Disney CEO Bob Iger shocked the business world by announcing his decision to step down from the company’s top position. He led Disney through some of its largest expansions – both in terms of intellectual property (IP) through acquiring Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm and 21st Century Fox, and parks built or expanded, including Shanghai Disneyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. In his book “The Ride of a Lifetime” (affiliate link), Iger allows the reader to see what he has learned during his tenure at the Disney Company, where he started at the bottom and worked his way up.Continue reading ‘Ride of a Lifetime’ Offers Iger’s Lessons Learned at Disney
Spoiler Alert: There may or may not be spoilers for the movie “Onward” in this review. Read at your own risk, or bookmark this page and go see the film. Come back to read the review after.Continue reading ‘Onward’ Returns Pixar Original Storytelling Magic to Cinema
“Frozen 2” is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original. The team, somehow, remained true to the source material, created characters that are like real people, and explored several levels of story depth, including creativity and what people are really like. I loved “Frozen” so much that my roommates in Malta got me Olaf themed gifts for Christmas. I’m not saying I planned our entire New Zealand trip around the release of “Frozen 2,” so I could see it in English, but… In case I need to say it, spoilers after the trailer.Continue reading ‘Frozen 2’ Builds on its Predecessor while Exploring Creativity and Revealing Human Nature
For a variety of reasons, my family and I couldn’t make it to the D23 Expo 2019 this year. But since it is a Disney event, I feel confident that it’s okay to dream about being there. So, here are the panels and events I would most like to do if I were able to go.
Friday, August 23, 2019
While most people would hit the Disney Legends ceremony, and it is always spectacular, I tend to opt for an easier seat at another panel. This year would be different though. I would head to the Disney Legends ceremony and bask in all its glory. If for some reason, I couldn’t get into the Legends ceremony, I would head to “Great Moments with Walt Disney” and “At Work with Walt.” Both would be interesting, and they’re back-to-back at the Archives Stage where I spent most of my time in 2017.
I would then head over to the Disney+ Showcase because we all know I’m going to sign up for that as soon as I can. People at D23 who sign up for the streaming app will get a discount and become Founders, so that would be something I wouldn’t want to miss. I have my D23 Charter Membership, I would want to make sure I get the same thing with Disney+. This presentation may not allow me to sign up for it, but it would give me a better idea of what’s in store.
Then I would hustle back to the Archives Stage to see if there was space for the “In Search of the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse” panel. That would give me about an hour on the floor to see what books are available to make sure to stop by the Sweep Spot booth to pick up their new book with autographs!
Saturday, August 24, 2019
This is another of those days when I should probably hit the big panel, but I don’t actually want to know about films before they come out. I like being surprised. Saturday morning is still jampacked, so there’s no way to go wrong with the panel choices, and in this case, it’s a toss-up for me. Do I go see “Women of Impact: Meet the Nat Geo Explorers Changing the World” or do I go to “Digging Deeper: Uncovering Disney’s Hidden History?” Nat Geo could be inspirational and provide actionable ideas on how to change the world for the better, but I love Disney history. I would probably have to discuss the panels with my family, but today, I am leaning toward the History panel. It’s at the Archives Stage.
The panel of the day would be “The Haunted Mansion: Celebrating 50 Years.” Considering the book I wrote in celebration of the Haunted Mansion and that it’s my favorite attraction of all time, this would be my “not miss” panel of the day. It’s at 12:30 and at the D23 Expo Arena.
From there, I would head over to the Archives Stage to see “Ken Anderson’s Haunted Mansion ‘57: A Year of Horror, Humor and… Voodoo?” Ken Anderson is one of the heroes of the haunted mansion, and he paved the way for the attraction we all know and love today. It starts at 3pm, so I should have plenty of time to get there. The next panel I would like to see is in the same place. “Collecting the Creepy: 50 years of Haunted Mansion Merchandise” would be right up my alley.
The last panel of the day would be “Travels with Marty: A Conversation with the Sklars and Imagineers.” It’s on the Archives Stage as well. That leaves about an hour to look at the floor booths and get my Indie book buy on.
