STAR WARS Episode IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER ~ A SPOILER-FREE MOVIE REVIEW BY PETER ALDEN GRIGSBY

Published December 18, 2019 by Disneyways.com

STAR WARS Episode IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER ~ A SPOILER-FREE MOVIE REVIEW BY PETER ALDEN GRIGSBY

The End! And so STAR WARS Episode IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER brings to a close the “Skywalker” storyline in the Star Wars lore! Holy Moly, what a way to add an exclamation point to a franchise! Throughout this tale, there have been many ups and downs, (Jar-Jar Binks comes readily to mind). The fan base for Star Wars is an immensely loyal group, and they have lived through these tales with the characters so closely that they were almost there themselves. They have celebrated, and mourned with many characters along the way. To find a base that is so devoted to your story and characters is something every writer and director wants. And so, this was the weight that was placed on the shoulders of J.J. Abrams! Not only to craft and incredible film in itself, but to end the saga that has become part of so many people’s lives. Now to deal with the elephant in the room, there was some ‘worry’ among the fan-base that this was not going to be possible. The offering of Rian Johnson (STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI), was at best, polarizing.

Coming almost from a mindset of ‘don’t listen to what the fans want, do your own thing’, Episode VIII was definitely a different type of story, in fact it didn’t even ‘feel’ like a Star Wars story. The original trilogy painted a universe. They made you want to see more Star Wars. The Last Jedi did the complete opposite. It killed the interest in the Star Wars universe for many, because there seemed to be nothing left to care about. The Resistance is just the Rebels. The First Order is just the Empire. No end is in sight. Rey is perfect already. Snoke is dead and no one cared enough to even explain his existence in the first place. While I certainly understand the precept of not letting a fan-base ‘dictate’ the direction of a story line, there does still need to be, at the very least, a tip of the hat to your base. They have been loyal to you, and it is incumbent upon any writers and/or directors to give them their “moments” in the presentation. This, of course, does not mean that you cannot also include your own vision. And this film does that in spades!!

I am going to do my best to deliver a “Spoiler Free” review for everyone! As Episode IX opens we learn that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still alive, and planning on his final obliteration of the rebellion with his First Order. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is still in Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) head, and attempting to bring her over to the dark side of the force for the Emperor, however, he is working on a plan of his own as well. Rey is also still searching for what happened to her parents, and who she really is. After Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) learns that there is a way to stop the fleet, Rey decides that she is the one to complete it. Her friends Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), of course, insist on accompanying her. Fans will appreciate that Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) plays a major role as well! We also get the return of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). As Rey continues to search for her ‘tribe’ and deal with her inner turmoil, she turns to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), now part of the force, in a nice homage’ to the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Luke life lessons. There are also some humorous scenes with C3PO (Anthony Daniels), who has become a bit of a foil for Poe. As I write this, I am fighting the urge to tell you some of the things that will literally make you yell “YES” in this film. Suffice it to say that this is the ‘final’ showdown of the Sith verses the Jedi. There is no more “…to be continued”! It is time for the characters to ‘pick’ a side and go! That being said, J.J. Abrams brings a story that shows he is a fan, and does his best to accommodate the hard core fans of the franchise.

As a fan who cares about these movies, I am satisfied! Is it a perfect film?!?! No. Is it a fitting end to this wonderful series?!?! Yes! Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker delivers an ending that should leave fans happy and, perhaps, with tears in their eyes. If you liked Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi, you will like this movie. If you are looking for an Empire Strikes back-type feel, you will appreciate the nod to fan favorite moments.

Sit back.and brace yourself! J.J. Abrams is able to keep this film dark for the story it presents, only to let the light still shine through. The force will be with us, ALL OF US…always!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Peter Alden Grigsby is a Florida native. Pete has appeared in an episode of the Mickey Mouse club, was a Jungle Cruise Skipper, “friend” of the Rocketeer, tram driver on the backlot tour, and opening day cast member at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). When he’s not writing movie reviews, he is performing as a singer and tribute artist all over the world and currently has a cover album of Disney songs called Kingdom Classics

Video Review! We Rode Rise of the Resistance on Opening Day!

