My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 6: “So, What’s The Plan?”

March 25: “What Are We Looking For?”

While a day at The Magic Kingdom needs to be almost meticulously planned lest you find yourself hanging around the hub saying, “What do we want to do?” and then you wind up eating the sub par chicken nuggets at Tortuga Tavern and seeing The Country Bears 4 times because all the other lines are too long, trying to over structure an Epcot day is in exercise in futility.

So I try not to overthink it with Epcot. What I hadn’t considered, with Epcot’s COVID hours is that those first two hours walking around in Future World and getting all the rides done are pretty key in that lack of structure. But we’ll get there. I started the day around 8, knowing that Epcot wasn’t opening until 11, and knowing that I was just going to get a coffee and a pastry for breakfast anyway, I decided to take The Skyline (MY LOVE) over to Art of Animation and get my coffee and pastry there.

I love it so much. The transfer station at Carribean Beach is well organized and signed and my god, the ride from Caribbean Beach to the Pop Century/Art of Animation is wonderful. When you dip down over Hourglass lake it is just so magical. I’ve always pushed Port Orleans over Pop and Art, for my own preferences, as it’s usually not much more expensive, but I think the Skyliner changes that calculus quite a bit.

I got a coffee cake and a cold brew. (Me to the nice lady getting my coffee, “Is, is there almond milk?” Her response, “Oh my goodness! Yes!” I was so relieved. I don’t like asking for it when it isn’t clear, but not starting my day with a giant swig of dairy is much better on my stomach) I then got on line to head back to Epcot, and the line was long, it took about 20 minutes to board. Then the line to transfer at Caribbean beach was another 10. I was getting stressed as my parents were texting me that they were heading for the boat.

I got back in time to head to my room and get cleaned up and we still made out 11 o’clock opening, and I’m very glad I did the Skyliner ride, but I probably should have considered the loading delays.

We scanned in at International Gateway and got Mom’s wheelchair and headed towards the front of Future World. Unsure of what the deal was going to be with the wheelchair, our first step was Spaceship Earth, which has a back entrance and loading. We happily rode our time machines and then headed to The Seas, visiting with Nemo and then walking around the tanks and looking at the various fish.

We had a lunch reservation at The Garden Grill and then decided to ride Living With The Land before checking in. I love Living With The Land, it’s such a fun time capsule of what they thought they were doing with Epcot, and probably the last of that strange, boring and silly thought experiment. Then we checked in for a lunch at Garden Grill.

Mom had requested a character meal if they were happening. This seemed a good choice, with it’s traditional American Menu and social distancing wise, having Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale walking around on one rotating platform while we sat on the other made for a fun and more spontaneous experience than I could have even imagined.

But let’s talk about the food. My god, this is a wonderful meal. Roasted turkey and beef, stuffing, seasonal vegetables, a big old salad, macaroni and cheese, and then a berry cobbler for dessert. (Also a cupcake for the birthday girl.) All incredibly executed and served quickly and effeciently. Plus, it’s a slowly rotating platform and you get to see all of the Living With The Land biomes again! (Or for the first time if you didn’t ride the ride.)

After lunch we got on Journey Into Imagination and then Mom declared she wanted a nap/pool time. I was still raring to go, and decided to head back over to Studios to do some Star Wars based shopping. Wandering back into Battuu I felt giddy, and I headed to Doc Andar’s Den of Antiquities to get myself a holocron, and to pick up a couple of Kyber Crystals for Jess. She also requested a First Order pen and while waiting on line I decided to get a Green Milk. (I went green rather than blue because I will always pick citrus over berry) and then found a bench at Ronto Roasters and just, looked around and watched people.

It was pretty great. Because I was with company most of this trip, my quiet moments where I could just be in the parks were fewer this time. I do love them though. It’s a big part of what brings me back over and over again.

Aside from the rides and restaurants and good service, these are incredible spaces to simply be in. After that I hoofed it out to the boat dock, and waited a little while for the boat and quickly hopped in the shower.

My hope for the evening was to do a little mini “Drink Around The World” crawl, hitting Italy for Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, Mexico for La Cava and UK for Rose and Crown before our dinner at Chefs Du France. After a misunderstanding about timing. (I’d said I wanted to be back in the park at 6:30, which my dad took as, “get to the boat by sometimes around 6:30.”) ANYWAY, while I waited for my parents I decided to head in and check out the lines for the bars. La Cava was wrapped all the way around the pyramid, so I decided to hop on.

