Thursday, December 23, 2004

Lemmings Suicide Myth

You know how Lemmings supposedly commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs? That myth really gained momentum from none other than a Disney movie that was filmed right here in Alberta. It's amazing to think that one smaller Disney film had the effect of creating not only a false representation of an animal and its activities, but also helped create "a metaphor for the behavior of crowds of people who foolishly follow each other, lemming-like regardless of the consequences."

Click here to read about the creation of the Lemming Suicide Myth.

I actually read this fascinating piece about a year and a half ago while searching the Internet for movies produced in Alberta. Thanks to thedisneyblog for the reminder.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Henry Selick: Stop-Motion Animator

Henry Selick PhotoThe brilliant mind and talent behind the stop-motion animation of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Monkeybone, and the upcoming Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, continues his painstaking efforts on The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. If there's one person that is persistent in his efforts where other would give up, Selick is that individual.

The Hollywood Reporter gives us an update on what he's up to including his role as Supervising Director at Vinton Studios in Portland, Oregon.

In another interview at Animation World Network, Selick tells tales of the vibrant sea creatures animated in The Life Aquatic, the in-production Moongirl, and design work in the upcoming Coraline based on a Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean graphic novel.

SuicideGirls.com features a lengthy interview where Henry talks about Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and his experience working on Coraline.

Digital Media FX also has a great article on Selick and his past efforts.

Edit: Actually, it appears that Henry Selick is in fact, not attached to Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride. I did mean to remove it from his current project list. Thanks to Ward for the reminder.

Purchase links:


Purchase The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD at Amazon.ca
Purchase James and the Giant Peach DVD at Amazon.ca

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Dr. Michael Ryan Joins the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

I'd like to congratulate my good friend, Dr. Michael J. Ryan on his new role as Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology with the prestigious Cleveland Museum of Natural History. In addition to his experience with the world-renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum, Ryan has travelled extensively around the globe exploring fossilized dinosaur remains and has been published in numerous scientific journals. As a member of Phaeton Group, Michael has provided in-depth scientific and creative consulting and has also helped locate some of the lost filming locations of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Check out the press release to learn more about Michael's accomplishments and new role.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Cast PhotoThis month marks the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of Rankin/Bass's stop-motion animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Originally aired by NBC in December, 1964, it's a Christmas favorite that according to Rankin/Bass fan and historian Rick Goldschmidt, has become "the longest running, highest rated television special in the history of the medium." From Rudolph's desire for respect from the other reindeer, to the struggle of Hermey the Elf trying to become a Dentist, to the adventures of Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is an enduring tale that has remained in the hearts and minds of many children and adults.

Stop Motion Animation Photo Composition - King Kong, Medusa, Jack Skellington, and Chicken RunLike Jim Henson's Muppets, the Rankin/Bass characters animated in stop-motion are cartoon beings brought to life in the third dimension. The technique accomplished in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, was also used by Rankin/Bass in other classics including Mad Monster Party, by pioneering animator Willis O'Brien in King Kong, by Ray Harryhausen in Jason and The Argonauts, Clash of the Titans, and the many Sinbad films, by Henry Selick and crew in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and by the Aardman Studio in Chicken Run. Imagine having to animate each character and surrounding props frame by frame. For film, it took between 16 to 24 frames in order to produce one second of film. Think about that. One second. Now imagine how many frames it took to complete the 55-minute film and you have an idea of the enormous amount of work required! Each character's movements had to be carefully coordinated and because they were talking and singing, their heads had to have mouths that matched the words. An incredibly complex production but the results, as we are all aware of, were simply amazing.

Sam the Snowman PhotoWhat are holiday specials without holiday music? The soundtrack and narration are as much a part of the magic or Rudolph as the animation. Burl Ives, who narrated for the film as the voice of Sam the Snowman, also provided memorable songs including 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' , 'A Holly Jolly Christmas', and 'Silver and Gold.' As the 'big name' brought in to attract viewers to the special, his voice and music alone can evoke vivid memories of the colorful animated feature. You can listen to samples and purchase the soundtrack for Rudolph at the iTunes Music Store.

Some interesting facts about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer include:

- The 55-minute film took approximately 18 months to shoot, and like other stop-motion gems, it required the animators to work frame by painstaking frame. The animators had to keep a focused effort on their work; one error could result in having to reanimate and re-film an entire sequence.

- Rudolph, like television's Bart Simpson (voiced by Nancy Cartwright), was given audio life by a woman, Billy Mae Richards, currently 83 years of age and living in Ontario, Canada.

- As was the case with George Lucas's original Star Wars Trilogy, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer also had alterations made. For the 1965 rebroadcast, the song and sequence of 'We're A Couple Of Misfits' was replaced with a new song, 'Fame and Fortune'. There were also some minor alterations done, but the film was supposedly restored back to its original condition in 1998. However, eagle-eyed fans will note some differences between the Collector's Edition DVD and the original airing of the show, most of which are due to ownership and rights issues.

- The character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created in 1939 by Robert L. May, who at the time, worked as a copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department stores. The book was created as a Christmas story that could be given away as a promotional item to holiday shoppers.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of Rick Goldschmidt and Mark Sykora at RankinBass.com, the histories of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Rankin / Bass company have become more available to the fans. A search around the Internet turned up some rather great links about our favorite reindeer.

TVParty LogoThe insightful TVParty website features an incredibly in-depth 3-part article by Rick Goldschmidt on the history of the beloved holiday favorite. Topics discussed in the article include the characters and their name problems, the soundtrack written by Johnny Marks, and the re-shoot required to replace one song sequence with another.

CBS has produced new animated Christmas promotional spots featuring the classic characters of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and some of their recent hit shows like Survivor, CSI and Everybody Loves Raymond. In a nod to the old technique, one of the characters remarks that his movements seem a little 'jerky' - and if you're viewing the clip online, the often stuttering video clip quality (sadly available in Real Player only) echoes his statement. In addition to the video clips, the website features a photo gallery, a coloring book, and wallpaper for your computer.

National Public Radio (NPR) has a small article and audio interview with Goldschmidt discussing Rudolph's 40th anniversary and even some clips from an interview with the voice of Rudolph.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus Photos
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is not the only Christmas Classic the Rankin/Bass Studio created. Other holiday adorations include: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, The Year Without Santa Claus, Jack Frost, The Little Drummer Boy, The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold, and the 2D classic Frosty the Snowman. One of my favorites is the rarely-seen The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus currently only available on VHS. Written by L. Frank Baum, more famously known for creating The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the stop-motion film centers its story on Santa's journey from myth-filled boyhood in the Forest of Burzee to legendary manhood around the globe. Wonderful creatures and gods, including Knooks and Nymphs, and beautifully detailed and designed by Rankin/Bass, help support Claus in his goal of providing all children, rich or poor, with toys for Christmas. This is both a more spiritual and adventurous take on the legend of Kris Kringle that fans of mythology, fantasy, and stop-motion animation will enjoy. For those not familiar with the wonderful tale, you can read it this link.

