I’ll be honest, when I first saw the trailer to this movie, I felt totally turned off. It struck me as dark, dreary, and unnecessarily … adult. Well, I’m happy to tell you that I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
Though we aren’t particularly big Winnie the Pooh fans, we like him well enough. Once I heard good buzz about Christopher Robin and secured assurances from friends that it was an appropriate family film, I couldn’t wait to take my own kids.
I’m so glad I did. The story is about a grownup Christopher Robin. It has a charming beginning in which Christopher says goodbye to Pooh and his friends before he must head off to boarding school. At boarding school, he learns to be efficient, serious, and unimaginative. Once out of school, he has falls in love, goes to war, has a child, and now works in management for a luggage company.
Christopher Robin is an absolute bore. He has forgotten how to enjoy life, and in doing so is missing out on the joy of his own wife and child. As you guessed, Pooh and friends reenter his life, and from that moment forward a charming story ensues.
I won’t lie–I adore this movie. As an adult, it provided some potent reminders about what is truly important in life. And though it may have brought a tear to my eye here and there, it never struck me as overtly self-righteous. It did not sermonize, lecture, or beat me over the head with its message. It simply told a story, a story that even my nine-year-old could correctly interpret.
My children loved it because it was actually quite fun, cute, and upbeat. Yes, the beginning is a little dour, but it’s all uphill from there. Best of all? Pooh and friends looked totally real. I honestly couldn’t tell what was a puppet, what was a person in a suit, what was a robot, and what was CGI. These old stuffed animals looked every bit the part, and as they walked and talked, it appeared natural in every respect.
On a deeply personal note, my six-year-old about made me start bawling in front of everyone. As Christopher’s daughter was asking why he won’t go on trips with them and spend time with them, my daughter leaned over and whispered to me that she’s glad I take her places and spend time with her. Crikey! I about lost it.
I absolutely recommend this for the whole family. It would make for a great last outing before school starts back up. It helps that Ewan McGregor is about as likable as they come, as is Hayley Atwell, the electric actress who plays his wife. And Pooh’s lines are so funny. He’s truly a genius in the guise of a silly old bear.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)
Am I saving the best for last? Yes, you bet I am! I won’t lie–Magic Kingdom is our family favorite park at Walt Disney World. I’d say it’s the only place that truly has something appealing for each member of my family. Remember that, at the time, my daughters were 9 and 6. I can’t wait to give you a full account of the rides, the attractions, and the restaurants that we experienced. By the way, we met many, many characters while at Walt Disney World. I plan to write a separate piece detailing our encounters with them, so be on the lookout for that.
At this point, you probably know that I am the only member of my immediate family that loves high-intensity rides. My wife will have nothing to do with them, my 6 year old is too young (in my opinion), and my (then) 9 year old is just starting to enjoy a few. Therefore, I won’t have much to say about some of the bigger rides. All in due time, right? I have no doubt that one day my kids will love these things as much as I do. For now, though, I’m going to address the rides aimed at the younger kids.
Jungle Cruise: This is a slow moving river ride, though you’re actually on a track beneath the water. Trust me, you’re in no danger of going off course. During this expedition, you’ll see lots of jungle animals as well as a few natives. It’s exquisitely designed and very realistic, but it’s not thrilling as far as rides go. Fun? Definitely. We got one little jump when going through a cave–some robotic snakes caught my kids off guard and they let out a whelp. Your captain entertains you throughout the ride with some super lame jokes, which I happened to love.
Peter Pan’s Flight: In 2017 we had no trouble getting on this ride, but for some reason during our 2018 trip, we couldn’t get on this thing without a Fast Pass, even right before closing! Its popularity soared between the two trips! My oldest daughter loves this ride, but my younger daughter didn’t want to do it in 2018–she thought it was too intense after riding it in 2017. You’ll jump into a cute little boat and then take off into the sky. This is an indoor ride that has you suspended from an above track. Most of the ride has you looking down at the city of London and then the world of Never Never Land. Everything is built to scale to make you feel much higher than you actually are, but you are still fairly high up–too high for my youngest daughter’s tastes. Be aware, though magical, this is a very short ride that’s over almost as soon as it begins.
