Floyd Norman: A Disney Legend’s Animated Life

What would you give to spend an evening with a Disney Legend – an animator, a story artist who was hand-picked by Walt Disney himself, a creative mastermind and self-dubbed ‘troublemaker’?  Floyd Norman is all of these.  He was also the first African-American artist to work at Walt Disney Productions.

We gathered at nine in the evening during Comic-Con to celebrate the amazing story of Floyd Norman’s career.  His many adventures are featured in the new documentary Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, co-directed by Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey (opens August 26, 2016).  Fiore and Sharkey were the acclaimed team behind the Drew Struzan documentary (Drew: The Man Behind the Poster,2013).

(This article was originally published on August 18, 2016 after San Diego Comic-Con, on LaughingPlace.com. )

Distinguished Panel Members – Contributors in the Documentary

The panel member list read like a list of “Who’s Who” in entertainment.

Front Row: Adrienne Norman, Leo Sullivan, Leonard Maltin, Gary Trousdale, Don Hahn, Jane Baer

Back Row: Floyd Norman, Nirali Somaia, Ryan Shore, Erik Sharkey, Michael Fiore, Ken Mitchroney

Floyd Norman – as himself.

Adrienne Norman – Art director at Disney. Senior artist, digital paint for Disney Publishing group. Photographer. Disney consumer products.  Married to Floyd Norman.

Leo Sullivan – Layout artist, collaborator and partner with Floyd Norman in their independent production studio, Vignette Films, in addition to other animation credits (Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert, Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures).

Leonard Maltin – legendary film critic and historian, reviewed films for 30 years on Entertainment Tonight, creative force behind the Walt Disney Treasures series.  Teaches in the School of Cinema at the University of Southern California.

Continue reading Floyd Norman: A Disney Legend’s Animated Life

Alice Through the Looking Glass: Using “Previs” and “Postvis” in VFX Filmmaking

One of the opening panels at San Diego Comic-Con featured the visual effects team that created Alice Through the Looking Glass, set in the world of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010).  Ed W. Marsh (VFX Editor and Stereoscopic Supervisor) and HALON Entertainment’s Tefft Smith II shared their filmmaking experience in the panel: “Feed Your Head: The VFX of Alice Through the Looking Glass.”  I was also privileged to sit down with them after the panel.

(This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com on August 1, 2016)

Director James Bobin (The Muppets) brings us the story of Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland), based on the original characters by Lewis Caroll, set three years after the last film.  Alice is an accomplished sea Captain escaping pirates, but returns to London to find that the world still will not accept her for who she is.

Alice is called by Absolem (Alan Rickman, Harry Potter), the blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly, to help Tarrant Hightopp, “the Hatter” (Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean).  “You’ve been gone too long, Alice.  There are matters which might benefit from your attention.  Friends cannot be neglected…hurry.”

Continue reading Alice Through the Looking Glass: Using “Previs” and “Postvis” in VFX Filmmaking

Runway Success at Her Universe Fashion Show, Comic-Con

The world of Geek Fashion has blossomed, thanks in big part to Ashley Eckstein and Her Universe.  This was my article published July 29, 2016 on LaughingPlace.com reporting from San Diego Comic-Con’s Her Universe Fashion Show!

her-universe-fashion-show-runway-2016

The third annual Her Universe Fashion Show was an absolute runway success at Comic-Con 2016. Growing each year, the Her Universe Fashion Show returned with 27 Finalists premiering their Geek Couture gowns to a packed ballroom at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on July 21, 2016.

For the first time, the entire audition-to-runway process was recorded as a docu-series on Comic-Con HQ, a novel video-on-demand channel.  Also new this year was also an open call audition at Hollywood & Highland a few months before Comic-Con.  Contestants had an opportunity to present their designs, explaining their ideas in front of the panel of judges.

This year’s Fashion Show was a joint effort between Her Universe, Hot Topic, Blondie Girl Productions, Espionage Cosmetics, and Comic-Con HQ.

