Merry Dapper Day: 11/21/2017: “The Wilderness Mus Be Explored”

I’ve gone on seven trips to Disney World in the past 2 years, and the one thing that surprises people more than, “and you don’t have children?” is when they ask what my favorite thing to do is, and I say, “Walk around Animal Kingdom.”

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My Disney trips have had me fall head over heels in love with the Animal Kingdom, and this was even before Pandora opened and gilded the lily as it were.

And this day, this magical wonderful day, had us (mostly because Juli is something of a genius.) really diving into exploration of the park.

We started the day in Pandora, at 8 AM sharp. We had a 9:10 fastpass for Flight of Passage, so we started on Na’vi River Cruise, which I really love riding, it’s such a beautiful and peaceful and lovely experience. I also love the woven queue, the explanation of the various animals you’ll see on the cruise, and of course, the incredible Shamaan Audio-Animatronic.

Then we did some running around and exploring, before our fastpass came up, and then we did Flight Of Passage.

I’d wondered if maybe, maybe I’d with the long wait, and hype for it, been overwowed by Flight Of Passage.

I no longer feel that way. This ride is exceptionally wonderful. It’s beautiful, well executed and didn’t even make me queasy this time around. Hooray! Then we stopped by Pongu Pongu, to get some snacks. I was excited to try the Lumpia, and I also grabbed the Mo’Ara High Country Ale, since I’d tried the Grog Ale last time, Dom got the Grog Ale, and Juli got the Night Blossom, for the Insta of the thing, and also, because it did not occur to me when I ordered it, it wasn’t yet 10 AM. (Our early start had my internal clock off by a bit.) Ah, whatever, it was vacation, if you can’t drink at 9:30 in the morning on vacation, when can you?

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Juli with her Night Blossom

The Lumpia is really good and I get why people were freaking out about it back when Pandora first opened. I’m a sucker for anything desert-y with a cream cheese base. I also liked the beer, again, I’m a sucker for an Amber. Though I preferred the Grog Ale. And if I had a choice, I’d go with a Safari Amber instead.

We then decided to begin the “Wilderness Explorers” part of our day, which allowed for much of the exploring that we did. This was something Juli insisted on, and she was absolutely right! We chatted with the Explorerer troop leaders in Pandora and took a boatload of pictures, before making our way to Harambe to check in for our brunch at Tusker House.

Tusker House has a mixed internet reputation but it’s Kristi’s family’s favorite and my friend April also counts it as a stand by for her family. Plus in these seven trips in two years, I hadn’t yet done a character meal.

really loved this restaurant. The layout is a market style for the buffet with lovely thick wood tables where we sat. And of course there’s the characters in their safari finest!

During the meal we met with Goofy, Daisy, Donald and Mickey. This was our third encounter with Goofy and we were thrilled about it. Specifically though, I was psyched to meet with Donald and Daisy, since I was wearing my Webby Vanderquack Disneybound this day.

The food is really interesting and cool, and we specifically book at 10:45 so that we could get a taste of both the breakfast and lunch options. Also, the drink options at Tusker House come from Dawa Bar, which means I got to have a Sugar Cane Mojito, which, as I’ve stated before, is my favorite bar made mojito I’ve ever had. (Disney is one of the few places I let myself have rum, because my opportunities to be ah “friendly,” the way I tend to get when I drink rum, are limited.)

Once we finished there, it became clear that it was about to rain, and we decided to head in to Festival Of The Lion King. Neither Juli nor I had done this show before, and I think that I’m going to fit it in to every itinerary from now on. It’s truly spectacular.

Then it was on to more Wilderness Badges, this time, by going to Gorilla Falls again, then after that, we had Everest Fast Passes, and completed those badges. It was then on to my favorite (very super favorite) thing in Animal Kingdom, The Maharahja Jungle Trek. Unlike Gorilla Falls, the trek is almost never crowded, it’s tucked back in a weird back corner of the Asia section, rather than in a highly trafficked ride exit dump, and it’s residents are a bit more subdued. We talked to a cast member about the tiger cubs. (I was really hoping we’d see them.) He explained that they’re not on display yet, as they want to limit human contact with them. Disappointed but understanding we were happy to at least see their proud papa wandering around.