Elves and Reindeer Still ImageThe look of Rudolph continues to be emulated today in numerous commercials, movies, and spoofs. A few years ago, animator Corky Quakenbush provided us with a satire on MadTV called Raging Rudolph (Windows Media Player required and Parental Discretion is advised). Combine the gangster films of Martin Scorsese and the work of Rankin/Bass and you have a violence-laden revenge story instead of the friendly childhood version we all know and love. CBS has used the look in their 2004 holiday promos, and many fans have created their own homages on the World Wide Web. Films like Toy Story and Shrek, even owe a debt to Rankin/Bass for helping to bring continued recognition to animated storytelling. And while studios continue to produce new animated holiday tales in 2D, 3D, and Stop-Motion, none will be as cherished or glow as brightly as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

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Special Note:

I've been a customer of Amazon.com since they first began life on the Internet. I've always experienced great service and found many items I've been searching for. Since many of you have asked for recommendations from me, I've decided to become an Amazon associate. Your purchases through the links below (or using the search boxes in the sidebar and subsequent links in future articles) provide me with small referral fees and help in continuing to bring you, the reader, interesting and insightful articles. A sincere thanks for your support!

Amazon.com purchase links:





Amazon.ca purchase links:
Purchase Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer on DVD
Purchase Frosty The Snowman on DVD
Purchase The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus on VHS
Purchase Rankin/Bass Christmas Classic DVD Pack
Purchase Jason and the Argonauts on DVD
Purchase The Nightmare Before Christmas on DVD

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Now Open: iTunes Music Store Canada

iTunes Store Canada Image
In case you weren't aware, the Apple iTunes Music Store for Canada opened for business as of yesterday. Not as large of a collection as the US or UK counterparts, but if you're looking for music you can't find through Peer-To-Peer networks, or if you're looking to support the artists, head on over and start using your credit card to enhance your music collection.

According to some audiophiles and reviewers, the format you'll be able to download is not as good as what you would find on a standard music CD because of the compression used for online file distribution. AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) is the standard on Music CD's and are large in size, whereas the Apple iTunes Music Store-produced files and MP3 files are relatively low in size, with comparable quality. This allows for reasonable download times. However, most people will not recognize the difference and should be happy with their purchase.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Jim Henson Special Edition Action Figure

Palisades Jim Henson Special Edition Action Figure PhotoNow you too can have your very own Jim Henson Action Figure. Well, I don't know if it's meant for much action, but you can pretend Jim is playing a favorite Muppet song on his Banjo, entertaining the world with 'The Rainbow Connection' or 'Movin' Right Along'.

Palisades Toys continues its award-winning line of Muppet figures, with a likeness of their legendary creator. Henson, who occasionally had a Muppet version of himself on The Muppet Show, is kept in scale with the rest of the Palisades Muppet figure line. Is a Frank Oz figure far behind?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Jack Kirby : The King of Comic Books

3 Jack Kirby Illustrated Comic Book Covers - Fantastic Four, Tales of Suspense, and The Incredible Hulk
The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, The Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, The Avengers, Galactus, Dr. Doom, Challengers Of The Unknown, Forever People, The New Gods, Mister Miracle, Kamandi, The Inhumans, Ka-Zar, Ant-Man, Giant-Man, The Black Panther, and even Devil Dinosaur. These fantastic characters and a universe more of the Super Heroes and Villains that we continue to enjoy in comic books, films, and television, owe a large part of their existance to one man: Jack "King" Kirby.

Jack Kirby Silver Surfer IllustrationWhether directly or through his influence, Jack Kirby's mind and pencil turned out more ideas than most publishers put together. Kirby was known to save his unused ideas, but if he didn't keep everything, he probably threw away more ideas than most creators came up with good ones. Even though Jack helped create what would become a billion-dollar industry with writer Stan Lee, in his later years, he would struggle to regain the dynamic art he created while at Marvel Comics. His artwork would inspire people of all ages, but it was mostly influential on the children and teens who would grow up to become today's most recognized creative professionals. Comic Book Artists, Film Directors, Actors, Producers, Writers, Paleontologists, Archeologists, Designers, and Sculptors often remark that Kirby's work was a big factor in their career choices. Or at the very least, a strong influence on their imagination. Ask any Comic Book artist, writer, or publisher who the single-most influential person on the industry was, and Jack's name would probably be the first out of many mouths. Challenge a friend to strike a 'Super Hero Pose' and you can probably trace that stance back to a drawing of his. Invite them to name a Comic Book hero or group, and you'll find that Kirby was probably linked to it at some time in his illustrious career. Even today, like other artists, his influence finds its way into my work in the form of an energetic, design element appropriately named 'Kirby Krackle.' It's a way for many of us to say 'Thanks, Jack!'

Jack Kirby PhotoI never got a chance to meet Mr. Kirby. He passed away in 1994, before I attended my first major Comic Book Convention, the San Diego Comic-Con in 1998. As is the case with Jim Henson and Walt Disney, Jack Kirby would be one of the top few creative people I would have immensely enjoyed meeting. If nothing more than to simply pass on my appreciation for all the heroes he brought to life that made my childhood such a fun time. To many of today's fans, we know Jack only by photos and drawings, but a recently discovered rare video interview with Kirby has been posted on TVParty.com. Jack discusses Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Thor, and the artists that influenced him. For most of us, this is the closest thing to being able to see and hear the creator discuss his career in his own words.

Thanks to the many great Comic Book Conventions and the Internet, Kirby continues to receives praise from legions of fans and professionals alike. I've collected some links which I hope will give you more insight into the man considered to be a God among Comic Book Creators, Jack "King" Kirby.

Jack Kirby Fantastic Four Illustration

The Jack Kirby Collector celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, feature articles, and rare & unseen Kirby artwork. Now in tabloid format, the magazine showcases Kirby's art at an even larger size.

Mark Evanier, a comic book, cartoon, and editorial writer whose credits include Groo the Wanderer, Scooby Doo, Plastic Man, and Thundarr the Barbarian, has a great sub-site of Jack Kirby information. Once there, you'll find not only the great photo of Kirby (above) but The Jack F.A.Q as well, and a touching memorial to 'The King.'

A small biography on Jack can be found at The Comic Art and Graffix Gallery.

UGO.com's "A Tribute To Jack Kirby" features Kirby's last interview, an industry tribute, and a retro review of the 1976 Captain America Annual.

One of the coolest Kirby links, Monster Blog showcases Kirby's lesser known, but equally amazing creations, the monsters of titles like: Amazing Adventures, Strange Tales, and Journey into Mystery. There's a great image archive of cover scans and a descriptive 'Meet the Monsters' section.

