Disney Nerds

Guest Blog: Walt Disney’s Practical Advice for Pursuing Your Dreams

Disney Archaeology time - lets dig into the world of Disney and see what we can discover today - If you could get into a time machine and travel back in time to October 9, 1966 with Walt Disney you would find him in Kansas City. Walt was returning to the Kansas City Art Institute, the very place he attended classes 50 years earlier.

This Kansas City trip had started with Walt being in town to receive an award from an international goodwill organization. He had decided to visit the art institute while he was there. Walt was informally doing research for one of his latest projects, CalArts...and so the Walt Disney rumors swirled around the campus on that day.

Mark Kausler was a freshman art student at the Kansas City Art Institute and like most on campus had heard the rumors that Walt might be visiting. Keeping a watchful eye out, and trying to decide whether or not the rumor had any truth to it or not, he saw a car enter the campus, stop near the main building where the Dean's office was located, and Walt Disney emerge and enter the main building.

Once Disney was known to be on site a crowd of curious fans and autograph seekers began to assemble outside the building. Eventually Walt, the dean, and some other school staff members exited the building and stepped into the crowd of admiring well wishers. Mark Kausler was nervous and waiting his turn as Disney greeted the crowd.

He stammered, "Mr. Disney would you sign my book for me please?"

He presented a copy of Bob Thomas' Walt Disney, the Art of Animation for the legend to autograph. Disney took the book and signed it. Mark managed to tell Disney during this brief encounter that he (Mark) had "always wanted to get into the business."

Walt handed him back his book and said, "You want some advice from me, kid?"
Kausler was awestruck and of course, could only say "yes."
Walt smiled, paused, and then said softly, "Learn to draw."

The entire crowd cracked up and laughed loudly. It was a humorous moment, it was an honest moment, and the impact lasted a lifetime.

The advice was good, heartfelt, honest, and practical. It makes sense doesn't it? If you want to be an animator, then perhaps you should learn how to draw.

What Walt did in that moment was something that we all need to do from time to time. We need to be honest with ourselves and take an honest appraisal of ourselves. In order to chase dreams we need to make sure we have the right dreams. For example, if you have the desire to be the middle linebacker for an NFL football team, but you are only 5 feet tall and weigh 98 pounds, realistically you are probably chasing the wrong dream. The art of chasing dreams begins when we are honest with ourselves and are willing to take an inventory of our heart, our passion, our skill set, and our giftedness...when we are willing to do that ...then we are ready to start chasing and making dreams come true.

The other thing that Walt did in that moment was to drive home the powerful yet often missed principle...direction, not intention, gets you to your destination. In other words, if you want to be a great animator...then wishing it would happen doesn't make it happen...instead, you must be purposeful in your pursuit of your dream. In this young artists case, learning to draw, refining skills in art school and hard work were all directional things that had to happen.

As a dreamer and doer, Walt reminded us there are no shortcuts to making dreams come true. So today, get ready to roll up your sleeves, get to work and start chasing your dreams. And along the way help and encourage others to do the same. The end result is that the world becomes a better place and your dream has the potential of impacting the lives of others forever.

(This account was recorded in much greater detail the Michael Barrier book, The Animated Man - A Life Of Walt Disney)

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Disney Road Trip - Podcast Recommendation: 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter

BBC’s “30 Animals that Made Us Smarter” is a great podcast for your Disney road trip. The episode about the way the Stenocara beetle’s body surface allows it to collect water reminded me of the way the surface of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth is designed to collect water and channel it so that it does not fall on guests below.

BBC’s “30 Animals that Made Us Smarter” is a great podcast for your Disney road trip. The episode about the way the Stenocara beetle’s body surface allows it to collect water reminded me of the way the surface of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth is designed to collect water and channel it so that it does not fall on guests below.

Is a road trip to Disney World part of your vacation plans? Do any of your kids have scientific/inventor inclinations?   If so, an interesting podcast to enjoy on the drive is BBC’s 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter.   I find the segments interesting as an adult but it seems to be presented at about an upper elementary school or junior high level and the episodes are only about 15-minutes long.    The “Stenocara beetle and water collector” episode made me think of Spaceship Earth at Epcot.  In the case of the beetle, it has bumps that helps it collect and channel water from fog in the desert where water is scarce. The panels on Spaceship Earth are designed so that no rainwater pours off of the surface onto the ground but, instead, is collected through gaps in the facets and is channeled to gutters that carry it to the World Showcase Lagoon. The beetle lives in an arid environment and Florida gets lots of rain but there are still similarities in the way that these outer surfaces work to direct water to a desire location. You can download and listen to the Stenocara Beetle episode here or stream it through your favorite podcasting platform.

