July 22, 2009

San Diego Comic-Con, Here We Come!

It's that time, again!

Every Summer for the last decade or so, Tommy and I have been attending the San Diego International Comic-Con, here in California. For those of you who don't already know, Tommy Kovac is a comic book creator who writes and illustrates his own works for publisher, Slave Labor Graphics. So far, his body of work includes the books 'Stitch', 'Skelebunnies', 'Autumn' and, most notably, the highly acclaimed Disney Press published 'Wonderland'. That last one was a collaboration with artist Sonny Liew, who did all of the beautiful illustrations complimenting Tommy's well-crafted story. If you have any appreciation for Disney's 'Alice in Wonderland' movie, or Lewis Carroll's original books, you would probably like 'Wonderland'. Tommy based his tale on both, while creating something entirely new and inventive. You really should check it out!

Cover of the Disney Press 'Wonderland'
graphic novel.

(To be clear, SLG first published the story
as a series of 6 single-issue comic books.
Then, Disney Press published them all
together in one graphic novel.)

If you're not familiar with Comic-Con, let me enlighten you. The San Diego International Comic-Con is the annual convention for all-things comic related. And even some stuff that isn't! It's been drawing thousands upon thousands of attendees each year for about 40 years, now. You would not believe the crowds unless you'd been amongst them personally! It really is an "experience" being at the convention. And when we go, we always attend all 4 days of it, so I'm always more than ready to leave when the final day approaches! I do have some fun, and I like being a supportive husband, but 4 whole days of that craziness and crowd congestion is quite exhausting for most anyone.

This is but a mere taste of what it's like walking around
on the convention hall floor.

Here is what it looks like outside the convention center, at the
end of each day. It's chaos in the streets, I tell you!

One of the most entertaining things to see at the convention, is the people. Well, the people who are not afraid to wear a costume, anyway. You see all manner of dress, too! Everything from total head-to-toe Klingons (with those big prosthetic foreheads and face make-up) to barely there, skimpy, flesh exposing "outfits". And believe me, you don't want to see some of the people who choose to share their physical attributes! For some reason, they seem to think that they're quite a hot property, and most of them are soooo not...

Look at this gaggle of giddy girls in their goofy getups!
Of course, the skimpier ones are tame compared to some...

A Cylon from Battlestar Galactica attempts to intimidate his
way through the thick crowd of humans.

I rather like this one! I guess that
she's supposed to be like some kind
of burlesque interpretation of
Batman's Joker?

No, they're not martians. It's the Shreks, of course!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this one
actually is a martian! (...with a coordinating
green Starbucks drink, natch!)

O.k., I just threw this one in for the ladies...
No, I didn't. I really threw it in for the boys!
(But if the ladies enjoy it also, that's great.)

This one kinda scares me, and I'm not sure why. Is it some sort
of Super Panda Girl? What would her powers be, I wonder?

This one might be my absolute favorite! I mean, it's
Darth Vader on a rickshaw! I just don't think it gets
any better than this.

Well, that's about all I have time for. I still have to pack my suitcase and fill the gas tank so that we're ready to take off to San Diego tomorrow morning...

I know it's only mid-week, but have a great weekend once it gets here! I'll be having a weekend full of sensory overload, while wading through tons of people just like I've shown you.


All photos via Google Images

July 21, 2009

What's Down the Rabbit Hole?

Tim Burton is about to "wow" us, again. This time, with his unique vision of Alice in Wonderland. We'll have to wait until March of 2010, but I have a feeling that it will be well worth the wait! I'm extra excited about it because I've always loved Alice, and I had even said many times early in Burton's career that his version of a Wonderland would be an incredible one.

The actress who was cast in the title role is somewhat unknown. And by that, I mean she hasn't really made it BIG, yet. The 20-year-old actress is Mia Wasikowska, and she is probably best known for her role as a patient named Sophie on the 1st season of HBO's In Treatment. That is a great show, by the way. If you like watching drama, I highly recommend it. I haven't seen any of Mia's Sophie episodes, though. I'll have to find and watch those, soon...

Mia Wasikowska is Alice.