Published December 5, 2019 by Disneyways.com

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened to the public December 5, 2019 and my good friend Tour Guide Barbi was THERE to bring us her full review and VIDEO! You won’t believe the mix of new technology that she saw!  Are you EXCITED?! I know I am!! This attraction is located in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Are you ready to join the Resistance in an epic battle against the First Order?

The official description from Disney is as follows:

An Attraction on a Scale That Is Impressive, Most Impressive
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is a massive attraction with multiple ride systems that is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced at Walt Disney World Resort… or anywhere else in the galaxy!

Lieutenant Bek greets Resistance recruits who survived their escape from the First Order as part of the Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. TIM WALTERS/FLORIDA TODAY

Accept a Mission from the Resistance
The Resistance needs your help! Hidden in the forest outside Black Spire Outpost, the Resistance is gathering recruits for a secret mission.

First Order Supreme Leader Kylo Ren watches the battle as the First Order tries to wipe out the Resistance as part of the Rise of … Show more TIM WALTERS/FLORIDA TODAY

With the First Order desperate to extinguish the spark of the Resistance, the mission is bound to have unexpected twists and turns. When your transport is captured by an imposing First Order Star Destroyer filled with legions of stormtroopers—and even Kylo Ren!—you’re going to need all the help you can get. Fortunately, a covert team of Resistance fighters—including Rey and BB-8—is at the ready to give you a fighting chance to escape… and a chance for the Resistance to rise.

Prepare for a thrilling, first-of-its-kind adventure!

 

Guests see Poe Dameron’s X-wing starfighter, Black One (foreground), and board an Intersystem Transport Ship (background) as part of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Show less KENT PHILLIPS/COURTESY OF DISNEY

Special Thanks to Tour Guide Barbi for sending us your review! 

 

Rise of the Resistance Review

Wow. As a Star Wars fan and a ride technology enthusiast, this ride had me in joyous tears. Beware, there be spoilers ahead!!!!The Queue….
For the grand opening, Disney implemented a virtual queue. Upon entering the park, you join your “boarding group” via the My Disney Experience App and are given a group number. When the number was called, guests were given two hours to check in for the ride. This was fantastic because it enabled us to enjoy the rest of the park (Droid Depot, anyone?) and then there was no major time pressure to access the ride on time. Once we entered the actual line, the wait was around 20 minutes until we reached the first pre show. The parts of the queue that we saw today were just as detailed as the Smuggler’s Run queue, my favorite part being the cages with the Resistance flight suits.

The first pre show…

BB-8!!!! He’s there rolling around in full BB-8 adorableness until we receive a transmission from Rey. I can NOT convey how amazing all of this looked. From this point on, you are INSIDE a Star Wars movie. Nothing has ever been as immersive.

The next pre show…

Guests are standing in a vehicle (which moves!) headed from Batuu to the other Galaxy’s Edge. Poe, Finn and several other characters make appearances with an incredibly lifelike Lt. Bek (who says the best thing, ever) driving the vehicle. But, oh no! Disaster! The First Order has found the vehicle and is taking everyone onboard as prisoners!!!!
After disembarking and being marched onto a First Order Star Destroyer, we were greeted with a breath-taking sight.

Two Stormtroopers stand watch as Resistance prisoners are moved to their holding cell inside the Rise of the Resistance ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
TIM WALTERS/FLORIDA TODAY

 

A horde of storm troopers, standing in formation, most of which are animatronic. This sight alone will bring the most die hard Star Wars fan to tears. Then as prisoners wait to be interrogated, they are formed into lines aboard the Star Destroyer. We waited in our designated area..: Kylo Ren made his first appearance and then… Huzzah! Escape! The Rebel Alliance has found us and has a plan!

