Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas/The Christmas Waltz (Vocal Cover)

A cover of two Christmas classics, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “The Christmas Waltz,” as covered by Serg Beret.


The Balcony is Closed: Rest In Peace Roger Ebert 1942-2013

On April 4th, 2013, the world of critical review and pop culture lost the legend and icon that was Roger Ebert. As a budding film critic myself, both here on this site and in my college paper, reading the news of Ebert’s passing came as a great shock. My heart dropped and I was crushed. A man I looked up to and admired for his passion of cinema was gone.

My first exposure to Ebert was through the legendary quote him and his lifelong friend Gene Siskel gave to movies they considered good or even great. The immortal words of ‘Two Thumbs Up!’ always sprang to mind movie recommendations and got my young mind amped to see a movie gave the Godlike rating to. Some were hits and some were misses in my eyes, but as a young kid, I took their word for it. I watched ‘Siskel & Ebert at the Movies’ throughout my childhood and was hooked on their words of love for cinema. Sure, they had their moments of bickering, but through that, they respected one another’s opinion and built a bond not only between themselves, but the home audience watching these two on the classic syndicated program.Sadly in 1999, Gene Siskel passed due to complications of a second surgery to remove the cancer he had been fighting for so long. It was one of the major deaths alongside Princess Diana of my childhood I could never forget and a shock.

Roger Ebert kept on going, continuing the show with a bevy of co-hosts before settling on Richard Roeper to take Siskel’s seat right next to him. In 2006, Roger Ebert contracted thyroid cancer and left the show to focus on his illness yet never stopped writing. In his second sugery, Roger lost his voice and his jaw and was on put on feedin tubes. Luckily, doctors reconstructed his jaw in 2008 after a third surgery and Roger was back in businesss by continuing to write and meet his fans, still running his Ebertfest Film Festival and making a rebooted version of At the Movies with new critics.

Roger never gave up. The man lost his voice, a colleague and still kept on going. The man was smart, sophisticated and even controversial with his stance on slasher films being the equivalent of porn and video games not being art or in the same league of cinema. I personally disagreed with his statements, but even then, I did not lose admiration for him. He inspired me to review and to write both in the fiction and non-fiction realms. Ebert once said that if you gave him something fresh and new, he will be delighted or something along those lines. Ebert loved film and treated every genre and form of storytellin in the same league. Ebert was one of the few critics back then to hail animation in the same league of award winning features (i.e. his review of Beauty and the Beast).

Ebert passed away a day after his cancer returned and promised he would continue in a ‘leave of prescence’. He would be out of the spotligt, but still write on occassion and work on new social media ventures, even on including gamers to review. I am heartbroken as many of us are at the sudden loss of a true legend in the written world and someone who taught many of us to appreciate the good and the bad of cinema, to take a risk on the new and grow a great love for the classics.

For now, the balcony is closed.
Rest in peace, Roger. I give you two thumbs up.

I and the world are going to miss you.

This Is Just a Tribute: A Personal Reflection of Rock Band by Serg Beret

Back in my days as a gamer, I grew up on classics of the field from platformers to RPGs as heroes thwarting evil and saving princesses. I personally played a bit of every genre as I was always one for new experiences be it the unique storytelling component in Heavy Rain to the open worlds explored by Grand Theft Auto and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. All these games own a special place in my heart, but none of these experiences come close to the ones created by a groundbreaking game in the rhythm game genre entitled Rock Band.

Guitar. Vocals. Drums. Bass. ‘Nough said.

2007’s Rock Band, for those who did not have the fortune of playing it, is a game series created by Harmonix that simulated the band experience by combining all the instruments of a four piece group in the form of plastic instruments and a USB microphone. I first played it at a cousin’s house as I struggled to drum alongside the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Maps’ as the concept seemed alien to me at the time. I was a drummer in middle, assuming it would be a piece of cake’ only to wind up completely lost. Yet, me and my cousins all had fun and managed to become a decent band. As a sophomore in high school, I saved every dollar I earned from doing tasks and volunteering in order to get the huge special edition bundle of the game and finally hone my skills as a drummer.

One can fit the entire works of Issac Asimov in this box if their heart desires

I invited pals over to rock out to tunes from the classic warm-up jam ‘Say It Ain’t So’ by Weezer to the thumping bass lines of ‘Reptilia’ by The Strokes to the blistering solos and drum work on ‘Run to the Hills’ as made famous by Iron Maiden. The setlist was small, the room was even smaller, and our band was called The Flying D***. Remember, it was sophomore year, cut me a break.  Four guys in one room, ranging in ages from 15 to 23, switching instruments and rocking like we were on tour venturing to New York to our hometown of Los Angeles. My first true introduction to this genre, however, was in the form of Harmonix’s previous works, Guitar Hero.

And yet, Accordion Hero never quite took shape

Guitar Hero is a different story. I nearly gave up halfway during ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’, but started to get the hang of things after playing on my own. I eventually played Guitar Hero II were I finally went from medium to hard in no time. I am embarrassed to say, but expert to this day is still hard for me to truly take hold of. Guitar Hero ended up being sold to Activision and Neversoft, along with Red Octane, going on to spell the death of an entire genre, but more on that later. The guys and gals at Harmonix decided to make a spiritual successor in the form of Rock Band and wound up with a new winner, despite its hefty price tag for the full experience.

