I’ve vacationed at Walt Disney World literally all my life, and I can assure you of one thing: waiting in line is part of the experience. It’s often inevitable that you’ll have to wait in at least one long line during your trip. In my younger days, when there were fewer parks and attraction options, we waited in line for hours for nearly everything. The growth of the entire Walt Disney World property has led to shorter lines altogether.
Over the past few years, Disney has taken care to add interactive theming, games, and activities to many of the queues for the most popular attractions. They have also gone to great lengths to help guests avoid some of the longest lines. The FastPass system, introduced in 1999, allows guests to essentially make a reservation to ride certain attractions, bypassing the worst of the lines. This year, the company will introduce new RFID technology called MyMagic+ that promises to “take guests’ experiences to the next level.” Disney even offers specials during off-peak seasons to funnel some of the crowds to different times of the year.
Seasoned Disney travelers find their own ways to stay away from the crowds. Some families leave the parks during the most crowded times of the day and return to their resort to rest. Others ride the most popular attractions during parades and fireworks shows. My family goes in the fall rather than in spring or summer, and we meticulously research which days are more likely to be crowded than others.
And then certain people go to more nefarious measures to avoid long lines at attractions. The New York Post caught wind of a trend among Manhattan’s uber-wealthy: hiring handicapped adults to travel with them, giving the family access to the front of the line:
Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front, The Post has learned.
The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.
“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida.
“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”
The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a “handicapped” sign on it. The group was sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.
Disney allows each guest who needs a wheelchair or motorized scooter to bring up to six guests to a “more convenient entrance.”
We live in an era of disposable pop culture. All around us we see vapid reality series, uninspired (and uninspiring) music, movies that are little more than retreads of other bad ideas, and starlets who are famous merely for being famous. Of course, this stuff is not necessarily bad in and of itself – in fact, mindless pop culture can make for some great “guilty pleasure” moments.
The truth is, when any form of entertainment achieves excellence, we notice. Television programs like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights, music by artists such as Mumford & Sons and Zac Brown Band, and films like Lincoln and Les Miserables attract attention because they raise the bar in their genre.
The idea of excellence as something for which to strive goes back to the Bible. Jewish and Christian believers alike are aware of the admonishments in Scripture to give our all. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon advises:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)
And the Apostle Paul encourages the believers in Colosse:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Walt Disney himself felt the pull to achieve excellence, in part because his name was on every product the Studio created. He once said, “Anything that has a Disney name to it is something we feel responsible for.” He instilled the value of excellence in his staff as well – he once hailed his staff as “the ones who insist on doing something better and better.” A sign on a construction wall from my last trip to Walt Disney World expresses this value.
Over the course of the next couple of pages, we’re going to take a look at how this value of excellence shows up throughout Disney culture.
We don’t see a whole lot of genuine faith in the movies or on TV these days. Instead, characters who exhibit religious faith on fictional films and programs are more likely to show up as fodder for mocking or as social deviants in disguise. Obviously, we can easily forget that the concept of faith played a much greater role in Hollywood’s earlier days, even in the films made by the Disney Studios.
Walt Disney held a deep, private faith in Jesus Christ, though he was not an outwardly religious man. His parents raised him in the theology of the Congregational Church, and he firmly believed in the power of prayer and Bible study. Rarely, if ever, did Disney attend church, but he made sure his daughters were involved in Sunday School programs, even allowing them to choose the denomination that suited them best in their teen years. Walt also said:
I ask of myself, “Live a good Christian life.” Towards this objective I bend every effort in shaping my personal, domestic, and professional activities and growth.
I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish.
Clearly, Disney understood the importance of faith as part of the American cultural fabric. Another quote of his underscores this fact:
I have watched constantly that in our movie work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether it deals with fable or with stories of living action.
We can see these moral and spiritual standards at work in Disney’s classic films. In fact, the concept of faith plays a role in many of the great films of the Disney canon. Today, I’m going to look at five examples of the value of faith in Disney’s classic films: I’m taking a look at two of the big themes that emerge, and then we’ll delve into three characters who exhibit faith in different ways. These movies are not necessarily religious in nature, nor do I claim that they are theologically accurate in any sort of way. With that said, let’s dive in…
We tend to think of Hollywood as a bastion of leftism, and rightly so. Books like Ron Radosh’s Red Star Over Hollywood demonstrate the deep-seated left wing dominance of the entertainment industry. Even with the leftism prevalent in Hollywood’s Golden Age, many unabashed conservatives found success without compromising their principles, including one of the most creative minds in the business – Walt Disney.
