets from Space Command. And even when he got lost on a strange planet, he was able to make friends with the locals, making him an impromptu diplomat. Of sorts.
CONCLUSION: Buzz Lightyear is a solid contender, but let’s look at him by the numbers –
Next up is the newbie with the soft inside wrapped up in a polymer shell:
OK, admittedly, this powerhouse starts off as a bit of a marshmallow, but when he suits up, his cool factor ramps up considerably:
Hero and Sidekick. But which is which?
Baymax has a heart of gold and a never-say-no attitude. He’s there for you when you have a boo-boo or when you need to fight an evil villain. Granted, everything he knows was programmed into him, but that just means he can learn and do anything.
FEATURES: Baymax has one offensive weapon, that being his rocket punch. But he can also fly, which is always a handy feature to have when fighting evil. He can also program into his memory any tactical maneuver or fighting style. Any. Yup, that’s some serious advantage right there!
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Baymax is first and foremost a personal healthcare companion. So while he can, after suiting up, beat the daylights out of you, he can then nurse you back to health again. And no-one gives a better hug! He also has great empathy and can bring people together, making him a natural part of any superhero team.
CONCLUSION: Baymax is also a solid contender, but let’s look at him by the numbers –
So who wins the Action Figure Smackdown? Here are the tallies:
Buzz Lightyear: 15.5 out of 20 Baymax: 16 out of 20
Keep in mind that the contest isn’t over yet! Baymax has yet to stand the test of time. And Buzz Lightyear isn’t one to sit around and accept defeat. He will demand a rematch!
So who would you have chosen? Do you think our ratings are accurate?
Oh, I just hate it when another studio one-ups my favorite studio, Disney ! But credit where credit is due. It goes to the Warner Brothers Studio for releasing a controversial film. And how did they manage such a tricky and potentially explosive feat and preserve a piece of cinematic history?
By using four title cards. My question: Why couldn’t Disney do this with Song of the South?
But first, the Warner Bros. movie: Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army (from 1943)
And yes, that’s a very young Lt. Ronald Reagan, actually in the army during production
Reagan again on the left with George Murphy on the right, playing his father
This film was called “buoyant, captivating, as American as hot dogs or the Bill of Rights” by Theodore Strauss of The New York Times. He left out racist and highly offensive. Or maybe he missed this part of the picture:
A Minstrel from a number with white actors in blackface
But with Hollywood, one is never enough, so why not fill the entire stage with highly offensive stereotypes:
Yes, that’s an enormous banjo in the background
If five Minstrels in the background weren’t enough, how about twelve in the foreground dancing and singing ‘Mammy’ with another twelve guys dressed in blackfaced-drag with an additional six banjo-playing Minstrels, three to a side? If only they could have worked in a plate of fried chicken and collard greens somehow.
There were actual African-American singers/dancers in this picture, but they were used in a typically exaggerated way for comic relief. However, a Fun Fact: The Army was still segregated at this time (WWII) and so the production of this film, with a predominantly all-army cast, was the only integrated deployment of men during the war.
So, again, how did Warner Bros. manage to get this film released in 2014 on DVD? Answer:
T I T L E C A R D S
So it made a lot of money for charity. But still unacceptable.
Open acknowledgment of the mistaken views held at the time.
Point: Does banning movies with this stuff in them mean the stuff never happened?
Blackface Minstrelsy has a long history and is not practiced today, even in jest. But it is a large part of American history and won’t go away simply by burying movies that contain sequences depicting it.
With that in mind, couldn’t Disney place similar Title Cards at the beginning of a DVD release of Song of the South and let the scenes depicting the attitudes of the freed slaves and their interaction with former masters speak for themselves, also speak to the history of the period, and allow such scenes to “remind all how far we have come as a nation”, or nations?
I’ll leave this thought here and end this post on a lighter note. Did you know that The Skipper’s dad was in this movie too? Yup, Alan Hale Sr. played a key role in many movies long before his son, Alan Hale Jr., became Gilligan’s buddy:
A l a n H a l e S r.
You’ve dreamed of it for years. You’ve planned it out for months. You’ve been packing for days. Now it is time. Your trip to a Disney Theme Park is about to begin!
Will it live up to your expectations? (Photo from Disney PhotoPass CD)
Disney is probably one of the most talked about, and hyped, vacation destinations of all time. We all know someone who has been. We have all seen advertisements for the latest promotions. In one way or another, we have all built up a bias as to what we expect.
Is this true of you?
If so, perhaps you were influenced by the Internet. It is filled with Trip Reports. This is when a person visits one of the Disney Theme Parks and then takes the time to tell the world how it all went. They list what they liked. And they list what they didn’t like.