Finally… The ACTUAL ride…

Man. I really don’t want to give too much of this away. We were transferred into a droid-operated ride vehicle which seats eight and is trackless. It’s similar to the Penguin ride at Sea World, but moves MUCH faster and in many different directions. With no track in place, it was impossible to anticipate which direction we would be going in next. And it is so smooth!!!! From here on out we encountered Kylo Ren in several different formats (hologram, animatronic) and felt as if we were in the middle of a battle. Blaster beams and canons are firing all around and we could never tell what would be happening next. Finally, we made it to safety in a simulator section with a sudden drop as we entered into space. (This is a free fall, similar to Tower of Terror, less intense.) Then we surprisingly ended outdoors!

I have not experienced so many different technologies combined with such an incredible story. The rides that come closest are probably Transformers or Forbidden Journey over at Universal. I know that I missed a TON and can’t wait to see it again. Bravo, Disney Imagineers. Job well done.

-Tour Guide Barbi
Theme Park Academy

Here’s a short overview of our experience, enjoy!

Frozen 2 ~ Spoiler Free Review! Plus A Few of My Favorite Things

Published November 22, 2019 by Disneyways.com

Those who know my Disney side, are well aware of my love for Frozen and all of the Disney Princesses. More specifically, I love Elsa, who is not a Princess, but actually a Queen – so I guess it is safe to say she is my favorite Disney Queen of all time.

There was really no way fro me to bring you an unbiased review of Frozen 2 because I am incredibly biased and in love with these characters, forever. BUT – thank goodness for WDW Hints

I have included an unbiased review for in this space – so read on! For everyone waiting to hear what I had to say – here it is. In all of its gushing and totally biased glory. I LOVE FROZEN AND I LOVED FROZEN 2.  For the rest of this article, I am going to give you some fun things to look for in this film – that really stood out for me!

Here they are in no particular order:

Olaf and the Gang Play Charades

One of the opening scenes includes Olaf and the crew playing charades. It is as cute as you can imagine. Olaf does a fantastic impersonation of Elsa, and even SHE giggles at his cuteness.

One of the best things ever? SVEN is the time keeper. Remember when Kristoff sang about how reindeers are better than people? Well apparently they are fantastic and fair when you need a timekeeper for charades too. Sven even rings the little bell at the stop and start of each round.

Olaf retells the story of the first Frozen, in his own special way

Practical, because he needed the Northuldra Tribe to understand the whole story. Entertaining, because it is Olaf!! Watch for his version of what happened in the first Frozen film. It is hilarious!

Animated Baby Reindeer

If you have been following our website for a while now, you probably know about my “thing” for baby animals. I wrote a full article when a baby zebra was born at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Oh and that one time when a mama and baby rhino came charging towards our vehicle on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom? I wasn’t scared – I JUST THOUGHT THAT BABY WAS SO CUTE! So, you guessed it,  I wrote about it – and included pics. One of my favorite things about Lion King in live action film? The babies!!! 

You will have to look quick – but there is a scene in Frozen 2 where the cutest baby reindeer you have ever seen cuddles up with one of the girls. I can’t remember if it was Anna or Elsa now – because I was too busy looking at that BABY!!! He is not baby Sven, he belongs to somebody from the Northuldra tribe. They are all around a campfire… and oh… that little reindeer took my breath away!

Kristoff Made a Music Video

Bobby and Kristen Lopez, who did the music for the first film, wrote Kristoff this epic kind of 80s ballad and the animation that goes with it. It’s like an 80s music video,” Groff explained. “It’s a joke for the adults. The little kids don’t really get it.”

I think the kids that know about boy bands WILL get it. In Frozen 2, Kristoff belts out a song and that, combined with the video going on, made me feel like I was watching just that. IT WAS AMAZING …and hilarious!! I loved it. But Kristoff and I have a history.