After fifteen minutes and finally hearing from them, I was only just in the lobby and we were told that because of a sanitation need, it would be another 15 minutes before anyone got back in.

After checking in with my parents, we opted to meet in Italy instead. Turns out Tutto Gusto CLOSES at 7. I was, not happy, to put it mildly. We landed on grabbing an outdoor cafe table and get wines from La Bottega Italia.

This is part of why I don’t make strict plans for Epcot when I’m with other people. (When I’m by myself it’s because there’s such a fun sense of discovery when you’re just wandering around) I always wind up disappointed and pouty. This is not helped when I’m with my father, who was trying to coax me out of my pout. I assured him I would be fine a minute, I just wanted to be disappointed for a minute and needed to rethink the evening.

We decided to keep the same trajectory, but stick with the outdoor bars. So after finishing our wines, we headed over to Mexico to go to La Choza De Margarita (good as an alternative, but not nearly as interesting a menu as La Cava) stopping to admire the Topiaries for The Flower and Garden Festival as we went.

At La Choza, I got the Mint Cucumber Margartia (delicious), Mom got the Mango Frozen and Dad got the classic Frozen. A Good time was had by all, as we perched on a ledge outside of the patio.

Our final bar crawl stop was Rose and Crown, which had no line and we walked right up to the bar, and then found seats on that patio, where we talked with a couple of girls about my age, who were visiting from Queens. Dad got a Guiness, Mom got a Harp and I got my traditional Rose and Crown Snakebite. Watching the sun set over Showcase Lagoon is wonderful, but seeing the braziers remain unlit hurt my heart a little.

I’m never going to super miss Fantasmic, I’m always happy when I go, but it’s not a show I go out of my way to see every time. Yes, I cry every time “Touch The Sky” kicks in while I’m watching Happily Ever After, and I missed that, but sitting with a beer in the dark in Epcot without the stirring strings of Illuminations (Or whatever Harmonius is going to sound like) really drove home how strange this trip was.

After finishing our beers, we went and checked in to La Chefs Du France. I’m a fan of this restaurant and was happy to return, even though, were it not for my mom’s birthday, I might have pushed for a different venue where I haven’t yet eaten. But we had a wonderful meal, complete with another fantastic server.

After dinner we contemplated our next move. It was just about 10 o’clock, and the park was open for another hour. I suggested we could either go on Soarin’ or, if we wanted, we could walk over to one of the bars at the hotels for a night cap.

“We could go back to Abracadbar!” Dad exclaimed, and laughing Mom and I agreed, so off we trotted, grabbed the exact same table and got our whiskey’s and enjoyed being in until last call (11).

I assured both of my parents that there was no reason for us to rush to Animal Kingdom in the morning, I was not interested in rushing to pack before 7 AM, in order to check my luggage and head to the bus stop in time for an 8 o’clock opening. We decided to aim for getting to the stop around 8, rather missing the opening for a smooth check out experience.

We parted ways and then headed back to our respective hotels for bed.

Tomorrow! We head to Animal Kingdom, and head back south.

My Big Florida Escape Tip Report: Part 5: “When Did You Last Eat Something Green?”

March 24: It’s a Small, Small, World

There is just no way to fully describe the feeling I get when I walk through the tunnel from the entrance of The Magic Kingdom onto Main Street and see Cinderella Castle at the end. It just takes my breath away every single time.

It’s just incredibly warm, and beautiful and intrinsically happy for me. It wasn’t different this time, but again, let’s start on the morning. Slept better this time, and met my parents at the bus stop. I was very proud of them. While we were late because of the bus, we were still in the turnstiles by 8:15 for an 8:00 opening.

My mom is currently in treatment for a hip injury and will be getting surgery this summer. But because of that, she can’t walk very fast, and she is often in a lot of pain when she’s on her feet. She really thought she was going to manage this trip but after being on her feet and walking all day on Tuesday she agreed to rent a wheelchair for the rest of the trip.

She really loved me taking this picture, I promise, she wasn’t annoyed by me at all!

While I would much much have preferred my mother to be healthy and comfortable the whole trip, there are some, let’s say, compensations, for someone in your party being in a wheel chair. We got to cut a few lines, got return times even though fast passes aren’t active right now, and she was in a much better mood at dinner.

So, we headed towards Adventure Land, stopping for some pictures in The Plaza in front of The Crystal Palace. We observed that those main thoroughfare Photopass photographers were not as frequently posted. We assumed this was to prevent gathering and crowding which made sense, but well, it was strange. Anyway, after the pictures, we got right on line for Pirates Of The Caribbean (wheelchair accessible) with about a 10 minute wait. Then Splash Mountain with about 20 minutes (Partially accessible). I was, of course, committed to my TouringPlans app, but after the “wait 2 hours for Tower of Terror” situation, Dad was understandably skeptical.

