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Chris Queen

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered office manager for an IT managed services provider, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net.
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10 Disney Cartoons From The 1930s That Reflect The Can-Do Spirit That Survived The Great Depression

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend and editor David Swindle published an open letter to me dividing the history of Disney animation into ten eras and encouraging me to explore the history of Disney through the same frame of mind. Here is the first in a series looking at the eras of Disney history.

As the United States slid into the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s, Disney’s output grew tremendously in quality and quantity. Walt and his team of animators and writers released plenty of entertaining product, but they also experimented, honing existing techniques and developing new ones. A struggling nation loved what it saw and couldn’t get enough.

Disney’s output during this time period reflects a uniquely American can-do spirit, one that helped this country survive the Great Depression in both determination and innovation. Here are ten great examples.

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10. “The Golden Touch” (1935)

The 1935 cartoon “The Golden Touch” carries a special significance not because of any achievement but because of its failure – and because Walt himself directed it. The short, which tells the story of King Midas, has more of the feel of an episode of the Twilight Zone than a charming Disney animated cartoon.

Walt took control of “The Golden Touch” after a period in which he had criticized his directors repeatedly. He had not directed a cartoon in five years. The short, with only two characters, ran long on time and budget. The characters lack the appeal and much of the humor of typical Disney characters, and the story takes a dark turn with little of the typical Disney optimism at the end.

As a direct result of the failure of “The Golden Touch,” Walt learned to trust his talented directors, and he allowed them to continue to create, which of course allowed him to oversee the company that would change entertainment forever.

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10 Relatively Healthier (Yet Still Tasty) Recipes for Southern Classics

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cauvel

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cauvel

A few days ago, I shared with you a list of ten decadent Southern classic recipes. The problem with so much Southern cuisine is that many dishes are so heavy and fattening. Sure, our ancestors ate such unhealthy meals and lived to pass them on, but our desk-job, technology-dependent lifestyles can’t offer us the same guarantees as did a lifetime of toiling on the farm or at the mill.

So this week, I’m sharing a list of lighter recipes for Southern classics. I’m following the same format as my earlier list, roughly mimicking the courses of a meal. Some of these recipes are healthier alternatives to the ones featured in the first list, while others are new ideas for good-for-you Southern fare. Enjoy!

10. Corn Maque Choux Chicken Pasta

A good cook can take classic delicacies and make them work, but a great cook can elevate them and create something new and special.

Elizabeth Cauvel, one of my favorite competitors on this season of MasterChef (and, like me, a University of Georgia alum), recently took the New Orleans classic Corn Maque Choux – a corn- and pepper-based dish — and added chicken and pasta to create a flavorful, yet still light (even with the heavy cream in the recipe, it’s lighter than just about anything deep fried), fusion of Cajun and Italian styles. This dish can be a substitute for a salad, or a great starter or side.

Ingredients for the poached chicken
3 cups water
1 lemon
salt
2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts

Ingredients for the pasta
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 and ½ red bell peppers, diced small
3 ears of fresh corn, boiled then kernels cut off
1 jalapeno, diced small, with or without seeds to your taste (seeds make it spicier)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. paprika
½ cup dry white wine
1/3 cup reserved chicken poaching liquid
leaves of fresh thyme picked from 10-12 sprigs
pinch dried oregano
½ pint of heavy cream
salt and pepper
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
¾ lb. rigatoni

Directions
Poach the chicken: bring water to a boil with a generous pinch of salt. Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice in the water then just drop the lemon halves in. Bring down to medium heat, add chicken, cover, and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from poaching liquid (reserving the liquid) and cool until you can touch it, then pull the meat from the bones. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and red bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 6-8 minutes, until getting soft.

Add the corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, paprika, oregano, and thyme. Stir it around and cook it all together for 4-5 minutes. Add the white wine and reserved poaching liquid and turn the heat up to high. Cook until the liquid reduces by half and you can no longer taste raw wine (the alcohol taste must be gone).

Add the heavy cream to the corn mixture. It will be quite liquidy at this point but you just keep the heat on high and reduce it until it’s thickened. Taste it and adjust seasoning.