One thing Harmonix prided themselves on was the DLC support on the Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3 with weekly releases of songs that would eventually grow to over 4,000. You want Megadeth? Simply head to the music store and snatch them up. Want some Siouxsie and the Banshees? Yes, they are there as well. You want something that isn’t rock? Despite the game being called Rock Band, you can find it as well. With the  release of Rock Band 2 in 2008, I had upgraded from my dinky PS2 to the PS3 and my reign as a DLC purchasing machine started making a vast collection of songs and already adding to the unheard of 84 song setlist of Rock Band 2 and the export of Rock Band with nearly 200 songs at my disposal. This began the eventual Rock Band nights that created dumb moments and great ones from playing classic punk songs with the members of local garage rock groups completely wasted, my friends slurring the words to Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’, and scrapping my knees sliding midway of Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’.

Lemmy would approve

Harmonix would release the granddaddy and most unexpected announcements in the rhythm game genre that made everyone including the residents of local retirement homes stand up and shout ‘Finally!’.

The Deus Ex Machina of Video Games

This was the moment I nearly lost it all. As a Beatles die hard and a lover of Rock Band, it was like the cherry on top of the entire music game experience. Guitar Hero might have outsold it, but this was something no one should have missed. It ultilized the classic gameplay, incorporated dreamscapes for their Abbey Road Studios era songs, the locales of great Fab Four performances and harmonies for a more legitimate Beatles experience. To those how argue that video games are not art, one look at this game and I would dare them not to go ‘I take what I said back’. My family even took a noticed and played alongside on Thanksgiving night having an evening with The Beatles on our projectoion screen. Not a single song was unsung and seeing one of my tíos (uncles) sing along to ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and my little cousin hit every note of ‘Drive My Car’ was astounding.

Even better, no drugs needed

Harmonix put off doing a main game in order to bring this one to life and even went on to make two other spinoffs. Lego: Rock Band was created for a younger audience that combined stunning gameplay with the always hilarious world of Lego. Seeing Legos rock out to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ to help a UFO get off the ground with the power of rock is the second greatest moment in Rock Band history (First being the aforementioned Beatles game). Green Day: Rock Band was in the same vein as Beatles as it had songs solely by that artists bringing back harmonies and complete albums from the group. It was a chord fest, but any new addition is welcome to my library. I never had a copy of the limited release Wal-Mart AC/DC Live Track Pack. If I could find it, I would and I would rejoice greatly. These helped to make my song list grow and the Rock Band nights more insane as ever lasting through the powerhouse Green Day epics ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ and ‘Before the Lobotomy’ and the ode to jerking off ‘Longview’.

Yet, the interests started to dwindle due to Activision’s business model even the Third Reich would find insane of over saturating the market with Guitar Hero games and spinoffs to burn and ruin both franchise without realizing it.

An accurate depiction of Activision, courtesy of cod-ar.com

Harmonix said “Screw that” and announce Rock Band 3 with full harmonies, the new keyboard instrument, and pro guitar capabilities. This was a step in the right direction and took cues from The Beatles by using the same graphics and allowing the player to make setlists and save, play a party shuffle, and a more robust career mode dependent on the DLC many fans had purchased. I was ecstatic and bought it with the new instrument and was excited to see more artists and songs I longed for. Three years have passed and the Rock Band nights have all but ended, my DLC has been slow in pace, and Harmonix has grown a new franchise in Dance Central, which is as much fun as Rock Band and gives a bigger reason to keep the party going. If you ever wanted to see a ton of pals attempt to dance ‘Gangnam Style’, Dance Central is perfect for you.

Harmonix has decided to end DLC support for Rock Band on April 6th. I have put it on myself to throw the final Rock Band night on April 6th in honor of the memories it has created and I will be there to purchase the final song. The memories Harmonix allowed me to create is unreal. From cracking jokes about Muse and Fake Steven Tyler on the forums to the wild nights of singing till near 4 am, I cannot forget this franchise and this series. I may be hanging up the guitar, disassemble the drums and leaving the mic behind, but my love for this game won’t end.

This is the end. My only friend, the end.

To all those at Harmonix and those who helped create this wonder, I salute you for bringing on over five years of Rock Band, for creating a community and experience to new eyes, and for allowing music lovers to expand upon their game and get the best out of it all. You all are winners, saviors, and hold a very dear place in my heart. To quote James Cagney from Yankee Doodle Dandy, “My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.”

Thanks for everything and keep on rockin’.

007 in 23: 23 Days of Bond- Coming October 18th


This year, the 50th anniversary of the cool and suave James Bond is upon us as the much anticipated Skyfall finally arrives. James Bond has been a strong tour de force of a franchise that has catered to spy fans, action fans, and people who just love to see gorgeous women take over the screen…yet I’ve only seen two of these films

Starting October 18th, we will take a look at the James Bond series with fresh eyes, starting with Dr. No (1962) and ending with Skyfall (2012) when it releases on November 9th. I probably heard all the theme songs for each film and played the games, but have not seen all the features and as a fan of film, that’s a bit of a hassle. With this blog series, we can take a look at the good (Goldfinger which I’ve seen), the bad (Octopussy from what I hear), and the ugly (Die Another Day in most Bond fan circles) and determine who is the best Bond Girl, the best Bond villain, and the best Bond.

Quick disclaimer: If something in my personal life or in my writing schedule (as I work for both campus news and a website) comes up, I might have to cover two films in one day for a double feature post.


It’s time for me to suit up, drink a few martinis, and go on an incredible cinematic adventure.

Do I expect you to join me on this adventure? No, I expect you to read as I go through it.

Here You Leave Today…A Disneyland Retrospective by Sergio Berrueta

What is it about Disneyland that keeps us coming back to it? Is it the romantic nature of reclaiming the sense of imagination and wonder we had as children or the the rich history of how the park was made with care, love, and from the dreams of a man who longed to make the world a bit brighter with new ideas and creations springing to life right before us? These two questions may have the simple answer of ‘Yes’, but what makes this answer so simple is the real question. From here til the end of the week, we will discover slowly what makes Disneyland what it is by looking at it land by land, attraction by attraction, along with personal stories of visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.