I always love this Magic Shot

None the less, we tromped past The Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain to walk on to our private wheelchair accessible boat on It’s a Small World. Then we decided to do Peter Pan and got our first return time. About 35 minutes later. We decided to head to Tomorrowland, and learned that you cannot have multiple return times at once. But the wonderful Greg, saw Mom’s Birthday Buttons and let us through even though we really shouldn’t have been allowed through. (Cast Members are always the best! But as I said a few days ago, we really felt so well taken care of this trip.) Then we headed to Buzz Lightyear, before walking through the castle to get to Peter Pan. That was followed by The Haunted Mansion and a snack while we waited for that return time.

Liberty Market is the best hidden snack spot. We got Pretzels, but you can get fresh fruit or yogurt, usually churros, and there are tables. ANd people just walk past it, which is silly, because at 11, sometimes you just aren’t ready for lunch yet, but a pretzel in the shape of Mickey’s Head will do you.

After Haunted Mansion, we still had a good hour before we could check in for our reservation at Be Our Guest, so we rode The Little Mermaid and got our return time for Big Thunder Mountain. The Seven Dwarfs line had grown to long at this point, so we decided to skip it.

Finally getting to wear this dress in the park was the highlight of the trip, frankly.

On to Be Our Guest! I keep saying that I don’t need to come back here. And I maintain that. I’ve now eaten at this place six or seven times. Given my choice from the big themed restaurants built in the 2010s, I’m going to pick Skipper Canteen every time, but other people always want to check out Be Our Guest, and I do love it, so I go back.

Mom in her Belle Disneybound

Be Our Guest is currently only serving their 3 course Prix Fixe menu that’s been in place for dinner the last few years. I understand why with COVID this was the right call but I hope it doesn’t stay. I was a big fan of the Be Our Guest lunch menu and for the world to lose a good Croque Monsieur is a tragedy. We enjoyed out meal anyway. I got the lobser bisque, the roast chicken and we all got the sampler. Dad and Mom both got the French Onion Soup, and Mom also got the chicken and I believe Dad got salmon.

Once again, we were treated to something special for The Birthday Girl, this time, an extra plate of the Grey Stuff, that we were all a little bit too full to enjoy to the full extent. We were discussing our stomach troubles when we realized it had been a few days since any of us prioritized getting some vegetables. So we agreed to order salads from now on.

But first, this dairy based sugary treat! Excellent for upset stomachs!

After eating, we walked to Big Thunder Mountain and rode the Wildest Ride In The Wilderness before walking down Mainstreet to head back to the hotel for a nap and some pool time, and we were greeted by The Dapper Dans beginning a performance from the Train Station Balcony. We were thrilled, listening to them harmonize and sing MOm and my favorite weird Disney song, “Walking Right Down The Middle of Mainstreet USA,” and it was just the kind of random magical moment that we’d been talking about how we missed.

This was my first real relax in the afternoon moment of the trip and it is one of my favorite things about a Disney World Vacation. I lounged out on a chair on Barefoot Bay, lay in the lazy river for a few laps, read about Francesca Bridgerton’s sexual frustration after being widowed at 23, and then grabbed a prosecco from the Market to drink while I got dressed for our evening at Disney Springs.

This is just a nice picture of my parents

I have to thank Jess for her reccomendation here. I’d floated doing either another hotel restaurant or Disney Springs for a light lounge type dinner this night, knowing that we’d all still be pretty full from the 3 course Be Our Guest feast. We agreed on Disney Springs, since it really is a place we know we don’t spend enough time on these trips, despite loving it. Jess and Alex had just gotten back from a trip and Jess clued me in that Jaleo, Chef Jose Andres’s restaurant offered some really great dinner deals on Wednesdays.

We grabbed the bus, and decided to check out World of Disney before our reservation (snagged last minute via Open Table rather than The Disney System, some of the Springs spots are on Open Table, so you should always check), but the wait to even get into the store was a half hour so we bailed on that, and took a stroll along the water and across the bridges to get to the other side of the complex to go to Jaleo.

This is just a fun picture of me!

We checked in, but it was still going to be a while for our table, and so we went across the way to Splitsville to grab a beer and wait, but of course as soon as we ordered, I got the text our table was ready. So we didn’t even get our beers. But we then were settled into this cute little banquet and were once again treated to a fantastic server.