Anyway, in Burton's version of Wonderland, Alice is now much older than in Lewis Carroll's original book. Here, she is a 17-year-old revisiting a Wonderland she has completely forgotten. Burton has said that he thinks other versions have suffered because they were basically "just one weird event after another". He says he's "trying to ground it a little bit" while also making a story that uses the Alice mythology and characters in a way that's "true to the spirit of what Alice is about."

The official movie title logo.
(Looks quite Burton-esque, huh?)

Another part of his retelling, is a Mad Hatter with a much bigger role in the story. "With him we are always trying to find a subtext and layer to it, so it's rooted in humanity to some degree - something deeper than just being nuts", Burton said. I'm sure that you must have heard by now that Johnny Depp will be the one inhabiting that character. His talent, combined with Burton's, almost assures an excellent film all by itself!

Johnny Depp is the
Mad Hatter.

Adding to the challenge of concocting such a different take on Alice, is the filming process. The film will be presented using a mix of animation, live-action and motion-capture. And according to Burton, it has proved to be a "mysterious puzzle that's frightening and exciting at the same time."

Anne Hathaway is the
White Queen.

Helena Bonham Carter is
the Red Queen. (Her head was
enlarged to 3x the normal size.)

Matt Lucas is both
Tweedledee & Tweedledum.

Now, the following images are just conceptual, but if the film comes anywhere close to these... we're gonna be treated to some great eye-candy!

Could this be when Alice first enters
Wonderland and encounters the
White Rabbit?

Alice, in a garden of live flowers, and
approaching what looks like a gateway
into a forest of giant mushrooms.

Some other cast members (whose character images have not yet been released) include Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts, Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit, Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock.

I tell ya, with a cast like that, this movie is going to be awesome! Or, at the very least, interesting. And quite colorful! I like color.

All images copyright Walt Disney Pictures

July 18, 2009

It Sure is HOT, Esther! Let's Go For a Dip...

Photo via Google Images

It's Summer, and the days are starting to really heat up here, in Southern California. So, taking a cue from some of my fellow bloggers who've also done water-themed posts, I thought that it might be fun to dive in the pool for a refreshing dip with Hollywood's bathing beauty of the 1940s and '50s, Esther Williams. Come on, put on your swim cap and let's jump in...

Photo via Google Images

So pretty in pink!
What'll the boys think?

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

Wow, all of that time in the water
must've shrunk Esther!

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

Strike a (pool) pose!

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

Men, keep that in mind...

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

Long before dolphin-safe tuna, it wasn't
uncommon for fishermen to find Esther
tangled in their nets. Why they were
fishing in swimming pools, is anybody's

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

"Vacation, all I ever wanted..."

Photo via Google Images

Even underwater, this lady looked good!

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

Cool, relaxed and... shiny?

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

Far from singing her "swan song", Esther
poses with a fellow swimmer.

Photo courtesy of Luis Aquino

"Would you like a beverage? It's cool and
refreshing Lipton iced tea. You'll love the
brisk Lipton flavor! When I'm not
swimming, you'll always find me drinking
a delicious glass of Lipton iced tea!"

Photo via Google Images

Even Tom & Jerry made a splash with Esther!

Alright, out of the water! We've gotten enough sun for the day, and the bus is heading back to 2009. Grab your towels, and don't leave your inflatable toys in the pool!

Wave good-bye to Esther, everyone!

I hope you all had a fun time! Come back again, soon, and we'll take another trip somewhere... Have a great weekend!

July 14, 2009

Christmas is Dead.

Photo by Team Dziobecki

The above picture seems appropriately symbolic for beginning this follow-up post, since it's all about the sad present-day reality of a once magical place we knew as Santa's Village in Skyforest, California. As you can see, the image is of an almost perfectly preserved Christmas tree inside of what could be interpreted as a glass coffin. How perfect is that? I'm also amazed, considering the current condition of other areas in the park, that vandals hadn't already destroyed the glass-encased display. I'm no trespassing, property-trashing redneck asshole, but aren't those windows begging to be broken?! And isn't the act of smashing windows and/or glass one of the first things you learn in Vandalism 101? I'm just saying.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my research found that the old parking lot is now being used as a lumber yard. Yes, a lumber yard! I have no idea if any of the old village houses or buildings are being utilized by the "lumberjacks", but even just using the parking lot seems bad enough. See the pictures below...