Boil the rigatoni in salted water. When they’re about 2 minutes shy of al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly into the sauce (it’s ok if the pasta is dripping; you want some cooking liquid). Stir the pasta into the sauce and add a ladleful of pasta cooking water. The sauce should still be on high. Stir the pasta around, letting it finish cooking in the sauce. The pasta water will cook out and you may need to add more until the pasta is perfectly al dente.

Stir in chicken. Serve in shallow bowls with fresh cilantro on top. Enjoy!

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10 Decadent Classic Southern Dishes

Saturday, September 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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If there’s one thing we Southerners have mastered, it’s food. Some of the best cuisine in the world is from Dixie, and I think it’s time we celebrate it. Here’s a list of ten of the most decadent classic Southern dishes. My hope is that you’ll read these recipes and be inspired to cook — and if you’re not familiar with Southern cuisine, maybe you’ll try something new.

Instead of a typical countdown list format, I’ve structured this list much in the way a meal may arrive at a restaurant table — starters, sides, main courses, and desserts. Enjoy!

10. Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is a staple in Southern refrigerators — a simple, versatile recipe. Creamy and smooth,  yet with an appealing sharpness, pimento cheese is perfect on a sandwich (with or without bacon) or with crackers. The famed Varsity restaurant in Atlanta and Athens serves it on a chili dog, and Lisa De Pasquale and I recently discovered how good it is on a hamburger.

Maybe I’m biased, but my mom, Marcia Queen, makes the best pimento cheese I’ve ever tasted. You won’t find her name in any cookbooks that I know of, so here’s an exclusive recipe.

Ingredients
2 cups softened sharp cheddar cheese
1 4 oz can diced pimentos, drained
1/2 cup mayo
1 block softened cream cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Mix and enjoy.

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12 Questions with Monti Carlo, MasterChef Season 3 Star and Host of Make My Food Famous

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I recently had the incredible privilege of interviewing my all-time favorite MasterChef contestant, Season 3′s Top 5 finalist Monti Carlo. (Yes, Monti’s my favorite even though Season 4′s Jessie hails from my hometown.) She’s a really cool lady and a true inspiration. She dished on her days on MasterChef, the joys of motherhood, and her new show Make My Food Famous, which debuts this weekend on FYI.

1. What can you tell us about the new show?

I’m so stoked to be hosting Make My Food Famous! It’s a competitive cooking show filmed in some of the best restaurants in the country. Three home cooks get to battle it out in a professional kitchen to get their original recipe on a renowned chef’s menu. The pilot airs this Sunday August 31st on A&E’s FYI Network at 10PM ET/PT, though you should check your local listings since air times are subject to change. It was shot in Manhattan Beach, California, at Michelin-starred chef David LeFevre’s incredible MB Post.

Chef LeFevre has worked with some of modern cuisine’s culinary giants like Ferran Adria and Charlie Trotter. To impress this man enough to showcase your creation on his menu is an almost impossible feat. To do it as a home cook is a near miracle. The show isn’t just for foodies and culinary enthusiasts. It’s also for people that get a kick out of watching someone hustle to make their dreams come true. It is truly inspirational!

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5 Idols that God’s Followers Allow to Get in the Way of Their Relationship with Him

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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These days we don’t really talk much about idols, at least not in the literal sense. We talk about American Idol and teen idols and that sort of thing, but the idols that represent serious sin go unmentioned.

Throughout the Bible, we see the evidence of the damage that idol worship does. After the Exodus, when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the impatient Israelites made a golden calf to worship. For the people of Israel, it was just downhill from there, as idol worship and the unfaithfulness toward God that such worship represented led to a world of trouble for them, including the exile to Babylon.

In the New Testament book of Acts, Jesus’ apostles encountered idol worshipers when they went about spreading the Good News of the Messiah. These worshipers of other gods — and even some of the craftsmen who made the physical idols — stirred up all sorts of strife for the followers of the one true God.

So what relevance does idol worship have for us today? These days, the idols that Jews and Christians follow aren’t graven images per se, but followers of God do allow certain ideas, preferences, and opinions to become idols that get in the way of their relationship with Him. Many of these idols come with the best of intentions, yet they impede the ability to truly follow God.

In the following pages, through an inter-faith dialogue with one of my favorite colleagues here at PJ Lifestyle, Susan L.M. Goldberg, we’re going to look at five idols that God’s followers allow to get in the way of their relationship with Him. Hopefully naming these idols will get some Christians and Jews to think about how they may affect their own relationship with God.