So, the Wednesday deal, let’s talk about it. All bottles of wine are 1/2 off. We went with a Tempranillo, because, Tapas. And there’s a limited “Taste of Spain” menu for $40 a person. We did a 2 person take on that, and it was still too much food. So if you had 4 and bought for 2, you’d probably be golden. Jaleo is a really excellent spot and I’m adding it to my “you must go there if you want good food and to avoid children” list.

After Jaleo, we walked back over to the landing, and saw that the guitar guy was still playing outside of Raglan Road, so we settled in at a table, ordered some whiskey’s and sang along. Then we went to wait for our bus, and a nice bus driver even changed destination to get us back early enough.

Monday (I’m taking the weekend off)! It’s Epcot Day! Also more Skyliner! And a return to The Spires! Looking forward to sharing it with you all

My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 4: “TO THE SPIRES”

Alright, here we go! No preamble (Except to Apologize for the lateness, this took longer to write than I thought it would)

Tuesday, March 23: “Bright Suns, Traveler!”

I didn’t sleep super well, I was pretty stressed out about getting to Hollywood Studios early and also getting us on Rise Of the Resistance. I woke up around 5:30 AM (as you may know from previous trip reports or your own experiences, it is not really possible to get coffee or breakfast that early, I was able to MAKE coffee in my room though, so yay?)

Anyway, after drinking coffee and showering, and then running down to The Marketplace to get some biscuits (preorder on the app! As recommended by social distancing guidelines!) I set my countdown for Rise of The Resistance boarding groups.

I didn’t get it.

Womp womp.

Relaxing then, I texted my parents to check in on their timing, and was told that they would be ready to get on the boat at my “8:00 or I’m leaving without you” timeline. So I began walking over to the Dolphin, and got to their room.

We were to the boat dock at The Swan and Dolphin by 8:15 and at the turnstiles by 8:30. And thank God we were.

Hey, y’all, if you’re going to Disney World while the reservation system is still in place? Make sure that the reservation covers your whole party. Because our reservation just covered me.

So, we were then sent over to guest services where the wonderful Rachel did some clicking on her magic tablet and got all of us into the reservation. It was a very stressful and guilt inducing fifteen minutes. But Rachel was great and were it not for her, we would have had a much more difficult week.

Once we arrived back at the turnstiles and got through we headed straight on back to Galaxy’s Edge and got right on line for Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. I did manage to keep it together, sobbing wise as we walked through but then, oh, then we got to the room where the Hondo animatronic was talking to Chewie and I just lost my shit. As a Star Wars fan and a theme park fan this is an incredible moment. The robot is perfection, moving with ease and smoothness that is nearly human and it’s Hondo! Who doesn’t love that guy?

Then you board the Falcon. Mom and I were pilots and Dad was a gunner. We did not score well, but I did almost poop my pants when I learned I was the one got to “punch it” as Chewie does. Seriously, it’s a magical moment. The ride is, I agree a little bit too short and relies a little too heavily on the video game mechanics, but there’s enough good about it that it’s still super fun.

This is probably my 5th? Version of Poe. Sorry Not Sorry

After that we walked around Batuu, as there wasn’t enough time to get on another ride before my build a lightsaber appointment. We did a few Photopass stops and I cried a few times and Mom and walked through the market place, while Dad attempted to buy a coffee. (He couldn’t because Ronto Roasters requires the app, and my father does not put apps on his phone)

I love Batuu, it really does feel like you stepping into Star Wars and it’s awesome. Then my lightsaber appointment came up. Once again I miscalculated and it turns out each builder is only allowed one witness, so Dad came with me, and Mom once again went in hunt of some caffeine for Dad. (Wound up with a Diet Coke).

Saavi’s Lightsaber Workshop was probably the Galaxy’s Edge experience that had been most hyped up to me. Every blog praised it. Jess and Margarita both talked about how it made them cry. When Melvin and Lora got back from their trip, Melvin practically tripped over himself to show us his.

It did not disappoint. The Imagineers did a wonderful job of using that nuclear grade John Williams music to set you in the mysterious and powerful zone of the Force, and The Cast members guide you through your experience with calm and excitement.

After this we decided to grab lunch at Docking Bay 7. Mom and I both got the chicken and dad got the ribs.

Once again, a huge hit. The restaurant itself is very cool and full of ambience and the food is fabulous. It’s also a reasonable portion, which for a theme park, is a big deal, because you are usually either given way too little food or like a giant pig trough. This is actually the correct amount of food for a grown adult to eat. Fascinating and great.