“27 contestants. 4 weeks. 1 dream.”

all-finalists-on-stage-2016

Winners of the Fashion Show receive an opportunity to develop their own fangirl clothing line in collaboration with Her Universe, to be sold exclusively at Hot Topic stores nationwide.

In previous years, there were two winners of each fashion show: one Judges’ Choice, and one Audience Choice.  This year, a third winner was announced on July 28, 2016, based on voting online with Comic-Con HQ.

Meet Ashley Eckstein, Founder of Her Universe.

Ashley Eckstein has been a popular on-screen and voice actor, with screen credits including Muffy from That’s So Raven, and Ahsoka from Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.  During recording for Clone Wars, Ashley noticed that there really wasn’t anything for her to wear except for boys’ T-shirts when she wanted to show her fandom.

ashley-signing-at-sw-celebration

Ashley set out to create a Star Wars clothing line for women, and pitched this idea to Lucasfilm, who turned her down. She did not have enough experience creating a clothing line.

This did not discourage our favorite Fangirl.  Ashley did her research, partnered with The Araca Group (a merchandising and production firm), and pitched her idea again.  In 2010, Lucasfilm granted Her Universe a license.

Continue reading Runway Success at Her Universe Fashion Show, Comic-Con

Moana Sails Into San Diego Comic-Con, and Into Our Hearts (Part 2)

Moana is the first Polynesian Princess to join the Disney ohana.  Director and Producer team Ron Clements and John Musker (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog) were joined by screenwriter Jared Bush (Zootopia), co-head of Animation Amy Smeed (Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6), and producer Osnat Shurer (Pixar shorts) on the “Moana: Art of Story” panel July 21, 2016 at San Diego Comic Con.

Moana Panel at SDCC 2016
Moana Panel at SDCC 2016

In Part One of this article, we learned about the story of Moana, as she set off on an epic journey to save her people from the darkness caused by Maui.  We also learned about the research that directors Ron and John did to create an authentic Polynesian story.

In this article, we will explore the main characters in depth, as well as the authentic Polynesian details that truly distinguish this film.

(This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com on July 28, 2016).  

Demi-God Maui

Maui is the demi-god of the wind and the sea, self-dubbed the “greatest demi-god in all the Pacific Islands” and the “hero of man.”

DWAYNE JOHNSON (“Central Intelligence”) voices MAUI—half god, half mortal, all awesome. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
DWAYNE JOHNSON (“Central Intelligence”) voices MAUI—half god, half mortal, all awesome. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Maui is a shape shifter, and wields his magical fishhook: ‘he slowed down the sun, pulled islands out of the sea, battled monsters.’ He has a bit of an ego too, carving his autograph on canoe paddles with a heart and a hook.

All this does not impress Moana, as she is on a quest to get Maui to restore the heart of ‘Te Fiki.’  Maui is surprised to find that he is inadvertently the ‘bad guy.’  By stealing the heart of ‘Te Fiki,’ he had caused a darkness to spread across the seas.

Maui goes shirtless through the film, which made modeling accurate muscle movements an important aspect of his character development.  He sports tribal tattoos all over his body that “tell of his exploits.”  He literally can “give you his backstory” says producer Shurer.

Continue reading Moana Sails Into San Diego Comic-Con, and Into Our Hearts (Part 2)

Moana Sails Into San Diego Comic Con, and Into Our Hearts (Part 1)

 

Moana is the first Polynesian Princess to join the Disney ohana.  Director and Producer team Ron Clements and John Musker (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog) were joined by screenwriter Jared Bush (Zootopia), co-head of Animation Amy Smeed (Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6), and producer Osnat Shurer (Pixar shorts) on the “Moana: Art of Story” panel July 21, 2016 at San Diego Comic-Con.

Moana Panel, San Diego Comic-Con
Moana Panel, San Diego Comic-Con

We were lucky to get a closer glimpse into the next Disney Animated Feature, Moana.

(This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com on July 27, 2016 as part of our Comic-Con coverage)

The Story of Moana

“Three thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one knows why.”

This is a tale of how Polynesians came to navigate across the seas again, and how one person made a difference.

