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Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Mysic Manor Courtesy of DAPSMAGIC.com

The future is here and it is unrestricted. Since the dawn of the dark ride and amusement park history the thrill of a ride has always been restricted to a metal rail, the ageless relative of the railroad track, that has long served as the backbone of both the ancient and modern thrill ride. Those days may be over…and it may be the single best thing that has ever happened to the themed entertainment industry.

Recall for a moment your favorite theme park attraction, how it felt to experience it for the first time, the thrill, the uniqueness, the sheer excitement of turning that corner out of the load station for the first time…

Now, imagine that same experience without any restrictions, no guidance rail that spoils the direction you’re headed, nothing binding you to the center of a track enabling completely free movement through a space. Now that’s easily said, but take a moment and really think about what that means…the Haunted Mansion with wood floors, simulated staircases, actual hills you descend down in the graveyard, no glaringly obvious track, no fixed viewing points and the ability to visit completely different areas of the house than you did before. Now take this and multiply it by every dark ride you have experienced and you begin to see the scope of this advancement. Now obviously, this is just an example, but the possibilities are breathtaking. The technology improves every aspect of the experience from immersion to reliability now that there is no track to be bound to and by extension no wheels and train components to have to replace/repair. Reduced down time, exponentially more ride experience variations, interactivity between vehicles, scenes that use the floor as a thrill point/scene itself, we really are only seeing the birthing stage of the trackless ride system and while current examples still bear many of the design restrictions of a standard track system, you can indeed see that Imagineers and ride designers are starting to realize the possibilities.

Point-in-case, Hong Kong Disneyland’s brand new ride Mystic Manor, a trackless first for the Walt Disney Company that clearly is the best example of what this technology can do. No on-board attractions host is needed and the ride floats effortlessly around corners and through the doorways of Mystic Manor, following the misadventure of the mischievous monkey Albert as he opens an ancient music box that brings inanimate objects to life throughout the antiquity-filled mansion. This ride has two tracks and is a seamless 360 ride experience, meaning no blank walls, no restricted viewing, nothing to ruin the illusion. In fact, the ride path even crosses over itself in the whirlwind finale that has to be seen to be believed, something that never would have been possible with track systems. Don’t believe it? See it in action for yourself.

Sea World’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins is another excellent example of how the ride can work. Sea World took a better approach when thinking of the ride track and

Antarctica, Courtesy of Attractions Magazine

really played with the mechanics of no longer have fixed cars, weaving the cars in and out of each other’s paths, facing other pods as they enter and exit spaces, using the exposure to the other riders as an enhancement rather than distraction, etc. Sea World’s ride itself may have a few issues with quality and general story, but the execution of technology is the true star in this attraction and it really seems Sea World wanted to show off the new system as the centerpiece of the entire experience and indeed, it is almost more entertaining to watch the other cars move and glide than it is to pay attention to the actual show (which is a huge problem in actuality, but hey, we’re having fun here.)

The story revolves around a penguin who you meet in the queue as an infant and follows his story as he learns about life for the penguins as well as his beautiful and dangerous home, Antarctica. Seals chase you under the sea, you emerge into luminescent caverns of glacial ice, sea water flows and falls around you as you glide through the caverns with your trusted friend on his journey, culminating in an unbelievable (to the point where it has already caused problems) finale where you are face to face with the penguins themselves, all while freezing at an authentic 0 to 1 degrees Celsius throughout the experience.

We are not there yet with this technology, we have only begun to tap the surface of trackless ride systems and the innovative possibilities they hold that are just waiting for the taking. It will take an entire paradigm shift, a completely new way of thinking and creating to use this technology to its fullest. The dark ride rule book is about to be rewritten and I will be on board for the ride, will you?

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Photo is Property of Paramount Pictures

Racebending.com needs to walk the walk

It is the summer season and now is the time for butt-kicking blockbusters and good, no-nonsense fun at the movie theatre. But this season’s glut of Blockbusters is plagued by a movement that has reared its ugly head just this last year, a movement that seriously needs to take a look at itself in the mirror and ask what it is TRULY fighting for… Racebending.com.