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10 Observations from Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I’ve been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen from its first season. There are certain elements of the show that viewers can see coming from the start – and perhaps those elements lend a comforting familiarity year in and year out — but the mix of personalities keeps the show fresh and fun.

This season, the show’s twelfth, was the best and most interesting yet. The producers must have chosen to focus less on outsized characters and more on genuine talent, because we saw less of the tabloid drama to which we’ve grown accustomed over the last few seasons.

Here are ten observations I’ve made about this season, and each of them play a role in why I love Hell’s Kitchen so much. Check them out…

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10. The Chefs Struggled With Even The Simplest Dishes.

I’d love to see the bill for how much food goes to waste on Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay has such exacting standards that he has no compunction about throwing food away if it doesn’t meet those ideals.

This season was no exception, as it seemed like the chefs struggled with even the simplest of dishes. Overcooked scallops, raw halibut, ruined Beef Wellingtons, unseasoned risottos – one by one, these disgusting dishes went into the trash bins. As the season went on, the condition of the food barely got better.

One would think that, after a dozen seasons, the chefs would bone up on Hell’s Kitchen staples before going on the show. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and we witness the same mistakes year in and year out.

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Robin Williams’ 10 Best Performances

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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The world mourns the passing of one of the truest talents of all time – Robin Williams. The Juilliard-trained comedian and actor won an Oscar, two Emmys, five Grammys, and — dearest to me — became a Disney Legend in 2009. Williams made his struggles with depression and addiction public, yet he was unable to overcome them. But here at PJ Lifestyle, we’re going to celebrate his life. Here are Robin Williams’ ten best performances. I hope you’ll take as much comfort in these wonderful moments as I have.

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10. The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)

One of the most underrated television series of the past season paired Williams with Sarah Michelle Gellar as father-and-daughter partners in an advertising agency. The Crazy Ones featured a terrific ensemble, sharp writing, and plenty of space for Williams to let loose. Williams had his best moments on the show when he had the chance to blend his trademark humor with sweet sentiment (as in the clip above). He couldn’t have a much better alter ego than the character of Simon Roberts — he and the writers even made recovery from addiction a huge part of the character. The Crazy Ones showed such promise, and it’s such a shame that CBS didn’t see fit to give it a second chance.

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The 10 Most Underrated Live-Action Disney Films

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Last week I shared my picks for the ten most overrated films in Disney’s live-action canon. This week, we’re going to take a look at the flip side and explore the most underrated live-action Disney movies.

Believe it or not, some Disney productions just don’t get the respect that they deserve. That fact could be for a number of reasons: the movie didn’t make enough of a dent at the box office, the picture was overshadowed by another film, or the release just hasn’t had time for fans to consider it a classic. Whatever the reason, these ten films have gone underrated for too long. Enjoy!

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10. Pete’s Dragon (1977)

The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Pete’s Dragon.  (I had to have seen Star Wars earlier in the year, because I remember the excitement of a Star Wars watch I received for Christmas, but I just don’t remember it.) Disney first optioned the story of an orphan boy and the dragon he befriends back in the ‘50s, but sat on the property for two decades.

The film contains the hallmarks of a classic – great songs, an Oscar-nominated score, plenty of talent in the cast. Unfortunately, it came near the tail end of the Ron Miller area, which was a low point in quality for the studio. I can’t help but believe that had it debuted at another time in company history, people might remember it more fondly today. Still, it’s worth checking out.

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The 10 Most Overrated Live-Action Disney Films

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Not long ago, I compiled my ranking of the ten most overrated and underrated animated films in the Disney canon. Now it’s time to look at Disney’s live-action output. Over the years, the studio has released an astonishing array of live action movies covering just about every topic and genre. While many of them are indisputable classics, a few of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten. Enjoy!

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10. The Rocketeer (1991)

I had such high hopes for The Rocketeer when it debuted right after I graduated high school. The previews looked amazing, and Disney hyped the film as an exciting period superhero film. I didn’t get a chance to see it until it came out on video, and it disappointed me.

The Rocketeer just isn’t an engaging film. I’ve only been able to make it through one viewing, and the times I’ve tried since, I can’t make it through the whole thing. (The presence of Jennifer Connelly, who I’m convinced is the most boring actress of all time, doesn’t help.)