Click here for a 1-minute animated video about the Stenocara beetle collecting water.

 Learn more about Spaceship Earth and the way it channels water

May you have safe travels!

Annette

More Helpful Information:

Interesting Podcast about Light Sabers and Wands and our Search for Ritual

Hey there –

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, you might find the first part of The Holy Post, Episode 357 “Nones Love Nuns” very interesting in a weird Disney/Christian/Human Nature sort of way. The Holy Post comes from a Protestant Christian perspective and the show always starts with some humorous commentary on recent news or human interest stories. Their first story takes about 8-1/2 minutes and is about a woman growing a nose on her spine as a result of stem cell research but the second story, which starts about 8-minutes and 45-seconds into the episode, was very interesting because it was about non-religious Millennials moving in with old catholic nuns and it moves into a discussion of human yearning for rituals. Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales, is one of the hosts and he compares this to the rituals surrounding building your own light saber in Savi’s Workshop at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the wand selection ritual at Universal Orlando. Then the story sort of pulls in elaborate Disney weddings where the wedding party dresses like Disney characters. I found it thought-provoking. That discussion ends at about the 25-minute point and then they have a guest interview which I have not yet listened to and probably should have before recommending the podcast. If this piques your interest at all, you can just search for “The Holy Post” on what ever podcast broadcasting platform you typically use or try http://thephilvischerpodcast.libsyn.com/ or ApplePodcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-holy-post/id591157388

The Holy Post, Episode 357 “Nones Love Nuns” -  interesting discussion that references Savi’s Light Saber Workshop at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the Wand selection experience at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter into the human quest for ritual and meaning.

The Holy Post, Episode 357 “Nones Love Nuns” - interesting discussion that references Savi’s Light Saber Workshop at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the Wand selection experience at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter into the human quest for ritual and meaning.

It was interesting to me because I was raised in a church context that rejected traditional religious rituals as without being aware that we we did not actually eliminate rituals at all, we just replaced them with our own practices. As an adult, I attended a Catholic funeral for a young person who died tragically in a car accident and could see where those rituals could help you find your footing again when the circumstances of life send you reeling. I was interested to hear how some non-religious Millennials were looking at the formation of rituals as away to sustain them as they pursue various causes. Since I am a travel agent who focuses on Disney and Universal theme park vacations, I was intrigued by the popularity of the wand or light saber rituals and it interesting that the experience is very meaningful to people.

Additional Information:

Guest Blog: Disney History - Iron Man Monorail Wrap

Disney History - Iron Man-orail: Disney World monorail with Iron Man 3 wrap / Stark Industries monorail

Disney History - Iron Man-orail: Disney World monorail with Iron Man 3 wrap / Stark Industries monorail

The Disney/Marvel film Avengers: End Game is shattering box office records this weekend, so I thought it would be good to take a little bit of trip back in time. The film was Iron Man 3 and the Walt Disney World resort unveiled their most spectacular monorail wrap ever when the Iron Man-orail made its debut. This Avengers themed monorail was sleek, fun, and gave Monorail Black one of the best makeovers ever. A golden nose on the train, branded with the familiar “Stark Industries” moniker and Iron Man flying down the side (Iron Patriot on the other) promoted the release of the movie.

The Stark Industries monorail took guests between Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) Due to restrictions with Universal Orlando Resort, the Iron Man monorail did not ever venture from the TTC to Epcot. The reason is because the Walt Disney Company had to fly Iron Man in restricted air space. Confused? Don’t be – this all makes sense in the world of theme parks and legal contracts.

Marvel is owned by Disney, but Universal (the little theme park just down Interstate 4 from WDW) has exclusive rights to use certain characters inside the East Coast theme parks. Island of Adventure prominently features the Marvel, now Disney owned characters as part of their experience and themed land within the resort. So in some ways, you can see Disney characters inside Universal Studios….but that is another story.

