Big Hero 6 Has Everything a GeekMom Would Want in a Movie

Big Hero 6 focuses on the friendship between Hiro and a robot named Baymax. Photo: © 2014 – Disney.

Friendship, science, robots, superheroes, action, and a huggable sidekick: What more could a GeekMom ask for? Whatever your answer may be, it’s probably somewhere in the movie Big Hero 6.

Big Hero 6 is the new Disney movie that’s being marketed as, “From the team behind Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph.” Something tells me that it will only be a matter of time before we see the tagline, “From the team behind Big Hero 6.” This is one impressive Disney flick.

Based on the comic book of the same name, the film focuses on Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), whose big brain has earned him a high school diploma at the ripe old age of 13. Hiro seems to be smart about everything, except his next move. That’s when his older brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), steps in to show Hiro life at San Fransokyo Tech—and more specifically, inside the “Nerd Lab,” a robotics program that includes a ton of potential, as well as eye candy.

To get into this particular school, Hiro needs to come up with something truly great—and he delivers. But that’s not really the focus of Big Hero 6. Well, it’s a part of it, but it’s his brother’s invention that’s going to win hearts and sell tickets (as well as toys). That is Baymax, the marshmallow-y thing that you’ve probably seen in all of TV promos and commercials.

Baymax is voiced by Scott Adsit from TV’s 30 Rock (you go Pete!). Although it was originally designed as a healthcare companion, Baymax soon becomes a good friend to Hiro, as well as the cornerstone of a budding team of superheroes, which also includes fellow lab rats GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and Fred (Silicon Valley‘s T.J. Miller). Why and how they actually become that group is something that should be experienced in person.

Hiro and a few of his friends from San Fransokyo Tech’s “Nerd Lab.” Photo: © 2014 – Disney.

It’s a great movie, with comic-book-style action, funny dialogue, a fiendish villain, and plenty of twists. Above all though, Big Hero 6 is a smart movie, but still manages to be kid-friendly for the most part. I say “for the most part” because I need to mention that one 5-year-old in the theater started screaming about being scared and had to leave during a tense scene in the movie. Use your own judgment, but my 8-year-old, whose face can usually be found buried in my arm during a lot of movies, watched the entire thing with a perma-grin. I even got a “when can we see that again?” when the film was over.

One thing we probably wouldn’t need to repeat is the 3D, which was decent enough. Really though, unless you have to see everything in 3D, it’s not really necessary here. Big Hero 6 does have some really nice depth to it, but there aren’t any crazy pop-out effects. In a way, that’s a good thing, because it’s not gimmicky and the 2D version won’t play off as something out for cheap effects.

It’s important to mention that you’ll want to stay through the credits for a little extra snippet at the end of the film. Almost no one in our theater stayed, but I have pretty much “trained” my son to expect one of those little surprises at the end. It’s a blessing and a curse, but there is something there and it’s something that superhero fans will not want to miss.

Also make sure you get to the theater early. Playing before the film is Disney’s latest short, Feast. The 3D did lend itself to this super-cute tale, which gives viewers a puppy’s-eye view of life with his owner. It’s one of those cartoons that will make you “awwww” out loud, but is also witty and very well animated.

So yeah, Big Hero 6 is a full day, but it’s a good day. The film has some of the drama you’d expect from a Disney film, as well as the hope, the entertainment, and the gorgeous imagery. Big Hero 6 is going to be a big one for Disney. Make sure to get your ticket.

An origin story, robots, friendship, and a huggable sidekick; what more could you ask for? Photo: © 2014 – Disney.

GeekMom attended a press screening for review purposes.

Maleficent is Now Available on Blu-ray and DVD!

MaleficentBlurayCombo copy
Image courtesy of Disney.

Disney’s Maleficent is now available on Blu-ray and DVD!

This may sound strange to many, but I have an aversion to movie theaters. I do not enjoy the experience nor the crowds, so I tend to wait until movies come out and I can watch them on the absurdly large screen my husband insisted we needed. It turns out, he was right. We still get a theater experience and have saved an impressive amount of money.

Every once in a while, though, a movie tempts to lure me to the big screen either because I want to see it so desperately or because the film deserves the epic  largeness of the screen. It is sometimes both (cough, Hobbit). Maleficent was one of those movies. One of my favorite actresses taking on the role of what is arguably Disney’s most iconic villain in a film that reimagines the story no one ever tells had me very excited. For reasons forgotten at this point, I never made it and so it was with great anticipation that I awaited the Maleficent DVD release.

I have to say, I was not disappointed. There is not a word I could say better about the movie than what was featured in Corrina Lawson’s review of Maleficent. In addition, I got to watch the bonus features right away, which were all wonderful and enhanced our experience. My daughter and I were particularly drawn to the bonus features “Building and Epic Battle” and “Maleficent Revealed,” in which all the special features and effects were described and shown in detail. She even watched the movie again to see those scenes in their final version to compare them. We both were amused by one of the interviews with Angelina Jolie in which she was describing how none of the little children would come near her (in her full makeup and costume) to film the scenes with the very young Aurora, and so in the end it was her own daughter who ended up playing the role!

Image courtesy of Disney.

I hope you enjoy this film as much as we did. It certainly is a solid addition to our collection, a feminist fairytale, and stunning in every way!

Check out these bonus clips!

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Disney’s Moana Promises Adventure and Beauty

Image: Disney Animation Studios

This week, Disney Animation Studios announced some details about their latest CG-animation project, a full-length feature films that will be titled Moana. I’m very excited for this film, in part because I lived in Hawaii as a young girl and spent some time on Guam—my parents lived on Guam while I was in college. I was exposed to Polynesian culture and learned about such legends as Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and her rival, the goddess Poli’ahu of the snow.

GeekMom Jules and I did some dishing on Twitter not long after the first concept art was released in December 2013, and we discussed our hopes that the heroine Moana (pronounced “moe-ah-na”) will pay tribute to South Pacific roots with respect and elegance. We saw some of this in the Lilo and Stitch films (such as learning about ohana), but that series was more comedic, lacking the “princess” element that Disney’s more successful films have possessed. I see Moana leaning more towards the “Princesses” even though, so far, the press releases haven’t turned her into a daughter or spouse of royalty in any way… which is okay by me.

According to the press release, Moana will take part in the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, where the heroine, Moana, will embark on the journey of her life in search of a fabled island. On the way, she will meet up with her hero, Māui, a Hawaiian mythological demigod who Disney plans to bring to life as Moana’s traveling companion.

I predict that Moana will be another skillful juxtaposition of classic Disney storytelling and beautiful animation art while paying respect to some of the great Polynesian legends and folklore. I saw a similar credence paid in The Princess and the Frog, in which the firefly Ray is pining for his love, Evangeline, who—in the movie—lives as a star in the heavens. This character pays respect to a Cajun legend of the same name, immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, A Tale of AcadieI read this poem not long after moving to Louisiana in the mid-1990s, and it gave quite a bit of insight to the Cajuns of Louisiana, whose people had come from Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s after the Great Expulsion.

Moana is planned for release in late 2016.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Ed Oxenbould as Alexander © DIsney
Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) wakes up with gum in his hair. All photos © Disney.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a family favorite at bedtime. My daughter loves to flip through my husband’s battered old copy of the book, and on her own bad days has been known to moan that she is planning to move to Australia. The new movie, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, out today from Disney, keeps the spirit of the original, but updates it for modern viewers to make it a pleasantly fun (if not slightly mindless), quick-paced family flick.

Little homages from the picture book pop up in the film, including some of the characters (like his nemesis Philip Parker) and starting off Alexander’s bad day with discovering gum in his hair. My favorite touch, though, is that the film’s Alexander adores Australia, and talks about it often. The similarities end there, and the modern family’s tale is all their own.

Alexander, after having his terrible, horrible… well, you know, makes a birthday wish that his seemingly perfect family would understand what it’s like to be in his shoes for the day. What follows is a slapstick comedy that should get some guffaws out of parents and kids alike. Steve Carell is on point as the good-natured Ben Cooper, excelling as usual at physical comedy. With some toilet humor, Jennifer Garner shouting “penis!” repeatedly, and jokes featuring a teenager accidentally drunk on cold medicine, it’s not quite appropriate for the littlest moviegoers, but grade-school kids will chuckle at the antics of the cast.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It’s best not to think too hard about what’s happening in the movie; just sit back and enjoy the silly ride. Why would any sane family plan a birthday party the same night as their daughter’s play and their son’s prom? How do they afford an extravagant party with one parent out of work? Wait, see, I’m thinking too much about it. This is meant to be a feel-good movie, and it succeeds, reminding us all that you have to take the bad days with the good.

Is there anything for geek parents to like?

Dylan Minnette, who plays Anthony, was in last week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode as the ice-powered villain Blizzard. He transforms effortlessly into a typical teen, but I half-expected him to freeze his prom date.

When Ben (Carell) goes to his game company interview, you can catch some random game concept art on the wall, including Mass Effect 2. This entertained me way more than it probably should have.

With just 81 minutes of running time, the film never drags and moves briskly, perfect for kids’ attention spans. Your kids will enjoy the laughs and you’ll enjoy turning off your brain and munching popcorn.

GeekMom attended a promotional movie screening for review purposes.

Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition Released!

Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition Blu-ray Combo. Image courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition released today, October 7, 2014!

I have always been enchanted by Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I love the music and the medieval art-influenced style of the animation.  It has always felt like the story of an epic quest. In fact, for me it has in some ways been more of a coming of age story for Prince Phillip than a story of the cursed Aurora. My daughter and I were delighted to hear Disney was opening its vault to re-release this classic film.

Disney’s 2-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray Superset (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) contains digitally restored picture and sound, a digital copy of the film, and new bonus features, including “Once Upon A Parade,” in which Modern Family star Sarah Hyland tells us the tale of Walt Disney World’s new Festival of Fantasy Parade; “Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains,” a legacy piece spotlighting Disney’s favorite villain animator and Maleficent creator Marc Davis; and “@DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion,” in which Walt Disney Animation Visual Development artist Brittney Lee goes through the process of creating a three-dimensional sculpture of Maleficent, completely out of paper.

Additional all-new bonus features include never-before-seen deleted scenes “The Fair” (with Deleted Character The Vulture), “The Curse is Fulfilled,” and “Arrival Of Maleficent,” plus the Beauty-Oke sing-along to “Once Upon A Dream.” The Blu-ray Superset also includes classic DVD bonus features and more!

Created by RAYZ
Make it Pink! Make it Blue! Image courtesy of Disney

I can say with authority that the additional special features are fantastic, and very interesting! They held the attention of all three of my children, who do not usually sit through special features without good reason. The best part of the whole release, however, was the film itself. They have restored the picture so beautifully, it practically glowed with magic on my screen. It is gorgeous.

As a release bonus, Disney has offered a special set of fun crafts to decorate with. You can download them for free here:

Download Fun Crafts

Once Upon a Not-This-Time

ABC’s Season 4 teaser poster. It was released moments after the Season 3 finale, putting me off instantly.

For my entire life, I have been a bibliophile. I have been a fan of books, stories, tales, ditties, poems, and the like. I have been fond of twisting tales, of alternative perspectives, of crossing story lines, and mixing genres. I have sought out fairytale remakes, origin stories, and mash-ups.

I have also been an avid follower of Once Upon a Time since season one. I have written about it many times for GeekMom. I have even become so involved in the show that I’ve thrown things at my television.

And, as of this day, I will not be watching season three.

Here are my wrought-over thought processes:

1. The Frozen Factor. Okay, it was a good movie, the songs were catchy, and the sister thing was lovable. Yet, oh how I loathe the idea of the characters from Frozen gracing the screen with my beloved Regina and Emma.

My complaints are twofold.

