Tag Archives: animated movies

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

As you might have guessed, we’ve been so busy at Disney World lately that our movie nights have been few and far between. But now that we’re back from Florida, we are trying to catch up as best we can!

The-LEGO-Movie-2-The-Second-Part-Official-Trailer-2The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a while. Picking up right where The LEGO Movie left off, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part follows Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and the rest of the Bricksburg gang (Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman and Alison Brie) as they battle against the DUPLO invaders. After five years of war, Bricksburg has become an apocalyptic wasteland (and aptly renamed Apocalypseburg). When a new type of invader drops out of the sky and kidnaps Emmet’s friends, Emmet blasts off to the Systar system in hot pursuit.

Sequels are often hard to critique, and I assume even harder to create. Stay too close to the first film and you risk feeling stale. But stray too far from the original and you might lose the magic that drew your audience to you in the first place. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who wrote the original, both return for The LEGO Movie 2 (bonus points to Lord for also writing the outstanding Into the Spider-Verse).  Lord and Miller chose to stay close to the original, and the result is a comfortable ride through familiar territory with a (very) few new characters joining the existing gang. I think it’s the right choice.

The unique feeling of the first movie can’t be replicated, because this is now the 4th LEGO-ish movie, and because I had high expectations coming into the sequel (instead of my zero expectations heading into the original). But the charm, the wit, and the warmth remain. It’s nice to spend more time in the LEGO Movie world, because it’s the world I used to play in with my LEGO as a kid. Except way more professional looking, of course, but the feeling remains exactly right, where adventures are everywhere and where your own creations are more important than the original police station from which most of the blue pieces came.

That bottled nostalgia is the best thing about The LEGO Movie 2. And that’s saying a lot because it’s also smartly written, beautifully animated, and just a whole lot of fun. Sure, it’s not as “fresh” as the first time, but if that’s the only bad thing to be said about this movie, that says a lot.

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Brave

Merida may be a princess, but she’s no lady. After reluctantly performing her royal duties, she’s happiest riding her horse and shooting her bow and arrow – not feminine pursuits, according to her mother, but Merida is a daddy’s girl, and he indulges her. But even the King can’t save her when it’s time for each of Scotland’s clans to send forth a suitor to compete for her hand in marriage. It strikes Merida as almost as barbaric as it does you and I, but Merida’s mother has some very convincing myths to back up the obligation, and anyway, nobody really has any choice – for crown, for country, for glory and all that.

Anyway, Merida’s father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) is a big beast of a man, whoMV5BMTYxNzE3NzA5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQ4MTc3Nw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_ loves to tell the story of how he lost his leg fighting Mor’du the bear at a family picnic, protecting his wife and baby daughter. The Queen, Elinor (Emma Thompson) tolerates his boastful storytelling, and only rolls her eyes a little when Merida (Kelly Macdonald) embellishes right along. But Elinor knows that this betrothal stuff is serious business.

And Pixar knows that to Disney, this princess stuff is serious business. Still, they challenge the notion of what a princess should be, with Merida mucking out a horse’s stall herself, her fiery, unruly hair streaming behind her, big ideas broiling in that red head of hers. When it comes time to compete, Merida competes for her own hand in marriage, ripping the seams of her dress in order to win the day. Does her mother find this an ingenious solution? She does not. Still, Merida is Disney’s first princess without a love interest (but not its last – hello, Elsa!). Anyway, mother and teenage daughter fight, predictably, only Merida has something most teenage daughters luckily do not: access to a witch (Julie Walters). She conjures up a special potion which, when fed to her mother, will “change her fate.” And indeed it does. By turning her mother into a bear.

Pixar, as always, gets a lot right: Merida’s hair is gloriously animated (they had to invent new software to properly render it), the sun dappling is gorgeous, and there’s this moment of goofy pride on the mother bear’s face that just warms the haggis in my heart. If we must life in a world full of princesses, may they be more like Merida – brave enough to stand up for themselves, to stand on their own, to pursue their own ends.

