Finding Nemo / GameBoy Advance : 4 of 5

I got some great games for Christmas, too (that I'm just now getting a chance to review) - I had read some nice reviews of the Finding Nemo game, always going on about the graphics, so I put it on my list. The reviews were right - this is a fun game with some beautiful scenery, including all the colors of the coral reef and detailed characters, too! I was able to play for a long time on my last plane trip, and I made it to the 4th level. You start by playing Nemo - the first level is just training with Marlin (Nemo's dad), and in the second level you have to round up your fellow schoolmates (I was proud of finishing this one!). Then you become Marlin and have to chase Dory, which was pretty easy, and next you're swimming through the underwater mines around the sunken submarine, which is tough with lots of currents to fight! My only complaint with this game is you can't save the game - you just have to write down stupid passwords to pick up where you left off.


The Muppet Show 25th Anniversary Collection : 3 of 5

I saw this CD on Amazon as one of their recommendations based on my tastes (they know me so well), so I thought I would try it out, especially now since the Muppets are part of Disney! This is an excellent collection - the first half of the CD is like an episode of the Muppet Show, complete with opening and closing music, Fozzie comedy numbers, songs by Miss Piggy and Gonzo, and even a tap dance by Kermit (complete with the heckling old men!). The second half is a chronological set of music from the Muppet movies, starting with Rainbow Connection (of course), and finishing up with Gonzo's song from Muppets from Space. I wasn't too familiar with the material from the movies (I need to rent them!), so the second half wasn't as much fun for me as the first. My main peeve is that the opening theme song is a shortened version, even though the liner notes claim it's the original (it's definitely not, because it's missing the bridge to introduce the guest star!). All in all, a really fun way to enjoy the Muppets, and now I want to watch the movies and the show again.


Thinking Lincoln

Here's a photo I took at the Lincoln Memorial during my last visit there with my pal Tom (before he joined the Peace Corps). I really liked the difference in scale - the small boy looking up at the huge statue (if he had been a little closer I would have gone vertical so I could get Lincoln's head, but I'm still happy with the composition). Being at the Lincoln Memorial is pretty somber, since everyone is so quiet and reverent, but it really is a beautiful place to be. Of course, when I was there, I couldn't help thinking of two things. First, Walt Disney was a big admirer of Lincoln, which is why he put so much energy into the development of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction for the 1964 World's Fair (now at Disneyland, of course). Second, there's a hilarious Ren & Stimpy episode where they decide to find a way inside Lincoln's head since Stimpy thinks it's full of caramel corn!

Signs : 3 of 5

There are plenty of big movies that I miss at the theater, but I usually remember to rent them on DVD. Now that I'm enjoying some Netflix DVDs during Spring Break, I finally watched Signs, which thankfully I knew nothing about beforehand. I was a little worried about it being scary, but I can handle noise-based suspense just fine (and it's more exciting anyway!). I've only seen one other M. Night Shyamalan movie, but I can definitely see his writing/directing style - the only thing I was surprised about is that there was no shocking surprise ending! Signs just turns out to be a very good alien story, but I was thinking the whole time that they would turn out to be angels, or a big practical joke, or something like that. At least the character development was top-notch, and the very slow change of Mel Gibson's character to see the significance of insignificant events was extremely well done. The quirky humor is unusual, but I think it helped to make these somewhat strange people more human. I just wish there had been an unexpected twist!


The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me / Roald Dahl : 4 of 5

Another fairly short Dahl story, but this one was even more enjoyable than usual. I especially liked the songs and the rhymes scattered here and there (mostly sung by the monkey, who is the "me" in the title), which are all clever and funny. The story is fantastic, about a trio of talking animals (a giraffe, a pelican, and a monkey) who set up a window-washing business, and end up as heroes (of course, there's a boy named Billy who helps in the whole matter). It was interesting to find some lines from the Willy Wonka film (such as "suck 'em and you can spit in seven colors") - I guess the authors of the screenplay really read lots of Dahl's work to get a taste of it! As usual, there are fantastic illustrations throughout, which follow the story exactly and make it even more interesting. I would love to see this as a cartoon!