AULI‘I CRAVALHO lends her voice to the title character, MOANA, a teenager who dreams of becoming a master wayfinder. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
AULI‘I CRAVALHO lends her voice to the title character, MOANA, a teenager who dreams of becoming a master wayfinder. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Princess Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho) is the 16-year old daughter of Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison, Jango Fett, Star Wars).  She is strong, independent-minded, “spitting vinegar” and a bit of a “Bada$$” as described by our panel.

TEMUERA MORRISON (“Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,” “Once Were Warriors,” “Six Days, Seven Nights”) voices Moana’s father, CHIEF TUI, the gregarious and well-respected leader of the people of Motunui Island. NICOLE SCHERZINGER (Grammy®-nominated singer, West End's "Cats") voices Moana’s mother, SINA, who always has her daughter’s back. Playful, sharp and strong-willed, Sina appreciates Moana’s longing to be on the water, but also wants to protect her daughter from the fabled dangers beyond the reef. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.
TEMUERA MORRISON (“Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”) voices Moana’s father, CHIEF TUI.  NICOLE SCHERZINGER (Grammy®-nominated singer, West End’s “Cats”) voices Moana’s mother, SINA.  ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

With generations of sea-faring ancestry, Moana cannot resist the call of the ocean, despite her father’s decree that “no one goes beyond the reef.”

Continue reading Moana Sails Into San Diego Comic Con, and Into Our Hearts (Part 1)

Star Wars Celebration Europe: A Closer Look at Rogue One

This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on July 25, 2016.

Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 is in the books, but the shockwaves are still resonating like an ion cannon.  Lucasfilm shared their latest news with fans from around the world who congregated in London July 15-17, 2016 for a Celebration to be remembered.

Star Wars Celebration Europe after Rogue One Panel
Star Wars Celebration Europe Rogue One Panel

Rogue One was certainly THE highly-anticipated panel, and Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm and Rogue One Producer) did not disappoint.  Accompanied by Gareth Edwards (Director), Kiri Hart (Head of Story, LFL), and John Knoll (Executive Producer), Kathy welcomed us to the new world of stand-alone Star Wars films.

Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma, and our host for this panel) opened with a moment of silence for the lives lost the night before in the terror attack in Nice, France.

Rogue One, the first stand-alone Star Wars film.

The production team was initially concerned about whether there needed to be more introduction for Rogue One.  It is the first of the planned “stand-alone” Star Wars stories (not part of the saga trilogies Episodes IV-VI, Episodes I-III, Episodes VII-IX).

From early screenings, Lucasfilm realized that fans understood immediately where Rogue One fit into the Star Wars timeline.  This is the story of how the first Death Star plans were stolen; many lives were lost to get this intel to the Rebel base, to set up Luke Skywalker’s mission in Episode IV.

John Knoll (Executive Producer) developed the idea for Rogue One as a Mission Impossible-style story during the filming of Episode III in Sydney.  While this story did not fit in with the live action Star Wars TV series planned back then, an opportunity arose when Disney announced a whole new set of Star Wars films.

Gareth Edwards, Kathleen Kennedy, Gwendoline Christie

Gareth Edwards, Kathleen Kennedy, Gwendoline Christie

Gareth Edwards as Director

Kathleen Kennedy described her visits to the set during the filming process of Rogue One.  When she looked for director Gareth Edwards, she consistently found him with “a camera on his shoulder” trying to capture “different angles.”  His style creates an “immersive” experience for the viewer unlike any other.

Continue reading Star Wars Celebration Europe: A Closer Look at Rogue One

Soarin’ Around the World: From California to Shanghai

First published on LaughingPlace.com on July 7, 2016.

With the Grand Opening of Shanghai Disneyland, you literally can ride Soarin’ around the world.  From Disneyland, to Disney World, and now to Shanghai Disneyland: we compare the three versions of this attraction.

Soaring Collage DCA Epcot SHDL
Soarin’ California Adventure, Epcot, and Shanghai

The Original Soarin’ over California at Disneyland Resort

Soarin’ Over California debuted on February 8, 2001 with the Grand Opening of Disney California Adventure (DCA).  The unique ride system, designed by Imagineer Mark Sumner, was inspired by an Erector toy set.  It was an immediate success.

