So you wanna be a bunhead, huh?

On Monday evening, ABC Family (owned by the Disney company) premiered a new show called Bunheads. Following the story of a woman who danced in Vegas and then married a shoe salesman on a whim as her life seemed to be at a standstill, we find that our protagonist Michelle (Broadway star Sutton Foster) has the background of a professional dancer. By going home with her new husband, she meets his mother, Fanny (Gilmore Girls and Dirty Dancing mother Kelly Bishop), who is also a professionally trained ballerina who owns and teaches at a ballet studio.

Produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, this show has a lot going for it. The dialogue is fast, snappy, and sarcastic: all the things I loved about Gilmore Girls (Yes, I admit that I was a fan and would love some closure to that show. But that will have to wait.). I love seeing Kelly Bishop play a similar character to Emily Gilmore while also having a totally different attitude (she’s a practicing Buddhist – gotta love that.), and Sutton Foster has a Lorelei feel to her. And, yes, Sherman-Palladino even added that Luke-like character for us – for a while. Hubbell sees Michelle at her Vegas show and falls head over heels for her in no-time. He is totally sweet to her and simply “wants to take care of” her.

And, of course, the show revolves around dance. I was a dancer at a studio for 10 years, but I never really stopped dancing, so this show is terribly engrossing for me. Great characters and dancing? I’m there with bells on!

One of the topics discussed on the VERY FIRST EPISODE was about a young dancer, Boo, who thinks she is too heavy and not of the “proper ballerina shape” to win a ballet scholarship. But Michelle gives her the confidence that shape isn’t everything in dance. It’s about attitude. And Boo has plenty of that. She may not be long and limber like some of her cohorts, but she certainly has the stage presence that I think really makes a dancer. This was something amazing that many talk about but don’t totally address. Weight and body shape are HUGE issues within the dancer circle, and I’m glad to see it addressed in this new show, especially so early within the show.

I watched most of the pilot, and I was very impressed, convinced that this was going to become my new favorite show, except…

Except that apparently one of the driving forces of the show, Mr. Hubbell Flowers, Michelle’s husband of, oh, maybe a day or so, who she professed not to love but was clearly falling for him, was killed off at the end of the first episodes in a car accident.

WHY?!

I assume someone with the creative genius of Amy Sherman-Palladino has a good reason for this, and I have some curiosity about it, so, though I originally felt I couldn’t watch this show after such an abrupt departure of a character, I may have to see where this is going. But, I have to say, as a writer, this doesn’t seem to be a direction I would have taken. Why couldn’t he be put in a coma or something, rather than something so final? At least do something with his character where he could come back if necessary. I understand that the story is about Michelle and the “bunheads” she’s going to teach, as well as her relationship with Fanny, but I think not having a character that should be the basic root of the premise there is a little strange. I’m not sure whether I can get over this to watch the show or not, though, if the writers have a really great plot line that they have in mind, I might be able to forgive (though I refuse to forget as a writer).

Overall, I’d say this show has a lot of potential if it can get over a big blow to the show’s plot. A main character that was there to save the protagonist is no longer there, but maybe something is cooking that will save the overarching theme. The dialogue and script are absolutely amazing (if you can keep up), and Foster’s Michelle has a sassy, snappy attitude that is a force to be reckoned with. And the only force that can combat well is Bishop’s Fanny, who has a tongue herself with a quirky penchant for saying things she shouldn’t with a bite while also being lovable and sweet when she wants to be. The ballerina’s need some development, but I absolutely love Boo’s energy and spirit. She’s just so cute and cuddly! But watch out for Truly. Though she started as the crazy ex-girlfriend of Hubbell, I think she’s going to become a major factor to the plot and Michelle.

I’d say give this show a watch if you get the chance. It has something for everyone, and the humor is rather witty. It really does have a lot to offer and faces some tough issues, like negative body image, the hidden harshness of dance, and death. But I don’t want to spoil everything. Just be prepared for the end of the pilot! Make sure to breath when Truly marches in. It’s tough to watch and sudden. But I think you’ll make it that far. Especially when Foster and Bishop tear it up swinging in a bar scene. You might even want to get up and dance to “Ain’t She Sweet.” The dancing is superb, and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to give it a try. Grab your dancing shoes and watch Bunheads!

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One little spark of inspiration

As I mentioned in my last post, a lot has changed at EPCOT since the first time I visited there back in 1994. I was very young at the time, and I don’t remember the trip very well, but there are certain aspects that I do recall. One thing I remember is my obsession with the little purple Figment.

Journey into Imagination, the old incarnation, was an amazing celebration of imagination and creativity in just about every subject. It’s actually beautiful. I suggest, if you never got the opportunity to witness this attraction before its relatively abrupt closure and rehab that began in 1998, you watch a video of the old ride. You will not regret it. Just keep in mind that it is NOT short, but you will be in awe. TRUST ME.

