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Hating on Dreamworks

13 Apr

Yeah, it’s probably not entirely fair. But it’s damn funny. The print’s too small to read here, so click on it please.

From Mightygodking, hat tip Geoff Carter’s shared RSS items.

Finding Nemo: A Lesson in Parenting

1 Dec

Sometimes I think FInding Nemo is the only source of parenting advice I’ll ever need.

My kid has a lucky fin. No, not really….but if you’ve seen the movie, you understand. He’s not your typical kid, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But bottom line, there are certain challenges that come with parenting a kid who’s so uniquely blessed, and they’re not limited to the logistics that come with extra doctors’ visits, medications, and diagnostics. It’s always hard to let go of kids as they grow up; I’m just living it through a differently-colored pair of glasses

Many days, I feel like Marlin. I don’t want to let my precious child swim out on that field trip near the edge of the reef. I want to call out to him, remind him to be careful, not get in past his depth. But that’s just the sort of thing that pushed Nemo to take risks recklesssly, to swim out to the big boat, and led him into the way of the diver’s net.

Marlin: Nemo! You’re gonna get stuck out there and I’ll have to go get you before another fish does. Get back here! Get back here now! Stop! You make one more move, mister…
[Nemo lifts his fin]
Marlin: Don’t you lay a fin on that boat! Don’t you dare touch that boat! Don’t you…
[Nemo touches the boat]
Marlin: Nemo!

And as much as I want to protect him, I also don’t want him to grow up in fear. I want him to explore this big blue world, to know that he is capable of great things. I want him to choose what risks to take not out of rebellion, but out of courage and joy. I cannot protect him from every danger in this world, and it wouldn’t be in his best interests for me to try.

My BFF is a self-described Dory, and reminded me this morning to just keep swimming, just keep swimming. She’s right. In the movie, Dory also reminds me none of us are alone:

This is the Ocean, silly, we’re not the only two in here.

I find myself thinking that parenting is like a ride on the EAC, except that any given day can seem to call for Squirt’s exit advice:

We’re gonna have a great jump today. Okay, first crank a hard cutback as you hit the wall. There’s a screaming bottom curve, so watch out. Remember: rip it, roll it, and punch it.

How many days must I really spend on that screaming bottom curve? Sometimes I’m tired of ripping and rolling.

I want to learn from Gill. He’s sure not perfect, but he does help Nemo learn a little bit about self-reliance.

[Nemo is stuck in the filter intake. The others are about to help him out when… ]
Gill: Nobody touch him! Nobody touch him.
Nemo: Can you help me?
Gill: No. You got yourself in there, you can get yourself out.
Deb: Ah, Gil…
Gill: I just want to see him do it, Okay? Keep calm. Alternate wriggling your fins and your tail.
Nemo: I can’t. I have a bad fin
Gill: Never stopped me
[Turns to show Nemo his broken fin]
Gill: Just think about what you have to do.
[Nemo wriggles out of the filter]
Gill: Perfect.

I’ve got a bit of a broken fin myself, not quite like my kid’s but certainly I know what it is to walk around in this world with what some might consider imperfections. Maybe I can show my kid that my lucky fin never stopped me.

And really, Marlin’s got a bit of a broken fin himself, though it doesn’t show on the outside. He’s still struggling with love and grief, having lost most of his family in what my spouse refers to in an 9/11 allegory at the beginning of the film. His heart is broken, and he truly believes the only way to stay safe is to live in fear, to never let go.

And of course, when all is said and done, Marlin eventually learns to let go, to trust that Nemo knows how to save the fish caught in the net in the film’s climactic scene, and we see that Dory’s right, that we’re not the only two fish in the ocean, that we can do together what none of us can do alone.

I hope I can keep learning that lesson too.

Tr2n Using Motion Capture? What Does Pixar Think?

13 Oct

io9.com (via Geoff Carter‘s shared RSS items) tells me that Tron 2.0 is using motion-capture:

Kevin Flynn actor Jeff Bridges gushed about the sequel to Tron, and what it’s like making a movie of light cycle goodness in motion capture. If there was any doubt that TR2N was going to be bushels of awesome and heaps of greatness, I think Disney’s wise decision to use the best technology in the movie business right now has sealed the deal.

