Inside Out Review


This spoiler-free review of Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out might as well be subtitled, “How Pixar Got Its Groove Back.” That, of course, assumes that Pixar lost its groove in the first place. To this extent, a brief summary of Pixar’s recent history is probably in order. From the time it released Toy Story until a decade after, it seemed Pixar was infallible, and utterly incapable of making anything less than a brilliant film.

This led to some incredibly high standards among critics and moviegoers alike, all who expected more of Pixar films than those produced by other animation studios. While Pixar had always been a critical and commercial darling, the high water mark—for me at least—occurred with the back to back releases of Ratatouille and WALL-E, two films that really pushed the envelope for mainstream animation. This was especially true of WALL-E, which was defiant in terms of its restraint and subtlety. More importantly, the underlying message and motifs of WALL-E were thinly-veiled criticism of corporations like Disney and their core demographic, making me wonder, “who allowed this to be made in the first place?”

After Toy Story 3, the string of sequels and less-than-perfect films began, which roughly coincided with when films that weren’t in development when Disney purchased Pixar would have started to be released. Mind you, this supposed “string” is only three movies, and if these three movies were made by any other animation house, they probably would have been lauded (yes, even Cars 3) but Pixar was thought to be playing on a different level, and accordingly has been held to higher standards.

Enter Inside Out(more…)

My Disney Theme Park Library

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There are many Disney Parks books that focus on Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Walt Disney Imagineering. This post reviews some of the books in my Disney Parks library, and provides links for finding inexpensive copies of the books. Over the last 5 years, I’ve gradually accrued a substantial collection of Disney Parks books.

Currently, an Amazon search for “Disney books” yields 94,266 results. That’s a lot of books. My Disney library focuses on coffee table books with strong visual elements that were originally sold as souvenir books in the Disney Parks. There are tons of Disney biographies and other non-fiction titles, and although I have or have read a good number of these, I only touch upon some of what I consider to be the highlights here.

Many of these books are out-of-print, so they can only be purchased on the secondary market. Luckily, you can still find many of them on for prices ranging from $.01 to a few dollars (click each title for current prices on A few are quite expensive, costing a few hundred dollars, but most can now be purchased much cheaper than they were when sold new at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.

A word of caution before we begin: although these books are individually cheap, the costs of collecting them is deceptively expensive, and these books can take up a lot of space. When I updated this post to add new books in December 2014, I decided to go back and approximate how much I had spent “for fun” and the number was a bit staggering. The good news is that the values on most of the rare titles have risen since I purchased them, so consider buying to be a “pragmatic investment” if you need to justify a purchase!

With that, let’s take a look at my Disney theme park library… (more…)

Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man Book Review

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Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man is a new coffee table book concerning the legendary Imagineer who created memorable characters in the theme parks and in Disney animated classics. As is implied from the title of the book calling him a renaissance man, Marc Davis had a long and varied career with Disney. He created iconic Disney characters, such as Cinderella, Alice, Tinker Bell, Maleficent, and Cruella De Vil for the animation studios before transferring to Imagineering. There, he worked on Disneyland and 1964-65 New York World’s Fair attractions including Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, and Haunted Mansion. Despite being one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, this is the first major release devoted to the career of Marc Davis.

If you are looking for a comprehensive biography of Marc Davis, you will be sorely disappointed by Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man. Each chapter only has 2-3 pages of text, and it’s all rather cursory. This is a coffee table book through and through, and while each chapter begins with an anecdote from someone notable, even in sum they present little more than an overview of his professional life.

Despite this, the book is still effective. Most of the anecdotes share enough to get a feel for Marc Davis’ personality, with the best coming from people who knew Marc personally. Some of the anecdotes are from respected individuals (like Pete Docter) in animation or Imagineering who didn’t know him personally, but appreciate his work. These contributors offer their gravitas in reaffirming the notion that Marc Davis was incredibly talented, but they do little to tell his story. I wouldn’t mind these sections so much were there more of substance about Marc in the rest of the book.

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Even where the text fails, the illustrations succeed. Most of these come from the pages of Marc Davis’ sketchbooks or concept art found in Disney research libraries or archives, and they alone say a lot about the man. The decision to include a variety of different types of images spanning the breadth of Davis’ career was a great one, and these images in their totality speak volumes about Davis. (more…)

Tokyo Disney Resort 30th Anniversary “The Best” Blu-ray Set

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I hadn’t planned on doing a blog post about the 4-disc Tokyo Disney Resort “The Best” Blu-ray Collection (also available on DVD) I purchased when we were in Japan, but enough of you asked about it that I decided to include it in the vote for “Wildcard Wednesday,” and sure enough, it won.

