Tag Archives: Disney

Galaxy’s Edge

We recently visited Disney World”s new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios, where imagineers ingeniously have used 14 acres to create the village of Black Spire Outpost, on the wild frontier planet of Batuu. Batuu was mentioned in the novel Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances and Black Spire Outpost was very briefly referred to in Solo: A Star Wars Story, so while this planet on the “Outer Rim of the Unknown Regions” has technically always existed in the canon, it wasn’t already familiar to fans, allowing for a whole new Star Wars experience.

We spent several days exploring Galaxy’s Edge and we happened to come home on the very day that Disney was unveiling its new streaming service, Disney+, which means we immediately watched The Mandalorian and it was like we hadn’t left at all. Its sets made me realize just how much attention to detail is present on Batuu, in Galaxy’s Edge. Imagineers worked closely with LucasFilm and it honestly feels so immersive and convincing it’s like we might have stepped out of any one of the films, or indeed this new show. The team cited Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art for the original Star Wars trilogy as a basis for the architecture and aesthetic look of the land which does indeed feature 41m tall (135 foot) spires standing amongst the rockwork that are intended to be the petrified remains of massive trees of an ancient forest. Black Spire Outpost was once a thriving trading outpost which has more recently faded in importance, so it’s now the perfect kind of place for people to hide out, which means it’s crawling with smugglers, bounty hunters, and rogue adventurers  – hang around long enough and I’m sure you’ll witness an arrest. The town is run by the First Order of course, with a heavy storm-trooper presence, but there are knots of Resistance as well, so think twice about who you talk to. The parked is signed primarily in Batuu’s fictional Aurebesh  language and it stays true even when it comes to merchandising in Black Spire’s many shops and markets, which means you won’t find anything that’s branded Star Wars because “Star Wars’ doesn’t exist within Star Wars canon. But you will find a wooden storm trooper doll, or a card game native to the planet; a toy stall is run by an actual Toydarian. Even their Coke bottles don’t look the same.

The stuff going on in Black Spire Outpost while you’re there is said to be set between the most recent film, Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and the upcoming film and last in this trilogy, Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. You’ll find lots of familiar and impressive stuff – a TIE Echelon and THE Millennium Falcon chief among them. Using the Disney Play app on your phone, your ‘data pad’ remembers all of your Black Spire achievements and failures. If you do a less than stellar job on Smuggler’s Run (in which you fly the Millennium Falcon), it may cause problems for you when you visit the Cantina. Walking around the park will even sound like Star Wars thanks to John Williams’ score.

I can tell you all about it but really it needs to be seen, and to that end may I present Jay, Matt and Sean visit Galaxy’s Edge, frequent the Milk Stand for green and blue milk, find the Droid Depot to build a new R2 friend, ride Smuggler’s Run with increasing competence, hear the musical stylings of DJ 3-RX in Oga’s Cantina, and find out what a Ronto is:

And in this one, Sean builds a custom light saber in Savi’s Workshop and is visited by Master Yoda himself.

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Beauty and The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas

As it happens, the morning after I happened to meet ‘Enchanted Christmas’ Belle at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, my 3 year old niece was watching the movie at home. I’d never seen it myself, somewhat miraculously because my sisters seemed to watch it religiously when we were small. It’s nice to see that they’re indoctrinating their offspring on straight-to-video sequels so young.

My other sister’s kids were not so well versed on Beauty and the Beast lore, perhaps because they are boys. When we were at Disney with them back in February, we had a dinner reservation at the very hard-to-get Be Our Guest restaurant inside the Beast’s castle. The boys were nonplussed until Hollywood Studios generously put on their Beauty and the Beast musical and sped them up on the essentials – though I do stress essentials. It’s a lovely little stage show but it’s quite stripped down. Belle’s father Maurice is completely written out, and the Beast’s transition is so hasty that it seemed to go unnoticed by our two boys. Little Jack, who was teetering between 4 and 5 years old at the time, worried about our upcoming dinner with the Beast. “Does he know we’re coming?” he asked, worriedly. “Will he be mad?” “No, no,” I assured him, “now that he’s married he’s very domesticated, very calm and inviting, just like your dad when he makes spaghetti.” Once there, the Beast is in fact very much the gentleman, and the kids realized there was nothing to fear.