Now, this might not be all that noteable, except for the fact that there are certainly a few of us who interpret Pixar’s short “Lifted” as a bit of a dig against the use of motion-capture for animation, which some view as kinda cheaty. Plus, at the end of Ratatouille (the film that “Lifted” played with, there’s another jab, as noted by AintItCool.com:

And speaking of mocap: Pixar takes a great swipe at motion-capture animation with a cheeky “100% Motion Capture Free!” certificate tacked onto the very ass end of the final credits. Take *that* Zemekis/creators of Monster House/etc!

Now of course, Tron 2.0 might not be using mo-cap for animation…it might be entirely for other types of effects. Still, though, it’s kinda funny.

WALL-E, Japanese Cell Phones, and Badtz-Maru Dancer

5 Sep

There’s something about this image that just screams “Blade Runner” to me…but maybe that’s because I was listening to 80’s Movie and Music Cafe chattering about that movie this morning….I think I need an evening on the couch reacquainting myself with that classic!

But I digress…this picture actually comes to us from Japan, via Pink Tentacle, which tells us about a new ad technology being tested on Japanese cell phones (which, as we all know, are frequently signs of what’s coming next, especially when those trendsetting schoolgirls get involved):

Japan’s first field test of “smart posters” using Near Field Communication (NFC) — a short-range high-frequency wireless communication technology that lets users view digital content simply by holding their compatible cellphones near the posters — is being conducted at a Chiba-area shopping mall, it was announced on September 2.

Major phone operator SoftBank Mobile, along with NTT Data, Hitachi and Dutch smart chip maker Gemalto, are testing the technology with WALL-E and Tinker Bell movie posters embedded with NFC tags.

Strangely enough, when I did a google image search for “softbank mobile tinker bell,” an unrelated image from my very own blog showed up. I guess I’m tired and spacey from too much fun last night (belly dancers! sword fights! all-girl Queen tribute band Gunpowder Gelatine!), but this picture makes me smile so much I just have to share it with you…it is a treasured memory from my 2002 trip to Sanrio Puroland.

Guess I need a research trip to Japan to check out those cell phone ads, look for Tinker Bell, and check out the current version of the Sanrio Puroland 3PM parade.

WALL-E: Queer Studies Analysis from “Oh! Industry”

7 Aug

The Oh! Industry blog has a fabulous analysis of WALL-E, from a Queer Studies perspective. A snippet:

Much has been made of Wall-e’s loneliness in reviews of the film, as well as in some of Pixar’s own trailers. He finds nightly refuge with a companion cockroach in a makeshift shelter adorned with strings of lights and other keepsakes he’s scavenged throughout the day. (While we were watching the movie, CBB observed how Wall-e’s life among the heaps could be read vis a vis the Philippines’ own Smoky Mountain garbage dump–yet another Oh! entry point to the experience). But there is something about Wall-e that never feels lonely, even in the opening scenes before Eve arrives to shake things up (very literally).

Like one in every 10 viewers, or maybe 1 out of every 100 these days, I felt hailed by the very first “Out There” that opened the movie; by Cornelius Hackl’s goofy voice; by the lyrics and dance steps I memorized when I watched my VHS tape of Hello, Dolly! over and over again in my room when I was a choir-drama-band geek at Ramona high-school. And it only took a moment–the moment Dolly’s signature ballad filled Wall-e’s special screen–for me to feel the senti tears of recognition flowing from my eyes.

Good lord, even as I was hailing the gender subversion of the film in Those Darn Cats last week, the queer undertones of the film hadn’t risen above the level of subconscious. But as I read the Oh! Industry post, it was all clear as day.

Of course, the fact that the film reads as queer doesn’t mean that this was the artist’s intention. Interpretation and intent are two entirely different things, and if they don’t match it doesn’t mean that anybody did something “wrong” (I know that as a songwriter, I’ve written lyrics about superheroes that were widely interpreted as being about suicide, which seemed a valid interpretation to me despite not being my intent). Nonetheless, Andrew Stanton’s comments on his selection of music for WALL-E, quoted in the latter part of the article are rather sweet.

Monsters Inc. Bento Box

22 Jul

How cool is this? From TokyoMango, sent to me by Mr Broke Hoedown.

Save the Totoro Forest! Charity Auction at Pixar Campus

16 Jul

Have you seen the most-recent Disney DVD release of My Neighbor Totoro, a Hayao Miyazaki tour de force? No? Well then, get thee to Netflix or BestBuy or your DVD procurement method of choice. My Neighbor Totoro is a sweet, gentle, engaging movie about forest spirits that come into the lives of two young girls. Fans of Spirited Away will see similarities in imagery, and a similar Shinto tone.

