Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WDW Trip Report: Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom By Night

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The past few years have seen Disney's Animal Kingdom become quite lively after the sun goes down.  The park used to go to bed with the resident animals, and sights like the Tree of Life lit up were rare treats.  Now, Animal Kingdom is a full-day park, in anticipation of Screw-The-Haters-I-Think-It-Looks-Rad-As-Fudge Pandora Landora.

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One of the highlights of touring Animal Kingdom in the evening is being able to ride the safari at dusk.  A few of the animals had already gone to their sleeping quarters, especially some of the more charismatic megafauna (this isn't the time to ride if you want to see elephants).  But we got to see many animals we hadn't seen before, like one of the last Black Rhinos in the world...

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...the hyenas...

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...a Thompson's Gazelle and an Eland calf...

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...and the lions out in the open like they rule the place.

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But the most exciting change to Animal Kingdom was thankfully already (finally, after many many delays) open by the time of our trip.  This giant lotus raft is the centerpiece of Rivers of Light, which finally gives Animal Kingdom a nighttime "finale" of its very own.

Now, Rivers of Light has gotten some mixed reviews.  I really liked it for what it is.  It's as if the Electric Water Pageant, Epcot's Fountain of Nations, the aurora scene from "Brother Bear", the good parts of Fantasmic (if you're wondering, yes, we still have a really long "Pocahontas" interlude), and your Yoga instructor's favorite Pintrest boards all got together and made an awesome baby... somehow.  It's short, though.  Like, really short.  And it is very much best seen from the middle of the stadium, where the mist screen projections actually focus properly.

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See, we were way off to the side in the "Moon" section of the stadium, nearest the Finding Nemo theater.  We felt like we were out in the boondocks in a way I never felt with Illuminations or Fantasmic.  It was hard to tell at times whether the show still had bugs to iron out or if it was just us. 

There's certainly plenty to see wherever you're sitting, thankfully.  We did like the prologue to the show a lot, with the floating fountains moving around and projections of dancing animal shadows on the opposite shore.  The latter might have been my favorite effect in the whole show.

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These beautiful boats, representing the moon and sun, housed live performers dancing along to the music.  I'm told the ambitious Tapestry of Dreams parade in Epcot, which I never got to see, was rather similar in tone.

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The lotuses change into colorful dancing fountains...

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...and giant animal floats sail in to join the party.  As you can see in my inept night-time photography.

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Finally, the river erupts into a grand celebration with the festive elements of water, fire, and light.

Fore some reason, this feels familiar.  Ah well.

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That wasn't the only nighttime party we experienced during this trip.  Our visit coincided with a Disney Vacation Club exclusive after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom.  It was nearly identical in practice to the special holiday parties, with free (and free-ish) food and drink, popular (and not) attractions running, and even special fireworks.  It was all to remind us DVC members that we are just better than other Disney guests.

Yeah, the whole thing made me a touch uncomfortable.

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But being in a nearly-empty Magic Kingdom all lit up at night?  I'm not kidding, it was one of the most truly magical times I've ever been there.  The crowds earlier that same day at MK were at what I can only describe as "Hell is other people" level with a side order of sweltering heat.  Just not fun at all.  After-hours, I was able to really take everything in and appreciate the beauty of the new central hub gardens and all.

Now I staked out a spot here for the fireworks expecting maybe some cheesy pop music and a few leftovers from Wishes.  Oh, how happy I was to be wrong:

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Cheesy pop music, yes.  (The soundtrack was all bland pop covers of Disney songs, which... euw.  But they did play "Eye 2 Eye" from "A Goofy Movie" and it brought the house down.)  Cheesy fireworks hell no!  This was a full-on elaborate production using pyrotechnics and effects I've never seen before.  If this is what the successor to Wishes might look like, tomorrow looks grand.

Next week: Drawings of animals!

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Art of the Day!

Another little impressionistic Epcot landscape. I love the flowers around the lagoon!

2.20.17 - EPCOT Landscape

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WDW Trip Report: Epcot Gets Artful! Like, More So Than Usual!



My family's most recent visit to Walt Disney World was a bit of a doozy.  There were lot of brand new (and new-to-us) events and shows and rides to be experienced.  My personal priority was the brand-new Epcot Festival of the Arts.

I arrived on the very last day of this festival.  Fortunately, it was early enough that I could run right through the International Gateway from the Boardwalk (our first time staying there and we love it) and have myself a whirlwind tour of what the fest had to offer.