Even the spiritual symbolism in the work of Jack Kirby is explored at scienceandreligion.com. Using The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, and Forever People, the site attempts to demonstrate Kirby's influences from the Bible.

Jack Kirby X-Men Cover IllustrationThe Words & Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art presented a tribute to Jack Kirby from April 6 to May 7, 1994 and among many of his works of art, quotes from Kirby were on display. Perhaps none were more relevant to his career than this one: "Comics are a universal product. They have no boundaries. You can use them in a very serious manner or just for laughs. Comics can be used to educate, to entertain or to provoke deep thought. A well-read person will one day produce a classic epic in comics, one that everybody will remember. I wanted to do that, but I think that's going to be somebody else's job. I'm happy that I got the chance to accomplish what I did."

Little did Jack know, that the 'well-read person' would turn out to be himself, creating those epic stories that have become the basis for today's modern mythologies.

Update: Thanks to Palaeoblog for providing a link to the Kirby Comics blog. Head over there to discover articles, artwork, and tributes to the comic book legend.

Amazon.com | Amazon.ca purchase links:
Purchase Jack Kirby Books | Purchase Jack Kirby Books
Purchase Marvel Comics Books | Purchase Marvel Comic Books
Purchase X-Men Books | Purchase X-Men Books
Purchase Fantastic Four Books | Purchase Fantastic Four Books
Purchase Iron Man Books | Purchase Iron Man Books
Purchase Silver Surfer Books | Purchase Silver Surfer Books
Purchase Incredible Hulk Books | Purchase Incredible Hulk Books
Purchase Captain America Books | Purchase Captain America Books

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Dolphins Save Swimmers From Shark

Here's a link to a fantastic news story about a pod of dolphins protecting New Zealand lifeguards from a 10-foot Great White Shark.

Friday, November 19, 2004

What's Up With The Muppets

Apple Think Different Poster - Jim Henson and Kermit the FrogJim Henson was a creative genius. He collaborated with not only Writer / Director George Lucas, but also music legend David Bowie, fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, and The Walt Disney Company. His legacy includes the worlds of The Muppets, Sesame Street, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The Fraggles, The Storyteller, and many other fantastic characters and franchises. In a documentary about Jim, his son Brian accurately remarked: "His vision was a very simple one about life and about people and a very honest one.  The vision of the world of Muppets, and the world of Dark Crystal, and the world of Labyrinth, and world, and world, and world.  How many worlds can a guy have in his head?  He had a lot, and they were still coming fast and furious."

The Muppets, including the puppets on Sesame Street remain his most popular creations, and they are recognized all over the world. Many adults today, can thank Kermit and company for their early literary and artistic comprehension skills. Despite the solid history of The Muppets, there have been ownership transfers since Jim's death in 1990. The Jim Henson Company, including all of their creations, were sold to a European media corporation, EM.TV, eventually purchased back by Jim's children (to the delight of many fans) and a year ago, sold to The Walt Disney Company. The Jim Henson Company assured us the move was done to follow Jim's wishes of keeping the characters 'evergreen', and only one company, Disney, really had the power to do that. In fact, years ago, when Henson was still alive, The Walt Disney Company was in discussions with Jim Henson regarding a partnership, and perhaps even an outright purchase of The Muppet characters.

Some feared that Disney CEO Michael Eisner, only acquired The Muppets to boost his sagging ratings with Disney shareholders and that the characters would continue to be pawns in a game. Another major issue was that it would possibly be years before the fans were able to see a new Muppet television show or film. Disney assured the fans, that they would do everything in their power to focus on Henson's wish of keeping The Muppets alive. To date, The Muppets have made a few guest appearances on talk and award shows, even co-hosting in some cases, appeared in a music video with Weezer, television commercials with Jessica Simpson, and are about to take center stage in a Muppet-ized version of The Wizard of Oz.

Recently, Disney launched their new Muppet website. Not all of the content is live, and the site requires a decent computer and internet connection to work efficiently, but at the very least, The Muppets are again providing official content on the World Wide Web. However, even before Disney's new portal, admirers of the characters have kept the information flowing on the Internet through various fan sites and web communities.

Muppet Central is an established Muppet fan site, with information on everything from Kermit to Doozers. There you can find the latest news on film and tv productions, DVD releases, collectibles, and toys and games. There's even a forum for Muppet fans to interact with one another.

The Muppets FAQ answers questions like 'What is a Muppet?' and offers explanations such as the reasoning behind most Muppet characters being left-handed!

If you want to see the incredible amount of Muppet merchandise and advertising, or find an episode and character guide for The Muppet Show, then make sure to spend some time at Kermitage.com. You can look at some of the fantastic promotional items for movies like Muppet Treasure Island and even marvel at some of the Jim Henson Company Christmas cards.

The Muppet Movie Screenshot - The Muppet Gang

Matthew Springer at Jim Hill Media wrote a nice article about why The Muppet Movie remains one of the best of any film featuring the characters. He attests to the way the characters feel 'alive' and how it "allowed Jim Henson's unique, unforgettable blend of emotional punch, endearing characters, and hilarious jokes to find its greatest expression."

While many animation companies today strive to bring 2D characters like Mickey Mouse and Popeye into the third dimension, Jim Henson accomplished the task better than any of them could. Imagine a two-dimensional animated cartoon character, only real, and you can see The Muppets enduring hold on children and adults alike. Though he later 'toyed' with computerized versions of some of the characters and found new ways to showcase them, his creations existed mainly as crafted puppets. It didn't require high-end 3D animation software and an entire render farm to bring Jim's drawings to life; it took only the talented imaginations and hands of the many loyal 'Muppeteers' who stood behind his ideas.

If The Muppets' Wizard of Oz fares well, it will likely mean more new material from Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Gonzo, and Rowlf in the future. With an African-American lead cast that includes Ashanti Douglas as Dorothy, Queen Latifah as Aunt Em, and David Alan Grier as Uncle Henry, Disney looks to be pushing some cultural casting boundaries. Maybe the choices will bring a diverse audience and good ratings, which is ultimately what The Muppets will need on the Disney-owned network, ABC.

In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog: "It ain't easy being green." Whether you're the money used to buy the puppet, or the puppet itself, you're bound to change hands eventually. Let's hope the gang has found a good fit this time.

Amazon.com purchase links:
Buy Jim Henson Films and TV Shows on DVD
Buy Jim Henson Books
Buy Brian Froud Books
Buy George Lucas Films on DVD

Amazon.ca purchase links:
Buy Jim Henson Films and TV Shows on DVD
Buy Jim Henson: The Works Book
Buy Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles Book

Monday, November 15, 2004

Lost city of Atlantis found?