The reason that the Epcot line was restricted air space is because the monorail actually goes over the main entrance to the theme park and loops around Spaceship Earth and then stops just beyond the main entrance at the Epcot monorail station. So if the Iron Man monorail ever traveled the Epcot line it would actually enter and exit the boundaries of Epcot breaking the rule of law…and so it could make the loop around the Seven Seas Lagoon because the monorail never goes beyond the main gates of the Magic Kingdom.

But whether there were boundaries or not, the Iron Man monorail as you can see from the pictures was spectacular. And although there were problems in making this happen at WDW because of the restrictions, they really were just opportunities loaded with potential that had to be embraced so a solution could be found.

So it goes as you soar through life. Learn to see potential and learn to look beyond problems.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Guest Blog: Disney's Rorex Tunnel - Carolwood Pacific Railroad

Here is a bit of Disney Archaeology for you…digging into the past and making discoveries that matter in the future…so let’s begin with a question…Are you familiar with Walt Disney’s Rorex Tunnel?

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad and the history of the Rorex tunnel - Dixon On Disney

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad and the history of the Rorex tunnel - Dixon On Disney

It is not surprising if you aren’t, but the tunnel and its creation are interesting chapters within the life of Walt Disney. The story unfolds at the Disney home in Holmby Hills. Walt’s hobby and interest in railroading had led to the creation of the Carolwood Pacific, it was a one-eight scale train, designed to run around the Disney home along 2,615 feet of track, with enough switching options to enable him to travel nearly a mile without running on the same track in the same direction.

The first circuit around the Carolwood property took place on May 7, 1951. As the plans for this extensive personal railway was being developed, Walt’s wife-Lillian noticed that the train was going to run right through her new flower gardens, which had been designed by Disney legend – Bill Evans. She approached her husband about this and was not at all pleased. Walt knew he had to come up with a solution to the problem. Unleashing his very creative imagination, it didn’t take Walt long to land on an answer. He would simply dig a tunnel and go underneath the flowerbed.

In a playful turn of events – Walt even had his lawyer draw up a legal agreement between Lillian and himself. “Lilly has made up her mind that I shouldn’t run right through the middle of her garden. She wanted to have a large window put in so her friends can look out at her flowers while they are playing Canasta. I just want the right to run my railroad.” Walt stated.

Now let’s dig into the tunnel - As you might imagine, this was not just going to be any tunnel. Walt always had a flair for the creative and wanted to create a moment for his passengers and of course, himself.

Walt’s plan was to create a 90 foot tunnel with a slight S-curve in the middle. As riders entered the tunnel they would not immediately be able to see the exit. As they went deeper into the tunnel, they would be plunged into total darkness. As always, in the world of Walt Disney, even in those early days – he was always figuring out a way to “plus” the experience. A foreman on the project approached Walt and suggested it would be cheaper if they made the tunnel straight. (Not to mention it would be easier to build as well)
This angered Walt and he snapped back, “It’s cheaper not to do it all.”
But in the end, Walt got the tunnel installed, just the way he had envisioned it.

The Carolwood Pacific Railroad introduced Walt to the notion of creating an attraction, an outdoor entertainment event. Eventually with the creation of Disneyland, Walt would get a full sized train that he could run after hours at the theme park. The beginnings of thinking through how that might work and what that might look like happened in his very own backyard.

The tunnel that Walt dreamed up that formed an S-curve below Lillian’s flower bed was officially named the “Rorex Tunnel.” The reason for the name was the construction supervisor. As Walt was chatting about what to do and discussing possibilities, the original idea that the problem could be tackled in this way was suggested by Jack Rorex. As a result, Walt remembered the conversation and the tunnel was named after the man who sparked Walt’s imagination.

When faced with the problem of upsetting his wife and destroying all the work that had gone into her flower beds, it would have been easy to decide, there was no way to fix or conquer the problem. However the tunnel ended up being a bit of an engineering masterpiece. The problem was nothing but an opportunity in disguise.

Walt explained his approach to chasing ideas and experimenting in an interview with Pete Martin in the Saturday Evening Post (June-July 1956) when he said, “You never know what will happen. That open mind and that hope that one thing will lead to another.”

Today you may find there are problems that you are facing that seem to have no answer. Don’t stop looking for solutions, don’t be afraid to be creative. The problem that seems so insurmountable may actually be an opportunity in disguise.