The Rocketeer showed such promise, but it never delivered on that promise. That’s a shame, because, had it been a better movie, The Rocketeer could have been a classic.

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The 10 Most Underrated Destinations in the South

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Last week I shared my picks for the most overrated destinations in the South, and this week I’m presenting the flip side of that list. Here are ten destinations that don’t always make the list of great places to visit down here in Dixie. Hopefully some of you will consider these places when you book your next vacation. Enjoy!

10. St. Petersburg, FL

On the north side of Tampa Bay, on a peninsula bordering the Gulf of Mexico, sits St. Petersburg. Like its sister city, Tampa, St. Pete boasts beautiful beaches, vibrant attractions, and nightlife. But deep down, St. Petersburg is a funky arts and architecture town masquerading as a mid-sized city.

The architecture of this city encapsulates much of the 20th century’s notable styles, yet nearly all the buildings look like they belong in a city by the water – quintessentially Floridian. The arts scene in St. Pete is strong – museums and bohemian arts communities are nestled all over the city, and one museum in particular holds the largest collection of Salvador Dali’s works in North America.

With an exciting city core and a beach rated number one in America, St. Petersburg has a lot to offer its visitors.

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The 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Chris Queen
Much of Cherokee, NC consists of quaint, kitschy tourist traps that have not changed much since the 1950s like the Pink Motel.

Much of Cherokee, NC, consists of quaint, kitschy tourist traps that have not changed much since the 1950s like the Pink Motel.

As a lifelong Southerner, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s plenty to love about this varied region I adore. But I’ll also admit that certain areas of the South are simply overrated. Here’s my list of the ten most overrated destinations in the South.

10. Cherokee, NC

Let me start this entry by admitting that I love Cherokee. Growing up, we went there a lot for camping trips and vacations, and my mom’s family did too a generation before me. There’s a lot to enjoy about Cherokee: the history – especially the Trail of Tears play Unto These Hills – and the breathtaking scenery. But beyond that, most of what Cherokee has to offer is kitschy tourism which has changed little since the mid-20th century.

What has created the hype that has made Cherokee overrated? Harrah’s, of course. Harrah’s promotes Cherokee as some sort of amazing resort destination, but that’s not what Cherokee is. If you’re looking for history, natural beauty, and tacky retro-tourism, Cherokee’s your place. If you want to gamble and party, go to the casino and nothing more, because you’ll come away disappointed.

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The 10 Funniest Episodes of Seinfeld

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Twenty-five years ago, a sitcom pilot titled The Seinfeld Chronicles debuted on NBC. A year later, the network gave the show, retitled Seinfeld, a try. Unlike what usually happens today, NBC nurtured the series and let it build a following. Today many critics and fans see Seinfeld as a high-water mark in television comedy, and in honor of its 25th anniversary, here are the ten funniest episodes.

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10. “The Puffy Shirt”

By its fifth season, Seinfeld was at a bit of a crossroad. The fourth season had raised the bar creatively (one of the show’s writers referred to it as “our Sgt. Pepper year”), and the show was more popular than ever. Could they top themselves? After an uneven debut, the season’s second outing, “The Puffy Shirt,” showed that the team had plenty of creativity left in them.

In this episode, Jerry politely agrees with Kramer’s “low-talking” fashion designer girlfriend, not hearing what she said. Next thing he knows, he’s stuck wearing one of her creations on the Today show – a ridiculous pirate-inspired puffy shirt.

Naturally, Jerry embarrasses himself on national television, and the design goes nowhere. But in between are some memorable moments – Jerry whining, “But I don’t want to be a pirate”; Bryant Gumbel’s incredulous reaction to Jerry’s shirt; and two homeless men in the final scene wearing the shirts that have been donated to charity. “The Puffy Shirt” proved that the series still had plenty of life in it.

