Movies

Shanghai Disneyland in Calgary? A visit to F & D Scene Changes

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This weekend I was lucky enough to take a tour of F & D Scene Changes  as part of Doors Open Calgary, an annual event that gives the public access to places around the city they normally would not be allowed to visit. What is F & D Scene Changes you ask?  They are a company that creates “projects that range from scenery for theatre, television and film to theme park elements, museum exhibits, and trade show and retail displays.” They’re located right here in Calgary, behind the Stampede grounds in a gorgeous historical building and I had no idea they existed!

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Imagine my excitement to find out in my very own backyard that they work on set pieces, parade floats and other amazing projects for Disney Parks, Universal, Cirque Du Soleil and more. Everything from design, lighting, welding, sculpting, prototyping, the list goes on. Talk about a hidden gem in Calgary.

During our visit, our tour guide was not allowed give us many details or even mention the name of some of their clients, including their Florida Client. We figured out pretty quickly that was Disney. We got some insider access and saw them working on projects for what I assume was Shanghai Disneyland Resort, as well as a new mall called Tsawwassen Mills (very similar concept as Vaughan Mills or CrossIron Mills .

Based on all the Shanghai Disneyland concept art I’ve seen, I could pick out a few things that were clearly headed overseas to the park. One was a smaller parade vehicle that had hidden Mickey heads printed all over it, another was the giant tree (we’re talking 40-50 feet high) that I assume will be the centrepiece for the Tarzan Show.Tarzan Call of the Jungle Show

They were even working on some concepts for a project based on a very popular “cold & icy” movie…..I’ll let you figure out which one.
It was really interesting learning about how they take the idea and have to figure out a way to engineer it so it looks good, is safe and can survive in any situation possible. They consult with engineers on many projects to ensure people are safe when climb, ride, carry, hold and interact in any way with their pieces. An example was that if a performer passes out in the middle of the show on a tree branch, will the weight of two additional people be okay to climb out to assist them. In addition, are there enough hand holds for three people to safely climb out and back.

Due to the nature of the projects they work on, we were not allowed to take photos of anything in the works. I did however take a bunch of pictures of completed projects they had laid out in their main office. They helped with the Little Mermaid rides at Disneyland & Walt Disney World, Transformers at Universal Studios, tons of other Tokyo & Hong Kong Disney projects, Broadway. Calgary Stampede…The list goest on. It was an awesome tour and highly recommended if you ever have the chance.

Here are some pictures of past projects they have worked on, very impressive!

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Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo 2014


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Yesterday I had the most amazing time at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo 2014. It’s the once a year gathering place to geek out in Central Alberta. Whether you are into anime, horror, sci-fi, action….it’s all represented at this massive show. The place was crawling with uber fans & celebrities (who were glad to take pictures with you and give you their autograph for some $$$) of every genre. Considering the event has over 60,000 attendees, the crowd control was excellent and it never felt too crowded. I highly recommend this event and will be back next year. Highlights for me at this event included: Meeting Sean Astin from The Goonies, a hilarious panel with John Ratzenberger, bumping into people with the most incredibly detailed costumes, and listening to Sigourney Weaver speak about all her awesomeness in Alien, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest. Here are some of the pictures I took throughout the day. Enjoy!

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Fan Expo 2012 Overview

Yesterday was my first visit to the incredible FanExpo in Toronto. Something I have been waiting for all summer. What is FanExpo you ask? If you’ve ever heard of Comic Con San Diego, Fan Expo is essentially the Canadian equivalent. “Fan Expo Canada™ humbly began as the Canadian National Comic Book Expo in 1995. Growing from one genre with 1500 fans to a multifaceted show connecting over 80,000 fans, Fan Expo Canada™ is currently the 3rd largest pop culture event in North America!”

Some of the people you will see.

At the event, Fanboys and Fangirls of all ages gather to celebrate all that is awesome in Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, Comic Books, and Gaming. While I’m into some Sci-Fi and Horror stuff, I am nowhere near the level of fan many of the people were in attendance here. There was an entire room dedicated to people who look as if they have never been out of their parents basement! Ok, I know I’m being harsh. Forgive me.

The highest form of nerd….table games.

