On why you can't compare rebooted performances

Posted by jwsadmin on June 1, 2016

My take on the idea of a new Mary Poppins:

Mixed, but in the end, the comparison comes down to the script.

That is, IF you choose to compare, you are more likely doing so not because of the performances, but because of how the character is written in the script.

The nature of Hollywood and reboots is that even if the character is supposed to be the same, the script is necessarily different. You can't compare Shatner's Kirk to Pine's, because the worlds are different and they take the character, such as it is, into different directions. Unless they actually remade classic series episodes (with minor modifications for the new continuity) with this new film cast, I will never see a need to compare Shatner's and Pine's performances: I will be spending too much time contrasting Kirk and Kirk directly because in this universe, Abrams's Kirk is not MY idea of Roddenberry's Kirk: too much is different and I am not willing to reconcile.

Same with ANY film/series based on the Musketeers: the writer is going to take a subset of Dumas's original, find what they want to emphasize, throw the rest out, then add in stuff that was never in the books (because they all do), and then the characters become molded by what the plot requires. There's no reason to even begin to compare Reed's Athos (1973) with Sutherland's (1993).

Really, only by a pure remake working from an original script (that is, Shakespeare, or Broadway), do the performances actually become comparable.


Another rehash of why EPCOT is stuck in the past...

Posted by jwsadmin on May 9, 2016

From a comment I left on this post:“What Happened to the Imagination and Innovation at Epcot?”

(this basically repeats some of what I wrote in "on making memories")

Basically what did the innoventions in is the same thing that killed the studio in Disney-MGM-Holywood: corporate secrecy.

In the grand era of the Worlds Fairs that EPCOT was inspired by, corporations loved to share. They loved to make big announcements of what they had and what they were working on. Generally this was because they’d made such a large investment on it that it would be too hard for anybody else to catch up for years once they saw it, unless they paid the patent rights.

That world ended after the 1982 Worlds Fair in Knoxville. It ceased to exist…just as EPCOT needed it. Right off the bat, EPCOT was stuck in being dependent on a world that didn’t exist anymore.

What changed? Software. Software is, unlike hardware, infinitely malleable. It is also infinitely copyable, whether as stolen bits or as someone smart like me (as a programmer) looking at it and going “I can do that”…and then doing it. It is just too easy to do. Plus it also gets out of date much more quickly, too, as fads and fashions of appearances change as rapidly as performance does with every Moore’s Law generation.

So corporations had to hide their software until it was absolutely on the market, and then it was distributed so quickly that it would be in someone’s hands before a demo of it could ever be put in Communicore or Innoventions. If you didn’t hold that secrecy, a faster competitor could knock off the same thing in a matter of weeks (all the hard thinking was already done for them by the REAL inventor) who could beat them to market and potentially invalidate their patent applications for the product.

Or if you did put out the early prototype on display, the criticism of it could kill the product before it actually hit the market.

This is that same “control the message” that marketing departments have had to demand for 3 decades now…and it is why the studio was removed from DHS.

Directors shoot a LOT of footage that doesn’t make the final film. The animation story team produce a lot of ideas and drawings that don’t even get animated. When the public is allowed to see what may happen, they will produce an opinion of it that may not be what the studio actually wants them to have. Imagine if audiences saw the more bug-like Jimminy Crickets before Ward’s final, perfectly charming design? They may not have gone to the film, worrying about how “ugly” it might be. In the case of regular films, “spoilers” is the big thing, especially under today’s social media instant-leak world.

Thus, the studio lockdown: nobody sees what Disney is working on until it is ready to go, and then the marketing team carefully controls the promotions. Failure to do so can create a flop before it has even started.

And failure to control your product’s release and demos before it is ready can kill a corporation.

So yeah, in Innoventions software is the problem: it is too quickly created, too quickly released (and replaced), too quickly copied, and too quickly criticized, to really be something to show in a building that requires a 3-6 months to refurbish and re-theme…and hardware just doesn’t impress anymore.


The Screwtape Letters of the Beer Industry

Posted by jwsadmin on February 11, 2016

There are times I see macro-breweries buying micros as a bit of Screwtape & Wormwood.

The macro buys the micro, but only keeps it around if, with the macro's support and finances (and marketing), the micro succeeds in actually consuming and killing competition. When it fails to do so, the Macro will simply consume (that is, destroy) it directly, and move on to another agency.

Nothing good comes of this living Hell.