Firstly, during the animated film FrozenI did not agree with the plot device that was Hans as bad guy. Up until the moment he turned into an evil man, I was utterly in love with the movie, convinced that Anna had found her prince, and that Elsa had found a man who could truly appreciate her icy qualities. So sue the feminist in me; I liked the mushy two-part happy ending. I therefore have no desire to see this evil Hans storyline played out over many weeks—none at all.

I also have a more basic dislike for the incorporation of the Frozen characters. Thus far, actual Disney fairytale references have been at the fringes of the storylines. They have been musical refrains, items of clothing, certain character traits. The main focus of each character has had a far broader frame of reference.

With the inclusion of these characters, we are simply pandering to the masses and going full-on Disney, Disney, Disney. Don’t get me wrong, I almost signed up to live in Celebration, but this is ridiculous.

2. The Sherwood Factor. I liked—no LOVED—the development of Regina’s character over the course of the last season. Her hard road to redemption, her even harder road to love, the realization of her own inner white magic. Oh Regina, how I love thee. Then she ends up with Robin Hood, the man Tinkerbell had pegged as her second chance. Beautiful.

I have no desire to watch him get all wishy washy over Marian then Regina, then Marian, then Regina. I don’t want to see Robin Hood without Maid Marian, but even more than that, I don’t want to see this Robin Hood without Regina.

3. The Kid Factor. Kids can only be involved in the main storyline of a series show for so long before they become annoying, to me anyway. Henry has always pushed that envelope, and I’d rather go out on somewhat of a high, and not see yet another “Operation Cobra” storyline from him.

Also, I fear that the awful Pinocchio will feature in more story lines instead of my beloved manly Pinocchio.

4. The Baby Factor. We all know that Snow and Charming are best when they have an enemy to fight, retorts to toss around, and some kick-ass forest action. Snow with PPD and Charming changing diapers? Not something I feel will lend itself to good storytelling.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some things that might tempt me back. I hear rumblings that there will be more of Maleficent in the second-half story arc, and that I would love to see. My hope is that they play out all of the lamer story lines in the first half, and I can pick it back up again after the Winter break.

See you in January!

Must Love Dogs: Digging Into Disney’s Animated “Feast”

Image courtesy Disney.

Audiences who see the upcoming Disney animated feature Big Hero 6 in theaters will get a little bonus appetizer before it starts in the form an all-new short titled “Feast.” I had a chance to see “Feast” recently at a press day for Big Hero 6 and got an inside look at the process of making the short from director Patrick Osborne himself.

Disney has been on a roll with its short films in the past few years, releasing the technically ambitious 3D Mickey Mouse cartoon “Get a Horse!” in theaters with Frozen and the Oscar-winning “Paperman” alongside Wreck-It Ralph. This latest offering continues that tradition of quality, with a heartfelt story and a striking visual style that sets it apart from anything you’ll see in the main feature.

The short takes the point of view of a Boston terrier named Winston and tells the story of his life and his relationship with his owner through a series of meals. Along with the standard kibble there’s fast food, fancy food, party food, healthy food, just about any kind of immediately recognizable dish you can think of. The humans remain mostly in the background, but their story is also cleverly told through Winston’s eyes, and his stomach. Osborne told us he got the idea for the story from watching YouTube videos featuring images of different meals all cut together.

“There was something pretty cool about the amount of light that you see just in showing your meal, meal after meal, cut after cut,” he says. “And there’s something neat about the potential in sound design and color. It just felt like there was something to center a short around there. … The only thing missing was a through line to kind of follow through with it. It felt like maybe we could get a dog under the table and show his life with his new family and kind of let the human life be in the background.”

When it came time to pitch ideas for the next studio short, Osborne submitted his idea and some early concept art to studio head John Lasseter and a panel of directors. It was a nerve-wracking experience, he says, but once the project was green lit he didn’t have much time to agonize over it.

Image courtesy Disney.

“I waited and continued working on Big Hero 6 for a couple months,” he recalls. “And then one day they said it was mine, they were going to make this one. And instantly everything changes, and I’m no longer working on Big Hero and I have a deadline of story, which I’ve never done. So you start to work on story and figuring out how the actual short’s going to play out, but at the same time you’re also starting to figure out what it’s going to look like.”

An artist by trade, Osborne didn’t have much experience storyboarding before working on “Feast.” It was one of the biggest challenges for him, made even more daunting by the fact that he was working with John Lasseter, one of the most successful talents working in animation today.

“My first professional board was shown to John Lasseter,” he says in a tone that’s both reverent and incredulous. “It’s a crazy thing. It’s not something you should do. That was entirely the challenge for me of learning this process. Jeff Turley was the production designer and John knew what his work was like, but John didn’t know what my story was going to be like. So every meeting we had John would be like, ‘The art is beautiful, can’t wait to see it when it looks like that. The story just needs to work. You need to do something to make this work. It’s not good yet.’ And that happened several times.”

Director Patrick Osborne shows off some of the concept art created for “Feast.”

In the end, it all came back to that pitch and living up to what Lasseter saw in it back in the beginning.

“You realize after a while that he’s green-lit this idea because he believes in something,” Osborne says. “It’s your challenge just to deliver on the promise of the pitch. You promised something when you did this pitch and it hit something emotionally for him and it felt right in some way. And you just have to get back to that story. So it was amazing.”

The finished short is equal parts touching and visually appealing. Besides a parade of delectable dishes (I’d advise eating before you get to the theater), there are also some nice, subtle effects like dust particles in the soft light and other shallow-depth-of-field tricks that give the image some depth when it’s shown in 3D, and a sentimental climax that might have viewers going into the feature with misty eyes. It’s the perfect starter course for a meal of great animation.

You can see “Feast” and Big Hero 6 in theaters beginning November 7.

Disney’s Big Hero 6: When Mickey Met Marvel

Photo courtesy Disney.

Earlier this summer, GeekMom was invited to participate in a preview day at the headquarters of Disney Feature Animation in Burbank, Calif., to get a sneak peek at the studio’s next big animated film, Big Hero 6. Due in theaters on Nov. 7, the film is a fascinating blend of graphic design and artistic influences, from comic books to anime to Disney’s own rich catalogue. We got to see some footage from the film and speak with the talented filmmakers and technicians who had a hand in creating this intriguing new project.

There’s no denying that the partnership between Disney and Marvel Comics has turned out well, for both the companies and the fans. The partnership has resulted in a complex cinematic universe, encompassing an impressive number of films and television series. So it was only a matter of time before the jewel in the Disney Studios crown, the feature animation department, got into the act by creating a comic-book-inspired world of its own. But Big Hero 6 is unlike anything Disney animation has ever done before. It introduces a fantastic, stylized world of tech-powered heroes and villains to rival anything that’s been done in live action.

It was co-director Don Hall who first saw the potential in a mash-up of these two distinctive influences. “As a lifelong fan of comic books and a lifelong fan of Disney animation, I started imagining what a combination of those two things would look like,” he said. “So in the course of research I came across a lesser known Marvel comics series called Big Hero 6. And it was from there that we were inspired to create the film that we’re going to share with you today.”

Photo courtesy Disney.

Big Hero 6 takes place in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, itself a blend of Eastern and Western cultures. The story centers on young Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), a 14-year-old robotics genius. Aspiring to take after his big brother Tadashi and attend the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, Hiro creates a revolutionary invention, microbots. Controlled by telepathic thought, these tiny machines can work together to create anything. But Hiro’s dreams are crushed when the invention is stolen and his brother is killed. Enter Baymax, an inflatable medical nursebot created by Tadashi, who assumes the responsibility of caring for Hiro in his brother’s absence.

Hiro sets out to track down the person responsible for his brother’s demise, a mysterious figure known only as Yokai (the name comes from Japanese folklore and refers to a spiritual entity). The directors were very secretive about the villain’s origins, saying only that he has “a fractured mind,” as evidenced by the erratic, menacing constructs he creates when controlling the microbots.

Helping Hiro in his quest are some of Tadashi’s friends and fellow students. There’s Wasabi (Damon Wayans), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung) and Fred (T.J. Miller). Hiro develops high-tech super suits for all of them, even Baymax, according to their specialties. Together they become a formidable super team. All of the suits and special powers are cool, but I predict spunky daredevil Go Go will be a standout character among the team. She zooms around on adjustable discs that are both wheels and weapons. It’s so much fun to watch.

Speaking of fun, one of the scenes we got to see was an exhilarating flying sequence in which Baymax and Hiro soar above the city in their suits. Co-director Chris Williams describes it as “one of the most aspirational scenes in the film.”

“My 8-year-old self would love this clip,” he said in his introduction. “My 5-year-old self loves this clip. We hope you love it too.”

In a sit-down interview following the presentation I had a chance to ask Williams and Hall about their specific influences and what kind of research they did while working on the film.

“Name your kid robot Japanese anime, we watched it,” said Williams.

Hall added: “I mean, in this building we’re surrounded by fans of animation and fans of anime and knowing that was going to be part of the influence of this film we knew that we would have license and would want to kind of push some of the action scenes. You guys have not seen some of the really over-the-top action scenes that we have in this movie.”

Photo courtesy Disney.

He went on to explain that they also drew inspiration from some sources that weren’t as obvious.

“I love superhero movies, I love action movies, but we knew that this movie had to have a really emotional center,” he said. “And we knew there would be a really unique relationship between Hiro and Baymax that was going to be the center of the movie. And so I thought a lot about My Neighbor Totoro and the relationship in that movie. That kind of character that seems so sweet and so naive and maybe there’s something a little bit more going on than you might at first recognize. And so I think some of those moments in Miyazaki’s films were also a guiding influence on this movie.”

Williams also elaborated on the ideas that went into developing the robot Baymax. In the course of their research, the team visited some of the most advanced robotics labs in the country and met with actual scientists and engineers in the field. One of the most interesting things they came across was the work being done in the new area of soft robotics.

“Soft robotics is sort of a new, bleeding edge technology that’s coming,” Williams said. “And then the other thing, as we were researching early on was just the idea of the uncanny valley where if things start to look too realistic they look creepy. So we looked a whole range of robots on this trip and the ones that were super human ones were like [scary]. My instinct is to go the other way. You have to project more of yourself into it as opposed to a super realistic thing that was looking back at you. And that’s what led to the idea of a very simple approach to Baymax.”

Stay tuned for more coverage from the press day, including a look at the adorable short film “Feast,” which will play in front of Big Hero 6 when it opens in theaters on Nov. 7.

Disney On Ice Presents: Frozen

Disney On Ice presents Frozen \ Image: Field Entertainment
Disney On Ice presents Frozen \ Image: Field Entertainment

Disney On Ice Presents: Frozen is one of the hottest events to hit the ice in a long time. With Frozen being the highest grossing Disney film of all time, it’s no wonder that it was turned into an ice show so soon after its release. As it turns out, the show was in planning before Frozen debuted last December.

Joining Elsa and Ana in their adventure was a cast of 37 performers ranging from ages 18 to 46 and representing 11 countries.

The Disney characters in attendance were all from stories about love and friendship. I was pleasantly surprised that Field Entertainment chose to include characters from stories of love between friends as well as a few from romantic love. In addition to the Disney Princesses, we also had the brotherly love of Buzz Lightyear and Woody, family love of Nemo, Dory and Marlin, as well as Timon and Pumba in attendance.

It took my son a few minutes to warm up to the show, but once he did, he was dancing in his seat and chasing snowflakes as they fell from the ceiling. His favorite character was Olaf and he did not disappoint in his antics.

The costumes were beautiful and thanks to our front row seats, I was able to see a lot of Elsa’s hand painted silk chiffon dress she worn during her Ice Queen scenes.

My favorite part wasn’t any particular character, but how the characters were portrayed. Sven was a two performer team and he had as much personality as he did in the movie. Olaf’s antics had special effects to them that added to his portrayal. The snow monster’s appearance surprised everyone and from the audience’s reaction, I think he was well enjoyed.

