The Mouse Knows Best Podcast

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday Movie Review: Toy Story

In this week's edition of Tuesday Movie Review, I'm going to review a movie that made a monumental impact on the Walt Disney Company...this week's movie is none other than Toy Story! As always, I'm going to look at the storyline, soundtrack/score, acting, and the movie's presence in the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts. So let's shrink down to toy size and visit Andy's house as we review Toy Story!

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On November 22nd, 1995, audiences around the United States were treated to a new story that would be treasured for years and years to come. With a box office of $373 million, Toy Story was an instant classic. To this day, Toy Story is still many people's favorite animated movie, and in some cases their favorite movie of all time period! Currently, it ranks 94th in IMDB's Top Rated Movies of All Time. Toy Story brought us many new things including Pixar Studios, John Lasseter as a director, and was the first feature length computer animated film! Toy Story is tale of Sheriff Woody and his jealousy of his owner's, Andy, new favorite toy, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. We follow the two toys through troubling situations, but in the end, they discover that they'll always have a friend in each other.

Randy Newman composed and conducted all of the score for the film, along with singing a few songs for the film and soundtrack. After listening to the soundtrack, it's easy to why many people consider this Newman's best work.The score is amazing, legendary actually, and blends perfectly with the film; however, the real work of art is the soundtrack including the iconic "You've Got a Friend in Me" (and now you're humming this, and that's okay) along with the underrated "Strange Things" (and now you're singing this at the top of your lungs, once again okay).While the soundtrack isn't full of amazing songs like Moana or The Lion King, the Toy Story soundtrack holds it's own against other great film soundtracks. So much so, that the soundtrack itself was nominated for 7 awards including the Academy Award for Best Music (Original Song), Best Music Score, and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

The cast of Toy Story is headlined by Tom Hanks (Woody) and Tim Allen (Buzz), but they are joined by the likes of the late Don Rickles (Mr Potato Head), Jim Varney (Slinky Dog), Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), and Annie Potts (Bo Peep). This cast is easily one of the best assembled for an animation movie and many people consider it not just Tim Allen's best work, but also Tom Hanks' best work as well. Hanks and Allen were nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best On Screen Duo, and even though they didn't win, it's almost impossible to imagine Woody without Buzz or Buzz without Woody.
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Tim Allen (far left) and Tom Hanks (far right)
Aside from the awards Newman, Allen, and Hanks received, Toy Story was nominated (and won) some pretty impressive awards during the 1995 awards season. John Lasseter won the Special Achievement Award at the Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Writing and Best Screenplay at the Oscars. Toy Story was also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical, the Kid's Choice Award for Favorite Movie, and swept the 1996 Annie Awards winning Best Individual Achievements for Writing, Directing, Producing, Production Design, Animation, Technical Achievement and Best Animated Feature. Everyone knows how great of a movie Toy Story is, but I think what is often overlooked is how instrumental it was for many of the films we enjoy today. Toy Story brought together Pixar and Disney, it gave us John Lasseter, and it changed the way animation would be done forever. But for the purpose of the blog, I'll only dive into one of those things. 

Without Toy Story, one could argue that there is no Pixar Studios. While Disney Animation Studios has produced some gigantic films (Lion King, Moana, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), Pixar isn't just some no name studio either. Films like A Bug's Life, Cars, Monster's Inc., Wall-E, Up, Finding Nemo, and Coco very well could have never happened, or not been as good, without the success Toy Story brought the company. To me, Toy Story changed the way I thought about a lot of things; like, I would never leave my toys in a mess after watching Toy Story and I would be a lot more careful in the care I gave my toys. 