The only other panels on Saturday that give me pause for thought are the “Secret Walt Disney Company Project,” which could be anything! ANYTHING! (and will be announced on August 22), and “Marvel Comics: Marvel 80th Anniversary.” There’s a good chance that people going to the latter will get some sort of comic book out of the deal. No guarantee, just a good chance.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
The morning’s “Sneak Peek! Disney Parks, Experiences and Projects” is sure to be crowded and to be the premiere presentation. If I could get in, it would be my first choice. It would also mean missing out on “Heroines of the Disney Galaxies Presented by Box Lunch” and “Marc Davis in His Own Words – Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks” or “Hidden Gems of the Walt Disney Animation Research Library.” All three of these panels will be amazing. Marc Davis was essential to bringing humor to the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Imagine what could be in the research library… Yeah, it’s like that. Still, I would try for the Sneak Peek first.
Between the Sneak Peek and the next panel, I would probably have a little time to get on the floor and go through one or two of the presentations. I would want to see the Haunted mansion D23 Design winners up close and in person.
Then I’d head to the Archives Stage for the 2:30pm “50 Years of the Walt Disney Archives: A Gold Mine of Fun Finds,” and after that in the same place would be “Magic Journey: Tale a Fantastical Ride with Imagineer Kevin Rafferty.” Though I would also think about “The Art of Disney Storytelling” because it fits with what I would like to do for a living. Because of the time conflict, I’m leaning toward the first two.
The last panel of the day would be “Disneyland ’59: Matterhorn, the Monorail, and Submarine Voyage.” If the floor was still open after that, I would make one more pass to make sure I got what I wanted. If any of these fell through, the Center Stage has “Marc Davis and the Masters Behind the Haunted Mansion” from 4:45pm to 5:15pm.
At any convention, there are always tough choices to make. D23 Expo 2019 is no different. The Expo is sold out, but D23 did announce that they will be streaming certain panels. I may be able to settle for that depending on which they choose and what time they are as compared to my time zone. To those that will be there: Have a magical time and think about getting me a souvenir!
Check out our archive website for D23 Expo 2017.
The Walt Disney Company has been considered powerhouse in creative endeavors. With its innovations in animation, movies and theme parks, people associate the Disney brand with creativity. So, aside from my two books, “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” what are the best books about Disney and its creative process? Here are my Top 8:
“Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” – Don Hahn gives readers practical advice for getting more creativity from life. He uses his life experience and his work at Disney to provide some of the best insights and most fun stories for creativity.
“The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity” – The imagineers explore creativity principles and provide examples on how to add more creativity to your everyday life! Use it in conjunction with “The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles” and get your creative muscles in shape.
“The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles” – The imagineers give you some exercise to improve your creative output in this companion book to “The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity.”
“One Little Spark! Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering” – Marty Sklar leads us on an exploration of the rules that imagineers follow to come up with and implement their ideas. Go inside the idea process with the experts at the Walt Disney company.
“Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” – The section on Steve Jobs makes this book about Pixar and creativity worth the read. Ed Catmull does an outstanding job with this story of the Pixar Studios. Read my review at our archive website http://www.penguinate.weebly.com.
“Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms” – Marty Sklar was a prominent imagineer who got his start writing for Disneyland before the park opened. “Dream It! Do It!” is Sklar’s autobiography as it relates to his work with the Walt Disney Company. Check out the review at our archive website http://www.penguinate.weebly.com.
“How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life” – Pat Williams takes an honest and positive look at Walt Disney’s life. Williams pulls out creativity principles using Walt’s biography as the basis for illustrating those principles.
“Walt Disney: An American Original” – Biographies are a great way to get inspired and to dig into what made someone creative. Bob Thomas’ seminal work on Walt Disney was released not long after Disney’s death. It is one of the most accurate portrayals of Walt’s life and how he accomplished what he did. Start here before looking at the more modern biography by Neal Gabler.
Tell us which book on Disney and creativity is your favorite!
In improv comedy, you never want to shut down the person you’re on stage with. Even if you have no idea how something is going to be funny, you need to take what you’re given and add to it. The phrase is “Yes, and…” Because improv is creative and difficult enough, negating someone’s idea will shut down the comedy as it destroys the other person’s confidence.
Walt Disney knew instinctively that creativity came from the “Yes.” People who said “no” were always looking at how not to do things and that’s what they would end up doing – nothing. When Walt proposed something that sounded crazy, the answer was always “Yes.” Sometimes, there was a qualifier and the answer was “Yes, if…” People who said “No” to Walt often found themselves unemployed.
When creating the effect for the Rainbow Caverns, Heinz Haber told imagineer Claude Coats that it would be statistically impossible to keep the colors separate form each other. They would be gray within a week. When Coats relayed Haber’s assessment to Walt, Walt said, “Well, it’s fun to do the impossible” (according to MiceChat). Walt trusted his people to find a way to accomplish the impossible because he believed in the power of “Yes.” As long as someone thought they could or they thought that Walt thought they could, they usually did.
