Ye come seeking adventure and salty old pirates, aye? Well don’t close your eyes, and don’t try to hide. For my fellow Americans, we have ourselves a good old-fashioned Square-off!
We can smell the pundit’s fresh ink now: “Not since Dueling Disney: Main Street has there been such an overwhelmingly lopsided victory in this neoteric and arresting series.”
Friday, May 24, 2013
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Storyboard’s Unusual Suspects series oft-focuses on a character considered by many to be secondary. A minor role, if you will. This month, as the WDFM focuses on Walt Disney's classic Alice in Wonderland, we decided to shake things up a bit and talk about a rather primary character, who still manages to fall under the realm of an unusual suspect.
|Film poster for Alice in Wonderland (1951)|
Photo © Disney
Check out the complete article here:
Friday, May 17, 2013
On Saturday, May 4, I competed in the 2013 Expedition Everest Challenge. The last time I ran this race, it took place in September. September 26, 2009, to be exact. Other than the month change (runDisney changed the month to June in 2010, then to May the following year), the new experience for me was the redesigned course. When I ran the race in ’09, the obstacle course came after you completed the 5K. Now (and since 2010), the obstacles are interspersed throughout the 3-mile run. They’ve also gotten easier.
|My medal from the 2009 race|
One other huge difference for me this time was the weather. This time it was close to perfect, whereas in September of ’09, I had to battle not only a Yeti, but a monsoon. That race predates this blog, so I’m afraid I don’t have a recap for it. However I can tell you that before the start of the ’09 EE they were warning us the race may be stopped depending on the proximity and frequency of the lightning, and as it turns out, many runners weren’t allowed to finish. I was lucky enough to finish that night, and actually at the time I believed it would be my first and last Expedition Everest Challenge. I can honestly say now, I’m glad that didn’t end up being the case.
I ran my first full Marathon in January 2013. I was eager to take a break from running, with my next race scheduled for late August (the Disneyland Half). Enter my friend Stacey, and the peer pressure that can only be applied by fellow Disney runners. “Let’s do the Expedition Everest Challenge!” she says. There needs to be a scientific study done on the level of difficulty present when attempting to resist a friend’s offer to do a Disney race.
|My shirt for this race|
What I knew going into this race: next to nothing. I didn’t even glance at the course, nor did I do any specific training (other than my standard workouts). All I knew was the obstacles were during the 5k this time. I just wanted to use this as a fun race, no competing. I even decided I would take video during the run (the video is at the end of this recap).
|2013 Expedition Everest Challenge Course Map|
photo courtesy of Disney Every Day
Since the race portion was only a 5K, the expo technically wasn’t an expo. There were basically just a dozen or so booths set up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and they were all outside.
My friends and I were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which we felt was a good idea, since it was a host resort for the race. Well, apparently everyone else had the same idea. The race started at 10pm, so we decided to get catch the bus to the race just after 8, thinking that would allow us plenty of time. It did not.
The line was huge, and buses weren’t coming fast enough. We contemplated taking a taxi, but other people in line were in communication with their friends who had, and as it turned out, the people in taxis were stuck in traffic trying to enter the race area. It was getting down to the wire. Finally, we were towards the front of the line at about 9:36. I knew we’d fit on the next bus, but that wasn’t the concern: when the next bus was coming was.
At the last minute a Cast Member came out and started yelling, “Corral A! Anyone here in Corral A?” My friends and I, who were in fact in Corral A, skipped on over to him. He had us stand in a separate line, and more runners gathered behind us. Within one minute a seven-passenger van pulled up, and seven of us piled in as the driver rushed us to the race. It was true that traffic was still backed up, so he took us through the Cast Member parking lot and got us as close as he could to the race area (about 200 yards away). We ran over, and entered our corral just minutes before the start! I managed to find my friend Katherine, who may have participated in every runDisney race possible in the past few years, and posed for a quick photo. If you look behind us, you may even spot the “snow” in the air. Very Everest-y!
