Abominable Robot – Shenanigans by Jonathon Robinson

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

I hadn’t seen this Disney’s Hollywood Studios show in several years and expected to have similar feelings about it to those I expressed in my recent posts about The Great Movie Ride and the Studio Backlot Tour. But even though it uses the same “inauthentic authenticity” conceit and some light, interactive trunk show gimmicks from way back it is still a really fun show with a few laughs and some set pieces and spectacle that makes Lights, Motors, Action! seem like a pale also-ran.

Here are fourteen favorite shots from a May 2012 viewing.


Celebration Memorial Day Flag Ceremony

Near Celebration Florida’s town center is the Veteran’s Memorial in Founders Park where each year on Memorial Day residents gather to honor fallen soldiers and ceremonially change the colors for another year. Here are nine photos from this year’s service.


The Role of Authenticity at the Studio Backlot Tour

After a recent tour through the Studio Backlot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “Does anyone ever buy this?” Truth be told this is nothing new. I get a little irked every time I experience this attraction.

Best Time to Safari

You may have heard stories of angry guests complaining to CMs at Kilimanjaro Safari that there weren’t many animals to see on their late afternoon, mid-summer journey through this Animal Kingdom signature attraction. Real animals with real notions about what they will and won’t do make it very difficult to provide a consistent show, especially in 100-degree weather. Animal Kingdom has come up with a bunch of tricks over the years, such as chilled rocks and hidden feeding stations to modify animal behavior in ways which make the attraction more satisfying for guests. For the most part, these techniques mean better summertime safaris. But nothing prepared us for a recent January trip where we saw chilly weather bring with it more animal activity than we’ve ever seen before.

Can The Great Movie Ride Be Saved?


“Was that even good in the eighties?”

“That was terrible.”

I overheard these guest comments while exiting The Great Movie Ride recently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And I’m willing to bet they’re all fairly typical. But why? What makes it so terrible for so many and what can be done about it?


October Sunset at Disney Hollywood Studios

As the spooky fun of HalloweenTime begins to fade, “scary” is soon to be replaced with “Peace on Earth” throughout the Walt DisneyWorld Resort.


Epcot Food & Wine Festival First Bites

The second annual First Bites Opening Night Reception for Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival was Thursday night September 29th this year. It features a selection of epicurean highlights from this year’s festival served à la minute (made to order) as well as a sneak peek at some of the events by wine tasting presenters, celebrity chefs and entertainers.

While Disney still needs to add a lot more value to the event before we can recommend it as a must-do, it was a blast to be back in the Wonders of Life Pavilion (which is very well appointed for this year’s festival) and we very much enjoyed getting a tasty preview of the food before everyone else and without having to schlep around World Showcase. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We have many a day’s schlepping around the World for food in our near future.

There was a ton of F&W merchandise available to purchase as well as a wine store and a mini art gallery featuring the work of Festival poster artist Maryann Schmidt, who was demonstrating her painting skills live. But the real star of the evening was the food, of course, so let’s dig in with a mouth watering look at some of the highlights.

From Hawaii comes Kālua Pork Sliders with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise. The name Kālua doesn’t refer to the liqueur Kahlua but rather a traditional cooking method involving a type of underground oven known as an imu.

Next up on our short list of highlights is our hands-down favorite of the entire evening, the Hops & Barley Maine Lobster Roll. The rolls were grilled crispy and buttered within an inch of their lives. There was as sweet aioli of some type and a spice mix that had hints of old bay, rosemary and tarragon. At least we think it had. One of the challenges was keeping track of all the details because I assure you we had more wine than food. Also clearly seen on the same plate is a lobster claw with drawn butter. I must have more of this in my belly as soon as possible… highly recommended.

Another combo plate with Australian Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry Citrus Glaze (we wouldn’ve liked them hotter and with more glaze but they were still yummy) and New Zealand’s Seared Sea Scallop with Kumara – Red Curry Purée and Apple Radish Salad. The scallops were perfectly – and I mean perfectly – cooked. And that is so hard to do even in a real kitchen. The fact they did it on what basically amounts to a hot plate is most impressive.