We had a truly magical moment, however, as we reached the aviary. I’ve walked the Jungle Trek many times and never, have I seen this area so alive. Birds were zipping above our heads, skittering around on the ground and perched happily singing in the trees. It was exceptional.

Post Jungle Trek we headed to Disney Springs where we all did some shopping, and then back to the hotel, where we picked up dinner and relaxed in the room. (And had one of those quiet exhale moments that I’m so crazy about.) We headed back over to the park to experience Pandora at night and Rivers Of Light.

I was head over heals for Pandora having only seen it during the day. Seeing it at night just further cemented my love for Animal Kingdom. Seriously, I’m obsessed. Maybe someday I’ll have an Animal Kingdom trip, where I stay at lodge and only go to Animal Kingdom, except for one night when I go over to the Poly to have drinks at Trader Sam’s. (This is not a logistical reality, just something that I fantasize about.)

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Then it was off to Rivers Of Light. We stopped by the Thirsty River Bar first, where I tried to Himalayan Ghost, which is, I must say, incredible. I really do need to incorporate Guava Juice into my home mixers.

The show was spectacular. I really like it, and I think the only reason that it will never eclipse Illumiations as my favorite is because I don’t have childhood memories of it. (And for the moment, it’s sort of a pain in the butt to see.)  It’s so beautiful and interesting and well done and the song is great.

After that, it was time for our party to part ways. Juli and Dom were getting up super early to begin their drive home, and still had packing to do. The park was still open for about an hour, so I decided rather than be in their way while they packed to further explore at least in some fashion.

I knew I had a few options, but I landed on heading to Nomad Lounge and having a night cap, and then hopping on line to ride Na’Vi River Journey one more time.

Settling in at Nomad I had a Night Monkey and chatted with the bar tender, before settling up and heading over to River Journey, where I talked to a family as we wound through the cue, and then headed out to the bus and back, where I crashed out.

BONUS Departure Day:

I had a 9:42 flight. I didn’t book it that way. I’d booked in the afternoon hoping to get in a morning at Studios to do Star Wars stuff. (Juli and Dom have no care for a galaxy far far away and I wasn’t going to force my super-fandom on them) But, American Airlines changed their flight times, so, here we are. I skipped Magical Express, since it was picking up at 5:35 AM for the Holiday rush, and I knew I didn’t need that much time.

I got up, took some pictures of the room, and grabbed a Lyft to the airport and then it was home, with no hiccups.

Overall, this was an incredible trip. Longer than I usually do, and much more strenuous. Coming up later in the week, we’ll do a hotel review & favorites, and then I’ve got a special, things I’ve learned in my Disney Year post!

But for now, well, as they say, See You Real Soon!

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Not Pony Tails, Or Cotton Tails

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When I heard that there was going to be a Duck Tales reboot, my initial response was, “but why though?” I had fond memories of the original, but saw no pressing need to bring it back.

Then they announced the cast.

Then the cast sang that adorable version of the theme song.

Then came the panels. (And my new crush on Ben Schwartz. Did I think I would ever swoon for Jean-Ralphio? No. Am I glad that I now do? You betcha!)

Then came the double length pilot. Then came the Youtube videos, and now, I am fully 100% OBSESSED with this new show.

Here are some of the things that I love:

Genuine Sense of Danger and Adventure

Something I’ve noticed a lot since Steven Universe pulled me into the magical world that is superior children’s cartoons (I’m trying with Gravity Falls at the moment, it hasn’t quite gotten me yet.) is that I really love the “big adventure” feeling of the shows, that I haven’t gotten from adult oriented genre entertainment in a while. I love my Berlanti-verse shows, but mostly for the interpersonal dynamics and awesome casting. Once Upon A Time I’m basically watching because I have Stockholm Syndrome, I think? Game Of Thrones was never about adventure, but Duck Tales really is. Scrooge is dead set on it, the Triplets & Webby (WHO I WILL GET TO) are aching for it, and even worry wort Donald is exceptionally GOOD at it.

Voice Cast

David Tennant. Kate Miccuci. Danny Pudi. Bobby Moinaghan. BEN SCHWARTZ.

Obviously, Tennant is the perfect choice for Scrooge, the Scottish accent, the quick temper, the thirst to find something new out there. It’s all in my favorite doctor. (Frankly, Capaldi could have done it as well!) And it’s creating a new version of Scrooge McDuck that we all should be grateful for, there’s a playfulness to him that I adore.