If you are going to a show with little ones expecting a souvenir, dolls and such start at $12.00, with Sven costing $32.00. They had an Olaf figure for $16.00 that caught my eye, but then I remembered how many comic books I could get for that and I put him back.

It’s safe to say that by the end of Frozen on Ice, my family didn’t want to “let it go” and head home. I could have watched it all night, but will have to be satisfied with the photos and video I was able to take.

Disney On Ice Presents: Frozen is on tour for 2014 – 2015 and will be making the rounds to 37 cities nationwide. For ticket pricing and tour date information, head over to Disney On Ice website.

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Disclaimer: GeekMom attended a media night for this event. 

Giveaway: DisneyNature Bears Blu-Ray and iPad Air Cases

Image: DisneyNature
Image: DisneyNature

On Earth Day weekend last April, my family took a trip to the theater to see DisneyNature’s latest film: BearsThis film is educational, exciting, and humorous all at the same time. Sky, Amber, and Scout are the members of a brown bear family and viewers follow them on a year-long journey of survival. The young family deals with weather, tides, predators, and fellow bears’ aggression while they eagerly await the annual salmon run and fantastic feast that follows.

Last week we received a Disney Blu-ray of the film and we watched all of it the same evening. My sons know and love the film’s narrator John C. Reilly from Wreck It Ralph; his flavor of humor in the narration is right up their alleys. He instills incredible personality into the film, and his storytelling makes this my favorite DisneyNature film to date! He does an especially touching job personifying Scout, the male baby bear.

The cinematography is amazing. I spent much of the film asking, “How did they film that?”, with scenes of fighting, scavenging for food, and devouring salmon… As if you’re standing right there on the riverbanks watching it all.

Well wouldn’t you know it? There’s a short seven-minute film included on the Blu-ray titled “How Did They Film That?” It goes over the techniques and challenges the film crew encountered during their two years in Alaska making this film. I was fascinated with how the film crew would snowboard around with their film equipment to get as close as possible to the bears. You’ll even get to experience a videographer as he wipes out in the snow! Viewers will also learn about the underwater filming that was a critical part of the completed movie; the divers used special scuba equipment that kept the bubbles from disturbing the bears. Not only did I learn from the film itself, but the extras on the Blu-ray will offer quite a bit of insight.

The other Blu-ray extra worth mentioning is the six-minute short titled “Welcome to Alaska” about Katmai National Park in the southwestern part of the state of Alaska. The film discusses the logistical challenges in getting all the equipment to the required locations via small airplane and rubber rafts. I enjoyed the discussion about the highly variable weather that the film crew had to endure. It was a huge challenge for the crew to keep up with Sky and her two cubs.

Enter our GeekMom giveaway for a chance to win a Blu-ray and iPad Air case combo prize pack! Image: DodoCase.
Enter our GeekMom giveaway for a chance to win a Blu-ray and iPad Air case combo prize pack! Image: DodoCase.

If you are interested in winning one of the three combo prize packs we’re giving away: your very own copy of the DisneyNature Bears as well as a limited edition DodoCase brand Bears commemorative iPad Air case, valued at $95, please take part in our Rafflecopter giveaway below. Winners will be notified on September 5, 2014. Good luck!

DisneyNature Bears is a terrific addition to any family’s Blu-ray collection. It retails for $39.99 and can be purchased at major entertainment retailers such as Amazon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GeekMom received a copy of this product for review purposes.

Kick-Butt Disney Princess Cosplay, No Princes Needed, Thank You Very Much

Image: The Will Box

The thing with the Disney princesses is that parents, and especially moms, seem to take one of two sides. They’re either fine with the pretty princesses and their flowing locks and their penchant for getting into trouble that requires saving by a prince, or they find them horribly objectionable for those very same reasons. I fall into the first group.

Image: The Will Box

I’m totally fine with the Disney princesses and I loved it when my girls were young and wore costumes all day. One loved Cinderella and by the time she outgrew that phase, and the dress, it was nearly as tattered as Cinderella’s rags. I’ve often wondered if they’ll still like the princesses and have favorites once they’re adults.

Image: The Will Box

This group of women clearly never outgrew their fondness of the Disney princesses and decided to cosplay the characters as warriors instead of damsels in distress. I absolutely love this cosplay and the fact that these princesses are perfectly capable of saving themselves, their princes, and probably everyone in the land!

Jasmine: Gladzy Kei
Megara: Megan Langan
Elsa: Jessica Nigri
Anna: Vivid Visions
Cinderella: Jessica Roh
Snow White: Andy Rae
Ariel: Caroline Dawe

Photography: The Will Box

You can see even more pictures from the photo shoot over at Fashionably Geek.

Win a Toy Story of Terror Blu-ray and Toy Pack!

Jessie, Combat Carl, and Buzz Lightyear are all part of our Toy Story of Terror prize package. Image: Disney.

The latest Toy Story installment is sort of a departure from the franchise’s theatrical releases. Not only was it a TV special, but Toy Story of Terror has a few frightening themes. Could you imagine losing one of the beloved Toy Story toys??

Well, now you can grab onto some of those toys, snuggle up, and watch your very own copy of Toy Story of Terror. Yes, GeekMom is hosting a Toy Story of Terror giveaway! We will choose two winners at random to receive the brand-new Toy Story of Terror Blu-ray, as well as an exclusive toy set with Jessie, Combat Carl, and Buzz Lightyear.

Image: Disney.

Toy Story of Terror follows some of our favorite Disney/Pixar characters as they spend a spooky night in the Sleep Well Motel. However, it’s kind of hard to sleep well when some of the toys have gone missing! The special, which first aired last October on ABC, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Perfect for all ages, director Angus MacLane recently told GeekMom that he was inspired by a few classic horror films and even the ’80s action flick Predator (which is incredibly obvious).

Besides the quality story and animation we’ve come to know and love from the Toy Story franchise, this disc includes tons of awesome extras, including three “Toy Story Toons.” To find out more about the actual disc, check out my full Blu-ray review at Big Picture Big Sound.

To score your own copy of Toy Story of Terror and the toy set, just log in to the Rafflecopter widget below with your Facebook account or email address (use a valid email, so we can let you know if you win). Then go to the comments section below and answer the question: What is your favorite toy of all-time? (This counts as one entry.) You can then like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for up to two additional entries. If you already like/follow us, it will still enter you in the giveaway. The two winners will be chosen at random at the end of the contest (Friday, August 29, 2014) and their name will be posted right in the Rafflecopter widget, so you can check back to see who won.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Disney for supplying the prizes in this giveaway.

I Wish! First Trailer for Into the Woods

Chris Pine is a very nice prince. © Disney

I was a drama club geek in high school. One of the first Broadway musicals the club fell in love with collectively was Into the Woods, which at the time was a little known show. But now, thanks to Disney, theatergoers everywhere will meet a Cinderella, Prince, and more characters very different than their fairy tale counterparts in the film adaptation coming this Christmas. And the first trailer looks magical.

Although at first glance Into the Woods sounds simply like a humorous re-telling of classic fairy tales, it’s obvious from the trailer and the film’s tagline (“Be careful what you wish for”) that Disney is striking the perfect tone for the film. Sure, there’s humor and fantastic musical numbers, but there are also themes that go beyond the fairy tale and into the real world.

If you’re a longtime fan and you’ve been put off by the rumors that significant edits were made to the original play, take heart. Stephen Sondheim recently dispelled rumors of cut songs and “Disney-fying” of the musical:

“…[H]aving now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.”

Into the Woods boasts a cast that includes Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, Chris Pine as the Prince, Meryl Streep as the Witch, and Johnny Depp as the Wolf.

Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Reach for the Stars

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics
Image courtesy Disney.

If there’s one thing director James Gunn got right when making Guardians of the Galaxy (and he actually got a lot right), it was the casting. From top to bottom, the assembled group of talent on screen is truly impressive. I mean, we’re talking big names like Glenn Close and John C. Reilly in supporting roles with very little screen time (they make it count, naturally). As for the main cast, the film relies on each of them to bring a range of complex, sometimes even contradictory, qualities to their characters. They all have the capacity to be both noble and roguish, tough and vulnerable, deathly serious and lighthearted. Part of the fun of the film is watching the titular team come together as a group.

A couple weeks ago I got to watch many of those actors come together in real life at a press conference to promote the film. In attendance at the event were stars Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Benicio del Toro, and director James Gunn. According to Gunn, it was the first time they’d been assembled in one place (Diesel provided the voice of Groot but didn’t play the character on screen and del Toro’s role is basically an extended cameo).

Pratt grounds the film as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, an ordinary human who was abducted from Earth as a child and raised by Yondu (Rooker), the leader of a group of intergalactic outlaws known as Ravagers. When Peter steals a mysterious orb he becomes the target of multiple pursuers, including bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Diesel), as well as a trained assassin named Gamora (Saldana). They all eventually cross paths with Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), a convict seeking to avenge the deaths of his wife and child, and must put their differences aside to face an even greater threat that could mean the destruction of the entire galaxy.

“I’m like so emotional right now,” Gunn said as the press conference began. “Because I’ve missed these guys so much. I luckily got to spend some time with Zoe and Dave last week, but everybody else I haven’t been around and it’s just an amazing moment for us, I think.”

Gunn wasn’t just passionate about his cast, he animatedly talked about the origins of the project and what it meant to him to bring these characters to life on screen. When asked about taking on a lesser-known property from the Marvel universe, he said that it was “liberating.”

“I think I would have had a harder time trying to fit into the regular Marvel scheme of things,” he said. “This gave me a chance to take what I loved about Marvel movies and Marvel comics and create a whole new universe, which really has been the most exciting thing in my entire professional career.”

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics
Image courtesy Disney.

For Pratt, it was also a big step. Until last year he was probably best known as lovable doofus Andy in Parks and Recreation. Then, he lent his voice to the lead role in the blockbuster film The Lego Movie, followed by this starring role in Guardians of Galaxy. He’ll next be seen on the big screen running from dinosaurs in next year’s Jurassic World. Despite all the increased attention, Pratt taking this new career direction in stride.

“I’d been sort of having an identity crisis as an actor,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was, if I was a action guy or a comedy guy. And I thought maybe I could do a combination of both, but there’s nothing out there that’s like it. [I thought] maybe I have to develop something, And my manager just kept saying, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, man.’ I said, ‘All right, maybe you’re right. Let’s go meet on it.’ And then James said, ‘I just want somebody to do their thing.’ And part of me thought, ‘Okay, well then I’ll just do my thing and if it’s not right, that’s okay.’ But I had an idea what that thing was and it was the thing that I got to do in this movie.”

Each of the actors in turn got a chance to talk about what their role in the film meant to them and what attracted them to it. Though Saldana was cast late in the process and arrived last on set, she said had a very specific view of how to portray Gamora when she arrived.

“I just didn’t want Gamora to look like any typical action person that’s just like very martial artsy and just does that Underworld jump and lands and the ground breaks and shit,” she said. “I wanted her to be a little more graceful and sleek, very classy in the way that she fights.”

The inspiration hit her, she said, as she was watching some footage of a Spanish bullfighter in action: “I’ve never seen somebody move so smoothly. It was just such a seductive dance. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s Gamora.’ She’s a woman and she just has to be very seductive in the way that she tricks her enemy into falling into their own death. And I thought. ‘Well, that’ll be interesting to do. I’ve never done that.'”

Guardians of the Galaxy © Marvel Comics
Image courtesy Disney.

Just as Gunn gave Saldana the freedom to play with her character, del Toro also appreciated the way the directed allowed him to take chances with the smaller role of Taneleer Tivan, aka The Collector.

“I felt like I could explore the character in every way I would have wanted to,” del Toro said. “And James was very supportive to taking chances and trying different things. And I felt like an animal that grows up in a cage and suddenly you open the door and he comes out and he’s tentative to take chances. James was very, very nice to me to allow me to like go, go, go, go, go. And so at the end I was like, ‘Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.’ But it was a great feeling.”