|My friend Katherine and I in Corral A|
The fireworks went off, and thus began the 6th annual Expedition Everest Challenge. It is always a treat starting in Corral A. The weaving through runners required when starting in a later corral really does take a toll. I had a mini burst of energy at the start, so I ended up towards the front of the pack. I ran off to the side a little however since I knew I’d be sporadically filming, and planned to slow down a bit during those stretches. The first mile was easy, but it didn’t take place in the park. We ran along the perimeter of the Butterfly parking lot, and runDisney put out a few decorations (I seem to remember a glowing glacier like structure in the water along the course), and speakers pumping out sounds of a growling Yeti (that part is audible in the video recap). I had incorrectly assumed that the obstacles would all be at or around each mile marker. Obstacle #1, jumping over bales of hay, appeared about three quarters into Mile One. The bales weren’t very high, and jumping them was relatively easy (and surprisingly fun).
The first mile marker came just as we entered the park. The path took us up through the Oasis, past the Tree of Life, through Africa, and over to Asia. There was a decent amount of backstage running on this course, and at one point we were actually behind Expedition Everest, which was kind of weird. It was at about Mile Two and a quarter that we finally hit the second obstacle: tires. This was technically the most difficult of the three. There were more tires than I had anticipated, and they were wet. Plus, I was trying to film my feet the whole time. I managed to not fall, however, and pressed on.
The final leg of the 5K had us run along a small body of water outside of the park. The third and final obstacle, crawling under a cargo net, came pretty much at the end of Mile Three. Like the hay it was pretty easy, and upon completing it, the race portion of the event was pretty much done. As you crossed the finish line, folks that would normally be lined up to hand you your medal or a banana, were passing out clue cards instead. The scavenger hunt begins.
I hate to admit it, but the first clue took me a few minutes to figure out. As soon as I saw numbers I got flustered, since Math was never my strong suit (I am an English major!). But after staring at it long enough, a pattern emerged.
|I highlighted each zero to reveal the pattern|
The next clue was decidedly easier, as it was impossible to miss the letters in all caps.
|Apologies for bad quality - but check out all of the capital letters|
Clue number three was tricky at first, since I again thought it was some sort of Math equation. But then I started to think, “What is 26?” The first (and only) thing that came to mind was the letters of the alphabet, and from that point it was simple.
|19 = S and 23 = W|
The last clue was a bit confusing. I knew it was a direction however, since we already had Northwest, Northeast, and Southwest. I was going to just guess Southeast, but as I arrived to the location, I heard one of the volunteers giving other runners a clue. “New England,” he said to them. Well that answered that. I grabbed the first available volunteer and said, “Northeast.” I was handed the final clue, which basically instructed us to piece our previous clues together, and look for a pattern that would match one on our bib. My first instinct was to piece the clues together as they would be on a map (Southwest would be lower left, Northwest upper left, etc), however that proved incorrect once I realized two of the answers were Northeast. It took me a few minutes, but I eventually realized that there were little letters on each side of the puzzle pieces. What were the letters? Why N, S, E and W, of course. After arranging the respective piece to match its clue answer, I came up with this…
|Disclaimer: That lower-left piece is actually wrong, but I could still see the symbol|
I identified the symbol on my bib (the white one, although when I tried to point to it in the video recap I accidentally pointed at red), picked up my puzzle pieces, and began the run back to the finish line. I remark in the video how it felt like running a 5K (three miles) all over again. It turns out I was close. Another runner who was tracking his distance said all told we ran about five miles that night.
I came to the finish line, and just before crossing, a volunteer made sure I had the answer to the final clue. I stopped and pointed to the white symbol on my bib, and she ushered me along. I crossed, received my medal, snapped a pic, grabbed a Powerade and a banana, and waited for my friends to finish. Physically I felt really good. Five miles is hardly a significant amount of running, and again, the obstacles were pretty easy. In fact, that’s really only one of two things I didn’t care for.
