Tag Archives: Disney

Aladdin (2019)

Maybe it’s just time we admit that no remake, perhaps especially a live-action remake, will live up to the extremely high bar set by the animated films of our youth. Not only were these movies straight out of Disney’s renaissance, they are coated in the glittery gold of nostalgia, elevated by the place they had in our lives at the time, rendered flawless and important in our cherished memories. It’s an impossible standard, is what I’m saying. That said, Aladdin is probably among the better ones.

As you know, Aladdin isn’t really about Aladdin. Oh sure, it’s ostensibly about a boy wooing and trying to be worthy of a princess. And about a greedy man who’ll stop at nothing to gain power. But really it’s about a genie trapped in a lamp, longing to be free. Robin Williams 110% stole the first movie. His ad-libbed sessions in the recording studio had Disney re-writing the script to accommodate all of his beautiful material. These were agl0580.pcomp_publicity.v02.1039_grd004.000000.0immense blue shoes to fill, so in a way, I admire the impulse to steer the ship in a different direction, as Will Smith IS a different direction – though not as different as I’d imagined. He makes the character his own, for better or worse, but the fact that this film is such a close remake means inevitably you’ll be comparing movies and this one will be coming up short. It can’t quite recapture the magic, especially when we know every word and anticipate every action. And Will Smith’s Genie is a dull cousin of Williams’. This is not entirely Smith’s fault – who among us could compete with the limitless freedom of a cartoon? Animated Genie is just that – animated. At all freaking times. Will Smith can’t even touch the manic energy of the original, and frankly, his songs leave a little to be desired. I’d heard that his remake of Friend Like Me would be largely hip-hop inspired, but I heard wrong. But it may have been the wiser choice; if you’re going to fail by comparison, then do something to distinguish yourself. The 2019 version is fairly faithful to the original – it has all the basics but none of the colour.

Well, I don’t meant that literally. In fact, that’s one of the things I liked best about the movie: the absolute riot of colour. Jewel tones abound! The colours of spice fill up the screen, sometimes metaphorically but sometimes quite literally. Jasmine’s costumes are the stuff little girls’ dreams are made of. In animation, it’s too expensive to have different outfits for characters, so they mostly wear just on the one thing, a cartoon uniform if you will. And Jasmine’s is no joke. But in the live-action remake, costumers have given themselves permission to create a wardrobe befitting a princess. It’s a feast for the eyes.

I mentioned before that the 2019 film is fairly faithful to the original and that’s true – but there are a few exceptions, and I’m glad that Jasmine is one of them. In the 1992 feature, Jasmine is a passive character. Yes, she’s 15, but she’s very much a damsel in distress. That’s not quite the character the writers meant to portray, but several scenes in which she was to exercise her voice were cut because they were simply too expensive to animate. That decision saved production budget but cost Jasmine something in character. In 2019, she’s a fuller version of herself. Of course, that’s partially because you’ll find her singing a song you don’t recognize (called Speechless – it’s Disney’s bid at an Oscar this year, as only original, written-for-this-movie songs qualify).

Speaking of which: Jasmine and Aladdin. I hereby give you permission to get your Aladdin thirst on. I mean, maybe you’ve always had a certain lustful feeling toward the MV5BZTc3NTA1YmEtZTkyNy00ZDMyLWJkMmItODFkYjU0MTc2N2I0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDQxNjcxNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1233,1000_AL_street rat with the not little nipple-less bod. Now he’s played by the very attractive Mena Massoud, who conveys all of his boyishness and charm. Jasmine, meanwhile, is portrayed by  the lovely Naomi Scott. Since cartoon Jasmine is 80% doe eyes, you might think she’d be difficult to replace. In fact, Scott is everything you could ever want in a Jasmine, now with 50% more agency. And unlike Will Smith’s renditions, everything Scott and Massoud sing sounds like the soundtrack of your childhood. You’ll find it difficult not to sing along. Why resist, really? Someone has to be the crazy lady in each and every movie theatre, and it may as well be you.

