Episode 72: Catching Up

Time for another exciting episode of Beyond the Berm! Hang on to your hats and glasses!

Because it has been a little while since we have done a general podcast, instead recently focusing on our summer trips, we decided to try to catch up on all that has been going on lately, particularly in the world of Disney.

For starters, we discussed some of the recent changes, coming changes, and rumored changes at the Disney Parks. Guardians of the Galaxy at California Adventure, Muppets in the Magic Kingdom, Halloween and Christmas happenings, and some other stuff, too!

Image &copy Disney, by the way

Guardians of the Galaxy take over the Tower of Terror. Image (c) Disney, by the way.

We also discussed some upcoming movies and new movie trailers, such as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Doctor Strange, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Are we looking forward to them? Listen in and see.

Next up, we discussed the fall television season. While we largely focused on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., we also talked about some of the other shows we have watched, how things like Netflix affect programming, and the lack of standalone episodes these days.

All that and more in the latest episode of Beyond the Berm!

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Episode 55: Changes Ahead for the Disney Parks?

Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Berm! It didn’t even take us 3 months to get out another one as it did the last time!

Maybe you have heard rumblings about changes coming to the Disney Parks, both at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. Disneyland has committed to expanding the resort in some form in exchange for a tax break from the city of Anaheim. And Walt Disney World keeps closing things at Disney’s Hollywood Studios without announcing something new on the horizon. What does all of this mean? Listen to us as we comment on some of the speculations, and as we do some speculating ourselves.

disneyland 60th anniversary logo

In keeping with the Disney Parks theme, Matt tells about his recent visit to Disneyland to see some of the new additions and extravaganzas that were added for the 60th anniversary celebration. Listen in as he talks about parades, fireworks, and crowds!

Also, following up on our conversation about summer movies in Episode 54, we give our reviews of the latest Disney/Marvel movie, Ant-Man. Did it live up to our expectations?

All this and more goodness in Episode 55 of Beyond the Berm!

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Episode 29: Movie Reviews and More!

We’re back! Did you miss us? Beyond the Berm returns for episode 29 after a long holiday break!

To start off, we spend a good bit of time discussing the recent Disney movie releases that we have seen, which include Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks, and Thor: The Dark World. We also discuss The Lone Ranger, which is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray. What did we think about all of these? Listen in to find out.

Matt then tells about the holiday-themed overlay of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, known as the Jingle Cruise, since he was able to experience the West Coast version. Hear what he thought about it.

Up next, we discuss some of the rumors of possible additions to the parks, including a future Star Wars land, and we talk about the rumors that these rumored additions have been cancelled or delayed due to MyMagic+, among other things. Not that we really have any inside information at all, but that never has stopped us from talking about anything before, has it?

All this and more in Episode 29 of Beyond the Berm!

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Episode 28: A Few of Our Favorite Things

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the internet, Beyond the Berm returns!

To begin Episode 28, Matt asks a series of interesting questions about some of our favorite things, and we discuss our answers. How do our favorites compare to yours? Listen in to find out, and then let us know if you agree or disagree.

Next, Steve tells about some of the small touches at Disney that he enjoys, and Matt adds some of his own as well. Because it is the little things that make a difference, after all.

And then we talk for a bit about the recent passing of Diane Disney Miller, Walt and Lillian Disney’s older daughter, and we talk about the impact she has made over the last several years.

As we go along, we talk of traditions, tell some funny stories, and try not to talk too much about Christmas. Because Thanksgiving is still just around the corner, after all.

Come join us for Episode 28!

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Episode 24: Disneyland Half Marathon

Time once again for Beyond the Berm as Episode 24 comes your way!

As you may have heard us mention before, Matt had been planning to participate in the Disneyland Half Marathon. Now that event has come and gone, and Matt gives us an informative look back at his experience with the race. Way to go!

Up next, Steve mentions the schedule change taking the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie off the summer 2015 calendar, and we discuss how this may have been influenced by The Lone Ranger, among other things. And we take a look back at the summer box office results as well.

Happy Halloween! Yes, it is still only mid-September, but you wouldn’t know it at the Disney parks. We talk a bit about how Halloween has become a major event at Disney.

All this and more at Episode 24 of Beyond the Berm!

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Episode 19: Disney Cruise Line

Welcome back to another fun-filled episode of Beyond the Berm! And we are all the way up to Episode 19. Where does the time go?