Kate Miccuci is voicing Webby Vanderquack. You know…the girl. But thank god they’re doing more with her. Webby is enthusiastic, nerdy, bright, lonely, odd, and puts glitter on her notebooks, because it is both pretty and functional (she can tell when the boys have gotten into her stuff by their sparkly feathers.). Miccuci is a treasure, and brings a sort of annoying but sweet energy to Webby’s manic pixie dream duck.

Danny Pudi’s work on Huey has been fine. He hasn’t gotten his spotlight yet, but the sense is that as the oldest (by however brief a margin) he feels the need to be the responsible one.  His dorky sea chanty mix tape and road trip itinerary reminded me of someone…I won’t say who. (*clears throat, closes touring plans and stares at floor*)

Bobby Moinaghan’s Louie is also kind of great. Louie is identified by his brothers as the “evil triplet” but he comes across less as evil and more as lazy and little bit entitled. His attempts to teach Webby to lie are kind of precious, and his overall belief that as Scrooge is old with one foot in the grave he is entitled to a fair share of treasure is hilarious.

And then there’s Ben Schwartz as Dewey. Clearly, Duck Tales has decided to focus on the middle triplet. And Schwartz is more than up for the challenge. Dewey is frustrated with is limited experience, especially his Uncle Donald and Great-Uncle Scrooge’s attempts to further limit it. He’s teamed up with Webby to find out the truth about what happened the boys’ mother Della, and he’s just overall the best. (Seriously, his dance through the death trap laser beams in Atlantis is BEAUTIFUL. “DEWEY Dewey, how does he Dewey it?”) It’s weird for me at the moment because I’m also re-watching Parks & Recreation and being this endeared to Jean-Ralphio is bizarre. But Dewey’s done it, and Schwartz is adorable so there’s that.

So far we’ve also had guest spots from Margot Martindale as Ma Beagle, Jim Rash as Gyro (which teased the arrival of Gizmo-Duck, who we already know is coming, who will be voiced by LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, because God, or Disney, or whatever, loves me)   and Mark Evan Jackson (ONUS!) as one of Scrooge’s board members. I’m sure every voice actor I love will pop up at some point, and I look forward to it.

Ship’s Ahead! AHOY!

On Saturday, Crystan and I discussed our favorite game, “why am I a horrible garbage person today?” My reason this week? I’m shipping Webby and Dewey.

Yes.

I know.

It’s terrible.

They are cartoon duck children.

I don’t care.

They’re adorable together. Dewey defends her to his brothers when they think she’s too weird. She enthusiastically signs on to help him find his mom. I love them together. Fanfic will be written. Tumblr gif sets will be searched. Every moment they are on screen together will be analyzed.

Seriously, you guys, I’ve been doing this for well over six years, you get how I am when I find a new ship, right?

The Girl

I want to give special attention to Webby Vanderquack. I barely remembered Webby from the original show, which sort of speaks to her importance there. Luckily, in the spanning decades, many entertainment companies, and Disney especially have come to understand the market power of young girls, so Webby’s been given prime billing along with Huey, Dewey and Louie! Hooray!

Of course this is an action adventure show, which gives some pitfalls, that it seems at the moment Duck Tales is sidestepping. She’s still the only girl around. (Though her grandmother, Mrs. Beakley also there…) But, she’s not a tomboy. Her head is adorned with a bow. She wears a dress. She coats her notebooks in pink glitter.

She’s imaginative, a little naive, very eager to please and a total weirdo.

I adore her.

Overall, I really can’t wait until to see what the new series brings.

There Are Other Worlds Than These

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, which way to Never never land?

Emerald City’s gone to hell, since the Wizard blew off his command.

On the street you hear the voices, lost children, crocodiles.

But you’re not into making choices, Wicked Witches, poppy fields or men behind the curtain.

Tiger lilies, ruby slippers, clock is ticking that’s for certain. – “30/90”, Tick, Tick…Boom, by Jonathan Larson

Because of my foray into The Dark Tower (I’m through The Wastelands now, and it’s amazing, and I love it, and I remember the face of my father.) I’ve been thinking about other worlds in fiction.