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And for the most part, what Artful Epcot had to offer in terms of art was... Epcot itself, being artful.  Epcot really is a downright beautiful place, and the many artists working throughout the park on both temporary and lasting pieces made it all the more lovely.  Furthermore, since they were preparing for the upcoming Flower and Garden Festival, the gardens were fabulous works of science-art.

And cooking is a science and an art as well.  Don't you forget it.  This festival wasn't about to let me.  Yeah, it turns out that this was really the Festival of All Arts, But Mostly Culinary Arts.  I didn't have time to try any of the food, but what I saw looked like it was more visually appealing than appetizing.  I'll direct you to the good old Disney Food Blog to have a look at the many and varied "Deconstructed" food.  (I did finally try School Bread this trip and... I don't get it.

There's also the matter of the Figment's Brush With the Masters scavenger hunt...

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I swear to God, years and years of Art History classes and I have no idea how to react to this.

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I found my new Twitter avatar though.

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Figment's Brush With the Masters may be the ultimate perfect storm of Disney-cutesy and "We can't possibly let kids be bored for even a second in World Showcase aaah!"  But it's nice to see something (or anything, really) done with Figment in Epcot proper.  And anyway, I want these adorable frames.

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Of course, one of the nicest overlooked attractions in World Showcase -one of the things that attracts *me*, at least- are the many galleries to be found in nearly every country's pavilion.  I had the "Frozen" concept art gallery in Norway to myself, the Kawaii gallery in Japan was fantastic, and I loved the exhibit of concept art from Shanghai Disney in China.  (But somebody help me identify the sheep in the above Twelve Friends.)  They stick around long after the Festival, thankfully.

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I did get to visit one temporary gallery in the Odyssey building (and being open looks real nice on the Odyssey).  It was full of lovely concept art by Mary Blair and Herb Ryman, including the above Ryman piece that hit me straight in the childhood.

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Art of the Day!

Thus inspired, I made some Artful Epcot Art of my own:

2.20.17 - EPCOT Landscape

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Let's read Dahlov Ipcar's _The Wonderful Egg_!

I am genuinely upset that I am just now learning who Dahlov Ipcar was.  Here is a woman illustrator who lived right in my backyard and whose art has the beautiful colors of Mary Blair, the stunning patterns of M. C. Escher, and the whimsical creatures of both.  She passed away recently at just shy of 100 years old and I'm just now learning about her.  So it goes.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

But never mind that now. I know about her now, and my life is the better for it. And in my research, it turns out that Ipcar wrote and illustrated a dinosaur book. The Wonderful Egg was originally published in 1958 by Doubleday and Company Inc.  This reproduction was published in 2014 by Flying Eye Books, and it is as close to the original edition as possible.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

I have to say, this is as good a reason as any to write a book about anything.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

So this is very definitely a book about dinosaurs for children in the late 1950's.  The palette is brown and green because Real is Brown and, between dinosaurs and all those cartoon turtles and alligators, there is something in the human brain that just wants big reptilian things to be green.  The appearance of the various animals is dubious, but I'm willing to let it slide because I just love this art!  Click for big.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

The book sets out to find the identity of a mysterious egg - eggs being the one given commonality between every animals that lived in dinosaur times.  I know, but we're going to ignore it for now.  Look at this jolly Triceratops!  He's pretty remarkable for the time, walking fully upright with tail and head held high.  I want to ride on him.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

This Stegosaurus is a little dated but I love him so much!  That smug smile! 

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

These Pteronodons really are awesome for their time.  The one in the back is a little "Flew right off the set of 'Fantasia'"-ish, but the fellow in the foreground has a proper beak and everything.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

I'd have sworn the Ornithomimids in the background came from a book written decades later.  The one in the front is a little flopsy in the tail area, but I like that he's about to munch on some tasty artichokes.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

I really have nothing to add to this dude except that of all the 50's Tyrannosauruses I've ever seen, I think this guy is my favorite.  He is at least in the top percentile.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

We get a montage of hadrosaurs including this deeply-odd-to-modern-eyes Parasaurolophus.  I do like those pink paws though.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

Now I know Mosasaurs in reality looked more like a lizard trying it's damndest to be a whale, but look at this guy!  This is the best old-school toothy sea-dragon Mosasaurus I've ever seen.

"The Wonderful Egg" by Dahlov Ipcar

And in staggering contrast, the wonderful egg finally hatches and we have ourselves an Archaeopteryx illustrated as a proper bird in 1958.  That's amazing!  Heck, there are recent depictions of the poor critter that cannot shake the "lizard with feathers" cliche.  This is beautiful!

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Art of the Day!