For starters, Matt talked about Chelsea’s piano recital, which included some Disney songs. And he also talked about the newest Circle Sessions album, featuring music from the Carthay Circle theater at Disney California Adventure.

Up next, Steve mentioned his recent Disney cruise on the Disney Dream, and there was quite a bit of Disney cruise discussion. Both of us have been on Disney cruises, and we have both enjoyed them greatly. The discussion here includes tips, memories, show reviews, food reviews, and more.

To see photos from Steve’s recent cruise, be sure to check the Disney Cruise 2013 section of The Adventures of Steve at Burnsland.com.

Be sure to hear all the fun in Episode 19!

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Episode 16: Animal Kingdom, Mystic Manor, Playhouse Disney, and more

Beyond the Berm is back (and alliterative) with Episode 16!

We start things off with a quick quiz related to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Oops, I just gave away the answer to the first question. Anyway, in honor of the park’s 15th anniversary, we take a few minutes to discuss some different aspects of it.

Next, we tackle Mystic Manor, the newest attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. It is reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and several other attractions, and yet it is completely different. Here is a video from YouTube so that you will know what we are talking about:

We also discussed the super size projection of Mike Wazowski from Monsters University onto Spaceship Earth, which turned out to be for the Monstrous Summer media announcement, which was taking place at the same time as our podcast recording. I guess we weren’t invited to the big party. Here is a video of the announcement, also at YouTube:

And for more musings, Matt talked about visiting the latest incarnation of the Playhouse Disney show at Disney California Adventure, and we talked about some of the safety issues that are being worked out at the Disneyland Resort, too.

Okay, so maybe alliteration isn’t always our strong point. But hey, it helped to tie everything together. Be sure and join us for Beyond the Berm Episode 16!

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Matt’s Top Disney Photography

In Episode 13, we talked a bit about our enjoyment of taking photographs at the Disney theme parks.  We mentioned that we’d be sharing some of our favorite shots here on the blog because, well, if pictures are a thousand words, we would have been talking for quite a bit more time than our podcast would allow to describe them all.  Besides, photos are meant to be a feast for the eyes, not the ears.

It wasn’t easy narrowing down the images I wanted to share.  I was planning on only doing my favorite 5 but I’ve expanded that to my Top 10.  I’ll describe a bit why I chose each particular image and perhaps give a bit of detail.  Feel free to click each one for a larger size than what is displayed here …

BTB1301This was the photo I talked about on the podcast as being both my best and my favorite.  It is also considered my most “interesting” by way of Flickr’s algorithms.  I was interested in getting a nice nighttime image of one of the most photographic vistas at Disney’s California Adventure so I brought my tripod and my Nikon Coolpix 5700 camera and played with the manual settings a bit to produce this.  I did very little post-processing — this image is very near SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) as any image I’ve taken.  I love the brilliant colors of Paradise Pier contrasting with the black night sky and reflected in Paradise Bay.  I was really pleased with how this came out and it gave me confidence to pursue more photography with a higher grade of camera.

BTB1302One of the nice parts about using a digital SLR is not only better manual controls but the ability to switch to “faster” lenses.  I always wanted to take on-ride photographs but I’m a firm believer in not using flash on dark rides (they don’t really come out well anyway).  This one wound up being one of my favorites … I call it my “money shot.”  It’s a challenge to shoot in low light on a moving boat with no flash but it is possible to “freeze” the motion by using a high ISO and a low aperture setting with a “nifty 50″ lens, which lets in more light with a faster shutter speed than other lenses I own.

BTB1303I’ve included this shot of Mike Wazowski from the Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue attraction at Disney California Adventure because it came out really well.  I consider this shot to be my “better to be lucky than good” shot.  Mounted another fast lens (I think it was a 1.8/35mm lens), set the manual settings to what I thought should produce good shots in a dark-ride environment and went to town.  I got several nice images from my first few rides through Monstropolis but this one was hands down the best of the bunch.  I don’t think I could duplicate it if I tried.

BTB1304This is a photograph from the Playhouse Disney attraction, also at Disney California Adventure.  Again, I got lucky that I was able to squeeze the shutter button at just the right time to get all of the tools eyes looking and everyone fairly well in focus during another low-light situation.  The difference here from the shot before is that I had visited the show so many times with my daughter that I had plenty of experimentation with my camera setting to know that I had a good chance of capturing the image that I wanted.  Still, half a second too early or too late and this wouldn’t have been nearly as nice of a picture.

