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‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Gets Release Date

31 May

Looks like December 2018 will have another jolly holiday.

Disney announced its Mary Poppins revival will hit theaters Christmas Day 2018. They also released the title: Mary Poppins Returns.

Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods) will star as the practically perfect nanny. Lin-Manuel Miranda, star/creator of the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton” and currently crafting music for Disney’s next animated feature Moana, will star opposite Blunt in a Bert-esque role.

The movie will follow a grown-up Jane and Michael Banks in depression-era London. The nanny will revisit the Banks family after a tragedy that deprives the family of happiness, according to the Company’s announcement.

Keep your calendars clear, as Christmas day releases will no doubt start piling back up as 2018 draws nearer.

 

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‘Zootopia’ Review

4 Mar

Before seeing Zootopia: Disney, I can relate to bookish princesses, pixelated anti-heroes and even a tiny blue alien experiment. But how on earth can you make me sympathize with a rabbit in a weird cop outfit?

After seeing Zootopia: *wiping away tears* Disney, you did the thing.

The story begins with Judy Hopps (Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny aspiring to go where nobunny has gone before — the police academy. Much to the chagrin of her parents, Judy becomes the first bunny officer thanks to the Mayor’s mammal initiative (think Affirmative Action). Judy gets assigned to the heart of the area, the thriving metropolis of Zootopia. However, upon arrival, Judy realizes she’s the only one fighting for her dreams.

Judy gets a chance to move from meter maid to true cop when a missing mammal case comes her way. She teams up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist who lives up to the title ‘sly fox.’

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but with Jennifer Lee involved in the writing, there has to be a twist ending. This one isn’t as shocking as Hans’s betrayal of Anna, but it’s handled better by the protagonists than a simple *gasp! What are we to do?*

The humor surprised me most during the film. Sure, I’d seen the clip of Flash the Sloth in the DMV, the all-too-real commentary of how painfully slow government agencies can be. Maybe that’s where the humor gets its punch: as you laugh, you realize you’ve experienced the exact scenarios before and never in the best of situations. Early on, Judy’s parents attempt to simultaneously discourage and encourage their daughter to follow her dreams. “Settle! Settling isn’t so bad! Look at us, we settled!” Judy’s dad says. “Yeah, I settled hard,” responds her mother. One of the best moments is an incident with Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) where he tells Judy “This isn’t an animated fantasy where you sing a musical number and watch your problem dissolve into thin air. So, let. it. go.” My theater full of Cast Members guffawed at that point.

As with most Disney films, the true beauty lies in the message. “Zootopia” goes beyond a cute adaptation of “utopia” but ultimately looks to define “utopia” for an advanced society. Despite having evolved from their primitive states, the animals of Zootopia still expressed and experienced prejudices both outright and subtle.

In their attempts at crafting a modern utopia, Zootopia‘s writers offer more than a ‘lack of conflict’ definition. Their utopia becomes a moment where we recognize our own limitations, and in those limitations, we find unity. Once we realize the flaws of not only ourselves but how we categorize ourselves (predator/prey), the better we understand how to aid others. The representations of prejudice throughout the movie could be mix-and-matched with any contemporary issue.

How dare there be rabbits in the police academy? Females on the front lines of combat?

Don’t trust a fox (insert minority of choice here); they’re ruining Zootopia this country.

The movie leaves viewers with more than the high-flying adrenaline of Star Wars or the fuzzy warmth of Frozen (something Zootopia‘s writers poked fun at consistently). It gives a sense of urgency, a need to recognize our faults, and unite rather than continually degrade each other.

If you want your kid to be a better global citizen human being, take them to see Zootopia.

I give the film five pawcicles out of five. Zootopia hits theaters today, March 4.

 

Disney Springs Updates

23 Oct

The newly christened Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) continues to impress Guests with new shopping, entertainment and dining options. The announcements come about once a week now, especially as construction finishes even faster than expected. Here’s a listing of the major updates within the area to be completed by December 2016:

Frontera Fresco: Chicago-based chef Rick Bayless is bringing his mid-Western TexMex to Disney Springs by Summer 2016, according to the latest announcement by Disney. 

Walk-up windows will aid in traditional table service to provide more options for Guests’ dining experiences. Bayless currently owns and operates three Frescos in the Chicago area.