A moment in Wonderland

When I redesigned WEBmikey recently, I decided to get rid of the random "pic of the moment" - I liked the way it looked, but I wanted to go for a super-simple, clean layout, so away it went. I think I'm going to go back through those pics (and other favorites) and post them, so you can enjoy them again, along with a little sparkling commentary! So, here's a shot from Disneyland of the Alice in Wonderland characters making mischief while the Disneyland Band tries to perform in Town Square on Main Street USA. They were all out that day - Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the White Rabbit, and even the Queen of Hearts. Alice and the Mad Hatter were the best, since they can be so expressive with their actual faces! That poor band leader was doing his best while the whole crew was dancing around the trees and making everyone laugh. I think the Hatter saw me taking pictures - thanks for the wave!

Battle Athletes Victory Vol 4 : 3 of 5

I haven't watched a Netflix DVD since November - isn't that terrible? But now that I'm caught up on my Christmas DVD bonanza, I decided to get back into this series. When we last left Akari, she had won the big triathlon and her ticket to University Sattelite to compete to become the next Cosmo Beauty, along with Jessie, her American rival, and the crazy African girl (I can never remember her name). On the way, their shuttle is hijacked, but the girls take care of their assailants with ease. Akari meets a weird girl from the moon (who has a pet cow) who is instantly romantically attracted to her (the way this series is full of "girl/girl romance" is so funny) - I guess Akari attracts that type (remember Itchan was the same way back on Earth!). The students have to complete as teams, so Akari has her new "girlfriend", along with a timid klutzy girl, who is just like Akari was before coming to the Sattelite. There's a weird teacher named Mr. Miracle, too, who has to keep eating chocolate to stay alive (I couldn't make this up if I tried!). This volume was really funny, but didn't have many good emotional moments. I hope the story gets into more exciting competition soon.


Nihongo Kid's Meal

Some of my pals like to joke about Chick-fil-A being a cult, because they're definitely not shy about being "preachy" and proud of being closed on Sundays. But all that aside, they have great food and even better service! I'm always amazed at the way I'm treated there - being asked if I want a lemon in my tea, for example, or even the manager walking the floor to see how I'm doing. I used to always get the Nuggets, but now my favorite is the Chargrilled Chicken Deluxe Sandwich (and that way I get a little lettuce in my diet). Of course, the waffle fries are the best - I remember first trying those back when I used to go on trips to the mall with Mom, and I've loved them ever since! Anyway, I'm bringing all this up because the last prize for the Kid's Meal was a little book with 100 words in another language. I got the Japanese one, mochiron (of course), and it's really cool! There are tons of little cartoons it in, like a visual dictionary, and the words are even in kana. I would much rather study this than my boring textbook!


Aqua / Aquarium : 3 of 5

I feel like I'm the last person on Earth to buy this CD, but I decided to finally buy it on a whim (and to put an Amazon order into the free shipping price range). I remember hearing the classic Barbie Girl on some internet radio station way back when, and I couldn't stop laughing. I thought it was cool even before I was into DDR, and Aqua is definitely DDR-style music! Anyway, the whole CD is pretty good - I like the really upbeat tunes with goofy lyrics, like Happy Boys & Girls and Doctor Jones (which always makes me think of Indiana Jones - not their intention, I'm sure). There are some cool semi-slow songs, too - Good Morning Sunshine is a really nice tune. Of course, there has to be a "must-skip" track, and that would be Roses Are Red - just too stupid for my ears. Overall, it's a good CD for the car, but it definitely gets old pretty quick - not a lot of staying power here, but it sure works well in an iTunes playlist!


The Disney Treasures / Robert Tieman : 5 of 5

Still making my way through the fantastic coffee table books I got for Christmas! This is one of the best Disney books ever made, and certainly the most unique. The concept is that as the book discusses Disney history, beginning with young Walt and onward through Walt Disney World, replicas of various items being discussed are included in the book! Almost every page has a special pocket that includes an accurate facsimile, so you can actually hold and read a postcard written by Walt to his mother, or pages of a letter to his wife Lillian. The reproductions are great - everything is actual size, and even the paper quality is preserved (for example, the first edition of the Disneyland News is included, and actually on newsprint!). Now I know what it was like to have tickets to Disneyland's opening day, because I can actually hold them! The text is very informative, and filled with colorful photo collages. To top it off, the book includes a CD with old radio commercials and lots of audio of Walt. In my opinion, this book should be added to the list of "Disney Treasures" itself!