Director Guy Ritchie brings an energy to the film that’s quite unexpected. I mean, he’s made a career putting hustlers on the big screen, and who is Aladdin if not that? And those were Sean’s favourite scenes: Aladdin deftly avoiding arrest in the streets of Agrabah, streets he knows well, like the back of his hand. He  navigates those in the slight elevation above reality – quick, slick, agile. My favourite scenes, however, were the colourful spectacles I didn’t know Ritchie was capable of. Will Smith’s Genie introduces Prince Ali to Agrabah with fanfare that’s nothing short of visually stunning. It’s choreographed to within an inch of its life, with a rainbow of costumes and a riot of feathers and dancing girls and exotic animals.

Aladdin is a lot of fun if you let it be. It is not the Aladdin of your childhood, but there’s enough room for both of them. Now go be the crazy lady in your local cinema.

 

Advertisements

The Lion King (1994)

Disney is releasing a whole slew of “live action” remakes of its most beloved classics, so Sean and I are taking a stroll through the Disney vault to revisit movies we haven’t seen since childhood. So far, the only one of these that I’ve genuinely enjoyed is Cinderella; the others – like Beauty & The Beast, Mary Poppins, and Dumbo – have missed the mark, and I downright disliked The Jungle Book. And unfortunately, I’ve tended to assume that I’ll feel the same about The Lion King, mostly because I don’t approve of calling this “live action” when it’s clearly also animated, just animated in a more realistic, CGI-style. But it’s still just computers. In real life, lions don’t sing and dance and cuddle up to warthogs in a strictly platonic, non-hungry way. BUT it does have an AMAZING voice cast that I admit intrigues me. More on that later.

The Lion King (1994) doesn’t need improving upon. It’s quite a lovely film. The animation holds up. The songs are part of our cultural lexicon. We all know the story: Simba is a young lion prince who will won day rule the pride lands when his father Mufasa passes. But Mufasa’s death is hastened by evil uncle Scar, who wants the seat of power for himself. Scar murders his brother and exiles his nephew. He giphyallows his pals the hyenas to share hunting grounds with the lion tribe, which totally fucks with the circle of life, and pretty soon they’re all starving. Meanwhile, Simba has grown up with a sweet gay couple, Timon and Pumbaa, who adopt him despite their initial misgivings about him being a meat eater and all. Their worry-free existence is pretty sweet until Simba’s past shows up to shame him into returning. And once he knows how bad things are, he can’t help but engage. He returns, but he’ll have to face his uncle Scar if he wants to take his rightful place as King.

As a kid I didn’t pick up on the Shakespearean undertones of this film because I was just a dumb, Sesame Street watching baby. It’s definitely Hamlet-adjacent. But as an adult, I have so many more experiences that are informing my viewing.

Like any good Canadian who often escapes the winter by going down south, I first saw The Lion King musical experience at an all-inclusive resort where they pirate 1Vzuthe heck out of anything they can and squeeze it until the lawsuits come. The first time I saw it, it was an excellent production (I think I was in Mexico). It made me want to see the real Broadway version, so when it came to my city, I saw it with my in-laws, and it was even better than I’d imagined. Then I saw several low-rent versions at less ambitious resorts – my favourite at a Cuban hotel where my friends got married and their young daughter was cast as the baby Simba.

Hakuna Matata (such a wonderful phrase!) was a full-on craze in the 90s. People cross-stitched it onto pillows. Nothing trendier than that! It means “no worries for the rest of your days” and was lampooned by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in The Book of Mormon. In that Broadway musical, which Sean and I were lucky enough to see with its original cast, Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells), the phrase they pick up is Hasa Diga Eebowai. It inspires its own musical number which is every bit as perky and upbeat as Hakuna Matata – only imagine the little Mormons’ consternation when they find out it means Fuck You, God. Oops.