Guests love the sensation of flight as they are raised skyward into the 80-foot domed projection screen, while safely seated in a theater.  The original attraction highlighted California landmarks such as the Golden Gate bridge and Yosemite National Park.

Soarin’ Over California ran on IMAX HD film until its refurbishment in 2015 with digital projectors.  The attraction building resembles a large aircraft hangar, built in homage to California’s record-setting aviation history.  As you enter, you pass commemorations of historic aircraft – the SR-71 Blackbird, the Bell X-1 – and notable aviators: Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, and Amelia Earhart.

Continue reading Soarin’ Around the World: From California to Shanghai

Answers to 10 Essential Questions About Shanghai Disneyland

This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on June 15, 2016.

Questions and rumors about Shanghai Disneyland abound.  As Disney’s newest theme park prepares for its debut June 16, 2016 there are so many questions still unanswered.

I was privileged to preview SH Disneyland in May during Trial Operations, and was truly impressed with the scope of this park (even after seeing all the other Disney castles).  Opening with five noteworthy E-ticket attractions and three stage shows, SH Disneyland is poised to be a key player among Disney parks.

Here, I answer 10 essential questions about Shanghai Disneyland.

1.      Why is there no Main Street USA?  When is the next Train?

Shanghai Disneyland is distinguished by many record “firsts.”  First Disneyland without Main Street USA.  First Disneyland without a train.  (Yes, in this spacious park, the train station was built only as a nod to tradition).  First to substitute Tron for Space Mountain. And that castle!

Carthay Circle Mickey Ave SHDL
Carthay Circle Mickey Ave SHDL

The local population in China has not had the same exposure to Disney characters that the Western world has.  Many Disney films were never released in China.

Chinese guests know Mickey and Minnie.  They adore Winnie the Pooh for being cute, cuddly, and red and gold (popular Chinese colors).  They love Anna and Elsa.  Other characters may all be new to the locals. Continue reading Answers to 10 Essential Questions About Shanghai Disneyland

Link to My Writer’s Page on LaughingPlace.com!

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for being loyal readers of my Blog posts!  I have been focusing quite a bit of my writing in collaboration with LaughingPlace.com, a website that focuses on everything Disney.

Here is my Writer’s Page on LaughingPlace.com!

LaughingPlace is a family-friendly, positive source for Disney-related news and interests.  This includes everything from Disney Theme Parks to films to conventions (like Comic-Con).

The Disney universe has expanded now to include Star Wars and Marvel as well, so all of these topics are covered at LaughingPlace.com.  Besides traveling, these closely match my personal passions.

TRON LightCycle Run at Sunset, Shanghai Disneyland
TRON LightCycle Run at Sunset, Shanghai Disneyland

I have been able to incorporate traveling to destinations (like Shanghai Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Star Wars Celebration Europe in London) along with my fangirl interests to share unique perspectives from special conventions and Disney Parks. Continue reading Link to My Writer’s Page on LaughingPlace.com!

5 Must See Attractions Unique to Shanghai Disneyland

As you may know, I have been publishing articles on LaughingPlace.com. This article was published June 13, 2016, for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland.  I am also posting it here to keep all my articles in one place.  I have included a link to original publication.

Around the world, people are eagerly awaiting news about Shanghai Disneyland, set to open on June 16, 2016.  Will Pirates live up to the rumors?  Can TRON replace Space Mountain in Tomorrowland?  What about that massive Castle?

I just returned from an exclusive preview visit to Shanghai Disneyland during Trial Operations, and this park will live up to expectations.  SH Disneyland will be opening with five impressive E-ticket attractions and four stage shows, many unique to this Park.

Attendance and expectations are anticipated to be high, and SH Disneyland is prepared.  Wide thoroughfares and carefully trimmed gardens make exploration enjoyable.  Ride queues are extensive and covered.  Soaring Over the Horizon (boasting a new film that also debuts stateside June 17, 2016) easily swallowed up over 2 hours’ worth of queue from the rest of the park.

Continue reading 5 Must See Attractions Unique to Shanghai Disneyland

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