Walt Disney thought of the idea of Disneyland from a variety of sources, hoping to expand on the experience of the cartoon features he had help bring to life on the big screen and bring the wonders that many a person had thought of doing before. Essentially, Disney had gotten a series of letters from guests of the Disney Studios requesting to see some of their favorite characters roam around. Walt realized his studio wasn’t capable of fulfilling every wish of the guests and came up with making a ‘Mickey Mouse Park’ that would have been in Burbank (Imagine that, a theme park in Burbank). After seeking inspiration from classic amusement parks in the Netherlands and Denmark, he decided to make it more than just a Mickey Mouse park and make…


In order to make this a reality, Disney had started a series on ABC called Disneyland to help finance the construction and the park itself, thus leading to the future of ABC and Disney joining forces. On July 16th, 1954, groundbreaking and construction was finally started and exactly one year and a day later, Disneyland was ‘opened’. I put that in quotes because it was in fact opened on July 17th, 1955 but to the international press on their “International Press Preview” day. That day would go on to be known as Black Sunday.

Why Black Sunday? It was 110 degrees, all celebrities scheduled to come at separate times all arrived at once, drinking fountains weren’t operated due to a plumber’s strike, gas leaks closed distinct areas of the park, ladies wearing high heels nearly sank in the freshly poured asphalt, counterfeit tickets circulated and was just pure utter chaos. Luckily, the second day was much better and much calmer than the previous day. The official opening day is July 18th, 1955, but July 17th, 1955, is now known as Dedication Day.

As the years went on, the park grew to a series of lands, vast attractions, and a full-fledged resort destination. We will continue to explore further through this spacious land of imagination. Each land has its own unique history and stories to share for us to be amazed by. Why don’t we take a stroll down Main Street, U.S.A. first?

Upon entering the park, we are greeted with the sight and sounds of the turn of the 20th Century era in the form of Main Street U.S.A. The hussle and bussle of visitors passing through the facades of classic shops of yesteryear, horsedrawn carriages pass as do a variety of vehicles of the past, the sounds of a barbershop quartet singing classic American standbys, and the stage located at the right set for Mr. Lincoln himself to hear the words of the man himself. Main Street, U.S.A. sure is beautiful…but why do I visit it only twice?

I visit it on the open and the close of the park which is really quite a shame to think about. Years I’ve wanted to go into the Main Street Cinema to catch some classic Disney shorts (including Steamboat Willie) but never find the time thanks to the other rides and attractions that surround the park, nor have I sat to hear the word of one of the greatest presidents and experience the exhibits and working of what created The Disneyland Story. The closet I’ve been to these have been the experience of others who have the courage to post these on YouTube and other media sites. These go under the radar and make my regular visit quite sad. I have appreciated other aspects though thoroughly. The Penny Arcade is fantastic with recreations and even original forms of classic coin operated machines. Having gotten a fortune by the fortune teller in the middle of it was a great (if eerie) memory. I’m just glad I didn’t wish that I was big that day. Getting an ice cream is brillant and the Plaza Gardens was a nice sit with a great Fried Chicken recipe. The Mellomen still hang around and preform and are always a delight to hear. The classic railroad depot leaving with the whistle of the engine always gets to me and makes me want to take a trip around the park (which I do).

Of course, at the end of the street is the amazing and gorgeous “Partners” statue which is such a sight in itself, it’s brilliant. At night is where it really shines…literally, there are lights on it. Of course, Sleeping Beauty Castle is there to, waiting for us to enter the realm of fantasy and truly leave reality. Sleeping Beauty is my all time favorite classic Disney film so I’m glad Walt chose it for Disneyland…but more on that later.

Main Street, U.S.A. sure is amazing to walk through and wonder at how gorgeous it is as it leads into the middle of the park, making us wonder which way to go exactly which can be anywhere we want to go. Main Street, U.S.A. is pretty much Disneyland’s hub for everything you want to buy or eat, but get a look at the atrractions when there, you might be able to have time in the future for them like me. A fitting welcome to a great day at the park.

Speaking of choosing, I’m being called to the Temple of the Forbidden Eye as of writing this. Apparently, the Chamber of Destiny awaits me inside…but I have to be far from civilazation to experience this.

Over to your left as you leave the wonders of Main Street, U.S.A. is a land that is entangled in strange jungles, a curious treehouse, a room of tropical birds, and a mysterious temple that has the archaeologist we all love.

Though a pretty small land, it’s pretty big in scope when you go. It manages to recreate the sense of a faraway place from classic adventures tales few have read but capture the imagination we had as children about the jungles. One of the first things I enjoy seeing is the classic Enchanted Tiki Room. These days, it used for visitors with Fastpasses to kill time by enjoying a quick show before heading off to the ride they are waiting for, but back then, it must have been something. I really do quite enjoy it and it’s quite fun to see exactly how everything works to the sounds of the music. It’s not that frightening to youngsters, unless they fear gods that hate celebration to which this has plenty of that.

Another attraction I do enjoy quite a bit is the Jungle Cruise. It’s a nice calm tour of a jungle filled with animatronic animals and is the only time I can sit through puns without pulling my hair (I despise puns, but that’s just me). Originally, it was going to have real life animals, but Walt realized this couldn’t be fully done so went the animatronic route instead. His dream would be realized in full theme park form as Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida at the Walt Disney World resort. The Jungle Cruise though remains a fun sit as always and even funnier at night because the light is the only thing guiding you, giving a more intimate experience (also, the World of Color joke makes me smile).

