Galaxy’s Edge: Outsider Impressions of Batuu

Back in 2006, Expedition Everest was the greatest attraction Walt Disney Imagineering had designed in a long time. Several VIP’s had the opportunity to experience the attraction ahead of time. I remember downloading a video from Inside The Magic showing the celebration of the attraction’s grand opening.

Some years later, in 2012, the Fantasyland expansion in the Magic Kingdom was one of the most beautiful additions from Walt Disney World. There were many expectations surrounding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and Tales With Belle. It was the first time Orlando saw an expansion similar to Cars Land at DCA.

All of these experiences were first viewed from an iPad, iPod or my computer. It took me years to experience firsthand these new attractions. Even though I’ve seen videos and photos, there was no comparison to the experience of enjoying these rides for the first time.

When I experienced Expedition Everest for the first time in 2010, my jaw dropped at how grand the mountain looked. I rode it 8 times as a single rider. When I experienced the new Fantasyland expansion back in 2014, I cried incessantly. And in 2015, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train became an all time favorite for my family.

Now with the grand opening of Galaxy’s Edge, my only way to experience the place for a while will be with videos and pictures. I don’t know when will I go to Orlando and experience it firsthand, but I’m sure it will be the same experience I’ve had with past attractions.

In my experience, it doesn’t matter if you get spoiled with pictures and videos. Nothing can describe the immersive experience of a Disney theme park.

Analyzing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge completely doesn’t make sense, as many bloggers and fans are able to visit and getting firsthand experience. Therefore, I am able to express my observations and sheer joy from the videos and pictures that people have published on the internet. So here are some thoughts, opinions, and an emotional backdrop to the feelings surrounding Batuu.

I wasn’t a fan of Star Wars when a themed land was announced for Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I didn’t own nothing Star Wars related, not even a single movie.

Before the release of The Force Awakens, I watched all the movies in a couple of days. Ive watched them, but not in a conscious way. Since then, there was no turning back.

Now I own all the movies, have some merchandise, and read 22 Star Wars books.

You get the point.

My fandom has grown ever since. Star Wars in general helped me cope with a breaking point in my life. Indeed, this universe changed my perspective about many things.

Since the last year, I’ve been curious to see how Galaxy’s Edge would fit in the overall story of this galaxy far, far away. The work from the Lucasfilm Story Group to keep a consistent timeline between movies, books, TV series, comics, and video games showed that this themed land also had to become part of this story. Not only did they integrated Batuu; they made it feel as if the planet had always been part of the universe.

This planet for the Outer Rim was first shown in the book ‘Thrawn: Alliances’. In this story, we learn that Padmé, Anakin/Darth Vader, and Thrawn have visited the land. In this book is where the drinks of Oga’s Cantina were first introduced. Later it was also mentioned in the book ‘Pirate’s Price’, which mainly establishes how Hondo is now in control of the Falcon in Batuu. L3 mentions Black Spire Outpost in ‘Solo’. These may seems as very simple ways to introduce this land, but it makes it part of a richer history that shows when you visit it. I even includes a character from the book ‘Phasma’; you can see Vi Moradi in Batuu escaping from the First Order or recruiting rebel spies.

It will be satisfying for fans to see that Batuu is integrated with the universe and the overal timeline (between Ep.8 and 9). This could evolve and move forward in the future with more additions to the land.

Lucasfilm Story Group have achieved in a few years the equivalent of Kevin’s Feige’s MCU but in a grander scale. The Star Wars universe is a crossmedia and transmedia phenomenon that is only in its early stages. Not even a decade has passed and we already have a themed land, movies, books, comics, games, and more. In Batuu, all of these aspects are represented. The TIE Echelon fighter that we’ve just seen in the Episode IX teaser has landed with Kylo Ren and his Stormtroopers. Hondo Ohnaka is trying to keep a legit business in the planet. A Loth cat from Star Wars Rebels can be seen in one of the stores owned by an Ithorian. Relics from other battles between the Rebels and the Empire can be seen in the land. These may be simple Easter Eggs, but they also blend in to become part of the grander story of Batuu. I adds depth and richness, immersing ourselves into our own story within Star Wars. That can be done by interacting with the Disney Play app or just talking to a cast member, who are actually villagers and have their own story inside the land. The attention to detail is justified because Batuu is a real planet in a universe we want to be part of.

Galaxy’s Edge has opened with one attraction: Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. The name itself mentions a book written by Greg Rucka. Some fans have considered this attraction the next generation of Star Tours, but this is just a misunderstanding. The whole experience is interactive and immersive. Your decisions as a pilot, engineer or gunner will affect the overall results of your trip to steal hyper fuel from Corellia. The queue shows the new business Hondo is trying to keep running. You have some time to enjoy the Falcon, sitting at the holochess, watching each little golden nugget. At the end of the attraction, the experience is not over. If you’ve crashed the Falcon several times during your mission, power outages and electricity sparks will be present when unloading the Falcon, even announcing on the radio that the spaceship is in need of immediate repairs. Moreover, your reputation as a ship crasher will be noticed throughout the land.

