Jackson 5 Cover of Zip A Dee Doo Dah

27 Jun

I wasn’t sure I’d ever blog again. Hadn’t I said everything I had to say about Disney? In particular, hadn’t I already spoken my peace on the issues of gender, sexual orientation, race, and class which so often get under my skin when we’re talking about Disney?

But today, I’m innocently listening to the 2010 compilation album, J is for Jackson 5, and I swear to you my heart skipped a beat when I hear a little number from Song of the South, a movie about which I’ve already expressed an opinion a few times. And whaddya know, it turns out this track was on their debut album, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5. You can see them performing another version of this song live on what appears to be American Bandstand or some such show.

The controversy over Song of the South is not new, and Snopes tells me that Disney “kept [the film] out of circulation all throughout the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s.” So I’m surprised that out of the enormous Disney catalog, they picked something from Song of the South to cover. Was there any cultural fallout? Google doesn’t seem to think so. And given that it was re-released as part of such a recent compilation, the Jacksons don’t seem to have a problem with it either. But, well, there’s plenty of commentary out there about Michael Jackson and his relationship with race, which I think it’s safe to say is a rather complex question.

But wow. Zip A Dee Doo Dah.

Marketing Fail: Princess Tiana for Watermelon Candy

7 Mar

From clutch:

This week’s failure at good common sense in product marketing comes courtesy of a batch of Disney princess-themed Valentine’s day candy that pairs Sleeping Beauty‘s Aurora with vanilla flavored sugary dipping dust and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog with the watermelon flavor.

Wondering why this is a problem? Colorlines and Sociological Images (warning: disturbingly racist imagery) have the scoop for you, far better than any explanation I could try to provide.

Gorgeous Cakes and Marriage Equality: 2011 Disney Wedding Awards

13 Feb

Sometimes a girl needs a little boost on a Monday morning. And I must say I got choked up a bit looking at the nominees for the 2011 Disney Wedding Awards on the Disney Wedding Blog, and seeing a number of same-sex couples among the honorees. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that we were fighting for same-sex couples to have equal access to Disney Fairy Tale Weddings. I especially loved the series of engagement pictures for Joaquin and Ruben (the full set of photos is separate from the voting page).

And of course, I’m thrilled that my BFF’s nominated as well! Lisa and Trace are in the running for Best Wedding Cake, for their Haunted Mansion-themed grooms’ cake.

Chinese Anime/Disney-Lookalike Video Service

23 Jan

From Anime News Network:

The Chinese service Xu You Ji lets parents pay to have their children turned into 3D models and animated in their own CG action-adventure shorts. The children also dub their own voices into the work. The custom video service debuted in 2009, but recently garnered attention because of one of its videos, featuring Gundam models and other anime elements, was posted online this week.

An example of their use of Disney-copyrighted materials is at 3:10 in this video, and again as the credits roll at about 5:30:

And yes, the company claims there’s no copyright issue here. Go to their FAQ and let your browser translate, and you should see something like this at question 4:

those cartoons on TV common is it? There are no copyright issues?

The animation is our own design and development headquarters, and have our own rights, but also into some of the popular cartoon elements, but by our own cartoon adaptation, does not involve copyright issues.

Ah, those wacky cross-cultural differences when it comes to intellectual property rights.

Disney and Porn: The Unfortunate Truth

17 Jan

Porn and Disney - The Unfortunate Truth

Found by my son on imgur, appearing to be from StuffNoOneToldMe. It speaks the truth.

Dumbo or Die: A Parable of Middle Age

30 Dec

As the new year approaches, my thoughts turn to resolutions. Strangely enough, mine seem to revolve around Dumbo. From this week’s Jentasmic! column at StudiosCentral:

A few weeks before my most recent trip to Walt Disney World, for WDW Today Reunion 2011, I surprised myself by telling my best friend Lisa that I almost never rode Dumbo because I felt guilty about taking up a spot in line when there would be so many small kids and stressed parents waiting their turn behind me. I felt badly about making some family wait a little while longer than they would if I’d just headed to another attraction. Sometimes I feel that way about the character meet-and-greets too, especially when I travel alone, and feel silly as a middle-aged lady waiting for her turn with Mickey amongst all the small children. Somehow even when I’m with other middle-aged folks, it doesn’t seem as silly as when I’m on my own.