Meeting Enchanted Belle helped me to complete my Belle trilogy – blue dress, yellow dress, holiday dress. If you want to shower me with special prizes, go ahead. I’ve also met the Beast of course, and Gaston, who made me feel very much an old lady by being a young lad himself. In my mind, Gaston has always been, well, a man. But standing beside him made me think that perhaps I’m now…in my Maurice years? Dear god.

[Why does Gaston look like he’s trying to punch me in the tit?]

[When Matt told Gaston it was nice to meet him, Gaston, true to nature, replied “I know.”]

Anyway, shall we talk about the movie, perhaps?

At the end of Beauty & The Beast, the Beast has turned back into Prince Adam and the teapot and candlestick and so forth have all taken human form once again as well. However, to re-live the glory days (according to Disney’s pocketbooks – likely the servants who spent years as household objects would say otherwise), this movie flashes back to the Christmas they all spent together still under the spell. So Belle was still technically a prisoner with an on-again, off-again case of Stockholm Syndrome, and the furniture/servants hadn’t celebrated the holidays in years because the Beast had “forbidden” it.

Sadly Gaston does not appear as the antagonist; the part of “villain” is played by – and this is going to be as hard to hear as it is for me to write – an organ. An organ who takes credit for writing ‘Deck the Halls.’

So…not quite as beloved as the first, shall we say? That seems diplomatic. And perhaps so terrible an understatement as to be blatantly unfactual. Factually speaking. But, um, it was an honour to meet her in person!

Frozen II

Reviews for Frozen 2 were a bit mixed and I confess I didn’t exactly love the first one (was I the only one on the entire planet not to?). I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay for me. I didn’t even love the song. On our recent trip to Disney World, we met pretty much the whole Frozen crew but needed to attend a sing-along (where people definitely, enthusiastically sang along) to even remember some pretty big plot points from the movie, which came out in 2013 (for example, not one of us remembered trolls). Still, we dutifully brought back an Elsa dress for our 3 year old niece, who has caught Elsa fever (not the kind that produces snow boogies) like pretty much every little girl under 10 has at one time or another.

So of course we went to the see the film. The trailers looked…well, astonishing, frankly, real marvels of computer animation, if a little light on story. We tempered our expectations and emptied our bladders (it’s not really that long, just long for kids – nearly 2 hours with previews) and took our seats in a theatre packed with kids.

And you know what? I can’t speak for the kids, but I freaking loved it. Yes, the animation is, well, staggering. There was more than one moment when I had to convince my eyes that they were looking at cartoons, not real life. The cinematography is top-tier; the light design is dazzling. But, okay, throw all that aside: what about the story? You may have heard that it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, that it lacks drama because it doesn’t have a distinct villain. That the songs are a bit on the forgettable side. I think that’s all a bunch of hogwash.

Frozen II is more interesting, more complex, and more satisfying than the first one, perhaps because its themes are more mature, perhaps because instead of battling a bad guy, it turns inward, introspective. An enchanted forest is calling to Elsa, and though everyone fears what will happen if she opens Pandora’s box, she opens it anyway, exuberantly, after obsessing over it. Though she and Anna vow to go forth together, as a team, they inevitably part ways and both will be tested.

I laughed. I cried. I was surprised on several occasions by its bold and curious choices. There’s a musical number performed by Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that inserts what I can only describe as a 1980s-style power ballad into the proceedings for no apparent reason. The number is done as if it’s an early MTV music video, all hokey and cheesy and wonderful because of it – clearly not aimed at children who will never know that the M in MTV once stood for music.

I felt that the first film espoused a fake kind of feminism – people applauded it while apparently failing to note that lots of male characters were still propping up the sisters. But in this film they simply do, and they do well, all by themselves, without anyone needing to point it out. You can tell the ladies are genuinely getting down to business because Elsa’s beautiful dress, already being marketed to little girls in stores, comes with slacks, making it easier for her to kick butt. Elsa seemed moody and bratty in the first, but here she’s a woman full of confidence, full of competence. And Anna knows her worth, magical powers or no.

Do any of the songs rival the powerhouse Let It Go? from the first film? How could they, really? Let It Go was an anomaly, one in a million. And then horribly overplayed and quite tedious. Still, several of the songs were quite good, if not quite as memorable, and performed by Broadway’s best, well, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

I don’t know what kids think of it (yet – my 5 year old nephew and 3 year old niece will see it tomorrow – and in 2 weeks, when that 3 year old niece turns 4, her aunt Jay will bring an Elsa cake to her birthday party) but I do know that I was impressed by it, entertained by it, moved by it. I said previously that the first Frozen felt more like a merchandising tool than a movie, destined to spawn straight-to-video sequels, so this is a rare occasion when I admit my mistake, and am humbled by it. Just a bit. 😉

This is my nephew Jack, who’s providing the kid perspective.