One other attraction is one I rarely go visit is Tarzan’s Treehouse, which is just a refurbished of the classic Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. In fact, in one of the rooms of the treehouse, it plays the classic Swissapolka from the original attraction on a phonograph. Honestly, it’s not that exciting so I’d personally try it out once then skip it on other visits. Yet, this land offers something not so Disney that we love when we visit.

Growing up, I loved watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (wasn’t a Temple of Doom fan) and fell in love with the character of Indiana Jones and his exploits. The style of the films mixed with the dazzling character that Harrison Ford brought to life is fully realized before our eyes. I did in fact have fear of this ride as a young boy, yet it was my love of the films that made me finally ride it and it was an experience. They captured the imagination and style in a fast paced and sometimes scary attraction. I love it and continues to be a favorite (seriously, it’s Indiana Jones. If you don’t like him, you don’t know what you are missing). Even better, it does give the adventure we come to expect out of a place like Adventureland.

Adventureland is quite marvelous and an amazing place, but I’m getting word that I am to be expected at a mansion located on the river. I hear there about 999 others attending too! Wonder what the big fuss is?

New Orleans Square, a part of the park that is purely exclusive to Disneyland in Anaheim filled with the sounds of jazz, the beautiful sights of the french quarter, the smell of gumbo coming from a pot, but what really lies here is darkness and the macabre. No, you won’t find any witch doctors or voodoo priestess here (unless Dr. Falicier is roaming these parts again), but pirates that hunger for booty and blood and 999 ghosts taking over a fancy mansion of mystery. Which shall I explore first? Well, my invite can wait. Fashionably late as they say.

The world renowned Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride that went to spawn a mega franchise and make Johnny Depp look more like a bad mother shut your mouth than ever before. This ride must be as exciting as the franchise it inspired right? Well, sort of. In my opinion, this is the more entertaining version of ‘it’s a small world’ in that it’s all about pirates, done successfully with audio-animatronics that Walt cared for very dearly. It makes us wonder if this is how pirates were and how it would be like to be a pirate, but it goes a bit too long in the tooth for some like myself. The ride is entertaining, though, if not to kill some time. Due to the rise of popularity with the films and such, there tends to be an long line and it tends to kill my mood a bit and new additions have been made for fans of the franchise. I have yet to see these changes but I hear they are very minor and do not deter from the experience I’ve had before. Nevertheless, Pirates of the Carribean is quite a gem at New Orleans Square. Now, about that invitation.

Enough buildup, this has to be the second ride at Disneyland I love to get on the most. When I was young, I was afraid to go on the ride itself due to being unaware what was in store for me. I got on and was merely frightened by the queue that the ghost host (voiced by the amazing Paul Frees & Minor Dubbing by Corey Burton) puts you in. The room is stretching or is it? Even to this day, I still get a minor fright from it and admire how exactly they made the room stretch. The ride is pretty tame as the music and narration guide you pass ghosts, not to scare you, but bring you in on the fun as they sing and dance to “Grim, Grinning Ghosts” (with the Mellomen and Thurl Ravenscroft, a pure Disney legend). One of my favorite parts besides the conclusion is the ballroom scene with the ghost dancing and the two drunk ghost sipping away. It just delights me to see how well they pulled off realistic and amazing ghost effects. I do fully enjoy this ride and I’ve even become a Hatbox Ghost enthusiast as well because of it. This ride also inspired a film, which was less succesful, both financially and critically. I’m happy to know though that there may be another Haunted Mansion film in the works, this time by Guillermo Del Toro who knows his way around a spooky thrill ride or two.

Overall, New Orleans Square has two great and entertaining attractions but I prefer one over the other. These two remain extremely popular and it’s not very hard to see why. I love visiting this area just for the charm and wonder of the locals as well. A perfect recreation of the New Orleans flair….even with that mysterious door to Club 33. Sadly, I’m not rich so that’s off this part, but maybe for the future. New Orleans Square is just a sight to marvel and wonder. Yet, I have the need to feel the wilderness and remeber some ‘Merican roots. Maybe if I head to the woods or maybe the frontier…maybe, I’ll do both.

As you stand in New Orleans Square, you see two very different locals looming over the land, a broken tree on top of a oddly shaped mountain and another mountain that pays respect to the land of the West, the old frontier people might call it. The problem is where to start first. Both are quite small compared to the others land, but each have their quirk…but where to start. Maybe, I shall head to the land they call Critter Country first.

Formerly known as Bear Country in honor of the old residents, The Country Bears (more on them later), Critter Country is the second smallest area of the park, as New Orleans is the first. Critter Country is home to three attractions. The first being a little attraction known as Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes.

More of a seasonal ride, I’ve never been on it because I have a fear of drowning and being in open water for long periods of time. Maybe one day when I get over these minor fears I will be ready to get on this, but for the time being, I’d rather watch the others be happy and all smiles as they travel. The next attraction is a dark ride away from the others of Fantasyland. This ride is known for having evicted the entire cast of the Country Bears in order for one bear and his friends.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, while a ride meant for the young children in the park, is still quite enjoyable to the average Pooh fan (I will admit that watching the VHS of Many Adventures still remains a great memory and the new films only increased my love for the character further). It’s quick, it’s bright, and even a bit…well, trippy. This ride may make question whether or not you had taken any hallucinogens upon entering the ‘Heffalumps and Woozles’ portion of it. I enjoyed it and if you like the film as I did, you should enjoy it…unless you hate them then you won’t. The attraction most visitors seem to enjoy is based of a very odd and still controversial source.