The name pretty much describes what the set is, but here’s a little more info. This is a 4-disc Blu-ray collection of shows and parades shot throughout Tokyo Disney Resort’s history. There are no ride-through videos of attractions, TV specials, or anything of that sort. Just official footage shot of these full shows and parades. The discs are organized by season, plus other stuff that doesn’t really fit elsewhere. Parades and shows may not seem like much, but fortunately, Tokyo Disney Resort rotates their parades and shows regularly. I suspect the 4 parks of Walt Disney World have gone through fewer shows and parades in 40+ years than Tokyo Disney Resort has gone through for 2 parks in 30 years, but that’s just a guess.

We’ll review the set and tell you where you can buy it below, but let’s start with exactly what’s included on each of the Blu-ray discs… (more…)

Disney Infinity Review


Disney Infinity is a free roaming, toy-based video game that allows players to explore the Disney universe with their favorite characters. This review of Disney Infinity covers the Starter Pack, which is available for the Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U. The starter pack costs $75, with additional character toys, power discs, and play packs costing around $10 to $35. Disney Infinity is unquestionably Disney’s biggest video game franchise to date, and the company has invested significantly into the promotional push to get people excited about the game.

The stakes are high: success could dethrone Skylanders, Activision’s $1.5 billion franchise, as the leader in this genre. Failure could be yet another black eye for Disney Interactive, one of Disney’s few underperforming business units that has hemorrhaged hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years. I’ll be honest, before seeing and hearing more about it at the Disney D23 Expo, I was not at all enthusiastic for Disney Infinity. That piqued my curiosity, but I still doubted its gameplay. It seemed like something geared towards collectors and kids as a way to sell toys; I figured the game probably wouldn’t have a whole lot of substance or merit. In order for it to be a success, both the toys and the gameplay needed to be solid.

Before digging into whether Disney Infinity accomplishes that, I’ll start by addressing Skylanders. I’ve heard a lot of people call Disney Infinity a “Skylanders rip-off.” There’s little doubt that the folks at Disney Interactive saw the success of Skylanders, looked at Disney’s vast library of intellectual property, and thought maybe Disney could do something in the style of Skylanders. Who cares? It’s not like we look at the first film in a genre as the only legitimate entry into the film canon. It’s not as if the zombie genre died after Night of the Living Dead. It’s not like medical dramas became off limits after Dr. KildareThe point is that Skylanders established a new type of gaming, and Disney Infinity probably won’t be the last game of the sort to follow in its footsteps. Disney can combine the characters of just about anyone’s childhood (try to find a person alive today that didn’t grow up on Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Disney animation…or The Lone Ranger for the older folks) with creative tools to let them play and build in those environments, giving Disney’s entry into this type of gaming a lot of appeal.

The only thing I care about is whether Disney Infinity is a good game or a bland cash grab? (more…)

The Muppet Movie Blu-ray Review


The Muppet Movie “The Original Classic” – Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) comes out right as Muppet Fever is heating up again (did it ever cool down?) as audiences anxiously await next year’s Muppets Most Wanted (after seeing an extended sequence from the upcoming film at the 2013 Disney D23 Expo, my faith has been restored that this movie will be hilarious). Of course, as the subtitle, “The Original Classic,” implies, this is the Muppets’ film that catapulted the successful television show onto the big screen, and really turned the Muppets into the powerhouse franchise that it is today with subsequent films, an animated television show, theme park attractions, and even webisodes.

There’s a reason The Muppet Movie was such a resounding success. It’s really good. Not only is it really good, but it has numerous memorable scenes, one of which, Kermit performing “Rainbow Connection,” many will count as one of the most memorable and touching cinematic songs of all time. The plot of The Muppet Movie centers around Kermit the Frog and his cross-country voyage to California, as he attempts to make it big in Hollywood. Along the way he attempts to avoid becoming the spokesfrog for a fried frog leg restaurant, and he picks up the rest of the Muppet gang to join him for some misadventures.

Any Muppet fan knows that it’s more about the journey than it is about the destination, and the plot is simply a loose vehicle for the Muppets to share their unique brand of humor. In terms of humor, The Muppet Movie shines. Those who joined Muppet-fandom with the 2011 The Muppets may not find themselves laughing at every scene, as the brand of humor has changed a bit over the years (it was a bit more dry back in the day), but it’s more or less the same. With few exceptions, The Muppet Movie has aged well, and will be enjoyed by anyone who is a fan of the contemporary Muppets. While I don’t love this film as much as I love The Muppet Christmas Carol, it’s still great. Of course, the Muppets’ quirky humor isn’t for everyone, so people who don’t enjoy fun, laughter, and happiness may be disappointed by The Muppet Movie. (more…)