It was a great event. We woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre right downtown Toronto. Once inside, it was a free for all of shiny things in all directions. Total. Sensory. Overload! We managed to do a loop of the place before it got insane, but all of a sudden it seemed like the crowd tripled in size. For those people who don’t like crowds, a fair warning: It’s crazy and hard to move at many points. You must mentally prepare for this before you go so it doesn’t bother you. There are lines for everything….except for the bathroom which I found odd. Who knows, maybe people wear adult diapers so they can partake in every moment.

Epic pop culture awesome!

A few suggestions: Travel light. Wear cargo shorts, shoes and a t-shirt. You will get stepped on and it gets hot. Also, bring a backpack to hold your crap. Generally they do give out free bags, but I find it’s easier to be hands free. One MAJOR thing: Cell reception is awful in the Convention Centre. Do not depend on your phone. Bring walkie talkies if you need to communicate with people, because service is spotty at best. You will most likely lose your group, prepare a gameplan.With that said, it was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had. I expected and prepared for the worst, therefore everything turned out well. Go with the flow, have a good time and enjoy!

Top 5 Moments at Fan Expo 2012

1. Seeing Gillian Anderson in person along with many other awesome celebrities: The X-Files is one of my favourite shows of all time, and I knew she would be there. It was a nice surprise to walk around a corner and see her, sitting at a table to my right signing autographs. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I was shaking a bit and it totally made my day. Forget the $50 you have to pay to wait in line and get her autograph, I got to see her from a few feet away and that was epic.

gillian anderson
Gillian Anderson

2. Stormtroopers Call Me Maybe: No explanation necessary.

3. People Watching: If you go for any reason at all, it’s this one. The costumes, the props, the interesting people and conversations you will experience. I witnessed so many interesting and odd happenings with all the people in attendance. The best one: a girl having a mental breakdown while sitting on the floor attempting to put in her special contact lenses. It was hilarious.

Hulk.

4. Photo Opportunities: In addition to all the amazing costumed people you can get pictures with, tons of companies are there promoting their wares and have unique photo opportunities and experiences. From giant Lego Darth Maul to CTV Big Bang Theory green screen photos, there are a ton of cool things to take pictures of. Some of the companies in attendance included Disney, EB Games, CTV, Space, Lego, Mega Bloks, LG, Sony, DC, Marvel…the list goes on.

delorean
The Delorean

5. Swag: There is so much free stuff to get. Buttons, printouts, posters, bags. Grab everything you can!

Check out all my pictures of this incredible event. If you also attended, let me know what you thought of the event!

 

Cool Ads: Brave Transit Wrap

It’s very rare that an advertising campaign grabs my attention, but I had to stop to take a picture of this. It’s a promotional transit wrap for the upcoming Disney-Pixar movie Brave. It’s not surprising, Disney is one of the  most creative companies on the planet. This transit wrap is a fun and well executed way to promote the movie while people are waiting for the TTC or walking down the street. It’s very detailed and stands out in a cluttered media environment. Great job Disney!


Bring back my simple movie theatre….

Now that the megaplex has taken over all across the nation, I feel it’s time to reflect back upon the movie theatres of yesteryear. And by yesteryear, I mean the 90’s.

Not Georgetown Cinemas, but you get the idea.

As a kid, I remember the theatre that I would go see movies was called Georgetown Cinemas. It was right beside the Miracle Mart (no longer) in a strip plaza. This theatre had a whopping 3 movie theatres! That’s right, 3. You walked in and paid right at the front door. It had low hanging ceilings and always had the scent of mould. The snack bar (if it deserves to be called that) consisted of the basics: pop, candy and popcorn. The syrup never seemed to be mixed at the right ratio, it was either too watery or way too sweet. They always put way too much butter on the popcorn, so it was a pile of gunk by the time you hit the bottom of the bag. When you went into your theatre, you sat in those squeaky chairs that had that burlap style fabric in colours like brown, orange and yellow. And they were not stadium seating, so you were out of luck if someone tall decided to sit right in front of you. The theatre was also designed in a way that anytime the door opened, all the light would come pouring into the theatre from the lobby. The one thing I remember most is how sticky the floors were. No matter when you went to see a movie, it seemed like they were permanently covered in gunk. The screen was about 1/4 the size of modern cinemas, and the surround sound was not THX Certified. They just had speakers around the theatre that gave the illusion of a 5.1 audio soundtrack. Regardless, I have fond memories of seeing such epic films as Jurassic Park, Titanic and The Matrix in this theatre.