One of the most heartfelt moments in the press conference came when Diesel talked about the timing of the project, coming as it did on the heels of the death of his friend and Fast and Furious co-star Paul Walker in November of 2013. As a gentle, humanoid tree, Groot symbolized growth and regeneration in a way that spoke deeply to the actor at the time.

“It was at a very important time when I did this movie because it was in December and it was the first time I was coming around humans again and the first time I was working again,” Diesel said. “And there was something very therapeutic about in my personal life— I guess in my professional life, too—dealing with death and then playing a character that celebrates life in the way that Groot celebrates life. I took my kids to a screening to see this movie and they walk around the house reciting Star-Lord, Gamora, and all the characters. Something very beautiful happened in playing this role. Something that as an actor I never would have imagined.”

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters on Aug. 1.

Phineas and Ferb Creators Talk About Taking on Star Wars

Image provided by Disney Channel.

Building on the success of last year’s Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel episode, creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh set their sights on a new crossover subject, this time with the Star Wars universe. Those plans have now come to fruition with Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, a brand new animated special that parallels the events of Episode IV: A New Hope.

GeekMom had an opportunity to talk with the two of them about the special, their inspiration, pleasing fans of both franchises, and the challenges that they faced when coming up with the story.

GeekMom: What was the inspiration for taking on the Star Wars universe? Were you looking to do another crossover episode after the success of the Marvel one?

Povenmire: That emboldened us to ask. We had just finished [the Marvel episode] when the announcement was made. Our post-production supervisor was in a mix with us and she’s always wired in on a BlackBerry and she said, “Oh my gosh, I just got an alert. Lucasfilm bought by Disney.”

Marsh: It took about 30 seconds for Dan to draw a picture of Doofenshmirtz as Darth Vader, take a picture on his phone, and text it to the head of the studio with a note.

Povenmire: “I smell a crossover!” It was literally the very first thing that I did upon hearing that. And the head of the studio texted back immediately and said, “That’s a great idea. We were just talking about that.” So it got fast-tracked rather quickly, and we were glad for that because to us it’s such a culmination of our boyhood dreams of playing in that sandbox.

GeekMom: How closely did you work with with Lucasfilm on the project?

Povenmire: They were very, very easy on us as soon as they heard that our version of it was not going to be making fun of theirs, but having our characters in and around their story and leaving their story and their characters alone. Once they saw the reverence with which we were treating their characters I think they were really happy to let us go on it. And they had very few notes. I think in the grand scheme of things there were many more issues with Marvel because we were using their characters in ways they had not used their characters yet.

Marsh: The Marvel universe is so much more fractured legally and rights-wise.

Povenmire: So compared to all of the rules going on there, this was so much easier.

Marsh: And the Lucasfilm guys got to see what we did with the Marvel episode and I like to think that that gave them a lot of confidence, because they looked at it and realized, “Oh, they’re not going to go out and mock these characters.” And it was clear that we love Star Wars, the whole universe, and the guys in it.

The force is with Povenmire (l) and Marsh (r). Image provided by Disney Channel.

GeekMom: What about them? Were they fans of your universe as well?

Povenmire: The ones that we dealt with were familiar with the show and just such nice people. I did sort of an impromptu pitch with them. I came in just to meet them, just like for a meet and greet, and the head of the studio said, “Can you pitch them the whole story?” And we hadn’t quite worked out the whole story but I was like, “Okay.” And I just started pitching, and as I was pitching I was actually solving story problems. There’s a couple of things I pitched in there, lines that I pitched in that room that were just ad libbed that got a laugh and I kept them in. Like, I think Doof says, “You can lead a dianoga to garbage but you can’t make him drink.” I did that and it got a laugh and I was like, “Oh, I’ve got to remember that.” And I wrote it down and it’s in the episode.

GeekMom: Were there any challenges fitting Phineas and Ferb into the world of Star Wars?

Povenmire: There were some challenges. When we decided to do it the way we’re doing it, with a parallel story, it was a lot of work to get that story working and connecting to Star Wars the way we wanted it to connect. We don’t write scripts, so our first draft is really the first storyboard pitch. And when we did the first storyboard pitch we realized we were really missing a lot of Phineas and Ferb’s characters. We worked this all out so the story worked and it was gratifying to see that, but Phineas and Ferb didn’t feel like Phineas and Ferb, they just felt like two kids. So we had to go back and put in the kind of stuff that they would do and the kind of stuff that Candice would do. We really had to do a whole pass where we brought it back into our world. We’d been so involved in the Star Wars part of it and making sure that the mechanics of the plot actually worked. That was the hard part. We know Phineas and Ferb. It’s easy for us to punch it up in a Phineas and Ferb way. So it was very challenging, but very rewarding.

GeekMom: Are you happy with the results?

Marsh: That would be a radical understatement.

Povenmire: It’s one of my favorite things we’ve done since we started doing the show.

GeekMom: Being fans yourselves, did you put any references or Easter eggs in there for other fans might get?

Povenmire: It’s chock-full of Easter eggs for Star Wars fans. We tried to make it so that it was still funny and it still moved along even if you’ve never seen Star Wars. And we’ve actually shown it to some kids who had never seen Star Wars before and they still liked it. So I think that’s still working. But if you’re a Star Wars fan there’s so much more humor in it for you. There’s so many things that just go by and you realize, “Oh! That’s where Boba-Fett started looking for Han and Chewie. And that’s why the dianoga let go of Luke in the trash compactor. And that’s when the trash compactor started closing. Doofenshmirtz pressed that button. And oh, that’s how the Death Star plans got stolen from the Empire in the first place. It was Perry the Platypus.”

Marsh: That was really the trick, though. And one of the reasons why we spent so much time on it. It had to work on all those levels. It had to be satisfying for Phineas and Ferb fans, even if they didn’t care about Star Wars. It had to be satisfying for Star Wars fans even if they didn’t care about Phineas and Ferb. And it had to be satisfying for both. And we really agonized over which jokes to tell and how to include it all. We knew that not only were the fans were going to be critical but we are those Star Wars geeks and those Phineas and Ferb fans ourselves. So it had to be something we were excited about.

Image provided by Disney Channel.

GeekMom: Is this now going to be considered canon?

Povenmire: At the end of the crawl at the beginning that sets up the story, you know, with the John Williams music behind it? It tells the whole story and there’s one line at the end that says, “And none of this is canon, so just relax.” But we did it so that it could be canon. It doesn’t interfere with any of the canon.

GeekMom: Did you get to use any sound effects or voices from the original film?

Marsh: We were given access both to the sound effects library and much of John Williams music.

Povenmire: We had access to about seven minutes of the John Williams original score, which was great, which we loved being able to use. And almost all the sounds effects are original Star Wars effects. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the actual voices of the original cast members because they’re all shooting Episode VII.

Marsh: And they don’t sound like they did when they were in their 20s.

Povenmire: So we got sound-alikes for the young Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. And some of them are just incredibly talented.

Marsh: Harrison Ford is good enough to fool Harrison Ford’s family.

Povenmire: I think so. I was very impressed.

Marsh: He asks you when you start, “Which age Harrison do you want?” Because he can do them all absolutely perfectly.

GeekMom: What else can fans look forward to?

Povenmire: Swampy and I have a cameo in the show as the tractor beam operators.

Marsh: And we are brilliant. We elevate that script.

Povenmire: It’s not just our voices but it looks like us.

GeekMom: So you basically just did this to get yourselves into Star Wars, right?

Povenmire: We’re just trying to make ourselves laugh, is basically how it works. That what we’re going for.

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars premieres on Disney Channel on July 26 and on Disney XD on August 4.

Parry Gripp Talks Star Wars, Crowdfunding for Nerf Herder, and The 7D

Disney’s The 7D is a contemporary, comedic take on the world of the Seven Dwarfs. It premieres this Monday, July 7, on Disney XD. Photo: Disney Channel.

Forget Snow White and her many big-budget Hollywood films (like this one and this one). The Seven Dwarfs are the ones making a big comeback.

Disney World recently opened the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a rocking roller coaster that’s so popular, it typically has a 70-minute wait. However, for those not traveling to “The Most Magical Place On Earth” anytime soon, there’s The 7D.

The upcoming Disney show will re-introduce the Seven Dwarfs to an entirely new audience. Along with a new look and new storylines, there will be new music. That will be provided by Parry Gripp, vocalist/guitarist for the geek-rock gods of Nerf Herder and well-known YouTube sensation. (For instance, check out “Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom” and “Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig)” for a whole lot of cuteness and a little bit of earworm.)

Recently, I got the chance to talk to Gripp about his music, his membership in the Star Wars Fan Club, and his role in the upcoming Disney show, The 7D.

GeekMom: So how did you get the Disney gig?

Parry Gripp: What happened is that someone at Disney became familiar with my YouTube videos—I have these goofy videos like “Hamster On a Piano” and “Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig)”—and they said, “Hey, we should bring this guy in and have him pitch show ideas.” So they called me out of the blue, I went down there, and I was talking to someone about pitching ideas, but the head of the music department at Disney Television Animation, Jay Stutler, grabbed me and said, “Hey, why don’t you pitch some song ideas for these different shows?” And Jay is the guy who is responsible for all of the great Sophia music and Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and all of the music for Disney Television Animation is so great. Anyway, it was a real honor that he asked me to do that. He had me pitch ideas for a bunch of different shows and The 7D was the show that clicked with my style.

GM: The theme song is quite perky and fun! How important is music to the show? Can we expect stuff like that in every episode?

PG: Music is very important to the show. I wrote a lot of songs for this first season. I think I wrote 120 songs! It’s a lot of songs, but some of them are really short. I’d say that it’s really important, but the style actually varies quite a bit. I would say that most of the music is not quite like the theme song, which is really rocking. A lot of it is kind of whimsical, depending on what the circumstance is. One of my favorite songs is about the Jollywood Spa, where the Queen goes. This is just a total disco song. It sounds like it’s from 1978 or something. That was really fun to do. There’s really a variety of music. In general, I’d say that the music is very upbeat and fun.

GM: It’s a very musical program, though?

PG: That’s true. And I don’t do the orchestration, but there’s a lot of really beautiful orchestration that kind of carries the story. I’m not responsible for that. That’s a guy named Keith Horn, who is marvelous at it. He’s taken themes from the different songs and worked them into the underscore.

GM: Most of our readers haven’t seen the show yet, since it debuts on Monday. So how would you describe The 7D?

PG: It is really funny. I would say that’s the main thing. It’s very funny with fast-paced humor, the voice actors are all hysterical, and the writing… I think that little kids will like the show because it’s cute. But the comedy works on two levels, so I think that adults are going to like the show, too. Tom Ruegger, who’s the creator of the show, is a genius at this. He created a show called Animaniacs years ago, which is a famous and wonderful series. I think that if you like Animaniacs, you’re really going to like this show. It has a similar slapsticky, fast-paced humor to it. I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be great.

Composers Keith Horn (left) and Parry Gripp (right) at a screening for The 7D. Photo: Rick Rowell/Disney XD.

GM: I want to talk a little bit about Nerf Herder. There’s an album coming soon, correct?

PG: That’s right; we’re working on an album. It’s sort of a hobby for us, so us old-timers can hang out together and goof around.

GM: Why did you opt to go the crowdfunding route for the upcoming album?

PG: We kind of thought, well… a lot people are doing it, what an interesting way to go about making a record. I don’t know that we would have made a record if we didn’t do it this way. How do I explain this? Like, we could have gone to a label and said, “Hey, can you give us some money?” Or we could have paid for it out of our pockets to do it. But this idea of kind of getting inspired… and crowdfunding kind of makes it exciting for the band. It just seemed like kind of a fun thing to try.

GM: Obviously, Nerf Herder has geeky roots… and I know that you were a member of the Star Wars Fan Club a long, long time ago.