This site and grass roots movement was born out of rage from Asians and Asian-Americans concerning the casting for M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount Picture’s film The Last Airbender, and has since spread to Disney and Bruckheimer’s new film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  The interesting subtext to the criticism of both of these films is that they are: 1. Two of the most expensive movies of the year and 2. Based on pre-existing, popular material. For those who don’t know, I’ll elaborate.

The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an action/adventure/epic based on the first installment of the wildly popular video games series Prince of Persia. The Last Airbender is also an action/adventure/epic based on Nickelodeon’s television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender (Avatar was dropped from the title so as to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s film), and was created by Michael Di Martino and Bryan Konietzko.

Both films are based in fictional realms, with Prince of Persia taking place in a romanticized and fantastic version of ancient Persia and The Last Airbender taking place in a wholly  fictionalized realm with Asian/Nomadic/Western influence driving the storyline, but primarily Asian culture influencing the aesthetics of the world.

Both films have been lauded as visually capturing the aesthetics of their respected worlds, so where does the controvery come from? Simply put: Casting. Now before I continue, I should note that what follows is purely my own opinion based on the information that has been presented to me, unlike my counterparts at Racebending.com, I do not claim to know the minds of the creators/filmmaker/cast/producer and will do my best not to make any assumptions heretofore beyond what has been confirmed by either Paramount, Shyamalan, Marshall (producer) and/or Konietzko/Di Martino.  Despite this disclaimer, I realize my own fallibility and biases, I must and do recognize this for the sake of professional fairness.

Racebending.com’s general qualm with both of these films is that, put simply, since they are influenced by Persian and Asian culture respectively, they should have cast Persian/Asian actors in the lead roles. The logic in this argument is sound, you would be a fool not to recognize it. However, just because the logic of the argument is sound, doesn’t mean the argument itself is sound. Which it isn’t.

Racebending.com asserts that since both films are confirmed by their respective creators (for the record, all of who are caucasian in both camps, but this argument I realize holds no water, it is a point, though, that I feel needs to be acknowledged) as being heavily influenced by Persian and Asian culture, art, mythology and theology. This fact is incontrovertible, as Racebending.com recognizes and tauts. The problem with Racebending.com’s argumentation comes with the WORDING of this fact, namely, ‘influence’. The whole of Racebending.com’s argument is based on the confirmed fact  (and blatantly obvious representation) of these respective influences. They assert that since a film/world/etc. is based on a culture or aesthetic, then the corresponding people who are usually (and mostly stereotypically) asso0ciated with the specific culture/aesthetic in question are the only people suitable to fill the roles of the stories taking place in the worlds in question.

This is where the problem lies with Racebending.com. To say that simply because a film/story/world is based upon a realm/culture in the real world they (the filmmakers) should cast individuals who sometimes correspond to the aesthetic presented is, in and of itself, completely and utterly racist. Especially in today’s world of acceptance and understanding, saying that because Persia and/or Airbender have Buddhist/Hindu/Asian/Middle Eastern influences constitutes the restrictive casting of individuals who are racially connected to these influences is not only a contradiction of its own proclaimed message, but it is the very definition of racism.

Let me review (I realize the long-windedness of the previous, for which I apologize), 1. Confirmed Asian/Middle Eastern/Western influences. 2. Logically, Influence =/= Race.  Now, again let me reiterate that this is simply my opinion and mine alone, but Merriam-Webster (dating back to 1933) gives a chilling definition of racism, one that when considering Racebending.com’s argument, should send a sickening chill of familiarity down the spines of anyone who is reading:

Racism: 1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Yikes. This is exactly what I thought when I first read Racebending.com’s doublespeak filled website. I was raised to believe that no human being is different from another and that any cultural differences we have as a species should be recognized, honored and respected in all instances, even when used fictional and/or humorous outlets (I believe in the ability to poke fun at and laugh at one another’s cultures, beliefs and stereotypes, including my own, but that is another blog and issue entirely). Essentially, I was raised to be colorblind, but not culture blind. The problem is most people believe that culture and color go hand in hand. For example, because I am white/caucasian, my primary language should be English, I should be Judeo-Christian in religious orientation, live somewhere in a westernized country and wear khakis and polos to work…ridiculous right? Insulting right?  While this is admittedly an exaggeration, it is the quintessential argument that Racebending.com is making.