Last month Sean and I took the niece and nephews to see Disney on Ice, and they  had quite the generous Lion King portion, no doubt to generate interest for a movie hitting theatres later this year. But the original film is also celebrating its 25th anniversary, and sure, you could figure that out with simple math, but we found it out at Disney World, where they’d outfitted Animal Kingdom with photo ops celebrating it. We also frolicked at the animation hotel, where an entire branch of the resort is dedicated to the film, its rooms are movie-inspired and the grounds are full of scenes from the movie. I turned to Sean and said: “Hey, remember when YOU played in an elephant graveyard?” and I kid you not, he responded “At the hotel?” Now, like most (all) men, Sean is an idiot. But he’s also the King of Stupid Questions. Now let me ask you, perfect stranger: how many times do you think Sean has played in an elephant graveyard? We’re CANADIAN. I think the fact that he’s done it once is remarkable. Why, then, the clarifying question, as if he’s done it so many times he’s not even sure to which one I’m referring. Hasa Diga Sean.

When Scar undertakes to kill his brother, he orchestrates the murder so that it looks like an accident. He plants Simba in a gorge and then sparks a wildebeest stampede. It’s a frantic, pulse-pounding scene that took 3 years and the invention of new software to animate the thing. Musafa of course saves his son, but Scar pushes him to his death. In the aftermath, little Simba finds his father’s body and curls up next to it, wrapping his father’s dead paws around him. It’s a very tender scene of course, but it reminds me of my nephew and something he once said. This kid loves his family and insists he’ll never marry and never move out – he simply can’t imagine a time when he won’t be vitally attached to his parents. He’s even insisted that when he dies, he wants to be buried in his father’s arms. These are soul-destroying words to his sensitive aunt’s heart. I wept over it then, and I wept over it again when Simba all but reenacts the scene.

So there’s no doubt, really, that Scar must be among Disney’s very worst villains. But there’s a secret (or not so secret) side to Scar that I never considered as a kid. The LGBTQ community has adopted him as a coded-gay character. Of course it’s problematic as hell because he’s a reprehensible guy, but when you were gay in the giphy (1)90s, you didn’t exactly have a lot of choice. Scar IS slightly effeminate, I suppose. And he’s camp. He’s snide. He slinks around. He has a goatee! He’s scrupulously correct and he’s British for christ’s sake. Is he a mean old Queen? Possibly. He’s definitely the bachelor uncle who, while inheriting his brother’s kingdom, has absolutely no interest in the pride’s lionesses. He spends his time with a singing parrot. So when people saw the trailer for the “live action” Lion King, fans of Scar were dismayed. In the cartoon he comes off as very vain and very feline, but in the trailer for the new one, he just looks emaciated. Anyway. I think we can do better than Scar for gay icons, but so far Disney really hasn’t. There’s a void there, and a gaunt, bedraggled Scar isn’t going to fill it.

Anyway. Jon Favreau’s The Lion King will hit theatres in July, with James Earl Jones providing continuity as the voice of Mufasa but Jeremy Irons has been replaced as Scar – and so has everyone else.

Simba: Donald Glover

Nala: Beyonce

Scar: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Pumbaa: Seth Rogen

Timon: Billy Eichner

Zazu: John Oliver

So it’s not The Lion King of your childhood. But might it still be good?

Aladdin (1992)

Of course I watched Aladdin when I was little. Disney’s renaissance era was such a great time to be kid: The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. Instant classics, all. I remember my aunt giving my little sister Jana a pair of Princess Jasmine pajamas – gauzy and midriff-bearing. They were an instant source of jealousy (we were four little girls, but Jana was the smallest and the blondest and the default cutest, and I suppose the rest of us felt that our chubby little bellies were not deemed worthy).

MV5BMTYwODYyMzY5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzg4MjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1710,1000_AL_But I hadn’t watched Aladdin since I was young, on VHS, naturally. On DVD I’ve fallen in love all over again with the movie. Gosh it’s crisp, the animation looks beautiful. I find that I still know every word to every song (it probably helps that I have the soundtrack on vinyl).

It’s a sad story if you stop to think about it: Aladdin is a homeless youth who is so hungry he resorts to stealing even though the punishment is having your hand chopped off. Jasmine, the resident princess, has never been hungry a day in her life, but is far more eager to escape her life of confinement in the castle and the pressure to marry a prince before her next birthday (at which time she turns all of 16). The two meet in the market where they also get in some trouble. Jafar, the nefarious vizier to the sultan, tells Jasmine that Aladdin has been executed (to death!), but actually he’s going to use him to break into the Cave of Wonders and steal the magic lamp.