Black Spire Outpost offer several stores to get your Star Wars merch. Every single item is in universe. You will not see many T-Shirts or pins. You will indeed see lightsabers, Jedi robes, kyber crystals, holochrons, and plush toys. Dok Ondar has its own stores and you can see the Ithorian doing some organizing. Droids can be manufactured to your own liking. There are also places to eat that keep contributing to the story. These places will not be overlooked when every single one of them has details for everyone who is passionate about the universe.

Nothing of this would be interesting without the live entertainment. As mentioned earlier, cast members are villagers by which you can ask for missions or just chat about the galaxy. Rebel spies try to recruit you to be against the First Order. Stormtroopers are patrolling to see everyone’s identification. Chewbacca can be seen trying to fix a vehicle near the Resistance camp. Rey is also regrouping the Resistance fighters. Kylo Ren just landed on his TIE Echelon and already gets mad at one of his Lieutenants for his incompetence. Hondo’s employees are not always happy about his boss. All of these situations are happening as you experience Batuu. This allows everyone to role play and become even more involved in the story. It isn’t about what is happening around you; it is about how you as an active character becomes part of these situations.

Galaxy’s Edge is the greatest achievement of Walt Disney Imagineering in the past decade. They have been able to collaborate with Lucasfilm to create a unique land that blends storytellling and adventure. My visit of this land maybe be in a few years, but I’m already excited about it with he pictures and videos published online. You’re never emotionally prepared for these kind of experiences. In the same way that I get tears eyed every time I see Cinderella castle at the end of Main Street U.S.A., I will cry as I see the Millenium Falcon far in the distance with a lightsaber in my hand.

My Favorite Disney Podcasts

My habit of listening to podcasts started around 2013. It was a great way to give some Disney flavor in my boring commute to my university. Over time, I began subscribing to more shows than I could handle. Even though the shows range from a variety of topics, Disney podcasts always have a special time.

First Things First

If you’re an iOS user and don’t listen to podcasts with the Overcast app, you’re doing it all wrong. This great app from Marco Arment has a great interface and many nitpicky options, but the killer features of this app are Voice Boost and Smart Speed. Voice Boost equalizes the audio so the voices sound much louder and crispier, a common problem for many podcasts that don’t have studio quality equipment. Smart Speed shortens silences in the podcast, between the conversation, without you even noticing. This feature alone will save you lots of time (357 hours in my case) without you even feeling it.

Also, the dark theme is great and includes some practical organizing features for podcast listeners.

Try this app with just a few podcasts and you’ll thank me later.

For Android users, PocketCast is a good app too.

The Retired Show That Started It All: Inside The Magic

An article about Disney podcasts wouldn’t debe complete for me if I didn’t mention Ricky Brigante’s show. This was my very first Disney podcast show and I loved it. Every week, my commute would be filled with Disney news.

Even though it has been retired for several years, it still has a sweet spot in my heart.

All Time Classics: Enchanted Tiki Talk, WDW Today, and WDW Radio Show

Even though these three podcast have different trajectories and topics, they are all classics for me. Every Disney fan that I know has heard one of these three at least once.

Enchanted Tiki Talk

If you want a relaxing talk about the Disney parks, especially about planning trips to WDW, Enchanted Tiki Talk is for you. The hosts are great chemistry, they always bring emotional stories, and the topics are diverse. My favorite episodes are those that they play a game were you try to eat for the whole day in a park with a tight budget.

Need a little Aloha in your life? Enchanted Tiki Talk is there to save you!

WDW Today

Len Testa has been running Touring Plans for a while as well as WDW Today. One of the few Disney podcast with 2 episodes or more per week, WDW Today is a must for any person who wants to learn more about how to plan your trip to Disney World. They always have some great insights about hotels, guest flow, ticketed events, and other fun things to do in the resort. Even though the original hosts passed the baton some years ago, changing the format, the show is still as insightful and fun as it always was.

WDW Radio Show

If you haven’t heard about Lou Mongello’s show, you’re living in the caves of Nature’s Wonderland. WDW Radio Show is a fun show to listen to because it is always filled with positivity, diverse topics, and a host that knows his stuff. If you can be part of the WDW Radio community, then you’ll have twice the fun. Even though some fans have differences with Mongello’s positivity, a podcast of his always has me energized about Disney after a long day of work.