The last sneak peek in this report is a dessert trio. Clockwise from bottom is a White Chocolate Macadamia Mousse with Dark Chocolate Pearls (delicious but the pearls seemed like they’d been made days ahead), Tres Leches Verrine which, were I a coconut fan, I’d rave about, and finally the deliciously tart but way-too-sweet Lemon Chiffon. Had we a better photo we would’ve selected the trio of vegan desserts to present here instead. They were the most amazingly tasty sweet treats of the evening and we had no idea we were eating vegan until after we’d gone back for seconds. If you can, definitely check out the Mini Cookie Sandwiches, Mini Doughnuts and Brownie Bites from BabyCakes NYC. You will be astonished with how delicious vegan can be. Take it from a surprised and dedicated omnivore from way back.

HGTV Designer and Host Vern Yip signs autographs for a fan.

Food Network Celebrity Chef Keegan Gerhard hosts a cooking demonstration.

Red Newt Cellers’ Brandon Seager tries to convince us we should like Rieslings. Hint: wait for it to warm a bit and go for the driest one you can find.

Our girl Taylor Dayne belting out her Grammy-nominated hit “Tell It To My Heart” much to our embarrassingly-squealing delight. I wooed so much I was hoarse for two days. She’s still got it! Definitely go see her concert if you can.

A big surprise of the evening was the parting gifts!

The bag included many sweet treats, teas, a German Pilsner and much more including this Festival wine glass.

We left the event shorty after IllumiNations ended and were treated to a smoky view of the Festival Signage in front of Spaceship Earth.

Merci, First Bites!

And a special merci to MiceChat’s Orlando Parkhopper blog for including my report in this week’s post.

Famous Stud

I have so many photos of signs it struck me recently I could combine them to make them say whatever I wanted. Maybe I’ll start a series. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The source photos are from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Celebration Pumpkin Patch

Halloween is serious business in Celebration, FL and this local pumpkin patch will triple in size in the coming weeks as pumpkin demand skyrockets. Here are a few photos of the patch in its current state.

Funny how even on a beautiful day a few hundred pumpkins can add a sense of creepy to even the prettiest church steeple.

Look closely at this butterfly. He’s clearly seen better days. Its a wonder he can even get airborne his wings are so compromised.

Love the knobby green gourd! But what kind of pie would it make?

Mini pumpkins for the win!

Playing Dexter

We were getting our front door painted last week and while it was off in the garage being sprayed the entryway to our house was covered in plastic. So we had a little impromptu photo shoot. Despite the gruesome photo I assure you we were just having a little pre-Halloween fun. My partner posted the shot to Facebook with the caption, “We were playing Dexter.”

Chili Dog Nostril & Existential Crisis in the Magic Kingdom

My partner and I are in our third month of citizenship here in Florida and our third month being Orlando Parkhoppers! And we’ve developed the habit of limiting our trips to just a few hours for some unknown reason. Yes, we have tons of work to do getting our new home in order and yes we keep being drawn to our pool like moths to a flame. But this last weekend we set out to break our three hour rut and spend a day in the Magic Kingdom. Here is a report from that trip in photos. And, as usual, there is a snarky caption or two thrown in for good measure.


Universally Hot

Being new to the Orlando area, heading over to a theme park on a day off is still a great treat! And this weekend we decided it was time to venture a little further away from the Disney Parks that are so nearby our new hometown of Celebration, Florida. So we visited the Universal Orlando Resort for the first time as locals. It was incredibly fun and incredibly hot!

Universal upsold us. We totally fell for it. We bought premiere passes. You get so many amazing benefits along with a Premiere Annual Pass but the best part is the despicably bourgeois but incredibly awesome FREE VALET PARKING! I can’t tell you how ridiculously self indulgent it feels to drive up to Universal, hand your keys off and walk in to the park. Please, please, please Disney bring valet parking to your Parks. It. Would. Be. AWESOME! You purists may now all proceed to call me horrible names for suggesting it.


Three Robots and Three Martinis at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

How is it that a quick trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for dinner never ends up being just a quick trip for dinner? Run in, get a great meal at Hollywood Brown Derby, run out. Quick and easy, right? “But it’s after five and there’s still FastPasses left for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Well, okay, just one ride after dinner why not? A little time to kill, how bout we run in and check out the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream exhibit. Oh, and there’s a film? Okay, so a film and a ride and dinner… and… and…” and so it went. What follows is our dinner-only trip in photos that included a lot more than just dinner.

I want to go to there.

