Walt Disney's Magic Touches All of Us

Posts tagged ‘Radio City Music Hall’

A Snow White Winter Holiday Surprise in NYC

As I sit in my house surrounded by a frozen tundra that looks more like the arctic than Long Island, I’m reminded that one of the benefits of living close to New York City, is the holiday season festivities. Our family makes many trips into the City during the course of the year — Museums, markets, restaurants, theater, shopping to name a few. The holiday usually includes a day to enjoy the changes many of our favorite go through in the month before Christmas. For those who don’t get the opportunity to visit during this magical time of year, I’d like share some of our favorites. Some are iconic and some less known. This year included an unexpected tribute for the 80th anniversary of the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Retail stores in NY are famous for their elaborate, usually holiday themed windows

A lesser known but equally amazing site is the Metropolitan Museum’s 18th-century Neapolitan Nativity scene set under a Christmas tree populated by angels. The pictures don’t do the display justice. The front of the tree depicts the classic scene of Christ, Mary and Joseph in the manger attended by Kings bearing gifts along with elephants, camels, horses and royal attendants. All around the tree in the is surrounded by different scenes of life in 18th Century Italy from farms to merchants. The mysterious way the Angels on the tree are lit confounds even many who see it in person. The history of the display is quite fascinating, going back to a collection of figures started in 1925.

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Two marketplaces have become magnets for shoppers. Both offer many artisan goods and food but very different vibes. In lower Manhattan, Union Square Park adds a holiday market to its regular farmers, green market for the holidays. The maze of vendor kiosks makes it feel like a fun scavenger hunt.

An uptown market started in 2002 at Bryant Park, behind the main branch of the NY Public Library, not only has a market but a skating rink and restaurants.

Theatrical spectacles are very much on display in NYC starting around Thanksgiving. They include famous the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes in the iconic Art Deco building located just behind 30 Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center’s iconic holiday transformation includes the area in and around the front of 30 Rockefeller center. During the summer it is home to the Today show’s concerts and a restaurant in front of the golden statue of Prometheus.

Most everyone who has a TV has seen pictures how that same space is changed for the holidays.

The crowds, especially on the weekends are massive and a bit overwhelming. But it’s hard to beat the atmosphere. This year if you could stand with your back to the tree at the ice rink (hard to do), you looked through the Rockefeller Center Channel Gardens with their angels to saw the department store Saks Fifth Avenue lit up to look like a certain iconic castle.

Saks from Rock Center Gardens

And perhaps, for us fans of Disney, Saks chose to use their holiday windows to pay tribute to the 80th anniversary of the premiere of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The crowds make it really difficult to get really good pictures of the windows so I’m borrowing some great ones from TimeOut New York.

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Saks Snow White 10

These two were the same window

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Other windows showed designer’s re-imagining Snow White fashion

Most of the windows were animated in some way. Here’s a nice video.

It’s not Disney specific, but here’s a link to the light and music show on the front of the building.

Most of the holiday decorations go up around Thanksgiving and remain on display until early January. If you can swing it I highly recommend a magical Holiday trip to NYC, even if there’s no special Disney event.

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Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge — We’re not in Kansas Anymore

star wars opening

1977 – No on-line ticketing or midnight openings LACY ATKINS/AP

As a someone who loves science fiction in all its permutations, Star Wars: A New Hope, (or just plain old Star Wars as I knew it as a kid), was a perfect movie. It had a little of everything I went to the movies for: Adventure, action, sword fights, humor, plausible science, space travel, easy to identify good guys and bad guys (although, George, why are Storm Troopers dressed in white?), a damsel in distress, an unlikely, underdog hero, a wise cracking leading man, a sweeping and pulse quickening score, and spoiler alert (I do know someone on this planet that has not seen a single Star Wars movie) an explosive, exciting, happy ending.

So, I am thrilled to think of walking into that movie world when Star Wars Land opens in 2019 at Disney Studios. I was sitting in the packed auditorium at the D23 Expo in 2015, when Bob Iger announced the plans for the park additions. The place went crazy and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. As the plans have gone from concept paintings to more detailed information, my excitement has not waned.