Back when the first Frozen movie came out, Kristoff started making appearances in Magic Kingdom.

Some girlfriends and I were swooning over him. In fact, we may have started a hashtag.

If you love Kristoff and you love boy bands and you love music videos… you will totally understand this. And you and I can be friends forever.

Elsa’s Toes

Watch for Elsa’s beautiful little Queen toes. She is barefoot in parts of this movie. Maybe we got to see Cinderella’s toes too – but seeing the toes of a Queen seemed like a special thing to me.

EPIC COSTUMES ~ including one for swimming

Half of the fun of this movie – for me – was watching for wardrobe changes. These girls have more outfits than Cher!! Elsa wears the most fabulous swim costume I have ever seen. Watch for it! On a side note, all of the ocean and underwater scenes are breathtaking. I found myself wondering what was real and what was CGI. When animated films become so sharp that they look like reality – it freaks me out and delights me – all at the same time. What do you think about that?

Kristoff gets to be a hero…finally!

I understand we want to portray women in Disney films as strong and able to hold their own. But I was SO pleased to see a part in Frozen 2 where they actually let Kristoff be a hero. Finally!

Production Babies – Baby Presley!

It is tradition now at the end of a Disney movie to add the names of all babies born while the movie was made. Because of my obession with Elvis Presley, Disney, and how excited I get when my worlds collide, you can imagine my excitement about this. Somebody on the production team of Frozen 2 named their new baby “PRESLEY”

Spoiler Alert… what happens after the credits

Stay for the whole thing. You get to see Marshmallow and the Snowgies!

 

I hope you enjoyed my list of fun stuff to look for when you go to see Frozen 2! Disney princesses are a giant part of Disney magic to me. I started a facebook page just for celebrating them. Come on over to join in and participate HERE

**Please note that I was invited to a complimentary viewing of this movie on November19, 2019 so that I could bring you this review. Complementary admission in no way influenced my review, and all opinions are my own.**

Thank you to my friend Kitei for attending the media preview with me!

I want to thank my friend Tour Guide Barbi from Themepark Academy for her actual, spoiler free, review! She is less biased than I am because she honestly wasn’t in love with the first Frozen movie!

I was very lucky to receive last minute passes to the media screening of Frozen 2, which made my children feel very special. I find the words to describe it afterwards are a little tough to find. It is an epic, yet fairly predictable journey, with all of the characters acting in their established roles: Elsa is still being fairly reckless, Anna is still chasing after Elsa even though she doesn’t have powers and Olaf, Kristoff and Sven fill their supporting roles with humor and self-reflection. There are definitely some scenes where the these humorous breaks are appreciated due to some very tear-worthy moments. This film took several comedic shots at its predecessor, showing one of my favorite Disney studio traits, the ability to laugh at itself. The imagery is stunning, the score is as epic as the storyline and the new anthem “Into the Unknown” shows yet another stellar performance by Idina Menzel. Plus, the reprise at the end by Panic! At The Disco is equally as amazing. (I’m surprised that it took me this long to recognize Brendan Urie as Idina’s male equivalent! ) I fully expect Frozen Fever will be in full force once this opens to the public and in anticipation we have created a video on all the places to find the Frozen characters in the park. Enjoy! ~ Tour Guide Barbi 

YOU are invited to Peter Alden’s Christmas Party!

Published November 11, 2019 by Disneyways.com

Big news for Disneyways fans!! We featured him before to wonderful acclaim! You remember his album of classic Disney hits – with a Rock n Roll twist!
Kingdom Classics Performed By Peter Alden!

Get your copy by emailing us at PeterAldenTeam (at) gmail (dot) com

WELL NOW … YOU ARE INVITED TO “PETER ALDEN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY!”

The wait is over!! Peter Alden’s first Christmas album in SEVEN years – is here. We invite you to join “Peter Alden’s Christmas Party” and order this album as a gift for yourself and maybe a few more copies to give to your friends who (you may have thought!) already have everything. Designed to delight everyone on Santa’s list – it is a wonderful mix of – FIFTEEN songs in all – requested by Pete’s fans!