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10 Ideas For How I’d Build A Star Wars Land At Walt Disney World

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Filmmaker George Lucas meets "Star Wars"-inspired Disney characters at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

The rumors of a forthcoming Star Wars land at Walt Disney World keep raising their heads from time to time. So I thought it would be fun to put myself in the Imagineers’ shoes and (to use their term) blue-sky some ideas for a Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Here’s what I came up with…

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10. A Mos Eisley Cantina Restaurant

One of the prevailing rumors surrounding a potential Star Wars land at Walt Disney World (and other parks) concerns a restaurant based on the Chalmun’s Cantina at Mos Eisley. A.J. Wolfe over at Disney Food Blog has discussed the idea of a Cantina-based quick service space potentially coming to Disneyland Paris as well as to Orlando.

This idea has a ton of potential. I can picture an animatronic version of the band playing music from the films and dishes themed to the Cantina, along with menu items that conjure up life on Tatooine. Of course, a Walt Disney World Cantina would have to be much more family-oriented than in A New Hope, but I imagine how much fun a Cantina could be for fans of all ages.

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14 Fascinating Inventors and Innovators from the South

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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After my post a few weeks ago debunking myths about the South, the idea came to me to look into different inventors from Dixie.

I found that, as with many regions of the country, most Southern inventors came up with products we don’t use anymore or don’t really think about. But some really fascinating inventions and innovations originated in the minds of Southern men and women.

From agricultural advances to technological breakthroughs to revolutionary beverages, the South can claim quite a few innovations. Here are fourteen of them…

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What Disney-Style Patriotism Looks Like

Friday, July 4th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Editor’s Note: This article was first published May 31, 2013

We live in an era where children in their formative years do not know what patriotism means. My grandparents’ generation knew what it meant to love America and to stand up for its ideals, but the leftists of my parents’ generation — the Baby Boomers — screwed it up for all of us. To them, the only measure of patriotism was opposition to President Bush. Remember: “dissent is patriotic.” (Tell that to the IRS.)

I was blessed to grow up with parents who loved America despite having lived through the ’60s, but many members of my generation don’t know how to be patriotic, thanks to political correctness, multiculturalism, and the growing influence of the far Left.

While the vast majority of pop culture mocks patriotism, one famous name has celebrated American exceptionalism for more than seven decades: Disney. This unabashed love of America began with the company’s founder.

Walt Disney grew up as part of the World War I generation — a time that saw both the enthusiasm of the dawn of the 20th century and the unspeakable horror of threats to freedom and peace across the globe. Though too young to serve in the war, Disney worked in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps after the war. He wanted to serve his country, one way or another.

After his move to Hollywood, Disney’s love for America drove him in many ways to develop the unique entertainment he created and to lead his studio the way he did. He believed that America’s values were worth celebrating and sharing with the world. He once said:

Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards — the things we live by and teach our children — are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.

Disney admitted to a patriotism that occasionally overwhelmed him. He once confessed, “I get red, white, and blue at times.” His love of country showed up in his films and television programs and has carried on in the theme parks that bear his name nearly half a century after his death. Sometimes the Disney brand of patriotism makes itself known in subtle ways, while at other times, it jumps directly in your face.

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The 10 Most Underrated Disney Animated Films

Monday, June 30th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Last week I shared my list of the ten most overrated Disney animated features. While it’s true that many Disney cartoons get more attention than they deserve, just as many don’t get the acclaim that they should. Here’s my list of the top ten underrated Disney animated movies. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite among this list.

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10. Fantasia (1940)

No one can deny the artistic spectacle that is Fantasia. There wasn’t anything like it before, and there really hasn’t been anything since, other than Michael Eisner’s attempt to recreate the magic with Fantasia 2000.

Fantasia makes this list because most everybody fails to realize what an audacious project the film was. Walt Disney and his collaborator, arranger and conductor Leopold Stokowski, took a tremendous risk combining animation with classical music, and the gamble didn’t pay off right away, as it took years for the feature to turn a profit.

I consider Fantasia underrated because most moviegoers (even Disney fans) just don’t understand how bold and revolutionary an undertaking this piece of art truly is.

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The 10 Most Overrated Disney Animated Films

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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For over 90 years, the Disney Studios has created some of the most memorable and enduring animated films of all time. But even a fanboy like me can admit that not everything Disney has released has been perfect. As much as Disney markets and hypes every animated feature as a classic, many of them are simply overrated. Here are the top ten.

My ground rules were pretty simple: I didn’t include Pixar’s output because they haven’t always been directly part of the Disney family. I also didn’t include the direct-to-video “cheapquels” that Michael Eisner made so famous, because they’re in a lower class all their own, and I left out the package features of the 1940s. Enjoy!

10. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

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Once in a while, Disney tries to throw a bone to boys to make up for the prominence of the princesses in animated films. While the idea is worthwhile and the efforts are valiant, once in a while the more male-oriented movies fall short. 2007’s Meet the Robinsons is one of the latter.

Meet the Robinsons had a lot of potential – a twisty, time travel story with a sweet adoption plot coupled with clever, stylized animation. Instead, Meet the Robinsons is dizzying, noisy, and just falls short. Part of the cartoon’s problem may stem from the fact that John Lasseter, newly taking over as head of animation after Disney acquired Pixar, suggested a retooling.

Whatever the reason, Meet the Robinsons just didn’t make the impact that it could have.

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Star Wars: Retribution Debuts July 5

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 - by Chris Queen

A few months ago, I brought you the story of Chris Conley, a football star at the University of Georgia (my alma mater – Go Dawgs!) who was putting together a Star Wars fan film. The finished product, entitled Star Wars: Retribution, is set to make its debut July 5. Here are the trailers:

Conley’s production company will soon begin work on a new film, Volition, soon.

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10 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About The South

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that the South is the most misunderstood region in the United States. Everywhere I go (even sometimes here in the South!) I run into misconceptions about this area. I’m proud of the region I call home, and I wish everybody could know the South that I’ve experienced my whole life. So I’m glad to get the chance to clear up some of the stereotypes and generalizations. Here are the ten things that everybody gets wrong about the South.

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10. White Southerners Still Haven’t Gotten Over The Civil War.

There’s a notion that we Southerners still carry a grudge over having lost the Civil War. It’s a fascinating historical era and a huge part of our heritage (like it or not), but we’re not all sitting on our porch swings with sour grapes lamenting that it didn’t go our way.

We do tend to lionize our Robert E. Lees and Stonewall Jacksons – let’s face it, there’s a certain romanticism about that gallant and gentrified culture, the ugliness of slavery notwithstanding. And yes, you’ll see folks flying the Stars & Bars from time to time down here, along with the “heritage not hate” arguments that go along with that emblem, but those people are increasingly in the minority.

Even though we’ll never forget the Civil War — and Reconstruction — we Southerners have moved on. The South truly has risen again, and modern Southerners are vastly more interested in improving the present and creating a better future for our beloved region.

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More Star Wars Land Rumors Buzzing Around Walt Disney World

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I’ve reported in the past about rumors of a Star Wars land coming to Walt Disney World. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, two attractions are closing in the near future, and these closings are leading some writers to speculate that Disney is making way for a Star Wars land at DHS.

Disney Dining is reporting that the American Idol Experience, which opened to much fanfare in 2009, will close in early 2015:

The close is not that surprising.  The show has never really gotten solid traction and it seems Disney is ready to pull the plug.

A statement was posted between the Walt Disney World Company:

“After more than five successful years, The American Idol Experience will be coming to a close at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park in January 2015. Our partnership with FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment has been a great addition to the park and we are very appreciative of the amazing cast and guests who have devoted their time and talent to make this experience special and memorable. We are incredibly proud of the more than 2,000 Dream Tickets that have given guests a chance to live their very own Cinderella story and audition for ‘American Idol.’”

Over at Disney At Work, sources report that the long-running Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular will close soon as well:

My sources also suggest that Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is also slated to close at the end of the year. All of this is happening to make way for the major Star Wars additions coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will surround that end of the Echo Lake corner of the park, and supposedly extend further out as well, though in what direction(s) is uncertain. What is coming in remains to be formally announced, as the attraction is also being tied to a very anticipated follow-up series starting in 2015.

What’s interesting about the closings is that nearly all the vestiges of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as a “behind-the-scenes” park will be gone. Instead of the original park idea of a glimpse behind the magic of the entertainment industry, DHS is increasingly becoming a park about the movies, music, and television programs themselves. Do both closings point to a new Star Wars land? Of course, the outcome remains to be seen, but I’ll keep you in the loop.