Fun And Fancy Free: The Tomorrowland Transit Authorities, Golden Horseshoe Review and Network 1901

Sometimes you just want to listen to a great discussion about Disney regardless of the topic and even decompress with some interesting takes about the parks. This category is named Fun and Fancy Free because it delivers pure, straightforward fun listens for you to enjoy during a commute.

The Tomorrowland Transit Authorities

A recent contender in Disney podcasts, The Tomorrowland Transit Authorities is hosted by longtime YouTubers Rob (Rob Plays) and Christine (IvyWinter). The topics vary from episode to episode, but they’re mostly focused on the Disney resorts. Some of the funniest episodes are when they go on the craziest tangents, like when they discussed about an imaginary Disney crypto currency. This is one of those podcast that I highly recommend to binge listen, as many of the jokes are built upon past discussions. Also they do movie reviews every once in a while with diverting opinions.

Listen to this podcast and enjoy all the fun that Rob and Christine have to offer!

Golden Horseshoe Review

This is one of those podcast that doesn’t have a consistent schedule, but every time an episode appears on my podcast feed I immediately stop doing whatever task and hit the play button. A candid discussion about recent Disney trips, the Golden Horseshoe Review has short episodes that are filled with little details you haven’t noticed in your Disney trips. Even though this sounds like they’re constantly criticizing, these are informed opinions about the parks from theming, guest experience, food, attractions, and more. Yes, this podcast is as fun as the thrilling Golden Horseshoe Revue.

Network 1901

Another recent member of the Disney podcasting community, Network 1901 is a feed that has several podcast per week. Each show has its own topics. The DCC focuses on fun pop culture topics, while Modern Mouse Radio touches upon deeper topics about Disney and society. Another great show was the Disney Decade, which attempted to give a historical view about Michael Eisner’s tenure as CEO.

Deep Cuts: Disney History Institute, The Disney Dish, Dis Order, Retro Disney World

These podcast show that there is always a place for history about The Walt Disney Company. Each podcasts focuses on different aspects and deliver insightful stories about the parks, the movies, and the company as a whole.

Disney History Institute

This podcast is one of those lesser known shows that deserves to be in everyone’s podcast feed. Presented by Todd James Pierce, this podcast shines light on very obscure and unknown stories about the Disney parks, from the construction of Disneyland (Todd dedicated a whole book on this topic, Three Years In Wonderland, and it is the best researched unofficial retelling so far) to something as simple as the early beginning of Tinkerbell flying over the castle.

Todd James Pierce tells stories that you never thought to learn about, but once he mentions it, you just want to listen more about it!

The Disney Dish

Even though this is a better known podcast show, I mention it here because sometimes fans think it is only a ‘rumor corner’ show, but Len Testa and Jim Hill also tell great stories about the parks. Being an insider of the mouse for decades, Jim Hill always has great history to tell about specific events, attractions, and even Imagineers that worked for the company. Last time, they dedicated many episodes to tell stories about Disneyland bit by bit, adding some unknown stories that had an important effect on the events that occurred around that time. Yes, Jim Hill will also deliver many rumor about the park (that will probably be true), but he also knows his Disney history in a way few people can.

Dis-Order

A recent entry to Disney podcasts, what stands out from Dis Order is its premise. Each episode talks about one movie from the Walt Disney Animation Studio in chronological order, delivering their thoughts, opinions, and some history about each movie. For me, this podcast has become the greatest excuse to rewatch many of my favorite movies, as well as movies that I haven’t revisited in quite a while. The hosts are real friends and it shows by their interactions. It is fun, honest, and insightful at the same time. Next time you watch a Disney classic, search to the episode of that movie and listen to a fine discussion from three Disney nerds.

Retro Disney World

My favorite podcast show of all time. Every time I listen to an episode of the Retro Disney World podcast, I have a certain feel of joy and happiness. Even though I’ve experienced very few of the areas and attractions that they’ve talked about, the hosts make you feel like you lived that moment in time with them. This podcast is for the nostalgics, the dreamers, the historians, and the fans that would want to experience the Disney World that once was.

Should Attractions Be Considered Art?

The first phrase that Imagineers use to excuse themselves from the closure or the reimagining of a Disney attraction sounds ridiculous: ‘Parks are not museums’. After using his phrases, the Imagineers mention how Walt always wanted to change the parks, because they will never be completed. Even though these excuses talk about the evolution of theme parks, it doesn’t answer if attractions could be considered art, and thus be preserved.

Parks are not museums, but they do involve artistry that should be respected.

