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17August
2011

give a little whistle

maura @ 11:44 am

I don’t know how we made it this far without Gus seeing Pinocchio, but last night when the video went on he was rapt. It’s been ages since I’ve seen that movie and I’d forgotten how weird it is. IMDB tells me that the movie came out in 1940 which seems about right. The blue fairy has that old-fashioned animated look the way the earlier Disney movies all do.

The plot is just, well, bizarre to today’s kids. I’ve not read the fairy tale in ages so not sure how much of the movie is artistic license. But Pleasure Island? So random! All were aghast at the kids smoking cigars. But Gus wondered what was bad, exactly, about playing pool? He’s been to a few birthday parties at a videogames + billiards place in our neighborhood. And the peals, absolute peals of laughter when the boys get turned into jackasses, and on hearing the word jackass repeated several times. Hilarity for the 9 year old set, for sure (though the 3 1/2 yr old was a bit confused).

Gus was adamant that he would never go to Pleasure Island, no matter how much free root beer was promised. But I wonder whether the moral of the story is even understandable to kids today under all of last century’s trappings. If you skip school you’ll have to sing and dance at the theater and then sleep in a cage? If you get on the boat with the creepy old men and go to the island where you can act naughty all day you’ll turn into a donkey and go work in the salt mines? “Don’t they get salt from the ocean?” asks Gus.

But I guess it *is* handy to know that you can light a fire to escape from a whale’s belly.

23January
2011

end of line

maura @ 8:53 am

We finally (finally!) saw Tron Legacy last weekend. Xmas prep, Disneyworld, and illness had delayed it for so long I was worried that it wouldn’t be in the theater anymore by the time we had time. But it was, yay! Plus, coffee truck outside of the theater = coffee during the movie, which is totally the way to do a matinee, word.

The movie’s gotten such bad reviews (including this hilarious one from game scholar Ian Bogost’s 8 yr old daughter) that I went in with pretty low expectations. So I’m a bit surprised to report that I sincerely and megadorkily enjoyed the whole dang thing.

First the easy stuff: yes, it was beautiful. And the soundtrack by Daft Punk is fantastic — it took about 48 hrs from the time we exited the movie theater for us to buy it. Good thing, too, as I was in dire need of some new electronica for background noise while I write.

And the easy stuff on the other side: it was definitely too long. The plot was so thin at points as to be transparent, and sometimes the dialogue was beyond cheesy. The nod to open source software at the beginning was HI-larious given Disney’s particular stance on copyright. Gus went through a phase of loving the first Tron* when he was maybe 5 or 6, but he was frankly bored by much of the new movie. Which was kind of a drag.

* Which we actually own, on VHS, because one of the other perks when working for the Mouse was the opportunity to buy Disney stuff at a discount. I immediately bought Tron and the original Freaky Friday, with Jodie Foster, which ROCKS. Though I do love the remake too.

But I still really, really liked it. I’ve been trying to pull it apart in my head ever since. J said “there were the bones of a good story in there,” and I agree. Though if I’m honest it’s probably less the story than the whole package — I am squarely in the demographic of people programmed (ha!) to like the movie. I had just turned 13 when the first Tron movie was released along with its companion videogame. The movie was visually stunning (for the time), and the game, while kind of lame, was fun enough that I fed it many quarters. I don’t remember much from junior high other than being the typical miserable early teen, but I have vivid memories of the videogame arcade: the layout of the machines, the noise, even the smell. To this day I can tell you that the Tron game (not Deadly Discs, the other one) was in the second room against the wall on the right.

So yes, I fell into the giant nostalgia trap set by Tron Legacy. Really once Sam walked into his dad’s old arcade and turned on all of the machines (ack! Journey!) there was no hope for me. Save yourselves!

P.S. Also the stick that turns into a light cycle or jet was awesome.

les tags: , ,
15January
2011

if this is the future

maura @ 10:59 pm

Disneyworld! I think Jonathan and I were more excited than Gus in the days leading up to the trip. We haven’t really done the amusement park thing with him so don’t think he knew what to expect — more than anything I think he was looking forward to seeing his grandparents. And the waterslide in the pool at the resort we stayed at.

Of course that changed on the first day. Not that he wasn’t still happy to be with Grandma + Grandpa, but he bought into the Disney thing whole hog. We rode the Buzz Lightyear ride twice — his favorite ride, and with good reason: you go through the ride sitting in spaceships blasting at targets (that register an actual score!) on Zurg and his cronies. It was pretty cool. We also rode Peter Pan, the Lilo + Stitch thing, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (not all in the same day). Jonathan and I were thrilled to get him on Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion, both of which Gus was a bit wary of initially but ended up loving. And Big Thunder Mountain was also *awesome* — so fast and fun, with such great details alongside the tracks.