(My reference to the Disney release is not gratuitous…it’s actually quite important. You don’t want the Fox DVD release, which is a pan-and-scan. This is a gorgeous movie, and you need every single pixel, I swear to you.)

The very-real Sayama Forest, which provided inspiration for the spiritual and aesthetic grounds of the movie is now endangered. The Totoro Forest Project, a non-profit organization, is working for its protection, and is having both a special exhibit at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum and a charity auction at Pixar Animation Studios Campus. Dude, I cannot tell you how badly I would like to be at both events!

Tip o’ the hat: Collateral Damage, aka Mr. Broke Hoedown.

WALL-E Game Cube Mod

14 Jul

Super kawaii!! How did I miss this before? GizmoDiva posted in February about a group of German game modders who modified their Game Cubes to look like our adorable little friend. (Hat tip: Dark Roasted Blend.)

Lutefisk, The Paris Sewer Museum, and WALL-E

9 Jul
Lutefisk dinner

A lovely traditional meal, featuring a big chunk of lutefisk front and center. Image from Wikipedia.

How amused was I to hear discussion of lefse on Episode 430 of WDW Today? It would have been nice under any circumstances…but it was doubly amusing because this week’s Those Darn Cats podcast also mentions that same tasty Norwegian treat! We also touch upon Lutefisk, a delicacy you’re not likely to find on Disney property. For those unfamiliar with Lutefisk, here’s a Garrison Keillor quote I grabbed out of Wikipedia:

“Lutefisk is cod that has been dried in a lye solution. It looks like the desiccated cadavers of squirrels run over by trucks, but after it is soaked and reconstituted and the lye is washed out and it’s cooked, it looks more fish-related, though with lutefisk, the window of success is small. It can be tasty, but the statistics aren’t on your side. It is the hereditary delicacy of Swedes and Norwegians who serve it around the holidays, in memory of their ancestors, who ate it because they were poor. Most lutefisk is not edible by normal people. It is reminiscent of the afterbirth of a dog or the world’s largest chunk of phlegm.”

My dear husband, running from a giant sediment-cleaning ball at the Paris Sewer Museum

My dear husband, running from a giant sediment-cleaning ball at the Paris Sewer Museum

I hope I never forget the time my son and I were walking past Epcot Norway, and I turned to him saying, “Honey, this is where some of your ancestors came from.” I had to stop myself short…my son’s ancestors were not, in fact from Central Florida. They were from the real Norway, and visiting a pavilion at Epcot is absolutely no substitute for visiting the real place. I do imagine that if I ever make it to the real Norway, dodging the occasional encounter with lutefisk will be just one of the joys of visiting a country rich in heritage and culture, much like a visit to Paris just doesn’t feel complete without a visit to the sewer museum, or maybe the Catacombs next time. We live in a complicated, sometimes smelly, and always unpredictable world…pretty much the opposite of the idealized international experiences we enjoy at Epcot.

And don’t get me wrong: I do in fact enjoy those experiences. I love dashing into Epcot Japan’s Mitsukoshi Department Store to grab a couple phone charms. I enjoy wandering the Twinings tea shop in Epcot UK, and wonder how different that will feel after I’ve actually seen London. I can never resist ducking into the Mexico pavilion to look at the folk arts, or perhaps grab a ride on what my son and I used to call “The River of Boredom” before Donald and pals plussed the place.

But none of these are a substitute for getting out into that un-sanitized real world, full of sewers and lutefisk and traffic jams. And hey, isn’t that actually one of the messages of this summer’s Pixar blockbuster? I love the moment when WALL-E’s interrupted this woman’s quality time with her computer screen on her barcolounger, and she discovers for the first time that there’s actually a swimming pool in the middle of this big ol’ lounge area. Life works best for me when I approach computer-mediated and otherwise-artificial experiences consciously, carefully, enjoying them only for what they are, and doing my best to approach this big messy beautiful world open-heartedly.

Even if it means yes, occasionally having a bite of lutefisk.

June 2008 WDW Trip Report: The Best and The Worst

26 Jun

Meeting Warwick Davis

A splendid time was had by all! And by “all,” I mean my son The Wachamacallit, my BFF Lisa, and myself. (I sure hope the folks we met up with there had a good time too! Shout-outs to Hayden, Matt, and Glenn!) As usual, there were high and low points to the trip. Here are my picks for the best and worst parts of our trip June 19-24, 2008.