Many of the earlier ride vehicles from Disneyland came as off-the-shelf pieces, later dressed as pirate ships, flying elephants, and turn-of-the-century cars. Imagineers, taken from the animation and live action departments of the studio, were trying to tell the story of the movies in a compressed time limit (as Tony Baxter would say, a book report of the movie). As any storyteller, Imagineers express the same stories in different ways. The design and layout that Harper Goff gave to the early vegetation of Disneyland has his imprint. The tone and mood created by the designs of Ken Anderson and Claude Coats in the dark rides on Fantasyland stays even in improved, reimagined versions of the ride. Frank Thomas will always be part of the railroads at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Every single artist has defined the style and layout of the theme parks, making a personal statement in this place.

As technology advances, Imagineers had more opportunities to express themselves in a similar way that improvements in sound, storyboarding, color, and multi plane cameras helped animators express better in their films. This allowed for artist to create immersive environments such as Pirates Of The Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. These attractions exist to tell a broad story instead of the attraction itself. In this way, the story transcended the medium.

In this sense, art became part of the attractions.

Art expresses a story, an idea, a concept. It expresses something without any particular function, making it a piece to understand our world and humanity. Can attractions fit within this definition? Or are attractions a functional product, delivering only entertainment for the guests in a theme park?

Some dark rides do have the function of entertainment, but sometimes they don’t. Even Pirates Of The Caribbean didn’t have a real function other than an idea Walt Disney had about a wax museum. Other attractions, like those developed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, have a function, in this case a marketing purpose. Does this mean It’s A Small World couldn’t be a piece of art? It has an idea, a concept, that transcends its initial function. This is one of the most artistic attractions, with the imprint of Mary Blair in and out. So the definition of art without function dilutes for attractions that could have had an initial function but its overall message transcends it.

Marc Davis was a true believer in attractions as an art form, using Audio-Animatronics for the next step of three dimensional animation and storytelling. It was such an important belief in his career that he took nearly 5 years of active development in Western River Expedition, which would become Marc Davis’ greatest achievement.

Marc David did most of the staging and visual gags for Pirates Of The Caribbean, contributing also to The Haunted Mansion. These attractions have his staple comedy and humor, just like a good piece of art represents the artist. Western River Expedition could have easily been title Marc Davis’ Western River Expedition because of how much involvement he had in the project.

For a person who started working at WED because Walt asked him, Marc had an artist’s ambition. Walt wanted more humor for Jungle Cruise, so he asked Marc to reimagine some scenes and develop new ones. From this short task, Marc came up with some of the most iconic moments from The Jungle Cruise. After that, he would collaborate for other projects like It’s A Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room. Even though Marc Davis would later talk about attractions as an art form that could helped him express, he started working in Imagineering because Walt begged him. Does that undermine the artistry of Marc Davis in these projects? No. It could still be considered art, even when Marc started with a clear task.

Maybe if we consider what Walt Disney thought about attractions, we can better define if they could be considered art. Even though he understood all the artistry involved in his project, trying to live up to the high brow audience since Fantasia, he ended up thinking about himself as a showman, an entertainer. When the early stages of The Jungle Book had many ideas of a film with a darker tone, Walt despised it and said that the movie should be a party in the jungle. Even with earlier films like Bambi, Fantasia or Dumbo, he was very conscious to keep the attention of the audience and make it entertaining. Walt, other that delivering a certain message or pushing and agenda with his projects, wanted people to be entertained with his films.

Disneyland was constructed because Walt wanted a place where kids and grownups could have fun together. He didn’t opened Disneyland to be a museum or an art gallery. Walt just wanted people to have fun. Even though he just wanted to make fun, you can’t undermine the thoughts of the hundreds of artists that worked on the project and thought of Disneyland and its attractions as a piece of art.

There’s a balance between creator and creation to define the artistry of attractions. Because its final product is intended to be entertaining, it could only be considered that. But during the process of creation for that piece of entertainment, there’s a lot of artistry into it that is a piece of art in itself. Attractions have that blend of art, technology, and entertainment.

Themed attractions could be a piece of art, while the off the shelf rides are not. There is an effort to achieve a well themed attraction. Pirates Of The Caribbean redefined the dark ride genre and the log flumes that appeared in other regional parks. At the same time, it is still difficult to say which attractions can’t be considered art. Even though many attractions in the Chester and Hester’s area from Dinoland U.S.A. of Animal Kingdom are off the shelf, they do deliver a theme, but there’s no doubt that Dinosaur could be considered art.

The difference between attractions and rides could be the answer to this problem. A ride is a lower experience, defined by the momentary feelings and emotions. An attraction however gifts a long lasting memory, the kinds of memories that we hear over and over when someone visits a theme park.

Parks aren’t museums after all, which is why old attractions don’t belong in a park because it is a business after all. And the decision to replace an attractions happens because of key performance indicators, not the value of art. The moment an attraction doesn’t deliver the kind of excitement that is entertaining to guests, then it is replaced with another attraction that could bring the necessary excitement for guest flow and customer satisfaction.

