Inside the Creative Mind of George Lucas and the Team Behind Strange Magic

Inside the Creative Mind of George Lucas and the Team Behind Strange Magic

StrangeMagic movie poster

I’ve written before about my childhood obsession with Star Wars.  And of course, as a Gen Xer, I am not alone in the cultural impact that film had on me. And while my 5 year-old self would have been most eager to meet Carrie Fisher, My grown up was incredibly excited to meet George Lucas and hear about his creative process and sources of inspiration for his new film Strange Magic. (I’d still be THRILLED to meet Carrie Fisher, by the way, and even more so for her work as a fantastically witty and bold writer.)

George Lucas

Strange Magic is a a fairy tale (really, it’s all about fairies) that gets to the heart of true love that comes from seeing someone for who they truly are, and not just what is on the surface.  One of the things George Lucas discussed was his own long quest to find someone after his first marriage ended in divorce.  He said he and his current wife seemingly have nothing in common, and yet in the most important ways they have everything in common – their outlook on life, their beliefs, their morals, the way they think about things in the same way at their core. And that is the thread that runs throughout Strange Magic.  Plus, I loved that he talked about how having daughters influenced him to tell a different kind of story from the female point of view.

Strange Magic is above all about the music. In a very throw back, American Graffiti kind of way, music fills very second of the movie, and is central to how the characters tell the story. The entire cast, director and musical director joined us for the second half of the press conference, and I couldn’t have been thrilled to see Sam Palladio as one of the main characters since I’m a nutty Nashville fan. And of course, Alan Cumming can do no wrong.

cast and director of strange magic

Gary Rydstrom (Director), Meredith Anne Bull (voice of “Dawn”), Sam Palladio (voice of “Roland”), Evan Rachel Wood (voice of “Marianne”), Alan Cumming (voice of “Bog King”), Elijah Kelly (voice of “Sunny”), Marius De Vries (Musical Director)

Watch this wonderful featurette of the cast talking about their characters:

The cast reiterated much of what George Lucas talked about – that sometimes you find love where you least expect it, or in the words of Elijah Kelly, “No matter how weird and strange you are, there is someone else out there just as weird and strange as you,” And if that’s not a great message for kids I don’t know what is.

STRANGE MAGIC opens in theatres everywhere on January 23rd!

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7 Reasons You’ll Love the New Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World

7 Reasons You’ll Love the New Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World

I will admit, the Snow White ride at Walt Disney World scared me.  (not as much as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but that’s another story)  But, I was nostalgic and a bit sad when I heard they had torn it down to make way for a new roller coaster ride, based in the mine where the Seven Dwarfs went off to work every day.  After all, the movie is called Snow White – and I was worried about a ride that was all about the thrill and not about the wonderful charm and artistry that makes Snow White, the film, special.

Well, I’m not worried anymore.  I LOVED this ride (and so did my sister)  – and rode it three times.

7dwarves

Here’s why you will love it too:

1. You won’t be grumpy while you wait because the queue is full of super fun, hands-on experiences while you wait.  Like barrels full of gems that whirl, illuminated water that makes music, and other gem filled games.

2. Fast Pass! Now you can book up to 3 rides ahead of time on mydisneyexperience.com and the my Disney experience app – so don’t get sleepy and forget to book your fast passes ahead of time for this ride and you’ll zip right on through.

3. Don’t be bashful – there are wonderful, whimsical details everywhere you look on this ride.  Take your time so you will notice all of the little magical things inside and out, like these carved woodland creatures…

woodland creatures

and the vultures high above…

vultures in mine ride

4.  There is nothing dopey about it – big kids will love this ride, it’s got just enough oomph to be a fun coaster, and with the new technology that allows the mine cars to have some side to side swing to them it really feels like you’re  whisking through the mine…

5. But, it’s not so intense that you will have to summon Doc to help you out.  It’s comparable to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, without the big drops.

6. The animatronics are nothing to sneeze at.  The Imagineers truly bring the dwarfs to life inside the mine ride (and spoiler alerts from here on out!) they even recreate one of the most iconic images from the film – the dwarfs’ shadows on the mine walls as they sing Heigh Ho! It was the part of the ride that gave me goosebumps.  Like living inside the movie.