Photo via alamedainfo.com

THEN: This was Santa's lovely parking lot, back-in-
the-day. It's even more attractive with those great
old cars, huh?!

Photo by Hockeynut 10

NOW: Here is the current-day "lumberjack" parking
lot. If you squint, you can see the giant candy cane that
welcomed thousands of tourists to Santa's fantastical
home for more than 40 years! You can also see the
green Bumblebee Monorail track towering above,
amidst the forest.

Let's move on to the village grounds and interior. Remember the Good Witch's Bakery that looked like a giant gingerbread house? Well, take a look below for another staggering before & after comparison...

Photo via alamedainfo.com

THEN: The Good Witch's Bakery, covered in
bright and cheerful sugary goodness.

Photo by Team Dziobecki

NOW: Not so much.

One of the most exciting attractions that didn't make it into my first post, was the Alice in Wonderland Magic Looking Glass mirror maze/fun house. It was just a simple hall of mirrors that you walked through, but the Alice theme made it seem a lot more exciting! Here, take a look...

Photo via alamedainfo.com

THEN: An inviting, mysterious hall of wonders!

Photo by Kaitlin Johnson

NOW: A graffiti-laden vandal's playground. This is the
same big "looking glass" window that we can see the
little girl (and elf companion) gazing into, above. The
White Rabbit must have been added in later years. It
also looks like an alternate entrance/exit? Either that,
or the glass panel on the right end was broken out.

Photo by Kaitlin Johnson

Here's a shot inside the maze. Notice, the accumulation
of dirt and twigs on the floor. Also, those flowers are
painted onto the mirrors.

Photo by Kaitlin Johnson

Another shot inside the mirrored halls. It's kinda
spooky, all dark like this...

Photo by Kaitlin Johnson

This is a sad-looking empty corner of the maze. If the
writing on the wall is any indication, it would stand to
reason that something (Cheshire Cat?) used to reside

I'm pretty sure that Tommy and I walked through the mirrored Alice maze when we were there together, as we share an interest in all things Alice related. And my parents probably took me in there as a child, but I don't really remember any of the interior details. Yet again, it's another attraction I would've loved seeing when new!

This next thing, I don't recall at all. But it's pretty neat, and the pictures prove that it did exist, whether I saw it or not. Don't know how I could've missed it, though...

Photo via alamedainfo.com

THEN: There's a lot going on here! First, we've got
Jack Pumpkinhead with an elf, in front of a castle
turret-like thing that also has what looks like puppets
on its roof. Then, to the left, we can also see the Easter
Bunny crouching down and doing something...
suspicious. Meanwhile, in the background, Cinderella's
pumpkin coach goes rolling by.

Photo by Team Dziobecki

NOW: It almost looks like the
Partridge Family's outhouse, huh?!

Photo courtesy of Vintage Roadside

Here's the castle turret "toilet" from a different angle.
Notice the broken-down blue railings and bridge that
led to the turret. You can also see the back side and
main entrance to the Alice in Wonderland mirror
maze/fun house. You entered through that big tree, the
one that looks like it has a face. I don't know what the
cathedral-like "windows" are all about...

I'm frustrated that I could not find any vintage pictures of the hanging Bumblebee Monorail ride. And believe me, it's not for lack of trying! So, anyway, this before picture is more recent than the others, but it shows the ride in action...

Photo by Steve Wilson

THEN: Some passengers "hanging out"
on the Bumblebee Monorail ride.

Photo by Flickr 7500 (AKA James)

NOW: "Don't just leave me hangin'!" The bees were left
to fend for themselves, along with the entire support
track which keeps them in suspended animation.

Photo by Flickr 7500 (AKA James)

This was the entrance to the monorail, complete with
beehive ticket booth.

Well, folks, that's about it for now. I might do some additional related posts in the future, especially if I find the old photos from my very own visits. You know that I'll have to share those!

Hopefully, you didn't find all of this too saddening. But in case you did, here's just one more shot to end things on a happier note...

Photo via Google Image Search

NOW: Turns out that Santa's guard shack, a crooked
tree house and several giant mushrooms were bought
at the village's public auction and then successfully
transplanted here, at the Flower Fields of
Carlsbad, California. Since then, they continue to be
enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.
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