One Trip Report that was posted on the MSN homepage did just that. But what stood out to me was one assessment about a certain attraction. It is called Soarin’, and is found in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. This ride simulates hang gliding over California. They said, basically, that it was a disappointment because their children thought that they would be really flying. When it turned out to be only a simulation, they called it lame.
And therein lies the problem with basing our perception of a Disney Park on what other people experienced: their experience was tainted by expectation. Would we fail to enjoy Soarin’ too because it is a simulation, and not the real thing? Possibly. And yet Soarin’ remains one of EPCOT’s most popular rides. So who is right? It is impossible to say.
What we can say is that we are more likely to enjoy our visit to The Happiest Place on Earth if we just go and take it for what it is, and not what someone else expected it to be. A Disney Park offers something for everyone. Yes, you may not enjoy Soarin’, but you will definitely enjoy some other ride. Overall, you will have things that you liked, and things that you didn’t like. Just like everyone else.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t read Trip Reports? Of course not! These can sometimes be informative, and provide a basic guideline for planning our trip. But should they be used to make a final decision about a ride, attraction, or Park? By no means.
I had just one expectation when I planned to visit Walt Disney World back in 2005. I expected to have fun. And I did! Some things weren’t what I thought they’d be. Other things were. Did this make or ruin my trip? No!
The point: Don’t expect your expectations to turn out the way you expected! But of course, that’s just my opinion.
There’s more to Florida than Walt Disney World. There, I said it. The last visit we took in January yielded an opportunity to really explore the State and see its many attractions and natural beauty. We visited museums, beaches, stores, and more.
Here are some of the highlights in pictures:
After all, Florida is called the Sunshine State. Most of our visits over the years have been blessed with lots of sun and high temperatures. Above, I am cleaning the excess sunshine off my windshield so that I can drive safely.
I was staying with the in-laws in a rather large trailer community and got lost trying to get out. I ended up at a golf course where I was delayed as these four birds decided to cross the road. I guess the answer to the famous joke as to why a bird would cross the road is ‘to play golf’!
Birds on the beach and… at Wendy’s Restaurant.
I find the indigenous plants to be very interesting subjects for photographic essays! I rarely visit Florida without coming home with hundreds of scenery shots.
Lastly, I have an exclusive shot of a new Hotel on one of the beaches:
It may not be a Marriott Hotel, but these small snails seem to consider this heel from a flip-flop shoe to be 5-star! My wife found this and called me over and we enjoyed watching the snails heads come in and out of their shells… until the tide came in and gave us all soakers!
So these are just a few of my impressions of Florida, not as a tourist trap, but as The Sunshine State.
It is interesting to me that by even asking that question, I may not be Politically Correct! To wonder if anyone has taken this non-offense initiative too far is to invite criticism. So when is being Politically Correct really too much?
The simple answer is: When it ignores history.
Take Song of the South for instance. This film is likely never to be re-released any time soon. It is apparently thought that it would spark more controversy over the racial problems of the past, and perhaps inflame some of the prejudices that still exist today. But I wonder if burying such a movie will make such controversy disappear? It’s unlikely.
The fact is that this film was made. It was released. It had an impact. And so I believe it should have a place in today’s society.
Take also the portrayal of smoking in Disney films. Now, I agree that we don’t need our children to see their favorite Disney character puffing away on a Virginia Slim. Can we imagine Ariel lighting up while relaxing on a rock after a hard day’s swim? Mickey pulling out a pipe on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and then breaking into a song all about the joys of smoking? Neither scenario is appealing!
Pinocchio enjoys (?) a cigar
But neither is denying that Disney characters have always been depicted as smokers if the story and situation called for it. Like Pinocchio when he was making an ass of himself:
Or Cruela de Ville with her iconic long cigarette holder. And we have to remember that Walt Disney himself was unapologetic about his own chain-smoking (although he did keep it off-camera.)
There was a series of TV commercials depicting Disney characters having bad experiences with smoking, like the aforementioned Pinocchio. The overlaying narration suggested that smoking was bad, so that is a good use of this old footage. But should this old footage be changed, perhaps edited out of the Classic films altogether? The answer appears to be ‘yes, as Disney is going through its Classic catalogue and removing such offending footage!
In conclusion, we might ask: Should the PC movement have the power to, not only ignore, but to change history? Maybe that should be the true controversy!
Disney movies have a very squeaky-clean image. We have frolicking animals, beautiful Princesses with happy endings galore, and more fuzzy feelings than the average person can stand without gagging. But Disney also has a darker side that can scare you Disneyless!