And my other nephew Ben.

It’s okay. You can tell me their reviews are better than mine. I know it. And I’m the proudest aunt.

Ben also has something to add to my Detective Pikachu review.

Assholes Drink Around The World

After nearly 2 weeks at Disney World, the Assholes have been deep in recovery mode. This video is the first in a series of answers to the question: Why?

 

 

Note: we’re not the first to accept the “Drink Around The World” challenge, or the last – let us know if you’ve attempted too.

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Noelle

Growing up, Noelle and Nick new what fates awaited them: Nick would take over his father’s role as Santa Claus, and Noelle’s job would be to support her brother and spread Christmas cheer. Sure it sounds awfully patriarchal, but do you think a Christmas movie has room to unpack that?

Spoiler alert: Santa dies (not to worry, off camera, nothing traumatic) and Nick, now an adult (Bill Hader), reluctantly dons the jolly red suit. He goes deep into training for his big night, learning the fireplace trick, and getting licensed to drive reindeer. But his heart’s not in it. When he confesses his ambivalence to sister Noelle (Anna Kendrick), she suggests he take a weekend away and come back refreshed. Except Nick doesn’t come back. Facing a ruined Christmas season, Noelle and her nanny Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine) follow him to Arizona to pull him away from his new life of yoga and enlightenment.

Never having left the North Pole, Noelle is a fish out of water. Not unlike Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf, there’s a lot of humour to be found in a true believer, a fully Chistmas-spirited weirdo finding her way in a world full of cynicism. The girl uses gingerbread-scented deodorant for Santa’s sake. The joy she radiates is a lot to take and though I am not a fan of Anna Kendrick, I admit she is probably perfectly cast in the role. But she doesn’t just excel at all things merry and bright, she tints it all with just a hint of oppressed anger.

Although I like the premise, I wish they’d taken it further. Maybe I wish it was a little less kid-friendly and embraced the acerbic edge it seems more suited to. I’d like to praise it for its feminist edge but it largely ignores it in order to keep the sleigh moving along with good tidings and cheer, plus I’d previously watched Santa Girl, also about a daughter of Santa’s, which tackles a concerning amount of the same material. And I’d like to praise it for avoiding the sappy romance, except it seems to go to a lot of trouble to set one up only to leave us unfulfilled in the end. Strange choices.

A Bill Hader as Santa movie should be a slam dunk. You have to take a lot of wrong turns to mess this one up, but unfortunately Noelle just isn’t my cup of cocoa.

Lady And The Tramp (2019)

Happy Disney+ day, everyone!

I know it wasn’t available worldwide on November 12 but it was here in Canada, which just happened to be our travel day home from Disney World where we saw lots of evidence that Disney is putting some major marketing power behind this streaming service. The Mandalorian, the Star Wars episodic series that debuted today, was publicized everywhere with flags and posters and merch – particularly in Hollywood Studios where Galaxy’s Edge calls home. And alongside standard Lady and Tramp stuffed animals were new models, based on the live-action dogs featured in Disney+’s original programming.

Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) gives his Darling wife (Kiersey Clemons) a puppy for Christmas, a lovely and darling little cocker spaniel she names Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who immediately lives up to the moniker. She enjoys a very cosy life nestled between her two favourite humans and can’t imagine life getting any better. But then she meets a street dog who goes by a lot of names but we’ll call Tramp (Justin Theroux). Tramp reveals that life is about to change and not for the better – Darling is about to have a baby, and everyone knows that when baby moves in, the dog moves out. Lady doesn’t want to believe it but of course when baby arrives, she is no longer the centre of her masters’ universe.

Sean and I had just suffered through the inevitable travel day that always puts an unfortunate end on every vacation (waking up at 4:15am is always brutal, particularly when poor Sean was up past midnight purchasing a whole additional suitcase to hold all the souvenirs we bought our niece and nephews, but since we had a relatively easy commute home via a direct flight that came in under 3 hours and Matt had 2 connections and hours of delays resulting in 14 hours of travel, it’s rude to complain…the snow, however, was morally depleting no matter how long you’d traveled to reach it). No matter how tired we are when we walk in that door, we have 4 little pups who celebrate our homecoming like we just won the Superbowl or walked on the moon. If they had access to ticker tape, we’d be hip-deep.