-CHOCOLATE: Apparently Ghiradelli simply isn’t enough. The Ganachery will boast hand-blended chocolates made onstage and is set to open late this year in the Landing area.

-Steak, steak, steak: Construction on the STK Steakhouse is coming along swiftly. The roomy restaurant will be immediately over the Planet Hollywood bridge and boast the finest steak meals on property. It’s set to finish construction later this year.

– Even more that remains mythical: I’ve heard rumors of three spaces that absolutely blow my mind.

  1. Walt’s – This restaurant takes its inspiration from Walt Disney himself, and the menu contains some of Walt and Lillian’s favorite recipes. The space currently exists in Disneyland Paris where it’s a success with Guests. If Imagineers decide to maintain continuity between parks, expect Walt’s to include lush furnishings similar to that of a turn-of-the-century parlor. Walt’s would fit in perfectly with the Springs’s reimagined aesthetic, so I’m assuming what I’ve heard of its concept is true.
  2. The Edison – This restaurant and bar became confirmed this summer; however, construction updates aren’t always available on the space and few people know about it. LA-based Patina Restaurant Group will operate the Edison, an eatery that includes themed rooms like “The Tesla Lounge,” “The Radio Room” and “The Patent Office.”  But don’t expect this to be as family friendly as the themed rooms of Rainforest Cafe. The Edison in Los Angeles includes a burlesque show. Edison caters to a much older crowd in both environment and menu, so plan on leaving the kids with a babysitter.
  3. The Neverland – Brace yourselves for this one. Underneath both Walt’s and Edison’s shared space, there’s legend of a traditional speakeasy called the Neverland. Yes, that’s right. The 1920s meets Peter Pan. I’ll give you a minute to compose yourself. It’s rumored to only have two entrances –one door in both Walt’s and Edison’s only. I have no clue what planning looks like for this, but I’m hoping Imagineers sprinkle extra pixie dust in their designs because this concept has the potential to be the most buzzed-about addition to Disney Springs ever.

Review: A Great Big Beautiful ‘Tomorrowland’

25 May

“Man has a dream and that’s the start. He follows that dream with mind and heart, and when it becomes a reality, it’s a dream come true for you and me!” – Carousel of Progress

After two years of PR-hype and mystery, Tomorrowland soared into theaters giving a lack-luster box office performance and receiving mediocre reviews. While the movie’s chrome isn’t as shiny as the company hoped, it still retains a solid message and visually intricate scenes sure to engage audiences, especially the younger set. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Hugh Laurie as Nix (left) and George Clooney as Frank (right)

The movie, directed by Disney and PIXAR legend Brad Bird (The Incredibles), chronicles Casey Newton –a science-minded teen who discovers the magical Tomorrowland. However, things are not as perfect as they appear and she must team up with fellow genius Frank Wagner (George Clooney) to save the world from impending doom only 58 days away. Tomorrowland’s Governor Nix (a perfectly cold Hugh Laurie) is “blamed” for the self-fulfilling prophecy, and the robot who brought Casey and Frank back to TLand, Athena, must be sacrificed in order to stop the transmission of this doomsday fortune.

The plot’s exposition spends too much time on minute details that ultimately get repeated later, and that time should have been used to get to the crux of the problem sooner. We get it: Athena is a robot. Frank is sad about it. But let’s go back to that whole “world is ending bit” please. Viewers who enjoy tidy endings will be a bit disappointed as well. Despite the ending implying that the world will be saved by future and present dreamers, we can’t help but wonder if decades worth of impending doom can magically dissipate into hope in a matter of days or even a year.

It’s easy to leave Tomorrowland and immediately find it too preachy. Fans of Bird will recognize it’s more upfront with a central message. In fact, Hugh Laurie’s character spells out his motivation toward the end of the movie, leaving little room for audience interpretation. However, its preachiness is in the sense that all classic Disney attractions (especially Carousel of Progress, which makes a small cameo) are preachy.

Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

I feel connected to Tomorrowland for a number of reasons. I worked in Tomorrowland when the film’s crew shot several scenes using CoP. I freaked out when I saw Space Mountain’s outline in the skyline of Tomorrowland itself. It embodies what Walt Disney would have wanted the world to look like with EPCOT (which, in case anyone forgot, stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). The film’s portrayal of TLand seems true to Walt’s style, especially if you look at his old dioramas, one of which is conveniently located inside the PeopleMover as “Progress City.”