Maybe we can cherish long forgotten attractions in other ways than keeping them in the same park. Theme parks are a business, pondering the idea if attractions can be considered art. If films are made as a product, why are they still considered an art form? The question repeats itself.

But this time, let’s say that attractions could be an art form after all.

‘Bao’ Crosses A Needed Cultural Shift In Animation

Checking the reactions from social media, it is clear that ‘Bao’, Pixar’s new short screened before ‘Incredibles 2’, hasn’t been understood by most audiences. This misunderstanding was evident during my screening, with diverging responses from the audiences. While some people cried, others were laughing out loud.

Bao-clip-700x300
Bao

The mixed reactions received by the short film happen to be due to a misunderstanding of the situation. While I was trying to understand the story as it developed in the cinema, my best friend instantly sobbed halfway through the short. In this sense, this is a very impressive short, one that connects instantly with those who have struggled with cultural pressures and family differences.

‘Bao’ tells the story of an Asian mother whose son grows with the American culture, thus leading to differences between family traditions and the culture were they live. She eventually replaces her son with a dumpling only to find out the same issues occur.

Even though I’m not Asian-American, the topic is much broader than it appears. Many films and series are so focused on American culture that they don’t show how they influence others. For example, even though in the US it is common to leave your house for college, in Venezuela teenagers stay at their homes almost until marriage. Some people stay at their homes due to the current economy in Venezuela, but it shows a cultural difference that could easily compare to those shown in ‘Bao’.

The misunderstanding of the short film shows that audiences are so used to one cultural way of living that they barely understand the struggle that the mother has during the short. Because people know other cultures and traditions, they consider the son’s actions as ‘normal’ because he’s living the life of a common US citizen.

Another thing that people might be confused is the fact that the dumpling and his son are the same person, one replacing the other after leaving the house. This article explains the fact that the mother is suffering of empty nest syndrome, a common situation in mothers who are left by their kids. Should the syndrome be explained in the short film? No. Maybe people without kids don’t understand it, but parents know the struggle that the mother has.

What ‘Bao’ does best is creating a deeper conversation about cultural influences and how this could affect a family relationship. Over the years, more and more people around the world with different cultural backgrounds are trying to fit in another country’s culture while staying true to their cultural roots. The problem is more present than ever, needing much conversation to comprehend the implications it has.

The fact that many audiences have been alienated by ‘Bao’ shows that globalization hasn’t been great at showing other cultures. The echo chambers of our current media homogenizes people, making it deeply complicated to confront another reality, tradition or culture.

‘Bao’ has crossed a cultural shift in animation that embraces a much more diverse global audience by showing a different culture but also expressing a struggle many people have as immigrants or even being exposed to media that shows other cultural norms. It is the kind of storytelling that shows that animation is able to convey a topic in such a way that opens up the conversation in a light-hearted manner. One of the strongest points from Pixar is how they deal with deeper topics in their films. Let ‘Bao’ be a sneak peek how what the future could hold for the animation studio. Just in the way ‘Coco’ expressed a different culture in a respectful way, ‘Bao’ exposed what the studio is able to achieve when they bring artists from different backgrounds, showing new realities that are relatable to a wider audience.

Right Down The Middle Of Main Street U.S.A.

January 2006.

Uncles and cousins were there, laughing and celebrating the trip. The Florida breeze and the fireworks blushing the myriad of colors over the park wandered on my eyes as I scream at Big Thunder Mountain. The score of the Wishes nighttime spectacular filled the speakers throughout the Magic Kingdom.

Time to go. Walking right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A., I made the mistake of contemplating Cinderella’s Castle. Sobbing started as we went to the monorail, as if they were taking from my hands a special sort of talisman.

Every time I walk out of Magic Kingdom and look at the castle, the tears of my internal child start falling on my cheeks.

My first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when I was nine months. Since then, I’ve visited Walt Disney World countless times. I’ve had the chance of visiting Disneyland in California and Disneyland Paris. It has been inevitable to be attached to these places that represent so many of my nostalgic memories.

The Disney parks represent family in many ways. They represent moments that I’ve shared with brothers, cousins and uncles. It has also been a place of sour farewells. Time sugarcoats the photos of past visits.

In an article named ‘Disneyland Is Good For You’, Imagineer John Hench pinpointed the ‘pseudomenace’ as the sentiment shared by millions of park guests. There’s no other place to have a trip to the second star to the right, survive a haunted mansion with 999 happy haunts and sing ‘Under The Sea’ in a single day. It is filled with minor details that really turn dreams into a palpable reality, bonding the experience to your inner self.

Theme parks are multisensory experiences. You will never understand a kid’s obsession to meet his favorite character until Mickey Mouse talks to you just like in the beloved animated shorts. Once you’re part of the fantasy, the game begins as if in a virtual reality experience.