Several biographers and writers that I’ve read have tried to declare that Walt Disney was apolitical, but I find this conclusion not to be true. Diane Disney Miller once said that her father was “kind of a strange figure” politically, and Walt admitted his own political naiveté:
A long time ago, I found out that I knew nothing whatsoever about this game of politics and since then I’ve preferred to keep silent about the entire matter rather than see my name attached to any statement that was not my own.
But plenty of people surrounding Walt Disney knew the truth: that he was conservative to his core. Ward Kimball, one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” said that Walt’s right-leaning politics made him uncomfortable and that politics drove a rift in their friendship in Disney’s later years. Radical writer Maurice Rapf, who worked on several Disney films, including Song of the South, said, “He was very conservative except in one particular – he was a very strong environmentalist.” However, Walt Disney’s conservatism did not manifest itself until after he had been a businessman for several years.
Walt Disney’s early exposure to politics came from his father, Elias, who was a Socialist – in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Daniel J. Flynn, in his book A Conservative History of the American Left, tells of how Wayland “reached Americans with the message [of Socialism] that had been heretofore explained in a German, Yiddish, or Russian accent, but never with a Bible-belt twang.”
The Walt Disney Company has provided quality entertainment to generations of fans for almost nine decades now. No other company has done what Disney did with such excellence — from animation to live-action films to television to totally immersive theme park experiences.
Disney fandom requires a certain level of passion, but there are some whose devotion to all things Disney rises to another level. I call them “Disney Nerds,” lovingly so, because I consider myself one. Actually, I debated whether to use the term. I prefer “Disney Aficionados,” but worried it sounded too pompous.
Whatever you call us, I’ve compiled a list of ten essential books for Disney Nerds. Think of this list as summer reading for the die-hard Disney fan. The books you’ll see in this post run the gamut from theme park guides to historical chronicles to the ultimate biography of the man himself, Walt Disney. Each book will expand your knowledge (and hopefully love) of Disney culture in its own unique way.
Get ready to dig in and feast your eyes on some great Disney reading. For the list, I’ve tried to choose books that are readily available, and have provided links to order or download them for Kindle apps where applicable. So here we go.
For years now, Disney has taken great care of its classic films. The company pulls beloved videos in and out of the “Disney Vault,” both as a clever marketing strategy and as a way to share the best of the best (along with the occasional Eisner-era cheapquel) with new generations of enthusiasts. The advent of new technology — from DVD to Blu-Ray to whatever a Platinum Edition is — means that the classics will remain in fans’ collections for years to come.
That is, except for one film. Believe it or not, one Disney classic has not seen the light of day since 1986. The company has kept it under wraps for over a quarter century in spite of two Oscars and a revolutionary blend of live action and animation — not to mention the fact that the film inspired a popular attraction that appears in three Disney theme parks. To this day, collectors scramble for bootleg copies — my brother owns two DVDs along with a VHS copy with Japanese subtitles — and at the shareholders’ meeting every year, someone inevitably asks CEO Bob Iger when the movie will finally make its way out of the Disney Vault.
The film? Song of the South. For years critics have derided the picture as an example of the racism of the first half of the 20th century, while fans of the Uncle Remus tales have long pleaded for Disney to rerelease this beloved classic.
The great Leonard Maltin has gone on record advocating Song of the South‘s release as recently as December 2012, in an article which:
…discusses the Walt Disney Treasures series. On these DVDs, Maltin himself introduces the cartoons which might now be considered “politically incorrect,” explaining how times have since changed. The article mentions possibly using this same approach for Song of the South:
“I very much hope that the folks at Disney will release ‘Song of the South’ sometime soon,” Maltin said, “and use this same approach — to be responsible in explaining the times it depicts and the attitudes of the period in which it was made.”
As much as I love television series with intricate plots, thought-provoking writing, and nuanced acting, when summer rolls around I find myself drawn to programming that’s, well, less mentally stimulating. That’s right — my summer TV viewing drifts toward reality shows.
Since its debut in 2005, I’ve loved Hell’s Kitchen. The show’s tenth season airs on Fox at 8:00 Monday and Tuesday nights. Renowned chef Gordon Ramsay serves as host and judge, as well as a strange combination of mentor and drill sergeant. Ramsay puts challenges to his competitors each week with his controversial, abrasive style as the aspiring chefs fight for a sweet gig as head chef at a new 5-Star restaurant.
The contestants on Hell’s Kitchen display true passion and come from all walks of life. In the first few seasons the aspiring chefs seemed as earnest as they were talented and eager, but in latter seasons, the producers wised up to what reality viewers really want: soap-opera-style drama! This season viewers would be hard-pressed to find many contestants capable of running a restaurant kitchen. The would-be head chefs spend too much time smoking, drinking, partying, and fighting to appear serious as a head chef.
