Monday, June 30, 2014

Concept Vs. Reality: Animal Kingdom's Caravan Stage Marquee

   Disney Hipster Blog's series have changed over the years, which I think makes a lot of sense.  As our interests in the parks change, presumably our content would shift as well.  After the recent bungling of Princess Fairytale Hall's marquee I have become pretty obsessed with comparing concept art to the actual implementation of tangible objects in the park.  Hence our new series Concept Vs. Reality. 

   It might be easy to start off the series by looking at something that went horribly wrong, ala Princess Fairytale Hall…but I'd rather start on a positive note.  After all, we're rebranding hipster stereotypes…
   For our first post we're looking at the Caravan Stage marquee. This stage hosts Flights Of Wonder near the outer reaches of the Asia section of the park, moving toward Africa.  This long running bird show is needlessly corny, but also pretty amazing.  If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it.

   These images are from The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park and show a terrific instance where concept is translated pretty flawlessly.  The marquee is very busy by nature, but features the information upfront.

   Beyond the actual information, the marquee features a bird motif throughout, hinting at the show found within.  Notice the eagle on the pedestal as well as the birds on the rug.  The sign also features a few pretty standard Disney "tricks."  The poles tied together with worn rope, and hanging lanterns are used extensively in any area where a rugged appearances is needed.  For instance, this sign would fit perfectly in Advantureland.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Few More Details At Serka Zong Bazaar

   Back in April we took a quick look at Animal Kingdom's Serka Zong Bazaar, which is one of my favorite shops in all of Walt Disney World. My love for the store stems almost exclusively from its wonderful theming, and not its wares. (though you can buy prayers flags here!)  The walls are completely covered in ambiguously Asian knickknacks…be them practical or fanciful.

   These artifacts give the store a lived in feel, which suits the equally worn Asia area of the park.  The store does feel very cluttered at times, especially in the middle of the day when Expedition Everest is the main draw of the park.  Don't let that frighten you away though! Its worth a trip inside just to marvel at the gorgeous theming.  Here are a few of the more outlandish masks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shake To Randomize: Epcot's China

   I can hardly believe how quickly our shake to randomize tour is progressing! Probably because I've been having so much fun sharing these photos. :/
   Today we're visiting a pavilion that falls somewhere in the middle for me, as far as appreciation goes. Sure, the China pavilion is no Norway...but heck, it's not nearly as bad as Italy either.  

   The pavilion does have a lot going for it though, as far as being photogenic is concerned. The paifang gate framing the Temple of Heaven is particularly gorgeous. On this particular day I "shook" a simple classic Hipstamatic filter combo. The soft warm film quality really compliments the pavilion, especially all the vibrant reds.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why Disney Hipsters?

   When people hear the term hipster there is often a knee-jerk reaction.  For most that reaction is negative, focusing on the sarcastic nature of the proverbial beast. The majority of self branded hipsters are in fact sarcastic, ironic, obnoxious downers.  However, when starting Disney Hipster Blog nearly three years ago I felt the need to reappropriate the term for the better…after all, if we judge books solely by their cover then I am without a doubt a hipster.
    Assuming most people will associate my hipster appearance with the lesser desirable traits, I had to think long and hard about a more positive spin.  This is where art comes in.  After personal appearance, and being sarcastic jerks, the next most common thread in the hipster community is the desire to create art. Illustration, music, film, writing, performance…these kids love to make art.  Don't get me wrong, this is truly a pygmalion act of self love. Hipsters make art so that other hipsters can admire it…and the circle never stops. These incestuous communities are completely self serving. Everyone convincing the other of their own self worth.

 I blurred the line between my "real" art and my "blog" art...

   Taking sarcasm and irony out of the picture, the core of the hipster subculture is simple. Form over function.  Aesthetic value plays a role in every decision.  Physical appearance, obviously, but it goes much deeper than that. Interior decoration, which restaurants to eat at, what car to drive (or bike to ride…), even where to shop for groceries.  I don't buy certain brands of soy yogurt simply on the basis of the graphic design of the packaging. Its an unwavering principle that I live by every day, and yes, its ridiculous.
   As a young adult, living, working and making art in Brooklyn, I had no time for Disney. Though I'd grown up loving Disney animation my sarcasm had reached feverish levels to the point of not being a genuine person anymore. I couldn't talk about Disney without being a downer. In my head I was creating real art, and Disney was nothing more that fluff for the masses.  I was living for myself and literally nothing else.  I was the main paragraph, and Disney was the margin.  (I understand how dorky this all sounds, and it is…I was not a cool person. But what 20 year old is?)