Disney parks mean different things for different people. Decades elapse and millions of families keep visiting. It’s a second home to many fans. Every single change in the park affects their feelings and memories. They are part of a tightly knit fan community. When an attraction closes, many cheer and others lament it. Imagineers constantly use Walt’s phrase to justify closures or refurbishments: ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will grow and change as long as there is imagination left in the world’.

These attractions and places have emotions and experiences attached to them. I understood that when a host from the Retro Disney World podcast told the story of how Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, closed in 1998, reminded him of his mother, who recently passed away on the recording date.

When people fly with Dumbo or hop aboard a pirate ship with Peter Pan, it creates a moment that is deeply rooted into your memories. It isn’t about the attraction, but of the feelings that takes you back down memory lane.

Disney movies are my infancy. Snow White, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Melody Time, Peter Pan, Fantasia, and more. The animated characters hypnnotized me. There was a mysticism behind them that lasted even after the movie ended. I remember that my Peter Pan VHS had a documentary that explained the behind the scenes story of the movie, showing animators studying real actors as reference for the characters. That was the first time that I understood how these movies were made frame by frame, changing my perception about the art of animation.

Every time I watch an animated film, I admire each detail of the frame. I laugh at gags I didn’t noticed as a child, admire the color palette, observe the depth of vision achieved by the multiplane camera. I have had a whole different experience every time I watch the movies.

Disney Channel is the sole reason to watch television. I came back from school, had lunch and went to see my favorite series. When ‘Zapping Zone’ started, I would take a bath in between commercials so I wouldn’t miss a thing. Then, there was the featured film. As the credits rolled, I went to sleep.

But what Disney Channel made the most was to relive my park memories and fandom. I would watch promotional material and featurettes, search over the internet about the most recent news and rumors, and I played endless nights in the Virtual Magic Kingdom, an online community that opened for the 50th anniversary of Disneyland.

When I discovered that there were fans with the same enthusiasm, I followed them. I stayed for hours reading Doombuggies.com, a site dedicated to The Haunted Mansion, and TellNoTales.com, a site dedicated to Pirates Of The Caribbean. I would read them thoroughly until I could say every single detail about the attractions’ history.

The history behind these two attractions grabbed me immediately. I saw the secrets behind the curtain, marveled at everything. As a magic enthusiast, the details of the illusions behind the attractions were fascinating to me.

Another aspect that I discovered during my research about the parks was the close relation they had with Walt Disney. When you consider that Walt invested so much to Disneyland even though nobody believed in the project, it becomes the story of a creative battle. The parks were the last big project that Walt oversaw. His ambitions in Florida wasn’t only a theme park, but a whole new city dedicated to presenting a new way of urban living. E.P.C.O.T. would be the name of this experimental city, while what we know as Epcot is just a tribute to Walt’s great and undone project.

While learning about all the process involved in the design and the construction of the parks and attractions, I also learned about other topics. My sensibilities regarding visual design, architecture, the use of color, storytelling, visual transitions, and the smart use of engineering solutions is thanks to all my investigations about the Disney parks. Every time I enter a mall or any public space, I think of a hundred ways of improving the experience. When I visit the parks, I know when a special effect is not in place, the sound isn’t in sync and there’s an malfunctioning Audio Animatronic.

The story behind Walt Disney Imagineering makes me believe that creativity has no limits. How can you explain that a group of animators, with no knowledge about three dimensional designs, architecture, engineering or the inner workings of a restaurant, were able to design a theme park? These are multi disciplinary creative geniuses. For them, the sky is the limit, no matter the tools required needed to achieve it. I identify myself with them because curiosity takes me to many creative projects, never sticking to one thing at a time. Some days I’m a magician, others I’m a film director, writer, or actor. My limit isn’t the craft, but the sky itself.

This history of the parks captivates me. It represents a world where they try to achieve the impossible everyday. It helps you dream and eliminate frontiers. There are no attachments rather than hard work and creativity. Walt Disney is the most visible example, moving from short films to fully animated features, then to the world of television and later to theme parks and urban planning.

I am grateful of the parks because of the memories, feelings, happiness and sadness that they have given me. I also thank them for my admiration for design, architecture, storytelling, engineering and technology.

Since that small discovery over the internet in 2006, my passion keeps growing. Everyday I have a list of Twitter users, podcasts, blogs, and books about the topic of the history of the parks. I even discuss about new color palettes in a building of Main Street U.S.A.

I’m a Disney fan because it has given me experiences, teachings and feelings that I have found nowhere else. It has accompanied me in every moment in different ways. The history of Walt Disney connects in many ways towards my aspirations of the future.