Atlantis Remains Computer Graphic Rendering - Created by Chad Kerychuk
After a nice surprise birthday gathering, I decided to rent Disney's Atlantis: Milo's Return last night. Later, as I was browsing the web, I just happened to notice this article about yet another possible site of the Lost Continent of Atlantis.

Many explorers, scholars, and scientists have claimed to know the resting place of the fabled city - first described by the ancient philosopher, Plato - however, no definitive proof has been presented. From speculated locations such as The Azores, Iceland, The Bahamas, Ireland, Cuba, and recently, the island of Cyprus, perhaps no other 'myth' has stirred the imaginations of people around the world. I'm fascinated by the whole Atlantis mythlogy and any new theory or discovery peaks my interest.

If you type 'Atlantis' into an Internet search engine, you come up with an incredible number of results. So trying to get information that seems plausible can be challenging and leave you a little bit 'lost' yourself. If you find that happening, then perhaps a vacation at the Atlantis Resort is what you need?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

AnySoldier.com

Anysolider.com GraphicThanks to my friend Rick Cortes over at The Drawing Board for letting me know about AnySoldier.com. It's a great website dedicated to providing information on sending care packages to US Soldiers based on their needs or requests. It's updated as often as the military contacts can get information sent in, and there are requests from Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine personnel.

My aunt, my wife, and myself gathered some items to send to a group overseas in the hope of cheering them up during the holiday season and in appreciation for doing a job they may not agree with politically, but one they are trying to do good with regardless. Thanks to the efforts of the numerous women and men, many children can go to school for the first time and civilians can enjoy a freedom to criticize current administrations without fear of torture.

The past few days have been spent gathering items to send, but I finally was able to mail it today. A 20 pound package cost $35.00 Canadian to send and should arrive within 30 days. Hopefully just in time for the holidays. We decided against sending food items though, since it could cause more delay at US Customs. We did include things that they asked for, as well as some wool stocking caps (or toques as we call them up here), flip-top gloves, and Christmas decorations and gifts to reinvigorate their morale.

We may not agree with all of the military actions around the world, or the actions of the US leaders, but the soldiers have a number among them who have never been away from family during Christmas. Many of the soldiers do not even receive mail or letters from home. If a package we send can help ease the loneliness and stress over there, then it's the least we can do. If you can put aside your political beliefs and think of the soldiers as people that could have easily been your or I, then it might help you in deciding to send something to lift their spirits.

I couldn't find information for Canadian, British or other soldiers, but if you know somebody serving in the military, or just thought about sending something to boost morale, now is as good a time as any to find out how. There is no guarantee it will get there, but as with anything requiring effort, there's always hope.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Disneyland Aerial Photo

Disneyland Aerial PhotoEver wonder what The Magic Kingdom looks like from the air? My wife and I have yet to experience Walt's California creation, but perhaps you'll recognize parts of the park you've been to. Thanks to the US Geological Survey, aerial photos from 2003 have been merged together to provide a stunning overhead view of the layout and size of Disneyland. If you're on a high-speed connection, I recommend the 10 MB file for optimum quality viewing.

I wish I could've seen the park in its original condition, with the great design work of the 50's and 60's era and rides like 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. It seems Disneyland is undergoing constant renovations, with old rides being dismantled and modern ones erected in their place. This is all in order to attract new visitors and entice previous visitors to experience the park again. You never know if your favorite ride will be around for your next visit. Thankfully, with numerous photos and articles, the good folks at MiceAge.com keep us informed of the perpetual facelifts and upgrades at 'The Happiest Place On Earth.'

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Amazing Incredibles

The Incredibles Still Image
I had the chance to see The Incredibles twice today and it was...well, 'Incredible!' Action abounds when a domesticized family of 'Supers' comes out of hiding to fight the ever-present Super Villains that inhabit their Comic Book Metropolis. This film combines the 50's era coolness of Brad Bird's animated classic The Iron Giant along with Pixar's engrossing style of Toy Story.

There's a great backstory and transitionary period that pokes fun at the bureaucracy, tedium, and thanklessness of today's society and as with any Pixar film, no matter what the character is made of, we can't help but sympathize with them. Mr. Incredible's evolution is fun to watch, and I can imagine every young boy wanting a Mr. Incredible figure as much as they wanted a Buzz Lightyear in 1995. There's more cartoon violence than in Pixar's other films, but the few kids in the showing I attended this afternoon, didn't seem frightened - and the positive messages are definitely not pushed aside.

Elastigirl and Mrs. Incredible ImagesThe voice acting is excellent and Samuel L. Jackson's Frozone nearly steals the show. As 'hip' as this movie is, I only wish we were able to see more of him because he really is that cool. Pixar has always had great female voice actresses as well, but Holly Hunter did an outstanding job as Elastigirl / Mrs. Incredible. Possibly the best match for a lead female animated character yet. She has all the right emotions a wife, mother, and Super-powered woman would have and with her genuinely caring attitude and fluid-like movements, she really is a hero that females can look up to.

The Incredibles stylized graphicAs usual, one of the elements that really stands out in a Pixar film, is the Design. From the characters to the environments to the opening and closing credits, the style and quality are breathtaking. In my opinion, the closing credits for The Incredibles is only matched by the opening titles for Monsters, Inc. Even elements like the living quarters of the main characters undergo as much design considerations as they characters themselves. Where other computer animated films show homes and enemy lairs that look as if they are made from digital cookie cutters, the ones in The Incredibles are both unique and familiar, blending in perfectly with the overall style. The design work for this film is so well done, you immediately get the homages to other movies and genres. From The Fantastic Four to James Bond and Spider-Man, to The Super Friends and The X-Men, with bits of Star Wars and Indiana Jones blended in, I was grinning from ear to ear at how Pixar put together another really great 'tribute' film. This is another set of characters that Pixar has potential to make more stories with, and I know like today, I'd be there opening day if they do!
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Amazon.com purchase links:

Purchase The Art of The Incredibles
Purchase Books About The Incredibles
Purchase The Incredibles Video Game
Purchase Pixar-related Books
Purchase Pixar Movies
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Amazon.ca purchase links:
cover
Purchase The Art of The Incredibles
Purchase The Incredibles Video Game and Books
Purchase Pixar-related Products

Monday, November 01, 2004

Incredible Jack O' Lantern

Mr. Incredible Still ImageI hope you had a great All Hallow's Eve and filled your pails, pillow sacks, and treat bags with assorted goodies! I had a nice dinner with a grandmother and handed out treats at her place (occassionally sneaking a few for myself) as I have done in previous years. After the kids had stopped coming to the door, I helped her clean up and headed home to finally carve my 2004 Jack O' Lantern. I couldn't accomplish this earlier in the day, because when I went looking for a pumpkin, every major grocery store on the south side of Edmonton was apparently sold out. As I would discover later, the reason had something to do with pumpkins rotting in the growing fields and not being fit for sale. So what little they did have sold earlier in the week.