(The story used in this post is taken from The Disney Code)

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Guest Blog - "Easter Eggs" in Disney Movies

It is Easter weekend! Hopefully you are planning a fun-filled Spring weekend loaded with surprises and excitement. The tradition for many is to participate in Easter Egg Hunts, if you have been a part of one, you know how much fun they can be. In the world of Disney, an Easter Egg Hunt can take on a whole different meaning. Most, if not all Disney fans, know that the animators and designers of Disney films hide “Easter Eggs” in each feature. These are things that you don’t usually expect to find and are usually carefully hidden. Usually after a feature is released and enjoyed, then fans start searching for the hidden surprises that make the films even more fun.

Big Hero 6 is one example. Look closely at the picture below. It gives us a glimpse of events that we should have been paying attention to when Frozen was released. The rat Hans, actually showed up on a wanted poster in the police office. If Elsa and Anna would have known, the story line could have been so different.

Hans, the villain from Frozen, on a Wanted poster in the police station in Big Hero 6.

Hans, the villain from Frozen, on a Wanted poster in the police station in Big Hero 6.

Next time you watch 101 Dalmatians, look to the shadows. You can see this is the second picture. You'll notice some dogs wandering the streets of London in the background. Look closely and you will see that two of these pups are none other than the title characters of Lady and the Tramp.

Lady and Tramp hidden in the shadows on Disney’s 101 Dalmatians.

Lady and Tramp hidden in the shadows on Disney’s 101 Dalmatians.

In Beauty and the Beast, Maurice and Phillipe become lost in the woods and come upon a faded road sign. If you look closely, you can see that two of the cities listed on the sign are Anaheim, where Disneyland is, and Valencia, where California Institute of the Arts is located. Look closely at the third picture and you can make out what they saw.

Anaheim and Valencia road signs in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991 animated version).

Anaheim and Valencia road signs in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991 animated version).

Many will remember the film, Finding Nemo. The film is about a search of a father for his lost son, who is in trouble. Eventually they are reunited, but little did we know that the little clownfish Nemo was actually hiding in Monsters, Inc. – watch the film and see Boo hand a Nemo plush doll to Scully when he is in her room.You see that in picture four.

Boo holding a Finding Nemo toy in Monster’s Inc.

Boo holding a Finding Nemo toy in Monster’s Inc.

There is one more. You can find it in A Goofy Movie, everyone is jamming out at the Powerline concert — and Disney makes sure their most famous character of all is there - Mickey Mouse himself is in the audience. Those are all fun Easter Eggs – Disney style.

Mickey Mouse in the concert crowd on A Goofy Movie.

Mickey Mouse in the concert crowd on A Goofy Movie.

Easter Egg Hunting (look for real eggs) began in Germany and is said to date back to the late 16th century, where Martin Luther, organized egg hunts for his congregation. Men would hide the eggs, while women and children went to find them. Communities all over the world include some form of Easter Egg hunting as part of the Easter season… and the laughter, fun, and smiles of children and families finding a special egg, getting an unexpected gift, or discovering an extra ordinary surprise are all a part of the Easter celebration. Finding the unexpected can bring joy in life but you have to take time and look for it. May you find some time to go on the hunt over the next few days, discover joy, and share it with others.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Guest Blog: Disney and Notre Dame

It is with great sadness that we watched as so many did, the Cathedral of Notre Dame burn in Paris, France. This iconic structure was a part of the fabric and lore of the city and the loss is tremendous. In the aftermath of this loss, our hearts and prayers are with the people of France, who have lost a part of their culture and a landmark that was a hub of activity within the city.

Even in the world of Disney, this great cathedral was a part of the storylines of many films.

Disney and Notre Dame Cathedral

Disney and Notre Dame Cathedral

Of course, we remember The Hunchback of Notre Dame. To stay consistent to the architecture and details of Notre Dame, animators spent several weeks in and around the actual cathedral. This building in the picture serves as a home to the main protagonist, Quasimodo. He viewed the cathedral as a home as he rings and cares for its bells, each of which he has bestowed a name. In return, the cathedral shelters and protects him

The cathedral also is seen in the Aristocrats, as Edgar Balthazar drives past Notre Dame while taking the cats into the countryside. In Ratatouille, we see the cathedral on two occasions. More recently it was seen in Cars 2, as a street musician performs music in front of the cathedral after Mater, Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell's arrival in Paris. In the live action film, Beauty and the Beast, the Notre Dame Cathedral appears as a background in the backstory of the lead characters as they are being developed.