The Crystal Palace in a scale model of Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. in Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. There’s a ton of really amazing stuff in there, especially if you like scale models!


Celebrate America 2011

Last night Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom had a July 3rd preview of this year’s Independence Day “Celebrate America” fireworks show. And it was the most jam-packed-with-people experience I’ve ever had in the park. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like tonight! Here are some of my favorite photo moments from last night’s awesome pyrotechnic display.


Cause for Celebration

Celebration, Florida is an oasis of small town beauty just south of Walt Disney World property in central Florida. Disney no longer has any ownership stake in the community, but there are many Disney business entities still operating in Celebration. And its clear through the incredible attention to detail and careful theming that they were the originators.

While there is no Main Street, Market Street serves as the spine of Town Center. Sundays it is filled with vendors for a farmer’s market and it is home to some very theatrical seasonal celebrations including nightly “snowfall” during Christmastime – soap bubbles emitted from the tops of lampposts.



My partner and I went to the now-abandoned agricultural co-op in my hometown just as the sun was setting in July 2009. Growing up, this site was always busy and noisy. Now its just deserted. But it makes for some nice photos.

The beauty, mystery and implied narrative of this photo is all the doing of my partner. I was snapping empty railroad tracks until he pulled off his shoe, put down his foot and said, “shoot this.” It is one of my all-time favorite photos.


Underground Apparition

Here’s a casual subway snap taken while pulling into the 42nd Street station that netted an otherworldly result.

Walmart, Sonic and the Cheapo Depo

These three photos were taken in northeastern Oklahoma in July 2009. First up is this late-night shot of a shopping cart alone in the Walmart parking lot.

Next up is this customized and clearly God-approved van at the local Sonic Drive-In. I was using a super-wide 10mm lens and had to get uncomfortably close to the vehicle. I was scared that any moment the cast of a Rob Zombie movie would jump out and start stabbing me. Did I say stabbing? I meant saving. Or stabbing. Probably both.


King Arthur Carousel at Disneyland Park in Anaheim is a beacon of family fun by day. But by night it can take on a darker vein. The gaze of the cherubs have a haunting emptiness.


Aerial Arizona

A few snaps from thirty-thousand feet of some stunning topography on my way back from a Camaro ZL1 video shoot in January 2011.

You can view some behind-the-scenes photos of the video shoot at my media production company’s site Playhead.com.

Three Faces of Washington

Here are three photos from our October 2009 trip to participate on the Marriage Equality March on Washington. The first is the face of a very old clockwork friar, classified as one of the earliest robots.


New Amsterdam Marquee Before & After

Mary Poppins plays on Broadway at the New Amsterdam theater on 42ND Street in New York City. It is between my apartment and the subway station I frequent the most. I noticed a few years back how incredibly filthy the marquee was… and how incredibly beautiful. I don’t blame Disney at all, however, as the cost of keeping something like this clean is no doubt astronomical, especially in a city where everything that sits still for five minutes gets covered in a layer of grime. But I did take a series of photos of the dirty details.

A few months back I noticed the marquee was enclosed in scaffolding and, after several weeks, a beautiful, clean & shiny marquee emerged. The difference is striking!

My Desert Adventure

Sometimes I get to do some really cool stuff for my job. Case in point: Chevy wanted a kick-ass driving video to accompany the reveal of it’s all-new muscle missile Camaro ZL1 but they didn’t want us damaging the only pre-production show car they had. So we traveled to their Yuma, AZ Desert Proving Grounds to shoot an engineering mule seen here still clad in partial camouflage.

Have a look at the reveal video and the entire behind-the-scenes gallery.

I generally tweet my shoot projects with photos, videos and other real-time updates. Follow me on Twitter to get the feeds.

Good Dog

This photo was a candid accident believe it or not. We were at least 25 feet away from Pluto, who was engaged with a young family at the head of a long line of adults and children waiting for a photo op. We weren’t even standing still but were walking by on our way to the restroom. Somehow Pluto caught me lifting my camera and turned to wave just in time. You can tell he’s in motion from the angle of his floppy ear. We were not only amazed that he was somehow able to see us and that his wave was so well timed, but that he clearly looks for people like me who are lifting cameras just so he can provide them a personalized touch and a great photo. This tiny moment in time made us happy and excited the entire day and is a great example of one of the many reasons we enjoy Disney Parks.