Holy smokes, I love this new teaser poster for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 56th animated motion picture, Moana.
Some of the best animated motion pictures from Walt Disney Animation Studios are the ones where big risks were taken and bold choices were made by the filmmakers. Rather than playing it safe with tried and true formulas all of the time, the filmmakers at Disney Animation have often made audacious artistic and thematic choices that truly raised the bar in artistry, technology, and storytelling. And we, the filmgoing public, have been the lucky beneficiaries.
One need not look further than 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first Disney full-length animated feature and the film that Walt and Roy Disney bet everything on, to know that it was a risk worth taking and that the payoff was commensurate to the financial and artistic gamble that was being made. Or take 1940’s Fantasia, Disney Animation’s third motion picture, that is still one of the most avant-garde animated films to date 75 years after its original release. Then there’s 1989’s The Little Mermaid, Disney Animation’s 28th film and the one that marked the happy and triumphant return of the animated fairy tale musical of which Disney continued on with great success throughout the 1990s. While not all films from the Disney Animation canon that tried something new were always great (1985’s The Black Cauldron and 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire come to mind as films with a bold premise and great potential that didn’t deliver ultimately), the filmmakers at Disney Animation that were allowed to or even encouraged to try something new have been able to create films that are both distinctly Disney and distinctly a work of art with a strong point of view.
Now there’s Zootopia, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 55th animated motion picture and still currently in theaters. It’s been a huge artistic and financial success worldwide (currently, its gross earnings stand at $994 million as of this writing and will probably hit $1 billion over the next week or so). I believe the film’s success is because of the risk the filmmakers at Disney Animation took in making the film they wanted to make and telling the story they wanted to tell, a hallmark of the filmmaker-driven philosophy championed by studio heads John Lasseter and Ed Catmull. Rather than just playing safe with Disney Animation’s first buddy cop movie and first anthropomorphic animal tale told in many years (1973’s Robin Hood and both Rescuers films from 1977 and 1990 are among my personal favorites of this sub genre), co-directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore were allowed, even encouraged, to take their animated comedy into a place not often explored within the films of Walt Disney Animation Studios—they made a modern-day allegorical fable with the theme of racial bias as its main focus.
I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears during the first time I saw Zootopia at the screening I attended in the Walt Disney Animation Studios’ theater on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, CA. While I was beyond thrilled to see the beautifully animated and designed film in the building where so many of the film’s artists and filmmakers work every day, I think my jaw dropped a few times when the events of the film unfolded. I was shocked and delighted that Disney actually made a movie that so deftly, directly, and appropriately tackled some of the biggest social issues which still face our modern society today.
Co-director Byron Howard says it best in the excellent documentary Imagining Zootopia:
“For Zootopia, I think the thing that I find the most moving about the film is that in this world of animals where all animals are so different from one another, there are things that are common, where they find that connection…Where they find that in the end, we all care about the same things. We all deserve the respect that we want from each other. We deserve to be happy in our lives. We deserve love. We deserve equality. And that’s why I think these movies can be so powerful. Because they are modern fables, we’re able to talk about things that are very, very difficult and we’re able to bring things into conversation that are awkward to talk about.”
And not only couldn’t I believe the film’s themes, but that they included homages to some of the great (and non-Disney) film classics, including The Godfather, Chinatown, and L.A. Confidential, to name a few. And even TV’s Breaking Bad got a shoutout—in a Disney movie! Crazy, yet very clever, smart, and hilarious.
The payoff is big with a very satisfying and well-made film that entertains children and adults alike and that makes you think. The Zootopia team made bold, if not completely unconventional, choices, but they totally work and make the film so much fun to watch. And although the filmmakers decided to go for timely instead of timeless, the creative decisions still felt, well, creative and still Disney to me, albeit it with a bit more of an edge rather than a warm fuzzy. From my perspective, Zootopia is a wonderful concoction for a modern audience that still respects the past and moves the Disney animated feature forward in new and entertaining ways.P.S. And even Miranda Sings had a part in the film! Haha.
I loved reading about the history of the Ford GT in the A.J. Baime’s interesting book Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). Now, the Ford GT has made a big return, both to the race track and soon to the streets of the world.
Here’s another pic of the car in Liquid Silver.
This is the version I saw at the 2015 North American International Auto Show last year in Liquid Blue.
The simple but elegant cockpit looks like this.
Here’s an overhead shot, again in Liquid Blue.
Here’s the race track version of the new Ford GT that is making its return to the 24 Hours at Le Mans race June 18-19, 2016, in Le Mans, France.
And check out this cool new web series about the return of the legendary Ford GT.