In 2009 we had to scale a wall, and also climb a cargo net. I later heard those were too difficult for some people, so that explains why the obstacles are so easy these days. However when the obstacles are too easy, they barely feel like obstacles. I don’t know if this would be feasible, but I wonder if they could somehow have two separate divisions, easy and hard, with two different sets of obstacles? That would be a good solution, as that brings me to my only other knock on this event: the price. Races have become quite trendy as of late, and registration fees have been increasing to the point of, “Is this race worth that much?” In the case of the Expedition Everest Challenge, I have to say it was a really fun event. I didn’t get to enjoy the 2009 race at all, due to the monsoon. With great weather, I was able to appreciate all of the elements that went into this challenge. I love the physical/mental combination required, but again, the distance was short, and the obstacles were easy, making the physical part not much of a challenge. For the price we paid ($110 to $130, depending on when you registered), I would have liked to see either the aforementioned tougher obstacles, or perhaps the race distance being doubled to a 10K.
The post-race party was pretty fun. We danced a little, and rode Expedition Everest. It's always cool getting to ride that at night.
|Showing our bling|
Again, I would like to point out that this was a very fun event. It’s just at some point you have to start looking at overall value for your money. But runDisney did a great job structuring a fairly complex course. There were plenty of Cast Members out to cheer us on, and all of the volunteers who guided us through the scavenger hunt portion were wonderful. This race definitely gets a thumbs up from me.
|Jenna, Keith, Stacey, Katherine|
And if you’d like to see the obstacles and course for yourself, check out the video below!
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This time on Dueling Disney, we thought we’d take a look outside of the theme parks, and cast an eye on the surrounding state. “What’s that?” you cry. “There’s more to a Disney vacation than just the parks?”
Why, yes, there is. In fact, there are plenty of other things to be seen in the surrounding areas of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In fact, you could even make a whole vacation out of it! So, let’s venture off Disney property and see what’s going on elsewhere.
Who will win this time? California, or Florida?
Thursday, May 2, 2013
This month we're joined by John and Lauren Delmont, the father/daughter team that produced the wonderful video "The Secret Tour of Disneyland." The two give us a glimpse into what it was like making the video, share some fun stories about interactions with cast members, and talk about a few of their Disney favorites.
Your listening options are: iTunes, the direct podcast’s page, or via the window below. Enjoy!
Your listening options are: iTunes, the direct podcast’s page, or via the window below. Enjoy!
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Perhaps no other land is more cherished by children than Fantasyland, for it gives them a chance to step into and experience some of the very films they were raised on (whenever Walt’s classics get mixed in with their library of Pixar titles). Each Fantasyland can call its resort’s most iconic structure its entrance, and each Fantasyland is replete with magic, charm, and whimsy. From flying elephants to swords embedded in stone, both of the American Disney parks’ Fantasylands capture the imagination of children from all over the world.
But the question is, as it always is on Dueling Disney… which one is better?
Friday, April 19, 2013
Part One of the recap of David Lesjak’s 2719 Hyperion Avenue – Foundation of an Empire left off at the tail end of the 1920s. Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies were both big successes, and things were looking very promising for the studio on Hyperion. But the new decade would bring an immediate and unwelcome change.
In January of 1930, Ub Iwerks, Walt’s friend for over ten years, left Disney’s Hyperion Studio. It was a big blow to Walt. Ub after all was one of the very few animators who stuck by him when Charles Mintz hired away nearly his entire staff. Ub wanted to start his own studio, however. So he joined Pat Powers (who had just had his own falling out with Walt) and started a studio under his own name. Powers had the capital, as most of his financiers felt Ub was the main reason for Disney’s success. While Ub did play an integral part in the studio’s early success, and was himself a hugely talented individual, the financiers were incorrect.
The Hyperion Studios pressed on, and even began to expand. A huge “Walt Disney Studios” sign was added to the property, complete with a smiling Mickey Mouse.
|Photo courtesy of 2719hyperion.blogspot.com|
Despite Mickey’s fame, the sign actually caused some of the locals to assume that the Hyperion lot was some sort of a “mouse studio.” Because of this, many of them would toss stray cats over the walls. Walt seized an opportunity to pose with some of Hyperion’s cutest new residents.
|Photo courtesy of David Lesjak|
David also shared more examples of the special talent we learned about his crew in Part One of this recap: Looking at a photo of an animator and figuring out what exactly they were working on. Really cool stuff.