Pirates Of the Caribbean: I rode this back in 2017, but during this 2018 trip I got my oldest daughter to join me! She enjoyed it thoroughly, though not as much as Haunted Mansion (more on that soon). I got a kick out of the fact that she first thought Captain Jack Sparrow was an actual actor. (He does look pretty real, to be honest.) Again, like Jungle Cruise, this is slow moving and more entertaining than anything. If you’ve never done it, you sit in a long, flat canoe that takes you through a Caribbean locale set during colonial times. You’ll see tons of automated pirates, villagers, animals, and Captain Jack Sparrow–and all of whom are doing something funny. The ride occurs at “night,” so the ride is fairly dark with only “torches” lighting the way, but again, this is not a scary ride at all. It’s pretty funny throughout. I personally think it’s a little overrated, but it’s certainly a classic at Magic Kingdom and worth experiencing.
The Many Adventures Of Winnie the Pooh: This is one of those rides where waiting in line is almost as fun as the ride itself. … Almost. There are lots of little activities for kids to do in line as they wait, but the ride itself is surprisingly fun. You will sit in a honey pot/car and ride along a track through the world of Winnie the Pooh. At one point you’ll enter a dream of Winnie’s, and that’s when things get really weird (but in a good way). Though it’s a short ride, both of my kids really enjoyed it. It’s got a few sharp turns that my oldest enjoyed, and my youngest liked seeing all of Winnie’s friends. The ride is not especially well lit, but I wouldn’t say it’s dark, either. My youngest never felt frightened, so I’d say it’s a good all-ages ride.
It’s a Small World: You’ve got to do this classic ride, right? Though pretty tame by today’s standards, It’s a Small World still retains a charming quality that makes the ten minutes well worth your time. During this slow indoor boat ride, you’ll experience rooms created to represent different parts of the world with little dolls serving as representatives of that specific locale. I personally enjoy the ending of the ride and its unifying message that my oldest daughter easily discerned. Bright, cheery, and cute, It’s a Small World is a can’t-miss for the little ones.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: We didn’t really know what to expect with this, but we all had a blast! During this slow moving ride, you sit in a “ship” with two lasers affixed to the dash. At that point, you move through Emperor Zurg’s lair and blast away at anything with a target sign on it. Your gun keeps a tally of hits, so you get to watch your score rocket up. The carriage has a joystick in it as well that allows you to spin around. This is handy for any targets you may want a second shot at. All in all, we had a great time with this. It was easy enough for my 6 year old to enjoy, but challenging enough for my 9 year old to take pride in her score.
Under the Sea–Journey Of the Little Mermaid: Though similar to The Many Adventures Of Winnie the Pooh in several ways, this ride has its own special quality. You’ll sit in a shell as you slowly follow a track through Ariel’s domain. Because you are under the sea, this ride is not especially well lit, but many of the characters are brightly illuminated so I wouldn’t describe it as “dark.” My youngest got a little nervous when Ursula appeared at the end because the meanie is pretty big and very close to the shell. However, she wanted to do the ride several times, so Ursula wasn’t enough to keep her away. With your favorite music from the film and all of the fun characters, this ride was a hit with the entire family.
The Haunted Mansion: My youngest daughter would have no part of this, but my elder daughter decided to go for it. She was very nervous in the beginning, but by the time it was over she absolutely loved it. As you enter the ride, you’ll stand in a room with a large group of people. Soon enough, the room gives the illusion of slowly descending. Be sure to look at the pictures on the walls as you drop–there’s some funny stuff happening. Once you finish your descent, a door appears and then you get into a buggy to ride throughout the house. This is a very dark ride, but the mood is pretty humorous. It could be intense for little ones who don’t pick up on the jokes. When taken at face value, the holographic ghosts, tomb stones, and coffins could be considered scary. My daughter heard the funny narration and noticed the gags, though, so she realized it was meant to be more of a thrill than a fright. She loved it so much, we were sure to hop on a few times during our stay.