And of course, this isn’t really about Dumbo. I promise. Go read.

Why You Should Oppose SOPA, and Let Disney Know

22 Dec

Anybody familiar with the history of the Copyright Term Extension Act (aka the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) should not be surprised that Disney’s supporting SOPA, the very bad no good ready-to-break-the-internet Act on which the US Congress will resume deliberation in January.

You don’t believe that SOPA’s really all that bad? Maybe you’ll listen to Adam Savage of Mythbusters:

These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made.

Okay, he’s a TV star. Maybe you want something a little less glossy, like perhaps the Stanford Law Review (not usually my go-to site for internet technology discussions, but they distill this one quite nicely):

Directing the remedial power of the courts towards the Internet’s core technical infrastructure in this sledgehammer fashion has impact far beyond intellectual property rights enforcement—it threatens the fundamental principle of interconnectivity that is at the very heart of the Internet. The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is a foundational block upon which the Internet has been built and upon which its continued functioning critically depends; it is among a handful of protocols upon which almost every other protocol, and countless Internet applications, rely to operate smoothly. Court-ordered removal or replacement of entries from the series of interlocking databases that reside in domain name servers and domain name registries around the globe undermines the principle of domain name universality—the principle that all domain name servers, wherever they may be located across the network, will return the same answer when queried with respect to the Internet address of any specific domain name. Much Internet communication, and many of the thousands of protocols and applications that together provide the platform for that communication, are premised on this principle.

Or, well, my spouse, who writes on internet security for CIO:

SOPA and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), another piece of legislation, both want to crack down on internet pirating – a goal every bit as laudable as the measures themselves are flawed. The bills would require companies to monitor user content, limiting the use of pictures, video and audio and other media. One problem that is it is pretty much impossible to tell the difference between an ISP interfering with a connection because of a court order and a hacker interfering prior to an attack.

The US House of Representatives lists both ABC and “Disney Publishing Worldwide” as supporters of SOPA. It’s not clear to me how to contact their offices; when I tried the number listed for them on Gizmodo, I had a lovely conversation with a receptionist in upstate New York, after which I was convinced that Disney’s support of SOPA is coming from somewhere other than this small local office. Which, of course, would be consistent with the fact that many other companies on the list are essentially part of Disney (ie, ABC, Marvel, ESPN). So, I’ve directed my comments through the Disney Corporate Citizenship feedback form, and invite you to do the same. Here’s what I wrote:

The US House of Representatives web site tells me that Disney Publishing Worldwide is a supporter of SOPA, HR 3261 (http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/Rouge%20Websites/SOPA%20Supporters.pdf). SOPA poses threats both to the First Amendment, and to the fundamental technical underpinnings of the Internet.

As a regular consumer of many Disney media channels, parks, and products, and as a US citizen and voter, I ask that Disney retract its support of this act.

And if all this opposition to SOPA is for naught? For all the technical and legal problems SOPA would cause, certain of its intrusions would be surprisingly easy to get around. Download this episode of GeekNights now, on Circumventing SOPA. You’re welcome.

(And hey, am I the only one who noticed that the House.gov URL above includes the phrase “Rouge Websites?” I know they mean rogue . . . but it makes me think SOPA is targeting Sephora.)

Return to Babycakes: A Follow-up Review

16 Dec
Baked treats at Babycakes

Are these doughnuts? Maybe. Keep an open mind

In January, I visited Babycakes at Downtown Disney, and tried the cupcakes that my friends had been raving about. And, well, I wasn’t thrilled. But I was glad to see Disney making room for healthy foods, and promised the manager that I’d give Babycakes another try.

Last week, I made good on that promise, and stopped in at Babycakes for the WDW Today Reunion 2011 Bye Bye Babycakes Brunch. This time, I tried several menu items: A quartet of mini-“doughnuts”, a frozen chocolate-chip-cookie sandwich, and a piece of a giant chocolate-chip-cookie sandwich.

The chocolate-chip-cookie sandwiches were fantastic, both the large and the small. Had nobody told me these were vegan, kosher, refined-sugar-free, and free of a variety of common allergens, I wouldn’t have noticed. The cookie itself was fairly basic, essentially a delivery system for the super-sweet frosting and the generous heaps of chocolate chips.