Sometimes it is easy to take for granted those places that become the backdrop for the stories that create the memories that define our lives. For the people and city of Paris this is a great loss - it is also a loss for citizens of the world. Never take for granted the places and more importantly the people that help create the moments that define our lives. In the days ahead remember to pray for Paris as they have lost a piece of their history as well as a place that was so much a part of the heartbeat of the city.

About the Author: This article, which first appeared on Facebook, is by author Jeff Dixon. Jeff has written a series of novels set in and around Walt Disney World entitled, The Key to the Kingdom, Unlocking the Kingdom, Storming the Kingdom, and as mentioned and linked above Terror in the Kingdom. He is also the author of The Disney Driven Life, a book that draws life lessons and leadership principles from the history and life of Walt Disney. Some know Jeff as Dixon On Disney – and he resources and comments on Disney history, attractions, and news. He is a researcher that draws heavily on the incredible works of Disney historians and biographers with an attempt to understand and apply the life lessons that are uncovered. He is also a storyteller that transports readers into a world beyond their imagination.

Did you know? The Hunchback of Notre Dame was featured in two live shows in Disney parks? The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical Adventure was presented at Disney’s Hollywood Studios from 1996 to 2002 and The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Festival of Fools ran at Disneyland from 1996 to 1998.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical Adventure was a live show presented from 1996 to 2002 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Photo by Steve Johnson.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical Adventure was a live show presented from 1996 to 2002 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Photo by Steve Johnson.

Disney is donating $5 million towards the work to restore Notre Dame Cathedral. Disney CEO Bob Iger released this statement, '“ Notre-Dame is a beacon of hope and beauty that has defined the heart of Paris and the soul of France for centuries, inspiring awe and reverence for its art and architechture and for its enduring place in human history.”

Review: The Florida Project

Movie Review: The Florida Project - a

While most of my fiction reviews are directly Disney related, The Florida Project is a little different in that it is a fictional movie set near Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The movie is about Halley, a very young single mom, and her daughter Moonee who live in The Magic Castle, a budget hotel in an area that caters largely to Disney World tourists and low income extended stay guests. The challenging circumstances of the main characters are not caused by Disney World but the setting serves as a backdrop that poignantly contrasts the difficult realities of real life with the shining clean artificial world of the theme park next door. It is easy to try to paint people in one color – they’re either good or bad – but people often present multiple conflicting truths and The Florida Project presents that reality very well. Halley’s conflicting truths are that she really does love her daughter and she really is a train wreck. Mooney is a clean, happy, and delightfully mischievous and Halley provides for her basic needs, albeit in ways that are not always legal, but Mooney is also left unattended in ways that leave any sensible person with a sense of dread. In one scene, Halley goes to a lot of effort to make a birthday special for Moonee’s best friend by taking the girls and hitchhiking to where they can see the Disney World fireworks; it was really sweet but, doggone it, you put yourself and the kids at risk by getting int a car with a stranger, Halley! In another scene, a creepy man takes an inappropriate interest in the children who live in the hotel and is very firmly dealt with by Bobby, the hotel manager who is does a heroic job of treating the extended stay residents with understanding while holding a firm line against their excesses. You’re thankful that Bobby is there but you also realize that he is having to step in and provide the type of protection that should come from better parenting. Moonee is a resourceful and happy child and you can’t help but cheer her on, even when she is behaving like a budding young con artist, but you know that trouble is coming and life won’t always be kind or good to Moonee.

What I loved about the movie

The Florida Project steers away from platitudes and simple answers because life isn’t always simple. When you watch Halley’s parenting, you can’t help but see problems but you also find yourself wondering, “Where is Moonee’s father? Where are the grandparents?” Halley is not a great parent but she is doing it from a place rooted in love and she is doing it alone. Does that make her a bad mom, a good mom or something far more complex? The movie depicts other low income families doing the best the they can in their circumstances and sometimes that results in a touchingly supportive community while it breeds conflict in other cases. There is a scene where Family Services appropriately gets called into the situation and you wrestle with whether Moonee is better off staying with her mess of a mom who genuinely loves her or in the foster care system, which we all know also has its problems. The movie gives us a glimpse into circumstances that play out in communities everywhere and it does so without falling to either hopelessness or simplistic “solutions” that only work in the movies. The movie leads you to questions about what we can or even should do rather than taking you to a specific conclusion.