I just can’t get enough of this car. And I hope it wins at Le Mans, too.
I currently sing bass in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Based out of the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle (which was completed by the Mormon pioneers in 1875) on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir continues its long tradition of musical excellence. It’s truly an honor to have a small turn being a part of this venerable institution.
A couple of projects of note…The Choir, along with the Orchestra at Temple Square (which is part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s musical family), just released a new recording of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah.” Making this album was a life altering experience. It was so much work. But the divine music and message are glorious. The new recording is now available from your favorite music purveyors. The Choir and Orchestra will be performing “Messiah” in its entirety this year on Good Friday, March 25, 2016, 7:30 p.m. MDT. The concert will originate from the Salt Lake Tabernacle and will be streamed live online at http://www.motab.org/messiah.
Next, the Choir and Orchestra recently took part in a virtual choir project of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from “Messiah.” People submitted YouTube videos singing their preferred choral part (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) of the beloved chorus and then the singers in the videos (along with a few extras spread throughout the choir loft) got integrated into a video shoot filmed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Here’s the final music video.
Happy Easter to you all and may you feel the comforting love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of the reality of His divine mission and resurrection at this time and always. #Hallelujah!
I think these four new teaser poster designs for Pixar’s Finding Dory are really beautiful.
Well, first, I did what any reasonable man would do—I bought a new car (a Ford Mustang to be exact, which also just celebrated its 50th birthday). And second, I decided that I should take a big trip, preferably one that might have something to do with the number 50 (theming is important, you know…).
An idea plopped itself into my head. What if I visited all 50 states during my 50th year? I had already been to 43 states in my lifetime, but what if I tried to have a new experience in states where I’ve already visited along with finally traveling to the states that I still hadn’t seen?
My rules would be simple:
- Set foot in each of the 50 states within the 2015 calendar year.
- Airports don’t count.
With a map and my calendar, I got busy trying to figure out how to make it work. After much thought, planning, and discussion, I put together 18 different trips that would allow me to accomplish the goal (specifics are listed in the appendix below).
And I hit the road.
The first trip in my quest was on January 3, 2015 to Malad, Idaho. (And, no, I didn’t buy a lottery ticket.) The trips continued with at least one excursion a month.With each trip, I tried to be as efficient as possible by maximizing the number of states visited. Some places made it relatively easy to visit multiple states in a short amount of time (like Four Corners, New Mexico). States bordering Utah were simple to visit as well.
Another efficient and delightful trip (and demonstrative of what I was trying to do) was my trip to the Gulf Coast. Flying round trip from Salt Lake City to New Orleans, Louisiana, I visited New Orleans; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida over a weekend. These four cities in four separate states are only 3.5 hours apart.
The record number of states visited in one trip was to New England (no surprise there) where I drove to nine states over a weekend—West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine (along with stops in Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts—states that I had already visited earlier in the year—which would bring to number to 12 states in one weekend).
With each state, I always had a specific destination in mind. The main reason for that, truth be told, was to have a specific address in enter in to the Maps app on my iPhone (which was an indispensable resource during all of my travels this year). And while wandering and exploring without a specific agenda can be very fun (and which happened in multiple states throughout the year), it was also comforting to have a plan knowing where my next stop was and how I was going to get there. (I also made all hotel reservations in advance, too. Plan, plan, plan…)
I tried to visit as many national parks and monuments along the way as possible. Some were great, like Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina and Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; others were a bust, like the Thomas Edison National Historic Park, in West Orange, New Jersey, which happened to be closed the day I was there (yet another choice experience in New Jersey). Still, the National Park Service is an American treasure.
Have I mentioned that I like cars? The year didn’t disappoint with cool experiences for this car lover.
Star Wars happily forced its way in to my 2015 travels, too.
I’m a big baseball fan and my journeys didn’t disappoint in this regard, either.
And speaking of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, participating in the Choir’s 2015 Atlantic Coast Tour allowed me to visit multiple states and perform in some world-class venues.
I was reminded time and time again about many of my heroes from American history. These imperfect, brave, and tenacious people rose above their challenges and were able to do many extraordinary things for the betterment of the country and of the world. Re-visting these sites (or in some cases seeing them for the first time) was inspiring.
I love road signs. Here are some of my favorites from the year.
My goal was accomplished on December 26, 2015 when I arrived and set foot (outside of the airport, of course) in Fairbanks, Alaska. I crazily but intentionally scheduled my trip to Alaska during the month of December with the primary goal of seeing the Northern Lights. Thankfully, things worked out.