The craft brewing industry is built upon respect and friendly competition, not cutthroat winner take all. Collaborations like Stone's recent projects with Sierra Nevada are only possible under these circumstances: the sum of the craft beer world is bigger than the individual breweries.

The attitude of the Macro consuming the Micro is the antithesis of this. We all achieve less as they decide it just isn't worth it and close it down...or we all become less because their marketing power (and their abuse of distribution laws and contracts) eliminates others.


Overusing Color Correction?

Posted by jwsadmin on December 5, 2015

Disney artists do like to clean up the masters these days, and in many cases rightfully so. But it should be noted that ANY artist that cleans up an ancient piece of work, be it a classical Greek mosaic, a Michaelangelo ceiling, a Rembrant painting, a Shakespeare text, or a Disney feature, is doing so slightly tainted by their own times and their own vision of what the work is. In striving to make it as good as it can be, it can often end up cleaner or different even from the original they claim to be striving to achieve.

Here's one brief but well known section of Fantasia, showing the 1990 cleanup (where most of the clean-up was physically on the print - the 2000 release was a digital master of this final 1990 print) vs the 2010 cleanup for the blu-ray, where most of the work was done using software. It shows there was a definite pass made through digital color correction. In fact, if I were to color-balance the 2010 in Picasa, I actually end up getting something very close to the 1990 version.

1990 (2000) 2010 (DVD)

While software and perhaps an old-man's memory or two might hint that the yellowish tint (which is even more pronounced on the blu-ray than the DVD) is closer to the original, there are other pieces of evidence, like the cell print on Walt's wall in many a Wonderful World of Color/Disney intro, that show the blue-gray that most of us remember is "the original".

So which is it? Are either of them right? Does it matter?

Is color-correction of the classics the next "compression war", where artists don't restore the originals so much as make them palatable for the current trend in playback technology?

Certainly I'm keeping my 2000 DVD because the extras on it weren't duplicated on the Blu-Ray, nor did we get a new documentary feature like Beauty and the Beast - in fact even the old ones weren't duplicated, but only are available as BD-Live features.


Muppet Ownership: The tl;dr Summary

Posted by jwsadmin on August 25, 2015

Based on Muppetology 101, from Muppet Mindset, here's the itemized summary which I think is easier to follow than reading through all those paragraphs...

Disney:

  • the Muppet trademark itself (via the holding company The Muppets Studio, LLC)
  • The Muppet Show and its core characters
  • The Muppet Movie
  • The Great Muppet Caper
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Muppet Treasure Island
  • Muppet Wizard of Oz
  • Muppet Babies
  • Muppets Tonight
  • The 60s-70s specials Hey Cinderella!, The Frog Prince, The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Tale of the Bunny Picnic, and Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
  • Muppet-based performances on Jim Henson Hour (but not anything with the Creature Shop)
  • the series Little Muppet Monsters
  • Bear in the Big Blue House and spin-offs
  • The Muppets at Walt Disney World
  • The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson
  • The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years and A Muppet Family Christmas - however, they need permission to release/broadcast because of the rights of Sesame Street and Fraggles
  • The lost pilot for America’s Next Muppet
  • All music rights to the above
  • The new Muppets show
  • The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted

Sony:

  • The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Muppets from Space
  • Kermit’s Swamp Years

NBC Universal:

  • It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
  • All Muppet material from the first SNL season
  • Sam and Friends

John Denver Estate:

  • both John Denver specials (Christmas and Rocky Mountain), and their respective soundtrack albums

Sesame Workshop:

  • All muppet scenes and references in Sesame Street except Kermit and the one Rowlf scene (in a counting song at one point)
    • Sesame Workshop retains a permanent license to continue to broadcast and/or distribute these in visual and audio form
    • Sesame Street must continue to credit the Muppet trademark
  • Most Sesame Street specials, except
    • Out to Lunch: ABC
    • Special Sesame Street Christmas (that other special from 1978): Bob Banner Productions
    • Follow that Bird: Warner Bros
    • Elmo in Grouchland: Sony
    • Sesame Street 20 and Still Counting: Jim Henson Company
  • The Jim Henson Company constructs new Muppets on request, but those new characters are owned by SSW

Jim Henson Company:

  • Fraggle Rock
    • The recent Doozers spin-off
  • Dark Crystal
  • Labyrinth (Distribution: Sony)
  • The Witches (Distribution: Warner)
  • Farscape
  • Storyteller
  • The Animal Show (not the same Animal)
  • Emmet Otter (with a license needed for Kermit from Disney, hence why he's often cropped out of some DVD releases)
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Jim’s live-action work of the 60s-70s incl Time Piece
  • Creature shop features in Jim Henson Hour (incl Dog City as an odd split because of Rowlf)
  • Dog City (Distribution: Nelvana, with royalties due Disney over Rowlf)

the best time to be a fan...