BTB1305I like taking photos during the various shows at the Disney theme parks.  While this isn’t the best example of what I’ve captured, I really like how it turned out.  I tend to not do a lot of post-processing of my images beyond some simple color correction and sharpening but for this image, I had to do a bit more.  It is actually a composite of two shots I took during the show.  I like the red glow and smoke of the Cave of Wonders in one picture and the positioning of Aladdin in another, so I Photoshopped them together to make the best single picture possible.  Having used a tripod might have made this process easier but I was able to line up the two handheld shots well enough to effective blend them together.

BTB1306I really like taking pictures at Disneyland with nobody in them and I *almost* succeeded with this shot.  It helps to get to the parks early or stay until closing to get traditionally crowded vistas with as few of people as possible.  This picture was achieved by getting to Disneyland during Early Entry and waiting for the crowds to run past the castle into Fantasyland to get on their favorite attractions.  I could have done a similar Photoshop process with two photos to remove the few people past the castle walkway but decided this worked well as it is.  Going in the early morning also provides some great lighting that you don’t always get later in the day when the sun is overhead.  I like the shadows and the clouds in the shot.

BTB1307As a frequent visitor to the Disneyland Resort, I wanted to add a favorite photo from Walt Disney World.  This shot is another early morning shot before the Magic Kingdom opened.  The train was posed in this location for those taking The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour, making it something that the average guest wouldn’t just happen upon and a more picture-perfect postcard shot than could normally be found.  I tweaked this photo slightly in Photoshop as well.  The flag was flying at half-mast that day so I moved it to the top and a section of the decorative railing was missing from the top of the station so I recreated it with a section that was intact.

BTB1308We mentioned on the podcast about the possibility of getting good shots even if the weather isn’t perfect.  As much as I like taking pictures on clear, sunny days, this shot of Space Mountain at Disneyland with the rain clouds in the background came out pretty cool.  Sometimes you have to take what is available to you, other times, what is available to you makes the shot.

BTB1309This is not a perfect shot but I like it anyway.  At some point, I’ll try to recreate it to get the tail section of the rocket from the Golden Zephyr at Disney California Adventure in the frame.  While I wanted to stop the blur on my on-ride shots for Pirates and Monsters Inc. above, this one I wanted to show the motion of the ride.  I had to keep the shutter open just long enough to capture the motion blur but short enough to keep the rocket (somewhat) in focus.

BTB1310As I mentioned, taking pictures of Chelsea is something that is important during each visit to a Disney Resort.  I have lots of pictures of Chelsea posing in front of attractions and with characters but my favorites are the more candid captures I’m sometimes able to get.  This one is of Chelsea dressed as Snow White for Halloween at Mickey’s Trick or Treat Party.  We waited to meet the “real” Snow White at a photo location but before any formal pictures were snapped, Miss White conversed with her shy doppelganger beforehand.  It was a much more interesting shot than the posed picture we got afterward.

So these are today’s list of my top photos, though maybe I’ll feel different about them tomorrow.  Either because I’ve taken a new favorite or I see something more critically about one of the ones I previously liked.  That’s the fun part about “Making Memories,” as the old Sherman Brothers song goes.  If you want to see more photos, both at Disney and others, visit my photostream at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbam/

Matt

10 Years of “Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular”

A post of Facebook, highlighting a story on the Disney Parks Blog, alerted me that one of the Broadway musicals I mentioned in our latest podcast celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday.  “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” opened in the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure January 16, 2003.  The show has been seen by more than 12 million park guests during that time.

Some of the more interesting things about this particular show is that an original song was written and included in the performance that wasn’t in the movie.  “To Be Free” is sung by Princess Jasmine that describes her life like one of a bird living in a gilded cage.  It is a real showcase for the actress playing the part and always draws a loud ovation from the crowd upon its completion.

Secondly, the show continuously changes as the Genie is given fairly ample free reign to ad lib with various current events during his frequent joke sessions.  Jokes often skewer celebrities in the news or even timely Disney-related happenings.  The jokes are generally very funny, rather unexpected during a Disney production and can really keep each performance from feeling like something you’ve seen before even if you’ve seen the show multiple times.

Below are a few photos I snapped during a performance that you might like.  As always, click each one for a larger view …

AladdinJasmineAladdin and Jasmine take a spin on the Magic Carpet during the “A Whole New World” segment of the show.