If calligraphy, asian iconography and martial arts and the fact that some characters were drawn with darker skin, different eyes, different clothes, etc. means the film has to feature asian actors in its main roles, then by the same exact logic, films that occur in a fictionalized version of England can only feature pasty white/caucasian, tea-drinking, bad-teeth touting, english accented prigs in fancy hats/dresses? All because that is the cultural association? Insutling, isn’t it? Racist, isn’t it? This sounds ridiculous, and it is, but it is absolutely no different from what Racebending.com is asserting about The Last Airbender. If I were a member of the asian community, which admittedly I am not, I would be downright embarrassed by what the people who claim to speak for me are saying, much less willing to rally behind their cause. If you want to see  an example of racism wearing a different hat, look no further than Racebending.com.

Additionally, apparently the casting of multiple actors/actresses of Middle Eastern/African American/Asian descent or heritage in pivotal/key roles does not constitute a culturally/racially diverse film for the supporters of Racebending.com. Why? Because they are not strictly Asian, a point that is reiterated over and over again on the Racebending.com webpage (Don’t believe me? Go read for yourself: http://www.racebending.com). Not culturally diverse just because it does not exclusively cast asian/nomadic actors/actresses in the lead roles? That is racism at its ugliest if I have ever seen or heard it.

A few things to note:

I am very hard on Racebending.com, because I DO believe that while their intentions are noble, which they most certainly are, their views and methods are inflammatory and increasingly verging on libelous.  They also do this, in part, because many of them are fans of the original show, something we most definitely share as I followed the show since its very first season and it, its story of hope, love, friendship and quest for peace, has enriched my life. Lastly, I do recognize their frustration concerning the lack of casting of asians in films, as well as their point regarding the third-party casting agencies poor choice of words on their casting call, saying “Caucasian or any other race”, for which there is absolutely no excuse. However, these frustrations taken into account, going about it by boycotting films that increase awareness of asian influences/culture (despite the casting) and may possibly break ground for more films like it is not, in my opinion, at all the way to go about it. I equate it to the Christian community’s boycotting and protesting of The Golden Compass. Now the film’s inadequacies notwithstanding, the Christian community’s protest and eventual success (again, in my opinion) in ruining the financial success of the film did not do anything in the end for the Christian community. It did not increase the number of Christian/Christian-based films in the mainstream market, increase awareness of the Christian message and/or cause, and it did not stimulate conversation between believers and non-believers. At the end of the day, all that movement did was destroy the American box office success of a film that could have potentially stimulated questions and the opportunity for conversation/ministering to non-believers, not to mention unfairly discounting a story as “satanic” and ‘dangerous” that touts poignant messages of hope, courage and love. I am a Christian, and it was sad what my own people did to The Golden Compass, and I would really hate to see the same thing happen to The Last Airbender and by unavoidable extension (whether right or not) the Asian community.

I would never dare tell you what to think. I can only voice an opinion. You, my readers, must ultimately make the decision for yourself. I, nor Racebending.com, has the right to tell you that either one of is definitively right or wrong (who am I to judge?). What I can offer are my primitive observations and one seriously passionate opinion. In the end, it is your choice and that is the one thing no one can take away from you.

Thanks for reading and leave a comment below (disrespectful or hateful comments, directed at myself, Racebending.com, Paramount, or anybody else, will be deleted, at my subjective discretion, without warning or explanation, so please think before you write).

EDIT: For those who read my blog (all ten of you), note that I realize that this is not at all in tune with my normal pieces of writing and I will return to my normally light hearted writing. Regardless of what people think or say about the above entry, I just had to say something or I knew I would regret it. I’ll be back this week with more fun blogging! Thank You to everyone who reads!