For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity,” “the Haunted Mansion Is Creativity,” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories,” and join our Patreon. For more on the Disney Company, get “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”
As a Penguinator, does it make sense to be critical of Disney California Adventure (DCA)? No one at the Disney Company is likely to read this post and think, “Oh, yeah, we did forget that,” or “Schnikey! We need to fix that ASAP,” especially if I were to leave this post private and for Penguinators only instead of giving you an advanced viewing opportunity. I don’t have any Disney employees on my Patreon list that I’m aware of, and I’m decently certain there aren’t any that visit my blog. Even if there were, the company is notorious for not accepting unsolicited ideas from outside.
Besides, anything I say has already been said by someone else and probably thought of by the imagineers. Still, as a mental exercise to improve creativity, looking at DCA provides the opportunity to unleash the judge, find what’s wrong with the current park, and figure out how to make it better. Imagineers can talk about the idea of Blue Sky thinking where everything goes and there are no rules, but in the end, they are constrained by the park’s current footprint and the bean counter’s budget, which would include the opportunity cost of any major renovation that would significantly change the park. We have no similar constraints if we choose to offer up possible solutions to the DCA problem. We can truly engage in Blue Sky thinking without reference to financial consequences, thinking only about what’s wrong with DCA and what would make the park better.
Where’s the Theme, Park?
Disneyland changed the amusement park industry by, among other things, theming itself and its lands. Walt Disney established early on that spacemen and cars don’t go into Frontierland, and the cowboys stay out of Tomorrowland. The sightlines were created so that people viewing a building on Main Street, U.S.A. would see a different roof than they would see when viewing the same building from Adventureland.
The berm with its train and trees was devised to keep the rest of the world from interfering with the guests’ ability to suspend disbelief. When coupled with the negotiated rules that Anaheim passed for buildings outside the park, guest don’t see anything that Disney doesn’t want them to see (beyond the occasional plane or helicopter flying overhead). Even with Tomorrowland’s current shortcomings (there are plenty of them) and the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, Disneyland is all about theming – right down to the dolls making the popcorn in the popcorn carts.
As ill-conceived as it may have been to put a theme park about California in California when a majority of Disneyland visitors are from California, DCA was themed appropriately when it opened. The Sunshine Plaza was upbeat and California themed through and through. Hollywood Backlot Studios had the glamour of the 1930s. Golden State celebrated the architecture of the Bay Area, and Paradise Pier took its cue from the Beach and Boardwalk parks. Condor Flats took on California’s aviation history, and Grizzly River Peak with the neighboring Redwood Trail were a tribute to California’s north. The park may not have been good when it opened, but it was themed.
Unfortunately, the theme wasn’t the right one, and the Disney Company had to come up with ways to get people to spend their money to go over to their second gate. Bug’s Land was added to appeal to youngsters. Not really California themed, but it didn’t intrude on the rest of the park, and there were bug’s in California. “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” was built in the backlot; the perfect place for it. As a hotel from Hollywood’s glamor days of the late 1930’s, the Tower of Terror fit in with the rest of the theme.
When “Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue” opened in 2006, it signaled the beginning of the end for DCA’s theming. Placed in Hollywood in the same area as the defunct Superstar Limo ride that lasted less than a year; Mike and Sulley weren’t (and still aren’t) Hollywood themed. Still the monsters occupy a prominent place in Hollywoodland as one of the two rides in the area – the other one being the Tower of Terror.
In 2008, Paradise Pier saw the opening of the beloved Toy Story Midway Mania. Set within the games of the pier, Midway Mania could be forgiven its intrusion; even if its story, guests being shrunk down to the size of toys so they could play the game, didn’t fit with the theme, the game element of the attraction worked. With Mr. Potato Head playing the Midway Mania Barker, the Toy Story characters didn’t do much to detract from the theme though no self-respecting boardwalk would have such a sophisticated game during the time that Paradise Pier was supposed to reflect. (And let’s face it, Midway Mania is one of the best attractions in either park.)