As entertaining as it is, Hell’s Kitchen comes across as pretty coarse viewing, especially when looking at its companion show, the far more refined and inspiring MasterChef, which also features Ramsay and airs immediately following Hell’s Kitchen. The censor on Hell’s Kitchen earns his keep, as profanity flies generously from both Ramsay and the contestants.
Like so many other summer television shows, Hell’s Kitchen is also pretty predictable. Viewers know exactly what to expect, which adds to the series’ entertainment value. Here’s a list counting down five scenarios that viewers can always expect to see without fail during Hell’s Kitchen.
For years, villains have meant big business for Disney. We’ve seen books, video games, and specials devoted to the bad guys. Naturally, the villains play central roles in the Disney Parks’ Halloween celebrations. Villains in Vogue brought in customers in droves at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as did a companion store at Disneyland. The comic revue Villains Tonight brings down the house on the Disney Magic cruise ship. And now, this fall, comes the Disney Villains Designer Collection:
If bad girls have more fun, then life as a Disney villain must be a nonstop party. And here’s one reason for their fans to celebrate: this September, Disney Stores are releasing six limited-edition collectors’ dolls and coordinating beauty items featuring sultry antagonists from Cruella de Vil to Maleficent. It’s not the first time the baddies have taken on the beauty world; back in 2010, Disney paired with MAC to create the Venemous Villains collection. This forthcoming collection isn’t as wide-ranging, but you’ve never seen the villains like this.
The official Disney Store blog teases the doll collection (and more) this way:
Designed and carefully crafted to capture the essence of evil at its best dressed, the Villains Designer Collection re-imagines the stylish wickedness of classic Disney Villains.
Disney Store has beautifully crafted 13,000 of each of the six dolls, and every glamorous villain doll will come with a Certificate of Authenticity. Beginning in September, the dolls will be available in select stores in North America and Europe. These original “bad girls” of Disney will also be available online on http://disneystore.com, http://disneystore.co.uk, http://disneystore.fr and http://disneystore.de. Each doll will be available for $79.50 US/$87.50 CAN/£50/€65.
Can’t wait to get your hands on this fashionable villainy? An online-exclusive set including all six dolls will be available for pre-order on Monday, August 20th. This will be the only opportunity to guarantee a purchase of all six dolls. The entire set will be delivered on or shortly after Monday, October 15.
And keep watch for our complete Disney Villains Designer Collection coming soon, featuring delightfully chic beauty, apparel, and home products – everything you need to complete your “good girl gone glam” style.
Over 17 years and a dozen feature films Pixar revolutionized computer animation. Today no other studio even comes close.
Pixar’s films have innovated not just with their technological expertise but in the realms of characterization, plot development, and creativity. With Brave debuting last week, Disney and Pixar raised the bar even higher, reaching astonishing new heights.
Fiery-haired Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is the daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) of the DunBroch clan in 10th century Scotland. Merida loves riding through the countryside and practicing her archery. She longs to choose her own fate and bristles at her mother’s attempts to school her in the ways of living like a princess. When Elinor invites the heads of the other clans to DunBroch to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage, the princess rebels, leading to a heated argument.
Merida takes off into the woods, where she follows will-o’-the-wisps to a witch’s cabin. She asks for a spell that will both change her fate and her mother. The result: Elinor transforms into a bear. Merida must then reverse the curse by repairing her relationship with Elinor. Along the way mother and daughter restore the bonds between the four clans and help Fergus face the legendary demon bear Mor’du, who took his leg in a battle years before.
Everybody remembers their high school yearbook, especially during their senior year. There’s nothing like the rows of completely uniform senior pictures, with the guys in tuxes and the girls in those odd gowns. And who can forget the pressure to come up with the perfect senior quote?
The ideal senior quote doesn’t come easy to anyone. How do you sum up your entire adolescent existence in such a limited space? Do you go with something profound, or do you reach for humor? Do you give a shout out to your best buds and risk leaving someone out? Do you go sentimental, or do you remind everyone that it’s time to party?
Rising seniors, the search for cleverness has now come to an end. You can forget about topping the best yearbook quote ever, which comes to us from San Jose, California.
Eight girls at Presentation High School, an all-girls Catholic school, decided to have a little fun and band together to create the ultimate yearbook quote. Alexandra, Angela, Angelica, Elizabeth, Emily, Isabella, Madeline and Vi Nguyen, bound together by those two great equalizers: alphabetical order and whatever that gown thing is called, went with one or two words each to send a message to the world: “We know what you’re thinking, and no, we’re not related.”
The girls, who have had classes together all four years of high school, initially thought of using a famous quote before they hit on the idea of toying with people’s assumptions. Isabella Nguyen, the ringleader behind the stunt, told the local paper, “People always ask if we’re cousins or something.” They never dreamed that social media would blow the quote up to an international sensation known as “Nguyen-sanity.”