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10 Free Ways To Have Fun At Walt Disney World

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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Let’s face it: a trip to Walt Disney World can cost a lot, but it’s absolutely worth it. But you may not know that not everything at Disney World is expensive. Resort guests can take advantage of several experiences that enrich the trip but don’t cost a thing. (Non-resort guests can take advantage of some of them too.)

Here are ten free ways to have fun at Walt Disney World…

10. Enjoy A Boat Ride Around Bay Lake.

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Guests know that transportation is a huge part of the experience at Walt Disney World. From classic trains and old-school ferryboats to innovative monorail and linear induction technology, getting around the parks and resorts is a big part of the fun.

Taking the boat that runs from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary Resort to Wilderness Lodge to Fort Wilderness is a nice way to cool off with a breeze and take in the sights around Bay Lake. In addition to the resorts, check out the “ruins” of River Country and Discovery Island, both of which you’ll see along the way, and marvel at the road that passes under the canal between the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, near the Contemporary Resort.

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The 10 Best Summer Songs You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

Saturday, June 7th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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This time of year, everybody comes out with their list of the best songs of summer, and it seems like most every list boasts the same songs every year. But there’s nothing like discovering new music, especially this time of year. So, here’s your alternative summer playlist.

A quick note: not all of the songs specifically mention summer or take place in summer, but they have a summertime sound or feel. Here we go…

10. Zac Brown Band, “Uncaged”

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With songs like “Toes,” “Jump Right In,” and “Where The Boat Leaves From” in their repertoire, Zac Brown Band just about has the market cornered on summer songs. As latter-day disciples of Jimmy Buffett, they’re the perfect band to kick off our countdown.

The title cut from their most recent full-length record, “Uncaged” extols the virtue of just getting outside and experiencing what the great outdoors has to offer. Who doesn’t want to escape the cages of the daily grind and take part in the excitement of nature? After all, isn’t that what summer is really about?

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6 Contestants To Watch On The New Season Of MasterChef

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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My favorite summer television indulgence is back! Season 5 of MasterChef made its debut on Memorial Day. And while the show promises the same excitement and inspiration as the previous four seasons, we saw some changes in the premiere.

First off, judge/host Graham Elliot showed off the results of 155 pounds of weight loss. Secondly, the competition began with the top 30 home cooks – no “audition” episodes. The format change dropped viewers right into the heart of the action from the start.

In the premiere episode, the judges – Elliot, Joe Bastianich, and Gordon Ramsay, whittled the competition down to 22. They eliminated two contestants during the cooking process. The first 17 chefs made the cut on the first elimination test, while four of the remaining nine had to endure another challege – with tighter rules and cooking alongside Gordon Ramsay – to earn their aprons.

The Top 22 come from all over the country (I enjoyed hearing so many Southern accents) and all walks of life – including one competitor who worked as a dancer in a “gentlemen’s club.” But a few in particular stand out to me – I claim these as six to watch throughout the season, because they promise to bring heart and drama to an already exciting competition. Take a look…

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Mary Blair: Unsung Disney Artist

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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She developed the unique color palette for many of the iconic Disney films of the 1950s. She produced some of the most evocative artwork from the Disney Studio’s 1941 South America trip. She created the characters for a beloved classic Disney Parks attraction. She outshone the men she worked with – including her own husband. Yet for some reason, Mary Blair doesn’t have the household name she deserves except among Disney aficionados.

With his new book The Art And Flair Of Mary Blair: An Appreciation, animator and historian John Canemaker hopes to change that perception. (I’ve waited nearly two years for this book’s release, and it was worth the wait.) Canemaker explores a woman with priceless talent who led a difficult, sometimes tragic life – an artist who has gone woefully underappreciated. As Canemaker writes on one of the book’s final pages:

The general public’s knowledge of Mary Blair’s name and her art is limited. Only one of her children’s books is still in print, and the hundreds of conceptual paintings she made for animated films are stored at the Disney studio or are in private collections.

Mary Richardson was born in Oklahoma in 1911, but her family moved to Texas when she was a young girl. The daughter of an alcoholic, she asked for money from the family budget to purchase art supplies because she knew that her father couldn’t then spend it on drinking.

Her talent earned her a scholarship to the famed Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and there she met Lee Blair, whom she later married. The Blairs harbored dreams of becoming fine artists, but the obvious need for money led them first to Ub Iwerks’ studio, then to Harman-Ising/MGM.

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