Not one to easily give up, I thought back to High School Art Class and how we created clay pumpkins for an assignment. As I recall, I was pleased with the way mine turned out (carved flames coming out of the tops of the eyes, nose, and mouth) but so was the art teacher. He asked to keep many of them and since he was such a nice guy, we couldn't refuse. However, today I knew I didn't have time to make a clay Jack O' Lantern, and I remembered reading about artificial 'Craft Pumpkins' in a flyer a week ago. These allow you to carve your design into a foam-based pumpkin and keep your art rather than throwing it out before it rots. So I drove over to a Michaels Arts and Crafts store to take a look.

Outside in front of the shop, they had a bin marked 50% off - even then, it seemed a bit overpriced for the quality - but I didn't want to miss out on one of my favorite Halloween activities. They also don't look as good as the ones available on the Funkins website, but those have to be ordered and would arrive 7-10 days after Halloween. Michaels had their pumpkins available here in the city. Another drawback is that there are seams visible on the outside and inside of the Michaels ones. If you're picky visually about such things, this can throw off the look of your Jack O' Lantern if not carved carefully.

Just as important to remember is that these artificial ones are flammable. That's right; don't put a candle or too-hot light source underneath, or you'll not only lose your Jack O' Lantern, but there's a good chance you could seriously burn yourself or your house down along with it. To light them up, you can buy ready-made craft lights that have lower-wattage, or use a glow stick such as the kind kids wear on Halloween.

There's almost no more thrilling sight on Halloween than Jack O' Lanterns. As if each one possesses a unique 'spirit', they glow magically, and manage to both invite and scare you off at the same time. Many people don't realize how long it takes to do a more intricate carving job and how much patience you must have. Thankfully I've done this a few times already so I knew I'd be at this one a while. Because the Craft Pumpkins aren't as easy to cut as one might think, I had to use not only my trusty Pumpkin Masters Carving Tools, but an X-Acto knife as well. Even with that, it was still not easy going through the foam. I think real pumpkins are actually easier to carve than this particular craft brand, but they still only last a week at best. I spent a total of about 6 hours on carving the Jack O' Lantern but I know it will last longer than a week.

Mr. Incredible Jack O' Lantern PhotoAs for the carving pattern, I'm a Pixar fan, so I thought I'd like to do one of their characters. With the upcoming release of The Incredibles, there was an opportunity to create a new Jack O' Lantern design - one that hadn't been seen before. I found an image of Mr. Incredible thanks to the wonderful Pixar blog, Luxo, and then proceeded to make it carveable by changing the image to black and white and refining details to make it a semi-rigid design. When I had achieved approximately the look I wanted, I printed out an inverted black and white image (making the pattern's black areas the ones to carve), attached it to the pumpkin with tape, and began the carving process.

Despite the quality of the Craft Pumpkin, and the time to complete the project, I think the final product turned out pretty cool. Now I just have to look for a low-wattage light socket base and I'll have a handcarved, reusable, electric pumpkin - unless I give it away of course. And I hope the folks at Pixar enjoy what I've done because like the kids collecting candy last night, I'm awaiting my treat in the form of their film, The Incredibles.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Jonathan Ive / Apple Design

Jonathan Ive PhotoIf you're curious as to who's behind a lot of the current industrial designs (hardware) at Apple, then you'll want to check out this interview.

From the iMac, to the G4 Cube, to the iPod, and PowerBook, Ive's efforts combined with those of the Apple Design Team have provided us with some of the sleekest, and sexiest Apple products yet. His use of color cases in the iMacs and iBooks drew in the creative crowd; and his absence of it in the G5 and current PowerBook lines, keeps the products looking clean, appealing to professionals.

For his efforts, and in addition to the numerous awards he's already received, Jonathan Ive was chosen as the 2003 winner of Design Museum's Inaugural Designer of the Year award.

Star Wars Episode III Teaser Poster

Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith Teaser Poster Image As is the case with Teaser Trailers, which get the audience excited for an upcoming film, Teaser Posters are also meant to do the same thing; bring a wandering eye over to the poster to generate interest in the movie. Often different in style and composition from Release Posters, the Teaser versions give us a chance to get a first look at the tone of the film.

The Star Wars and Indiana Jones sagas have always provided the movie-going public with interesting Teaser material. Like the unmasking of Darth Vader in Return Of The Jedi, the Teaser Poster for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith has been revealed on the official Star Wars site.

As a whisp of dark smoke or an ominous cloud could, Anakin Skywalker's billowing cape suggests the helmet of The Dark Lord of The Sith he is to become. The poster is similar in tone to the Episode I Teaser Poster which showed a young Anakin Skywalker's shadow as the form of Darth Vader.

Halloween Star Wars Style

Star Wars Return of the Jedi Admiral Ackbar Halloween Mask ImageHere's an early Halloween 'treat' for all you Star Wars fans. In 1983, Random House Publishing produced The Star Wars Book of Masks. If you grew up with these films as I did, then you probably remember this book well. Amazing how when we were kids, it didn't take more than simple paper products like these to keep us entertained. And who can forget those great plastic costumes that provided a more 'immersive' feel to the Star Wars characters? Today, you're likely to see fully-robed Jedi, complete with replica Lightsabers, using 'The Force' to get their goodies!

Star Wars Kids keeps up the great work by featuring yet another cool little update. If you're looking for a last-minute Halloween costume for the young ones, or even want a nostalgic mask for yourself - the kid at heart, Check out Trick or Treat Star Wars Style for printable color masks of Original Trilogy characters. Featuring such memorable heroes and villains as: Rebel Leader Princess Leia, faithful Chewbacca, talkative C-3PO, lovable Wicket the Ewok, menacing Darth Vader, ancient Jedi Master Yoda, a Gamorrean Guard, Bib Fortuna, and the ever-cool Mon Calamarian, Admiral Ackbar. Remember kids: get your parents help on these! Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Apple - iPod Photo

iPod Photo Image
When MP3 players started appearing on the market, I looked at many and didn't find one that met all the requirements I had in mind. If Apple made one, I knew they would do it right. It's been 3 years since the introduction of the Apple iPod and if you've got one, you know how wonderful they are. My wife purchased one for me as a Christmas gift and I've used it almost every day. It feels great to hang on to, not awkwardly shaped like others. It possesses a clean interface - reminiscent of Apple's early Mac experience, and most importantly, it holds A LOT of songs.

I'm on my third one now, and though the iPod isn't perfect (darn close though), any flaws they've had have been addressed promptly and Apple has only kept making it better. Along with the U2 Special Edition iPod, today Apple introduced the iPod Photo. For those who can afford to purchase the color iPod, you'll not only have a great portable digital jukebox, but also a vivid portable digital photo album. Canadians can drool here.