This week Sean and I are at Disney World with my sister and her husband and her two sweetie pie boys, who are probably running through the parks like adorable hooligans, leaving us adults gasping for breath. If we have a spare moment, we might even meet Merida herself. Aside from appearing with other characters from the film in one of Disney’s many parades, she meets and greets wee lads and lassies inside Fairytale Garden, where you can also try your hand at archery, colour your own tapestry, or a picture of her horse, Angus.

b3f42e8969b8336c2c6fcc907310b529Brave came out before either, or in fact any, of my nephews was born, so I’m not sure if we’ll stop to get a picture with her – although the pair are armed with autograph books, so who knows. When a “cast member” of the Disney parks becomes a princess, one of her most important duties is practicing her distinct signature. Merida’s looks appropriately auld. There might be dozens of women who play Merida at Disney World, but they will all sign her name exactly this way. Disney is rather strict about its magic.

 

 

Disney’s Mythic Princesses, Pocahontas & Mulan

Pocahontas, the Disney movie, is about Pocahontas, the daughter of a Chief, who makes first contact with a bunch of colonists who have come to her homeland in search of gold. tenorWith a soft spot for John Smith, she confronts their xenophobic beliefs and basically brokers peace between the her people and his when she throws herself between John Smith’s brains and the big stick that’s about to bash them in. In the ensuing scuffle, John Smith winds up with a gun shot wound (ie, friendly fire) that can only be treated by going back to England. He asks her to go back with him, but she chooses to stay with her people. She paints with all the colours of the wind and she has a cute raccoon sidekick. Voices include Irene Bedard, Christian Bale, Mel Gibson, Billy Connolly.

Pocahontas is the first Disney princess to have a tattoo, and the first to have an interracial relationship (what a hipster!). She is one of two to be American-born. Do you know the other one?

In real life, Pocahontas was indeed the (10 year old) daughter of a chief when she met John Smith. She often went to the Jamestown settlement to play with the boys there. When they were in danger of starving, she’d bring food and provisions. John Smith, in a letter to Queen Anne, wrote that, having been taken prisoner, Pocahontas risked her own life to save his, laying her head on his own to prevent her father from executing him. This is probably a made-up story told by Smith to curry favour. He did get a gun powder wound that took him back to England, and Pocahontas believed him to be dead. She likely married a Kokoum, a man in her tribe, and bore a daughter. But then she was kidnapped by the whites, and held captive for several years, during which time she married John Rolfe. Rolfe was a pious widow (his wife and daughter shipwrecked on the ride over), who worried about marrying a heathen, so Pocahontas converted to christianity and took the name Rebecca. They had a son, Thomas. The Peace of Pocahontas, 8 years of trade and friendly commerce between her tribe and the colonists, followed. The London Company then brought Mr. and Mrs. Rolfe to England to show Pocahontas off as the “tamed savage” they’d converted. Which is how she discovered that John Smith was alive and well in England. And then she died, overseas, age 20 or 21. No happy ending.

As for Mulan, the Disney version has her prepping for a match maker and hating every minute of it. But then life takes a serious turn as the Huns, led by Shan Yu, invade China by breaching the Great Wall. The emperor conscripts one man from each family to join the army, but Mulan’s family has only her elderly father Fa Zhou, already crippled by giphy (1)previous war experience. Worried for him, she dons her father’s old armor and, disguised as a man, takes his place in the army. Her ancestors send a little dragon named Mushu to be her guardian and watch over her. She makes a surprisingly good soldier, but there’s just one little catch – she falls in love with her platoon leader, which makes for some awkward chemistry, and when her drag is revealed, he’s going to feel awfully betrayed. Voices include  include Pat Morita, Eddie Murphy, Donny Osmond, George Takei, Ming-Na Wen.

Mulan is not a princess in the movie or in the legend, but she is nonetheless deemed a “Disney Princess”, one of only 2 who wear pants (can you guess the second one?). She is also only the second to have both parents alive and present during the movie (can you name the first?).

Mulan probably never existed in real life, but she is the stuff of legends. In the Ballad of Mulan, Hua Mulan, circa 420, is said to be a legendary warrior who took her father’s place (and her brother’s, who is just a child) in the army by dressing as a man. Already skilled in martial arts , sword fighting, and archery, she fought for 12 years and earned high praise but refused all rewards and simply asked for a camel to carry her home, where she retired, shocking her comrades when she finally reveals her true identity. Whether or not she ever existed, it’s pretty impressive that we’ve recounted her story for 1600 years, and I guess that’s about as happy an ending as real life often gets.