|Photo courtesy of David Lesjak|
|Photo courtesy of David Lesjak|
In addition to the recent influx of stray cats, the Disney Studio was about to receive another kind of influx: the cash-flow kind. In 1932 Walt received a call from a gentleman named Herman "Kay" Kamen, a successful Kansas City advertiser. Kamen had a vision of putting a Disney character into every home in America. His ingenuity and commitment to quality pleased Walt, and on July 1, 1932, Walt and Kamen signed a contract at Hyperion. (For more on Walt and Kay Kamen, please check out The Rise of Disney Marketing).
|Walt (3rd from left) with Kamen (3rd from right)|
Photo courtesy of filmic-light.blogspot.com
More expansion came in 1932. Hyperion was also about to be the birthplace of another animation first. “So Technicolor, about that time came out with the three-color… the film absorbs the color in the right proportion… now that was it,” Walt said. “Now when they came to me with it, and I saw the three colors, and I saw it all on one side of the film, I was very excited about it. It was expensive. I wanted to go right away to color." Walt was so excited about this new process, they stopped production on the black-and-white Silly Symphony they were working on at the time, Flowers and Trees, and started completely over in color. Flowers and Trees would become the first animated short to ever win an Academy Award (Best Short Subject, Cartoons), as well as the first film of any kind to utilize the Technicolor three-strip process.
|Photo © Disney|
Another first at the Hyperion Studio was the art of storyboarding (as we know it today). This was utilized in Disney’s next Academy-Award winning short, The Three Little Pigs (1933). Pigs was so popular, it outlasted many features during its initial run. It was around that time Walt was treated to a beautifully remodeled office, as the studio expanded again.
More expansion occurred in 1935, and work on the first feature-length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was in full swing. David showed us a photo of some of the jars of paint used. All told, over 1500 hues were used in Snow White.
In the fall of 1935, an apprentice animator’s building was built across the street from the main studio. The building was referred to by some as the “Annex,” or, “Incubator.” Back in November of 1932, Walt hired drawing instructor Don Graham to teach the first art classes at Hyperion. Instruction initially took place at the soundstage, but by 1936, was moved to the Annex. Both human and animal models provided inspiration during the studio-sponsored art classes. Animator Jack Kinney recalled: “We had two or three night sessions a week, with live models. We studied life drawing, composition, quick sketch, animals of all kinds, and action analysis.”
In 1936, business was booming, and Walt needed more artists. The studio placed an ad in Popular Mechanics.
|Photo courtesy of David Lesjak|
The studio kept on growing. New technologies were being implemented as well. While some versions of a multiplane camera existed before 1937, the “definitive” version was created by animator Bill Garity. It was first used on the Silly Symphony The Old Mill, which went on to win the Academy Award for best animated short film. The camera was also utilized in Snow White, which in 1938 brought in enormous dividends for the Walt Disney Studios.
By 1939, there was no more room to grow. Walt took advantage of the financial windfall brought on by Snow White, and constructed a huge, state-of-the-art studio on South Buena Vista Street in Burbank. Some of the buildings from Hyperion were actually transported to the new property. Most of them met a grizzly fate at the hands of a bulldozer, however, just months before Walt’s untimely passing in December of 1966. Today, the only remaining Disney-related building from the Hyperion neighborhood is a duplex that resides on Griffith Park Boulevard.
“The span of twelve years between Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey with sound, and Fantasia, is the bridge between primitive and modern animated pictures. No genius built this bridge. It was built by hard work and enthusiasm, integrity of purpose, a devotion to our medium, confidence in its future, and, above all, by steady day-to-day growth in which we all simply studied our trade and learned.”
~ Walt Disney
Walt had about 12-16 employees when the studio first opened in 1926. By the time they moved to Burbank, he had about 1500.
After David's presentation, he joined us in Gallery 6 of The Walt Disney Family Museum for The Disney Project's first official meet-up. While there he and I snapped a pic.
|Hangin' with David|
I’d like to thank David Lesjak and his research team for the work that went into this utterly engrossing presentation. Special thanks to David in particular for sharing some notes and providing some photos, helping to assure this recap would be as rich and accurate as possible. Those early days in the Hyperion Studio broke new ground for animation, paved the way for the entire art form, and set the standard for animated films as we know them today.