So when people ask me why I am a fan, to explain it shortly, I just tell them that story back in 2006, turning around to see Cinderella’s Castle with tears running down my cheeks.

What Lucasfilm Could Learn From Marvel

After the box office let down of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, it is difficult to not talk about what Lucasfilm should do going forward. Personally, I never think about the quality of a film depending on its box office success because many of my favorite films were considered huge flops during their initial release. The difference for such blockbuster movies is that they’re supposed to be mainstream media phenomenons, making sure theres a ROI at the box office. For ‘Solo’ to have a return of investment from merchandise and digital sales takes much more time compared to the cinema.

But this isn’t the end of Star Wars, as many articles suggest in the web. This is just a misstep, a huge one, that happened because of several components that Lucasfilm should take care of.

Whats good is that they can learn from a partner, as we might say. It is inevitable to compare Star Wars to Marvel, as they work on a similar film schedule and it creates a whole storytelling universe. Kevin Feige has had its bad moments with Marvel on films like The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Thor 2. With 18 movies under his belt in less than 10 years, he could be considered that has the same experience as Kathleen Kennedy. Here are some things that Lucasfilm could learn from the mighty superheroes.

Give Permission

With two to three movies being released almost every year from Marvel Studios, it is difficult to think the days when they started released one movie per year.

Back when Disney purchased Marvel, Kevin Feige was releasing two movies the same year and see how they turned out: Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. In that same year, he released one of the best movies Marvel has ever done and the worst movie in the whole history of the franchise.

How was Marvel able to recover? They retreated and went back to a yearly schedule for the next 2 years. Why?

First, they had to work more slowly paced to learn from the filmmaking process. Second, they just haven’t earned the right to release more films per year. They had to let the audience give them permission to release more Marvel films.

And so they went back to a yearly schedule until the audience in 2012 asked them for more Marvel films with the first Avengers movie. Only then was Marvel fully committed to a more expansive set of films released yearly, up to three movies per year. They understood that they were able to explore more unknown characters for different audiences.

Embrace The Filmmakers

Of the four Star Wars films that have been released under the Disney era, two have had major problems with its directors. Even though Rogue One gives credit to Gareth Edwards as its director, it is known that Tony Gilroy was the actual director during the reshoots after his process for rewriting the final act of the film as well as many other scenes. The most known of all these controversies happened with Solo, when Kathleen Kennedy fired Christopher Miller and Phil Lord as the directors of the movie, being replaced by Ron Howard. Compared to Rogue One, this was a noticeable announcement that created a lot of bad press for the film.

Lets take a look at Marvel.

Never had a movie had any directorial shift, at least known to the public. The Marvel Studios is very tight to their chest, having a clear production focused process that sometimes didn’t let directors fully do what they want with the films. This happened until most movies started looking fairly the same. People started feeling some superhero fatigue and Marvel had to do something about it.

Enter Peter Gunn and Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Kevin Feige knew that if he let other directors explore lesser known superheroes, he could be able to have a new style of movies. He has mentioned that he doesn’t believe in the superhero genre, but on stories with clear character that you can relate with. Guardians Of The Galaxy showed the world that they were able to have movies were the director were able to do their own thing.

Which is what Lucasfilm should do.

Kathleen was able to give Rian Johnson free reign over The Last Jedi, creating one of the most divisive movie ever in the franchise. Say whatever you say, but if the movie is as divisive, it means that Rian was able to do many things that turned the tables. What would happen it they would let Miller and Lord to direct Solo?

Lucasfilm should think of giving more life to their directors, giving them opportunities to expand on the Star Wars franchise.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Have you heard about a Marvel producer, director, screenwriter, or actor, debating with fans about a movie? No. You know why? Because it is a recipe for disaster.

Marvel knows this, but Lucasfilm doesn’t.

Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill, Chuck Wendig, and other talents related to Star Wars have been vocal about the films and their fans. From Hamill saying he doesn’t like Luke in Episode 8, to Rian just trying to explain The Last Jedi to fans, each moment has affected the franchise. These are ambassadors, like it or not. Yes, they may be able to comment on things, but why going straightforward?

Also, Lucasfilm hasn’t been able to make true statements to the fans, also affecting the perception. You see Kevin Feige doing open interviews all the time, and Kathleen should do it every once in a while. It is healthy for the fandom and it allows Lucasfilm to explain some things without apologizing.

Respect The Fandom

Marvel knows that they are handling characters that people have loved for decades. This isn’t a reason to don’t experiment, but they fully respect their legacy and fans that have followed the comics for so many years. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked so well; they are able to take risks while keeping the heart and soul of each comic.

Only ten years after the launch of the MCU they are willing to take some big risks. But the fans are OK with it. They fully invest themselves into the MCU and after ten years of great movies, they know they are in good hands.