 

 

Tiana of The Princess and The Frog is the second American-born Princess.

Jasmine of Aladdin is the first Princess to wear pants.

Aurora of Sleeping Beauty was the first Princess to have both parents living; Rapunzel from Tangled was the third, and Merida of Brave the fourth.

A Goofy Movie

I suppose I knew, in the unused corner of my brain where I store things like my first crush’s phone number and Milli Vanilli lyrics, that A Goofy Movie existed. But I didn’t know it, know it, ya know? And I don’t think I’d ever seen it – before now.

It came out in 1995, during Disney’s renaissance period. 1991: Beauty and the Beast. 1992: Aladdin. 1994: The Lion King. 1995: Pocahontas. AND A Goofy Movie. For some, maybe not many, but for some, A Goofy Movie belongs on that list, among those great movies. And that cult following is largely thanks to Millennials, literally the only people on the planet who could be nostalgic for 1995.

file_3a02a72dThe only reason I even remembered that A Goofy Movie was a thing was its (to me) strange inclusion in a line of clutch handbags at the Disney Store. They look like those white puffy VHS cassette covers that Disney was famous for. If you’re as old as I am, your movie collection always looked weird because those cases were so much bigger and bulkier than the cardboard husks the rest of the world’s movies came in. Anyway, VHS is obsolete but we’re keeping 1995 alive with tacky purses.

A Goofy Movie is a spin-off of the TV show Goof Troop, which I also know nothing about. But in it, Goofy is a single dad taking care of his son, Max. In the movie, Max is a teenager, and it’s SO embarrassing having a goofy dad. He finally makes a move on a girl on the last day of school, and it’s looking like a great summer – except Goofy’s got a father-son road trip planned that’s going to monopolize all his time. So he makes up a weird story about performing on stage with the hottest boy band in the Goofy universe, Powerline. At this juncture I should probably mention that this movie is also a musical, wherein a dog-boy named Max Goof (does that make his dad Goofy Goof?) breaks into the Broadway-level singing of straight-to-DVD-level songs while skateboarding around a town populated solely by dog-people. Which is weird, because Goofy is a close personal friend of Mickey, who is a mouse, and Donald, who is a duck. Do they all live in segregated cities and meet on neutral turf?

Anyway, this movie watches like an extended episode of a show you can’t wait to turn off. But I am fascinated by its fandom. They hosted a 20th anniversary event at Comic Con in 2015 and people attended. They wore Powerline tshirts. It’s a pocket of Disney that I’ve never encountered before, and it makes me wonder what else they’ve been hiding in plain sight.

Finding Nemo/Monsters, Inc.

Nemo first appeared as a stuffed toy in Boo’s room in Monsters, Inc. (2001). Finding Nemo went on to tease two more future Pixar films: A kid in the dentist’s office is reading a Mr. Incredible comic book, and Luigi the little Fiat who runs Luigi’s Casa Della Tires in Cars drives by outside. But most of all, Finding Nemo gave us reason to love clown fish again. Marlin is a neurotic widower and overprotective single dad. His young son Nemo has a fin deformity thanks to a childhood accident but isn’t nearly as crippled by it as Marlin’s panic would indicate. Still, when Nemo is kidnapped by a dentist and hauled off to a fish tank in Australia, it’s kind of not great. Marlin has to confront his fears by navigating an entire ocean in order to save his son, and his only help is a forgetful sidekick named Dory.

You may have heard that Sean and I are at Disney World this week, with our two young nephews, Brady, age 7, and Jack, who will turn 5 while we’re there. The last mrrayand only other time I’ve visited the park, we were with Brady, aged just 18 months; Jack, though it’s hard to imagine life without him, wasn’t more than a twinkle. Finding Nemo was already wholeheartedly represented in the park. There’s an excellent 40 minute musical in Animal Kingdom, where large puppets are manipulated onstage. Epcot has a 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium filled with live sea creatures and Finding Nemo’s real-life counterparts. You ride a clam-mobile, and the ride simulates the animated characters swimming alongside the real fish, searching for Nemo, who really should dl-dory-applesknow better by now. They’ve also got Turtle Talk With Crush, which is a big hit with kids. Crush is the really cool sea turtle brimming with surfer dude wisdom. Kids see him animated on screen, and by the magic of Disney, he’s able to speak to them directly. Some guy behind a one-way mirror provides a live, interactive experience. It’s thrilling for kids when Crush says “Hey little girl in the green dress – I like your pigtails, dude!”