Monster mega theatre

Compare that to the movie theatres on steroids that exist now: With 20 screens, 500 seat theatres, and endless food options (I’m talking to you Burger King, Pizza Pizza and YogenFruz). No longer is picking a movie experience a simple choice, you need to decide if you want to see it the normal way, VIP, Ultra AVX, IMAX, IMAX 3-D, or D-Box, . It also can cost upwards of $20 dollars to see a movie depending on how many bells and whistles you would like. And that’s without all the snacks and other garbage you can buy. The studios and theatres wonder why people are spending more money on home theatre systems and staying home. I’ll tell you why, it’s much easier to sit on my couch infront of my 42″ LCD TV with surround sound these days than it is to drive through suburbia, navigate myself through the food court to the theatre that seems further away than the moon and attempt to watch a movie with 15 year olds on their iPhones texting throughout the movie. And don’t get me started on the 20 minutes of advertising before the movie…

Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing an epic action flick like Transformers in all it’s HD glory on a massive screen with amazing surround sound. But at the end of the day, I still miss the simple movie going experiences I had as a kid. Maybe someone will bring back the simple theatre, where it’s about the movie and not all the other stuff.

How do you feel about the movie going experience of today vs. in the past? Leave a comment below.

Arthur Christmas: A blatant rip-off of Prep & Landing?

Arthur top, Prep and Landing below

Watching television tonight I saw a trailer for “Arthur Christmas,” a new movie from Sony. Here’s the description: “On Christmas night at the North Pole, Santa’s youngest son looks to use his father’s high-tech operation for an urgent mission.” The first thing I thought was that this is a blatant rip-off of Disney’s Prep and Landing. Here’s the description of that: “Wayne gets a new rookie partner, Lanny, after his previous partner got the promotion he wanted. Lanny has to remind Wayne of the Spirit of Christmas and the importance of being an elf in Santa’s Prep and Landing elite unit.” The difference being that Prep and Landing is a television special that came out 2 YEARS AGO! Looking further into Arthur Christmas, it really isn’t a simple copy, but some sequences look a little too similar to me. Mainly the whole high-tech, Mission Impossible type elves. Even other websites have made this mistake. (See screencap below.) You can’t argue that some of the ideas are definitely “borrowed”. Check out the trailer below, followed by a clip of Prep and Landing. What do you think?


The listing says Arthur Christmas, but the image below is Prep and Landing.

3 Cheesy-awesome Halloween movies from the 90’s

As the leaves start changing colours and the temperature dips, I instantly snap into Halloween mode. This time of year I read about all the haunted houses all over the country and wish I could build one on my front lawn. As a kid, I did have fog machines and dry ice for Halloween and would try to conjure up a pretty cool lawn display. Plus all the television shows and movies that help celebrate the season. I’m too old to trick-or-treat, but I’m not to old to curl up in a blanket to watch some of my favourite Halloween movies. Everyone has their own favourite movies for Halloween, some love the classic “Nightmare on Elm Street”  or “Friday the 13th” films, while others like the latest flick hitting the theatres like “Paranormal Activity 3.” I love tons of movies, the type that are full of cheese, spectacle and awesome storytelling. Many films hold a special place in my heart that I can’t explain. I simply love them. Generally were made in the 90’s. I have a very long list of Halloween favourites, but these three movies I must watch every year. They take me back to my childhood, being a kid and not having to worry about jobs, money or what the future holds. Plus, have you ever met anyone who can say these movies suck? Check it out and let me know your favourite movies to watch for Halloween.

Hocus Pocus

Out of every movie made for Halloween, “Hocus Pocus” is the best. It’s over the top, hilarious and has a great storyline. The film stars Omri Katz of “Eerie Indiana” fame, along with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najiimi. It usually plays a billion times on television during October, especially on The Disney Channel. Unfortunately for us in Canada, we don’t get Disney Channel. Thank goodness for DVD or Family Channel, the half assed version of Disney Channel. This is the type of movie that gets better the more times you watch it, and seeing it now as an adult it’s fun to notice some of the inappropriate jokes that fly over your head as a kid.