Enjoy upbeat favorites to get you rockin’ around your Christmas tree (“Jingle Bell Rock”), memorable classics (Charlie Brown and the Peanut’s “Christmas Time is Here”) Elvis Presley covers (“Blue Christmas”) and reverent glorious hymns (“Oh Holy Night”) that will get your heart prepared in the reason for the season! Get yours now and one for everyone on your Naughty and Nice list!

​Get your copy by emailing us at PeterAldenTeam (at) gmail (dot) com

Peter Alden’s Christmas Party CDs are just $15 each plus shipping! SAVE on shipping by ordering the album via digital download!

Get your copy by emailing us at PeterAldenTeam (at) gmail (dot) com

Ask us about discounts for bulk ordering! It’s the perfect gift for everyone on your list – or as a party favor for your next holiday gathering!

Jeff Barnes Discusses “Walt Disney~Master of Dreamers” Opening at Orlando Film Festival 2019

Published October 6, 2019 by Disneyways.com

Listen to this episode on Anchor HERE

Listen to this episode on Spotify HERE

Jeff Barnes is the best selling author of 2 of my favorite books –  The Wisdom of Walt and Beyond the Wisdom of Walt!  He teaches the only accredited college course on the History of Disneyland and believes the Disney parks teach us some of life’s greatest lessons, as long as you know their history! Learn all about Jeff at TheWisdomofWalt.com

Walt Disney – Master of Dreamers from Director Tony Cortese has been selected to open the 2019 Orlando Film Festival on Thursday October 17th 2019.

Detailed information on the film and how to get tickets can be found HERE.

The film will debut at 8 p.m.at the Cobb Plaza Cinema Café (Located at 12 at 155 S. Orange Avenue) in downtown Orlando. The screening will be preceded by a red-carpet event at 6:30 p.m.
The festival will offer more than 250 films through Oct. 24. The Disney documentary will screen again at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 24.

Cortese wrote, directed and produced the film. He also narrates the story of Walt Disney’s contributions to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the creation of Walt Disney World and the work of Imagineers to bring Epcot to life. The film salutes Disney, who died in 1966, as a mentor, visionary and urban planner. Details on the festival, the films and tickets are at OrlandoFilmFest.com. Tickets also can be purchased at the festival box office, which will be in the Cobb Plaza lobby during the festival.

 

 

Hot tip for the Walt Disney World Railroad – Main Street, U.S.A.

Published September 4, 2019 by Disneyways.com

Walt Disney World Railroad – Main Street, U.S.A. is an attraction located in Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom Park. Just one look brings on feelings of classic Americana.

As I write this, it is September 2019, and the train is not circling Magic Kingdom park, due to track refurbishments. But when this happens, did you know you can still have a magical train experience? I want to say a special thanks to my friend Michael Broggie for the tip!

When in service, the steam from the locomotive will often be too hot to get up close. Sometimes the train is just moving too fast four our cameras. But when the attraction is undergoing a refurbishment – the train is often available as the perfect backdrop for a memorable photo at the Main Street U.S.A. station. You can enjoy a blast from the past by taking advantage of an enchanted photo opportunity with one of the park’s 4 meticulously restored, narrow-gauge trains—originally built between 1916 and 1928. Stop by, break out the camera and say “All Aboard!”

If you think about it, there just aren’t a lot of places where you can gather loved ones and strike a pose with an authentic steam-powered locomotive!

 

You can take a few moments to imagine the clamor of the engine, chug of the wheels and call of the Walt Disney World Railroad whistle!

Trains were Walt’s life long passion. He built his first railroad right in his backyard. The Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a 1/8-scale train, debuted in 1950 and featured a custom-built, steam powered locomotive that encircled his property.