However, this accuracy creates one of the homage’s biggest hypocrisies. Walt always had his brother Roy to firmly plant his feet on the ground. Without Roy’s supervision, the Disney company could have easily bankrupted itself chasing after Walt’s dreams. Tomorrowland lacks what made Disney ultimately survive: the Roys. The movie’s theme fails to acknowledge that we need the skeptics and level-headed types just as much as the dreamers. We need them like Walt needed Roy and vice versa. Who is there to get these brilliant ideas out of Tomorrowland and functioning in the real world? The film never answers this crucial question it also poses, leaving a rather one-sided portrayal of creativity and innovation.

Overall, it’s a good movie. If you have young kids who dream of becoming Walt or Roy, go see it. The visuals are stunning, and they throw in some really neat little historical and Disney bits just for the super-geeks (like myself). I left feeling my creative juices had been refreshed, but I wasn’t completely satisfied.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ adds Mrs. Potts, LeFou and Maurice

17 Mar

It’s not one lump, it’s two three for Disney casting news!

Emma Thompson will join the live-action Beauty and the Beast as Ms. Potts;

Kevin Kline will play Belle’s father Maurice;

and Josh Gad announced via Twitter he’ll join in as Gaston’s henchman, Lefou.

Talk about a busy day for Disney fans!

The release date is still being withheld by Disney production, but the movie will kick off in May at Shepperton Studios in London, The Hollywood Reporter noted.

The trio of award-winning actors will join Emma Watson’s Belle, Dan Stevens’s Beast and Luke Evans’s Gaston.

With the last two live-action fairytale reboots being musical-less, will Disney make its superstars sing for this adaptation? All signs point to yes, as Alan Menken is set to score the film and Sir Tim Rice (Lion King) will pen several new songs.

Stay tuned for more casting news!

‘FROZEN 2’ IS HAPPENING

12 Mar

(This is not a drill, people. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A DRILL.)

Disney revealed plans for a Frozen sequel at the Walt Disney Company’s annual shareholders meeting in San Francisco.

Jennifer Lee will again helm the project with Chris Buck as directors, hoping the sequel can garner as well as its $1.3 billion earning predecessor. The announcement comes just days after Lee and Buck skirted the question of a sequel. In the interview with BuzzFeed, Lee seemed apprehensive, particularly after so quickly finishing up an unexpected short film.

No details have been released about plot or casting changes. John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios and PIXAR, announced the sequel with Josh Gad, who voices Olaf, and Disney CEO Bob Iger in tow.

While the sequel doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the merchandising, Frozen-themed events at Disney parks, and the expedited development of Frozen‘s musical, the timing of the announcement is what’s catching people off-guard.

The Frozen Fever short film will debut before the live-action Cinderella tomorrow, so why make an announcement the day before another piece to the puzzle is available to fans?

Courtesy of Disney

Anna and Elsa have a chat in some new dresses.

The Frozen news has effectively eclipsed another major announcement from the Company: the next Star War’s film is scheduled for May 26, 2017, and Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars standalone starring Theory of Everything‘s Felicity Jones will be released Dec. 16, 2016. No one could hear that announcement over the cries of parents lamenting another set of catchy tunes and shelling out more money for Elsa and Anna costumes.

Brace yourselves, America. Disney hasn’t let it go.

Live-action Beauty and the Beast gets [SPOILERS]

6 Mar

No ooooone’s as beautiful as Gaston…Nor as British as the Beast.

Tales as old as yesterday reported Disney filled not one but TWO major roles for the live-action Beauty and the Beast.

Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, the Hobbit trilogy) will portray the ego-maniacal Gaston dueling Dan Stevens’s Beast.

The heartthrob and former Downton Abbey star was confirmed by Disney’s Facebook page to have accepted the role.

Stevens, whose most notable works are period dramas, seems like an interesting fit for the wrathful, spoiled Beast.

The first casting announcement came last month with Emma Watson’s elated Facebook post to fans announcing she’d accepted the role as the titular beauty, Belle.

What remains to be seen, however, are if these powerhouse actors have the singing chops to carry this adaptation. Watson teased that she’d begin singing classes for the role, begging the question “What ARE they going to sing?”

Beauty and the Beast is set to begin production later this year and is expected to hit theaters sometime in 2016.