“As soon as it hit Facebook, it just blew up from there,” said Isabella Nguyen. “I’m still in a daze.”
A photo of the page registered more than 1.1 million views on image-sharing site Imgur. A blog item on the Huffington Post wondered if it might be the best yearbook quote ever. The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail posted an item about the stunt. And a camera crew from “Inside Edition” came to the school Friday to interview them.
Barbara Purdy, who’s been the school’s yearbook adviser for 11 years, said she’s never seen anything like the brouhaha that’s taken place over the quote. “It was kind of humorous, and there wasn’t anything offensive about it,” she said. “The way that’s it’s taken off has been a real surprise.”
These girls came up with something remarkable and clever, and they’re enjoying a little bit of positive notoriety for it. Sometimes those 15 minutes of fame come about in the best way. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking my senior quote paled by comparison.
Curses abound in Hollywood. From haunted movie sets and mansions, to notorious tales of murder, to the infamous “Oscar jinx” — where highly touted winners move on to less-than-notable careers — one doesn’t have to look far to find the story of a curse. One rather curious Hollywood curse has generated headlines in recent days, and the headlines speak of a potential tragedy.
It’s a jinx called the “John Connor Curse.” The story goes something like this: unfortunate things happen to the young men who have played the role of John Connor in the Terminator franchise. Before you dismiss the jinx as some crazy conspiracy theory (like one of those you might see on History these days), consider what has befallen the stars of the films and television series.
Furlong earned critical acclaim for T2 and has gone on to star in 38 other films, along with a handful of television appearances and roles in videos by Aerosmith and Metallica. He may have originated the curse because of his notorious troubles with alcohol and drugs, including heroin and cocaine. He caused plenty of trouble in his marriage as well, including violating a restraining order. In 2011, he admitted he was “completely broke,” but a judge ordered him to pay $15,000 in back child support. Today, Furlong is an example of what could have been.
Thomas Dekker portrayed John Connor in the Fox television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which lasted for a season-and-a-half in 2008 and 2009.
He has gone on to star in the recently cancelled CW series The Secret Circle. In October 2009, Dekker hit a 17-year-old cyclist with his car. Police initially charged him with two counts of DUI, but Dekker pleaded no contest to a single misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.
I have a running joke among my family and friends: we often ask each other the question, “Remember when MTV was a music channel?” Of course the joke centers around the fact that MTV — along with sister stations MTV2, VH1, and even CMT — has largely moved away from music videos in favor of different types of reality programming.
Those of us who lament the change in these networks’ focus tend to point out the irony of the names behind their abbreviations — Music Television and Video Hits 1 — to prove our point. The MTV Networks have abandoned what they set out to be, and we can say the same about History. These days, the programming on what used to be The History Channel has transformed from documentaries about, well, history to reality shows that firmly plant themselves in the modern era.
To consider the history of History, we have to go way back in our time machines to 1995. That was the year the Hearst Company, Universal, and Disney (admit it — you were wondering how long it would take me to get to a Disney reference) teamed up to launch The History Channel. The History Channel’s lineup in those early days consisted largely of modestly budgeted documentary series chock full of historical nuggets and really terrible reenactments of events. It helps to think of early History Channel as a less stuffy version of PBS, with commercials for products not available in stores in place of pledge breaks. (Give me ads for The Clapper and Chia Pets over a phone bank and an offer of a free tote bag with a $250 contribution anyday!)
Many early History Channel series featured inexplicable celebrity hosts. Who can forget Civil War Journal, featuring, um, Danny Glover? Or how about Extreme History, with your host Roger Daltrey? At least Kenny Rogers and David and Keith Carradine had the requisite music and acting backgrounds that suited their hosting History Channel series about the Old West.
In the ’90s the network aired so many documentaries on World War II that it earned the rather nasty nickname “The Hitler Channel.” At the same time, critics decried The History Channel’s alleged bent towards American history, which makes perfect sense, when you think of all those World War II battles that took place here in the states — not to mention all-American hosts like Daltrey. Go figure.
This June 22, Pixar will release Brave, the studio’s 13th animated feature. Brave tells the story of Merida, a Scottish princess who rebels against her royal parents with dire consequences. Even though it may be a bit darker than a typical Pixar production, Brave looks to have the stunning visuals and memorable characterizations that make Pixar films so great.
Over the last 26 years Pixar has transformed animation. Partnering with Disney the studio innovated the medium in a way unseen since the days of Walt Disney himself. Many people still thought of computer animation as some sort of sci-fi pipe dream in 1986, but thanks to Pixar, the medium has become the industry standard — and the company’s films now dominate both the box office and critics’ yearly top 10 lists.