2.13.16 - Dahlov Ipcar Study

I've been so taken with Ipcar's work I just had to do a Master Study.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It's been a long time / I shouldn't have left you / without Links of Interest to step to.

Haven't done one of these in years so let's get right into it.

* - First of all, it is Science Art Tweet-Storm Day!

* - Also, if you are a picture-drawer of prehistoric life, go take the Paleoart Survey.

* - The Beasts of the Mesozoic Raptor Series figures are available for pre-order and darn me if I know which one to pick.

* - Also in "Shut up and take my money" news, look at Safari Ltd's new Tyrannosaurus rex!  Look at him!

* - There have been loads of great articles on TetZoo recently, but my favorite is this post on Paleoart Memes, what they are, where they come from, and how they're sort of an inadvertent record of the prevailing (or, interestingly, NOT) theories of their time.

* - And that article is based on a lecture Darren Naish gave during the Popularizing Paleontology event back in September.  The whole shebang is available on the event's official website.  (And now I have even more questions about "The Good Dinosaur"...)

* - Do you like post-apocalyptic fiction?  Yeah, who doesn't these days?  Start reading T. Michael Keese's "Paleocene" already!

* - Speaking of webcomics, there's never been a better time to catch up with Tom Siddell's "Gunnerkrigg Court".  Dude just wrapped up a story arc from ten years ago! 

* - If you'd like some instant inspiration, check out Burger Fiction's fantastic montage of every Best Cinematography Oscar winner in chronological order.  Their Best Special Effects montage is a stunner as well.

* - The Annie Awards inspired me to check out the work of Caroline Leaf and my God, why am I just learning about her?

* - We all need some chillout music, so why not head to E82's archive of EPCOT ambience from days past (days of future past, one might even say)?  They just added themes from CommuniCore/InnoVentions and the Horizons soundtrack is a must-have.

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Art of the Day!

Everybody loves the Chubby Tigers.

2.11.16 - Chub Tiger

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"We wish that we didn't have to leave / this wonderful world of make-believe!" Let's Watch 25 Years of Disney Television!

We've watched a lot of Disney television specials together here at the Blog.  Every time, I think I've finally found the weirdest one they ever made.  And boy do I love being proven wrong, as is the case with this 1978 special celebrating 25 Years of Disney on Television.





Now, I will never waver from my position that "Kraft Celebrates Twenty Years of Walt Disney World" is The "Star Wars Holiday Special" Of Disney, but boy does this special do everything it can to make it hard.  First of all, it's cut down from a nearly two-hour special that ran over two weekends.  That explains some of the jarring editing, but I honestly don't know if more context would help.  The whole thing is '70's variety show Hell, but I must direct special attention to that courtroom scene and the scene where we're suddenly in "Mad Monster Party?"

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Art of the Day!

Have a little Mary Blair study why not?

2.12.16 - Mary Blair Study

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Walking the Hadrosaur Roads - The Lost Continent of Appalachia

Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Maiasaura, Deinonychus, Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops.  As a dinosaur-loving child growing up in New England, I learned very quickly that all the really popular, exciting dinosaurs lived in Nowhere Near My Home.  They all lived out west, on the other side of the great inland sea.  Back east, we can claim Hadrosaurus, some tracks... and that, according to the dinosaur books of my childhood, was it.  Maybe Dryptosaurus would get a shout-out, thanks to Charles Knight's "Leaping Laelaps" painting (still one of the greatest works of paleoart ever made).  Maybe there'd be a mention of Anchisaurus because you can't not love a basal sauropod the size of a sheepdog.  But generally, eastern dinosaurs would be ignored by popular culture.

Asher Elbein's Lost Continent of Appalachia aims to fix that.  It's a quick read, gorgeously illustrated, and tells the stories of the animals that roamed the eastern parts of North America during the Cretaceous.  And I love it!  It's what child-me would have given anything within reason to read.  (In fact, I would love to see it as a nice hardcover book someday.)  Make sure you read Asher's companion post at good old Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs too.  He's promised to post more behind-the-scenes material there and I can't wait.

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Art of the Day!

Antpittas!  Look at these adorable little fuzzballs on stick legs!

2.11.16 - Antpittas

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Impressions de New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee Landscape

I'd brought my "new" Moleskine along on a scenic train ride along Lake Winnipesaukee last October.  This was during a weekend in my childhood romping ground, the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It wasn't quite peak foliage yet, but the mountains look beautiful no matter what.  Here are my inept little landscape paintings and drawings of them:

10.1.16 - White Mountains study

10.1.16 - White Mountains study

10.1.16 - White Mountains study

10.1.16 - White Mountains study

10.1.16 - White Mountains study