Another great thing about this movie is that it shows that simple acts of kindness and decency actually can make a difference, especially in the lives of people who are in difficult circumstances. There is a scene where a charitable group brings free bread and you know that an arm load of white bread doesn’t provide a long term solution to anything going on for the people at The Magic Castle but it does meet an immediate need where lack of food is a real and pressing worry. The manager Bobby is a good man; someone who does right by the people around him with a quiet, unassuming strength. If you have a good life, you’ve no doubt been touched by at least one person who lives their life that way. You also see people in difficult circumstances go out of their way to be helpful to one another. When you are struggling to get by on service industry wages, the person who watches your kid for free while you pick up a shift is a lifeline.

The movie is also good in that it doesn’t gloss over or romanticize Halley’s poor choices. There is another single mom in the hotel who holds down a job at a nearby restaurant; Halley doesn’t seem to be able to hold down a legitimate job. Halley is belligerent and foul-mouthed and Moonee has learned those things from her mom. Some of their situation is beyond their control but there is wisdom to not making a hard situation worse.

Viewer Warnings: This is a movie has a lot of heart but it is not a squeaky clean, feel good movie that wrap everything up in an easy moral at the end. Because of the serious themes and prolific profanities, I do not recommend this movie for children or tweens. Because it handles the circumstances and characters so well, I would recommend the movie for thoughtful teens, especially ones with a heart for making the world a better place, but you’ll definitely want to plan on some discussions to help them process the different elements. You’ll also want to be aware that Halley turns to prostitution to earn money but, other than other characters referencing the fact and a man seen leaving Halley’s hotel room, nothing graphic is shown.

The Magic Castle Inn and Suites actually exists and there is a funny scene where the kids are screaming at and flipping off the tourists who on the helicopter tours that take off and land, take off and land, take off and all day long next door to the hotel. If you lived there, you would feel that way too. I took these pictures of those locations when I was recently in the area. Actual gift shops, ice cream shops and other area businesses also show up in the movie.

The Magic Castle Inn and Suites and helicopter tour as seen in The Florida Project.

The Magic Castle Inn and Suites and helicopter tour as seen in The Florida Project.

I watched The Florida Project on AmazonPrime and it is available on DVD. It is not currently available on NetFlix

You might also like: Disney World is alluded to in the way a lot of people think of Heaven, a place where all our troubles just magically disappear. That can be really attractive when life insists on throwing hard and heartbreaking things your way and you really hope that Moonee gets to Disney World someday. If you enjoy The Florida Project and aren’t put off by the language, you might also enjoy the book Our Kingdom of Dust by Leonard Kinsey which also tackles the appropriate role of Disney magic and the dangers of escapism in our hard circumstances.

The Florida Project
Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite

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Thursday 3: 3 Special Walt Disney Remembrances at Disneyland

Disneyland - Walt's Park

It is crazy to think that there are kids who are very familiar with the word "Disney" but have no idea that Walt Disney was a real person.  For our first Thursday Three, we're going to take a look at three very special "Walt" remembrances in Disneyland park in California.  Honestly, the park itself should probably be our first item and one of the things that makes Disneyland so special is that it is the only theme park that was built with Walt Disney's involvement at every level, from original inspiration to attraction design to opening day and beyond.  The park was a labor of love right up to the end of Walt's life; in fact, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland was the last theme park attraction that Walt Disney personally oversaw and developed.  Walt passed away in December 15, 1966 and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened to the public in March 18, 1967

#1: Walt's Bench: One of the hidden gems you'll find tucked away in an exhibit near the front of the park is the bench where the first thought of a theme park came to Walt Disney.  He first had the idea as he sat on a park bench watching his daughters ride the merry-go-round at an amusement park and he had the thought that there should be a place where parents and children could enjoy doing things together.   It was an idea that stuck with him and one that took a lot of time to develop but Disneyland opened 15 years later.

DLC-walt's-park-bench.JPG

#2: Walt's Lamp: Did you know that Walt Disney had a small but fully functional apartment built into the second floor of the Disneyland Fire Station?   This apartment isn't open to the public though you can sometimes peek into it in the "Walk in Walt's Disneyland Footsteps Guided Tour" (extra cost).  The story goes that Walt would put a lit lamp in the window of the firehouse window to let people know he was in residence. They now keep a lit lamp in the window to symbolize the idea of Walt's influence or spirit always being present at Disneyland.