Pixar’s dozen productions have met with varying degrees of critical and box office success. I’d say there’s no such thing as a bad Pixar film, but some movies have raised the bar exponentially while others have fallen a bit short of the high standards the studio has set. I’ve compiled a list of the twelve movies ranked from the least to the greatest. Here we go…
I’ve always been a fan of Southern Rock. I grew up about halfway between Atlanta and Athens — two Georgia cities with vibrant music scenes, and over the years I’ve found myself drawn to the music of this colorful region of the country.
Though much early rock music originated in the South, a subgenre emerged in the late ’60s and ’70s — a melding of rock, country, and blues that earned the name Southern Rock. The themes of regional pride, wanderlust, and hardship are as prevalent in Southern Rock as the universal themes of love and loss, and many modern Southern Rockers have tried to come to grips with the South’s sometimes difficult and painful history.
Today, Southern Rock is far from monolithic — in fact, there’s something for just about everybody. The genre covers ground as varied as the region itself, from storytellers like Shawn Mullins and Bill Mallonee, to jam bands like Widespread Panic and the Derek Trucks Band, to the soulful stylings of artists like Mother’s Finest, Ashley Cleveland, and Alabama Shakes, to the new Southern sounds of bands like Kings of Leon and The Features. Even Christian bands like Third Day and Needtobreathe have managed to successfully cultivate a Southern Rock sound.
Here’s my list of ten bands that define Southern Rock. I don’t intend for this to necessarily be the most comprehensive list, nor do I mean to imply that these bands are the absolute best of the genre. My main criterion was to limit the list to bands that originated in the South — that’s why you won’t see bands like The Eagles, Poco, Ram Jam, or Bad Company on the list, even though they may well deserve to be. I also didn’t include solo artists on the list.
With all that said, enjoy the list!
After two and a half years at the helm of of Walt Disney Studios, Chairman Rich Ross, 50, stepped down on Friday. Ross’ departure comes on the heels of the high-profile failure of the sci-fi/fantasy epic John Carter. The $250 million film, which Disney hoped would be the year’s first blockbuster, only earned $269 million worldwide. After distribution and marketing expenses, John Carter‘s dismal take equals a loss of $80-120 million for Disney.
Ross issued a statement attributing his departure to the idea that he wasn’t the right man for the job:
“The best people need to be in the right jobs, in roles they are passionate about, doing work that leverages the full range of their abilities,” he said. “I no longer believe the chairman role is the right professional fit for me.”
Disney CEO Robert Iger also released a statement praising Ross and wishing him well:
“Rich Ross’s creative instincts, business acumen and personal integrity have driven results in key businesses for Disney,” Iger said. “I appreciate his countless contributions throughout his entire career at Disney, and expect he will have tremendous success in whatever he chooses to do next.”
After stints at Nickelodeon and FX, Rich Ross came to Disney in 1996, where he served as vice president of programming and production, and he rose to president of Disney Channels Worldwide in 2004. As head of Disney Channels Worldwide, Ross was responsible for such brands as Playhouse Disney, Disney XD, Jetix, and Radio Disney.
Ross helped Disney Channel become the kids-and-tweens juggernaut that it is today. He launched the Disney Channel Original Movie franchise, which spawned enormous hits like the High School Musical and Camp Rock series. Radio Disney became a stepping stone for pop music success. Under Ross’ leadership, Disney Channel produced phenomenally successful shows like Hannah Montana, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Phineas & Ferb, and Wizards of Waverly Place. Playhouse Disney (now Disney Junior) increased its dominance under Ross as well.
Remember the frenzy surrounding Y2K?
In the years and months leading up to the new millennium, IT organizations spent billions patching systems and replacing software that had infamously been designed to support only a two-digit year — a problem dubbed the Year 2000 bug, the Millennium bug, or simply Y2K.
While the world pondered dire predictions of massive global infrastructure failures — everything from elevators to air traffic control systems were rumored to be vulnerable — the specter of a total paralysis of business operations resulting from cascading Y2K failures galvanized organizations into a frenzy of activity.
The Y2K problem threatened to tear our modern world apart — at least that was what some people thought. I’ll never forget friends stockpiling food and water in preparation for the certain collapse of our system of commerce. I actually heard grown men arguing like children over whose Y2K stash was larger. It seemed like, everywhere I went, people were obsessed with being prepared.
And then it was over. On Dec. 31, 1999, the world held its breath — and nothing happened. Jan. 1, 2000, came in just like any other day. There were no major failures to report anywhere.
In the aftermath, or non-aftermath, some pundits said all the preparation had been overkill.
I’ll admit it: there’s nothing wrong with being prepared for emergencies. In fact, FoxNews.com ran a helpful article just the other week about preparation. But the other side of the coin is that some people become obsessed with preparing for one implausible catastrophe or another — these folks have become the inspiration for National Geographic’s perversely fascinating documentary series Doomsday Preppers.