7. This ride will make you Happy!!   The ending to this ride is truly perfect, joyful, and captures the essence of the movie.  Snow White is there in the cottage, dancing to The Silly Song with the dwarfs – and the evil Queen in the form of the old crone – is waiting right outside the door,  a basket of apples hanging from her arm.

inside dwarves cottage

old crone

Disclosure: I was invited to Walt Disney World for this press event and received airfare, lodging, park tickets and some meals. The opinions expressed in this post are my own, as always.

 

Top 5 Takeaways from Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2014

Top 5 Takeaways from Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2014

When a conference is called a celebration you know there is something else going on.  I was fortunate enough to go to Disney Social Media Moms last year, and this year I went again, but this time to Disneyland in California.  And, since the celebration coordinated perfectly with my daughters’ spring break and Passover we decided to make it a real family trip and stay in Los Angeles to have our seder with all of our family that lives there.  It was Kismet.

I love Disneyland.  I love its charm, its uncomplicated, easy to cover size, and most of all its history.  I believe you can feel Walt Disney’s optimism and desire to build something really special when you’re there.  I hadn’t been to Disneyland since my daughters were 4 years old (8 years ago!)

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And I’m happy to say, my daughters still loved it, even as jaded tweens.

 

One of the things I love about this conference is that they don’t tell you the full agenda and all of the surprises that are in store while you’re there.  And, they include so many different facets of Disney – so there are always unexpected and interesting people and initiatives worth learning about.

Here are my Top 5 Takeaways from this year’s Celebration:

1.  Cars Land is spectacular.  No, really.  Ever wonder what it would be like to step inside an animated film?  Well, this is pretty much as close as you will ever come.  I recommend going at night when the full neon glory of Cars Land is lit up and you can be immersed in the 1950’s vibe.  The Radiator Springs ride is crazy fun – and the backdrop landscape of Route 66 is genius.

Route 66 Neon

 

2.  It’s not the size of the castle that matters…

3. It’s the character of the princess

One of the movies I am most excited about this year is Maleficent – and we got an extra dose of maniacal fabulosity at the celebration – and an extra dose of sweet from Sleeping Beauty herself, Elle Fanning.  She is as adorable as she looks…

Elle-Fanning blows out bday cake

photo by Josh Hallett

There is also royalty of a different kind – a CEO who built a business from scratch and is now using her success for empowering students and teachers.

photo by Josh Hallett

photo by Josh Hallett

That’s Chief Exec Bear, Maxine Clark, founder of Build a Bear Workshop, who spoke to us about teachers – good and bad – and the impact they have on children’s lives.  Hearing from incredibly successful women entrepreneurs is always inspiring, but there’s an even stronger impact when it’s someone like Maxine Clark who is also honest and supportive of other women entrepreneurs.  And I love that she started Build a Bear with an underlying belief that every child should be able to buy a basic bear and fill it with love.

4.  There is magic, everywhere you look.

 Like this unexpected surprise in the headboard at the Disneyland Resort

5. Everyone is creative

When you spend time with the people at Disney you quickly come to realize how incredibly talented everyone who works at Disney is, and how diverse those talents are. But, more importantly is this belief that every cast member has a creative spark that can be brought out.

One of my favorite videos to illustrate that is this one of the janitorial team making art with water:

These things are why this is not a conference, but a celebration.  A celebration of magic, family and inspiration with a big dose of serious fun.  And most importantly for those of us that write, or film, or share our stories, is this quote from Walt Disney…

 

 

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party –

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party –

I don’t think there is any bad age or best age for Disney.  The real magic of Disney is that all ages can find something fun, wonderful and plain ol’ optimistically wonderful to celebrate and explore.  My daughters never went through a Princess phase, but they did go through a fairy phase.  Even when my daughter dressed up like Belle for Halloween at 4 years-old she added a pair of wings…

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As my daughters have gotten older they’ve experienced more and more of the things that make Disney unique, from being able to stay up really late at Walt Disney World to the Broadway world of Disney.  So when we were given the opportunity to host a Disney Side party at our home we immediately brainstormed about what would be special and fun for them and their tween girl friends.  Given that we were throwing this event after school, a tea party made perfect sense – and one that could easily be made supercalifabulous enough for tweens.

The menu:

Cinderella Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Belle Craisins® scones

craisins scones

Mickey Mouse shaped finger sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, tuna, and PB&J)

mickey mouse sandwiches

And of course, hot cocoa and tea.