But just two years after relaunching Star Wars, The Last Jedi is being released with some significant plot twists for the fans. And these are fans that have followed the saga for 45 years.

Besides this, the creators have been pretty vocal about it. I’ve never seen a Marvel director or screenwriter defend The Incredible Hulk or Thor. Even Avengers: Infinity War hasn’t been fully explained because the creators don’t need to give explanations to the fans.

The fans have their reasons to be upset, and you need to respect that.

Yes, Lucasfilm should be able to deal with the toxic area of fandom, but they should also understand it. Even though Marvel has its own path, one thing they truly do is that they listen to the fans. These people have been reading comics for decades, and they know these characters from top to bottom. Shouldn’t they be at least heard?

Even though we are at the early stages of Star Wars, the best course of action to show respect to the fans is to reflect it in the upcoming projects. They shouldn’t be chained to the fans, but they should at least show that they care about this franchise (Hint: they obviously do!) and show it with the upcoming projects. Only this way can the fans embrace the direction of Lucasfilm.

Im sure there are Marvel fans somewhere that truly hate how the MCU is being handled, but the people who like it far surpasses them. Let’s all remember that Marvel has a new generation of kids that grew up watching their films, thus having more solid ground than Star Wars. But with new films and series, Star Wars will be able to gain some new ground from the smaller generations that are also growing up with the sequel trilogy.

Balancing Acts

Lucasfilm is in a tough position from fans, critics, and news reporters. They need to be able to recover from the bad press of Solo and they haven’t been able to do that. They are just receiving the punches. Is this a conscious thing or does the PR team doesn’t even know how to handle it?

What I believe is that Lucasfilm knew that Solo would be their first major box office disappointment. They knew it the moment they fired directors and when they saw how many movies they were competing with. This was just a move to see how strong is the brand. As we see, it isn’t as strong compared with the mighty Thanos and Deadpool.

A minor change in leadership could go a long way. Not replacing Kathleen Kennedy, who is a veteran filmmaker, but adding a Chief Creative Officer of sorts like someone from the Lucasfilm StoryGroup. This should be able to keep the fans sure that everything is fine. The other major thing is that the Lucasfilm team should be able to speak about their upcoming projects just like Marvel. Kevin Feige constantly talks that they have movies lined up until 2025, showing a strong belief in the brand and showing the fans that they have a road map to make everything logical in the storyline. Star Wars is failing in this aspect, without a clear road map to show the audience.

These small touches, as well as the many mentioned in this article, will be the ones that will make Lucasfilm rise up from this complicated time and move on. If George Lucas did it after the prequel trilogy, then Lucasfilm could do it after this Solo incident.

What’s Next For Cirque Du Soleil At Disney Springs

After the final bow of Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba, everybody expected that a new show was in the works. Even though La Nouba kept bringing audiences to the big top, it was a 19-year round with a rough ending. In the past years, acts were added as a way to bring back more audiences from Orlando. Live shows don’t have the rewatchability that parks do, so the show struggled in the past few years.

On December 20th, 2017, they announced that a Disney themed Cirque Du Soleil show was in development as a replacement. This would go in tandem with the circus’ recent strategy, blending IP’s into their shows like Love (based on The Beatles), Toruk (based on James Cameron’s Avatar), and One (based on Michael Jackson). Many months after, we haven’t seen any pictures or promotional material about the show. Taking into account the huge building Cirque has in Disney Springs, I thought the new show will open much faster, probably within this year. If it doesn’t occur like this, then it is because they are working on changing the layout of the multi layered theater. I would also think that the show could open before or after the open of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, handling the huge crowds expected at this moment. With a Disney related theme, more families will be interested in the show. In my case, I didn’t go to La Nouba until I was around 10 years old because my family thought that I wouldn’t appreciate the show as a kid. Cirque Du Soleil has always been a more mature, adult oriented show, so the Disney theme helps bringing children to the show and eliminate that barrier.

Even though the press release refers that the show will use Disney movies as inspiration, I don’t know how they will use them. I believe they’ll just use the movies from Walt Disney Animation Studios, recreating some scenes as part of acts. Also, the shows from Cirque Du Soleil don’t usually have a storyline. Even though they try to make a story, it is abstract enough so that everybody can have its own interpretation about it.

The most complicated issue about Cirque Du Soleil’s next show is less on the production and more on the pricing. With the recent pricing inflation in the theme parks, people will be less attracted for extra events that cost more money. These shows usually are expensive by themselves. As the theme parks tickets rise their prices and different offerings, a live show could be more of an afterthought. This wouldn’t be good for Cirque and Disney, as this could mean that less families could enjoy these vacation add ons.

We don’t know much details about Cirque’s next show, but it will sure give a different offering for many people that already saw La Nouba and that want a more Disney experience.