As you know, Aladdin does get his hands on the lamp, and imagine his surprise when out pops a big blue genie (voiced by Robin Williams). Genie turns Aladdin into a prince so he can court and marry Jasmine, but there’s a lesson in there about being your true self, and the lesson must be taught.

Anyway, Robin Williams recorded his part while on breaks from Hook and Toys. He’d call up Steven Spielberg, who was filming Schindler’s List at the time, and make him and the cast and crew have a much-needed laugh. So much of the movie was ad-libbed by Williams, it no longer qualified for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars. Not that anyone complained: animators literally added whole scenes just because Williams said something too brilliant not to use.

Robin Williams was reluctant to even do the movie. He wanted to try his hand at voicing an animated character but he balked at the whole Disney merchandising machine. Eventually he agreed to do the film for scale (!) on the condition that his voice not be used for merchandising, and that the Genie not take up more than 25% of space on posters, billboards, and trailers. The idiots at Disney did not abide his rules so Williams was actually mad at them for years. Michael Eisner even tried to apologize to him with a Picasso, but Williams turned it down. Only when Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired and replaced by Joe Roth did things thaw: Roth apologized publicly.

If Jasmine and Aladdin look familiar to you, you’re not wrong: Jasmine was modeledMV5BMTgzNDI3ODUyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg4MjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1416,1000_AL_ after Jennifer Connelly, and Aladdin after Tom Cruise, which has to make you wonder – does Tom Cruise not have nipples either? I met Princess Jasmine recently. I was having dinner at Cinderella’s castle (at Disney World), and quite a few princesses drop by to say hello. She asked me if Sean was my diamond in the rough and I must have scrunched up my nose quite skeptically because she amended it to “Diamond in the scruff?” – in fact, Sean has a no-razors-on-vacation policy, so I let that one stand even though it wasn’t the rough I objected to.

Anyway, we gave this one a re-watch because Guy Ritchie is doing a live-action remake hitting theatres later this month (May 24). Although I was disappointed by both Mary Poppins Returns and Dumbo (both of which I’d hoped would be good but weren’t quite) already this year, I’m going to go ahead and reserve some moderately-sized hope for this one. They can’t all be bad, right?

 

Dumbo (2019)

Since the original Dumbo is only 60 minutes long, it was inevitable that Tim Burton’s 2019 update would veer from the scant story line of the first.

Max Medici (Danny De Vito) is the owner of a rinky dink circus where little Dumbo is born and immediately considered a monstrosity, despite the fact that our eyes tell us that between his big, sad, blue eyes and his soft, floppy ears, CGI Dumbo is perhaps even cuter than his hand-drawn cousin. A couple of kids, Millie and Joe Farrier, befriend Dumbo and together they discover he can fly. Their father Holt (Colin Farrell), a former trick pony rider and current one-armed vet, cares for the elephants but isn’t particularly warm to them, or to his own motherless children. When Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is in the middle of an incident, she is labelled ‘mad’ and sold away. This is the straw that broke the circus’s back. It gets eaten up by a new amusement park called Dreamland, owned by Vandevere (Michael Keaton) and featuring the beautiful Colette (Eva Green).

As you can tell by cast alone, all the trappings of a Tim Burton movie are there, but sadly, almost none of the magic.

MV5BMTk3YzY3NmEtODExNy00ZGY5LTk3ZGYtMGUxOTlmN2Q2MTcxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzk5MTY4MTU@._V1_The first thing working against it, at least in my mind, is a circus scene in the movie Big Fish. It’s only a small part of the movie but it’s completely wonderful. Shouldn’t the wonder just multiply when set entirely at the circus? But no. Things start off relatively well at DeVito’s flea circus, but once it gets swallowed up by the soulless Dreamland, things go off the rails.

Second, I despised seeing Dumbo ridden. Dumbo is a flying baby elephant. Isn’t that enough? But no: 2019 needs to subjugate his whimsy by physically climbing aboard. It also doesn’t help that the sight of Eva Green on Dumbo’s back is some of the worst CGI work in the movie.