For example, almost every Disney villain gets to die in a horrible way: Falling off a cliff; Hanged by the neck; Impaled. Well, you get the idea. Disney certainly can produce a cartoon to scare the pants off you!
But because Disney has such a squeaky-clean image, we tend to forget this darker side. So if someone (like me, right now) were to question Disney’s decisions to add horror into almost every movie it makes, they (or me, right now) would probably come under fire. Fair enough.
It’s true, ever since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney has entertained AND scared us. And our children. Minority groups have attacked Disney for years over this issue while the majority has attended movie theaters in droves to help make Disney millions.
So is there really an issue here?
A little fright never hurt anyone, and children especially enjoy a good scare. But what if it’s taken too far? And just how far is too far? Everyone is likely to give a different answer to that question.
I think with the release of The Princess and the Frog, this issue came to the fore once again. This film prominently featured the practice of Voodoo. The villain was a Voodoo Priest and the film graphically depicted his dark arts. Is such a realistic depiction still just a ‘good scare’?
Many thought not. And the box office for Tiana was disappointing for Disney. Rapunzel far out-performed her. But why? Tiana was loved as a great Princess! Her story touched many, and the movie was well written over all. So what happened?
Were Disney fans sending a message?
No one can say for sure. But maybe Disney should lay off any over-the-top scares for a while. Even though today’s children are savvier than yesterday’s, maybe today’s parents aren’t quite ready to let their children see more than they themselves did.
Maybe they want more cartoon bunnies, and fewer realistic Voodoo Priests. And children who can sleep at night. What do you think of Disney’s darker side? Just the right balance, or a little too far at times?
If you don’t already know, I am Canadian. And although my country isn’t exactly The Great White North anymore due to weather pattern changes, it still does get cold enough in winter to make Florida look awfully good. And warm!
On the Road: What I’m leaving behind for every Disney vacation
And to this ‘Snowbird’ it’s just a no-brainer to head to The Vacation Kingdom for that hot and sweaty two weeks of winter vacation time. But perhaps your dream vacation involves Disneyland.
Before my family’s first visit to Walt Disney World in 2005, however, we had some big decisions to make. Decisions that would apply regardless of your final destination:
So many questions, but at the time, so few answers! So this article is intended to help my fellow Canadians, and perhaps by extension other foreigners, to plan their next Disney vacation. I’ll walk you through each of the above questions by giving you the solutions I found to create many successful visits.
What help is available to plan your vacation?
For my first visit, I used a Travel Agent. I would recommend this to anyone who is unfamiliar with travel or booking procedures. For my wife and I, it took all of the worry out of the planning stage. We merely told our Agent what we wanted to do and when, and she did the rest. Today, there are many Official Disney Travel Agents (one is attached to this site) who are experts at planning a magical visit with Mickey Mouse. We also used CAA (AAA) when we were members, and this too proved to be a fine planning resource.
You can also phone Disney directly and they will plan everything for you.
In my opinion, if you try to go it alone, you are likely to miss out on many things. The sheer amount of decisions needing to be made is staggering! So perhaps a final tip is to do as much research on the Disney destination of your choice as you can. I recommend buying Birnbaum’s Official Guide, or some similar publication, well in advance of your planned vacation.
How should you travel from Canada to the States?
For our first trip, to Walt Disney World, my wife and I flew. Any Canadian airport will fly you directly to the Orlando International Airport. However, at the time, we lived only 30 minutes from the Windsor/Detroit border, and so had friends drop us off at the Detroit Metro Airport. From there, it took only two hours of flying and very little time was wasted on the ground or in the air. We were able to minimize the time spent in Customs and endured lessened security checks, so keep this point in mind: The events of 911 have made travel between Canada and the U.S. more inconvenient for Canadians, so you will be subjected to more delays and stricter security measures if you leave for Florida or California from a Canadian Airport. Thusly, I recommend that you travel by car across a land border, use Park and Fly, and fly from State to State to minimize this problem.
The other option of travel is to drive. I much prefer doing this, as you can stop along the way and enjoy more of what the U.S. has to offer in the way of attractions and sightseeing. But your distance from Florida or California will determine if this is feasible.
If you will be driving to Florida, I recommend picking up a copy of Along Interstate I75 by Dave Hunter. He and his wife have made hundreds of road trips along this route and have included every, and I mean every, possible point of interest along this highway! Plan an extra day or two to stop and enjoy the culture and friendly people of each State you cross.
How long should you stay?