Amazon.com purchase link (shipped to US only):
Buy an iPod Photo
Buy an iPod or iPod Mini

Apple - iPod U2 Special Edition

U2 Special Edition iPod Image
It's a 'beautiful day' for Apple and U2 junkies! Today Apple released the U2 Special Edition iPod. Americans can check it out here.

Apple also announced that the iTunes Music Store will be open for business to Canadians in November and that a version for European Union members launches today.

If you're not a U2 fan, but you're looking for a more colorful iPod, a company called ColorWare has been offering a service in which they will paint your iPod from a pre-chosen list of unique colors. They also offer custom coloring and can paint PowerBooks, iBooks, and other laptops. The quality of their work looks fantastic!

Amazon.com purchase link (shipped to US only):
Buy an iPod U2 Special Edition
Buy an iPod or iPod Mini

Star Wars Trilogy: The Changes

Ken pointed me to a great link with visual and audio comparisons of changes to the Star Wars Trilogy. From the standard Widescreen VHS versions to the Special Editions and recent DVD releases, the list is pretty comprehensive. What DVDAnswers did miss, readers note other changes in the comments sections.

I tend to agree with most of the comparison thoughts, although I do think the new Jabba in the DVD version of A New Hope is closer to the Jabba in the Return Of The Jedi. The Hutt may appear more plastic-like, but his overall look, as evidenced by his facial features and body shape, is closer - even if he is a bit younger.

The site is also experiencing heavy traffic and there's a lot of images, so be patient.
Star Wars: The Changes - Part One - A New Hope
Star Wars: The Changes - Part Two - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: The Changes - Part Three - Return Of The Jedi

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Restoring A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars A New Hope Screenshot - R2-D2 and C-3PO land on Tatooine
Now that the wait is over for the most requested DVDs by fans, movie buffs, and consumers, Apple.com has posted an article about Lowry Digital Images and the restoration of The Star Wars Trilogy for DVD. Using an astonishing 600 Power Mac G5 computers, 378 terabytes of storage, and 3 months of work, the films were given more than a fresh coat of digital paint. Lowry's efforts must be seen to be believed. Of all the versions of The Star Wars Trilogy I own, these are the absolute sharpest looking versions yet. Check out the article here. Also be sure to take a look at the QuickTime VR movie of the computing horsepower used to restore a galaxy far, far away.

More from Lowry on the Star Wars restoration can be found here at BBC News / Click Online.

With about 35,000 frames of scratches to correct due to the age of the films, The Indiana Jones Trilogy also required an enormous amount of cleansing in order to provide the best presentation on DVD. Read more here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Return Of The King: Kong

KongisKing.net Screenshot - Includes Headshot of King KongKing Kong is among my top favorite films. It still provides me with inspiration today as it has done for so many other filmmakers, animators, and paleontologists. Before Peter Jackson directed the spectacular Lord Of The Rings trilogy, he was attempting a remake of King Kong. He even had some incredible sculptures produced to help sell the movie with Kong battling a few Tyrannosaurs. The studios weren't ready to produce the film yet, so he moved on to the Tolkien epic. The rest is history.

With the success of the Lord Of The Rings films, Peter has now been able to revisit his King Kong concept and get back into making it happen. If you want to follow the production you can visit KongIsKing.net and keep track of the giant ape.

Like TheOneRing.net and LordOfTheRings.net, where periodic updates were provided on the production, Peter Jackson provides video updates every few days in the form of Peter Jackson's Production Diary for 'King Kong'- currently on Day 33. It helps provide a little more insight into filmmaking in New Zealand from PJ and crew.

I'm anxious to see what he does with Skull Island and the dinosaurs!
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Amazon.com purchase links:


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Amazon.ca purchase links:

Boston Red Sox Make History

So a baseball team with a $128 Million US payroll beat one with a $186 Million US bankroll. What a swell planet. :-( At least they broke an 86-year-old 'curse.'

CNN.com - Boston Red Sox make history - Oct 21, 2004

Secret City Thrives Beneath Paris

An underground metropolis complete with its own 'Police Chief in charge of Subterranean Paris.' Sounds like a perfect setting for a movie.

MSNBC - A secret city thrives beneath Paris

Keep Music Coming Campaign

I'm on a big Jazz music kick lately. I've been rediscovering a bunch of good Swing material but I'm also enjoying the sultry, lounge type of stuff that keeps you in a relaxing, stress-free mood. Last week I purchased the new Norah Jones album 'Feels Like Home'. Her music continues to showcase her wonderful talent and soothing voice. Always inviting, 'Come Away With Me' and 'Feels Like Home' have both been receiving quite a bit of play on my Mac, iPod, and CD player.

When I opened the CD I discovered something surprising instead of what is usually a throwaway ad or catalog of music - a small green paper with the following words:

"THANK YOU!" On behalf of the creators of this recording, we thank you for making this investment and hope you enjoy this music for years to come!"

"Your decision to buy this recording is appreciated by more than 40,000 Canadians who work hard producing and supporting music. Many people - including ARTISTS, writers, musicians, producers, and engineers were involved in the creation of this recording. Music creators are supported by retailers and music distributors, music publishers, manufacturing, record companies, video producers, promoters, and concert touring groups - ALL have a passion for music and a desire to continue to create and deliver the music that you'll want to hear and love tomorrow...Thanks again!"

"keepmusiccoming.com"

I don't know if these notes are included in American CD's as well or if they're relegated to record labels like EMI, but I say 'keep it coming.' It's less harsh than the 'stop stealing music' stance and various litigations that seem to abound in the news. I consider this approach to be rather respectful and applaud the record companies for choosing this method.

Of course I've heard Jones' albums before I bought them, so I was making an informed purchase. This wasn't a case of buying an album because you've enjoyed a musician's previous release only to find you like one or two songs on the new CD. And that's where part of the frustration on the consumer's part comes in.

Prices are another irritation. When a CD is priced above $15 Canadian, it's tough for many to pay more than that if you happen to only like a few songs. In turn, many resort to downloading music which, for the moment, is considered legal in Canada. This is due to a court decision and the levy that is tacked onto the purchase of blank media including CD-R's, DVD-R's, MP3 players, and tapes.

There are a few benefits to downloading music. One can find almost any song on many peer-to-peer networks, including whole albums, bootleg recordings, and rarities. For many, it's also free - aside from your Internet Service Provider charges. All you basically need is an Internet connection and enough hard drive space to store the music. If you're online chatting with a friend, and you want them to hear a song you're enjoying, you can send them a relatively small MP3 file rather than transfer a large-sized AIFF file - the standard used on Audio CD's. Certainly online file transferring is more immediate than having to wait and personally give them the CD. For undiscovered or developing musicians, online music file posting is a way to expose more listeners to their music, when they have yet to be given a chance by a production label. For established musicians, it's a little more money in their pocket directly rather than a record company - who may not be giving the artists the marketing or support they feel they deserve.