PG: Yes, that’s true! I’ll have to send you a picture of my card—my “May the Force Be With You” original membership card. And the thing that I have, that my sister and I have been sitting on for years, is… for some reason, we got an extra membership pack from the Star Wars Fan Club. This is probably from 1978 or something like that. We’ve got this cardboard tube and it says “Star Wars Fan Club” on it. It almost looks like it’s hand-typed or something and it hasn’t been opened yet. So we’ve kind of been keeping it like a time capsule. I don’t know when we’ll open that.

But when Star Wars first came out, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Every weekend during the summer when it came out, we would go to the movie theater and see it multiple times. And it’s cool to be working for Disney now that they own Star Wars. It’s really exciting.

GM: So are you excited about Episode VII?

PG: Oh yeah; I’m excited about it. The original three episodes are the ones that I personally love, because that’s sort of what I grew up with it. But I’m excited for anything to do with it. I’m sure it will be great.

GM: Back to animation: I know you got to be animated on Phineas and Ferb? Will you make it into The 7D at some point?

PG: I don’t know. I don’t really like looking at myself on-screen, so it’s fine with me if that didn’t happen. If they animated a hamster or something and called it Parry, that would be cool. My voice is in it a lot; I get to sing a lot in the show, which is great for me and that is plenty good.

GM: What Disney character is your favorite or do you most identify with?

PG: I’d say that with The 7D, I relate mostly to the character Happy. I’m a pretty good-natured guy and I like signing and I like happy stuff. That’s the interesting thing about The 7D, I kind of relate to all of the characters at different times. Like when I’m behind on my deadline, I get pretty “Grumpy.” There’s a character on the show called Lord Starchbottom, who is sort of the cool assistant. He’s always freaking out about stuff, and sometimes I feel like that one. Mostly, I’d say Happy.

Check out Parry Gripp’s YouTube channel for all sorts of quirky, perky songs. Otherwise, look for The 7D on Monday, July 7, 2014, on Disney XD and later this fall on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

12 Surprising Facts About Finding Nemo (Sort of)


Disney is hoping to get you to your summer destination—in peace! The House of Mouse is promoting its recently launched Disney Movies Anywhere app as a source of road trip entertainment.

Available for iOS devices (sorry Android users), the app allows you to browse, view, and purchase a wide variety of Disney titles while on the go. Of course, that lineup also includes plenty of goodies to satisfy your Marvel and Pixar fixes. As GeekMom Cindy mentioned a while back, one of the other great things about the app is that it even offers up tasty nuggets about some of the featured films. Just look under the Discovery section.

As part of the summer push, the studio just put out a little infographic (see below) about how many Pixar movies it would take to get to key destinations. Sure, it’s limited (and do you really have 2,000 movies to watch between Australia and Los Angeles?), but as a GeekMom who’s planning two major road trips this year, I like the travel ideas. Of course, I do expect my son to do other things and even look out of the window on occasion. Some of those highways can be long and boring, though!

Something that isn’t very boring is Pixar Summer Movies to Go, a current in-app section that has all sorts of interesting exclusives about Pixar’s fan favorites. Each week, users can get tidbits about different films, as well as exclusive bonus content, including filmmaker introductions, trivia, and even the “Countdown to Pixar’s Ultimate Movie-Making Secrets.”

This week, the app is hosting “12 Surprising Facts about Finding Nemo.” Sadly, we don’t have all 12 for you, but we do have a little teaser above. To get the full list, you’ll need to download the Disney Movies Anywhere app. And you should do that—it’s free!


Courtesy of Disney/Pixar.

Registration for the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland Opens Today!

Image Capture:
Image Capture:

I am reminded of those old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials where two things you love are joined together.

For me, the inaugural runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland this January is joining two things I love: long-distance running and the now-Disneyfied Star Wars franchise.

Are you ready to run? Are you ready to make up a half-marathon-in-SoCal-ready costume for the event?

If you’re especially motivated, check out the Rebel Challenge, which awards a special medal to those who complete both the 10K and half marathon races that weekend. There are kids’ races and a 5K to enjoy as well.

Registration opens at 12:00 p.m. EDT TODAY (June 10), so here’s your official warning. At $195 for the half, this might be the most expensive half marathon I’ve ever heard of. Up until this race, the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco (at $180 this year) held the honor.

Act quickly. In March, the just-as-geeky Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland sold out in less than 2 (that’s two) hours. That race is coming up in mid-November.

Will I be signing up? Unfortunately, I can’t commit this far out. I think my full-time work schedule is going to preclude this from working out in 2015, but I am officially adding this event to my bucket list.

Do you plan to race? Talk about your plans in the comments!

GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Spider-Man and Space Mountain

Space Mountain
Space Mountain, Art by Kelley Jones © Disney

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. This week I let the giggles fly as I read The Ultimate Spider-Man, and Kelly takes us into the world of Disney comics with Space Mountain.

Dakster Sullivan — The Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis  and art by Mark Bagley

Ultimate Spider Man Ultimate Collection Vol 1. \ Image: Marvel
Ultimate Spider Man Ultimate Collection Vol 1. © Marvel

Last night, despite a pounding headache, I picked up my copy of The Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection Vol. 1, which encompass the first thirteen issues from the hit series by Brian Michael Bendis.

These first thirteen issues give the traditional origin story with Uncle Ben’s death, but it also gives a different twist on his killer and how Spider-Man goes after him. And when it comes time for Peter to get a job, he gets a dual role as Spider-Man photographer and website tech for the Daily Bugle. I thought the addition of Peter working on the Daily Bugle website gave his origins a nice modern update and something more solid to do after school than running around taking pictures all day.

Something else that’s different in this story-line is Gwen Stacy, or the lack of her, that is. Mary Jane is the only girl that Peter shows interest in and they have a nice relationship for most of the book. My guess is that this was written for the younger generation whose unfamiliarity with Gwen caused her to be omitted entirely.

In terms of villains, we see the beginning of the Green Goblin and we meet Doctor Octavius in his pre-transformed state. Electro makes an appearance as well, but it’s brief and he’s more of the hired help at this point in the story.

Most Spider-Man issues I’ve read had me chuckle inside, but this volume actually had me laughing out loud. My favorite part was when Spider-Man took on the Kingpin and started reading fat jokes off of note cards. The jokes he was making were just too funny to hold in.

I know that the X-Men will eventually show up as guest stars in this series, and I can’t wait to see how they interact with Spidey.

The Ultimate Spider-Man is appropriate for anyone 10 years old and up.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Kelly Knox – Space Mountain by Bryan Q. Miller and Kelley Jones (Disney)

Is it trite to say that the new original graphic novel Space Mountain is a fun ride? It is? Too bad, I’m saying it anyway.

© Disney

Space Mountain is an epic, family-friendly, time-traveling space adventure in the same vein as the 1979 Disney flick The Black Hole. Granted, I don’t remember much of The Black Hole because it scared the bejeebies out of me as a kid, but I do know that Space Mountain has a lot of the same deep-space adventurous vibe. And, you know, a black hole.

It’s the year 2125, and two space cadets from the Magellan Science Academy get the chance of a lifetime when they win a ride on a time-traveling spaceship. Once they join the crew and begin their journey to 24 hours in the future, something goes horribly wrong. The kids must save the crew–and history as we know it–before it’s too late.

The graphic novel is based on the Disneyland attraction of the same name, but doesn’t overdo the park references. If you’re a fan of Disney parks, though, you’ll get a kick out of the cameos here and there as parts of Tomorrowland make an appearance. (Tomorrowland was the working title of the book, and would have worked even better, but it was presumably changed because of the upcoming film with the same name.)

I only picked up this graphic novel because Bryan Q. Miller wrote it, and I was hoping for another space adventure like his recent creator-owned book Earthward. I wasn’t disappointed. While it’s a little early to introduce my 5-year-old to time travel and paradoxes, I will happily share Space Mountain with her when she’s a little older.


Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

Action Comics #32
Aquaman And The Others #3  New Series
Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet #1 (Of 6) New Mini-Series
Batman And Robin Vol. 3 Death Of The Family TP
Batman And Robin Vol. 4 Requiem For Damian HC
Batman Arkham Asylum Living Hell Deluxe Edition HC
Batman Eternal #9
Batwing #32
Before Watchmen Minutemen Silk Spectre TP
Earth 2 #24
Green Arrow #32
Green Lantern #32
Hellblazer Vol. 8 Rake At The Gates Of Hell TP
Hinterkind #8
Justice League 3000 #7
Looney Tunes #219 Kid Friendly
New 52 Futures End #5 Weekly Series
Stormwatch Vol. 2 TP
Stormwatch Vol. 4 Reset TP
Swamp Thing #32
Swamp Thing Vol. 4 Seeder TP
Tiny Titans Return To The Treehouse #1 (Of 6) New Mini-Series Kid Friendly 
Trinity Of Sin The Phantom Stranger #20
Vampire Diaries #6
Wake #9 (Of 10)
All-New X-Factor #9
Amazing X-Men #8
Amazing X-Men Annual #1
Avengers #24.NOW
Avengers World #7
Black Widow #7
Captain America #21
Cyclops #2 New Series
Deadpool #27 (Wedding Issue)
Indestructible Hulk Vol. 4 Humanity Bomb HC
Inhumanity HC
Iron Fist The Living Weapon #3 New Series
Iron Man #27
Loki Agent Of Asgard #5 New Series
Magneto #5 New Series
Miles Morales The Ultimate Spider-Man #2
Miracleman #7
Moon Knight #4 New Series
New Warriors #5 New Series
Nova Classic Vol. 3 TP
Original Sin #3 (Of 8)
Painkiller Jane The 22 Brides #1 (Of 3) New Mini-Series
Punisher #6
Punisher MAX By Jason Aaron Omnibus HC
Superior Foes Of Spider-Man #12
Uncanny Avengers Vol. 2 The Apocalypse Twins TP
Wolverine And The X-Men By Jason Aaron Omnibus HC
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

G.I. JOE A Real American Hero #203
G.I. JOE Origins Omnibus Vol. 1 TP
Judge Dredd Mega-City Two #5 (Of 5)
Maxx Maxximized #8
Parker The Martini Edition Limited Variant Edition HC
Samurai Jack Vol. 1 The Threads Of Time TP Kid Friendly
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #34
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 8 Northampton TP
X-Files Art Gallery #1
Angel And Faith Season 10 #3
Dragon Age Library Edition Vol. 1 HC
Ghost #4
Lobster Johnson Get The Lobster #4 (Of 5)
Mass Effect Foundation Vol. 2 TP
Michael Avon Oeming’s The Victories #12
Nexus Omnibus Vol. 5 TP
Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #8
Toshiro TP

Acronym Key: VC = Variant Cover / HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback / GM = GeekMom Recommended Reading

Maleficent: Feminist Fairy Tale

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, c/o Walt Disney Company.

It shocks me that this movie was made by a major Hollywood studio. Not because it’s feminist, because we’ve already seen Frozen reject a number of popular tropes, but because this movie is about a woman’s recovery from something horrific.

Frozen is, at heart a sweet movie about the love between two sisters. Dark elements are hinted at, about men being untrustworthy and the difficulties in coming of age under special circumstances but it’s a very happy movie.

Maleficent has a happy ending but it delves into something far darker.


Maleficent couldn’t have come along at a more opportune time, as our society is in the midst of a long discussion about the way women are treated. It’s a discussion that erupted after the shootings in California in which a young man went on a rampage because he hated women for not having sex with him and hated the men who were lucky enough to have sex. See #yesallwomen.

Maleficent opens in a wonderful, eye-popping sequence with young Maleficent flying all over the land of the enchanted, an obvious metaphor for childhood innocence. She’s wide-eyed and happy, innocent, but never stupid. Into the land comes a young thief that she saves from punishment. They became friends, then lovers as they grow into adulthood.