Mostly though, the movie just doesn’t feel coherent. Dumbo isn’t really even the star. Burton decided against the whole talking animal schtick, and while that makes sense for a live-action remake, it means a lot of improvised human characters and actor egoes who need screen time and dialogue and character arcs.

But when Dumbo himself is on the screen, the movie puffs its little chest and feels bigger for just a moment. Dumbo is irresistible, particularly in his clown makeup. My heart practically grows arms that yearn to embrace the poor little guy. Unfortunately, this little heart of mine just can’t quite make its way to liking this movie. It has everything going for it but the sum isn’t more than the parts. The sum is messy, and a little cold. Burton’s Dumbo is BYOH – bring your own heart.

Movies + Food

So you may have heard that I like to cook and I like to bake, and I often infuse one passion with another. A few years ago I replicated the Golden Globes menu for my own viewing party. One Oscars night I featured cocktails inspired by the best picture nominees. And I often decorate cakes on a movie theme. My favourite among them was probably the Up cake, where the cake itself was the house, and a mess of colourful cupcakes hovered over top like the most fluffy and delicious balloons ever. My sister only sorta kinda got the reference. But her son speaks my language. Last year he had two parties, one for his friends, which featured a Batman cake made by his bakiest aunt, and one for his family, where we ate a Mickey Mouse cake, it being his favourite character in the universe, really, and the celebrity he most looked forward to meeting when we were recently in Disney World.

As if missing a week of school for a dream vacation to Disney isn’t enough for a kid, we were there for Jack’s birthday, and I felt that this kid needed and deserved a Mickey cake like no other. Now, Disney is great at celebrating birthdays. We started the day at Chef Mickey’s, where the mouse himself brought Jack a cupcake with Mickey’s face right on it. Breakfast, mind you. And then we had dinner at the Beauty and the Beast restaurant, Be Our Guest, where the beast also offered up a birthday sweet treat. But the best was yet to come, because earlier Sean and I had snuck away to take a cake decorating class with Disney Spring’s most beloved patisserie, Amorette’s.

Sean was not much of a cook before he met me but I believe he genuinely loves being in the kitchen when I’m cooking, and he’s a pretty good sous-chef. He’s slow and self-doubting, but if my directions are good, so is his follow-through, and we love spending time together, and feeding people, and pouring our love into baked creations we’re happy to present our loved ones. When we were in Paris we took a couple of classes together, one to learn to make macarons, and another to make a 3-course meal that included potatoes that were legit more cream than potato. Anyway, all that to say that I count myself lucky that Sean was willing to lose a few hours at a theme park in order to don an apron and learn about glacage. Was there day drinking involved? Of course there was. We made a beautiful Mickey Mouse cake for our nephew and brought home some new skills and knowledge, which is an awesome kind of souvenir.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Don’t worry. Were you worried? Probably you weren’t even worried, but no, we didn’t go all the way to buttfuck Orlando, Florida and NOT go to Magic Kingdom. We went. Twice. Three times, really, if you count having dinner at Cinderella’s Castle, and there’s no reason in the world you shouldn’t.

Magic Kingdom is the first among the foursome, first among its peers, first in our hearts and minds when it comes to Disney World. Walt had this amazing vision for it, so he built it to be weirdly inaccessible, meaning the nearly 53 THOUSAND people visiting it DAILY have to bottleneck through one teeny tiny, wholly inadequate entrance that can only be reached via ferry or monorail.

Once you’re in, though, you’re golden. Main Street welcomes you with its sparkling stores, its roaming barbershop quartet known as the Dapper Dans, the balloon vendors 20190203_111814and the cotton candy vendors, the random characters milling about (we ran into Abby Mallard from Chicken Little fame, who grabbed my hand and skipped off with me toward the castle like we were the best of friends). Mickey and Minnie are known to hang out in Time Square. The Plaza ice cream parlour sells a sundae called the Kitchen Sink and it’s a LOT of ice cream sold literally in a kitchen sink. There’s a crystal palace where Winnie the Pooh and friends are known to brunch, and a nice green space where Mary Poppins strolls about underneath her parasol. And right in front of the castle is a large roundabout where all the parades do their thing, and man oh man are there parades. If you wanted to, you could park yourself in a shady central location and just be entertained by parades all day long. There’s the Festival of Fantasy parade,  a lovely thing where all your favourite princesses meander by on themed floats and the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! parade where floats are parked for a good half hour and a high energy show is happening on each float – standard characters like Goofy, but also some fresh ones, like Zootopia‘s Judy Hopps. And then there’s Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire which happens 6 times a day right on the steps of the castle. Sir Mickey is joined by friends including Anna, Elsa, and Olaf in a musical spectacular. And those are just the ones we caught.