DLC-Firehouse-walts-Light.JPG

#3: Disney Brothers Golden Initials: Look for Walt & Roy Disneys' golden initials in the railing above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland...really, it is maybe a little closer to the Gumbo stand.

DLC - POC-Walt-and-Roy-initials.JPG

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Book Review: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

Service with Character: The Disney Studios and World War II by David Lesjak.  Produced by ThemeParkPress. 

If you're into military history AND you love Disney, you'll definitely want to read Service with Character: Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak.  I was fascinated to learn about Disney's involvement in World War II. 

Did you know that Disney produced a movie called "Victory Through Air Power" that probably contributed to the U.S. Air Force becoming its own branch of the military? 

Did you know that the Disney Studios housed military forces, created over 1200 military insignia, helped sell war bonds and even helped people to think of paying income taxes as their patriotic duty (Taxes to beat the Axis!)?  Click here for more on that. 

Did you know that the studios produced one edition of a magazine for their employees serving in the Armed Forces that even included hand-drawn pin-up girls?  Click here to read more about that. 

As a somewhat religious person, I found the section on propaganda films especially interesting in light of the current political climate.  The book includes a portion of a memo Disney Production Manager Robert Carr sent about WWII propaganda films produced by Disney Studios for South America.  He wrote, "Animation, being a magical medium has profound potentialities for evoking sentiment and awe. 'Ave Maria' in Fantasia was only a beginning. We should make full use of this quality in many of the 'big' subjects suggested, CREATING A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS FEELING, AND ASSOCIATING THIS WITH POLITICAL IDEALS (emphasis mine). We can have beautiful and reverent scenes in which The Christ of the Andes is seen in the background, or a huge cross fills the sky; or more subtly, when the voice, the music and the artist's style of painting suggests a religious atmosphere....as when we see the Spirit of Pan American, or of Victory, standing behind our weapons. This will put over certain ideas impossible to present otherwise." (source: Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II, by David Lesjak, pp. 177 & 178). Social media is a relatively new, and very visual, medium that we're all having to learn to navigate. The above memo struck me as a good reminder that we need to be wise when religious themes or imagery are being employed to influence us.

I am not affiliated with the author or publisher in any way.  The men in my family served in different branches of the military and I'm a Disney fan who found this book really interesting and thought you might too.  It would also make a great Christmas gift for the history buff in your family.   This book can be purchased on Amazon. 

More Disney Related Book Reviews: 

About the reviewer: Annette, with her husband Steve, owns BuildABetterMouseTrip.com and is an avid reader; so much so that, as a child, her parents made a rule that she could not read during daylight hours because they were concerned she was developing a pallor best suited for the Haunted Mansion!

How Disney Got People to Pay Their Income Taxes!

How Donald Duck and the Disney Studios convinced Americans that it was their patriot duty to pay their income taxes and pay them on time. Taxes to beat the Axis!

How Donald Duck and the Disney Studios convinced Americans that it was their patriot duty to pay their income taxes and pay them on time. Taxes to beat the Axis!

I learned something interesting in Service with Character - The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak.   The expenses of World War II meant that 7-million American workers would need to pay income tax for the first time so the US Treasury Department contracted the Disney Studios to create a cartoon short to convince these people that it was their patriotic duty to pay their taxes and pay them on time.   Disney studios created the short film below, named "The New Spirit" with the slogan: Taxes to Fight the Axis which was distributed freely to theaters throughout the United States and was seen by an estimated 3.5-million people.   Disney Studios produced the film at cost but when the Treasury Department submitted the cost ($80,000) in an appropriations bill, Congress denied the funding saying that the taxpayers would not approve of having their money spent on cartoons when there was a war going on.   It was a very heated, very public debate that was covered widely in the news.  Despite the fact that The New Spirit was produced at a loss and the free distribution of this film was costing the Disney Studios  $50,000 to $60,000 in lost bookings for other cartoon shorts, the Disney Studios received hate mail accusing them of being war profiteers as a result of the negative press.  Congressional never did budge on their veto but the US Treasury Department did finally pay the Disney Studios out of funds on hand. 

A second film called The Spirit of 43 was created a bit later that encouraged people to set aside money to pay their taxes.   It had some new footage and reused a large portion from The New Spirit.   It is notable for being the first appearance of a prototype of the character that would later be named Scrooge McDuck. 

This post is lovingly dedicated to Monica and Laura, two of our hard working travel agents who are feeling the burn of tax day.   Chin up, my friends...your taxes will keep democracy on the march!