After lunch we got on line for Slinky Dog Dash, and while waiting tried for Rise of The Resistance again. We didn’t get it. It’s fine. It’s a reason to go back. I really very much enjoyed Slinky, but I’m always going to like a Disney Coaster. I like harder and more intense Coasters too, but there’s something just so great about going just fast enough for a thrill, while also getting a cool view and something of a story. The final moment where Wheezy sings, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” is about as fun a moment as any.

After Slinky, we headed to try out Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. *Sigh* Here’s the deal kids. This is a good ride. The trackless vehicles are fantastic. The mix of screens and animatronic show scenes are great. There’s a really incredible moment involving often neglected Mickey & Friend’s character Daisy Duck. (I stan The Duck crew, but you all know this) but it’s not good enough given what it replaced. It simply does not live up to the magic and perfection of The Great Movie Ride, which, if it were in another park would have been considered an untouchable classic, I’m just saying.

After that we decided to get in line for tower of terror which was 2 hours and OMG, I love that ride but 2 hours is way too long to wait for it. However we were killing time before we headed to our ultimate destination, Oga’s Cantina. So it worked out.

But Oga’s! It’s very fun! I got the Bespin Fizz (I was dressed as Poe, so I got to rep my other fave, Lando, this way) , Mom got the Fuzzy Taun Taun, Dad got a beer. (Unless it’s mostly gin, my dad is not really a cocktail guy) We walked around and luckily stayed long enough for the music to loop around to the Cantina Song. I definitely want to head to this place with fellow nerds. While Dad was awed, and I am the Star Wars fan that I am because of him, I can only imagine how much fun I’d have had in this space with my friends.

After that, we decided to take a break, before dinner, our reservation at Toppolino’s Terrace at The Riveria, with a meet up at The Abracadabar on The Boardwalk. Watching my Dad fall in love with a Disney bar warmed my heart. I like Abracadbar fine, though it will never replace River Roost in my heart, it’s a lot of fun and has the location going for it. After drinks, and Dad making best friends with our server (AND LETTING ME PAY!) we walked over to get on The Skyliner to The Riviera.

Please note that I did not realize my mask was upside down until we were on the boat back

Is it possible to enter into a monogamous romantic relationship with a transportation system? Because I think it’s true love between me and The Skyliner. The veiws! It’s so fast! And comfortable! It takes you to International Showcase, which I love! Just, I adore it. We’ll talk even more about my love of it in a few days.

“I give to you and you give to me, True Love, True Love…”

We arrived at The Riviera and walked around a little before getting on the elevator to Toppolino’s Terrace. While I still need to check out Dahlia Lounge but I would pick Toppolino’s over California Grill, if I was ranking rooftops. The view, of the entire resort and even out to I-4 is incredible. The menu is limited but beautifully executed, we had some good wine and even a free champagne toast. (Those Celebration buttons really will do you good.)

After dinner, we decided to take a quick stop over at Epcot. We got on Frozen Ever After and then headed back to the hotels. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was nice to take a walk around World Showcase at night, and to have Frozen Ever After Knocked Out.

TOMORROW! Mom realizes not being in constant pain is worth more than her pride, we find a world of laughter and world of tears, plus Dad tries The Grey Stuff, which is as advertised, delicious!

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandalorian: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

In which all my dreams come true and my emotional reaction is much more muted than I expected.

She’s here, y’all, Ahsoka Tano has arrived in live action and while I was apprehensive about the casting decision here (not that I don’t love Rosario Dawson, she’s wonderful) I was vibrating at a frequency I can’t really explain to people who don’t know her and how wonderful she is to people.

So, we open with a scene of a shadowy figure running through some burned out woods and taking out motherfuckers with two white light sabers. It ends with Ahsoka standing before a Magistrate at a wall, who tells her that she’s going to kill her. Ahsoka basically rolls her eyes at this and disappears into the mist and ROLL CREDITS.

Baby Yoda is trying to get his little silver ball back and Mando is babbling about finding Ahsoka (Mando is all of us in this moment, and LBY is all of our friends who don’t know, nor care about Ahsoka). and when they land on Corvus (a planet I’m very into) they go to the Magistrate who hires Mando to kill Ahsoka.

He goes into the woods to find her and she gets the drop on him because she’s the best and they discuss why he came looking for her. She has a little telepathic force conversation with LBY who is actually named GROGU.