Delighted with his miniature backyard railroad, Walt decided to share his love of trains with the whole world. The result was the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, a favorite of Guests since the park opened in 1955.

 

2019 UnMeeting Keynote with Disney Legend Tony Baxter and Michael Broggie

Published September 1, 2019 by Disneyways.com

Join me, won’t you? Let’s check out the keynote address of the Carolwood Society’s annual UnMeeting with Disney Legend, Walt Disney Imagineering Ambassador, and inaugural “Heart and Heritage” honoree, Tony Baxter together with Society Founder, Michael Broggie the morning of Friday, September 27, 2019 at the Disney Springs AMC 24 theater at the Walt Disney World Resort!

Catch our interview with Michael Broggie about this interview in podcast form HERE

Doors will open at 9:15 am and this address will begin promptly at 10:00 am.

When I first found out about this event, I skimmed over it, and assumed it would be held in California. Upon closer look – it’s happening right here in my backyard. I couldn’t be more excited. You read that right! You can catch this amazing panel in the Orlando area!! Event check in will be at the AMC Theater entrance near Splitsville (not the one near Planet Hollywood) and parking in the Orange garage is suggested.

Society member seating is SOLD OUT but general admission tickets are still available HERE. General admission tickets ($35) are available to all who are interested in attending and can be accessed from this page. And every attendee will be provided with popcorn and a beverage!

Even if you (not unlike myself) don’t think trains are “your thing”, this event promises to give us all a charming insight into what was such an important part of Walt’s life. I spoke to Jim VanOstenbridge – the event organizer. He explained to me in great detail that he hopes this meeting will be a stepping stone to more frequent Carolwood Society events. He’s inspired by monthly meetings that are happening at Walt’s Barn in California.

“Animators, Imagineers, historians, authors, Disney Legends, and fans come to Walt’s Barn to enjoy each other’s company, but really, it’s to spend time with Walt Disney. Diane Disney Miller, on the barn’s dedication in Griffith Park highlighted that “our heart and heritage are here in this place”. So, that’s what I’m hoping this group will evolve into. Not just a group that assembles with railroad interest, but one that celebrates the path that led to and through the barn and those who carry the torch to this day.”

Jim says he wants to do it in a way that helps bring people together in a real and genuine way. Who wouldn’t want to support that?? Let’s get in on the ground floor, together. All Aboard!!

More on Tony Baxter: This is a great opportunity to learn about the design and creation of the range of Big Thunder Mountains at Disney Parks around the world from Tony Baxter, the man who brought them to life!Throughout Tony’s 47 year career at Walt Disney Imagineering he made numerous contributions and offered guidance and leadership that is evident at Disney Parks the world over. Among his best known achievements is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Join us to hear the story of how this attraction came to life and how the distinct characteristics of Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris helped to make each one of these attractions remarkable in it’s own right.

More on Michael Broggie: Micheal has been featured in our series DISNEYWAYS MAGICAL SPOTLIGHTS: DISNEY LUMINARIES  You can read about him in great detail HERE!

The 2019 UnMeeting Keynote with Disney Legend Tony Baxter and Michael Broggie

 

More on the Carolwood Society:

The Carolwood Society is a private worldwide membership organization dedicated to preserving the personal railroad legacy of Walt Disney.

“We accomplish through our members’ love of railroading which is shared with everyone; to teach our children to understand the role that railroads served in building this great nation, and to encourage the continual appreciation of railroading.”

Carolwood hosts several members-only social events each year which have resulted in the creation of lifelong friendships.

Did you know The Carolwood Society has a membership program? Check it out HERE and consider joining Club 173! Same dues since 1995!

Follow Carolwood Society on facebook HERE.

Check out the event page on facebook HERE.

The following video will take you on a tour of Walt Disney’s Backyard Train Railroad The Lilly Belle (aka The Carolwood Pacific) as Walt himself narrates and describes what it took to build this amazing miniature locomotive. Images are Courtesy of the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

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