There's also a few drawbacks to downloading music - most of which can be overcome if you're knowledgeable about the technology and process. If you don't own an iPod or other Portable Music Player, you're stuck with the music files on the computer unless you know how to convert the files for a CD to play on a standard CD player. Although, this too is becoming much easier and many are using their computers as 'digital jukeboxes'. Another negative is that sometimes you may receive corrupt files that won't play properly. Still other times, the song won't even be the one you wanted, having been mislabeled. And if you're a fan of the artwork and having something tangible, then you probably won't receive those.

Companies like Apple are making it easier for people to legally download music in the US and UK with the iTunes Music Store. You can purchase individual songs, or whole albums for very reasonable prices. You'll often receive artwork to go with it, should you want to print the cover and have a hard copy of your music. Apple (and others) are able to do all of this because they have incorporated FairPlay Digital Rights Management into their system. As the downloader from the iTunes Music Store, you must authorize your computer to allow it to play the purchased music. The songs aren't transferable to somebody else's computer unless they have been allowed to play on those computers and even then, only up to a certain numbers of computers. Hackers have found ways to bypass these and other copyright technologies but Apple seems to have a pretty good model that others are trying to follow and music lovers are willing to pay for.

I've purchased a large amount of CD's in the past, many of them soundtracks costing over $15 and I still like to have originals over copies, so I'll continue to buy CD's that I'll enjoy - as long as they're reasonably priced. I know it takes money to produce works of art, and the musicians - like the rest of us in creative fields - earn their living by creating and getting paid. They don't get paid for illegal downloads. But if the prices of CDs skyrocket again, more purchasers will turn right back to downloading. To also keep us purchasing hard copies of the music, the CD must also have the ability to be 'ripped' or digitized and placed on my computer and iPod without problems. If there is some kind of copyright technology that won't allow me the right to choose how I want to play the music, it will go right back to the store. I know others who have returned CDs for that very reason and the record companies have subsequently lost another sale.

As legal music downloading grows and more incentives to purchase music online are introduced, a greater number of people will make the switch. However, many listeners will still want 'something tangible' to hold and so there will always be CD (or other media) sales of some kind - whether it is pre-recorded or recordable. As consumers we'll still purchase music - online or in CD form as long as we're being respected as both a listener and a purchaser. If we're treated or made to feel like criminals by corporate bullies, record sales will drop again and it will only ending up further hurting the recording industry.

For the record: I had no problem ripping both Norah Jones albums onto my Mac.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Giant Sunfish

Thanks to Dean for these links. I bet you didn't know Sunfish could grow this large!

Monster washes up near Farewell Spit
More photos of an Ocean Sunfish

Korean Dinosaur Discovery

More Dinosaur news for you. Like some that once roamed Alberta, the remains are believed to be that of a Hadrosaur and possibly even a new species.

Dinosaur Remains Found In Korea

Arctic Dinosaur Fossils

That's right. Dinosaurs were in the Canadian High Arctic.

CBC News: Dinosaur fossils shows Arctic's Jurassic age

The original press release can be found here. There's also a link in the press release with more about the discoverer, Hans Larsson.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Apple - iTunes - U2 Vertigo

Screenshot of Bono from U2 in Apple iTunes AdThe new U2 song 'Vertigo' from the upcoming album 'How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb' can be heard (or seen) here.

If you've got iTunes for your Mac or PC, you'll be able to watch a 2-minute video of the song - in the iTunes/iPod style of things. Also, if you live the US or UK, or have a US or UK billing address, then you can download the new single from the iTunes Music Store. The rest of the album will likely be available in November.

Some people are calling U2 'sellouts' for doing this with Apple, but U2 frontman Bono has always had a thing for technology. He's been a champion of Apple products for many years and you've probably seen him in Apple Trade Show videos or on television speaking enthusiastically about iTunes, iPods, or PowerBooks. And if you've witnessed a U2 tour like Zooropa, you know he's no stranger to using technology.

One of the driving factors as to why 'Vertigo' is available through the iTunes Music Store is because of a 'music leak' that occurred a few months ago. While doing a cover photo shoot for the forthcoming album, the best-selling music group had a copy of the new record playing in a nearby CD player. After the shoot, the band found the CD had disappeared. Whether it was stolen or simply forgotten remains a mystery, but the band was noticeably upset. In an effort to thwart illegal downloads on file sharing and peer-to-peer networks, U2 - and probably their record company - decided to partner with Apple and get the song up on the iTunes Music Store.

There's also more news today that Apple and U2 will team up to possibly provide the new album preloaded on new iPods.

luxo - A blog dedicated to Pixar Animation Studios

Screenshot of Pixar Animation Studio Movie Posters from Pixar Website
If you're as amped about The Incredibles as I am, then you're probably a loyal Pixar fanatic. The upcoming film from Director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) will hopefully continue Pixar's reign as the undisputed champion of animated storytelling. And if you're also craving your fix of Pixar information, then you'll most definitely want to make Luxo a daily visit on your website rounds. Updated frequently, there is no other one-stop source for all things Pixar-related.

luxo - A blog dedicated to Pixar Animation Studios

Update: I'd like to let readers know that I've been asked to collaborate on the blog with my good friend Ken Bautista. Even though I thought about doing a Pixar tribute website a few years ago, my time has been spent on other projects. I'm glad Ken picked up the ball, ran with it, and scored a touchdown with a truly great blog! I'm honored to have been asked to be a part of it and look forward to bringing excited Pixar stories to all of you.

Temptress of A Thousand Faces: EIFF

Temptress of a Thousand Faces Screenshot
We've been having some nasty weather here the last few days, but if you're looking for something to do in Edmonton on October 19 and you'd like to see an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, then take in one of the films on the last day of the 2004 Edmonton International Film Festival. With 'Temptress' you'll see a fun martial arts film and show your support for Edmonton's Film Community.

Temptress of A Thousand Faces: Edmonton International Film Festival

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Archaeology of Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Screenshot - Indiana Jones silhouetted against the sun at the Well of Souls
If you have a passion for movies, ancient cultures, and 'rare antiquities', then like myself, there's a good chance you're a fan of Indiana Jones.

As was the case with Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, Indy was a hero I would pretend to be as a young boy - grabbing a pocket-filled jacket, my mom's old handbag, some adventurous-looking boots, and an old rope for a whip - and set off on quests to lost jungle temples and Egyptian tombs, hoping to find the next big archaeological wonder. In reality, the 'temples' and 'tombs' were only my basement, or the local forest, but my imagination knew no boundaries. Only when supper time came, would I have to relinquish my imaginary adventures to the reality of nourishment provided by mom and dad.