WE HAVE A NAME AND AHSOKA GAVE IT TO US. We learn that Grogu was trained at the temple but was taken away sometime before or during Order 66, and also after some Force Powers testing, Ahsoka refuses to train Grogu, because of his emotional connection to Mando and is fear of losing him. She’s been on that particular heart breaking, Dark Side leading train before.

She does however ask for Mando’s help freeing the village and in a badass set of fight scenes they do just that. She then tells him to go to a Jedi Temple planet and hopefully, Grogu can then commune with the Force and choose his path, and a teacher will come.

This teacher will, with all likelihood be Ezra Bridger, because, during her fight with The Magistrate, Ahsoka asks about Thrawn, and as we all know, the last time either of them were scene they were riding some space whales into the unknown reaches.

Anyway, the nerds were in fine form this time around, with a lot of screaming and talking about how much we love Ahsoka (because we do) and speculation about Ezra, and shouts of #NotAJedi.

I was overwhelmed by how good Rosario Dawson was as Ahsoka, managing to capture her movements and facial expressions perfectly. And I’m so glad for more people to know her and love her. She’s the best.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandalorian: “Chapter 11: The Heiress”

You guys are we all doing OK? I’m not, (I mean in general maybe, my OK-ness varies hour to hour at this point) but in regards to this episode and it’s bearing on Star Wars and Science Fiction television, in general, I am not OK.

I mean, I’m thrilled but I’m also like *BOOM* galaxy brain. SO, let’s get into the episode.

Mando, LBY and Frog Lady land on an industrial planet and Frog Lady is reunited with Frog Husband. Mando puts The Razor Crest in for repairs, and heads to a tavern to get some information on other Mandalorians and some food for LBY, now that his supply of yummy frog eggs is gone. The baby gets some soup that tries to eat him. (Star Wars is whacky) Mando gets a ride on a fishing boat that will allegedly take him to some other Mandalorians.

It doesn’t. The captain just wants to feed them to a sea monster and steal the Beskar. RUDE. Luckily, they are rescued by three Mandalorians jumping on board. They include MOTHER FUCKING BO KATAN! And not just a new intrepretation of Bo, she’s played now in person by Space Jesus herself, Katee Sackoff.

When she takes off her helmet Mando is scandalized and she and her two companions laugh and say that he’s “A Child Of The Watch” which he doesn’t even know, but they agree to help him find The Jedi for LBY if he helps them with a heist. Said heist is to find The Darksaber so that Bo can take her place as ruler of Mandalore again.

Cool, great, love it. We see a brief conversation with Moff Gideon and eventually Bo gives Mando a piece of information, he should go to a forest planet and there he will find a Jedi to help him with the baby. That Jedi is….AHSOKA TANO.

Guys, seeing Bo, and seeing Katee playing her would have probably held me over to the next season, really. But that we’re this close to Ahsoka made me run around flailing. Because of some family commitments I couldn’t stream this with my friends, but I did leave family dinner to watch them all get these revelations and it was so satisfying.

Bo Katan is great, I like learning for sure that Mando was raised in an extremist sect (this was always the assumption), and that we are likely in the next few weeks going to see live action Ahsoka is pretty much getting me through. (Having things to look forward to is my main coping mechanism, and I’m freaking out a little about the Holidays due to COVID spikes and also, my sister isn’t going to be at Thanksgiving for the first time ever and OMG YOU DON’T CARE!) Ahsoka is very important to me, as I have outlined many times. I love her very much. I’m still mixed about her being played by Rosario Dawson, WHO I ADORE, because part of what’s made Ahsoka mean so much to me is Ashley Eckstein’s stewardship of her, and my odd, parasocial relationship with Ashley.

That’s beside the point though. Ahsoka is about to enter mainstream, live action Star Wars and I cannot wait.

The Weird Bits That Made Me: The Rocketeer

Welcome To: The Weird Bits That Made Me, an expoloration of the idiosyncratic or obscure pop culture that I was into as a kid. I lived a strange suburban existence, with relatively young and somewhat hip parents and there were some real gems in the offbeat cultural stuff they exposed us to as kids. It hought it would be fun to once a week explore some of that

I’m not the only nerd of a certain age to talk about how the notorious Disney produced flop The Rocketeer, made in 1991 by director Joe Johnston, was a big influence on their taste. There are tons of blog posts and think pieces out there about this one. Mostly, because Johnston went back to the well in some major ways when he made Captain America: The First Avenger which I also love.