Posted by jwsadmin on August 16, 2015

On the current Disney D23 announcements, something finally clicked after 2 days of thinking about it and reading others' feedback (cynical or supportive).

The Harry Potter success is one of the reasons why they are so insistent that the 'world' created in these new lands be so internally complete. They know from experience that light-weight theming around a few thrill rides isn't going to be enough compared to the total immersion effect. So here we are: Pandora, Star Wars, Toy Story, Cars Land, all designed to be immersions into worlds as strongly as HP.
 
In fact, the success (and yes it is a success, in spite of the technological failure of Luigi's 1.0) of Cars Land and the re-theming of Paradise Pier shows that they can pull it off and makes me think these new projects will be more daring than anything before.
 
They always had that 'think about the story' aspect, particularly when it came to WDW. But sometimes the stories they came up with were, well, lacking. I once read an article about how most of the late 1990s - early 2000s 'stories' were all "Where's Waldo". Even the animated add-ons to Epcot's Mexico and Nemo were "where's Donald?" and "where's Nemo?", or even the Pirates redo: "where's Jack Sparrow?".
 
With Cars Land I see them finally going back to Walt's aspect of not bludgeoning the audience with 'story': drop the hints, and ensure consistency of atmosphere, and let the audience discover, or invent, the story. but that can only be done by consistency of atmosphere.
 
The imagineers that knew this invented Tokyo Disney Sea. They designed some incredible works for Manassas and Long Beach that never came about. The reasons were never necessarily related to their designs, but the expense of their work redirected more blame to them than they deserved.
 
So the ones most keyed to that attitude, to drop hints and just make it consistently beautiful, and they will come, left. Universal got them, and Disney regretted it. The problem is, *Eisner* didn't.
 
Eisner never understood the type of creative mindset of a Rolly Crump, in spite of how much he respected the output: Crump's Adventureland Bazaar still stands, 45 years later. Untouched. And there's no "story" about it (something that Sklar and Baxter, the 'story' pushers, likely continually cringe at). Just consistently solid theming that allows the audience to develop the story in their head, rather than be hammered with it at every step (hello Dinoland Animal Kingdom). Eisner always tried to assert that he knew better, that his experience in movies and "story" (as much due to Jeffrery Katzenberg) could translate to parks. But trying to be both Roy and Walt at the same time made him never as good as either.
 
Iger is finally making up for Eisner's ultimate arrogance. And in my opinion, it is because he is NOT being arrogant. It works now because he is not claiming to be Walt, nor trying to take on Walt's role. He has left that to Lasseter, and has taken Roy's role instead, the one to financially make it happen, and watch the numbers to make sure it works, and nudge them when it doesn't. Not bludgeon them, just nudge them. A minor failure can be recovered from (even major failures like Lone Ranger and John Carter). Is Iger circling the wagons around a few key properties and not stretching out too far? Of course he is: but so is everybody else, and as we know from the success of MCU and the hype of Star Wars, along with the smash among kids that is Frozen (go into any 3 year old's daycare room and just mention 'elsa' and see just what it really means), it's working. Best not to argue with it.
 
That is why this is, perhaps, the best time to be a Disney fan since 1971.

Disneyland #LiveFrom50

Posted by jwsadmin on July 17, 2015

So Disneyland's Twitter feed started 'live-tweeting' the Dateline Disneyland show, as if it was live, but 50 years later. They kinda petered out, but I kept going while watching the DVD.


WDW Should I X or Y?

Posted by jwsadmin on May 18, 2015

My more general "rant" inspired by recent "I have X reserved, but Y is available, should i switch?" posts regarding Walt Disney World planning...

Pardon me if I'm getting a little philosophical/abstract, perhaps even obtuse, but, well, why does it matter?

I see a *lot* of these "X vs Y" posts these days, reflecting perhaps that factor of, "I only go to WDW so many times so I want it to be *perfect*" and, well, it can get tiresome.