What some of you daring readers may not know, is that much of the Indiana Jones lore is rooted in reality. Creator George Lucas, Director Steven Spielberg, and writer Lawrence Kasdan, would combine stories of ancient civilizations, mythology, and their own adventures and nightmares, and bring Dr. Henry 'Indiana' Jones, Jr. to the silver screen.

Through my continuing career as a creative specialist, I have had the good fortune to meet real-life adventurers. From palaeontologists like Dr. Philip Currie and Dr. Michael J. Ryan - who have discovered new Dinosaur species in the infinite southern Badlands of Alberta and remoteness of Argentina, to Dr. David West Reynolds, an archaeologist who turned his love of science and movies into a career as a scientific consultant for Lucasfilm and recently as Director of The Phaeton Group, a multi-disciplinary team of individuals dedicated to bringing field science, history, and exploration to a wider audience.

With their careers, both Dr. Ryan and Dr. Reynolds have had opportunities to travel to foreign countries, unearthing new dinosaurs or excavating lost cities. They've also helped discover lost filming locations of both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film sagas, long before the many tours that exist now. Had it not been for the dedication to their work and love of the films, it would probably have been a while, before these locations were rediscovered.

What makes all this relevant, is that with their scientific backgrounds and international travel, they are able to compare reality to fiction and make that knowledge available to us, the fans of Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Many of us will never have the chance to see a real dinosaur dig, or the interior of an Egyptian tomb, so we can only rely on the information in books and the Internet, and the images in movies and television.

In Dr. Reynolds' latest series of writings for IndyGear.com, we get to discover a little more of what grounds the Indiana Jones stories in reality and where some of the locations in the films - or inspirations for them - can be seen. In 2000, I was able to visit the island of Kauai, Hawaii with my wife, and armed with local maps and The Kaua'i Movie Book, we were able to track down locations of some of our favorite films including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park. It was like being that young boy again, venturing through the 'jungles' looking for the Golden Fertility Idol seen at the beginning of Raiders. I can only imagine how much more fun we would have had in Kaua'i with somebody like David West Reynolds, helping us discover the filming locations and painting a more detailed picture about the reality behind the mythology of Indiana Jones.

Head on over to IndyGear with the link below!

IndyGear.com Presents David West Reynolds' The Archaeology of Indiana Jones

Friday, October 15, 2004

In Memory of Christopher Reeve - Political Cartoons

Some touching political cartoons about the death of a 'super' man.

Christopher Reeve

Note: Some of the numbered page links appear to be incorrect. To see the rest of the images, change the number before the ".asp" in the website URL to the page you wish to view.

The Death of a Superman

Christopher Reeve as Superman Photo - Superman in the BadlandsThis isn't the death of the Superman in the DC comic books or Warner Brothers movies, killed by villians, only to come back to life stronger than before. Christopher Reeve won't be coming back. There is no real Fortress of Solitude for him to regain his strength. But he's left a legacy that will hopefully endure, long after people remember that 'he was in a few Superman movies'.

I've had the 2-CD Superman score by John Williams playing the last couple of hours. I'm sad to hear about the passing of Chris but I'm smiling at moments of the film, playing over in my head. From the few notes in 'Leaving Home' that remind me of when Clark finds a remnant shard of Krypton in the Kent family barn to the rousing theme when Clark rescues Lois and the falling helicopter in 'The Big Rescue'. I'm getting chills up my spine just listening to the soundtrack again.

There are few DVD box sets that I will pick up the day they come out. The Superman Collection was one I didn't hesitate with. Sure the other 3 aren't up to the standard of the first one, but it's magic to see Superman in film, translated from static comic book imagery to gravity-defying motion. From Christopher Reeve's nearly flawless role as The Man of Steel to John Williams uplifting and adventurous score, Superman: The Movie is a film that should be remembered for the way it propelled our imaginations and made us all want to be superheroes. How many of us came out of the theater flying? Or put on a Superman shirt or bedsheet at home and pretended to save Lois Lane and the citizens of Metropolis? Christopher Reeve got to live that dream. It has been suggested by many that Superman: The Movie is the epitome of Comic Book Films, and others pale in comparison. Bryan Singer, Director of X-Men, and X2: X-Men United acknowledges that the Richard Donner Superman film was a big influence. If we had a DVD Commentary in the film, we could only imagine how Mr. Reeve would look back on his role now and wish to fly again. He certainly made me 'believe a man can fly.'

Superman wasn't just an American hero. He had some Canadian connections. From the earlier influences of one of his creators, Joe Shuster, to the filming locations in the movies themselves. I cannot drive through Southern Alberta without thinking of the Superman production filming there. Wondering if the cast and crew realized what magic they were creating. Seeing the wheatfields that stood in for Kansas, the town that stood in for Smallville, or Calgary, which doubled as Metropolis. And the Badlands where Lois was rescued from the Earthquake. It makes me wonder if we'll ever see another Superman inspire others as Reeve's portrayal inspired us. Just passing through a montonous, but beautiful prairie conjures images of a young Clark Kent discovering his new abilities.

Others have said it, and I have to agree - Christopher Reeve was a Superman in more ways than one. He was not an alien to our planet like Kal-El, but human like the rest of us. He wasn't impervious to pain and he was just as succeptible to injuries as any. It was reported that he fell into a depression after his accident and questioned life itself, but he rebounded with new found strength - like Superman ridding himself of the crippling Kryptonite - and began to fight new battles. To increase awareness of the disabled, to educate on stem cell research - dispelling the myths, and to mark a return to acting, magically playing a small guiding role to Clark Kent in TV's Smallville. The episode itself featuring a few nods to his character in the film.

Living up to the character he played was probably a difficult situation for Chris. As an actor, it's just another role, a job perhaps, but having played the character during a time when movies were the most important part of any of our lives, he portrayed a hero who did what he could for others, forsaking his own history - and even powers - in the process. Reeve probably knew, like others, that he might be labeled with the role of Superman for life, but he couldn't have chosen a better one to be associated with. He'll leave a few legacies with us though. Not only as Superman, the role we best know him for, but also his family who will carry on his legacy, and The Christopher Reeve Foundation. If his untimely death helps in one way, it will be the publicity for his causes and the Foundation itself, and the good it will do for others with disabilities.

I'm hoping Warner Brothers takes the opportunity with the new Superman feature film and dedicates it to Reeves. Or at least an 'In Memory Of' tag at the end of the film. Bryan Singer can do this with class, and it would be another fitting tribute to the one who will always be 'Clark Kent' and 'Superman:The Man of Steel'.

May he be flying again among the clouds and stars. He'll be missed by all.

The Christopher Reeve Foundation