Based off the ‘What in the blazes was Disney thinking?’ film known as Song of the South,Splash Mountain is one heck of a log flume ride. Sure, people know the famous drop at the end (heck, there is currently tons of photoshopped photos of the souvenir photos circulating on the web and constantly reblogged on Tumblr), but it takes a total of about twelve minutes to reach it. We are told the story of Brer Rabbit and his misfortunes throughout the ride by song and dialogue. It’s quite charming to me since I’ve actually read the Brer Rabbit tales back in 5th grade for leisure. It certainly a fun ride and I enjoy it quite a bit. I hear it is better at the shivering nighttime. Critter Country may be small but it’s quite a fun thrill actually.

Another small land pays tribute to the magnificent landscapes that loom around the states of Utah and Arizona giving a taste of the old west. This land is for the cowboys and cowgirls who wish to visit it. This land is…


It is quite difficult to find a decent picture of this land. Not only does it feature Big Thunder Mountain, but has two elegant ships surrounding the island of Tom Sawyer Frontierland claims as its own. These ships are the Columbia, model after the Columbia Rediviva, fully working and in perfect shape.

Magnificent and beautiful, it is quite the ride with a full galley and more. It runs on a track around the island along with the Mark Twain Riverboat (as pictured before above the Columbia paragraph) is smaller and recreates the classic steamboats that sailed (and some still sail) on the Mississippi River minus the gambling and bourbon. It is more of a shared attraction with New Orleans Square as it rings with the southern comfort of the bayou rather than the attitude of the west.

Tom Sawyer’s Island sure has changed from my past experience from a simple exploration place to a full fledged Pirate’s Lair, thanks to the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It is filled with caves, treasure, and…Jack Sparrow showing up for pictures? Not enough people go to the island to know that. Personally, it gives it flair quite a bit, but somehow, I don’t see how the two come together. Off the island is a laser shooting gallery, sort of an arcade experience if you will. There is also a ranch filled with some animals and a stage for show at a barbecue (more on that in another part). Like Critter Country, there is one attraction everyone truly flocks to known as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Simply known as Big Thunder to the die-hard of Disney Parks, this ride is fast paced and a thrill with swoops, turns, and darkness (especially at night time) which surrounds you. There is a bittersweet notion to this ride as it remains popular even after a very tragic derailment accident that occurred, killing one visitor. Yes, even at the happiest place on Earth, coasters are still very dangerous and accidents can occur. I still do enjoy the ride and after that tragedy, Disneyland officials managed to make it safer to ride and experience. In the end, it’s a great experience despite that sad loss of someone who’s life had been cut short.

Frontierland and Critter Country do have their charm and bring great experiences, yet I still feel a bit empty like I need to find the kid in myself a bit and discover a cartoon like sensibility. There is always Mickey’s Toontown, home of not only Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, but home of the our favorite Disney creations including the mouse that started it all.

Mickey’s Toontown, a playground for the young and a town for the classic characters of Walt Disney’s short and for the oddball that is Roger Rabbit have his own ride devoted to him. Honestly, I haven’t fully experienced this part of the park since I was very young, around five or so. You may think I will see it all as a blur but I remember a majority of it clearly.

One attraction I remember the most was Donald’s Boat. Pretty much a playground designed as a boat and it was quite a delight, yet quite small and narrow in some spaces. I am disappointed that Donald never actually did appear near the boat. Another attraction that ooze of the playground feel was Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse.

The best part is how tall it is as a short stout way back when and climbing up just like chipmunks. Even better, I met them while in the treehouse and truly an exciting experience. One attraction that has changed is Goofy’s house. When I was young, it was a bounce house aptly titled Goofy’s Bounce House. It was fun back then knowing there was a ‘jumper’ (a term for bounce houses were I’m from). Now, it has also gone the playground route as Goofy’s Playhouse.

Another place that is also a playground is Minnie’s House, designed for young girls to see her house and strange wonders it has to offer. Sometimes, you may even meet Mickey’s beloved herself.

Yet the main house attraction is and remains Mickey Mouse himself at his home and personal studio (that’s one classy salary you pay that mouse, Disney). You go inside and meet the mouse himself. As a kid, it’s a moment in time that is amazing and worth it. As a teenager, it’s like simple meet and greet, nothing more. As an adult, it is as if you return to childhood and it suddenly feels new again. I love visiting him any chance I get, it’s simply marvelous.

Everyone knows about Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, but there is another thrill ride that goes unappreciated despite being a ‘smaller coaster’ for the kid’s is Gadget’s Go-Coaster. If you are wondering who in the devil is Gadget, I’ll help you out. Gadget is a character from the hit animated show, Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers from the Disney Afternoon back in the magical time of the early 90’s when I was born. Here she is:

And please, for the love of all that is sacred to your childhood, don’t rule 34 her…unless you are into that, go ahead.

Back to the ride, design to appeal to the younger audience (and actually does it quite well), it provides just enough thrills to make them not too scare, but still enough to give them some excitement. I remember I enjoyed it myself quite well.

Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is the main attraction here and quite the attraction it is. It’s a dark ride reminiscent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with the spin technology of Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and it is a thrill if matter quit. I hate the line for this ride and the Fastpass line has the same faults also yet it’s still quite the thrill.

I didn’t ride it till later in life because of another tragic incident where a four year-old boy was thrown out of the vehicle and hit by another. Since then, amusement park safety has been more safe, secure and better than before (even more increased after the Big Thunder accident). The bright side is that he was able to still go on in life, but without walking or talking. Sadly, at 13, he passed on due to complications of the injuries received. I hate bringing up tragedy when talking about the park, but I must since it is part of the history that makes the park a whole lot safer now (and hopefully) for years to come.