Tom Sawyer Island: Though we didn’t visit this little island found in Frontierland in 2018, we gave it a try in 2017 and found it charming. It’s exactly what it sounds like–a replica of Tom Sawyer’s backwoods turf. You’ll follow paths, find small caves, cross a few hair-raising bridges, and eventually even stumble upon an actual military fort. Be warned, though, you can only get across and back by using a small ferry. As you’re on this little island, it’s easy to forget you’re at Magic Kingdom. It’s a transitional experience. We particularly found it appealing because it wasn’t nearly as busy as the mainland. The kids had room to hike, explore, and bounce around.
Prince Charming Regal Carousel: I lost count of how many times my daughters rode on this carousel–they obviously loved it! This huge carousel is pretty much right at the center of the kingdom, and though there is always a line, it moves fairly quickly because there are almost 100 creatures to ride upon. You may remember that we like to close out parks, so once it gets near closing time, you can jump on this carousel pretty much at will.
Enchanted Tales With Belle: If you have a fan of Beauty and the Beast in your family, this is a must. First of all, you enter an amazing room belonging to Maurice with so many fun, fun details. You next enter a big room with the talking wardrobe. At that point, she will ask for child volunteers to play roles in a reenactment of the famous story. Trust me when I tell you that there is literally a part for every child in the room. Next, you are ushered into Belle’s library. The adults sit on benches and the children wait along the walls ready to rush in when appropriate. Belle herself soon enters, and I guarantee you will hear a collective gasp when she does so. The kids are absolutely mesmerized by her. We were fortunate in 2017 that my oldest daughter got to play the lead role opposite Belle–we were amazed! Best of all, every child in the room gets a photo opportunity at the end with Belle , and then the princess will personally give the child a small gift. Like I said, if you’re a fan of Beauty and the Best, you can’t go wrong with this attraction.
Liberty Belle Riverboat: Though this is a steamboat replica in almost every respect, it clearly follows a track under the water. It’s especially fun because the 20 minute ride is narrated by Mark Twain himself! The ride takes you along a vast river which sometimes allows you a good view of the park. It also takes you through the wilderness, though, and at that point you’ll see the life of frontiersmen and indigenous wild. We did this ride in 2017 but passed on it during our 2018 trip. I definitely think it’s worth enjoying at least once. With three levels for passengers to sit, it wasn’t crowded at all and my daughters got to stand at the front of the boat exactly where they wanted.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor: If you need a break from the heat, this will be an entertaining 10 or 15 minutes. While seated in a theater, Mike Wazowski informs you that they’ve figured out how to use laughter to fuel their batteries rather than screams. At that point, his fellow monsters come out–digitally on screen–and try to make you giggle. The jokes are corny but fun, and they even get the audience in on the act.
Mickey’s Philharmagic: Right next to the carousel, Mickey’s Philharmagic is another attraction that my daughters simply couldn’t enjoy enough. I have no idea how many times we saw this show between our 2017 and 2018 trips, but it was a lot. You’ll sit in what looks like a classic theater while wearing 3-D glasses. Once the show starts, your kids will be mesmerized. Donald Duck basically loses Mickey’s magical hat right before a symphony begins and must travel through the worlds of Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and more while trying to recover it. Each world presents a famous song from the movie with astounding 3-D effects. I caught both of my kids on several occasions reaching out for items that they thought were stretching from the screen toward them. It’s also really fun because the back of the seat in front of you will blow out puffs of air in coordination with what is happening on screen, as well as a few other surprises that I’m not going to spoil for you. Be sure to look behind you and up at the end of the show, by the way. You’ll see a sight that delighted my kids every time.