But Stefan, the young man, isn’t content. He started as a thief and he’s intent on winning a kingdom. He leaves with the intent to make himself king of the land of humans. Though sad, Maleficent grows up strong, happy, and the protector of the enchanted land, beloved by all. Hers is a good life. This is not a scorned woman. This is a happy, mature person.

But Stefan re-enters the picture, apparently comes to apologize. What he’s really come to do is kill her, as he gets to marry the king’s daughter  and thus win the kingdom if he does.

Maleficent trusts Stefan, she has no reason not to trust him. Stefan can’t quite kill her. So he does something else that robs her of power. He drugs her and rapes her. Oh, not as we’d call it in the real world. What he does is a symbolic rape: he cuts off her wings. He cuts off her freedom. He wrecks her hope and faith in the world.

It’s a moment of such cruelty that it takes your breath away.

At this point, I wondered where the movie would go. Having established Maleficent had valid reasons to hate the new king, Stefan, and to curse his firstborn, Aurora, I expected a descent into villainy with a small redemptive moment at the end.

I expected a revenge fantasy or the tale of how one woman couldn’t be saved but the next generation could.

I expected Prince Phillip to play some sort of part in it.

None of that.

There are scenes of action, of course, as Stefan and his men try to find and kill her and the usual silliness with the fairies who raise Aurora. But the second half of the movie is taken up mostly with the growing bond between Maleficent and Aurora.

Instead of it being about her revenge and madness, the story becomes about Maleficent’s recovery.

And that’s where  it’s genius.

Jolie has to carry this part of the movie. Because becoming emotionally involved in the growing bond between Maleficent and Aurora entirely depends on Jolie’s ability to convey several emotions at once. Her facial expressions, sharpened to a point with make-up designed to feature her cheekbones, show off the smallest flicker of emotions.

And carry it she does.  While on the surface, Maleficent is all about her anger, underneath, it’s all about how she comes to love watching over the little girl she calls “beastie,” the little girl who’s not afraid of her, the little girl who calls her, unironically, her fairy godmother.

And, reminded of kindness, Maleficent tries to break her curse. She wants healing for herself and for the innocent she made her victim. At this point, I really expected Prince Phillip to have something to do with this, especially as the movie recreates his and Aurora’s first meeting from the original Sleeping Beauty.

Would Maleficent set it up so Phillip would fight her and then Aurora would fall in love with a stalwart hero? Would his true love’s kiss awaken her?

No, again.

It’s Maleficent’s own heart breaking at her failure to save Aurora that instead saves them both. After her heart is restored through compassion, Aurora helps Maleficent get her wings back, a moment that has symbolic resonance for all victims. She can fly once more.

After, Maleficent is even willing to let the feud with Stefan end. But he’s too lost in his anger and guilt to survive any longer. He’s the cautionary tale of who she could have become. Phillip does show up at the end, hinting at a possible romance in the future for him and Aurora but one that will be built over time on trust.

And so, in the end, Maleficent not only survives her ordeal but to regains love and compassion. It’s a very happy ending, not only of survival, but ultimate recovery.

Simon Pegg, Jon Stewart, and Jay Leno Coming to Phineas and Ferb

The new summer episodes will kick off with “Phineas and Ferb Save Summer” on June 9 on Disney XD. Photo: Disney XD.

If you think that Phineas and Ferb have had some pretty awesome vacations in the past, just wait until you see what they have in store for this summer. The Disney XD favorites have several new episodes coming, with a slew of special guest stars planned.

The summer spectacular will kick off on June 9, with the one-hour event, “Phineas and Ferb Save Summer.” Just in case an hour of animated adventures isn’t enough, the episode will also feature guest star Jay Leno. The former Tonight Show host will voice Major Monogram’s boss, Colonel Contraction of the O.W.C.A. (Organization Without a Cool Acronym).

From there, the show will have several new episodes, which will include guest stars Jon Stewart, Elizabeth Banks, and Simon Pegg.

The new episodes include “Father’s Day” (June 10), “Imperfect Storm” (June 11), “The Return of the Rogue Rabbit” (June 16), “It’s No Picnic” (June 23), “Operation Crumb Cake” (July 14), and “Mandace” (July 14).

Banks and Pegg will appear in “Imperfect Storm,” with Jon Stewart voicing Mr. Random, president of Random Swimwear, in “Klimpaloon Ultimatum.”

This announcement comes hot on the heels of the Walt Disney World Resort’s sneak peek at the one-hour special, “Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars.” The highly anticipated special is expected to air in July on the Disney Channel and features Phineas and Ferb neighboring the Skywalkers, Doof meeting Darth, and Ferb in training to become an evil Sith. An exact date for the special has yet to be announced.

Once Upon a Time‘s Showrunners Know How to Keep a Secret

Once Upon a Time Season 3 promotional poster. Courtesy of Disney/ABC.

The following post will include a discussion of the big tease from the last few minutes of Sunday night’s Once Upon a Time season finale. The reveal in question has been all over social media since the show aired, but just in case you somehow missed it, be warned that there will be spoilers ahead.

Last month at WonderCon in Anaheim, I had the chance to participate in a round-table interview with Once Upon a Time showrunners and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. We talked about the remaining episodes of the third season and what was in store for the characters. We also asked them about their plans for season four. Little did I know, I happened throw out a question that could have spoiled this season’s biggest surprise.

Just for fun, and because I’m a fan, I figured I’d ask the guys about whether they had any plans to bring the characters from Frozen to Storybrooke. I didn’t expect it would be soon (certainly not this season), but I thought it might be a possibility in the future, given the massive success of the film. Their answers were full of the telltale stammering and awkward pauses that I should have recognized right away as a sign I’d hit on something big. I should have, but didn’t. Elsa’s brief cameo at the end of the finale was as much of a shock to me as it was to everyone else watching.

So I went back and listened to the interview again. While stopping short of outright denying that they had any plans to include Anna and Elsa on the show, they did make it sound like the possibility was a long way off. Bear in mind that during the interview, they mentioned that they’d just come from the editing room after finishing the final cut of the finale, so it was fresh in their mind when they were talking to us.

“It is our favorite movie of the year,” Kitsis said of Frozen. “It is in our wheelhouse—a frozen heart and two sisters having to get together. So, of course. We would … I mean … [stammers]. It’s like the genius of our job is we get to play with all these great toys like Snow White and the dwarves and Peter Pan and the Wicked Witch. So Frozen, we would love to someday to be able to get into that.”

And by “someday,” what he really meant was “three weeks from now.”

Horowitz’s tactic was to widen the scope and avoid the question entirely.

“I think with a lot of these Disney movies like Frozen or any of the Pixar movies, they draw on many different source materials that we love and that provide a really rich opportunity for adding characters to our world,” he said. “And maybe we’ll get there, maybe we won’t.”

Turns out, they did.

This teaser poster appeared on ABC’s official site within moments of the show’s final twist.

With all the hype already surrounding the reveal and speculation about who will play her, it’s worth pointing out that Kitsis hasn’t forgotten who the show is really about. He said that the writers constantly debate the best way to introduce new faces while remaining true to the old ones.

“The debates always kind of come out of the story we’re trying to tell with our core characters that are in the show and have been there pretty much from the start and what can kind of fit into the bandwidth of the story we’re telling,” he said. “So it’s never done just for the sake of, ‘Oh, we’ve got to bring in this realm or this world.’ We’re trying very hard to kind of weave a coherent tale that can go between many, many different worlds and characters.”

I may have been duped, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enthusiastic about the possibility of seeing a live-action Elsa let it go in Storybrooke. The excitement may be tempered somewhat with concern that they do the Frozen sisters justice (I’m assuming Anna will make an appearance as well, though that has yet to be confirmed), but for now I’ll just keep rewatching that final scene with a smile on my face.

Download Maleficent Activity and Coloring Sheets

Angelina Jolie stars as Maleficent. Photo credit: Frank Connor, Disney.

We’ve got two-and-a-half more weeks until Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is released in theaters on May 30. What’s a villainess fan to do to pass the time? Coloring sheets, of course.

Maleficent is rated PG, but you might want to evaluate your younger children’s fright levels before taking them along. Jolie told Entertainment Weekly in March that her own children were scared of her in the costume! One of her youngest, Vivienne (5), plays a toddler-aged Princess Aurora in the film, and two of her other children, Zahara (9) and Pax (10), also appear briefly during the christening. Vivienne got the part because she wasn’t afraid of Jolie’s horns and claws.

The movie also features Elle Fanning as Aurora. The script is by Linda Woolverton, who worked on the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland as well as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Robert Stromberg, who won the Oscars for production design on Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful is making his directorial debut.

Download the activity sheets, courtesy of Disney, as a single PDF. Preview below:


And no, you’re never too old to bust out the crayons. As someone who’s been waiting for the Maleficent film for quite a while now, I’m ready to attack these four coloring sheets myself!

How Captain America Made Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a Better Show

Courtesy of Disney/ABC.

As you’ve probably heard, ABC just announced that it has renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a second season. Five weeks ago, I might have greeted this news with indifference. Although I enjoyed the pilot with a few minor reservations, the episodes that came after it left me feeling underwhelmed at best. Still, I kept tuning in faithfully on Tuesday nights, clinging to the hope that the show could eventually live up to its vast potential.

And then Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out in theaters and turned the Marvel universe upside down. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was forced to deal with the fallout and in doing so, became a show worth watching.

This is the part where I need to warn you that the remainder of this article will discuss plot developments and major twists in detail from both the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series to date and Captain America: Winter Soldier. If you haven’t caught up with the show or seen the film, you might want to stop reading this and come back later, after you’ve done both. This has been your official spoiler warning.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

Back in September, we here at GeekMom, like many Marvel fans, had high hopes for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the first TV series based in the same universe as The Avengers. The fact that Joss Whedon was producing the show solidified its spot in our must-watch list for fall, not to mention the central role of Clark Gregg’s resurrected Agent Coulson. I mean, how can you not love Coulson? GeekMom even ran a series of articles on the history of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics and profiled each of the show’s characters in the run, all the way up to the premiere. Then it premiered, and though the pilot showed some promise, it left us wanting more. Much more.

For weeks after the series premiere, I continued to tune in, less and less enthusiastically. There was the lazy writing, the handwavium that passed for technology, and plot holes big enough to fly the Bus through. But the most egregious offense, in my opinion, was that the show never managed to make me care much about any of the characters, with the standout exception of Ming-Na Wen’s Melinda May and, of course, Coulson himself.

The rest of the characters seemed like bland, thinly drawn cardboard cutouts. Skye (Chloe Bennet), who was our entry point into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the pilot, turned out to be nothing more than a cipher with the seemingly omnipotent ability to crack any computer system the plot might require. The loyalty everyone on the team (even May, in her own way) instantly felt toward Skye, even after it appeared as though she’d betrayed them all to the Rising Tide (anyone remember them?), felt forced. As much as the show really wanted us to care about her relationship with chiseled tough guy Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), the spark between them never quite grew into a flame. I was so indifferent, I didn’t bat an eye when he started sleeping with May on the side.

Courtesy of Disney/ABC.

Earlier in the season, if I’d compiled a list of things that could fix what ailed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I probably wouldn’t have included “get rid of S.H.I.E.L.D.” But it turns out, that was exactly the right thing to do.

After the big revelation in Captain America that the organization was infested with Hydra operatives working against it from the inside, the show was forced to deal with the consequences. In episode 17 (“Turn, Turn, Turn”), everything changed—maybe not for the better from the characters’ perspectives, but surely from ours.

Suddenly, they had a clearly defined purpose and a deadly adversary, two things sorely missing up until this point. How many times could Coulson’s team willfully ignore protocol and still be allowed to operate without straining our credibility? Now that they’ve gone rogue, protocol is a thing of the past. And all of those lapses in the security of a supposedly top-notch secret organization begin to make some sense. We can blame it all on Hydra, working to undermine S.H.I.E.L.D.’s command structure from within. Though I doubt the writers intended it to work out like this, it all seems kind of brilliant now.