The Rocketeer tells the story of Cliff Secor (Billy Campbell, adorable) a struggling stunt pilot in 1930’s Los Angeles, who comes across an experimental jet pack, along with his trusty mentor and mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin! The cast only gets more exciting from here folks). The pack was stolen from Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn!) by gangster Joey Valentine (PAUL SORVINO!) who has been employed by matinee idol Neville Sinclair (TIMOTHY DALTON! Who we will be talking about more eventually!) who is actually a Nazi spy. Sinclair becomes interested in Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny, an up and coming actress (Jennifer Connolly at her absolute hottest) and shenanigans ensue.

It’s a great movie. Fun, and funny and grown up without feeling tawdry, with clean exciting practical action and a “Gee Whiz!” energy that never feels corny. Johnston really excels at this, and I’m 1000% convinced that fond memories of this movie got him the Cap job. There are quite a few beats reused. (It ends with a couple of kids running around the airfield pretending to be The Rocketeer, which made me laugh out loud.)

We also watched this movie maybe every weekend growing up. It was my brothers favorite movie ever, and I can honestly say, my absolute love of this movie, is I think a testament to how oddly isolated to my family my childhood was. I spent most of my time with my siblings and cousins, and so we liked all the same things. When I was a teenager and referenced something like The Rocketeer, and no one knew what I was talking about, was the first time I learned that my references were just a little out of step. And when someone did know what I was talking about, I knew they were a friend.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended one of my nerd friends Central Park hang outs, (these have been sanity saving) and I mentioned watching it for this feature and got an explosion of, “I love The Rocketeer” from a few, and then describing the flick, a “that sounds awesome.”

The Rocketeer is a great movie and I hope more people discover and fall in love with it because of Disney +. It was also nice to do a movie after having done music based ones for the past few times. (Most of these are going to be music though, probably)

Magical Movies Tour: Frozen 2

I have so much to say about Frozen 2, that I started, stopped and restarted, reworked and rethought what I wanted to say with this essay.

Did I want to talk about this movie is really, super gay? Did I want to talk about Kristoff as a model of positive masculinity? (“My love is not fragile” is incredible) Did I want to talk about Queen Anna? Or Olaf modeling working through an existential crisis for the children? Colonialism? There’s so much! It’s a movie that’s packed full of stuff.

I couldn’t pick so instead here’s what I have to say. Frozen 2 is very good. The animation is cool and great. The story is fantastic. The songs are very good. Idina Menzel, good singer. Jonathan Groff, also good singer. Kristen Bell and Josh Gad, do less singing this time around, but they also good. Sterling K. Brown is around too. He’s great. There’s not really a villain which is good because Hans might be the weakest part of Frozen.

I love the idea of Anna and Elsa as a bridge between the people of Arrendell and the indigneous Northaldra. It’s a nice piece of symmetry. I really love the set piece in the glacier that goes along with my favorite song in the movie, “Show Yourself.” I sob each and everytime I watch it.

It’s really a surprise that I’m having trouble wrapping up, as I am TERRIBLE at endings. And this brings us to the end of the road here. I have watched ALL of the Walt Disney Animation Studios films.

It was a very fun project that I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and found some new favorites. (Bambi, Lady And The Tramp, Treasure Planet!) But now it’s time for something completely different! I considered plowing forward with animation and going into Pixar, and I still might, but I need a break from that kind of world and maybe to feel a little more grown up. And So! Starting next Monday, I will be watching all of the James Bond movies! I think it’s going to be really fun. I’ll also be checking in with more of The Weird Bits That Made Me, and of course on October 30, it’s the exciting return of Fangirl Loves Star Wars with The Mandolorian Season 2. (Ahsoka Lives! #WheresEzra? BABY YODA RETURNS!) After that, The 007 Project will move to Wednesdays. We cool? Great!

Thanks for coming along on the magical movie tour, this was an exciting thing for me. It made me miss Disney less. (I HAVE MY TRIP IN MARCH BOOKED AND I AM SO AFRAID)

Magical Movies Tour: Ralph Breaks The Internet

I think you all probably remember from a few weeks ago how much I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, and while I hadn’t watched Ralph Breaks The Internet yet, although I’d attempted to a few times. (I started it on multiple air plane rides and fell asleep each time.)

I’ll say this for the movie, it sure does pack a lot of fun visual gags into it, but even, midday, settled comfortably on my couch, I was having a lot of trouble focusing on the movie.

I think the plot is perfectly solid, and honestly, I think Ralph and Vanellope are as fun as ever. I also like all of the new friends they meet. I do think the movie is maybe 15 minutes too long, and thinks it’s more clever than it actually is.