Escaping with Lizzie

I'm sure it won't be a surprise that I watch the Disney Channel often, but until recently, I used to avoid watching Lizzie McGuire. Of course, Hilary Duff is a cutie, but I just couldn't get past those weird cartoon interjections of her "inner thoughts". But now I have to confess that I've given in, and I've been watching Lizzie almost daily. Thanks to TiVo, I can watch an episode whenever I have a spare 20 minutes, and it's kind of a fun escape for me, since the adventures of high school students are nothing like my daily life. They ran a marathon a few weeks ago, so I got to see the first episode (at least I think it was the first) - it's funny seeing the kids looking so much younger than they do now. It's kind of sad that they've already stopped making new episodes, since Lindsey Lohan seems to be the new "Disney girl" (Disney always seems to have to have a girl star to promote, from Annette to Halley Mills and so on!), but they're all new and funny to me!

Tomorrow is my next big Japanese II exam. This one is so full of different verb forms that my study feels really unfocused, but I did my best going over everything, so I'm as ready as I'm going to be. Unfortunately, the difficulty level has started to surpass the fun level, so I'm going to be happy when the semester is over next month! I feel great about what I've learned, but I think I've done enough to appease my interest.


Escape to Witch Mountain : 3 of 5

I bought this DVD using some reward dollars from my Disney VISA, because I have vivid memories of seeing this as a child. The plot involves a young brother and sister with ESP and telekinetic powers on the run from evil rich folks who want to keep them captive, and all kinds of Disney effects (cheesy, but fun) happen until the big finish where they discover they're really castaway aliens! The boy has to play harmonica to use his powers, and I remember buying a little harmonica after seeing this movie, just in case I had secret powers waiting to come out (actually, one of the bonus interviews on the DVD talks about how most kids remember this movie because they felt that way). The kids are really cute and talented, of course, even with some pretty wacky dialogue, and who wouldn't enjoy a movie with a flying Winnebago in it? This DVD is like a single-disc version of the Vault Disney series, so it has lots of great bonus material, including my favorite segment, the Disney Studio Album (for 1975 this time), including some quick shots of the opening of Space Mountain at Walt Disney World!


Astro Boy Vols 6 & 7 : 5 of 5

These two volumes of the Astro Boy series go together as one fantastic story, which I think is my favorite so far (at least, I read these two volumes the fastest, because I couldn't put them down!). As usual, a cartoon Tezuka introduces the story, where he explains that this story is kind of a continuation and re-imagining of the end of old Astro Boy television series. The amazing thing about this tale is that Astro is thrown back in time to Japan before robots are invented - there are lots of incredible moments, such as meeting Dr. Ochanomizu when he still had hair, trying desperately to make a robot work for the first time! The main plot device is that there's no way for Astro to be "refueled" in this world of the past. At one point (after a touching sub-plot in Vietnam) he actually "dies" and is found by a friend from decades earlier, who spends all of his company's money to start-up Astro with only a few day's energy. In Volume 7 (which actually features Astro's "ass guns" on the cover!), the time-traveler Astro finally crosses paths with the newly-born Astro, so he must be completely destroyed to prevent a time paradox! At that point the story becomes the first days of Astro and Dr. Tenma, and I can't wait for it to continue to the next volume!


A "better" phone

AT&T Wireless (now part of Cingular, I suppose) has been sending out free "upgrades" to Sony Ericsson T68i owners, which has been my phone for over a year now. When I bought the T68i, I was psyched to be using the new GSM technology, and really excited about using Bluetooth and iSync with my iBook. Unfortunately, the T68i uses a different "frequency" (I have no idea what the terminology should be) than most of the GSM network being built, so the phone is becoming obsolete! At least now I know why my reception has been getting worse over time. Anyway, I was shipped a Sony Ericsson T226 for free, and I'm using it now. Lots of folks have been complaining about the replacement, since the T226 doesn't have Bluetooth (so long, iSync), but it does have nicer graphics and some of the best polyphonic ring tones I've ever heard (which was the worst thing about my old phone - really lousy sounds!). And sure enough, the reception with the new phone is tons better, so I'm satisfied. Plus, now I have a fantastic ring tone of the Mickey Mouse March that sounds just like trumpets, percussion and even flute flourishes! (I still might want to trade for a T616 sometime - we'll see.)


