Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved' is a Magical, Musical Adventure

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

You have to admire a video game that has the courage to place "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" and "Night on Bald Mountain" side by side with "Seven Nation Army" and "Royals." Disney Interactive and Harmonix have done exactly that with Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, but the game is so much more than an eclectic, interactive mix of songs. It's an imaginative and beautifully rendered exploration of music that rewards curiosity and creativity as much as competent game play, 

The Shoal
The Shoal: Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved's underwater realm.
You are the apprentice to the great sorcerer Yen Sid tasked with rescuing a series of magical realms where Music is under attack by Noise. With each musical mission you complete, you unlock additional songs and remixes and reveal more of the lush landscapes and mythical creatures inside each realm. Along the way, you also assist a former apprentice of Yen Sid, the headstrong teen Scout, who had the talent but not the discipline to complete her education with the sorcerer,

Scoring Points in the Capsule
Scoring points in the Capsule.
Harmonix is the company behind the popular video game Rock Band and they also had a hand in the early development of the ubiquitous Guitar Hero. Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved owes much to both of these games, but to its credit never feels old. You "perform" songs controller-free, scoring points and activating remixes through a series of hand and arm gestures that suggest a conductor leading an orchestra or, if you're so inclined, Mickey Mouse controlling the heavens as the Sorcerer's Apprentice. The better your moves sync to the on-screen cues, the better you score and the more songs, instruments and mixes you unlock.

Yen Sid and the Muse
Yen Sid introduces you to the magical Muse.
There are over 30 songs to choose from by a wide range of artists including Bruno Mars, Queen, Fun, Kimbra and the Police. Of course, there are also the classical pieces that make the game such a well-rounded experience. At its heart it celebrates all music and reminds you not only where music came from, but what's possible today with sound fundamentals and a solid dose of creativity. That's heady stuff for a game that could have just been a greatest hits collection. Instead Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved reveals behind the fun a higher goal of enlightening and exciting the music fan in all of us.

You can, of course, bypass the objectives and story line by choosing "Party Mode" in the Options menu, which automatically unlocks all the songs and mixes. I preferred taking the longer path and playing my way through the entire adventure. Aside from being more personally engaged, I thought it was a great way to broaden my granddaughter's musical knowledge. 

You know, like introducing her to Mussorgsky:

I highly recommend the two-player mode.

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved is available today on Xbox One and Kinect for Xbox 360.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Inside The Mouse Castle 10-17-2014 - 'Dr. Strange,' Deadmau5 vs. Disney and Walt's Renaissance Man

We love our rumors here at The Mouse Castle. Marvel's Dr. Strange rumors, Pirates of the Caribbean rumors, even Pete's Dragon rumors (no, really). We've got them all and more in this edition of Inside The Mouse Castle.

  • DC announced a slate of new films that will go head-to-head against the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least through 2020. Will moviegoers care as much about Superman, Batman and the Justice League as they do Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers? Or is this all superhero overkill that will soon burnout audiences?
  • Deadmau5 turned up the heat in his trademark dispute with Disney. The music producer and performer otherwise known as Joel Zimmerman says Disney approached him about writing music for Star Wars Rebels and a proposed Fantasia remix album even as Disney Legal was preparing to take action against him. Deadmau5 performs wearing an oversized helmet that Disney says is way too similar in style and appearance to Mickey Mouse.
  • Disney is putting their time and money behind ten start-up companies through the Disney Accelerator program. The companies, mostly in the tech and gaming sectors, just completed a 15-week mentorship program that could result in ongoing partnerships and even acquisitions by Disney.
  • Flamingo Crossing, a new hotel, dining and entertainment complex, recently broke ground on the west side of Walt Disney World property. Is this finally the harbinger for a long-rumored fifth gate at the resort? Anthony and I think this is probably the same old tired rumor we've been hearing for years.
  • There's nothing like getting serenaded by the Dapper Dans as you fly to Walt Disney World. Disney pulled out all the stops for passengers aboard Southwest Airlines' inaugural non-stop flight from Dallas' Love Field to Orlando. 

  • It's not a surprise that Hiro and Baymax will soon be doing character meet-and-greets at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but we're very pleased to learn that the Big Hero 6 heroes will be taking up residence in space adjacent to Disneyland's under-utilized Starcade in Tomorrowland.
  • We weren't certain as we were preparing the show, but now we know the new Disney Kingdoms comic book series published by Marvel will be all about Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It's set for release next spring and it's sure to be a hit with fans of Disney Kingdoms' previous Seekers of the Weird series.
  • If there is one new book to add to your Disney collection, it's Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man. It's an incredibly rich collection of art by the late Disney animator, who besides being one of Walt's Nine Old Man and bringing Tinker Bell, Maleficent and Cruella de Vil to life was a gifted Imagineer who lent his immense talents to the development of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, it's a small world and the Jungle Cruise. The book contains insightful essays about Davis by the likes of Don Hahn, Andreas Deja, Glen Keane, Pete Docter, Mindy Johnson and Paula Sigman Lowery. You need this.
Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Smokin' Disney

Ashtrays from Disneyland and Walt Disney World
Ashtrays from Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
Back in less enlightened times, when smoking was still socially acceptable and there was such a thing as a tobacco shop on Main Street, USA, you could buy cigarettes, pipes, tobacco and smoking accessories at various locations throughout Disneyland and Walt Disney World. For Throwback Thursday I offer these ashtrays from the parks which have been in my family since I was a kid.

Disneyland ashtray, 1964
Disneyland ashtray, 1964.
New York World's Fair ashtray, 1964
New York World's Fair ashtray, 1964.
Disneyland glass ashtray picturing Sleeping Beauty Castle, check, but what's with the New York World's Fair?  Given Disney's close association with the Fair--Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, it's a small world, the Carousel of Progress and Ford's Magic Skyway were all Disney-built attractions there--a selection of World's Fair souvenirs could be purchased at Disneyland. My parents bought both of these ashtrays in the park in 1964.

Visitors to Flushing Meadows, NY, where the Unisphere and Rocket Thrower statue still stand today, will notice the Rocket Thrower is facing the wrong way. In real life he faces the opposite direction, turned towards the Unisphere. This was a common artistic liberty seen on World's Fair art and souvenirs. Perhaps the artists thought this view was more pleasing or dramatic.

On an overcast day in New York last year, I took these photos of the Unisphere and Rocket Thrower:

Unisphere, Flushing Meadows, NY

Rocket Thrower, Flushing Meadows, NY

Finally, there's this glass ashtray from Walt Disney World that could easily accommodate multiple cigarettes and cigars. It could also double as a candy dish. It was purchased by my mom in 1978 on our first family trip to Florida. Around a central image of Cinderella Castle are pictures of an Osceola-class steamship cruising Bay Lake, it's a small world, the Hall of Presidents, the Jungle Cruise, Main Street, USA and the Monorail at the Contemporary Resort.

Walt Disney World ashtray, 1978
Walt Disney World ashtray, 1978.
The Main Street Tobacconists have long since vanished, closing at Disneyland in 1991 and at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1985. Smoking in the parks is largely frowned upon anymore, limited strictly to select outdoor locations.