Musical Maleficent

MALEFICENTSome of the most iconic movie music comes from Disney films.  From "When You Wish Upon A Star", to "Beauty and the Beast", to "Friend Like Me", to… well pretty much all of the songs from the recent Disney move Frozen.  An upcoming movie of Disney’s looks to continue the tradition.  Maleficent explores the story behind the famous Disney villain.  The glimpses I’ve seen of the movie from trailers makes it  Of course, it looks like the music is going to be incredible too.

Lana Del Rey has recorded a wonderfully haunting version of "Once Upon A Dream." Even better, until Monday, February 3rd, you can get this song for free from Google Play.  This song is definitely going into my Disney playlist ahead of Maleficent’s May 30th release.

Learning Lessons From Frozen Songs

Disney’s Frozen is a fantastic movie about the power of true love.  It also has a series of amazing songs.  From the enthusiastic "First Time In Forever" to the touching "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" to the hilarious "Fixer Upper" and "Reindeers Are Better Than People", the songs never feel tacked on.  They are a part of the plot and advance the story as much as the non-sung dialog does.  They also can help teach some valuable lessons.

(Warning: I’m going to discuss some plot points in the movie.  I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, though.  If you haven’t seen the movie, go and see it now.)

"Let It Go"

Elsa has lived for years afraid that people would find out about her magic powers.  She’s repressed them and hidden them away.  However, once her powers were uncovered and she fled into a self-imposed exile, she found the experience freeing.

The lesson here is that fear can imprison us.  We can get so wrapped up in the fear of what other people will think of us that we put on an "other people friendly" mask to hide our true selves.  It can be very freeing to stop caring what other people think and just do what makes you happy.

I learned this lesson a long time ago.  There is a small group of people whose opinion I value.  Beyond that, I’m not going to stop doing something that I enjoy just because some stranger or acquaintance might think that I’m odd for liking that.

"In Summer"

Anna and Kristoff have just met Olaf.  He’s a nice fellow who likes warm hugs.  Of course, he’s no ordinary person.  He’s a snowman (brought to life thanks to Anna’s sister’s magic).  Olaf dreams of experiencing summer.  Despite his lack of experience with warm things (and they tend to do to snow), he holds on to his dream of one day experiencing summer.

Olaf teaches us to follow our dreams.  Other people might tell us that we’re crazy or that we’re destined to fail horribly.  Maybe they are right and maybe they aren’t.  If we don’t try, though, we will definitely fail.  So ignore the naysayers and keep pursuing your dreams.

If you haven’t already seen Frozen, go to the movies and see it as soon as possible.  It’s a wonderful movie, right up there with the Disney classics.  I’m also not surprised that Frozen is going to be a Broadway show.  This movie is destined to be a Disney classic.

NOTE: I’ve worked with Disney in the past, but I received no compensation for this post.  I just wanted to share some lessons that I saw within the songs in Frozen.

To Disney Infinity and Beyond

When Disney Infinity was released, we were conflicted.  On one hand, we are fans of all things Disney.  On the other hand, though, buying figure after figure seemed like an expense we didn’t need to add.  For the longest time, we resisted the lure.  Last week, though, an amazing deal came up that we just couldn’t pass by.  Then, we had another deal that convinced us a few more Disney Infinity figures.  I’ve got to admit, as much as I resisted investing in it, I’m loving Disney Infinity as much as the boys.

The basic set gets you Sully, Mr. Incredible, and Jack Sparrow.  In addition, we’ve bought Mike Wazowski, Jack Skellington, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Jessie.  The boys will also be getting Syndrome, Dash, Randall (from Monsters University), and Francesco Bernoulli (from Cars 2) soon as late Chanukah gifts.

infinity-1 infinity-2 infinity-3

The basic set comes with the Monsters University world, the Incredibles world, and the world of Pirates of the Caribbean.  Buzz and Jessie came with the Toy Story world.  In each world, you get to complete tasks, obtain weapons and vehicles, and generally explore.  However, the worlds are not even the best part of Disney Infinity.  That is the Toy Box.

Within the Toy Box, you get to create your own world.  As you complete tasks (either in the Toy Box or in the various other worlds), you get "spins" which randomly give you items to use in the Toy Box.  The more spins you get, the more items you get, and the more varied your Toy Box world becomes.

There are even elements in the Toy Box that can be programmed.  You can have fireworks and music triggered if you step on a certain element.  Put enough of these elements together and you can make your own games.  I assembled one for my boys that required them to jump over chasms, climb floating mountains, and wind their way to a trigger that resulted in fireworks/celebratory music.

It’s official: The boys and I are hooked on Disney Infinity.  We just can’t get enough of playing our favorite characters, seeing familiar (and new) Disney scenes, designing our own areas, and fighting Disney enemies.  This is one game that is sure to be playable for a long time to come (and is sure to keep me up late many, many nights as I just finish one more section).