Hidalgo : 4 of 5

As you may know, I got to see this movie at the El Capitan theater in Los Angeles, which made the experience a real treat - lots of cheering crowds and applause. Hidalgo is a really fun movie, with just enough emotion and twists to keep it interesting, without interfering in the adventure and excitement of it all. Viggo does a great job, but I thought it was really interesting that this character is so similar to Aragorn - he's kind of a loner because of a failure (in this case, delivering the orders to an Indian slaughter), he associates himself with another race (in this case, Indians rather than Elves), he speaks another language, and so on! The race across the desert was really exciting, since the anticipation of making it to the next source of water was intense. There are some nice funny moments with the horse, of course, and a wonderful postlude to the story as well (even though the scene with the spirits was a little unexpected). The great theater and the fact that this is a Disney film may have clouded my judgement, but I had a great time at this movie.


Good dog

I always forget what a beautiful movie Lady and the Tramp is until I watch it again (which I can do anytime I want, now that I have the out-of-print DVD)! I had almost completely forgotten the first scenes of baby Lady running around being an oh-so-cute puppy - just adorable! The CinemaScope backgrounds are amazing, the dog's point of view angles are perfect, and the dialogue is just hilarious! The famous spaghetti sequence is always wonderful, especially when Lady gets the close-up and her eyes sparkle (sigh). It's just a perfectly fantastic movie!

Dollar for dollar

It's getting close to the halfway point of Lent (hippity-hoppity, Easter's on it's way), and this year I've really been enjoying my "Lenten discipline" (and I have to thank my pal Jim for the great idea). For every dollar that I spend on myself throughout Lent, I'm donating the same amount to charity! You probably know that I buy myself tons of stuff, so my charity giving has been going great. I'm focusing mainly on children's charities (I found some good ones by reading what programs receive donations from Disney), and I'm really enjoying it - it feels good to know that when I buy myself a book or DVD, I'm also going to be giving to some other kid who needs the help. Here's my list so far - I think UNICEF may be next!

  • Salvation Army
  • Make a Wish Foundation
  • First Book
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Toys for Tots
  • Starlight Children's Foundation
  • 3.17.2004

    Dive into Disney : 4 of 5

    I heard about this one-of-a-kind CD on MiceAge, and I was so intrigued that I had to buy it. Continuing my collection of "updated" Disney music, this wild compliation is full of punk and ska versions of classic tunes! It's only available in Japan (maybe Disney doesn't want American audiences to hear this crazy stuff), so I ordered it from CDJapan and I've been enjoying it for weeks! The first time I listened to it I was laughing so much that I couldn't even pay attention, but now I can really enjoy it and scream along. There are tons of cool tracks - Yo Ho in Japanese, When You Wish Upon a Star as a totally transformed funk tune, Chim Chim Cher-ee with tons of distorted guitars, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo at blazing speed, some totally bizarre versions of Hakuna Matata (including all the Timon & Pumbaa dialogue), and even a cool version of Someone's Waiting for You from The Rescuers, turning one of the most boring Disney songs into something groovy! There's lots of fun broken English, slurred words, and seriously loud cymbals, too. This is definitely not the kind of music I would buy on my own, but I love it Disney-style!


    Puffing like Gandalf

    Any pipe smoker who saw the Lord of the Rings movies (and all of us did) wanted to have a pipe like Gandalf's the moment he came riding into the Shire. These long stem pipes are known as "churchwardens", and are available everywhere, but not in the same style as good ol' Gandalf's. Over Christmas I was surfing around and found MacQueen Pipes, a Canadian company that creates hand-made churchwardens, completely catering to Middle Earth fans like me. My parents ordered one for my birthday, and I just got it a week ago (it takes a long time to make a pipe from scratch!). It's totally amazing - I've never smoked a pipe that didn't feel "machined". The stem is over a foot long, so it takes some getting used to (lots of suction), but the smoke is so cool and nice that it's worth it! I've also never had to completely break in a non-carbonized bowl before - the first smoke was an on-and-off experience, but now it lights up quickly. It even has a special stand to display it! I can't wait for the extended DVD of Return of the King so I can puff away while watching it.