Gus did *not* like the Carousel of Progress or It’s a Small World, but his old parents forced (tricked, really) him to ride them because OMG how can you not?! Too much. We stopped short of the Hall of Presidents because we figured we’d tortured Gus enough, but were sure to drop Bill + Ted references whenever we walked through Liberty Square. The lessons of Disneyworld? You can do a surprising amount with cars on a track, black light, and animatronics.

It was interesting to see Gus’s reaction to the many many many consumer opportunities throughout the parks, too. Since he doesn’t watch TV we don’t get a lot of “buy me this!” from him, but after a few days of being dumped out of the rides right into the character/theme shop that wore off some. We *all* went a little crazy at the store in Liberty Square that’s wall to wall Nightmare Before Christmas stuff, but overall I think we came out okay. (Where okay = Jack Skellington hoodie for J, Jack socks + a mug for me, and a stuffed bat for G. Thanks Grandma + Grandpa!)

We stayed in this campground resort called Fort Wilderness that has RV/tent camping as well as 1 bedroom cabins. The cabins were cute — all of the furniture was made of (pretend?) logs, even the bunk beds. J+I got the Murphy Bed in the living room, a tiny house dream come true! I’ve always wanted to sleep on a Murphy Bed. It’s everything I expected — so fantastic to just shut the bed up into the wall every morning. (Yes, I am simple.) The RV campers were intense — many of them brought their own Christmas lights and decorations, and some seriously had as many decorations as you’d put on a house! To get from the resort to the Magic Kingdom was a short boat ride and on the last day we saw pelicans on the way over, so cool.

Epcot was really, really neato. I wish we’d had more time there — Gus wasn’t that into the World Showcase but J and I could easily have spent an afternoon wandering around. We did go on some good stuff: Spaceship Earth and a fun space simulator called Mission Space. And we rode the Tronorail! (One of the monorails was all kitted out as a Tron ad.) Jonathan and Gus went on Soarin’ which everyone says is amazing, but I had to bail because the line was three (3!!!) hours long. Even reading Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (now how’s that for yr cognitive dissonance) on my phone wasn’t enough to save me in that line.

We also did one day at Animal Kingdom which I guess is new-ish. There was actually a lot more stuff for kids to just *do* there, including a huge climbing space w/tube slides and a giant dinosaur excavating pit that Gus loved. And it was all naturey walking around, very pretty. We tried to go on the roller coaster there but the line was just too dang long. But we did go on this crazy ride called Dinosaur which was of the jarring loud variety and enjoyed more by the littlest member of our party than the adults.

Of course there were a few annoyances. It was incredibly, amazingly crowded, just people everywhere you looked pretty much all the time. I’m usually not too bothered by crowds but I have to admit that they started to get to me by the end of the trip. It was nice to come back to our cabin — while I’m sure that the resort was just as full as others in Disneyworld, because things were all spread out it didn’t seem too crowded.

In fact, it was so crowded on our first day (which was actually xmas) that the “castmembers” let us cut out of the public area of the park to bypass a parade and go right to Tomorrowland. It was freaky to see behind the scenes — castmembers smiled and waved us on, but I caught a glimpse of a banner with an inspirational message for castmembers along the way.

I have to admit that Tomorrowland kind of bugged me, though I loved the rides. There’s a big stage in the middle of everything with a DJ and characters and dancing which kind of ruined the atmosphere for me. And Jonathan was bummed that you can’t walk through Cinderella’s castle anymore — there’s some character meal place in there now. All in all I was surprised that the Magic Kingdom seemed a bit less enveloping than Disneyland felt to me. I guess mostly it was Tomorrowland — when we got over to the other side to Frontierland and Adventureland things were much more immersive.

It was also pretty cold for most of the time we were there. Christmas day it was in the mid-70s, but that was the warmest it got (and hence the only swimming day). On Boxing Day it was about 45 degrees and windy, seriously cold. OTOH, short lines! And no line for Splash Mountain, but we weren’t brave enough.

Most surprising was that there was pretty much no free wifi anywhere. I think the only place I jumped right on was when we were eating dinner at the Contemporary (the hotel that the monorail runs right through). We could buy internet for our cabin but didn’t because we just weren’t there long enough most days to make it worthwhile. I’m sure it would cost a fortune to wifi up the entirety of Disneyworld, including all of the parks and resorts, but it did seem odd given Disney’s attention to detail + service. On the plus side, I felt like it was kind of nice to have an internets break for much of the trip.

Phew, I think that’s most of it! I could write even more, but I think 1000 words is probably enough, don’t you? Gus is already asking when we will go back…again, a few weeks ago I’d have said never, but now I think maybe.

les tags: , ,