Other rides on Paradise Pier were rethemed over the next three years to include Disney characters. Mickey’s Fun Wheel received a new paint job and a giant Mickey Head. The Orange Stinger became the Silly Symphonies Swings and Mullholland Madness became Goofy’s Sky School. Within the singular concept of the ride, the retheming of the last two was brilliant. The Silly Symphony Swingers opens up to reveal a painting of Mickey Mouse conducting the band from “the Band Concert,” which isn’t from the Silly Symphony series (highlighting the theming problem again). Still, the use of the whirlwind cartoon on the swings support pole is a great idea. Goofy’s Sky School is just “plane” fun. The problem is that none of the changes align with the area’s theming at the time, and these rides are exactly that – rides – not attractions. These are off-the-shelf, experience-them-at-your-local-carnival rides.
While hyped tremendously as a new attraction for the park, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure quickly became DCA’s version of Snow White’s Scary Adventure. At seemingly twice the size and half the fun, this show-stopping, audio-animatronic disappointingly doesn’t carry the story far enough or strongly enough. Still, it’s routinely 5-minute wait time makes it a nice place to take a break from the heat, and it features some interesting advances – the descent into the sea and the Ursula figure. It’s still in the wrong place. The Little Mermaid has nothing to do with California or Paradise Pier.
In 2012, DCA attempted to keep with the California theming and connect to its mythical beginnings. Missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on its largest changes, the park turned the Sunshine Plaza into Buena Vista Street of 1923, the time when Walt Disney arrived in California with a suitcase and a dream. The Carthay Circle Theater was opened and fit in with the Tower of Terror in the background, but Cars Land with its decidedly Arizona feel debuted at the same time. Arizona isn’t California. How is Cars Land a part of the California Adventure? It’s not, thematically speaking.
In 2016, the popular Soarin’ Over California was replace with Soarin’ Around the World. California is not the world, and the world is not California. In 2017, the Guardians of the Galaxy took over the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and, in one fell swoop destroyed the themes of Hollywoodland, Grizzly Peak Airfield and Buena Vista Street. These are both popular and fun attractions, but popular and fun aren’t a theme, and the original versions were just as popular and fun.
In 2018, Paradise Pier became Pixar Pier. Pixar isn’t a theme. It’s a collection of (if the Internet is to believed) vaguely related films with different settings. Even if Pixar properties were relegated to Pixar Pier, the them wouldn’t work. Mixing the superheroes of “The Incredibles,” the shrinking you down to toy size of Midway Mania and Jessie’s Critter Carousel, and the Inside/Out characters of the mind isn’t a theme; it’s a cacophony. Add to it that Mickey’s Fun Wheel and Flik’s Flyers just received paint jobs, with no significant changes otherwise, to go along with the Pixar theme and it looks like Disney has just decided to throw in the towel. They probably could’ve left Flik’s Flyers alone since it was a Pixar film and the theming would’ve worked with Midway Mania, but “A Bug’s Life” has other problems when it comes to theme parks.
Leftovers from Paradise Pier, the Golden Zephyr and Jumpin’ Jellyfish make no sense in terms of theming. They aren’t related to Pixar or Disney characters and only represent the former California Beachside aesthetic. With all of the incohesive changes, Disney California Adventure doesn’t really celebrate Disney or California. Instead, it focuses on providing Pixar a place to put its movie franchises. Things won’t be much better when Marvel joins the scene with its own land. Marvel Land will be able to adopt Guardians of the Galaxy, but this will leave the Red Car Trolley out in the cold and gut the main attractions of Hollywoodland – the Marvel Meet and Greets.
This mishmash of rides and attractions keeps DCA from achieving greatness through theming. Instead it’s a great example of what Disneyland never wanted to be – an amusement park (except DCA is clean and the cast members are friendly).
Why Bug’s Land Had to Change
While the new Marvel Land may not fix DCA’s theming, it does address another relatively small problem: the relevancy of A Bug’s Land. Based on the 1998 Pixar film “a bug’s life,” the land opened in 2002. The land itself was made to be attractive to the younger set, except the 4D film experience “It’s Tough to Be a Bug,’ which was terrifying for some adults. It’s environmental and educational feel was a welcome respite from some of the larger areas of the park, but there was no way these bugs could survive.
The film itself was not one of Pixar’s best. It earned $363 million at the box office, but without a sequel, TV shows, or a cuddly, iconic character, the film has no relevance to today’s children. How many people even remember the film without confusing it for “Antz”? Disney’s classic animation fare has been able to remain relevant through marketing (specifically, the creation of the Princess line, which keeps all of the princesses in the public light as long as new princesses are added every couple of years or so) rereleases and remakes. These movies hold up even through the changing times, and the theming of the lands act as a crutch.