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Disney Trivia: Pin-Ups for Disney Service Men

"Dispatch from Disney's" was produced in 1943 for Walt Disney Studios employees serving in the Armed Services and it included a page titled "Pin-Ups For Service Men from Walt Disney Staff" that featured hand drawn pictures of topless women.

"Dispatch from Disney's" was produced in 1943 for Walt Disney Studios employees serving in the Armed Services and it included a page titled "Pin-Ups For Service Men from Walt Disney Staff" that featured hand drawn pictures of topless women.

On Veterans Day, I started reading Service with Character: The Disney Studio & World War II by David Lesjak and was surprised to learn that one issue of a magazine called "Dispatch from Disney's" was produced in 1943 for Walt Disney Studios employees serving in the Armed Forces and it included a page titled "Pin-Ups For Service Men from Walt Disney Staff" that featured hand drawn pictures of topless women. Now I have the song "A Girl Worth Fighting For" from Disney's Mulan going through my head!

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Book Review: Murder in the Magic Kingdom

Murder in the Magic Kingdom, by Anne Salisbury and Bob McLain
Amazon price: Paperback: $14.95 / Kindle Edition: $4.99
Reviewed by Annette Johnson

Note: There are two books with the title Murder in the Magic Kingdom listed on Amazon.  This review is for the 2014 book by Anne Salisbury, not the 2008 book by Foreman Heard. 

Murder in the Magic Kingdom: A Novel
$14.95
By Annie Salisbury

Disney World cast member Tommy Boyd’s murdered body is found in the waters of the Jungle Cruise attraction and Josh, another cast member, comes under scrutiny because Tommy was inexplicably wearing one of Josh’s uniforms at the time of his death.  Though Josh isn’t detained, due to lack of evidence, he rightly feels that they’ll stop looking for other suspects unless he finds some compelling evidence to prove his own innocence and to point their attention elsewhere.  I don’t want to give anything away but what follows is a fairly short book (only 154 pages) that moves quickly through the Disney World theme parks to catch the real killer.     

What I like:   A lot of Disney park based fiction has a common theme of the current Disney leadership being motivated solely by profits and the need to find a rightful successor to carry on Walt Disney’s true spirit and vision for the parks.   That is fine - I’ve certainly imagined what I would do if I was at the helm of the Disney corporation – but it can also get monotonous.   Murder in the Magic Kingdom doesn’t go there; it simply places a murder mystery into the current Disney World setting.   The author is a former Cast Member so she weaves both the public and backstage areas of the park into the story in effective ways.  Josh, the lead character in the book, is likeable but refreshingly normal; he isn’t a genius or drop dead gorgeous – he's just a regular guy who was dropped into a bad situation and you can’t help but hope that things work out for him.

What I didn’t like:   The book would’ve benefited from better proofreading; there is a your/you’re mistake which is easy enough to read through.  There are a few places where the wrong word is used and it sort of stops the flow of the story as your brain tries to fill in the right word; for example, there is one place where one cast member “shames” the hand of another instead where it should’ve been “shakes”.   I felt like the book ended rather abruptly with too many loose ends; in particular, the main character was feeling like he was simply treading water in both his career and his relationships and there was nothing to indicate whether this rather dramatic set of circumstances helped him to find clarity or come to any decisions about his life.

Final thoughts:  The author has only published two books and this is her first fiction effort; her first book, which I have not yet read, is an autobiographical account of her experiences as a Disney VIP tour guide. Murder in the Magic Kingdom isn't a bad first work but may have benefited from a little more work and a little better editing. I bought the Kindle Edition and, at $4.99, it was an enjoyable, light read providing a quick fix to satisfy my Disney theme park addiction; I probably would’ve been disappointed if I’d purchased the paperback version for $14.95. 

About the reviewer: Annette has been reading mystery novels since she discovered Nancy Drew in her school library.  She and her husband love the Disney theme parks and launched Build A Better Mouse Trip / Mouse Trip Travel, a Disney-focused travel agency, over ten years ago so that they and their agents can help others experience the wonder and the magic of the Disney theme parks.

More Disney Related Book Reviews: 

Disclosure:  If you click on the Amazon link/book cover in this article and make a purchase, we will receive a small commission from Amazon.  At least that is the theory; it has not happened yet.  If it does, I'll no doubt just spend it on more books. ;-)

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