Doomsday Preppers has a simple premise: preppers share how they are gearing up to survive the event or condition they fear will take place. After the preppers demonstrate their plans, a group of consultants from the organization Practical Preppers rates the preparations and offers suggestions on how to improve their plans. The show briefly revisits each prepper after they have made some changes based on the suggestions.
Fans of the James Bond films look forward to the theme songs as much as anything else. There’s a thrill to hearing a new 007 theme over the movie’s creative, sexy title sequences. The theme songs have set the tone for Bond in 19 of the 22 films in the series.
We’ve seen 007 theme songs that range from the low-key (Nancy Sinatra’s “You Only Live Twice” in 1967) to the heavy-hitting (Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” in 2006) to the truly bizarre (I’m looking at you, Jack White & Alicia Keys). No matter how good or bad the song, a Bond theme is an integral part of the experience.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, I present to you the five best theme songs of the series, followed by the five worst. A couple of years ago I shared my own personal favorites on my website, but with this list I’m looking at the songs with critical and historical eyes.
5. Louis Armstrong, “We Have All The Time In The World,” from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service stands as a bit of an anomaly among Bond movies. The film marked George Lazenby’s only appearance as 007, and the plot centered around eternal bachelor Bond getting married and becoming a widower. It’s also one of only three entries in the series not to have a song over the opening credits — the other ones were Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Instead, the beautiful “We Have All The Time In The World” plays during a romantic sequence later on in the film.
Composer John Barry chose Louis Armstrong to perform the ballad, and Barry later picked it as one of his two favorite Bond theme songs, both for the beauty of the music and the pleasure of working with the jazz legend.
“We Have All The Time In The World” has endured as a favorite, especially among the Brits. Artists as diverse as Iggy Pop, the Puppini Sisters, and Michael Ball have covered the song, and respondents to a 2005 poll ranked it as the third most popular wedding song in the United Kingdom. I even read a few years back where some British churches used the song in worship services. The song might not spring to mind as a classic Bond theme, but Armstrong still provided a rare moment of grace.
4. Tom Jones, “Thunderball,” from Thunderball (1965)
The second song to appear over the title sequence of a Bond film has an interesting history. Initially, Barry and lyricist Leslie Bricusse penned a song titled “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” named for an Italian journalist’s nickname for 007. United Artists balked, insisting that the song have the same title as the movie. Barry teamed up with Don Black to rush out a new title song.
Johnny Cash also submitted a song but the studio rejected it. Check it out here.
Tom Jones gave one of his bravura performances on “Thunderball” but not without paying a price. Jones passed out after belting the climactic high note. Years later he said:
I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.
“Thunderball” continued a new tradition: dramatic title songs that set the tone for the whole film.
A few weeks from now we’ll find ourselves knee-deep in the summer blockbuster season, inundated by a gaggle of loud, bright, overdone action movies. It seems like every year these big studio barn-burners appeal to the lowest common denominator, shortchanging plot and character at the expense of cheap special-effect thrills. But in early spring, movie lovers get a chance to treat themselves to a different breed of sci-fi action film — Disney’s John Carter.
I’ve already written about the background of John Carter and the hundred-year journey from the novel’s original publication to the movie’s release. Edgar Rice Burroughs published the first John Carter novel in serialized form in 1911, a few years before the Tarzan novels which earned Burroughs his fame.
telegram summoning him for a vist. When Burroughs arrives, Carter has died and left him his estate, including his valuable collection of artifacts from throughout the world, his unusual tomb, and the secretive journal of his adventures.
As Burroughs delves into the journal, Carter’s tale unfolds in flashbacks. In the Old West, the enigmatic Carter, a captain in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, searches Arizona Territory for a cave of gold. When Carter and an Army officer find themselves caught in the crossfire of a skirmish between Apaches and American soldiers, they hide in a cave. Once inside, Carter discovers unusual markings and begins exploring. He sees a strange-looking man in the cave, shoots him, and steals his medallion. The next thing Carter knows, he is on Mars.
Chances are, you’re familiar with a few of the songs written by the Sherman Brothers, even if you don’t know who they are by name. Richard and Robert Sherman were one of the most prolific songwriting teams in history. If you’re cleaning the house and find yourself singing a tune like “I Wan’na Be Like You,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” or “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” you’ve experienced the inimitable music of the Sherman Brothers.
Robert Sherman (pictured, left) passed away on March 5 in London. He was the older brother and the quiet one: younger brother Richard appeared in public more often and granted more interviews than did Robert, especially after Robert’s wife’s death in 2001. In addition to his work as a composer, Robert was a World War II hero and an accomplished painter.