I just went to Disneyland, for the first time since 2009 (which then was a rushed parkhopper day of "lets get every ride that's not on the east coast, 'cause I don't know if/when I'm going back...).

I made no extensive plans. All I did for prep was to watch the "mouse wait" times the week before, which helped me decide which day was primarily DL and which was primarily DCA.

Granted, I wasn't pressured by the current WDW practice of having EVERYTHING PLANNED OUT 6 MONTHS IN ADVANCE AND I HAVE TO HAVE EVERY DETAIL DOWN INCLUDING WHICH RIDE I HAVE TO SAY I CAN'T DO, WHILE PICKING WHAT TIME OF DAY TO DO THE OTHERS, BECAUSE WDW WILL ONLY GIVE ME 3 FAST PASSES THIS FAR IN ADVANCE practice. But there-in lies the problem.

'Cause, yeah, that's what I see. WDW's current approach has actually introduced more stress than joy, particular for those who understand the limitations, and I see it in the contrast of just how easily I managed to get 5 (plus two season-pass local friends) through Disneyland, 3 of whom (incl my 3 1/2 year old) had never been to such a park before.

I wish it wasn't that way. I wish Disney could successfully project that all of the experiences they offer at WDW are equal in quality, because that is very much what we felt over those 3 days at Disneyland last month.

So to those who have that question come up, I would say take a step back.

Have you done something before? then either decide you can't go without doing it again, or embrace the new. Both are valid ideas, but the *choice* should be yours, not ours (the other followers of these Disney groups).

if you haven't? then stressing over picking X when Y *might* be better is actually going to make *neither* of them enjoyable, since the choice was always tempered by the back of the head nagging of "what if I...". Make the choice, forget that it was a choice, and enjoy the moment...and don't be afraid that by not nailing down *everything* 6 months ahead of time that there won't be anything to do on the days you left empty.

things do open up (well, unless you're a family of 7) and keeping a little spontaneity in the schedule can do wonders for leaving room for unexpected magic to happen, because it is the *UN*expected magic that is the most memorable of all.


More on the Future (or Tomorrowland)

Posted by jwsadmin on May 10, 2015

This came from a FB discussion about what Disney attractions should be removed (being either stale, unpopular, or annoying - lots of calls for Dinorama, of course. I hold little interest in Avatarland and continue to think Disney would be better off promoting conservation by using their North and South American properties (Bambi, Brother Bear, and Up - imagine perhaps a coaster or dark ride based on escaping from the Forest Fire?). In any case, the constant call for removing the modern EPCOT FutureWorld attractions came up, often with the idea of restoring their 1982 originals in the nostalgic (but perhaps not accurate) memory that they were just better back then.
 
--

hmm. aside from Disneyland's seasonal switches (small world and haunted mansion holiday, and their version of country bear jamboree 'til Pooh came along), I can only think of one time where a replacement attraction was closed down and the original one put in its place: the Enchanted Tiki Room recovering from having been under new management.
 
so not much of a precedent for that sort of thing. as much as the replacements for future world aren't so great (excepting a few: I happen to think Nemo works as a theme, though I would rather The Land get a little more respect than just as Soarin's waiting room), the originals were, while quaint and optimistic, still extremely dated. Just like with any of the tomorrowlands, the ability to stay ahead and not fall behind the technology curves is almost impossible. (the fact that most corporations won't even hint at what long term ideas they have for fear of them getting stolen, quite the contrast to the idealism of the worlds fair openness that inspired EPCOT in the first place)
 
...though i'll stress *almost*.
 
3-D CGI technology is clearly at a point (see the new Star Tours: not a model or real world background is in any of them, unlike the original) where the EPCOT attractions can be reconsidered as a more dynamic landscape. Combine that with the huge screens involved now in DCA for their animation room and world of color, then add in a little animatronic narration (a-la the single animatronic like Tough to be a Bug) and you can create a space that is capable of getting a new story every 6 months: always changing, always adapting. You couldn't do that in 1984 - film editing took too much work, as did reprogramming an AA. You couldn't even really do that in 2004: CGI, while very good, was still too expensive.
 
Today, it is possible. Today, World of Motion could have been done but with a unique experience every time.
 
So yeah, time to do what the Imagination replacements never did: redesign the attraction as one that can be dynamically changed every few months, always optimistic, always idealistic, always looking ahead...and never falling behind because it was just too expensive to change it after the future became the past (or the never happening) in 6 months time.
 