Mickey’s Toontown fills me again with the joy of being a child and remember the past I once had. It’s still enjoyable for the future generations at a young age to enjoy and it’s fantastic. I hear the sound of a clock nearby calling my name located in the land of classic tales and a ride most people dread ever getting on but still do. I’ve visited the world of yesterday and now to visit the world of Fantasyland.

The land that Walt enjoyed making and loved quite a bit. A place where we can go and escape the realities of our lives and enter a realm only our minds and dreams can make come true. In the small Bavarian village of Fantasyland, children can have there wishes come true as they meet and explore the wonders their characters have to offer and the adults can reminiscence about the wonders they daydreamed about since they were young. Of course, not only does it feature classic tales but a place where children of the world come together in song and rejoice in peace which to some may be a fantasy. Also, a peculiar mountain in the center of both Fantasyland and the world of Tomorrowland which in recent years has claimed Fantasyland as its home. I hear the castle has finally opened up to walk in and I’m happy to explore it.

Nestled in the castle’s walls is the Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough filled with dioramas of classic scenes from the film of the same name and truly a marvel for any Disney animation fan. This attraction is a remake of the former Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough which had been done with dolls and small sets then the advanced technology of today, making a much better and exciting experience. As I mentioned before, I absolutely love this film and seeing this almost brought a tear to my eye. It’s beautiful and fascinating.

Next to this beautiful place looms Snow White’s Scary Adventures, one of the many original dark rides here (almost all of Fantasyland is still comprised of their original rides). Based on the first animated feature ever made, this ride really does live up to it’s name with the scary forest sequence in tact as well as the famous Queen transformation scene which will scare the churro you just ate right out of your…well, you know. The best part of these dark rides which you will notice is the design of the characters that make the characters leap from the silver screen right into the park.

Another attraction known to be terrifying is Pinocchio’s Daring Journey and even I’m still frightened of it. Judging by the film, you can already tell this ride was going to really mess with your mind and childhood self when it came to the possibility of night terrors. Nicely designed and well paced and the only attraction to have a cuss word in it used to describe turning into a donkey (the word being the tame ‘jackass’ cuss). Bright yet dark but certainly a delight.

One other wonderful and well designed attraction is King Arthur’s Carousel. If you asking yourself “Why King Arthur’s?”, look in the front for the most sought after piece in the park known as The Sword in the Stone. After riding this ride, I’ve been tempted to pull the sword out yet I even question my own judgement about ruling a kingdom for a day. I’d probably just go on Star Tours five times. Anywho, this ride is a classic if short, but it is a carousel so what do you expect from it.

One small ride I never find time to ride is the Casey Jr. Circus Train. It is meant for youngsters to ride around some of Fantasyland and see the sites that make it up. A small version of the Disneyland Railroad which I can skip if older.

Peter Pan’s Flight is still a classic and a favorite which always frustrates me as it is always in a long line and I avoid it like the plague half the time. When I do ride it, I always appreciate it as it gives us the feel of flying over London to the second star to the right and straight on till morning. Believe it or not, when it was first opened, Peter Pan was not on the ride that shared his namesake, causing some visitors to question the ride in the first place. It’s a short but sweet ride.

One of the most famous dark rides of Fantastyland, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride starts out quite calm and then ends in a descend to Hell for your crimes against humanity. Disney sure can go really dark when it wants to and this ride is no exception, combining pure thrills and a climatic end that will make you question your beliefs or lack there of.

I haven’t rode on Dumbo’s Flying Elephant in ages. I do remember crying when I was four when I was riding it. It’s quite fun for the young ones, but suffers Peter Pan Line Syndrome (I’ll copyright that term later) by being too long for such a short ride and experience. Best part is Timothy the mouse looking at you as you fly, giving you hope to one day fly yourself.

The final dark ride is Alice in Wonderland, based on the trippiest Disney film since Fantasia. Like the others, it’s nice, calm, screws with your mind by the end and is short but passes the time. This isn’t the only ride that is based off the exploits of Alice in Fantasyland.

The Mad Tea Party, the ride that can make or break your very digestive system as you know it. Sure, the cups spin along with the others, but you can control it to your heart’s desire. Calm spins for those just trying it out or stomach shaking, mind numbing spins that aren’t for the faint of heart are all up to you…just be advised that you shouldn’t eat at all before this ride.

Fantasyland also has a quiet, calm, and beautiful ride known as the Storybook Land Boat Canals that has miniatures of classic locations from not only Disney features, but Disney shorts as well, such as The Old Mill, which is quite delightful. It’s slow but it’s a great way to pass some time. Another boat ride here is more infamous for either being a treat or a personal torture chamber on Earth for those who ride it.

“it’s a small world” is an attraction that looms large in legend for it’s catchy song that will be embedded in your heads for ages on end as the children of the world sing the song in their respective languages. It’s a long boat ride that might make those who can’t handle it head for the hills, but those who wish to enjoy stay and appreciate the wonder of the dolls singing and the new addition of some Disney standbys that now call home (Be sure to spot them including my personal favorite of Peter Pan flying over London). It also hopes that the signature song is written by The Sherman Brothers who are famous for the classic songs from Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins. Now to go to that extraordinary mountain that looms over this land.

Matterhorn Mountain, based on the mountain of the same name and the classic Disney feature Third Man on the Mountain, it is both large and amazing thanks to forced perspective. This is home to the classic attraction of the Matterhorn Bobsleds. It’s a thrill ride that recreates the experience of bobsledding and the excitement of getting away from a yeti. You feel more like the Jamaican bobsled team from Cool Runnings rather than the Third Man. It doesn’t make much sense for Fantasyland to have it but it’s a neat ride and might fulfill the fantasy of going down a mountain in style.