The Sherman Brothers composed the scores for dozens of films, TV specials, theme park attractions, and stage musicals. They even wrote a song that became a #1 hit for Ringo Starr:
But fans and critics alike know Richard and Robert Sherman best from their Disney work. For half a decade, the Sherman Brothers held the title of Staff Composers at Walt Disney Studios. They were Walt Disney’s go-to guys for fun songs and enjoyable film scores, and Walt affectionately referred to them as “the boys.” After Walt’s death, they worked off and on with the Disney organization on various projects, from movies to theme parks to London and Broadway productions.
To honor the life of Robert Sherman, here’s a list of the ten best Disney songs by the Sherman Brothers.
Jack Haley, Jr. hit upon a brilliant idea. The producer of the 1979 Oscars telecast devised a special medley of hit songs the Academy never nominated. Steve Lawrence and Sammy Davis, Jr. would perform it at the ceremony. The Academy’s Music Branch protested, but when Haley and host Johnny Carson threatened to walk they relented.
A smash hit, the audience applauded “Oscar’s Only Human” throughout and treated the performers to a prolonged ovation.
Oscar is only human, and he’s made some terrible mistakes over the years. From controversial wins to unfortunate slights to sins of showmanship, the Academy Awards have failed time and time again.
In honor of this Sunday’s broadcast, here are my personal picks for Oscar’s ten most egregious screw-ups:
In 1985 Whoopi Goldberg made a big splash. She earned a Grammy for her first comedy album as well as a Golden Globe and an Oscar nod for her film debut in The Color Purple. Five years later, her movie career had faltered, thanks to a series of flops.
But then came the perfect storm that was Ghost. With the makings of the quintessential chick flick — sexy stars in Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and a supernatural romantic subplot — Goldberg appears for comic relief as the medium used to communicate beyond the grave.
While a surprise box-office smash,critics didn’t take kindly to Ghost. Julie Salomon of the Wall Street Journal said the film wasn’t “awful enough to be a great trash movie, but it often comes close.” Yet when the Academy Award nominations came out, Ghost scored five, including one for Best Picture.
The big story at the Oscars that year was Kevin Costner’s revisionist Western Dances With Wolves, but Goldberg managed to walk home with the Best Supporting Actress trophy. Considering her competition that year — Lorraine Bracco, Annette Bening, Mary McDonnell, and Diane Ladd, all from dramatic films — it’s curious that Goldberg won for such a comic role.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sucker for the “big three” awards shows — the Oscars, the Emmys, and the Grammys. Even as a kid, I loved the competitive aspect of the awards, and I’m still attracted to the notion of different industries gathering to honor the best in their respective fields.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Grammy Awards over the years. As a music guy, I love seeing my favorite artists compete, and enjoy trying to predict the winners. At the same time, there’s plenty to hate about the Grammys, and it’s usually enough for me to declare every year that I’ll never watch them again.
But, fool that I am, I watched the show again this year. Of course I was watching because I wanted to see Adele claim some hardware, which she did.
I also got to see tons of truly bizarre moments, like a DJ wearing a light-up mouse helmet, Nicki Minaj certainly offending both Catholics and lovers of good music, and some hipster who calls himself Bon Iver stealing the Best New Artist trophy from The Band Perry, who genuinely deserved the award.
This year’s Grammy broadcast managed to demonstrate everything that’s wrong with the awards show every year. Here are five reasons why I always say I’ll never watch the Grammys again.
5. CBS Shamelessly Uses The Awards To Promote Their Shows
For most of the past four decades, the Grammys have made their broadcast home on CBS, the masters of self-promotion. It never fails that CBS will feature stars of some of its shows as presenters, regardless of their connection to the awards show itself. Watch the show each year, and I guarantee that at least one presenter’s presence will baffle millions of viewers.
Patricia Arquette? Her connection to the Grammys: her sister was allegedly the inspiration for 1982’s Record of the Year, “Rosanna” by Toto. Yet she presented on the Grammys only because her series Medium was on CBS at the time.
Jennifer Love Hewitt? CBS probably tapped her to present an award because of all her hit singles like…never mind, I can’t think of any. The Ghost Whisperer was another CBS show, and she was the star.
That guy from The Mentalist? Nope, I’ve got nothing, except — you guessed it — another star of another show on CBS.
This year, after a few years of a host-free format, CBS made an intriguing choice for host — LL Cool J. He’s a pioneer in the hip-hop field, did a fine job hosting the show, but I can’t help but think that the network chose him largely because he appears on NCIS: Los Angeles every week.
Other CBS stars like Pauley Perrette, Taraji P. Henson, and Neil Patrick Harris appeared on the Grammys as well, and though all three have musical backgrounds, chances are they wouldn’t have appeared on the show if it had aired on another network.