It’s Time To Meet The Muppets in My Muppets Show

my-muppet-showI’ve been a fan of the Muppets for a very long time.  When I was a kid, I used to love watching The Muppet Show on TV.  Then there were the many Muppet movies.  They always promised some hilarious, slightly out-of-control fun.  After that, I would regularly watch Muppet Babies and awed at how the Muppets – as little kids – would have amazing adventures.  (I just wish Muppet Babies was available on DVD or on Netflix.  My kids would love it.)  Recently, we all fell in love with the Muppets again with their movie and their YouTube shorts.

animalA week ago, B found out that there was a new game for Android phones: My Muppet Show.  (Apparently, it had been available for iOS for awhile but just made the Android leap.)  Within minutes, it was installed on B’s phone, JSL’s Galaxy Tab 2, my phone, a spare Android phone that NHL uses for gaming, and our iPad.  The boys and I were hooked instantly and soon the sounds of Muppet performances were echoing through our house.

The premise of the game is that Dr. Bunsen Honeydew has come up with a new invention – the Digitzer.  Using this, he can transport Muppets from the real world to the digital one.  You transport Muppets to your digital stage, but it isn’t glamorous to start with.  Instead, it’s run-down with garbage strewn everywhere and cramped, tiny dressing rooms.  Thankfully, though, it doesn’t stay that way.

digitizing-chickensAs your Muppets perform, they earn money.  Money can be used to remove trash, buy dressing room upgrades, and purchase various enhancements.  Some of these enhancements will make your Muppet performers happier.  And happier Muppets earn you more money.  Money can also be used to buy food which – when fed to your performers – allows your Muppets to increase their level which, in turn, means they earn even more money.  Along the way, your various actions (including completing tasks assigned to you by Scooter) gain you experience points which unlock more characters and enhancements.

stageYou can even become friends with other players and visit their stages to see what they have and how they arranged their performers/items.  You can get friends via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail.  In a stroke of genius, you can also just enter a person’s friend code to add them as a friend.  (You become their friend as well automatically.)  This is so simple that NHL discovered this feature the second day he played it (before I found it) and he set it up so he and his brother were friends.

fozzie-and-rowlfThis game is very addictive.  I can’t stop playing it and love seeing all of my Muppet performers strutting their stuff.  I love watching the Digitizer slowly forming a new Muppet and hoping it is the one I was trying to get.  (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s inventions aren’t 100% reliable.)  By the way, my friend code is 777218FE.  If you get addicted to the game the way I and my boys have gotten, feel free to let me know and add me as a friend.  I’ll stop by your stage to see how your Muppet performers are doing.

Coincidentally, the teaser trailer for the Muppets’ next movie was just released yesterday.  This looks like it’s going to be tons of fun.  I can’t wait for spring 2014!

Test Track Fun – Even When The Ride Is Over

Last week, I gave a tour of the new "make your own car" feature in Test Track.  Once you are finished designing your car, you wait for your ride vehicle.  As you walk up to the boarding area, you tap your white card against a glowing circle to link your car with your ride vehicle.  As you do so, others in your vehicle will do the same.  Then, you board your vehicle and go for a ride around the track.

The ride is very much like the old Test Track, except much more futuristic looking.  There are tests such as braking and steering.  There’s a wind tunnel where a stream of "colored air" goes above you as you view yourself in a mirror.  As each series of tests is completed, a ranking of the linked cars is displayed.  Your car may take the top spot in one test only to fail miserably in another.

At the end of the sequence, like in the old Test Track, you go into a "crash test" where the wall moves out of the way at the last second.  Instead of smashing into a wall, you go zooming along a track outside.  Here’s a video I made during the Grand Opening.  (NOTE:  It’s very dark and shaky, but was the best I could do.  The actual ride is much, much cooler than this video shows.)

Perhaps the coolest change, however, comes after the ride is over.  Instead of just exiting outside or going into the standard store-after-the-ride, Test Track lets you out into a series of rooms where you get to do even more with your designed cars.

First, you can see how your car ranked against other cars designed that day.    Next, you can design some car commercials starring your vehicle.  After this is an area where you can take your photo with some real cars.  (This area wasn’t completely functional when we went so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to try it.)

Perhaps the coolest post-ride feature, though, is the racing game.


That’s ten controller areas around a "race track."  The track is, of course, a video game screen.


See that circle to the left of the steering wheel?  Simply touch your card against that and your car will appear on the track.  You then use the lever to the right to go forward or backward and faster or slower while you steer with the steering wheel.  Loop your way around the track, avoiding obstacles, and without crashing into the other players’ cars.  (Or crash into them and try to knock them aside.)

With all of these fun things to do, Test Track is going to be a fast favorite with my boys.  In fact, I think we’ll have our work cut out for us when we need to drag them out of the post-ride fun to go see other sights.

Disclosure: I was invited to the New Fantasyland media event December 5th through 7th. Disney paid for my travel, our park tickets, room, and a few other items. I was able to take B along as my guest, but we paid for her own travel as well as an extra night in the resort. The opinions expressed above are my own. – See more at:

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