Happily Ever After: This is the famous Magic Kingdom fireworks display. Amazingly, they also shine a digitally projected show onto Cinderella’s castle. These fireworks have ruined me–I can never view a 4th of July show again without muttering, “Can’t compare to Disney.” The show on the castle is fantastic, the fireworks are gargantuan, and you even have a special treat at the very end in the form of everyone’s favorite fairy flying from the top of the castle across the park. I wouldn’t want to be that performer! Be aware, everyone wants to see this show. You will be standing shoulder to shoulder no matter where you are in the park, and you will have to be assertive in maintaining your space. Also, when the fireworks end, there is a mass exodus out of the park. If you can stay for Magic Hours, make your way to the perimeter of the park and enjoy whatever rides are available until the masses have departed.
Be Our Guest: This was an impressive locale made to look like the Beast’s castle from Beauty and the Beast. We ate in the main ballroom, which, frankly, looked exactly like it did in the cartoon. Amazing detail! We were seated next to a window with fake snow falling through the night sky outside. Dessert was delicious, the gray stuff in particular, but the food struck me as fairly mediocre, especially at the extravagant prices. You’re not here for the food, though, are you? This place is all about the ambiance. I would like to say that the servers were especially nice here, and that’s saying something considering that all cast members in the park are incredibly helpful. Be aware that you can eat here as a Quick Service lunch and save a Table Service dinner if you’re on the meal plan.
Cinderella’s Royal Table: Truthfully, I think this was the worst meal I had during our entire stay. I got ribs in our hotel’s cafe that blew this place away. Anyway, although the food was terrible, everything else about this restaurant was super cool. The kids met Cinderella immediately upon entering and then we climbed a spiral staircase to the top of the tower and sat in a wonderfully designed banquet hall. Each of my daughters received a wand with a star affixed to the top of it. We also enjoyed meeting several princesses as we ate including Jasmine, Snow White, Ariel, and Aurora. They were all very kind and gracious, as one would expect. The wait staff, though, left a little to be desired. With the gratuity built in to a bill that would buy us a week’s worth of groceries, our waiter didn’t put forth much effort. We rarely saw him and he didn’t strike us as particularly friendly or helpful. Keep in mind, by the way, that if you’re on a meal plan, this will count as two Table Services. As an adult, I felt the whole experience was a bit of a scam, but my kids loved it completely. I mean, you can’t beat eating at the top of Cinderella’s castle, right?
1900 Park Fare: Located in the Grand Floridan, this buffet specializes in breakfast and dinner. We ate late in the afternoon, and so we got to enjoy Cinderella yet again with all of her supporting cast. I think my oldest might have experienced love at first sight when Prince Charming made his way to us almost immediately after we were seated. We also met Cinderella’s evil step-mother who honestly intimidated the hell out of me, as well as her two mean step-sisters. They blow through quickly, though, so have your autograph books at the ready! Don’t get me wrong, they spend several minutes at each table, but once they move on they likely won’t be back. Our waiter was pretty good, and when he found out that we didn’t have our autograph books ready, he took the books “backstage” and had the characters “sign” them. I’m under no illusions that the actual characters signed them, but at least he had different handwriting for each signature. Everything about the Grand Floridian is ornate, and this restaurant is no exception. And though it’s a buffet, it proved to be my second favorite meal. My only complaint is that they sat us in a corner and we were packed in so tightly that we all had to get up to make room if even one of us wanted to go back to the buffet. Like the above restaurants, this is a place you need to reserve way ahead of time–we’re talking weeks if not months.
Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments. I’m soon going to write about meeting dozens of characters and I’m also going to dedicate an article to the “magical” moments we enjoyed while visiting Walt Disney World. See you soon!
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)
I felt a bit conflicted about the movie adaption of I Kill Giants. A friend on GoodReads suggested that I try out the source material to see if it settled a bit better with me. I’m pleased to report that it most certainly did!
Joe Kelly’s I Kill Giants is far more transparent than the movie version, and I mean that in a good way. The movie liked to straddle the fence about what exactly was going on, whereas the book just puts it right out there–yes, giants are real, and yes, people can see them.
