Current Cinema, Movie Posters

Posters for “Rogue One”

I am loving the marketing campaign for the upcoming Star Wars anthology film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The eight character posters just got released today.

All images © Lucasfilm/Disney

Original teaser poster

Another teaser poster released earlier this year

Official poster. So great!


Saw Gerrera

Bodhi Rook

Director Orson Krennic

Chirrut Imwe

Baze Malbus

Cassian Andor

Jyn Erso

Current Cinema

The Risk and Payoff of Disney’s “Zootopia”

zootopia 001

(© Disney)

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.

(© Disney)

Now there’s Zootopia, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 55th animated motion picture. 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.

Yours truly at the Roy E. Disney Animation Building on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, CA to see ‘Zootopia’ on March 1, 2016

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.

(© Disney)

P.S. And even Miranda Sings had a part in the film! Haha.

Other Things

The New Ford GT


© Ford Motor Company

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.


© Ford Motor Company

This is the version I saw at the 2015 North American International Auto Show last year in Liquid Blue.


© Ford Motor Company

The simple but elegant cockpit looks like this.


© Ford Motor Company

Here’s an overhead shot, again in Liquid Blue.


© Ford Motor Company

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.


© Ford Motor Company

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.

Musical Notes

‘Hallelujah’ for Easter


The famous organ pipes along with the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir (📷 me, taken from the sidelines on a Sunday morning when I wasn’t singing)

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

messiah cd cover 01

CD album art; artwork by J. Kirk Richards (© Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

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!

Other Things

50 States in My 50th Year


Alaska, my 50th state, on December 26, 2015. (And did someone say Frozen?)

I turned 50 in 2015. How in the world did this happen? And what could I do to celebrate this milestone in a good way?

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.


Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 from Malad, Idaho

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.


The Mustang in the Four Corners parking lot




Selfie at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the Las Vegas Strip

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.


Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana


Beignets at world-famous Cafe du Monde in New Orleans—the best!


I fell in love with the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast


The downtown skyline in Mobile, Alabama


Weekend traffic on the Pensacola Bay Bridge in Pensacola, Florida

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).


Traveled through Johnny Appleseed country in Virginia (where there are some seriously delicious apples and apple treats)


Pope Francis products for sale in the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop off the New Jersey Turnpike (and I’m not making this up)


I gladly paid the giant toll to get on the George Washington Bridge just to exit the endless (and awful) New Jersey Turnpike


Winding my way through New Hampshire


Checking out the historic district in New Castle, Delaware


Tranquil spot in Kittery, Maine

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…)


Selfie at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota


Driving near Vale, Oregon


A private tour of Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill for this animation fan


At the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California for the 2015 Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival


At the Nebraska/South Dakota border; driving through the black of night in Nebraska with no civilization (or even any lights or any signs of electricity) for miles and miles was really something


Finally got to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee


The Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, Tennessee


Cloudy and beautiful Oahu, Hawaii

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.


Cape Hatteras lighthouse at dusk


Driving through Gettysburg National Military Park




Exploring the aptly named Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky


Part of the series of reliefs at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in southern Indiana

Have I mentioned that I like cars? The year didn’t disappoint with cool experiences for this car lover.


I fell in love with the new Ford GT at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan


An original Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan


Original 1962 Ford Mustang concept (along with a 1965 Mustang convertible) also at The Henry Ford


Some of the trashed Corvettes pulled out of the 2014 sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky


Wearing earplugs and loving it at my first NASCAR race, the Sprint Cup Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina

Star Wars happily forced its way in to my 2015 travels, too.


At Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration fan convention at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. Right after this, they screened the second teaser trailer for the film. (The fellow nerds are waving their lightsabers in approval.)


Fake George Lucas at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California; I saw this dude there and wished I had taken this pic (photo seen somewhere on Facebook)


Saw this excellent t-shirt in Hawaii

bob iger star wars land announcement

And back again at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California for Disney’s D23 Expo 2015, I was happily in the room when Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the new Star Wars-themed lands coming to Disneyland park in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in Florida (photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company)

I’m a big baseball fan and my journeys didn’t disappoint in this regard, either.


At Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California (my favorite ball park) to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers (my favorite team)


My first visit to Kauffman Stadium (aka “The K”) in Kansas City, Missouri, home of the 2015 World Series champions Kansas City Royals


Standing by the world’s largest baseball bat at the Louisville Slugger Factory in Louisville, Kentucky


I sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and had the chance to perform “The Star Spangled Banner” at Yankee Stadium for a New York Yankees game in New York City, New York; that’s me in the back right corner; we got to watch the game after we sang, too (photo courtesy of Mormon Tabernacle Choir)

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.


The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed a surprise concert at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York; check out the picturesque location adjacent to the Hudson River; I’m the dude in the top right corner. (Photo © Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.)

7-July1.2015 Day 8.DRG 360

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York, July 1, 2015; definitely a personal highlight and a musician’s dream come true (photo courtesy Mormon Tabernacle Choir)


In my concert duds walking up 7th Avenue to Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York


The recently completed Freedom Tower, aka One World Trade Center, in New York City, New York; hope rising above tragedy and sadness

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.


The four greats at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It rained like cats and dogs the day I was there, but the skies lifted briefly in order to see this impressive and inspiring site with my own two eyes.


George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia: I even took the home tour


Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC; “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”


The barren, rugged, and beautiful landscape at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota; “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”


Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC; “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


My first time seeing the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC; “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”


The Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vermont; the granite obelisk stands 38 1/2 feet tall, one foot for each year of the Prophet’s life.


Loved visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; I’m standing at the takeoff point; each of the four markers in the distance represent the landing spots of the four successful flights taken on December 17, 1903.


Enjoyed the beautiful wildflower fields at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas


Disneyland, Walt Disney’s original theme park and one of my favorite places, turned 60 in 2015; “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

I love road signs. Here are some of my favorites from the year.


The Eisenhower Interstate System gets the MVP Award for my travels in 2015. Photo taken on the H-3 in Hawaii (the tagging is a nice touch, too).


Lots of crossing going on near Casper, Wyoming


Land of Lincoln and other stuff

IMG_0401 (1)

Driving through North Carolina


Visited South Carolina just days after the side effects of Hurricane Joaquin completely trashed their road system. Very grateful to the South Carolina Department of Transportation for their excellent communications (and signage!) in helping people safely navigate through the state at a difficult time.


A sign pointing to a giant Virgin Mary statue in New Castle, Delaware


City marker in Hawaii


Road sign in Washington state


Somewhere along I-94 in Montana


The Big Dipper and North Star on a road sign!

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.


Roads were pretty decent considering the low temps (-15 degrees) and all of the snow and ice


The Northern Lights showed up and they were glorious; frosting on the cake from an unforgettable year (picture taken with my Canon EOS M10 on a tripod)

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).


Driving through beautiful Montana. Time to start planning another adventure.

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):

  1. National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, District of Columbia
  2. North American International Auto Show, Detroit, Michigan
  3. Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  4. Disneyland, Anaheim, California
  5. Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  6. Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mississippi
  7. Carnegie Hall, New York, New York
  8. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  9. Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis sighting, Fairbanks, Alaska
  10. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

Honorable mentions: Arches National Park, Grand Ole Opry, GracelandThe Henry Ford Museum, Charlotte Motor Speedway

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) :

  1. New Jersey
  2. New Jersey
  3. New Jersey
  4. New Jersey
  5. New Jersey
  6. Idaho
  7. Wyoming

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.

usa map 01

Map of the United States of America

Transportation Legend

Icon Description
🐎 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
🚗 Rental Car
🚌 Tour Bus
🏡 Home (aka where I live)


Trip States Visited (in order) Transportation Used Route
Home 1) Utah 🏡
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;
🚌 (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