You can actually find it here, broken into 3 parts:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nhEEBPnuro

Part2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9E4yNg_eFI&feature=relmfu

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpSpNCg0MV8&feature=channel&list=UL

Now, my question, and the question of many others, is: Why in the world would you close such a thing?

There are many different speculations as to why this happened. Maybe Michael Eisner didn’t like it, especially Dreamfinder, our lovable host. Maybe there were some mechanical concerns. Maybe Eisner wanted to update this with the rest of Future World, since it was becoming slightly out-of-date. Whatever the case, it did shut down, to the dismay of many, and transformed into Journey into YOUR Imagination, which barely included Figment at all. People sent angry letters and hated the changed, so, quickly, the Imagineers re-rehabed the ride, which re-opened in 2002 as Journey into Imagination, and Figment was reinstituted into the current incarnation of the attraction. But it still hasn’t appeased fans, and many are insulted by the current ride. It’s not terribly intelligent, when the older ride was smart without going over children’s heads while also keeping them involved. The newer version is vague and just plain silly, without a whole lot of redeeming qualities and catering to remarkably short attention spans. So why did it change? And why can’t we change it back?

I agree that it would be impossible and even ridiculous to reinstall the attraction piece-by-piece. This is technically not a good idea as the physical logistics alone would be a nightmare. As I understand it, the crowds were slowly dwindling anyway, and many of the props are probably destroyed, lost, or used at other places. So maybe the attraction should be updated. According to many fans, there is no doubt about it. And I whole-heartedly agree.

What can we change? I love Eric Idle, but I don’t feel his character as Dr. Nigel Channing is really working for the attraction. It’s cute, but unnecessary. BRING BACK THE DREAMFINDER! And of course keep Figment, but bring him back to the curious child, not the naughty little gremlin he’s become. Like I said, cute, but unnecessary. And really not that endearing.

I also believe that the length of the ride should be closer to the length it used to be. I feel like, at this point, you just about hop on the ride and then you need to hop off. It’s much too short to say anything worthwhile.

But I do believe that the attraction would have to be different. It needs to have a feeling that it belongs in the 21st century, but it also needs to feel timeless. Right now, it just feels like it’s trying to focus on the present. It should focus on the past, present, and future. And no skunk gags. Please. We’re more intelligent than that, adults and children alike. Let’s focus on wonder and awe, not cheap gags to catch people’s attention. And not just a vague subject of “imagination” or one type of creativity, but, like the old attraction, visit the various types of imagination, like science, literature, music, etc., so people have a better understanding of imagination. Imagination really is everywhere.

Now, one solution I’ve heard really makes some sense to me. Apple and Disney have a close friendship. Maybe Apple could add a little something to this sad attraction and pavilion. Even if they didn’t come up with the overall concept, they could definitely add some technology to make the ride more up-to-date. It seems like everything Apple comes up with is gold. Mostly the same case with Disney. So why not use the best combination to make the best attractions? Journey into Imagination has a great concept to it, and all the pieces are there from the first incarnation. I’m sure the partnering of Disney and Apple could fix this attraction to bring it back to glory. And a sponsorship from Apple would probably also boost the visitors to the ride. And how about we up the ante and have Apple sponsor all of Future World to really bring it into the future? They seem to know the future better than anyone else.

No matter what happens, I would hate to see the pavilion close, like poor Wonders of Life. I don’t think I ever even made it to that pavilion. The upstairs of Imagination! with interactive activities and glowing, colorful blocks that you step on were quite fun, and you couldn’t run out of things to do, so that should also be reworked and reopened. Imageworks is a current busy nightmare, too small to accomplish much and nothing that is really interesting. Disney, please don’t try to cheap your way out of this one again. We all know that you have the money to spend. Let’s fix a horrible mistake by making a comeback, just like The Enchanted Tiki Room in Magic Kingdom. No matter what the end product would be, let a little spark of inspiration guide the Imagineers to a bigger and better Journey into Imagination.

Thirty years young

In September, Disney will be marking the 30th anniversary of the opening of EPCOT with a full day of celebrations. Seeing that it opened in 1982, I reflected on the fact that EPCOT, Walt’s pet project, not only is completely different from his expectations and dreams, but has changed from the first time I was there 18 years ago. Yes, 1994. I couldn’t believe when I did the math and realized that I am only 6 years younger than one of my favorite parks at Walt Disney World.

So let’s mark this anniversary with the fond remembrances of some of the attractions that I knew and experienced that no longer exist, or at least not in the same capacity as when I was five. I plan to go more in-depth with most, if not all, of these attractions, but, for now, I’ll just give a nice little overview:

Spaceship Earth (rehabs in 1994 and 2007): The addition of Judy Dench has been a blast, but the interactive section at the end leaves a bit to be desired. Though the technology portion of the ride needs/needed to be updated, I don’t believe this was the appropriate way to do so. Interactive is fine, but this was a cheesy way to do it. I think focusing on WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN or could still be someday would have been more useful, more like it used to be. And the history of technology remains fantastic. This you MUST see.