There’s a similar experience over in the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom. It’s called Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, and like Turtle Talk with Crush, it’s digital puppetry, with live actors performing voices behind a large digital screen, while computer-rendered monsters appear with the actors’ voices. Mike Wazowski hosts a stand-up comedy routine. You may remember in the movie, Mike and Sully are a team working for a factory where monsters sneak into children’s bedrooms to scare them, and collect their screams for power. By the end of the movie, the monsters file_9f77fec9have made friends with a child, and it is discovered that laughter yields ten times more power than screams ever did. Hence, a comedy club, where monsters are brilliantly using Disney World patrons to collect their laughs. When Sean and I were there 5 years ago, I was the audience patsy. I somehow got roped into the show, and there was some light roasting in my direction, but the actors behind the screen kept calling back to me throughout the show, much to Sean’s (and my brother-in-law’s) amusement. These are pretty cool attractions – the interactivity means they have to be manned (or peopled, or monstered) by some well-trained talent round the clock. These people have to be good at improv, but they also have to stay in character, and work the crowd, and keep in mind they’re turning over audiences every 10 minutes.

Disney does such a great job preserving our favourite films, and bringing them to file_560d1b9flife via not just rides, but all kinds of wonderful small detail in the park – check out these Finding Nemo candy apples, or this Monsters-inspired dress, which okay, spoiler alert: I am wearing. And the matching Mike Wazowski purse that I am probably right this very minute weakly resisting buying. And even more exciting, check out these themed rooms available at Disney’s Animation resort. We’re staying in a Cars suite with the boys, because it’s their absolute favourite. Everything at Disney is kicked up to 11.

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Up

Although this may be my favourite film in the universe, I have never been brave enough to attempt a review. The last time I was at Disney World, I was tickled to bring home a piece of the film – a pencil drawing signed by the artist, of Carl and Ellie as goofy, gap-toothed, be-goggled kids. I liked the drawing so much I had it tattooed on my shoulder. I have a grape soda pin so I can also be part of the club. I 980xhave an adventure book that is filled to bursting with our travels. It’s safe to say I’ve had a love affair with this movie, and with Carl and Ellie, who are not unlike Sean and Jay – he mostly silent, she effervescent, talkative enough for two. Though we have not experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage (which has got to be the most poignant, most difficult, most gut-wrenching scene in any cartoon in the history of the world), we are in the same way just a couple of explorers looking to get lost in the world.

Carl and Ellie are brilliantly animated in that his body is basically square, and hers is basically round. Everything around them mimics their distinct shapes. Carl’s recliner is square, while Ellie’s chair is round. His glasses are square, and hers are oval. It’s only when we meet a villain that we start to see triangles. Sean is a definite tall drink of rectangle himself, and I am the round little sausage beside him.

Recently widowed, Carl is also facing the loss of his home; pushy developers wantc09e23050e099ba42b93a7d02aeca25d him out, and he’s the last holdout in his neighbourhood. Carl isn’t ready for Shady Oaks Retirement Village, but it doesn’t look like he has much choice, so he breaks out the only weapon left in his arsenal: a tank or 3000 of helium (Pixar estimates he’d need between 12 and 25 million balloons to actually do the trick; they’ve animated 10286). Carl sets his sights for Paradise Falls, the destination he and Ellie always meant to visit but never did.