I also like that the protagonist, Barbara, is a little bit younger, a little bit more likable, a little bit more vulnerable, and a little bit more … rounded. The movie makes a mistake in that it keeps us guessing about Barbara, but in the book, Kelly tells us almost immediately about Barbara’s personal turmoil. We know why she fights, and we know what she’s fighting.
By being so direct, Kelly creates a book fraught with emotion. He makes Barbara so much more identifiable as well. I appreciate that Kelly didn’t play games–he simply delivered the story in the best way possible.
Jm Ken Niimura’s black and white art is not especially my style, but it most certainly served this story exceptionally well. His giants are unique, his action is kinetic, his panels are fluid, and his use of space is well-executed. I can absolutely understand why he’s regarded so highly.
If you had to choose between the book or the movie, I would definitely recommend the book. I’m glad Kelly and Niimura got the exposure they did due to the film, but this was a universally praised book even before the film adaptation arrived. I hope you’ll check it out!
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)
If you like vintage arcade and pinball machine games, you have to visit Arcadia in McLean, IL. McLean is about 20 minutes south of Bloomington along Interstate 55. It’s a very small town, but this arcade makes it well worth the trip!
Arcadia is nestled within an old building, but they’ve made it about as charming as they can. The lighting is very pleasing, there’s a jukebox, I loved the hardwood floors, and–best of all–they’ve got great games!
If you’re looking for the original Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga, and tons of awesome pinball machines, this is the place for you! They’ve also got old racing games, fighter jet simulations, sport games, and old school versions of Terminator, Tron, Star Wars, and Aliens. I even got my tail kicked by Mortal Kombat II.
Plus, each game is either 25 or 50 cents. Don’t have a ton of change on you? They’ve got two change machines that can take singles, fives, and twenties, so you’re in luck. We had a few cases of our quarters being eaten, but overall everything operated as expected.
We’re not huge into video games, yet this place kept us entertained for about an hour and a half before we ran out of quarters. For the experienced gamer, I suspect those quarters would go a lot farther.
If you live in the area, I totally recommend that you give Arcadia a visit. There are a few places to eat in town such as a Dixie truck stop, a Blimpie, and a McDonald’s. Remember, McLean is in McLean County, so be sure to search the actual town, not the county.
Apparently Arcadia even has rooms to rent if you’d like to spend the night–and they look pretty nice! To learn more, visit their website …
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)
The cover to this book really threw me off. I thought it was going to be some kind of a dark magic or horror book. And though it’s got elements of both, it’s not at all what I expected.
Black Hammer: Secret Origins is about a group of super heroes who have been transported to a small, rural community and cannot leave their immediate surroundings. Some of them are quite okay with this, some are ambivalent, and some are flat-out angry.
The six characters–by book’s end–captured my interest and prompted me to reserve the next installment at my local library, but I still can’t go so far as to say I “like” this book (even though I am clearly invested).
My primary issue is that the six characters are obvious riffs on popular DC and Marvel icons. Shazam, Martian Manhunter, Captain America, Adam Strange–they’ve all been cribbed. I found this kind of thing fascinating back in the mid-80s with Watchmen … I’m less entertained by it now.
Even so, the author, Jeff Lemire, excels at dialogue and character interaction, so I couldn’t help but be drawn in by this book.
Furthermore, the artwork is moody, dark, and eye-catching. I particularly appreciated the facial expressions throughout.
They aren’t trying to pretend that they aren’t copying other characters, by the way. There’s no deception taking place on their part. And by the book’s conclusion, the characters have taken on a personality of their own and found themselves in an interesting predicament. In fact, I have to hand it to Lemire in regards to character development. Even though these characters begin as facsimiles, they soon become dynamic and full of engaging complications. However, after almost four decades of reading comic books, none of these obstacles are unheard of.
It’s just, on a personal level, I feel like I’ve seen it all before. The characters’ powers, the angst, even the isolation. It’s all expertly-executed, but not especially fresh in my view. Perhaps the next volume will completely win me over. The good news is that I’m committed and want to keep reading this story.
(Did you enjoy this review? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)