Best new or updated attraction: Haunted Mansion. Yes indeed, as much as I loved Toy Story Midway Mania, and the updated Spaceship Earth, the improved audio and new features of the Haunted Mansion win this prize. I love the way the Escher room came out, and the graveyard’s a much more satisfying ride-through now that they’ve fixed the audio system and enhanced the visuals.

Worst hotel check-in line: Nickelodeon Family Suites. I’d booked this trip primarily with hotel points and frequent flier miles, so we had the distinct pleasure of checking out/in to hotels almost every day. For the most part, things went quite smoothly, and I have to give special props to Hampton Inn Lake Buena Vista for its comfortable rooms and complementary breakfast buffet, and to Pop Century for its always-boffo theming (and their quick attention to a problem with our room on arrival). We enjoyed our Sunday night stay at the Nick as well, especially for its fabulously-themed two-bedroom suites, and its Sony Playstations. But the registration line? We waited for about 45 minutes, by far the longest I’ve ever waited to check in at a hotel before.

Best trade: Silver-toned beads from a Jawa. This one was a tough call! I’m a pin-trader, and certainly I came home with a few fabulous finds. My collection of Figment “mood” pins is now complete! But I’ve gotta say that none of this can compare with having traded a tarnished old penny for a shiny new necklace from a Jawa we encountered on Commissary Lane. Uttini!!

Worst character meet-and-greet opportunities: Jedi Mickey, Stormtrooper Donald, Leia Minnie, and Darth Goofy. Disney surely knows that meeting any one of these characters is a must-have photo op for the Disney and Star Wars enthusiast. And there’s plenty of space in the Studios to set such things up. So why on earth do these four characters all share one location, and rotate who’s up for pictures? Why not give each a location of their own? The queue was usually 20-50 people deep, so only the most committed fan (or the parent with the most desperately-begging children) was likely to get a picture. Perhaps Disney could have made some money off this artificially-created scarcity, and had a $40/person character meal specifically for the Star Wars/Disney mash-up characters.

Most liberating fashion moment: Leaving the lumbar pack behind. It is a well-known fact that the amount of crap parents have to lug around is inversely proportional to the age of their child. And yes indeed, my child has gotten to the age where not only can he go more than 120 seconds without eating, in fact he is quite happy to carry his own snacks, water bottles, and other assorted paraphernalia. So, my days as a sherpa are over! But it’s not like I’m donating my massive lumbar pack to the Expedition Everest queue (hat tip to Hochberg)…I’m hanging onto it for now. You never know, I might be toting around stuff for grandkids someday.

Best non-traditional view of Wishes: From Ariel’s Grotto. This was a tough call too…I truly enjoyed watching Wishes from the ferry, while leaving the Magic Kingdom Saturday night (to go meet Lisa, who’d just arrived in Orlando, yay!). But better yet was being in line at Mrs. Pott’s Cupboard for ice cream when we realized Wishes was about to start, and scurrying over to the area right in front of Ariel’s Grotto to watch. I did get a good bit of whiplash from craning my neck back and forth to catch the fireworks in both directions, and the coordination of pyrotechnics didn’t work so well that way, but the sheer joy of being right in the middle of it all made me laugh out loud.

Most exciting competition: Padawan Footrace Challenge. I knew we needed to get to the park well before rope drop Saturday to sign up my son The Wachamacallit for the Padawan Mind Challenge, but I had no idea that, despite Cast Member instructions to the contrary, there would be an all-out dash to the sign-up table. I was trying to keep it to a fast walk myself…but somehow couldn’t bring myself to tell my kid to stop running when the other kids sprinted ahead of him. True to the competitive family spirit, my kid did in fact get to the table first, which he now speaks of with the same amount of pride as he does the fact that he tied for first place in the Mind Challenge a few hours later.

Theming at Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle StationLeast successful theming: Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station’s Monsters Inc decor. I asked a Cast Member what the wooden cut-outs of Monsters Inc characters were for, and she explained to me that this was now a themed restaurant, that it is a station where the children of the world can eat noodles. She was so thoroughly committed to the bit that I didn’t even consider the fact that this was absurd, and in fact not “theming” at all, but rather a haphazard attempt at decor. Hilarity ensued. If you want to know what I sound like when I’m laughing so hard that I can hardly breathe, and tears are running down my cheeks, just listen to Those Darn Cats podcast #7 (recorded live in and around the Noodle Station, and a good bit more random than TDC on an average day).