I say again: software is the key to the future, and yet software is (outside of Disneyland's Starcade), under-represented in any Futureworld or Tomorrowland. Just like the idea of TRON being a key symbol of Tomorrowland, what TRON represents as the real source of progress today, software, should be the key to keeping Futureworld in the future, and not the dated past.

Been Busy Doing...Nothing Much?

Posted by jwsadmin on April 28, 2015

I've kinda been busy, first with the SubFire player, then with prepping for a vacation, then finally taking said vacation in Orange County, CA (incl Discovery Cube, Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Disneyland and DCA, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, a Signing Time concert for my kid and a friend, and walking through Crystal Cove State Park (incl a Beach with interesting tide pools we don't get on the east coast).

So, watch the photo blog, 'cause lots of pics are coming in the next few weeks.

Plus here I may recap my thoughts on Disneyland.


Facebook and Emergency Handling

Posted by jwsadmin on April 7, 2015

Ok, everybody remember 9/11? Of course you do. You also all remember so many of the false stories that the radio stations and sometimes the TV were telling until we all calmed down a little and got to focus on our thoughts (well, until buildings 5 and 7 fell, which kinda shook us all up again).

One example: there were explosions at the state department (false). There were explosions at the capital (false). There were military planes chasing civilian airliners (mostly false). There were military planes shooting at other civilian planes (false). Lots of these little rumors, all called in to the radio stations or reported on the internet (for those of us who had connectivity in that day of ultra over-load). All false.

One of the problems we had, partly due to that internet overload, is that of those rumors still being posted even after they'd long since been discredited. The caches of the news reports, or copies of them, kept getting passed around, or links to the original page continued to be spread around after the news sources had made a new page for the updated information. The old info, out of date and known to be wrong, was still on their site.

The news media took to handling that situation by basically making a master page for the news story, which they would then update and edit as if it was a wikipedia page. Any time you clicked it, it would be the most up to date version possible. This is a reasonable solution.

It is not a solution Facebook is expecting. Facebook's "OpenGraph" system basically caches an image, headline, and summary on the page as soon as somebody shares it with the system. Any one of those 3 items may change later on the actual news page, but Facebook continues to show the original summary which is full of false information, or the original headline which is very leading, subjective, and possibly not even true. All because it has cached that as being the headline for the url.

This is happening today.

Right now, the WTOP story on the DC and Southern Maryland blackout is a rather mild take on a "problem with a transmission line", belonging to PEPCO. But if you were to try to share the URL, the original headline and summary, that there was an explosion in a St. Mary's transmission station belonging to SMECO, is what gets displayed. Lots of false information, but Facebook won't correct it. This is a problem, because someday there WILL be something serious, something full of false headlines and false stories, and people's reliance on links in facebook is going to make things worse, not better.

Facebook needs to solve this problem. And soon.


So it has been quiet lately...

Posted by jwsadmin on April 5, 2015

So I haven't posted much here, nor I have I done much with photographs. The reason is actually a good one, as you might have seen if you also follow my javascript development blog.

Since the December holidays, I've been writing an app, SubFire, which has sucked up my spare time, but in a good way. SubFire is a client for the open-source media streamer, Subsonic, that is entirely html5 based. Being so, it can play on a variety of platforms. I originally wrote it for the Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick (which didn't have such a client yet), but it is also available as a Chrome app for the browser and ChromeBooks, and as a straight html5 page that can be played on just about any browser today (note: I've not tried IE nor Opera).

This has given me a fantastic outlet for all the experiences I've gained in the last 20 years (and most especially, the last 4), in thinking about design, layout, responsiveness, and structure...and customer relations and agile feature and bug tracking :). While I wouldn't call the code or architecture perfect or ideal, it has given me lots of insight on how to approach things in the future.

The other thing it has done has been to make my music more personal to me. One of the drawbacks of living in the cloud is that eventually all clouds kinda become the same. There's a sense of detachment that grows when one just fires up somebody else's app to listen to your music that's 20 miles (or more) away from you. Carrying mp3s on an ipod still made it feel like it was yours. Carrying a passport drive to the office machine still felt that way. But tapping into some other app to listen off the cloud and it starts to feel...different. So in making a personalized app that does what I want, I've re-personalized my music for me.

After this is 1.0'ed and out the door, I'm taking a vacation to California so expect new photos from Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Disneyland, Newport Beach, and more.