That said, each individual sequence is great, I appreciate the light Disney Princess parody and I really like the message about the ways that people grow up and apart without losing one another. Sarah Silverman’s performance as Vanellope continues to stun me, teetering right on the annoying line that she’s always walked so well. Her confusion and searching in this movie are definitely work the best.

Overall though, I just didn’t feel the heart in this one, which bummed me out because Wreck-It Ralph was so chock full of heart. I know a lot of people love this one and I just didn’t get it.

Next time, our final rewatch, we head into the unkown with Frozen 2.

Magical Movies Tour: Moana

I love Moana. I love Moana so much. Trying to decide what to focus on for this essay is almost impossible, but I’ve decided very specifically to focus on how Moana, the character in the movie Moana, goes perfectly on every step of “The Hero’s Journey”

Shall we?

The Call To Adventure

From the time she’s a literal baby, The Ocean is calling on Moana to venture out and save her people, she drops the Heart of Tafiti into her tiny baby lap. Of course we must first establish her normal life, as the chief’s daughter she’s learning to lead the tribe. It’s going very well.

Refusal Of The Call

Moana spends her whole life resisting this urge to go out onto the ocean and leave her home behind. She has responsibilities and also her father really hates the ocean. BUT, her island is in trouble and she goes into a cave and has a vision of her people’s history as voyagers and realizes what she needs to do.

Supernatural Aid

The Ocean itself finally sends Moana on her way, as does the spirit of her Grandmother, who passes away right as Moana realizes her true calling.

Passing The Threshold Of Adventure

I mean, she LITERALLY HAS TO GET PAST A REEF SURROUNDING HER ISLAND TO BEGIN HER QUEST. (To find Maui and replace the heart of Tafiti) Also, when she meets Maui and convinces him to join her

Belly Of The Whale

Moana fight the Kakamora, realizing that this journey will be perilous and not as easy as she thought.

The Road Of Trials

This is largely the battle with Tomatoa, but also the journey across the ocean, where Maui teaches her to sail, and regains his powers of shapeshifting with his hook. This is also when Maui and Moana fail at their first attempt to get the heart to Tafiti, blocked by the demon TaKa.

The Meeting With The Goddess/Atonement With The Father/Abyss/Apotheosis

After Maui flees in their failure, Moana communes with her ancestors, especially her grandmother and realizes that she is a hero and she needs to finish her quest. (I weep, and weep like a tiny baby.)

Here the hero is supposed to have a greater realization about themselves and their quest, here, Moana know at last, who she is and what she wants.

The Final Boon

Moana restores the heart! She wins! Also, she realizes that trauma is not the defining portion of a person’s life and soul, when she returns the heart and it is revealed that Taka is the heartless Tafiti.

The Master Of Two Worlds/The Freedom To Live

Upon returning to her people, Moana teaches them to voyage once again, and takes her place as the next chief. Also, Maui returns to his place as a great hero.

I left a few categories and steps that didn’t apply, but otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward telling and I love it so much. Frozen II also fits pretty well, but we’re mostly going to be talking about feminism and matrilineal lines of power when we get there.

Next time, I do my best to finish a movie that I feel asleep watching on planes like 4 times, Ralph Breaks The Internet

Magical Movies Tour: Zootopia

It’s kind of amazing that Disney manged to make a movie like Zootopia that is an entertaining mystery, features adorable and interesting animal characters, and is someone how a very effective fable about the dangers of both personal prejudice and institutional other-ing.

Also, Shakira plays a Gazelle.

I really quite enjoyed watching Zootopia again, especially in light of the…well, everything, lately, and I think it hold up pretty well, despit being a little on the naive and simple side. (But I mean, this is a movie where Jason Bateman voices a fox in a Hawaiian shirt, so we can only expect so much of it right?) I also appreciate that pop culture references, which aren’t totally glaring and feel relatively timeless.

What’s even more exceptional is the absolutely perfect voice casting, even using almost entirely celebrities. Ginnifer Goodwin and Bateman do excellent work as our leads, Judy Hopps and Nick Wylde, and I especially like Jenny Slate as the villainous Mayer Bellwether.

I also appreciate the way the animation and environments look, Zootopia doesn’t really look like any other movie and the animals are uniquely designed and adorable. I particularly like Judy, who really manages to stand out from the crowd with relative teeniness and grey and blue color pallet.

And did I mention that Shakira plays a Gazelle, because that happens and it’s pretty wonderful.

Next time there’s just no telling how far we’ll go with Moana.