Up front, you should know that you have no hope of covering all of Walt Disney World in a month, let alone a week or less. So don’t worry about figuring out how many days you’ll need to cover everything. It ain’t gonna happen! So pick the number of days you will need to wind down and relax, but not so many that you will miss home and your regular routine. Remember: Next year will bring another vacation!
Should you stay on property or off property?
If you are going to fly, staying on property makes the best sense. Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and drop you off when it’s time to leave. You just sit back and let them do the driving! Disney will even pick up your luggage at the airport and place it in your room upon arriving at your resort. Now how convenient is that? If you are planning to drive, then either option is feasible. But keep in mind that parking fees at Walt Disney World (and presumably Disneyland) can add up quickly, but can be avoided if you park at your on property resort and use Disney transportation.
Staying off property makes sense if you intend to visit several other Orlando or Anaheim attractions, such as Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farms, or Legoland. Choosing a spot at a central location to all of your intended destinations just makes more sense time wise and financially.
What else do you need to know before making your final vacation plans?
Plan ahead. Keep your eye on the exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. dollars. One year you may find things at par, while another year can see Canadians losing over 25 cents on the dollar! This can severely impact your spending power on vacation. So if possible, watch the fluctuating rates, and buy your American currency when values are closest to par.
Research on Internet sites and Blogs (like this one) all of the current and upcoming discounts and promotions being offered by Disney. Again, if you’re not into spending hours on the Internet, letting your Travel Agent do the work may be best.
Be aware of attraction refurbishments and closing schedules as well as Park renovations and expansions. The Parks have many closures, especially during the off-season. Currently, both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have construction under that may limit the ‘curb appeal’ of the Parks.
DL: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train construction (2013)
My last tip is the simplest and perhaps most enjoyable: Talk to your Disney friends! They may just be the best resources you have about the Parks and how to make the most of a Disney vacation.
So now I hope you’re ready to plan that big Disney vacation. Just remember what Charles Muntz always said: “Adventure is out there!” But maybe I could add that more adventure is possible if you plan well.
I’ll see you at the Parks!
D O W N T O W N D I S N E Y
Welcome to those of you joining me from Disney Babies Blog and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.
Although they have the same name, the Downtown Disney districts of Disneyland and Walt Disney World couldn’t be more different! But as you will see, comparing the two isn’t altogether fair. The sheer volume of WDW’s DTD makes this comparison a bit like pitting a heavyweight boxer against a ballerina. But that doesn’t mean DLR’s DTD has anything to apologize for!
I’d like to compare the DTD’s using three main categories:
Winner: WDW’s DTD. You can easily spend a day taking in the streetmosphere, shops, restaurants, shows, carts, and speciality attractions. Splitsville. Cirque du Soleil. Characters In Flight. Disney Quest. Truly something for everyone! And when they finally finish revamping the old clubbing area, it will offer even more.
Rebuttal: DLR’s DTD is smaller and closer to the Parks and both on-property and off-property Hotels. WDW’s DTD is so big that you have to drive to it or spend time on a bus just to reach it, making it a less convenient source of fun.
Winner: DLR’s DTD. The same argument that diehard Disneyland fans use to put their Resort above its big sister in Florida puts the smaller shopping district in the winners seat here. There is a more intimate feel to this place. You don’t have to walk for miles to take it all in. It’s easier to do an impromptu meet-up with friends.
Rebuttal: WDW’s DTD does have character, though, especially when you factor in the waterfront and nighttime lighting.
DISNEYNESS (it is too a word!)
Winner: WDW’s DTD. Everywhere you look, you are reminded that you are experiencing something Disney. Even though there are many non-Disney shops and restaurants, they are far outnumbered by Disney and Disney-style offerings. Some say that Disney went overboard just to sell swag, but I say: ‘That’s OK with me!’
Rebuttal: You do have to walk between the entrances to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure to get to DLR’s DTD. And on the other end of it you have the iconic Disneyland Hotel complete with Monorail Station! Now that’s a pair of Disney bookends!
So WDW’s DTD comes across as one of the world’s best heavyweight retail and entertainment districts. But DLR’s DTD is like a beautiful ballerina with style and grace, and that’s not a bad thing. Overall, though, I have to give a clear decision in favor of WDW’s DTD.
If you want to shop or play Disney, the biggest bang for your fun is to be found in Florida!
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Journeys from a Follower.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have missed a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Disney on Wheels: Adventureland vs. Adventureland
2nd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney: New Orleans Square vs. Liberty Square
3rd Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog: Tomorrowland vs. Tomorrowland
4th Stop ~ Cool Nouns by Lee Beatens (You are here)
Final Stop ~ Journeys from a Follower: Frontierland & Critter Country vs. Frontierland