Toy Story has a pretty prominent role in the parks, deservedly so. At present time, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin can be found in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom; however, the attraction is more based on the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command cartoon series, but if you're lucky Buzz can be found outside of the attraction by himself doing a meet and greet. Over at the LEGO Store at Disney Springs, you can find a giant Woody and Buzz made of LEGOs! Also, at Hollywood Studios there is currently Pixar Place which is a whole area of the park that is devoted to Pixar, but mainly features Toy Story things including Barrel of Monkeys, Toy Story merchandise, the current location of the Woody and Buzz meet and greet (which has arguably one of the best queues in the parks in my opinion), and one of the best rides in the parks: Toy Story Midway Mania! Along with these attractions, there is also a ton of places to grab Toy Story merchandise, and at most table service meals, you can request a Buzz Lightyear drink topper for your child! In years past, you could meet Woody and Jessie outside of Splash Mountain; however, that meet and greet no longer exists. In earlier years, there was even a dance party in Frontierland hosted by Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye. At present time, the only times you can really see Jessie and Bullseye is during the Move It, Shake It Party or during special parades like Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade or Mickey's Boo to You Parade. Coming this summer, will be the highly anticipated Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. The new land will include the Slinky Dog Coaster, an spinning attraction based on the little green aliens, and a quick service eatery called Woody's Lunchbox. The theming of the land is set up to make guests feel as if they are in Andy's Backyard and the size of toys. Overall, the concept art of the land looks very exciting and I for one, can't wait to visit this summer!

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Toy Story is one of the most iconic movies Disney has ever made, and there is a really strong argument it's the best Disney movie made. It contains everything you want to have in a great movie: lovable characters, great music, a scary villain, and a storyline that has your attention from the get go. I love Toy Story very much, and love that it's now a 3 (soon to be 4) movie series. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll do shorter movie reviews on Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, but this review was for the original Toy Story. Because of how great of a movie this is, and the impact it made on the Walt Disney Company, I'm going to give this my first 5 of 5 stars. If you haven't seen this cinematic masterpiece, I feel sorry for you, and you really should go to your local Target or Wal-Mart and pick this up!

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Kevin Scott is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. He is self proclaimed Disney addict and oftentimes annoys his family with how much he talks Disney. He enjoys walking around all Disney Parks and taking as many pictures as he can in one day. When he isn't at Walt Disney World, he is working to get back or re-watching Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars movie. His spirit animal is a mix between Simba and Kylo Ren with a dash of Tony Stark. You can find him on Twitter @doubleoh_kevin and on Instagram @waltdisneyduo.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Showcasing the World: Germany

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Disney Parks Blog
The architecture of the Germany Pavilion is designed to look like a small German town.  The Platz (the square) of the town features a statue of St. George and the Dragon and a clock tower.  Near the pavilion is an extensive model train set with a miniature village surrounding it.

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Disney Avenue


Originally, the pavilion was supposed to have a boat ride depicting the history of Germany - similar to Norway's Maelstrom. However, the attraction was never built.  It was announced in the Walt Disney Company's 1976 Annual Report that the ride would be "a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers - the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr, and the Isar.  Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks will also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral."  Although the attraction was never built, remains of the attraction entrance can still be seen to the right of the Biergarten entrance.

Snow White stands in a garden and looks up at the sky at Meet Snow White in Germany at Epcot


Near the wishing well on the outskirts of the German village, guests can meet the original Disney Princess, Snow White.  Occasionally, some of the Seven Dwarfs will visit with their Princess.

WDW Magic


The Margret Almer & The Bavarian Band are a German musical group that features the queen of yodelers.

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Easy WDW


The main dining feature in the Germany Pavilion is the Biergarten Restaurant.  The restaurant is a Bavarian-style village that displays flags from every German state and a running watermill.  The tables at the Biergarten are long, communal benches that surround a band playing live German folk music.  The food is served buffet style and features schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and strudel.

Only WDWorld

For a quick service German meal, guests can check out the Sommerfest restaurant.  This location features bratwursts, frankfurters with sauerkraut, apple strudel, and, of course, German beer.

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Weinkeller is a quick stop for German beer, wine, and cheese while traveling around the World Showcase Promenade. 

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Disney Parks Blog
My personal favorite place for food in the Germany Pavilion is the Karamell-Küche.  Werther's Original Caramels are used in a variety of treats including brownies, cookies, fudge, and popcorn.  This place will surely satisfy your need for sweets.

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There is a wide variety of shops located in the Germany Pavilion.  Der Teddybar is filled with unique German toys such as teddy bears and dolls, some of which have been inspired by Rapunzel and Snow White.

WDW Theme Park
It is Christmas all year round at Die Weihnachts Ecke.  Here, guests can shop a variety of German-themed ornaments and other Christmas themed items.

WDW Theme Parks
For handcrafted art, look no farther than Volkskunst.  The name of this shop translates to "folk art," and the most popular item in the shop is the cuckoo clocks.