Tin Toy Golden BookBest attraction queue: Toy Story Midway Mania. The queue is designed to feel like you’re walking through Andy’s room, and you’re the size of a toy. All sorts of fabulous things are there…Chutes and Ladders on the ceiling, Viewmaster wheels from Peter Pan and Disneyland, Candyland pathways under your feet. But for me the best part of all was actually in the exit queue: A super-size Golden Book of Tin Toy, sure to catch the eye of any Pixar fan. I threw a few pictures onto Flickr of a couple pages (this and this), plus Pinocchio and Mickey Mouse from the back cover (Donald was there too, but I didn’t get the shot). Oh, and I trust that word has spread about the hidden Mickey near the place where you pick up your 3D glasses? Hayden found it, and told us where to look. Check out the Andy-drawn Nemo on the wall, and look down.

Worst traffic management: Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s clear they’re trying…Cast Members escorted the crowds from the rope to the FastPass machines at park opening Sunday, which perhaps averted a potential re-enactment of the 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati. But as my BFF Lisa has observed, the walkway in front of the attraction is just plain too narrow, even without the construction barricades for the building across the way. Sure, the crowds will diminish in time, so I trust that the wait-time won’t always surge close to an hour within 20 minutes of park opening. But I do believe this attraction’s popularity will last, and the area will stay congested. Perhaps they need to move the FastPass machines farther from the attraction, a la Dinosaur or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin?

Best Easter Egg: Rainbow balloons. Toy Story Midway Mania has a whole bunch of special features and views that you can unlock by hitting the proper combination of targets. My favorite by far? The rainbow balloons which cascade down in the Bo Peep room, if you and your partner shoot down the final balloons on the corner clouds at the same time. I saw it just once, with the help of some guy I happened to be sharing a car with (he’d come through the single rider line, and was thrilled to find out that these Easter Eggs might give him an edge in an ongoing competition with his wife).

Most delicious meal: Le Cellier. bien sur! I was sure I’d be ordering the strip steak, but Cast Member Sarah (whose nametag inexplicably said “Ashley”) made the mushroom filet sound so appealing! I substituted cream cheese potatoes for the mushroom risotto, and it was fabulous. For dessert? A maple crème brûlée the size of my head. Good thing Pal Mickey was hungry too. Runner up: A pineapple Dole Whip, which technically does not constitute a meal but was nonetheless quite tasty.

Worst customer experience: United Airlines. It’s not the fact that our flight was delayed by weather, or that mechanical problems and crew-availability problems further delayed us. It’s not even the fact that we missed our connection in Dulles, and got stuck there overnight. It’s the fact that their recent schedule reductions and equipment downsizing meant that very few options were available for re-booking, and that about an hour after we’d re-booked, I got a text message telling me that flight was canceled (despite the fact that it was fully booked). It’s also about their customer service representative suggesting that my child’s health needs were inflexible, and that we should just sleep in the airport. I hope the airline’s just going through transitional pains, along with the rest of the industry, but after several years of elite frequent flier status, I’m seriously considering switching my loyalty to another carrier.

Best addition to my plushie menagerie: Towel animal! This little guy was waiting in the window for us in our room at Pop Century Monday night. I wasn’t sure if I could take him home…so I called the front desk, feeling rather sheepish, and the Cast Member reassured me quite kindly that my new terrycloth friend was mine to keep. I forgot to ask about care and feeding, but he does seem to be thriving in his new environment.

Most bittersweet moment: Knowing I’ll be making my next Disney trip solo. Well, not quite solo exactly…my next Disney trip will be to MouseFest 2008, so it’s not like I’m going to lack for companionship! But again, my child is growing up, and old enough now to understand that Mom’s going to Disney World on her own this December. Not only that, but he probably wouldn’t want me to pull him out of school for a trip, even if I were willing to do that, and after moping around when so many of my friends were there last December I promised myself I wouldn’t miss 2008. For me, the essential challenge of parenting is the gradual separation, knowing when to pull him close and when to let him fly. As he learns to fly higher and farther on his own, I may miss him, but I also can continue to enjoy the way my own freedom grows.

I trust that my friends who read this blog will remember I’ve said this, and bring my own words back to me when they find me weeping on Main Street come December!

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