We rode Haunted Mansion, which the kids declared “not that scary” with some relief. Pirates of the Caribbean where we got a little wet. Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which now has a component under the big top where kids can play in a little circus-themed 20190203_103939playground while you wait. We avoided the spitting camel in front of the The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. We climbed the Swiss Family Treehouse which was stupid given the enormity of my bad ankle. It hasn’t spoken to me since. Barnstormer, a roller coaster friendly enough for even our anxious kiddos. The People Mover, a couple of times, because it oddly became one of Brady’s favourite “rides” and I have no idea why but didn’t object because despite its surprisingly long line, it is a 16 minute sit that my throbbing ankle (I swear it had its own heart beat) was always grateful for. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which is a lot of good fun, even if my sister thought my steering was rubbish and took over half way through. Jungle Cruise, soon to be a Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt movie, a favourite of my brother-in-law who has a special appreciation for corny dad jokes.

And on our last day, when my ankle was a special shade of purple that communicates ENOUGH rather effectively, Sean and I did a secondary tour of the park called sit and eat (and drink). We went to Gaston’s pub and drank Lefou’s Brew. We went to the Cheshire Cat Cafe and had a cat tail pastry and a Wonderland slush, complete with candy-coated straw. That’s where I also enjoyed my favourite ride at Disney World: a clean women’s washroom with no line!

We were lucky enough to snag a reservation at the Beauty and the Beast castle restaurant, Be Our Guest. We ate in “Belle’s favourite room”, code for the paying guest’s least favourite, but it was still pretty cool, the walls crowded with majestic oil paintings featuring recognizable moments from the film, and a life-size music box feature of Belle and her Beast waltzing around. The main dining room is of course the ball room, where you could see it snowing outside despite the actual blistering Florida sun, and the last dining room is the forbidden west wing, very dark and atmospheric, with the enchanted rose under a glass dome and a portrait of the prince that morphs into the beast every 7 minutes. The menu has suitably french fare on hand (though accessible enough for all palates, gauging by my sister and her family who are very plain eaters) but the best part20190207_173826 is dessert, which proudly features the grey stuff (there’s a line in the song – “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious. Don’t believe us? Ask the dishes!”) No need, you can just ask me, and: yeah, it’s very good. It came in a white chocolate tea cup, betwixt a truffle and a macaron, on edible stained glass. The kids got a white chocolate tea cup too, but they got edible paints and set to work creating their masterpieces, which, honestly looked like trash to me, but they were proud enough to insist that photos be taken. Before we left we got to meet the Beast, though he’d been by to take a bow during our meal (which is quite presumptuous of a host, if you think about it). This restaurant may seem unassuming but for me it was also the biggest thrill ride in the park, because at the end of the meal, when presented with a bill for $400, my card was declined. Or rather, the last $17 of it was declined. I shame-facedly handed over a $20 bill and made eyes at Sean that communicated basic human emotions such as ohmygodwhatdidido and howdidispendallthatmoney and canweevengethomenow? Your heart really seizes when you hear the words visa and declined in the same sentence, so I didn’t stop to think that never in the history of declined, overtaxed credit cards, does the machine ever spit out “well, she’s good for $383 but not that last $17.” That’s not how credit cards work. Luckily, between Sean and my sister, whose hearts were working normally, and the waitress, who was very bad at her job, it was determined that she hadn’t put through my card at all, and the $383 was from another table, and the whole thing was a huge misunderstanding which only shaved about 90 days off my lifespan, probably. Anyway, don’t you worry about that waitress; her 18% tip was worked into the bill already, no hard feelings allowed.