[Sidebar: Roughly 5 years ago, Sean and I were on a cruise in the Bahamas, and we were taking a shuttle van toward some excursion. There was an elderly couple also in the van, the old man riding shotgun needing several little hops before he made it into the passenger seat, and his wife sitting beside me in the mid section. They were very excited to finally be taking this dream vacation, and the old guy advised Sean on how to properly live his life, ie, by saving diligently so that he could afford to take me to the Bahamas when we were retired. Never mind that we were already in the Bahamas. Only come to find out, his was was actually his second wife, and the poor wife who had responsibly saved her pennies her whole life had passed before earning her reward. This has always struck me as the ultimate tragedy; perhaps it hits close to home because with my disability due to autoimmune disease, I likely have a vastly shortened lifespan. That’s why Sean and I are always traveling. That’s why we’re in Disney World right now, just a month after Mexico, because I’ll be damned if I let his second wife get the Bahamas trip. Bitch.]

Anyway, the one thing Carl doesn’t account for is a stowaway. Wilderness Explorer
Russell has been trying to earn his “assisting the elderly” badge, and just happened to be on or under Carl’s porch when the house took off. Russell is unaccountably adorable, and when you pair him with super dog Dug, the effect is positively cuteness overload. Dug wears a dog-to-English translator, so we know he says things like “I have just met you, and I love you” and that’s exactly what a dog WOULD say! This movie is Jay kryptonite. It murders me right in the emotions.

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So you can imagine the puddle of feels I’ll be when I meet Russell at Disney World. In fact, I already have – and Dug, too. But since I’ve been, they’ve added UP! A Great Bird Adventure (presumably after Kevin, the infamous snipe), so I’ll be trying to keep it together in the front row in my pretty Up dress. Yes, I’m a sucker. A sucker for love. And for doing second-wife stuff during my first-wife tenure.

Top 10 Disney Dogs

You’ve likely heard about our trip to Disney World by now, and you may have even seen me in one of several Disney dresses. One dress that I did not buy was the Disney dog dress (praise be – yes, there IS such a thing!) and Sean was very disappointed in its exclusion. The dress featured so many of our favourite canine characters that I decided to dedicate a list to our furry friends – especially mine, who have been left home for the duration of our travels. Miss you love you see you soon!

tenor10. Lady, Lady and the Tramp. This is a pure romantical addition to the list. Not only are she and her beau #couplesgoals, she inspires pure #hairenvy too. And she’s a dog! But dogs are better than people, and I’ve never had a date half as romantic as slurping noodles for two (though I likely have nosed a meatball onto my partner’s plate – don’t ask).