The table was set for an afternoon of Disney fun…

disney side tea party

And then the fun began…

Of course no tween party is complete without some crafting.  The girls went to work on cutting, decorating and styling Hanes T-Shirts into personalized fashion statements…

It was great to get all these girls together and have them express their Disney Side!  Plus, that Mickey Mouse shaped cookie cutter makes every sandwich irresistible!

Want to learn more about Disney Side?   Check out DisneySide.com and DisneySideCelebrations.com and get inspired to show off your Disney Side!

I was provided a suitcase full of great supplies and ideas by Disney to create this fantastic party.  The ideas, opinions, and guests are all my own!

Brave’s Merida – Redefining the Word Princess

There was a lot of uproar about Disney “sexing” up Merida in their lead up to her official induction into the Disney Princess Pantheon.  But, at the Disney coronation ceremony last week, which I attended as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, she was exactly as you would imagine – wild haired, bold, in her everyday velvet dress and riding a horse.

photo courtesy of Disney

photo courtesy of Disney

My daughters never went through a princess phase, but Merida they relate to.  Archery is one of their favorite sports – and my daughter could easily give Merida a run for her money in the biggest, curly hair category.

archerygirls

The word princess is weighed down with years and years of anti-feminist meaning – damsel in distress, pampered and spoiled, helpless and silly.  And if you’re also Jewish – well that just adds a whole other level of stereotype.   Thanks, Bravo.

But, I will be the first to admit I was all in for Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I was growing up.  Just like a was all in for Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and Princess Leia – not to mention Sandy in Grease.   The “princesses,” didn’t differ in my mind from any other title and lead female character – they were all important enough to have the story revolve around them, or be key characters that drove the story.  And in the end, that is the most empowering message – you drive the story of your life.

So, I love this new I am a Princess Campaign from Disney.  I’ve written before about the power of owning a word that was used to put you down.  Girls defining what it means to be a princess now, to them, for them – that has the potential to be truly powerful.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.

 

Why Disney is Magical for Tweens

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Last week I spent 4 days at Walt Disney World as a guest of Disney at their Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.  The event is an annual conference of sorts where Disney invites mom and dad bloggers from across the country to learn, get inspired and take part in a truly unique Disney experience.  Our families are invited along too – but they don’t attend the real conference part of the schedule, just the straight up park-filled fun.

This was my first time at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, and I have written before about how I grew up with Disney, and how totally dorky I can be about the Walt Disney World experience.  I never out grew it.  But, seeing Disney Parks through my kids’ eyes is a totally different experience.  While everyone talks about the their little ones seeing a princess for the first time, or running up and giving Mickey and Minnie a big hug, I think there is something equally magical that comes over the older kids too.

My daughters are 11.  They are now firmly in the tween space –  that awkwardly wonderful time when they are on the cusp of real emotional and physical change, but still wide-eyed and happy to be with me.  They can be moody, they can be super sweet, they can be ridiculously mature and then do something so bizarrely immature that I wonder how they make it through the day in one piece.  But, something wonderful happens at Disney – they move pretty squarely into that kid space – yet still have the stamina of an older kid.  They regress in the best way, holding on to their childhood with both hands.  Equally happy to see Minnie Mouse now as when they were 4.

 

And they are equally excited to share the whole Disney experience with me as when they were little…

And the regression isn’t only for tweens and teens.  Disney is the only place where your entire family can wear matching shirts, sparkly ears or full-out princess costumes and no one cares.  In fact, it’s encouraged.

I’m glad my daughters got my Disney gene, and now that Star Wars has really, truly been brought into the Disney family, my husband can get on board too.

I’ll be writing more about the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, but in the meantime I leave you with this picture:

IMG_1376These are Disney cast members that searched high and low to try to retrieve my daughter’s birthday button that had fallen down a grate.  They couldn’t get it out,  they disappeared for about 20 minutes, and showed up with a brand new one – I have no idea from where since we were in a closed off area of Hollywood Studios, but they did.   Now that’s some serious Disney magic.

My Knight in Cardboard Armor – Belle’s Enchanted Tales at Walt Disney World New Fantasyland

knight in shining armor

You’d think after waiting in line for Belle’s Enchanted Tales at the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World my girls would have been upset that they weren’t picked to be in the story.  But, they were more excited that my husband was.  And he kept that castle safe!