Anyway. We had a super fun time at Magic Kingdom. We had a super fun week at Disney. We spent 6 days between 4 parks and did not see everything. Not even close.

…think we should go back?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Disney’s Epcot

Epcot is probably the weirdest of the Disney parks. It’s home to the World Showcase – basically, 11 countries have pavilions dotted around a large lake. You can pick a pearl in Japan, drink tequila in Mexico (and seem some wonderful Coco-inspired folk art), ride Frozen Ever After in Norway, and eat poutine in Canada. Belle is seen in France, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China.

It also houses Future World, which will test your mettle with rides like Test Track (build a car for the future, and the whip around the track in it!), Soarin’ (actually feel like you’re flying – not for those with a fear of heights), and Mission: Space, which is a NASA shuttle simulator, and which once made me want to die.

But most of our time was spent in the other end of the park, home to Nemo and friends. The Seas with Nemo & Friends gives you a fun, musical recap of the movie and spits you 1615840530-100272980-20190206T153128-689587655-DSC_mediumout in real-life aquarium. Kids who have been kept within strict arm’s reach all week have a bit of room to run and explore as tunnels lead you through the waters of Disney’s many impressive tanks, filled with clown fish like Marlin and Nemo, and blue tangs like Dory, and an awful lot more. Brady loved to spot the turtles, and Jack was more entertained by the human diver who appeared to be doing some caulking. Their dad was happy to see some manatees while the rest of us played spot the shark and count the rays. There’s also Turtle Talk with Crush, which is a fun, interactive show, wherein the cool surfer dude talks directly to the kids in the audience. We had so much fun with the fish, we decided to go for lunch at the Coral Reef. That sounds a bit cruel, doesn’t it? Especially since Sean DID order the mahi mahi. Okay, and I had lobster mac and cheese. The restaurant features an entire glass wall that gives live views of a living coral reef. Each table gets a card (that looks suspiciously like a menu) so you can spot and identify the fish withing. I especially loved the unicorn fish, which are totally a thing!

Anyway, Epcot was fun and all, but we called it a day a bit early because Sean and I were taking the two boys to the Art of Animation hotel for a night, to give their parents a break and to have some extra special fun. The Art of Animation is a Disney hotel on the property that has themed rooms – The Little Mermaid for couples or small families, and suites in the style of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, or Cars. And the boys being Cars super fans, we of course chose that one. The room is extremely well-appointed; the couch looks like the backseat of a car, and it folds out into a bed (odd how much this impressed the kids); a table likewise hides a Murphy bed, and that was also so much fun they decided to sleep in BOTH – and did actually switch beds during the night. There’s a coffee table that looks like a map of Radiator Springs, and a chair made of tire rubber, with treads, and the lamps look like traffic cones, and the kitchenette looks like those heavy duty tool chests you’d normally see in a garage. But the real fun is outside: the property is dotted with friends: Mater, Doc, Sally, Luigi and Guido, Ramone, and of course Lightning McQueen. The pool is styled after the Cozy Cone Motel, and a giant orange pilon was our cabana. But further down, the Finding Nemo pool is even bigger, with a splash pad, and all the fish friends you’d expect to see. And even further are Timon & Pumba, Scar, Simba, and Rafiki, and an elephant graveyard to play in, and lastly, a whole bunch of Ariel’s collection, thingamabobs and dinglehoppers galore, plus Ursula, King Triton, and the Little Mermaid herself, all surrounding yet another pool. We swam, of course, in two of the pools and one of the splash pads. We even watched a bit of Up from the pool, which the boys thought was the bee’s knees.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh and Sean and I went to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You know that big ole castle that’s the iconic backdrop to the Magic Kingdom itself? Yeah, we ate there, no big deal. And we met Cinderella! And her friends: Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, and Jasmine, who asked me if Sean was my “diamond in the rough.” I must have looked skeptical because she then offered “…in the scruff?” and she nailed it because Sean never fails to ‘forget’ his razor when we travel. Not only did we feast on The Clock Strikes Midnight chocolate mousse, and a white chocolate glass slipper, and some Francis Ford Coppola merlot, we had a window seat for Disney’s famous fireworks show. #Spoiled.