I’m not talking about other planets, or even alternate realities. So that leaves out things like Mirror Worlds and Bizzarro Worlds, and even realms like Middle Earth, or Westeros or Tortall.

I’m talking about other worlds, that exist in some space near or in our own, and you access them through some sort of magic. I’m talking about your Narnia, your Wonderland, your Neverland, your Oz.

While I’m not sure if there strange desert world of Roland The Gunslinger is actually another world, and not a far flung future of our own, (NO SPOILERS! I’ve been spending the month restraining myself from Googling more about this series because I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW UNTIL I KNOW!) for the moment I’m treating it as someplace else.

Mainly I’ve been thinking about how you view those worlds as an adult, as opposed to as a child. The lyrics I posted above are from Tick Tick…BOOM, and are technically about anxiety about turning 30, which also, coming, and also, GAH trying so hard not to think about…although if in the next 6 years I can create something as indelliably awesome as Jonathan Larson did with Rent I think I’d be OK…I mean, not the dying at 35, without ever SEEING my creation completed part, but the writing something as resonant as Rent part. So much art about aging anxiety is about the destruction of childhood, and the wish expressed in “30/90” is to trade Oz for Neverland, as if one imploded and the other is just there waiting.

“Go on then,” Jake, the young boy who becomes the closest companion of Roland, says as he falls to his death in The Gunslinger, “there are other worlds than these.” Maybe there’s something about 30 that makes me want to seek out new worlds, or giving up on seeing them altogether, but this year has me being really introspective and kind of wishing I was someplace else. This is a general feeling, not one that I plan to act on and since the places I’m dwelling on don’t really exist, they aren’t really an option.

Emerald City’s gone to hell, since the wizard blew off his command.

 

 

Ever Just The Same, Ever A Surprise

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast is not my favorite Disney movie. I love it a lot, and I still think it’s one of the greatest examples of a film musical. (Right behind Singin In The Rain and The Sound Of Music.)  So I had similar if not the same expectations as everyone going into the movie last weekend.

I wasn’t disappointed. Baffled, unsure, and impressed, for sure, but never disappointed.

The basics of Beauty And The Beast remain as they always have been, but the new film manages to add wrinkles and twists to the story you know that are surprising enough to make watching the film engrossing. The characters we know and love are given turns in their paths and depths revealed in their wake.

If I sound a little too poetic I’m sorry, but I was very happy with this movie. I’m obsessed with this cast, with the decision made in it’s screen play, and I could babble on for days about the visual, but I guess I have to focus on one thing at a time.

Let’s start with the cast. Emma Watson is delightful as Belle. There’s none of Hermione’s intensity or bossiness in her quiet thoughtful French village girl, and that’s something of a relief. Watson’s voice is noticeably autotuned in spots, but when it isn’t has a lovely sing song quality that I think suits the piece quite well. Dan Stevens brings a mournful heartbreak to the Beast and “For Evermore” is an excellent addition to the canon of Howard Ashman penned Disney songs. These two were also wonderful together. Kevin Kline. I wish Kevin Kline were in more movies. The only reason I can think that he isn’t is that he is not inclined to be, because he’s ALWAYS SO GOOD! Ian McKellan is wonderful if underused. There’s a lot of comedy to Cogsworth that I think got lost in the more serious tone taken on the overall film, but both he and Emma Thomspson do exceedingly well with their limited scope. I would watch Audra McDonald read the phone book as long as she got to hit a few above the staff notes and the movie grants her that and then some. Ewan McGregor acquits himself well with Lumiere, the one of the servants who I think gets to maintain their original charm. This is probably because Lumiere is the most *ahem* flamboyant, (pun  not intended) his light (Damn, keep walking into those) is harder to dampen.

Luke Evans and Josh Gad are flawless and I want more of them doing musical theater. I hope this movie shows the mainstream what theater people have known about Gad for a long time. There’s more to him than Olaf, not that mainstream comedy has the kind of roles that really suit Gad, but he’s really great here, and Evans makes Gaston’s particular brand of masculine menace chilling.