Visiting all 50 states within a twelve month period has been an extremely fun adventure. Figuring out how to make it happen was an enjoyable challenge. I learned something new everywhere I visited. And I can’t wait to get back out there to experience more of this great land I live in (just please don’t make me drive on the New Jersey Turnpike).
My Top 10 Favorite Sites of 2015
Here are my 10 favorite places that I visited during the year (and not in any particular order):
- National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, District of Columbia
- North American International Auto Show, Detroit, Michigan
- Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Disneyland, Anaheim, California
- Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
- Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mississippi
- Carnegie Hall, New York, New York
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
- Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis sighting, Fairbanks, Alaska
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Places that I’ve visited before and that would probably make the list but wasn’t able to visit in 2015: Statue of Liberty National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Walt Disney World, Everglades National Park
My Bottom 7
The states I visited where I had less than desirable experiences this year include (and in particular order) :
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
- New Jersey
Appendix: The Plan
As previously mentioned, I planned 18 separate trips (labeled “A” through “R” in the table below) for the year, most all of them falling on a weekend. Below is a table showing how I broke everything down, including the transportation methods used (see “Transportation Legend” below).
Please contact me directly if you’d like any more specifics about my antics this year. I’ve also taken a picture from every state and posted them to my Instagram account under the hashtag #50statesin2015.
|🐎||My Ford Mustang; driven to and from Salt Lake City|
|✈️||Flight from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) > Destination Airport Code; round trip unless otherwise indicated|
|🏡||Home (aka where I live)|
|Trip||States Visited (in order)||Transportation Used||Route|
|A||2) Idaho||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Malad, ID|
|B||3) Wyoming||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Evanston, WY|
|C||4) Michigan, 5) Ohio||✈️ (SLC > DTW) 🚗||Detroit, MI > Toledo, OH|
|D||6) Arizona, 7) Colorado, 8) New Mexico||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Four Corners, NM|
|E||9) California||✈️ (SLC > LAX) 🚗||Los Angeles, CA|
|F||10) Minnesota, 11) Wisconsin||✈️ (SLC > MSP) 🚗||Minneapolis, MN > Hudson, WI|
|G||12) Nevada||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Las Vegas, NV|
|H||13) Texas, 14) Oklahoma||✈️ (SLC > DFW) 🚗||Dallas, TX > Durant, OK|
|I||15) Louisiana, 16) Mississippi, 17) Alabama, 18) Florida||✈️ (SLC > MSY) 🚗||New Orleans, LA > Biloxi, MS > Mobile, AL > Pensacola, FL|
|J||19) Montana, 20) North Dakota, 21) South Dakota, 22) Nebraska||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Billings, MT > Medora, ND > Rapid City, SD > Ogala National Grassland, NE|
|K||23) Missouri, 24) Kansas, 25) Iowa||✈️ (SLC > KCI) 🚗||Kansas City, MI > IA > Kansas City, KS|
|L||26) Maryland, 27) New York, 28) Virginia, 29) Massachusetts||✈️ (SLC > BWI;
BOS > SLC)
🚌 (Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2015 Atlantic Coast Tour)
|Baltimore, MD > Bethesda, MD > Mount Vernon, VA > New York City, NY (and other NY venues) > Boston, MA|
|M||30) Tennessee, 31) Arkansas, 32) Illinois, 33) Indiana, 34) Kentucky||✈️ (SLC > MEM) 🚗||Memphis, TN > Marion, AK > Cairo, IL > Lincoln City, IN > Louisville, KY > Bowling Green, KY > Nashville, TN|
|N||35) Oregon, 36) Washington||🐎||Salt Lake City, UT > Pendleton, OR > Walla Walla, WA|
|O||37) West Virginia, 38) Pennsylvania, 39) Delaware, 40) New Jersey, 41) Connecticut, 42) Rhode Island, 43) New Hampshire, 44) Vermont, 45) Maine||✈️ (SLC > DCA;
BOS > SLC) 🚗
|Washington, DC > Falls Church, WV > Gettysburg, PA > New Castle, DE > West Orange, NJ > Bridgeport, CT > Providence, RI > Cornish, NH > Sharon, VT > Kittery, ME|
|P||46) North Carolina, 47) South Carolina, 48) Georgia||✈️ (SLC > CLT) 🚗||Charlotte, NC > Kitty Hawk, NC > Gaffney, SC > Lavonia, GA|
|Q||49) Hawaii||✈️ (SLC > HNL) 🚗||Honolulu, Oahu, HI|
|R||50) Alaska||✈️ (SLC > FAI) 🚗||Fairbanks, AK|
And now here’s the full on poster for Walt Disney Animation Studios‘ upcoming film Zootopia. Looks excellent!