Best of all, Ward has a new role to play beyond just the team’s dull muscle. Bringing in John Garrett from the comics and hiring Bill Paxton to play him were good ideas to begin with, but making him Hydra was the first bold choice the show has made. It wouldn’t be the last. Taking Ward over to the dark side along with him revitalized that character and shed new light on his interest in Skye. Has he been playing her and the rest of the team all along? Is there real affection there or does he have an agenda of his own? Now, these are intriguing questions. We also got to see some actual evidence of Skye’s worth to the team in the way she handled that discovery in the Providence base and her smart moves from that point on.

The way each of the rest of the characters have dealt with Ward’s betrayal has allowed us to get to know them better. As Fitz searched for another explanation and stubbornly held onto the notion that Ward wasn’t as bad as he seemed, we learned more about what makes him tick. The way Simmons gently nudged him to accept the truth also showed us her true colors. We didn’t just hear them say how they felt about each other; we saw it in their actions. May’s role in the T.A.H.I.T.I. project is now out in the open, and her loyalty to Coulson is no longer in question. The way they teased her as the mole leading up to “Turn, Turn, Turn” was a clever bit of misdirection.

Courtesy of Disney/ABC.

This new, heightened state of pressure has conversely brought a lighter tone to the writing. We’re getting bits like last week’s incoming file, May and Coulson cosplaying as Fitz and Simmons, and May actually cracking jokes: “Watch out, Hydra. Here we come.” There was even a meta-acknowledgement of the problems with Skye as a character with the revelation that her legal name is literally Mary Sue.

It’s good to see the writers no longer taking things so seriously and employing the kind of trademark quips that have made Whedon’s work a joy to watch, even as he was ripping out your heart. For so long, the tone of the show as been uneven, but it feels like the writers have finally realized that they’re making a show with comic-book origins set in the world of international super-spies. There’s fun hardwired into the concept, but we hadn’t seen much of it until now.

We’ll see if that trend continues in this week’s season finale. Since it was made before the pick-up was announced, I expect a resolution to the events of the last few episodes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they reset the table for the next season. Which, by the way, I’m really glad we’re going to get. That’s something I might not have said in the middle of this season. But if they manage to keep up the trajectory they’re on, I predict we’re in for a wild ride and I’ll be firmly on board.

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale, “Beginning of the End,” airs tomorrow night on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Man vs. Machine: Disney Artists Take on Robots

From L to R, Disney Television Animation’s Craig McCracken, Sam Levine, Dan Povenmire, Lisa Salamone-Smith, Eric Coleman, Daron Nefcy, and President of Disney Channels Worldwide Gary Marsh. Photo credit: Rick Rowell/Disney Channel.

From the outside, Disney’s Television Animation studio doesn’t look like much. There’s no giant wizard’s hat out front like the Feature Animation building or seven stone dwarves holding up the roof like the Team Disney building on the Burbank lot. Driving through the gate and into the parking lot of the nondescript brick building in an industrial part of Glendale, you’d never know that it’s currently the home of some of the company’s most creative and prolific talents. At least, not until you step inside.

The small lobby is filled with computer screens showing clips and promos from many of the shows in production: Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Sofia the First, Gravity Falls, and the phenomenally popular Phineas and Ferb. Up one flight, down the hall and just past the cereal bar there’s a unique space that serves as an in-house art gallery, where staff members are invited to show original pieces they’ve created in their spare time. The art is periodically rotated and usually centered around a theme. GeekMom was invited to the opening reception for the latest exhibition, titled “Man vs. Machine: The Robot Show,” where some of the biggest names in the world of television animation mingled and appreciated the work of their colleagues.

Kimberly Mooney, manager of development at Disney Television Animation, explained that the rotating gallery was always imagined as a part of the studio’s office space from the very beginning. “It goes all the way back to when this building was being renovated and built for us to be an animation studio,” she said. “We wanted a dedicated space where we could showcase the artists’ art, their personal artwork. It helps to establish that real sense of community we have here.”

Alex Rosenberg, an assistant at the studio, added that everyone is welcome to submit work to the shows, even if they’re not professional artists. “Eric Coleman, our SVP, actually put in a piece this time,” she said. “And we have work from people who are in tech and a coordinator on our current series side who did one. We have writers who submitted pieces. It’s a really nice way to showcase the talent that’s here at TVA and celebrate artists who are outside of what we normally define as artists.”

Povenmire with his piece “Girl vs. Machine.” Photo credit: Rick Rowell/Disney Channel.

Phineas and Ferb co-creator Dan Povenmire contributed “Girl vs. Machine,” a drawing of his two daughters taking on a massive wave of technology with a pair of slingshots. “The theme was ‘Man vs. Machine’ and I was thinking about it for a while and I was like, ‘Screw it, I should just do “Girl vs. Machine” and then I can put my daughters in it and then I’ll have a place to put it when I’m done with it,” Povenmire said. “And they love it. They’re like, ‘That’s us!’ And they like looking at all the little things in there and trying to figure out what they are. Like, ‘Oh, there’s our Zoomer dog. That’s our boom box!’ I put a lot of other stuff in there too. I was basically just doodling for a day.”

He enjoys the opportunity for self-expression the gallery offers and the chance to see what the other Disney artists are all about. “We’re all in the same building but everybody who is working on a show is really working on one piece of art that they’re all doing together,” he said. “It’s a big, collaborative piece of art. And nobody gets to see what these people actually think of themselves if you just say, ‘Hey, go off in a direction.’ I love seeing the kind of stuff that people do at home. It sort of gives you a different feel for them. And it’s gotten so I can tell different people’s art, though it’s nothing like what people do here.”

I also got to chat with Craig McCracken during the event. He’s currently the creator and executive producer of Disney Channel’s Wander Over Yonder, but you might also be familiar with his earlier creations The PowerPuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. His piece, “Taishi,” features a graphic, 70s-inspired profile of a humanoid robot with flowing yellow and orange locks.

McCracken and his robot “Taishi.” Photo credit: Rick Rowell/Disney Channel.

I asked McCracken which piece in the show was his favorite. “I’m leaning toward Alex Kirwan’s,” he said. “He’s my art director on Wander and he built a model of a very obscure robot from a Donald Duck cartoon. It’s like so inside baseball because he’s in this one specific Donald Duck cartoon. And he’s like, ‘I’m going to make a sculpture of that.’ I’m like, ‘I think only you and like 10 people in this building are going to know who that character is and appreciate it.’ But if anyone would, it’s the people here.”

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes – All You Need to Know

Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Launch Line-Up © Disney/Marvel
Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes Launch Line-Up © Disney/Marvel

The Walt Disney Company and Marvel Entertainment held a press conference to launch Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes. Joe Quesada, John Vignocchi, Brian Michael Bendis and others, together with Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg, presented the latest upgrades to the popular platform and revealed the first wave of characters available from the Marvel universe.

There was a lot of information revealed during the conference (with a lot more announcements to come in the future) but here’s what you really need to know.

  • Disney Infinity 2.0 is scheduled to release Fall 2014. All current figures, power discs, and toy boxes will be compatible with the new release, as will the current base.
  • The game will be available on PS4 and XBox One at launch.
  • The new Starter Pack includes multiple figures and an Avengers playset piece. The set shown on screen contained Thor, Iron Man and Black Widow however it wasn’t stated if this was the final version or if different character combinations would be available.
  • The initial wave of Marvel figures will be: Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Hulk. Several characters from Guardians of The Galaxy appeared in the footage revealed during the conference so we can be pretty confident that we will be seeing those characters shortly. Over a dozen more characters are confirmed to be coming soon.
  • There will be 80 new power discs released in two waves. These will include team ups and costume changes.
  • Vehicles have been added including two wheelers like Captain America’s motorcycle. We also saw a Sky Cycle, mini Helicarrier capable of carrying multiple characters and Lola!
  • Structured game play has been added in the Toy Box. Two options discussed were clasic Tower Defense (we saw a 10-level Asgard themed game) and a Dungeon Crawler.
  • Toy Box building has been simplified to help even the youngest players create their own worlds. New brushes allow you to build basic themes such as cities, dungeons, and a racetrack quickly and easily. Builders have also been added who will walk around your Toy Box creating as they go.
  • Building interiors have also been added allowing you to create a Home. Here you can display your trophies and more. I spotted an awesome S.H.I.E.L.D. rug and several version of Iron Man’s suit on display.
  • The Marvel Manhattan world has been added and it is over four times larger than the previous biggest world on Infinity 1.0 – Metroville from The Incredibles. Many iconic buildings appear in Marvel Manhattan including, most noticeably, Avengers Tower.
  • New locomotion has been added including Forward Flight and Hover modes, the former at least includes combat abilities. Many characters have the Super Jump ability and Hulk has a special Wall Crawl.
  • Different styles of combat have been added to match the differing styles of the Marvel characters. Thor and Cap use a brawl technique, Black Widow a melee style, and Hawkeye more ranged approach. Hulk? Hulk SMASH!
  • The character level cap has been raised to 20. In addition characters now have their own unique attributes and skill trees so each character can be levelled up however the player chooses.
  • Dancing with the Stars is Hydra.

There’s so much more to learn about Disney Infinity 2.0 and I for one hope to get my hands on a copy soon so I can really see what it’s all about, but for now you can check out the launch trailer over on the Marvel UK YouTube channel.

Disneyland Meets Animal Crossing in Disney Magical World

Disney Magical World © Disney / Nintendo

Have you ever daydreamed about living in Disneyland? (Of course you have!) Thanks to the new Nintendo 3DS game Disney Magical World, you can almost make that dream come true.

In the game, you join your friends Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and more in Castleton, a city populated with more things to do than you can shake a magic wand at. With quests, clothing and furniture crafting, a café to run, collections, fishing, and more, Disney Magical World is an unending, immersive, and magical 3DS game that fans of Disney (kid or grownup) won’t be able to put down.

An open city to explore, fruit to pick, stores to shop at, visits from real life friends with StreetPass, and adorable citizens, it’s easy to draw a comparison to the Animal Crossing franchise. Disney Magical World shares some of the same happy-go-lucky vibe, but feels even more easygoing without crotchety villagers who make snarky comments if you don’t play after a while. Even running the café, for example, which could have been designed to make players feel rushed to meet customer demands, doesn’t have any negatives. If you run out of food, you simply get a cheer for a job well done, and you can make more whenever you feel like it.

Disney Magical World
© Disney / Nintendo

Materials for crafting clothes, furniture, café decorations, food, and wands can be collected in quests which take players to other magical worlds. Disney fans will be delighted to explore the worlds of Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, and Alice in Wonderland to earn stickers (the level system) and crafting materials.

Unfortunately for my preschool-age daughter, the game requires a lot of reading, with very few voiceovers to help her on her way. But we can happily play together, and I play the role of narrator for her Disney Magical World adventures.

My one complaint is the repetitive music, a necessary evil in this type of game, I suppose. After spending just a few minutes in Castleton I had to turn the sound off. My daughter loves it, however, so to each their own.

Disney Magical World includes over 60 classic Disney characters, an incredible amount of customization, and even themed decorations and recipes based on holidays and seasons. The 3DS game is almost a no-brainer for Disney fans.

Disney Magical World is available on the Nintendo 3DS on April 11, 2014, and retails for $29.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Geek Date Night Approved

Geek Date Night Approved
Geek parents Mark and Melody approve this movie photo. Photo by Melody Mooney.

The movie date night. It’s a long-standing, sacred institution for parents. Whether you are geeks or Muggles, the age-old question begs: Whose turn is it to pick the movie? To decide, some folks may flip a coin, play rock-paper-scissors, or even roll a D20. In full disclosure, we couldn’t remember who got to chose our last movie outing. Sadly, getting out to the theater does not happen as much these days, and that rarity makes the decision all that more important.

It would seem that the latest offering from the Marvel Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, would be a no-brainer, but we had some questions.