The “doughnuts” provided the more interesting case study. And yes, I’ve got “doughnuts” in quotes on purpose. Biting into one for the first time, I was surprised by the texture. They’re crunchier and slightly more oily than one would generally expect from a doughnut, and perhaps even a little sweeter. The chocolate glazed was the closest to a traditional doughnut in flavor, though with the slightly-crunchy, moist texture that all the doughnuts shared (I assume they’re all made with the same doughnut base, with different toppings on each). The coconut and vanilla glazed doughnuts were both quite subtle flavors. I’d been told that the cookie crunch was their best seller; the crunchy glaze felt slightly strange in combination with the slightly-crunchy doughnut itself.

Now, I’m not generally a food reviewer, and I must tell you I’ve never paid such careful attention to eating a doughnut in my life. I sat at a table with a few other reunion-goers, who watched with amusement as I nibbled, took notes, and occasionally made thoughtful faces. On careful thought, I decided that if I’d stopped into a doughnut shop to pick these up on the way to work and was nibbling at one on my desk, they might just have seemed regular. They were all perfectly fine, snackable “doughnuts.” And here’s where we need to bring nutritional analysis into the mix.

I’m a Bostonian, so my default doughnut is the Dunkin’. (We’ve got some coffee wars here between Dunkin’ and Starbucks, but the doughnut field is pretty darn tied up. There are at least three DD’s within a quarter mile of my house.) Fortunately, both Dunkin’ Donuts and Babycakes provide nutritional analysis of (at least some ) of their products online, so I picked fairly equivalent doughnuts and did the math, comparing only on the categories in which both companies had provided data.

Babycakes vs Dunkin' Donuts

Babycakes vs Dunkin' Donuts

Now, don’t go being surprised that the calories aren’t that different. Or that there’s still a decent amount of fat. Vegan food was never promised to be low-calorie. Don’t go thinking that you can eat unlimited sweets at Babycakes (or any other healthier-food outlet) because they’re so healthy they just don’t count. Your metabolism is still doing the math.

Do notice, though, there are a couple places where Babycakes is remarkably different: Dietary fiber, and fat. Doughnuts aren’t part of my everyday diet, and I don’t think I’d want to change that. But the difference in fiber and fat listed for these fairly-equivalent doughnuts is enough to make a real difference if you’re eating these sweets on a regular basis. Your metabolism hasn’t put down the calculator, but your arteries might just be thanking you. And I wouldn’t say you’re sacrificing taste by going with these doughnuts — just choosing a different taste.

Would it make sense to call these something other than doughnuts, just to avoid the surprise factor? I’m not sure. They look like doughnuts, so chances are people would think of them as such even if sold under a different name. It’s an interesting exercise in marketing, perhaps good fodder for a paper in one of my business school classes sometime.

I’ll definitely go back to Babycakes again, and this time not just because I promised I would. I might still stay away from the cupcakes; I suspect their stronger suits are the products with more add-ons (such as frosting or chocolate chips), rather than those where the cake/cookie itself takes center stage. If you’ve eaten at Babycakes and have a favorite product to recommend, drop me a note so I’ll know what to try next time!

Star Tours: In Praise of Avoiding Spoilers

16 Dec

With an old buddy, at Connection 2009

[Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!]

I waited . . . and waited. . . and waited. I guess you could say I’m dual-diagnosed, because I’m both a Disney fan, and a Star Wars fan. And still, I managed to avoid almost all spoilers about the recently-updated Star Tours attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Was it worth it? From this week’s Jentasmic! column:

I’ve got an analytical mind, and I find it hard to shut off. But that first time through, I was completely swept away. Darth Vader was there, and we were in his grip. My friend Eliyanna was a rebel spy! C3P0 and R2D2 managed to get us free, and before I knew it we were dodging AT-ATs on Hoth. Then a message from Admiral Ackbar (it’s a trap!!!), and now off to Naboo! I was having so much fun even Jar Jar didn’t get to me. I do believe Matt will vouch for me when I tell you that after the ride was over, I was so happy I could have cried.

Head on over to StudiosCentral to read the rest . . .

New Fantasmic! Dining Experience

2 Dec

Is it temporary? Or just on a trial run? I dunno, but I want to give it a try. There’s a new “Dining Experience” product at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which includes preferred seating for my favorite evening show at Walt Disney World. This week’s Jentasmic! column at StudiosCentral has my take on whether this package is worth a shot.

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