9. Pluto, various. Mickey Mouse has a pal named Goofy, who is an anthropomorphic dog. He wears clothes and walks upright and has fingers and speaks. Mickey also has a pet dog, and his name is Pluto. Pluto does none of the above. He’s all dog, mouse’s best friend. He’s adventurous and friendly, though prone to panic when encountering something unknown. Since he doesn’t talk, he relies on physical comedy, and those beloved bits have ensured him a place among the sensational six (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto) though Pluto rarely if EVER has a starring role. He proves yet again how well Disney does sidekicks.
8. Percy, Pocahontas. Percy the pug is the pampered sidekick to the evil Governor Radcliffe. Though the other sailors slop around below-decks, Percy lives a life of percy_bannerluxury, taking bubble baths and eating dog bones off a carousel. If only I lived so well! But once they land in America, Percy switches allegiances, befriending not just Pocahontas, but her animal friends as well – notably, a scampy raccoon named Meeko who is the real reason I’ve included Percy. Meeko is not a dog, but he may as well be. I think these are a beautiful inclusion because they do something their humans are unable to do: they put their differences aside and build a friendship. Dogs really are better than people.
7. Bolt, Bolt. Bolt is a white German shepherd and the star of a TV series about a canine super hero. But this work has led Bolt to believe that he is in fact a super hero though he is actually just an actor. However, that theory’s going to be put the test when he becomes separated from his owner and has to prove his mettle on his own and find his way home.  It’s a very sweet story about self-discovery and self-worth, and the star is an adorable cartoon dog that you can’t help but love.
6. Sparky, Frankenweenie. Victor and his dog Sparky are incredibly close. When tumblr_naagudxrk11t3ly41o5_500Sparky dies, Jay cries. That’s just how it is. We’ve only spent a few opening scenes with 11 year old Victor and his pal Sparky, but Sparky’s end is tragic, and we feel it deep in our bones. But Victor is a cunning, smart kid – and very interested in science. So he manages to resurrect his dog. Sparky lives again, even if he is a little worse for wear, a little Frankenstein’s monstery. I live with 4 dogs who are my little floofy loves, and it would destroy me should they pass before me. So this movie speaks to me. Loudly. And it’s just a great film.
5. Sultan (Footstool), Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is a beautifully animated fairy tale with a problematic plot. If you’re worried about it on account of the whole kidnap-victim-stolkholm-syndrome-bestiality bit, you’re not wrong. But let me tell you about what also bothers me: an old lady visits a castle on a stormy night and begs to stay the night. When the prince refuses, she turns him into a beast and he has until the age of 21 to make someone fall in love with him in his hideous state. This old witch doesn’t just punish the guilty party though – she somehow feels justified in turning the entire service staff into household objects even though 243542bac940896166a1a4fdc1dccda0they’ve done nothing wrong, and leaves them that way – “ten long years we’ve been rusting” sings a chandelier. Record scratch. 10 years? That’s right. The prince was only 10 years old, home alone, a latchkey kid when a stranger knocked on his door one night. Probably his parents warned him to never, ever let a stranger into the house when they weren’t there just like mine and yours did. And for that sin he receives this cruel punishment? He spends his formative years completely isolated and disfigured and yet still has enough humanity, enough sensitivity to impress a haughty young bookworm named Belle? Astounding. Also noteworthy: his staff has also managed to remain in good humour. Especially the castle’s pet dog Sultan, who gets turned into a footstool. I love seeing that footstool bounce around in the snow. He relishes being “pet” but then rushes to provide foot support to his guests as well. He’s loyal and sweet, proving that the dog’s spirit is just as much alive as ever in the footstool – which is actually kind of a harrowing realization for everyone else, but let’s not dwell.
flat,550x550,075,f.u24. Dante, Coco. Dante is a skinny Xoloitzxuintle, a street dog when Miguel adopts him, and forever obsessed with food, which often gets him (and Miguel!) into embarrassing situations. But their bond means Dante will forever be loyal to Miguel and his clan; he even follows him into the land of the dead and becomes the world’s most adorably neon spirit guide. Though Dante appears to be a simple-minded goofball, he actually imperceptibly guides Miguel toward where he needs to be – “Who’s a good spirit guide? You are!”

3. Slinky, Toy Story. Slinky dog is a friend to all toys, but seems especially loyal to Woody, and sometimes acts like his pet, which I suppose is fitting. He was voiced byslinky-dog-dash_full_32389 Jim Varney, who died of lung cancer shortly after Toy Story 2’s release; he has since been voiced by Varney’s friend, Blake Clark. In tribute, Slink’s catchphrase is “Golly bob-howdy” just like Ernest. Disney World has just opened up a new section of Hollywood Studios dedicated to Toy Story and one of its most popular attractions is the Slinky Dog Dash – which is a misleading way to describe a roller-coaster, if you ask me. Will I be too chicken to ride it? All signs point to yes.

2. Stitch, Lilo & Stitch. Technically, Stitch is an illegal alien science experiment (#626) dagg4hrgone wrong, not a dog. But when he’s exiled to Earth, he winds up in a dog pound, and adopts a more dog-like shape when he’s adopted by Lilo and her sister Noni. His nature is to destroy everything he touches, but when he becomes part of Lilo’s family, a valued and beloved pet, he changes in some essential ways. This movie is all about family, and a good reminder of a pet’s precious place in a family home.
1. Dug, Up. Dug is a chubby golden retriever, loyal and silly and lovable. And easily giphydistracted by squirrels! He likes people instantly, he bonds fiercely, and best of all, he talks! Rather, he wears a collar that decodes his thoughts into understandable English. And wouldn’t you just die to have that for your own pet at home? Dug is my favourite dog in my favourite movie, and everyone agrees: he was awarded the Palm Dog Award by the British film critics as the best canine performances at Cannes, beating out the fox from Antichrist, and the black poodle from Inglorious Basterds. I’ve already met Dug once, on a previous pilgrimage to Disney, and you bet I’m going to stand in line to do it again!