Our appetites have now been further whetted by the amazing model displayed at this year’s D23 Expo. (See my post D23 Expo 2017 Magical Afterglow for more on the Expo). The Theme Park’s pavilion rolled out the new land name, “Star Wars, Galaxy’s Edge”. The model reveals, not only, the scope and scale of Disney’s largest theme park addition ever. (I confirmed that both US theme parks will get exactly the same addition) But, gives us a view of the park most of us will never get once we’ve entered. Galaxy’s Edge continues Disney’s continued emphasis, started with Pandora, of providing a totally immersive experience.

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Reports describe much more than the current Studios Streetmosphere to add to the theming and mood.  We will find First Order troops and Rebels roaming the streets. Success or failure on the Millennium Falcon attraction may have an effect on Park’s inhabitants responses to you later in the day. The model also showed the location of the other headliner attraction, a battle inside a Star Destroyer. This might include a new kind of light saber.

This is all very exciting. But, it leads me to a sobering, but inevitable, thought. I will miss the old Disney/MGM Studios and all it represented. Before you start yelling at the screen, I am not one of those, “Don’t ever change my Disney theme park” people. Walt knew technology, and our ideas about entertainment would change or, as he often did, he could change them. The Parks, unlike Disney movies, were built so he could continue to tinker. I believe Walt always thought that while he did the best he could creating his films, he always believed, he could’ve done better if he had: (pick one or more: more time; more money; better technology). Other director’s from George Lucas to Ridley Scott have voiced similar regrets. Once a film is produced, it’s frozen in time. Yes, I know there are director’s cuts of films like Blade Runner. And if you’re George Lucas, you change them and make us all buy new versions. But, the Parks were a chance for Walt to always make things better. He’s famously quoted as saying, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” Walt’s approach to theme parks wasn’t that different from films. He used storytelling to enhance the attraction experiences. The theme park was a way for Walt to always try to “get it right”  – even if it took him more than one try to do it.

Let’s remember what Michael Eisner was after when he built, what is now called, Disney Hollywood Studios. It was a working film and television studio that would, not only, give us a chance to see “how it’s done” in television, film and animation, but would take us back to the golden age of Hollywood. A time when the studios controlled everything that had to do with making a film and the movie theaters were palaces with uniformed ushers. (See Grauman’s Chinese or Radio City Music Hall). Hollywood was truly tinsel town. MGM boasted it had “More Stars than there are in the Sky”. I love movies that take place at that time in and around L.A. during that period, like Singin’ in the Rain, Chinatown, L.A. Confidential and Barton Fink. Walking through the Park, always felt like being on a movie set in that period. The atmosphere was reinforced with: The Streets of America recreating a studio backlot; iconic buildings like Grauman’s Chinese; and the store fronts and building architecture (yesterland.com has a great overview of architectural inspirations for the Park). And to top it off, there was actual hand drawn animation going on within the nondescript walls of the working studio itself, including work on Brother Bear and Lilo and Stitch (See my post The Art of Animation for my thoughts on animation).

I still get a special feeling when I enter the Park and become enveloped in the eclectic architectural styles reminiscent of Hollywood and the surrounding areas from the 20s-50s. More than Epcot or Animal Kingdom, I think, Studios comes closest to Walt’s use of Main St. USA as a way to calm and prepare us to enter a world of fantasy, as well as begin to tell the story of the Park itself. We walk down a Main St USA that’s from a different time. Did you ever notice that the pathway under the Railroads in Disneyland and Disney World are red? You’re walking the red carpet into a theater! Ever notice how directors often fill the opening moments of a movie with sights and sounds to set the time and place the film. Car styles, store fronts, license plates, welcome signs, music serve the same purpose on Main St. USA and Hollywood Boulevard. Upon entering the Studios we see a period style gas station, lots of LA style architecture and Sid Cahuenga’s. We now know when and where we are. Then the entrance music, filled with great and recognizable movie themes like Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hur, tell us that this is a place for and about the movies.

So, I will miss old Hollywood as Galaxy’s Edge takes storytelling to new levels. I’m hoping it does feel like we’ve entered into the movie throughout the Land, instead of limiting theming to an attraction as has been the historical Imagineering approach. The Studio’s park is in transition from giving us a chance to see how movies were and are made to putting us on the set. I think the original concept was great and I will miss that peek behind the cameras. But, I believe that the direction that Pandora and now Galaxy’s Edge takes is completely in line with the kind of “plussing” that Walt would surely have taken advantage of, had he been able. Hang on. We’re making the jump to light speed!

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