Journey into Imagination (rehabs 1999 and 2002): Why would you EVER get rid of the Dreamfinder? This is a big issue for me, and I have every intention of making another post about this beautiful attraction. As a writer, I found this attraction inspiring, and maybe it even led me to the career I’m pursuing today. Figment is cute and silly, but educational, while the Dreamfinder was a wonderful narrator, teacher, and straight man. He needs to come back to his home, as does the upstairs of the Imagination pavilion, and there are talks that this could happen. More to come…

Universe of Energy (rehab 1996): Definitely a nice attraction to rest and see some dinosaurs, and the addition of Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye added some humor to keep children’s interest. I don’t remember being terribly interested as a five-year-old, but I know that it is an attraction that should be seen, in whatever form.

Horizons (closed 1999): I can’t remember much of this ride, but seeing how technology could have happened is really interesting and shows us the imagination that Disney and the Imagineers have. I wish they had simply updated this attraction rather than killing it, but, as I understand it, it really wasn’t making it. It’s a shame that the audience has such a short attention span.

World of Motion (closed 1996): See how cars evolved! Definitely historical, I think Test Track is a much more interactive and exciting way to learn about cars. It’s informational AND entertaining without too many animatronics or pure history, like the old attraction was. And a new rehab is coming. Let’s just hope it’s better than some other rehabs have been…

The Living Seas(rehab 2006): An attraction that originally creeped me out, I’m glad Nemo is there, though I find it a bit harder to find the sea creatures that originally inhabited the exhibit. Don’t forget why the pavilion came about in the first place!

Really, almost everything from Future World has changed in those 18 years since my first visit, and I know that it had changed a great deal in the twelve years before I ever got there. It’s a shame, really, since many of these old attractions were interesting, educational, and actually very fun. Yes, many of the newer rides are great, but part of me wishes I could go back in time and see what I saw in 1994 with a new, more mature appreciation. Are we losing the educational edge for simple entertainment, cheap laughs, and excitement? Almost every attraction in Future World is either almost purely fast-moving or so kid-friendly an adult could be turned off. Wasn’t this the park that was meant more for the parents? I understand that we want to cater to children for family time, but we went from one extreme to the other. Please don’t underestimate my or anyone else’s intelligence, Imagineers! Do not follow in the footsteps of former CEO Michael Eisner, who, in the 1990s, cheaply redid many attractions to appease visitors with little cost, which was a complete travesty and did not work at all. Don’t insult us! Let’s go back to the roots of what Disney is all about: imagination. Let’s not forget our past as we move towards the future. Let’s bring the focus back to imagination and innovation and commemorate what has come and gone, or is still here and evolving. Let’s teach children that learning can be educational AND fun, not just one or the other. Let’s look back at the literature, technology, music, etc. that has led us to where we are. Let’s NOT forget. Disney lived for progress, but he also strived to make this world a better place through learning from our past. So let us now remember the attractions that have gone before us as we celebrate what is yet to come at the beautiful (and hopefully forever educational) EPCOT.

It’s a small world after all!

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted much, but I do have an excuse: I’ve been busy planning and packing! In the fall, I’ll be attending graduate-level classes in Amherst, MA for an M.F.A. in Writing for Children. Perfect for the girl who writes a blog about Disney? I think so.

This week, I have been desperately searching for an apartment by visiting Amherst. Let me just say, it is not an easy thing to jump into an area with five surrounding colleges and try to find a one bedroom apartment. But I have found an apartment. How did I choose? Let me explain:

I had been in contact with an apartment complex for a while, but I really did not want to go there since they only have two bedroom apartments. This was a bit more than I truly needed, and therefore more expensive than necessary. However, after coming to the area to search and not finding many options, I decided to take a look at the place, just in case.

So I went and spoke with a very nice woman who showed me a place. It was really great! But what really sealed the deal was the conversation we had as we walked from the model apartment back to the leasing office.

She told me that she liked my bag (which I purchased last summer at Animal Kingdom, a nice shoulder backpack with a Figment EPCOT pin I also purchased) and that she is obsessed with Disney.

She will never know how much this meant to me.

I mentioned about my trip the year before and that I, too, am obsessed with Disney. She then told me about how she had done the Disney college program for two years, one year selling merchandise and the second as a performer (Mickey, Minnie, Lilo, and Stitch). She absolutely loved the experience, and, I have to admit, I was rather jealous. I only really thought about doing it in the last year or two, and my school didn’t have an actual connection with the program. But it was so interesting to actually meet someone who had been a part of it and know that it really was rewarding!

I couldn’t believe it! After this conversation, I knew that I could fit in with this apartment complex and the manager I spoke with. It just seemed right. It really is a small world after all for us in love with Disney.