I was interested to know if it would hold the same emotional weight as the first Captain America movie. Would there be solid, satisfying performances and character development, as well as high-impact action? Chances were good with names like Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. My husband, who is a lifelong Marvel comic book reader, wanted to know how Captain America would deal with conflict separate from The Avengers. He also had concerns about the storytelling, confessing that he didn’t like the pacing of Iron Man 3.

Captain America Disney Store
The Disney Store window for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Photo by Ella Rose.

Another factor in our decision process was whether we could see this as a family, and we carefully considered its PG-13 rating. I have seen tie-in toys, like the more muted for undercover mission Captain America suit and shield, heavily marketed to children at places like the Disney Store and Target. It gives me great GeekMom pride that my three-year-old daughter recognizes The Cap. However, due to the visually intense hand-held-style cinematography, the film’s violence and its emphasis on action, I would recommend The Winter Soldier for teens and adults only.

After debate and consideration, we took a leap of fan-faith and went to see the movie without our daughter, and I am going on record as stamping Captain America: The Winter Soldier as “Geek Date Night Approved.”

It moves quickly with great pacing, though it can sometimes be a bit disorienting. The movie has solid performances—Evans beautifully captures both sides of Captain America/Steve Rogers—a man out of time and a superhero.  Johansson returns as the smart, kick-ass spy who holds her own with The Cap. (Warning: minor spoilers follow.)

The Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is intriguing and moves in and out of his scenes with a quiet strangeness that can be downright chilling. But I’d have found the revelation that Steve Rogers’ best friend is his biggest foe to pack more of a punch if it weren’t listed in the credits. Nonetheless, the Winter Soldier is a gripping character

Redford is also an amazing addition to the cast and his minor character holds much of the plot twists and mystery. The introduction of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) as The Falcon proves to be another high point.

Although I found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed at times by the violence, which took me out of the politically charged thriller, I did enjoy the amazing scene that showcases a Stark Industries-pimped SUV driven by Nick Fury. The vehicle responds by command to a crisis situation much like an Iron Man suit. I sure could use that car in L.A. traffic!

As a special treat and because our readers love to be in on the latest geek info, here are 10 fan-favorite moments that are full of Easter eggs, tie-ins, and insider knowledge (with some more major spoilers).

Captain America: The Winter Solider red stylized photo courtesy of
  1. Stan Lee’s Cameo: Stan’s appearances in Marvel movies always bring a huge smile to my face. In The Winter Soldier, he plays a Smithsonian Institution worker guarding the Captain America exhibit. He discovers that Cap’s costume has gone missing and announces that he is “definitely going to be fired.” Fun moment!

  2. I (Heart) Hawkeye: Natasha/Black Widow wears an arrow necklace as a token of her affection for the Hawkeye character. She does get one good kiss in with The Cap, but it seems they are just close work friends.

  3. Doctor Strange: My husband was happy about this one. When Captain America is told about the Project Insight agenda put in place by the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez), Steve Strange is listed as a target of elimination.

  4. End Credit Teaser Scenes: Everyone loves post-credit teaser scenes, and we get two after this movie. A mid-credits scene, directed by Joss Whedon, gives us a peek into The Avengers: Age Of Ultron and features Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) with Loki’s scepter, making the connection that an Asgardian may be in Ultron. Von Strucker also reveals test subjects Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. In the second scene, Bucky finds out about his past while in the Smithsonian.

  5. The WarGames Nod:  A cool geek moment in the film is when Black Widow and The Cap find the first S.H.I.E.L.D. base, a secret bunker beneath his old training facility. We learn that H.Y.D.R.A. is really in control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the base supercomputer is an AI version of Arnim Zola, a nod to blueprints in The First Avenger, which shows Zola’s change from doctor to robot.  Black Widow turns on the Zola computer and types, ‘SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?’  Black Widow explains, “It’s from a movie.”

  6. The Falcon: One of the fan-favorites who helps The Cap bring The Winter Soldier to reckoning. There’s an implication he may join The Avengers.

  7. Stark/Avengers Tower: In a Helicarriers targeting sequence, we see a glimpse of Tony Stark’s rebuilt Tower with The Avengers’ logo.

  8. Abed from Community Cameo: Danny Pudi appears as the IT guy The Cap uses to gain access to the Triskelion. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo also worked with Danny on the show Community. He plays the super nerd and fan-favorite Abed.

  9. Iron Man Tunes Up the Helicarriers: In The Avengers, Iron Man saves the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and all aboard. His inadvertent changes lead to other Stark Industries updates, which are applied to the post-New York invasion Helicarrier fleet.

  10. Garry Shandling as Senator Stern: In Iron Man 2, we first met smug Senator Stern (Garry Shandling). He is back in The Winter Solider with an “ah-ha” moment. Upon exiting a court house, he whispers “Hail H.Y.D.R.A.” to Agent Sitwell.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens nationwide on Friday, April 4, 2014.

The Pirate Fairy Red Carrr-pet Premiere

Image courtesy of Disney.

More than 60 years after Walt Disney’s talented team of artists created the animated feature film Peter Pan, the legacy of its iconic characters only continues to grow. Tinker Bell has become a popular character in her own right, thanks to a series of movies produced by DisneyToon Studios, a division of the animation powerhouse devoted to home-video exclusives. Disney recently celebrated the fifth release in that series, The Pirate Fairy, with a red carpet premiere, held just steps away from the very building where the original Peter Pan was made.

Up until now, the Tinker Bell movies have only tangentially referenced the source material, but this one features the closest connection yet to the Neverland in J.M. Barrie’s original story. The Pirate Fairy introduces Zarina (voiced by Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks), a curious and bold fairy who leaves pixie hollow and joins up with a motley crew of pirates. When she returns to steal the fairies’ precious blue pixie dust, Tinker Bell and her friends must set out after her to get it back. To do that, they’ll have to face a legendary adversary, but that’s all I can say for now. The rest is too good to spoil.

The event featured stilt walkers dressed as pirates (one even had her own ship made out of balloons), live music, and photo ops with Tink herself in front of Skull Rock. There were activities for the kids, including coloring, stickers, and a sand pit where they could dig for “buried treasure.” Each child attending also got a foam pirate sword or a set of fairy wings (or both). Among the special guests were Hendricks, director Peggy Holmes, producer Jenni Magee-Cook, and the voice of Tinker Bell herself, Mae Whitman. I got a chance to talk to them on the red carpet, except for Whitman, who was pulled away just as she reached me.

Disney's "The Pirate Fairy" World Premiere
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney.

Holmes talked about the significance of the location before heading in to introduce the film to an enthusiastic audience. “It’s so exciting to do the premiere here on the Disney lot where the characters of Peter Pan were created,” she said. “It was right here in the building behind us. So it’s really exciting to be here today and share the movie with everybody.”

Magee-Cook elaborated a bit more on the connections between the two films. “That was a real responsibility that we had. I mean, we were working with the art and introducing the beginning before Peter Pan was around. So we wanted to be honest and true to what we were building on and we wanted to continue that forward and make everybody happy with what we were doing.”

I asked Hendricks about what drew her to the role of Zarina. She said she’d been a fan of the movies even before signing on. “I was just thrilled to be part of Disney and the Tinker Bell series,” she said. “I probably would have played the crocodile if they’d asked me to. But then I got to know her and she was so spunky and so smart and such a great little character. She was really fun to play.”

Disney's "The Pirate Fairy" World Premiere
(L-R) Director Peggy Holmes, Tinker Bell, voice actors Mae Whitman (Tinker Bell), Christina Hendricks (Zarina), Pamela Adlon (Vidia), and producer Jenni Magee-Cook. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney.

Hendricks also appreciated that the film is empowering to young girls in particular. “The movie is about knowing who you are and being proud of who you are and not trying to be something you aren’t. It’s about knowing yourself and developing that talent of yours as best you can.”

The Pirate Fairy is available on DVD and Blu-ray beginning today, April 1.

Feeding Mr. Banks: Secrets of a Hollywood Food Stylist

Photo courtesy of Disney.

What do Saving Mr. Banks, Dinner for Schmucks, How I Met Your Mother, and Boardwalk Empire have in common? They all feature the work of food stylist Chris Oliver. As chef and owner of Hollywood Food Styling, Oliver has provided beautiful, edible creations for hundreds of movies and TV shows.

“My niche is the on-camera food for film and TV,” Oliver explains. “I’m a chef, and one of the reasons I get a lot of jobs is when the actors actually have to eat the food. Or they’re supposed to eat the food. So it’s not like I can use glue for milk or any kind of chemicals or take cornstarch to thicken stuff. It really has to be natural stuff that they can ingest.”

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a few tricks of her own up her sleeve. Oliver shared some of her tips with a few bloggers at her test kitchen in Huntington Beach, California, where she designs and prepares a wide variety of screen cuisine. She gave us a demonstration of how she recreated some 1960s dishes for Saving Mr. Banks.

In the film, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) attempts to convince author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to sign over the movie rights to her Mary Poppins character. One of his tactics is to try to impress her with a steady parade of snacks and refreshments, which get fancier (at least by 1960’s standards) as the wooing goes on. It was Oliver’s challenge to make sure the dishes were not only appropriate for the period, but also reflected the story director John Lee Hancock wanted to tell.

This Mickey Mouse Jell-O mold illustrates Chris Oliver’s creativity and resourcefulness. Photo courtesy of Disney.

“What I was told when I got hired was, ‘We want to see junk food—Twinkies, Ding Dongs—and then we want to have a progression,'” Oliver says. “So they thought they were going to impress her.”

To make a buffet table look appetizing, she uses risers and double-sided tape to position the dishes with a slight tilt to the camera. Color is also important. A red plate, a garnish of parsley, or a sliced olive on top can liven up even the most boring dishes. She showed us how she carefully layers her plates to add interest without making them too busy. With a few well-placed strokes of a paring knife, she demonstrated how to make a rose out of a tomato or lemon peel. She also cautioned us to be mindful of the placement of the food and how it will appear on-screen, and illustrated her point using a photo from an old cookbook.

Food stylist Chris Oliver shows off an old cookbook with unfortunate baguette placement. Photo courtesy of Disney.

Cookbooks, it turns out, are Oliver’s secret weapon. She has shelves full of them in her kitchen, from every era and culture. She refers to them often to research era-appropriate ingredients, recipes, and presentations. It was so much fun flipping through pages and coming to terms with the truly horrifying reality of mid-century American cuisine.

But food isn’t all she creates. She’s also had to come up with edible facsimiles for things like vomit and dirt. For one war film, she got very detailed instructions on the kind of dirt they wanted her to make for a group of starving prisoners of war.

“They shipped in samples of Pakistani dirt so that I could match it, so they could eat it,” she said. “It’s a lot easier than you think. I did an edible arm for an alligator to actually eat. We did like a million of them. They’re huge and heavy and we had to figure out a way to cast it and make it.”

Chris Oliver transforms a plate of boring deviled eggs into a more photogenic dish. Photo courtesy of Disney.

After recreating a few signature dishes from Saving Mr. Banks, Oliver let us try our hand at a few classic recipes, including deviled eggs, fruit kebabs, chocolate tarts, and sandwich pinwheels. I was teamed up with a partner and assigned something called “Moss Balls,” which are basically several different kinds of cheese (cream, blue, and cheddar, among others) rolled up into a balls and covered in parsley. We picked a set of pretty wooden bowls and made them look as appetizing as we could. It wasn’t as good as Oliver’s work, but we were proud of our creation.

An amateur attempt at food styling. Photo courtesy of Disney.

Before meeting Oliver and her team, I didn’t think much about where the food in films and television comes from. Now I have a healthy appreciation for all of the thought and preparation that goes into it. What a food stylist really does is blend cooking and art in the service of creating the perfect culinary backdrop. Plus, you get to cook for some of the biggest names in Hollywood. As far as dream jobs go, it kind of takes the cake.

Saving Mr. Banks is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.