The screenplays new wrinkles would constitute spoilers if I talked about them too deeply, but I will talk about the deepening characterizations, starting with Gaston and LeFou! The codifying of LeFou’s queerness is interesting, especially as it dawns on him that his adoration of Gaston is both troubling and misplaced, giving a comic sidekick an actual arc is something that I always support and it’s executed well here. Gaston is shown here as a soldier and returning golden boy who finds the provincial town dull after the horror and glory of war. Which is way more interesting than a blustering hunter and a good deal more frightening. He’s enamored of Belle not just because she’s beautiful (though that helps) but because she’s, well, disinterested. There’s an undercurrent of “yes, you and I are above this place” to his attempts to woo her, and that’s fascinating to me.

Maurice also gets a makeover, made less of a buffoon and more of an eccentric and it works. Belle and The Beast, both become wounded motherless children, searching for a connection anywhere they can find it, and it makes their romance deeper, sweeter and sadder all at once.

I didn’t love all of the changes. It seemed strange to turn the village from a quiet, sleepy, slightly backward hamlet to some kind of patriarchal hellscape a la The Republic of Gilead where women aren’t allowed to learn to read and if they’re unmarried or without a father’s protection they’re thrown out into the streets to beg. This seems extreme for a fairytale that’s about seeing past first impressions and I did feel the loss of some of the comedy.

But there’s something deeply instinctual about fairy tales, and Disney’s take on these stories that have been with us forever is so deep in the company’s roots, I’m not surprised that they’re able to execute things well.

Safety Lights Are For Dudes

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I was going to like Ghostbusters if it killed me.

OK, that’s not precisely true, but the only other movies I’ve gone into so aggressively hoping to like them were the Star Wars prequels and The Force Awakens, and Batman V Superman. Obviously, this does not always work out the way I hope it would.

But I did actually like Ghostbusters. I didn’t fall head over heels for it, but it’s charming, funny, makes excellent use of 3-D, and is definitely my favorite Paul Fieg movie. (I’m not crazy about Bridesmaids, I know, I KNOW OK?)

I can’t praise some of Feig’s instincts enough is this film. From focusing on Kate McKinnon, (she’s genius here) to figuring out a new way to use Leslie Jones’s schtick, to finally, finally showcasing the Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig as straight-women, to once again, the use of 3-D.

Rather than just using the technology to make the ghosts pop or add depth the world, Feig made the decision to use it as a gag. When a ghost ecto-vomits onto Wiig’s Erin Gilbert, it goes right at the audience. As the team fights a supernatural vortex, things fly at us. It’s goofy, old fashioned, and perfect.

The cast all acquit themselves well, but man is this a starmaking turn for McKinnon. Between this and the fact the she plays the Democratic Nominee on SNL, comedy nerds will look back on this as “the year of McKinnon.” (For The Record: I’m obsessed with her Hilary.) But the other three women in this cast should not be counted out, nor should their director, or their hunky, hunky costar. (This movie gives me DANCING HEMSWORTH, and it’s a delight.)

The original Ghostbusters shook the earth. This doesn’t, but it builds something new on those foundations. And I really appreciate that. I also really appreciate anything that gives funny women a shot.

Rankings!

  1. The Nice Guys
  2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  3. Ghostbusters
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. X-Men: Apocalypse
  6. The Legend Of Tarzan
  7. Finding Dory
  8. Independence Day: Resurgence
  9. Alice Through The Looking Glass

Comedy is kicking the butts of the superheroes this year. An interesting trend…

Trailers

Jason Bourne…again.

Nerve – I’ve seen this trailer a few times and always seem to forget about it before I write up. I think this movie looks vaguely interesting, and I’m always here for the Dave Franco. Less so for the Emma Roberts, but she’s good too.

 

As Long As You Love Them

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One of the best parts of the summer (for me) is that with my TV schedule being greatly reduced, (Even if it is clogged with teen super hero cartoons and revisits to Westeros), I have time to explore some of the more obscure and less on the Comic Con beaten path pop culture elements that have obsessed me over my life.

I’ve talked about my deep and abiding love of boy bands many times. And I’ve noted that I consider The Backstreet Boys  and in particular the vocal stylings of AJ McLean to be in the upper echelon of pop music, and that they’re consistently passed over as the late 90’s and early 2000s fade into nostalgia.

I often feel like I’m alone in this, and then I talk to other women my age about it, for whom listening to Millennium on bedroom floors and voting for “The One” on TRL were also seminal moments of tween-dom, and it’s certainly what the documentary Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of is predicated on.

