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Are There “Small” Choices? Free will versus Fate in “The Adjustment Bureau” and “The Good Place”

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers for “The Adjustment Bureau” and “The Good Place” through season 3. If you haven’t seen either of these shows, I suggest you bookmark this page and return to it after watching them. The article is below the trailers.

In “The Adjustment Bureau,” Senate candidate David Norris, played by Matt Damon, finds himself confronted by a shadowy organization of supernatural beings, who answer to the Chairman. The Chairman has set mankind on a path so that it doesn’t destroy itself. Norris’ burgeoning relationship with Elise, played by Emily Blunt, threatens this plan.

Norris is told that humanity has the illusion of free will. He can choose the brand of toothpaste he wants or what beverage to have with lunch, but some choices are made for him with an adjustment by the shadowy organization. It can be as something as small as spilling coffee or missing keys, or it can be something larger like a mind scan. These things affect what people do and thus affect the path they take in their lives. In this scenario, the type of toothpaste or beverage one chooses has no effect on the outcome of his or her life or the way the world will go.

Flip to “The Good Place,” a surprisingly smart sit-com that deserves a better designation. When people die, they are sent either to the good place or to the bad place based on how points they scored while alive. However, no one has gotten into the good place in 521 years because life and its choices are too complicated to sort out. A good deed can have several bad consequences, that though unintended, count against the person doing the good deed. (For example, a boy scout saves an old lady from being hit by a bus, but the old lady is a serial killer; the boy scout would get negative points, even though he had no way of knowing about her and actually believed he was doing the right thing.) In this world, selecting a toothpaste or choosing the wrong drink to have with lunch could have dire enough consequences to send someone to the bad place.

So, which is it? If we have free will, are there small choices? And if we’re constrained by some master plan? Which of our choices would affect our after-life destination and/or how the world would change as we make them? How would we know?

These questions are hard to answer. The only things we can do are treat each other with kindness and make the best decisions available to us with the information we have at the time we have to make those decisions. That still means we have to overcome our defects and work hard to improve ourselves and our decision-making abilities. With the Internet and media literacy, there’s no excuse for being uninformed. But starting with kindness, compassion and empathy towards others will make those decisions much easier.

Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories” for ideas on how to improve your creativity for better life and world.

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Disneyland Attractions and Their Movies

Partners statue in Disneyland

Many Disneyland attractions already have movie attached to them. The Jungle Cruise will get its eponymous movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in 2020, though the boat designs were based on 1951’s “The African Queen.” The Indiana Jones Adventure has a series of films and a TV show based on the popular character; there are rumors of a fifth film in the works for 2021. Tarzan’s Treehouse is connected to Disney’s animated feature of the same name and was formerly known as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; the Swisskapolka is still played in memoriam of the former incarnation. This leaves only the Enchanted Tiki Room as an attraction in Adventureland without a movie.

The Pirates of the Caribbean has had five movies based on it. A sixth one was scheduled but the writers walked out and Disney has yet to clarify whether the reboot will move forward. The Haunted Mansion had a terrible movie made about it and deserves a do-over. Tom Sawyer’s Island, based on the Mark Twain stories of Tom and Huck Finn with a pirate overlay, has a movie starring JTT and the tie-in to the Pirates of the Caribbean. The seasonal Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes have the surprise hit of the 1950s “Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier,” which started on the weekly Disney TV show and moved to the theaters after it became so popular. New Orleans Square is pretty much covered unless you want to count the Blue Bayou or Club 33 as attractions.

Critter Country’s Splash Mountain is based on the never-to-be-seen-in-the-U.S.-again “The Song of the South,” and Winnie the Pooh has several films, and TV shows – most recently, “Christopher Robin.” The Country Bear Jamboree also got a movie; however, the film released after the show was evicted from the premises.

Over at Frontierland, the Mark Twain doesn’t have its own movie; neither does the Sailing Ship Columbia or Big Thunder Mountain. Big Thunder Mountain does have a series of comic books. The Golden Horseshoe Stage was designed by Harper Goff who also did the saloon in “Calamity Jane.” The Shooting Exposition is another attraction that is missing a movie. But does it deserve one?

Fantasyland is all about the mostly animated films of Walt Disney, which contributed to the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” From “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Frozen,” just about every attraction has a movie to go with it. “Dumbo” and “Alice in Wonderland” are represented twice, and that’s not including the miniatures in Storybookland Canals. Even the Matterhorn is tied to “Third Man on the Mountain.” It’s a small world, however, does not.

Toon Town is also replete with films, or at least, the short cartoons of Disney’s past. Home to the Big Five, Toon Town also features nods to the Disney Afternoon with Gadget’s Go Coaster. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” provides the framework for Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin.

Tomorrowland has its own movie, which was better than it was given credit for. The attractions in Tomorrowland mainly rely on “Star Wars,” “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo for their themes. The exceptions are Space Mountain, the Monorail, the Astro Orbitor and Autopia.

Main Street U.S.A.’s attractions appear to be completely ignored by Disney’s movie making machine. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Penny Arcade, and the Main Street Cinema are all attractions without movies though Disney did distribute “Lincoln” in 2012. None of the vehicles on the street have their own films.

So, which of the attractions that do not have films should be made into a movie? Or is Disney going to need to create new attractions to find the next Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Leave your comments below, include a possible plotline, just keep it PG.

Thinking deeply about a subject is part of becoming more creative. If you like Disney, a great place to start to think deeply and improve your creativity is with “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” for a more in-depth analysis of my favorite ride. For other articles related to Disney check out these links.

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‘Mary Poppins Returns’ with a message the world will needs but will miss.

The original “Mary Poppins” is a ground-breaking cinematic achievement that is as magical today as it was in 1964. There’s no way a sequel could match it, and if this is the reason some people don’t like “Mary Poppins Returns,” they’re missing out on a story that this world, at this time, desperately needs and will probably fail to hear. “Mary Poppins Returns” isn’t about saving the children or saving the father; it’s about saving ourselves.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is similar to the 1964 “Mary Poppins” that it’s a sequel to. There are songs, hand-drawn animation combined with live action, a bunch of working-class men doing dancing in the most preposterous of ways, a female character fighting for a cause, a weird relation who’s facing an impossible affliction and a father whose situation has caused him to forget all of the things he learned as a child when Mary Poppins was his nanny.

From a time before the film was released, it was clear:

  • Emily Blunt is no Julie Andrews.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda is no Dick Van Dyke.
  • Meryl Streep is no Ed Wynn, but you might not recognize her either.
  • Marc Shaiman is no Sherman Brothers.

I should probably repeat that last statement. There isn’t a tune that I was humming at the end of the movie. “Mary Poppins” gave us “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Feed the Birds,” “Step in Time,” and “Chim-Chim-Cheree,” which won the academy award. “Mary Poppins Returns” gives us…

Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, go see “Mary Poppins Returns.” It’s grown up a little while keeping most of its innocence intact. (The “Book by It’s Cover” Sequence is a bawdy vaudeville style song.)