Attractions at Disneyland also remain relevant through the sheer size and scope. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are iconic, beloved attractions that create their own atmosphere and fans. Flik’s Flyers? Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies (which were not bumper cars)? Francis Ladybug Boogie… Does anyone even remember this ride? These were all rides with no real creation to them and without a Dumbo to keep them aloft. Only Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train seemed to make an effort to provide something akin to a new place to visit.
With nothing new on the bug front, DCA needed to come up with something new. Marvel provided the answer. As long as they stay away from the now deceased Iron Man, the land will remain relevant for the next few decades.
World of Color’s and Incredicoaster’s Footprints
The World of Color, which debuted in 2013, is arguably the best show in DCA. The fountains are spectacular, the water screens are amazing, the pyrotechnics are amazing, and the show is flexible enough to be changed almost on the fly to advertise new movies subtly and include new animated sequences. One Christmas show featured the magic of snowflakes a foot in diameter that floated up into the sky. Even the dining options and the viewing areas that go with them are incredible.
The investment in the equipment that Disney made and the popularity of the show make changing the venue area around the show basically impossible. Imagineers are constrained by the World of Color’s space needs.
Just as constraining is the space required for a lesser attraction, the now-called Incredicoaster. Wait times for this attraction hover around 25 minutes, but it is still large enough and technically advanced to warrant protection by the bean counters. It’s change over from California Screamin’ is also an advance in storytelling, especially when it comes to roller coasters.
By Any Other Name
When it first opened, the park was called Disney’s California Adventure. Ironically, it didn’t include Buena Vista street, but was more the company’s interpretation of what California was. Wine country, the Bay Area, the Redwoods, these were all represented. Yes, critics wondered why people would want to see the Disney version of the Golden Gate Bridge when it was just a seven-hour drive up north or a 2-hour flight. Still, that’s what Michael Eisner and his team came up with.
It changed its name to Disney California Adventure in 2010. Linguistically, this could mean that this park is an adventure in California Disney-style. Something along the lines of “have yourself a Disney California Adventure.” It doesn’t have to have the California theming in order to work, except it’s already associated with its first incarnation, and the California parts haven’t been drummed out of it. Choosing another name might work better as far as managing expectations, but it doesn’t change the fact that the park has no cohesive theming.
People come to Disneyland and its related theme parks for the cleanliness, the wonderful cast members and the theming. In its effort to cash in on its acquired IP, the Disney Company has forgotten about the theming at least as far as Disney California Adventure is concerned. Maybe they’ll get it fixed sometime in the future, but for now DCA will suffer from its continued lack of relevance and inability to inspire people to come for more than a day.
It’s our turn for Blue Sky thinking! What could Disney do to make California Adventure better?
The Walt Disney Company traditionally rereleased its animated classics to theaters about once every seven years. Even as video cassettes were becoming popular, Disney kept its animated classics “in the vault” and off the shelves. Rereleasing films was profitable because Disney could fill out its movie slate for the year with a film that had no additional production costs. The money from the rereleases was almost pure profit minus the advertising budget.
With pent-up adult demand for something from childhood that they could share with their children and the importance of introducing the characters to a whole new generation that would then want to see those characters in the parks, Disney’s rereleases were more than just profitable. They kept the company in the news, and they made the attractions in the parks more relevant to children who otherwise wouldn’t have seen the movies.
The rereleases, in essence, drove profits at the box office and at the parks, especially during some of the Walt Disney Company’s rougher periods. It wasn’t enough.
When Michael Eisner took over the company, things changed drastically as he followed through on Ron Miller’s (the then defunct CEO) plan. For the first time, Disney classics would be available in their entirety on VHS. The video series reaped immediate cash rewards and provided a much need capital input into the company while possibly sacrificing future profits and relevancy in the process.
Eventually, Disney would return videos “to the vault.” The announcement would increase demand for the videos because they would no longer be available for purchase though they would remain on video rental store shelves until the videotapes wore out. Videos would also be released in different versions and levels, including Masterpiece, Gold Series and Platinum series. This strategy kept the profits flowing while also keeping the films and their characters relevant. It still wasn’t enough.
To drive further interest in its intellectual property and keep the park characters relevant, Disney offered up direct-to-video sequels. Unable to rerelease the classics to movie theaters on a wide scale, (Who would go see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on the movie screen when they could stay at home and see the same movie with the family at a much cheaper price?) the new videos were often inferior in quality and storytelling, but they were effective for the price and benefits reaped. On television, other characters made it to Saturday Morning. “Tailspin,” based on the Jungle Book characters, and “Timon and Pumbaa”, based on the Lion King characters, were relatively successful and kept the spirit of the shows (and their related tie-in profits) alive.