While I’d hardly call the two hour in depth documentary a “warts and all” look at the guys, it’s definitely not as vain and golden colored as it could be. Exploring both the group’s rise to fame and their prep of a new album and 2014 20th anniversary world tour I was reminded of all the reasons I always preferred BSB to their glossy, perfectly choreographed doppelgangers NSYNC.

Not surprisingly to anyone who’s followed the band for 20 years…ie me and a small army of other 20 something women, the movie pretty much hinges on Kevin Richardson’s choice to leave and then return to the group and Nick Carter’s penchant for hissy fit throwing, but other elements shouldn’t be ignored. AJ’s sobriety is mostly taken for granted, and Nick’s not explored at all. Brian Littrell’s vocal problems could have been compelling all on their own, but instead lead to a confrontation between him and Nick, who feels no one is talking about how Brian isn’t up to snuff anymore. Howie Durough initially intended to be the group’s lead singer is sidelined almost entirely, except when he talks about how he was supposed to be the lead singer…it’s not a terribly compelling narrative.

But in the end the movie illustrates two points that are made in it’s first few minutes, “What do you do when you’re a man in a boy band?” which AJ asks the camera, and “We had some great pop songs and we sang the shit out of them.” Which is Kevin just perfectly encapsulating the thing that’s great about The Backstreet Boys.

Here’s The Sitch: Kim Possible Season 3 Episodes 5 & 6

This week has been weird. In a lot of ways. But I did manage to get Kim Possible in after all.

Which is great.

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Season 3: Episode 5: “Showdown At The Crooked D”

Ah, the obligatory Dude Ranch episode, the staple of children’s and family television. Kim, Mr. Dr. P, Ron and the tweebs head to Montana to see Dr. Possible’s brother Slim and his daughter Joss at the Lazy C ranch. Joss is wildly obsessed with her cousin Kim and her adventures. (Who wouldn’t be?) and while Kim is initially flatter she eventually finds the younger girls idolatry kind of difficult to swallow.

Meanwhile, Drakken is dejected after being turned down again from a genius society he applied for and has decided to take out all of the other geniuses by inviting them to a dude ranch…for some reason. The plan isn’t exactly logical but does provide us with where Kim gets her competitive streak from, as Dr. Possible is very put out he wasn’t invited. Of course, the whole thing was just to get the scientists to wear “Silly Hats” which make them act like idiots.

Anyway, in the end, the Possibles (and Ron) save the say, by working together and Joss learns that being herself is way better than being Kim. Also, that Ron is a better hero for her, for reasons.

Season 3: Episode 6: “Dimension Twist”

I love “Dimension Twist” but it’s a very dated episode. Drakken steals the Pan Dimensional Vortex Inducer (again) and gets himself, Shego, Kim and Ron sucked into the TV and they participate in various show parodies. Some of them are classic, an anonymous medical drama, a Friends send up, and Star Trek. Others, such as “Evil Eye for The Bad Guy,” and “That 1670’s Show” are really only funny to the early 00’s audience.

That said, it’s a very fun episode where we get some great action, and a good deal of hilarious voice acting. So there’s that.

Boo-Yas And Nacos

  • This is a big week for call backs, which is great, but bringing back the pan dimensional vortex inducer really is a stroke of genius.
  • There aren’t a lot of extras in “Crooked D” the Tweebs get some fun animation though, mostly in the background, and Joss is voiced by Tara Strong, because, duh.
  • To be fair to the pure dated notion of sending up Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, that show was everywhere at the time, even if now looking back, there was no way that was a thing that was going to last, and if you were to watch it today it would seem super mega offensive. (That said, I’m pretty sure I watched every episode)
  • The Friends parody, “Chums” is unbearable to Shego, she is particularly perturbed by the laugh track.
  • The best TV bit is when Ron is hosting a talk show interviewing Drakken about his book, “Well, I quite like me.”
  • Ron and Drakken also get stuck in “The Fearless Ferret” credits. CALLBACKS!
  • You’ve got to admire the fact that with so few episodes left the gang went for something this absurdly silly. And doubled down on Drakken and Shego, when they probably could have been checking in elsewhere. Cool Stuff.