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Photo Courtesy of ABC Television

Back in 2006, a color-saturated comedy struck the newly HD crazy television screen of the western world. The show, based on a decades old, wildly successful telenovella that had been reproduced several times over in Spanish-speaking countries across the globe, premiered on ABC as part of their response to the Thursday night crime drama domination sucking in ratings at CBS. The show featured a cast of relatively unknowns, with its only anchor coming in the form of bad guy super vixen Wilhelmina Slater, played by Vanessa Williams. Its premise: a young, optimistic Latino woman from Queens applies for a position at communications behemoth Meade Publications only to be thrust into the volatile and cut-throat world of high-fashion at the masochistic, vogue-esque Mode magazine. Chaos, day-saving, underdog inspirational fun ensued.

© ABC Television

The show? The same name it was given across the world: UGLY BETTY.  Of course, the titular title was part of the appeal of the show as “Ugly” Betty was actually the only beautiful person out of the lot of self-absorbed, self-medicating characters inhabiting the circular walls of Mode magazine. To put it mildly, the show was a raging success. Appealing across demographics due to its quick editing, vibrant production design and underdog story of success. Not to mention the show had some of the best original characters seen on television in years, the best of which were not even the main characters. Every single episode of the wildly popular season 1 and season 2 was stolen by the imposing evil mastermind Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams), her brown-nosing, flamboyant assistant Marc St. James (Michael Urie) and his resident bestie, receptionist Amanda Tannen (Becki Newton). This trio brought the lines and the laughs of almost every episode. Flank them sporadically with the hysterically drunk mother of the Meade empire Claire Meade (Judith Light) and Scottish seamstress/closet manager Christina McKinney (Ashley Jensen), and the show was a comedic, melodramatic juggernaut that at the time seemed unstoppable.

How, then, did it fail?

One word: laziness.

The show was never quite the same following the writers strike in late 2007 early 2008, a silly, not wholly productive industry-wide strike that ultimately proved more damaging than helpful to even its most hearty proponents. However, to say that this was the reason behind Ugly Betty’s decline and eventual cancellation would be wrong. The honest truth is that the show started to suck long before the strike began at the beginning of season 3. But what was the cause of the suckiness?

Ugly Betty’s popularity and devout following was created by the strength and consistency of its characters. Consequently, it died when the writers stopped caring about them.

So what, specifically, killed Betty?

© ABC Television

1. The softening of Wilhelmina Slater. As far as I’m concerned, a good versus evil story is only as good its villain and Vanessa Williams played one unlike any other…that is, until the writers stopped giving her good material and started trying to make her character slowly revert from her ways. E.g. they turned a villain into a reformation project and the result was a flat, boring character that ended up being just as painful to watch as I’m certain it was to play.

2. The axing of David Blue, the only respectable love interest Marc ever had. He was funny, dorky, chubby…everything Marc is not. The idea was simple, but genius. A sort of Beauty and the Geek for gays. For some reason though, the writers took their own brilliant idea and wrote it out of the script within weeks. BAD MOVE.

3. Betty’s loss of innocence. This one was just stupid. The writers took the title character’s main quality delineating her from the rest of the pack and slowly started picking away at it in the interest of spicing up the character due to the show’s dwindling ratings. What they failed to realize was that Betty was not the problem, it was everyone else. Betty wasn’t losing her innocence, the supporting cast was losing their villainy/ignorance/need for Betty. The character was effectively rendered useless.

4. Disappearance of Selma Hayek’s character. She was mean, her plot was interesting and she should have gone up against Slater for the head of Meade Publications. Instead, she came, she burned bright, she turned evil, then like so many other good characters on the show, she just disappeared.

Reason, after reason, after reason, all centered around the Characters. Ugly Betty was named after a character, lived by its characters and died by its characters. Here’s hoping that if an Ugly Betty movie is indeed on the way, the producers take the hint and seriously re-think the franchise before they screw up the film too.

These are just three reasons, but they have been the talk of fans and IMDB boards for two years now. Simply put, Ugly Betty was a great show that died at the hands of ignorant writers and complacent producers. What a shame…

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