GenieThe Genie is often the highlight of the performance.  Though his jokes are often zingers, they are also always appropriate for a theme park audience.  The actor playing the Genie usually gets the loudest applause during the curtain call.

JafarJafar is a bit more of straight-man villain in the production than the slightly comedic performance found at times during the film.  Of interest, as with much of the cast, the characters are often performed by a variety of actors of different races and abilities.  For instance, Jafar might be played by a black actor during one performance and a white actor during another.  Many performances feature a wheelchair-bound performer in the chorus.  It’s a nice way of featuring talented performers without strictly adhering to what otherwise might be traditional casting requirements.

“Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” is a nice way to spend 45 minutes at a theme park.  It truly is a high-caliber Broadway-style show and one that everyone should try to catch at least once during a visit to the Disneyland Resort.

-Matt

Christmas Photos from Disneyland

Steve recently posted images of holiday decor around the Walt Disney World Resort and I thought that I would follow suit by adding some images of holiday happenings through the years at the Disneyland Resort.  All images are clickable for larger views.  Enjoy!

Sleeping Beauty Castle adorned with snow and other seasonal decor is a focal point for Disneyland's holidays.

Sleeping Beauty Castle adorned with snow and other seasonal decor is a focal point for Disneyland’s holidays.

At night, Sleeping Beauty Castle glimmers in thousands of sparkling light designed to look like icicles.

At night, Sleeping Beauty Castle glimmers in thousands of sparkling light designed to look like icicles.

A look from the Hub towards the entrance shows the Disneyland Christmas tree in Town Square and holiday garland strung between the shops of Main Street.

A look from the Hub towards the entrance shows the Disneyland Christmas tree in Town Square and holiday garland strung between the shops of Main Street.

it's a small world gets a holiday makeover every year including a Santa hat on the iconic clock face.

it’s a small world gets a holiday makeover every year including a Santa hat on the iconic clock face.

Another attraction that receives a holiday makeover is the Haunted Mansion.  Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws welcomes guests.

Another attraction that receives a holiday makeover is the Haunted Mansion. Jack Skellington dressed as Sandy Claws welcomes guests.

Mickey's Toontown gets a healthy dose of holiday decor in both the residential and downtown areas.  Here a toon tree bends from the weight of an overly heavy tree topper.

Mickey’s Toontown gets a healthy dose of holiday decor in both the residential and downtown areas. Here a toon tree bends from the weight of an overly heavy tree topper.

The Christmas parade is an annual favorite.  This is a photo of one of the gingerbread men who parade from it's a small world to Town Square on Main Street.

The Christmas parade is an annual favorite. This is a photo of one of the gingerbread men who parade from it’s a small world to Town Square on Main Street.

Santa Claus heads up the anchor float of the Christmas Fantasy Parade, complete with plush Mickey and Minnie dolls in his sack of toys.

Santa Claus heads up the anchor float of the Christmas Fantasy Parade, complete with plush Mickey and Minnie dolls in his sack of toys.

Disney's California Adventure used to have a beach theme to its holiday decor.  Here they carted in tons of sand for local artists to make sculptures from.

Disney’s California Adventure used to have a beach theme to its holiday decor. Here they carted in tons of sand for local artists to make sculptures from.

The water tower in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney's California Adventure sported an oversized Santa hat.

The water tower in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of Disney’s California Adventure sported an oversized Santa hat.

Tinker Bell served as a tree topper for the massive Christmas tree at Paradise Pier in Disney's California Adventure.

Tinker Bell served as a tree topper for the massive Christmas tree at Paradise Pier in Disney’s California Adventure.

This is the first year that Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure is able to be dressed for the holiday season.  The Carthay Circle Theater Restaurant looks festive with a wreath attached to its tower.

This is the first year that Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure is able to be dressed for the holiday season. The Carthay Circle Theater Restaurant looks festive with a wreath attached to its tower.

Cars Land, too, is celebrating its first holiday season.  They had to bring in telephone poles on one side of the street in order to string automotive-themed garland across the Route 66 thoroughfare.

Cars Land, too, is celebrating its first holiday season. They had to bring in telephone poles on one side of the street in order to string automotive-themed garland across the Route 66 thoroughfare.

The Welcome to Cars Land signage in front of the new land has been updated to reflect a holiday theme, including a snow car to welcome visitors.

The Welcome to Cars Land signage in front of the new land has been updated to reflect a holiday theme, including a snow car to welcome visitors.