It’s a shame that a network would use what should be a prestigious awards show as a platform for plugging their programming, but CBS has been doing it for years. I fully expect it to continue this year.
Related: Check out Jonathan Sanders’ 5 Things I Learned While Live-Blogging the Grammys
Late last year, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, producers of the James Bond movies, announced the long-awaited 23rd film in the series: Skyfall, which is set for release November 9. Daniel Craig returns as the superspy, and Sam Mendes is directing. The first plot synopsis reads:
“Bond’s loyalty to M (Dame Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.”
In conjunction with Skyfall’s production, the producers and studio have updated the official James Bond website and developed a presence for the franchise on Facebook and Twitter. It’s easier than ever for 007 fans to geek out. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the film series, and Wilson has promised plenty of web tributes to mark the occasion.
As a longtime Bond fan, I’m excited to present five reasons why I can’t wait to see Skyfall. We’ll start with the most obvious reason.
5. It’s Been Four Years Since Quantum Of Solace.
It’s hard to believe that the last 007 movie came out during the Bush administration. For even a casual fan, a four-year wait is far too long for a James Bond fix. In the four years since Quantum Of Solace, MGM nearly completely went under, threatening the entire existence of the 007 franchise, until Sony bailed them out, rescuing James Bond from certain doom.
In the last half century, the only time we’ve gone longer without a Bond film was the six years between 1989’s License To Kill and 1995’s Goldeneye. I think the reason for that long wait was because the world needed to cleanse itself of the hideous Timothy Dalton movies.
The last four years have been a period of rumors, false starts, and anxious waiting for Bond geeks like me. The waiting is almost over, and November 9 can’t come soon enough.
One of the most anticipated motion pictures of the first half of this year is Disney’s John Carter. Slated for a March 9 release, the sci-fi/fantasy stars Friday Night Lights’ Taylor Kitsch as the title character, a Confederate soldier who is transported to Mars, where he becomes involved with the conflicts between the various nations of the planet — known as “Barsoom” to its inhabitants.
John Carter boasts an impressive cast and crew. In addition to Kitsch, the film costars Bryan Cranston, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, and Dominic West. Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton directed and cowrote the script with Mark Andrews and noted author Michael Chabon. Emmy- and Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino wrote the score.
With so many big names involved in the production, as well as a budget soaring over $250 million, it’s no surprise that Disney aficionados and movie buffs have kept John Carter in their sights for a few years now (I can remember hearing about it as far back as the summer of 2008). With such anxious anticipation, the film has generated plenty of buzz, both positive and negative.
This movie’s circuitous road to the big screen is a fascinating one. It’s a long journey that encompasses a century and involves an array of twists and turns that befit an action epic. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.
The character of John Carter was the brainchild of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known as the creator of Tarzan. Burroughs’ first published work was the serialized novel Under the Moons of Mars, which he sold to All-Story Magazine for $400 in 1911, before he completed his first Tarzan novel. The novel first appeared in book form as A Princess of Mars in 1917. Burroughs expanded the saga of John Carter into a series of eleven books, including a two-novella collection published after his death.
There’s something about fairy tales that resonates throughout the generations. We remember the stories from our childhood — the princesses and princes, the grotesque creatures and devious villains, the near triumph of evil, defeated by good just at the end — and we pass them on to our children and grandchildren. They’re timeless stories we love to hear (and tell) over and over.
For years, television producers have tried to reframe fairy tales in new ways. In the early ‘80s, actress Shelley Duvall gathered an astonishing array of actors and directors for her star-studded Showtime anthology series Faerie Tale Theatre. Later in the decade, ABC put Snow White, Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, and the Magic Mirror in Los Angeles after a thousand-year sleep in the cute sitcom The Charmings. And CBS turned the story of Beauty and the Beast into a dark-hued romance for three seasons. This year, two new series are placing familiar fairy tales in a modern context.
NBC’s Grimm, which airs on Friday nights, is set in Portland, where homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) develops the ability to see supernatural creatures. He discovers that he is descended from a group of hunters known as Grimms. The Grimms have taken charge of preserving the balance between the physical and mythological worlds and protecting humanity from otherworldly forces.
Burkhardt learns that his abilities as a Grimm relate to the cases he must solve. He begins to make the connections between the grisly crimes in Portland and the fairytale creatures behind them. He teams up with a “reformed big bad wolf” named Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) who helps him solve the cases and make sense of the fantastical realm, and he discovers more about his destiny as a Grimm.
Grimm is a dark program, rooted in more literal interpretations of the Brothers Grimm’s frightening fairy tales than most adaptations. Additionally, the show tackles some of the more obscure stories in the Brothers Grimm canon. The program relies on moody cinematography, grotesque makeup, and special effects to tell the show’s tale. The production design on Grimm goes a long way toward establishing the series’ dramatic tone.