20 old me playing bad music on the NYC subway...

   As if by fate, in 2006 I was dragged kicking a screaming to Walt Disney World.  The idea of spending a week somewhere that I was intrinsically against appalled me.  What was there for me, a self dedicated, skinny jeans wearing, form over function hipster at Walt Disney World?  I honestly believed this was going to be the worst week of my life.
   Here comes the plot twist.  I fell head over heals, madly in love with Disney World, to the point of being obsessed. The kind of obsession that keeps you awake at night, and drives your every thought.  While the idea of Disney being fluff for the masses is not far off, it also comes with a dense storied history and level of detail that I'd always admired in other companies. You see, if anything is true, its that Disney defines form over function. 
   This is where the idea for Disney Hipsters come in.  Take into consideration our form over function lifestyle, which places aesthetic value over everything else, and our obsessive love of Disney…who THEORETICALLY does the exact same thing. Also consider a hipster's penchant for creating things, we knew we had to do somethings with this.  How could we not?
   The Disney Hipster Blog (and subsequent podcast) has always come with the tagline "critiquing the aesthetic choices of the Disney company…" which sums up our endgame pretty well.  We have always felt the need to hold Disney accountable for their poor design choices, as well as applauding the good ones.  In addition to these critiques we also wanted to create original content as well, in the form of videos, paintings, music etc…thus strengthening our argument for our chosen "Disney Hipster" moniker.

Disney World gave me new things to be obsessed with…

   The only hipster trope that we do not support in our critique is rampant sarcasm and irony.  These things do have their place, and when applied correctly can be pretty awesome.  However in the context of examining art they only take away from what I want to say. Sarcasm can muddle the message and confuse the reader, which is never fun for anyone.  As far as irony goes, yes we can appreciate something solely because its ironic, a few choice lines in the final scene of Carousel Of Progress come to mind. However we never make aesthetic choices based on irony.  In short sarcasm and irony play a big part in hipster culture, but loses its value in the context of a blog…and almost always comes off as being mean.  Wanting to focus on the positive (towards people…not necessarily Disney) and wanting to differentiate ourselves from most other hipsters, we choose not to use these devices too often.
  Let's focus for a moment on why we felt the need to brand our online presence at all. For one, we've never felt the need to hide behind our computers. As a fan of the Disney blog community long before we started DHB I was always drawn to sites that featured real people, who I would come to associate with actual faces.  Not only did these blogs seem more down to earth, but I was likely more empathetic towards them when our opinions differed.  Also, we just love taking pictures of ourselves, and knew
that our blog would feature these photos, sometimes exhaustively so.

I mean, seriously we're adorable. How could we have a blog that didn't feature us
up front and center? ;)

   We also needed a way to separate ourselves from others.  There is no shortage of Disney fan blogs which seem to be on an endless cycle of coming and going.  Many of these blogs don't make it past their first anniversary, while even fewer truly thrive.  I knew for me to continue such a large project for any length of time I would have to be validated through readership. I also knew, based on my own reading habits, that the blog would have to differentiate itself for the others in one way or another.  In other words, I needed to thrive, and to do so we needed to brand ourselves.
   An aside to the conversation of why Disney Hipsters? As with any conversation about aesthetic choices, this blog is filled with opinions.  Our opinions are often times very well thought out, and based on extensive exposure to the subject matter at hand…but sometimes its a gut feeling. Simply not liking something just because its ugly is, in our opinion, totally valid.  Let us never forget that opinions vary from person to person, and opinions cannot under any circumstance be wrong.  One thing you should know about Disney Hipster's opinions is that they're never forced.  We would never dislike something out of shear negativity, nor falsely appreciate something out of rugged individualism.
   We have always encouraged an honest open discourse concerning this silly love of Disney. At the heart of it we should never forget that this is a hobby that we all enjoy. Whether actively as a writer or passively as a reader, we all get a certain amount of joy out of our Disney obsession.  The community is big enough for everyone, including anonymous blogs and branded blog personalities like ourselves. The only thing there is no room for is blatant needless negativity.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Shake To Randomize: Epcot's Italy

