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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.
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!
The official Disney Blog once asked readers that very question. It was interesting to note that almost every single person who responded said ‘Yes’ without any hesitation.
What would you have said?
I was a little surprised to see that not many people thought the answer would be ‘No’. Now, I didn’t read all of the comments for that post, so maybe more had other ideas. But the first few comments seemed to support the positive view.
I’m going to go against the crowd here and take the other path. I don’t think Walt Disney would have taken the time to Blog, or to Twitter, or to set up and maintain a Facebook page. And I’ll tell you why!
With so many books written about Walt Disney, it is easy to get a reasonably clear picture of the man and his methods. And by reading up on his early years up to the days before his passing, one thing seems to stand out: Walt Disney didn’t do all of the actual work himself. He didn’t animate his films. He didn’t build the technology used in the Parks. What he did do, and did better than anyone else, was come up with the ideas that no one else had thought of.
He was an Idea Man.
Of course, as an Idea Man, he would have considered the use of all available technology and how it could enhance his connection to the public. Anything that could have promoted his latest project would have been explored. So the various aspects of the Internet would have been explored.
But once explored, would Walt Disney himself have utilized them? Would he have taken the time to build a Facebook page and regularly chat with all who visited? I think it is safe to say that Social Media would not have appealed to Walt. For here was a man with few regular friends. A man who seldom attended parties or public functions if he could avoid it. And something else is of interest.
When asked for autographs at Disneyland, he would often refuse, because it slowed him down and made it impossible to get his work done. Instead, he would give them a pre-signed card (which you can see portrayed in the movie Saving Mr. Banks), or he would recommend that the person(s) write the Studio and request an autograph, and that then one would be sent to them. Did Walt himself sign those autographs? No. Often, he had someone else sign his name for him!
With these things in mind, it’s hard to believe that Walt would have taken the time to set up and maintain any of the Social Media accounts that we make such free use of today. But he may have had someone else do it in his name!
The Point: Walt likely wouldn’t have Blogged himself. But really, would we want him to use his time telling us what he had for lunch? Or would we rather he used his time to Imagineer?