The realm of Fantasyland is truly a delightful experience and brings out more of the kid in myself. I must move on to, not to the present just yet but to the future. How to do that? By entering somewhere that takes technology one step futher and guides as to a far away galaxy that has been beloved for years.

Tomorrowland, the land that Walt challenged his vistors to be a part. Originally in the vein of the ‘What if?’ future, it has since been turned into the retro-futuristic/steampunk style seen today. This has to be my personal favorite of the park since I an into technology and the advances of it as well, as the future the land creates. I’ve read up on the history and studied this land. Filled with looks at what could happen in the old Carousel of Progress and stepping into the Mighty Microscope to into the realm of inner space, this place was full of wonder and excitement. These days, it has an empty track for a ride that never quite caught on and essences of the old Peoplemover ride but still manages to get quite a few (including myself ready). Let’s step into this magnificent land now to take a look at what lies ahead tomorrow.

As pictured above is the Astro Orbitor, which is a ride similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant except this time you can control whether it goes up or down which bring much more fun than the Dumbo ride. Who doesn’t want to control their own rocket? Speaking of controlling ships, let head to another attraction that allows something similar.

Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, based of a Walt Disney World original, provides not only a classic dark ride aspect, it combines it with the fun aspects of a shooting gallery. This literally is a video game come to life as you battle alongside Buzz and rack up points to destroy the evil emperor Zurg. I love it and I love the fact that not only can you out do the other person on your ship, but share your photo of your adventure online (which still no other ride in the park does). Fun and filled with pure excitement.

Across the way is a true classic based of a series that oozes the essence of sci-fi adventure serials and the technology of tomorrow…and it’s my all time favorite ride in any amusement park. Star Tours packed all the fun and excitement into three to four minutes of pure bliss as RX-24 (or Rex to a majority of us) guides us on the Endor Express and completely misses Endor taking us to the Death Star to blow it to smithereens. The Star Tours I grew up with and loved is now gone and replaced with a sequel, Star Tours: The Adventure Continues. I have yet to ride it, but I here it offers more destinations and packs the same thrill with the addition of atmospheric 3D. I pray that it is as great as its big sister. Truly one heck of a fun experience.

A remake of a classic attraction in Tomorrowland is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage featuring characters from the classic Pixar film and follows the story quite well. I have yet to be on this attraction but I plan on it because with Finding Nemo attached to it, I just have to (I love that movie like you wouldn’t believe). My mother does have fond memories of the original attraction in the 80’s but she didn’t enjoy it that well since she has a slight case of claustrophobia. I might not have that, but like with Davy Crockett’s, being in open water freaks me out.

Right off the side is the classic we all love, Autopia. All the fun of driving a car miniaturized for our pleasure and experience as we go around a track, passing by various and random sites. Also, getting a free driver’s license regardless of my driving being great or just plain horrid is always great (and a fun free souvenir to have in your wallet). I really do hate the wait on this one also, but I’ve complained about waiting in line too darn much already. Once you get on, kick back or drive like a king. It’s even funner (or funnier) if you have a passenger along for the ride.

In the old Carousel of Progress building, Innoventions shows the new technology and innovations that will soon change the way we see the future of our lives. Some of the exhibits are a bit outdated, but it still gives a good eye on what is happening (or has happened I should say) in today’s crazy modern world. One thing that this place has is not a remake of a classic, but a return of a classic attraction.

Returning to replace the now dated Honey, I Shrunk the Audience film, Captain EO has return to save the world with his pals and give the audience an exciting 3D spectacle. Once again, I must mention my mother who I recently talked to about Captain EO which she loved. According to her and the masters at Wikipedia, this was the first real 4-D feature with lazers, movement, and pure effects stemming from the film itself. I watched this in anaglyph 3D on YouTube and it was a cheesy but fun delight. It’s certainly aged but it plays like a classic Michael Jackson music video and those will remain classic. Shortly after his passing, Jackson’s fans had campaigned and petitioned to bring the captain back and succeeded at doing so, now dubbing it the Captain EO Tribute…and what a fitting tribute it is to a pop icon and music legend.

Space Mountain…even saying that name brings back classic memories of launching into the blackness of space and wondering how they accomplished such a feat. Compared to the new and near ridiculous coasters of today’s age, it may seem not like much, but it’s the experience it creates as we step into our rockets and prepare to go full blast. The revival of this ride is amazing and captures the dreams I had growing up of entering the stars and vastness of space. It really is exhilarating and fascinating. I just love it and ranks third on my list of favorite attractions.

Thus, the journey of the lands of Disney comes to a close…but all is not done quite yet. The railroad and monorail have yet to have there time to shine. Yet one last part of this journey.

Before we end this retrospective, one more round around this park on the Disneyland Railroad. The Disneyland Railroad is one attraction that has been here for quite a long while. It makes a complete rountrip tour of the park starting at the Main Street Station as it passes Adventureland straight on to the New Orleans and Frontierland station as it enters the darkness of the Critter Country to Towntoon station. From there, it goes pass “it’s a small world” to the land of tomorrow. As it exits the Tomorrowland station, it passes through a tunnel which houses quite the surprise of Primeval World, filled with dinosaurs and animals from millions of year ago as they call a diorama of the Grand Canyon their home. Finally, it’s back to Main Street. It’s a nice way to end the day or start it. It’s fantastic and makes you enjoy the sites. Another mode of transport is the Disneyland Monorail.

The Disneyland Monorail is one innovative and original mode of transport located at Tomorrowland. It’s been around for a very long time (hence the vintage picture). These days not only does it pass the park, but exits it to enter Disney’s California Adventure and Downtown Disney. It’s fast and extraordinary. It’s amazing to ride to and from the outskirts of the park, which I must depart to.