   Our Shake To Randomize tour of Epcot's World Showcase keeps chugging along! We've already "shook" Morocco, Norway, and Japan…and today we will continue with one of my least favorite pavilions, Italy.
   In my defense, I am trying really hard to appreciate this pavilion, but there is something about it that just doesn't photograph well.  Unlike some of the other counties, the grandiosity of Italy doesn't translate well. In fact, I tend to focus my attention on the smaller details. (i.e....donkey cart.)
   I shook my camera, and ended up with a pretty blah filter combo, which is pretty fitting I guess.  I do like the slight vignette around the edges, but HATE thick borders, as they tend to take away from the focus of the photo.  
   There is also a subtle grainy wash in these, most evident in the last photo.  These textures can be very hit or miss…but do tend to work well in outdoor non portrait shots. 

   The first two photos are great examples of the smaller details that I love.  There ARE charming parts of the pavilion that I love.  I literally can't walk past without taking a portrait with the donkey cart.

   But when you try an capture the over the top nature of Italy the photos fall flat.  Because the central plaza is so vast, its also pretty hard to get a shot without a million people milling about.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The OTHER Norway Restroom Signs...

   I spent an extraordinary amount of time thinking about restroom signage at Disney World last week. One set that comes to mind automatically when thinking about these detailed utilities are the simple whimsical set directly outside of each Norway bathroom…which we've discussed back in the day.  But the wonderful signs in the Norway pavilion don't end there!
   Here are another set of Scandinavian inspired bathroom signs…I guess people in the Norway pavilion are easily confused, and need extra help finding their assigned potty spot.  Anyway, I love these ALMOST as much as the figurative signs.

   The bright orange and turquoise go really well together, and I love the simple Scandinavian flourish around the edges.  This design would fit right in on one of the $500 sweaters in The Puffins Roost. :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ice Cream Coffee Float at Epcot's L'Artisan Des Glaces

   We can't believe how much we fell in love with L'Artisan Des Glaces when it opened in the France pavilion at Epcot last year.  Not only is it a vast improvement over the bakery that previously occupied the space…but the continued evolution of their menu is much appreciated.
   In addition to their selection of homemade ice cream and boozy ice cream martinis, they have subsequently added macaroons, ice cream brioche, and the item I'd been waiting for most…ice cream coffee floats.

   The ice cream floats, or cafe glace if you want to be fancy, is found on the temporary screen menus found near the register.  There is room for customization here, by way of your ice cream flavor.  You can choose from any of the 16 flavors available to accompany your coffee.  These flavors have stayed consistent since the shop opened over a year ago. Favorites include salted caramel,  coconut white chocolate, pistachio, and profiterole.

   I asked the lovely cast member what her favorite pairing with coffee was…and I was happy to hear her mention the hazelnut.  To me this seemed like such an obvious duo,  and I went with her suggestion.  
   A generous scoop of ice cream is topped with espresso and whipped cream.  I NEVER add sugar to my coffee…and don't drink sugary beverages in general, so I was pretty scared that this treat would turn me off a bit.

   Though it was a bit on the sweet side (I mean, ice cream and whipped cream…duh) as soon as I thought of it more as a dessert, and less as my afternoon coffee I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The hazelnut was a perfect counter to the bitter espresso…but I imagine the salted caramel and profiterole are amazing in this as well.
   The only thing I would change is the coffee to ice cream ratio. I'd prefer less ice cream, which sounds a little crazy I know.  But serious, the more coffee the better.

   We adore L'Artisan Des Glaces…the ice cream couldn't be any more tasty.  Adam is content having his coconut white chocolate ice cream, I love that the menu has seen changes over the last year, giving me reasons to go back every trip.  The cafe glace is a welcome addition to the menu, and I can't wait to see the next tasty treat is.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Cleaning BGM Tour Of The Magic Kingdom!

   One of my non Disney hobbies is cleaning.  I really enjoy cleaning.  And while I keep an orderly home day to day, I do dedicate one day per season to a DEEP DEEP SCRUB DOWN.  These are the days where I start to resent my rampant insistence on keeping a schedule.
   The day always starts off well and good. But by the end of the day I'm generally exhausted…but the rewards of a sparkling house ultimately make the whole ordeal worth while.  To offset the overall monotony of these deep cleaning days I created the SUMMER CLEANING BGM TOUR OF THE MAGIC KINGDOM!