Sleepy Hollow

A fantastic movie starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci based on the Washington Irving short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Expertly directed by Tim Burton, this stunning film visual qualities he’s known for and is simply one of the best mood setting films for Halloween. It’s also on of his best films. And bonus points because Johnny Depp is awesome!

Halloweentown 

Out of all the Halloween movies I love, this is by far the cheesiest and over to top film. The basic plot: Marnie learns she’s a witch and must save Halloweentown from something evil. It’s a Disney Channel movie that came out in the late 90’s. It was so popular it spawned 2 sequels. Even though the acting is awful and the movie has that low budget, made in Canada TV movie look, it’s pretty fantastic! Definitly gets me in the Halloween Spirit!

Why “Terra Nova” is the best new TV show this Fall

Despite the negative outlook I had after reading about production issues, budget overruns, and schedule push backs, I must say I really liked the 2-hour premiere of Fox’s “Terra Nova“. Let’s get the brontosaurus in the room out of the way: Yes it does allude to a few other popular movies and television shows of the past, mainly “Jurassic Park“, “Avatar“, and “Lost“. Despite these comparisons, it’s a completely fresh concept that has tons of potential to entertain viewers. And from the Tweets I was following during the show, many people would agree with me. Here are a few reasons why I think “Terra Nova” is the best new show on television:

1. It sends a great message without being preachy

In “Terra Nova”, humans have almost destroyed the earth and are now transporting themselves back in time to start over. They are lucky to have technology with them, but they are basically living like early settlers. Unfortunately in the real world we don’t have the ability to time travel, yet. This show can help set a precedent of what can happen in the future and how humans with have to deal, all packaged in a slick, entertaining package. In a way like “Avatar.”

2. It’s breathtakingly beautiful

Television shows are a means of escapism for the general public, and “Terra Nova” does an amazing job of taking viewers to another world filled with lush tropical landscapes and fantastic sets. While there could be a little more work with the CGI dinosaurs, they are dealing with episodes that need to be produced on tighter deadline than movies. The show is filmed in Australia, therefore tons of eye candy to look forward to, especially if your watching in HD.

3. Mythology and storytelling are the foundation

Yes it’s bound to be compared to “Lost”, with a few plot points that are vaguely similar. The mythology that’s been planted from the first episode adds a reason for viewers to keep coming back for more and become engaged. What’s the point of a television show where everything is spelled out to the viewer upfront? The storytelling is also great, with many interesting characters that a broad base of viewers can relate to. In this day of social networking, mythology & the ability to relate are great ways for viewers to connect with each other, share and discuss. In the end building more buzz and drawing in more viewers. No one thought Lost would survive, and yet it lasted for 6 seasons because of this.

4. It’s cheesy in a fun way

The dinosaurs have nicknames like “howlers” and “slashers.” People keep getting killed left, right and centre, and Stephen Lang from “Avatar” is basically playing the same character all over again. While the show is considered a drama, this thick layer of cheese adds to the love I have for this show from the first episode.


5. No matter how hard you try, you will think of “Jurassic Park”, and that’s a good thing

Maybe it’s because Steven Spielberg is an executive producer, or simply that there are dinosaurs involved. Or maybe it’s because a few scenes and set pieces tread awfully close to similar ones in the JP films (I was hoping for electrified fences!). Regardless, the entire time I was thinking about “Jurassic Park”, how awesome it was, and how it’s great to have the same feeling about dinosaurs again as I did when I was 8 years old.

I truly believe “Terra Nova” is going to get enough viewers to stay alive. This show is very risky, especially on a network like Fox. Big budget, big sets, big dinos= big expectations. It will be interesting to see the numbers over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to pop in a DVD of “Jurassic Park”, and maybe follow it up with “Avatar” on Blu-Ray!

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London

File this under the best news I’ve heard all day. In Spring 2012, Warner Brothers is opening a tour of the actual movie sets from the making of the 8 Harry Potter films. While this tour is on the Warner Brothers lot in London, they have built two sound stages to house the sets from the film to allow visitors to get the complete experience without tying up the rest of the working studio. Can’t wait to hear more details about this. In the meantime, take a look at the teaser video below and a screenshot of the main site.