And thus concludes Here You Leave Today… It was a great write and fantastic journey. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. I love talking about this fascinating land and sharing my experience and love for it with you all has made it an amazing week. We went through all the lands and wonders it had to offer, discovered what we’ve loved, and remembered what makes this place the Happiest Place on Earth.

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy”- Walt Disney

The End

From the Old Tumblr Vault: Why We Love The Lion King (September 14th, 2011)

Let’s get this out of the way right now, I am a very big fan of Walt Disney Animation Studios. I always have been since they are my childhood. If I had enough money to buy every single film for a collection right now, I would risk everything to get all of them. This love grew out of the classic age known as The Disney Renaissance. The Disney Renaissance started great with the 1989 release of The Little Mermaid and ended with the beautiful 1999 feature Tarzan and it was quite a thrill to see a new animated film release. In my opinion, the real shining moment of the entire age was the epic change of pace, The Lion King.

Released in 1994, The Lion King came to light to give a new experience in sight and sound. This, along with Sleeping Beauty, felt like films that could be seen up there with live action epics. It also is nice to know that this film is still Walt Disney Animation Studios highest grossing film in their entire history.
Yet, why do we love it? I have a few reason wise.

The Story
The story of this film is quite simple. King has a son, son grows up, sees his dad get killed at the hands of his uncle, feels he is the blame, runs away, comes back, seeks vengeance and regains the throne. Okay, it’s not that simple but you get the concept. Does the story of The Lion King seem familiar? Well then, reading Hamlet in high school sure paid off. The Lion King does borrow themes by Shakespeare classic but has similarities to the epic story from West Africa, Sudiata Keita, which tells the story of the rise of a leader to eventually create a new empire. Oddly enough, the writers of The Lion King handle the mature themes and ideas to create something fresh and a bit tame for the family. If the story is great, the film itself will always be great which is always a testament in filmmaking. Of course, it’s all brought to life by the characters, which brings us to…

The Characters

Disney always has a marvelous cast of characters to fall in love with or just plain hate, yet we can relate to them. Mufasa, the strong willed and powerful king reminds many of the father figure (well, no crap, he is a dad in the film) We see a father as a means of support and always there to guide and protect us almost as a leader in life. The audience can connect well to this and sets up the heartbreak to come later. The main villain, Scar, who lives in the shadow of his brother (he will be your Claudius for this evening). The audience can relate to living in the shadow of one’s self, but the hate is created when he (Spoiler for a nearly 17 year old film ahead) kills his own brother to obtain his place. No one in their right mind would ever do that, but Scar succeeds triggering hate within us. The funny thing is that he sort of loses his villainy as when he gains control which makes him lose his power. He had all the time to complete his goal yet, when he does, he feels less then a menace and more than a young tyrant. Simba (our Hamlet) was youthful and vibrant when we see him as a young boy, but after the death of his father, we can see his hope fade which is saved by Timon and Pumbaa. Timon and Pumbaa play the sidekick role to Simba and practically steal the film with humor and playfulness, but yet, they feel like our friends they are always there to cheer us up (they are our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for this evening, stay for the fish). Nala, is the love interest since Simba and her childhood. She’s not the best character in the film but has some depth to her since they have same past. Finally, Rafiki…what can I say about him? The is our wise man and what a wise man. Rafiki may not show up a lot throughout the feature, but he leaves a big impact helping Simba on his return to greatness. Those are our beloved characters, but come on, this is Disney in the 90’s. This can’t be one without a bit of…

The Music

(That’s the video and it’s cheesy and awesome)

Elton John…how did you do that Disney? Easy! Make a great story and concept or mail him a bag of money. Either way, I’m happy with that. Not only is it amazing how well it works, it is a miracle. Tim Rice and Elton John are a fantastic pair and it shows with the fantastic opening song ‘Circle of Life’ to the pure evil in ‘Be Prepared’ all the way to the cheesy love ballad that is ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight?’. Disney also arranged African inspired sounds for the score thanks to Lebo M, a South African composer, along with great compositions by the most talented musical German (not including the members of Rammstien) Hans Zimmer. The music is beautiful in quiet moments, terrifying in the dark moments, and inspiring in scenes such as Simba’s return or the classic ending of the film. My personal favorites have to be ‘…To Die For’ which is the classic wildebeest stampede along with the epic of epics ‘Circle of Life’ which engages your interest and so much more. How good is the music exactly?

That damn good.

Why Else Is There?
The Lion King impacted my generation with intriguing storytelling and beautiful animation. The animation of this movie has been hailed as one of the finest in animation history and acclaimed all around. The mixture of hand drawn animation and digital is seamless and works to it’s full advantage. The landscape are gorgeous as seen in the concept art

It’s moody, atmospheric, and sets the tone for what is to come in the scene. The tale seems timeless and told in a new light that captures us all. The voice cast in the film also makes us remember this. With brilliant choices with Matthew Broderick, Whoppi Goldberg (sorry for not mentioning the hyenas earlier), Jeremy Irons who is near perfect in this, and James Earl Jones, this is one that is hard to forget at all. Finally, this film succeeds at being what I stated earlier, timeless. The new generations coming along can watch and it feels fresh and new to them with songs that make them sing along and humor to boot and older generations can enjoy the rich story and magnificent animation, along with the music (Elton has a magic tough).

Why we love The Lion King is finally answered and I can’t wait to experience it, along with others, in the theaters in 3D. Sure, it might be a gimmick, but any excuse will do to see the film I love again on the big screen.