   The goal is to be done with your entire Summer cleaning (or spring, fall, winter…) by the end of the playlist.  If you're anything like me, you will break the whole thing down into time allotments. For instance:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shake To Randomize: Epcot's Japan

    Two counties down, nine to go in our Shake To Randomize tour of World Showcase! It seems like people actually PREFER the photos when I "shake" a very stylized filter…and after a special request on Twitter, were headed to Japan, which happens to be just that.

   The Japan pavilion lends itself so well to photographs, its pretty hard to take a bad picture here!  With its over the top icons like the torii gate  and enormous pagoda there is always something to focus on.

   The landscape in the Japan pavilion is very detailed.  A rough around the edges dark filter like this combo makes it hard to show off these fine details.  But it does make everything look a little melancholy, which I love.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Importance Of Well Themed Restroom Signage

   One of the silly small things that helped get me hooked on Disney parks was bathroom signage. You see, as I became aware of Disney's attention to detail I noticed that it didn't end at utilitarian necessities…and carried over thematically when applicable. This obsessive detail enthralled me (and my rampant OCD…) and spurred my own obsession.

Norway restroom sign...

    At first I thought this might be weird, but as I became involved in the Disney blog community I realized that others share the same bizarre obsession.  In fact, there are entire blog's dedicated to the sole purpose of documenting Disney park bathrooms.  Clearly, they can be very special.
   But why are bathroom signs important at Disney World, but not in the real world?  Because we, as fans, would notice if they weren't themed.

Amazing themed signs from Yak And Yeti. These are painted right on the wall…

    It seems obvious to us who know the parks well that extensive theming is paramount to Disney parks.  If asked what differentiates a Disney park from a non-Disney park theming is almost always the answer.  I didn't fall in love with experiencing attractions, relaxing by the pool, or cult foods…but I am so moved by the ability of a Disney park to fully surround me.  Why should the most insignificant of signs be overlooked?  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Animal Kingdom Artifact: Pende Initiation Mask

   Expanding upon our ever growing Animal Kingdom Artifact list on Disney Hipster Blog, here is a wonderful piece straight out of the Congo!  Located at the end of a long hallway on the fifth floor of Jambo House we find this over the top initiation mask, made by the Pende.

   The Pende people are found in the south-west region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and are known for their extravagant costumes.  Included in these costumes are masks like the one shown. Made of wood and embellished with raffia, the person wearing the mask would dance to xylophone driven music.

   If you're curious about how amazing these performances can be, check out the video below.  What an amazing display.  

   This has become one of my favorite artifacts from the lodge.  It just goes to show that some of the most beautiful pieces aren't necessarily located within the main lobby!  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shake To Randomize: Epcot's Norway...

   Our Shake To Randomize Tour Of World Showcase continues!  We've already taken a peek at Morocco through a semi blurry filter combination…and today we're visiting my favorite pavilion, Norway.
   The great thing about the Norway pavilion is the overall photogenic quality it has.  It would be pretty hard to take a bad set of photos, based solely on the amazing subject at hand.  But lets see what shake to randomize had in store for us this day...

   Whoa! Actually not that bad right?  One of the easiest ways to get out of a proverbial photo rut is too change up the tonality of a set.  Here the overall cast is vibrant red with a golden yellow wash.  We're getting most of the effect from the lens, while the film remains neutral.  Sometimes simple is much much more appropriate.

Monday, June 2, 2014

An Evening Ride On The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover

   We have never been big on point of view Disney attraction videos.  Sure, I watch them from time to time…usually when I'm drinking away my sorrow, but for the most part they're never that great.  There is one huge exception to the rule, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover.  Yes, something about POV videos of the TTA helps relax me.  In particular, videos shot in the evening are particularly relaxing.
   With a lengthy summer refurbishment at hand, I thought I would provide a point of view video to help ease the pain of Peoplemover withdrawal.

   What is it about the TTA that has a therapeutic effect?  Maybe the fact that its a slow, steady, and long attraction that reminds me of resting my feet?  Hmmm… regardless of the theory behind it, I decided to shoot my own point of view video back in February.  This video is best viewed on your television, at night, with a glass of strong beer.

   Now don't you feel better already? I seriously could watch this video all day.  The things I would do to spend the evening in the Magic Kingdom tonight. :/