That said, we were cuddled in bed with our 4 4-legged friends (that’s 20 legs if you count ours) by mid-afternoon and were soon watching the newest and finest that Disney+ had to offer. I always find it hard to be away from my pups and this vacation was particularly rough because on our very first day away our dog sitter texted me pictures of bloody stool and I worried for 10 days straight (everyone seems fine). Anyway, I’d been lonesome for my little loves and this movie made me quite emotional.

Perhaps it lacks the sparkle that the first one had, and I’m not 100% convinced real-looking talking dogs (or any animals) is a good ideas, but it’s here, but it’s kind of sweet and it’s a safe family pick. Plus, keeping the antique setting is a lovely excuse for the most sumptuous sets and costumes.

And with some interesting voice work by Tessa Thomspon, a delightfully cast Sam Elliott, and a racist song replaced by a new ditty co-written by Janelle Monae. This updated Lady and The Tramp isn’t a huge hit but it isn’t a miss either – I think it’s worth a watch, especially for dog lovers who just can’t help themselves.

Enchanted

Giselle is a typical Disney princess who lives in a tree and has bird and chipmunk friends who sing with her and help her sew a wedding dress so she can marry her prince. But Disney movies always have an evil Queen – in this case, Narissa, who interrupts Giselle on her way to marry prince Edward and instead shoves her down a magical well which turns cartoon Giselle into live-action Amy Adams, and spits her out in Times Square.

Live-action Giselle is still fairly blessed – sure her tiara is stolen by a homeless man, but ultimately a gentlemanly lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), takes her in and gives her his couch despite her being a crazy woman in a poufy-sleeved wedding dress claiming to be a princess. And her magic hasn’t deserted her completely: when she leans out Robert’s apartment window to summon some animal friends to help her tidy up, they still respond. But it’s New York City, so the respondents are rats and pigeons. Oh, and cockroaches. Which are ostensibly worse than the dust, but Giselle seems not to notice as she prances about singing her happy songs.

Giselle proves to be quite a disruption to Robert’s life – especially when it comes to his intended (Idina Menzel) and his young daughter Morgan. Luckily her prince charming is so devoted that he throws himself down the same magical well in pursuit and goes through the same cartoon-to-human transformation (James Marsden). Queen Narissa sends her bumbling sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) down after him.

The film has some wonderful casting, other than Patrick Dempsey who could have been replaced by almost anyone and don’t I wish that he was. James Marsden is wonderfully game to play a toothsome prince. Idina Menzel, Broadway star and future voice of Frozen’s Elsa, is the only lead in the film NOT to sing. But this movie belongs to Amy Adams. I don’t think anyone else could play Giselle. She’s wide-eyed and naive and full of love bubbles, but it never looks ridiculous on her.

Enchanted is, if nothing else, a love letter to all things Disney. The film and the script are bursting with references to Disney films future, past and present. Sean has never seen this movie before (and in truth seems to be sending a larger than usual amount of work emails during it), and I’m trying my best not to shout them all out as I see them:

  • Jodi Benson, voice of Ariel herself, plays Robert’s secretary
  • Narissa tires to poison Giselle with an apple, just like in Snow White
  • Giselle and Robert eat at an Italian restaurant reminiscent of Lady & the Tramp
  • The apartment elevator looks like the Tower of Terror in Disney parks
  • Giselle takes off her heels and leaves one behind, like in Cinderella
  • The old man dancers in Central Park are chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins (not to mention Julie Andrews narrates the film)
  • We often hear pieces of classic Disney theme songs
  • Narissa turns into a dragon, like in Sleeping Beauty
  • Judy Kuhn, voice of Pocahontas, appears as a neighbour answering her door

I could go on and on – director Kevin Lima assures us there are “thousands” of little Easter eggs that an astute Disney fan might notice. That’s why this movie is the perfect way to celebrate our own trip to the happiest place on Earth, Walt Disney World. My own love letter involves eating a poison apple cupcake on Main Street and visiting Ariel at her grotto and letting Sean (making Sean?) nudge a meatball over my way, and wearing my own Mary Poppins dress. We have an ambitious schedule and 10 days to fit everything in, so do play along on Twitter (@AssholeMovies) to see what we’re up to right now – 10 points if I’m standing next to a castle.