Still, Disney needed a way to produce box office profits and buzz with as little risk as possible. Remaking the classics has accomplished that in spades.
In 1994, Disney had a moderate hit ($44 million) with a live action “The Jungle Book” starring Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes and Lena Headley. In 1996, it had a much more successful live action film ($320 million) in the Glenn Close vehicle “101 Dalmatians.”
While some may classify Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” as a remake, it is really a retelling. It has many elements similar to the animated classic but is different enough to rate its own story. Still, it’s $1 billion box office take certainly didn’t deter Disney from the remakes. “Maleficent” ($758 million) is another live action film, based on Disney’s telling of “Sleeping Beauty,” but still different enough to be its own story. Even “Pete’s Dragon” didn’t stick strictly to the script of the original. “Christopher Robin” (not quite $200 million) and “Dumbo” ($352 million on a $170 million budget – whoever authorized that budget didn’t understand why the firs was released) had different storylines compared to the originals and were considered flops as they didn’t score highly with critics or at the box office.
“The Jungle Book” (2016), which almost made $1 billion, featured groundbreaking cinematography and stuck close to the original animated feature. “Beauty and the Beast” was a lot like the original, too, and this may be the beginning of the downfall because it brought in $1.2 billion. Why write a new script if you can just use the old one?
Enter the ultra-busy actor, producer, executive producer, director, chef and whatever else Jon Favreau. Favreau is responsible for directing “Iron Man” and for starring as Happy in several of the Marvel films. He’s taken part in the “Star Wars” movies and shows Disney has/is creating. He is also the producer and director of “The Lion King” and “The Jungle Book” (2016). He made a cooking show in his spare time “The Chef Show” because he missed the time that he spent with the chef that taught him how to cook on his movie “Chef.” Look up his IMDB and be amazed, and then understand the problem.
Favreau’s box office dominance isn’t in question. His ability to be original is. When someone is so busy with as many projects as he is, it’s inevitable that he or she will take the easiest road. Adapting “the Lion King” from the old script and giving it originality, in addition to wrangling the photo-realistic “not” animation, would’ve have been too much if it were the only project on his plate. After all, “The Lion King” made almost $1 billion.
More importantly, it’s beloved by millions of fans the world over. If he had messed it up by taking a risk to make it more original, he would’ve seen his career with Disney take a dive. Favreau had no choice but to fulfill expectations and keep the animals looking live-action rather than animated. Follow the script and no one gets hurt, except those parts that living animals couldn’t literally do – like dress in drag and do the hula or march in fascistic fashion.
Favreau was out in a no-win situation. In order for the “not” animated “Lion King” to have been a better film, he would’ve needed to cut some of the fluff (literally and figuratively) out of the film while concentrating on character and using human expressions to get the animals to show emotion. He would’ve needed to take a risk in the same way that the gorgeous and expensive Broadway show took a risk. He would’ve needed to lead the innovation and story team to bring something new to the screen that would’ve added to the film’s legacy. He didn’t have the time to do what he needed to do to make the film better, so rather than create something new, he took the safe road to profitability. And we’re all creatively the worst for it.
Great for creativity and a sneak peek at the creative process at the Disney Company.
“Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt’s Dream Spotless” is a detail-oriented explanation of what it is like to be a member of Disneyland’s highly touted and highly effective custodial team. Ken Pellman and Lynn Barron tell great stories in bite-sized chunks that make this an easy and entertaining read, especially if you have any sort of connection to Disneyland throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. They don’t shy away from more difficult topics, like vomit, slacking or death. They give an honest appraisal of what it was like to work at Disneyland.
Fortunately, the in-depth analysis of Disneyland Custodial is totally worth sorting through the errors. From a short history of the leadership to the nuts and bolts of everyday life, to seniority and unions, Pellman and Barron reveal it all. Tony Baxter makes a couple of guest appearances as do some other Disney celebs.
Whether you want to know why Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Eye was down so often or you just want to know why someone would choose to be a janitor, “Cleaning the Kingdom” makes for an informative and fun read. Pellman and Barron run the Sweep Spot podcast and have Patreon page. They save the best in their book for last, with pages 398 through 422 being the reasons that you should purchase this book, especially if you need more positivity and joy in your life.
This article was originally published at www.penguinate.weebly.com. It has been edited and updated.