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Disney Fanatic

Robyn Fleenor is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. She is an avid Disney fanatic and would rather be at Walt Disney World eating glazed almonds than anything else.  When she isn't working to pay for her next Disney vacation, she likes to binge watch TV shows and fall in love with fictional characters. She can be found tweeting at @rahrah6263. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday Movie Review: Moana

In this week's edition of Tuesday Movie Review, I'm going to take a dive into the newest film from the Disney Animation Studios: Moana! As always, I'm going to look at the storyline, soundtrack/score, acting, and how the movie is brought to life in the Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts. I hope you enjoy this as much as Maui enjoys saying "You're Welcome!"

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Released November 23rd, 2016, Moana is Disney Animation's newest film, and already one of it's most successful. With a box office total of $643.3 million, Moana shot up many Disney fan's movie rankings, including my own! Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the film is the story of an island princess who only wants to explore the seas, however her father refuses to let her leave her home island; but when the island needs help, Moana must leave and find the demi-god Maui to deliver the heart of Te Fiti and save her island.

Mark Mancina composes an absolutely beautiful score for the film, but the real hit here is the soundtrack featuring songs written by the talented Lin Manuel-Miranda. With songs like "How Far I'll Go" and "You're Welcome" it's easy to see why many people are saying this soundtrack is the best Disney has released since the iconic Lion King soundtrack. My personal favorite, and one that is often overlooked, is the opening song, "Where You Are." Miranda was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written For a Motion Picture for his song "How Far I'll Go." He also was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song for "How Far I'll Go."

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The cast of Moana features arguably one of, if not the, biggest name in Hollywood today: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Johnson would play the role of Maui, the demi-god, however it was Auli'i Cravalho who would steal the show playing Moana. Suddenly Disney had their Polynesian princess but they didn't expect the impact Moana would have on kids, both young and old, male and female. Moana teaches us that it doesn't matter who you are, or how old you are, you can still be the difference if you're persistent enough and never give up. Maui also teaches us that no matter what mistakes you may have made in your past, there's always room for redemption.

Moana was arguably the biggest hit of 2016 as far as animated films goes, which is why it's no surprise that it was nominated for 85 awards, and won 17 including two Annie Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Animated Effects and Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting (Auli'i Cravalho), the IGN Summer Movie Award for Best Animated Movie, and a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actor (Dwayne Johnson). Moana is deservedly recognized as one of the best Disney movies in recent history and it's hard to argue that it isn't. With a supposed villain turned hero and an island princess turned Wayfinder, Moana checks all of the boxes required to be a good movie: good songs, great acting, suspenseful storyline, funny moments, and a couple of tearjerker moments.

The question now becomes: how does Moana fit into Walt Disney World? During the film's tenure in theaters, and for a little while after, Moana had a meet and greet at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney's One Man's Dream (where Star-Lord and Baby Groot are currently meeting guests). However, as the movie hit the shelves, Moana disappeared from the parks. Until this past fall when Disney announced that Moana would have a special meet and greet during the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. As you could imagine, wait times were intense to say the least; with tops coming in at around three hours to meet the island princess. Moana also had a special meet and greet during the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party; however her wait times weren't as bad, in fact I was even able to meet her! Now that the Christmas Party is over, Moana has vanished from the parks again. But there are plenty of rumors swirling around concerning Moana and, not only her meet and greet, but also a Moana themed ride! This is something I can definitely get behind, but for the time being, I'll settle for the meet and greet coming back!

Moana was an incredibly tough movie to give a grade to, however I'm going to go with 4 of 5 stars because, like I have said, it really does contain everything needed to make a great movie. If it wasn't for other movies (that we'll dive into soon) this would easily be a 5 star movie and really, I think it's the best Disney movie in a long time and can really compete with the hit movie Frozen. If you haven't seen Moana, I would HIGHLY encourage you to get on Netflix and give it a view, and then go buy it because you're gonna want to watch it over and over again!

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Kevin Scott is a contributing writer for The Mouse Knows Best Podcast. He is self proclaimed Disney addict and oftentimes annoys his family with how much he talks Disney. He enjoys walking around all Disney Parks and taking as many pictures as he can in one day. When he isn't at Walt Disney World, he is working to get back or re-watching Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars movie. His spirit animal is a mix between Simba and Kylo Ren with a dash of Tony Stark. You can find him on Twitter @doubleoh_kevin and on Instagram @waltdisneyduo.