    Uchi : 3 of 5

    I went to Uchi for the first time with a group of pals for Chris' 30th birthday, and we all had a great time. The place was pretty crowded on a Saturday night, but all the people just added to the atmosphere, which is upscale, but comfortable. I was expecting typical Japanese food, but the menu is full of fusion cuisine - there are some pretty bizarre dishes on the menu (compared to a regular Japanese restaurant). That's my main negative - there was hardly an Asian in the place, and everything has been yuppie-ized (they even have the nerve to call things like grilled asparagus yakitori, which means grilled chicken!). However, the food itself was pretty amazing - I was quite surprised! Everything was delicious - I even enjoyed sushi in rice paper, though I usually prefer nori. They also have a nice sake selection, with mostly cold sake served in a wooden box. The food is definitely a 4, but the the un-Japaneseness gets a 2, so my rating has to be a 3.


    Mini-vacation to Disneyland

    I started off my recent mini-vacation to Los Angeles by heading straight from the airport to Disneyland, my true "hometown". The weather was fantastic, the crowds were small (since it was Thursday during off-season), and I had a wonderful time, of course! Dae and I got there at opening, headed straight for Fantasyland, and enjoyed lots of rides (including the Mad Tea Party!) before the first showing of the new Snow White musical, which was really fantastic (I think Dopey was too tall, but Snow was so gorgeous that I wasn't looking at him anyway!). We got to ride the Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean twice, and most everything else once. (I finally decided that Pirates is better than the Haunted Mansion, even though both of them are the best rides ever built - Pirates just has so many "wow" moments!) At the end of the day, we waited for pictures with the "royalty" - by the time to you actually get to Mickey, it feels like you're going to meet the biggest star in the world!

    View photos: Disneyland 2004

    Being a kid in Legoland

    The next day Dae and I drove to Legoland for my first visit there. The park is very much geared for smaller kiddies, but the scenery is still worth the trip! The central area of the park is called Miniland, with Lego models of New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington DC, and lots of other places. The detail is just amazing! (Unfortunately, some of the Lego is getting a little weathered by the elements, but it still looks cool.) There are a few rides, including two pretty exciting roller-coasters. One of them is called The Dragon, and it's the first time I've ever seen a roller-coaster combined with a "dark ride" - the first half goes slow and indoors, past Lego knights, wizards, and a smoking dragon, and then exits the building for the usual coaster thrills!

    View photos: Legoland

    A movie in Hollywood

    We spent my last day in Los Angeles in Hollywood, finding stars on the Walk of Fame, looking at footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater and the "Rock Walk", and seeing Hidalgo at the El Capitan theater - an old movie palace where Citizen Kane premiered. Before the movie, an organist played a medley of movie themes on a giant Wurlitzer. It was incredible! We had a nice dinner with some of Dae's friends that evening, a nice end to a great mini-vacation. It's really convenient to have a pal in Los Angeles! Thanks, Dae!

    View photos: Los Angeles 2004


    The Lion King 1 1/2 : 5 of 5

    I can't even begin to tell you how marvelous this movie is - what a freakin' fantastic idea! Definitely one of the best direct-to-DVD releases, if not one of the most bizarre, this story had me rolling on the floor for 90 minutes! The general idea is a retelling of the original Lion King from Timon and Pumbaa's point of view, including some backstory with Timon's family and the first meeting of the meerkat and warthog duo. It's full of hilarious in-jokes, along with some cool Mystery Science Theater touches, and it just gets better and better - nothing is sacred from the original story, and we get to see so much more of Simba growing up, plus the secret story of how the final battle with Scar was won through Timon's heroism! The second disc of bonus features has some funny stuff, too, but it's nothing compared to the movie (except for the Virtual Safari feature, which is a theme park ride built by Timon and Pumbaa, with hilarious spoofs of It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and even the Matterhorn!). This is one of the best DisneyToon (which is what they're calling the TV animation studio now) productions ever - I wish they would give this kind of treatment to other Disney classics!


    Spring Break freedom

    I'm back from Los Angeles and I had a wonderful time! I promise a complete Disneyland and LegoLand report soon, along with links to all my pictures, but for now I need to drink beer to calm down from my Japanese oral exam. I'm sure I squeaked out a B, but if it had been written I could easily have aced it. I just can't get my brain thinking in Nihongo yet! Now it's Spring Break, so I can use the extra time to catch up on my homework, plus study for my written exam week after next. Time to get my life organized again!

    By the way, my delay in WEBmikey posting went a lot longer than expected! My log file on my server had grown to over 75 MB (that's about four years of hits!), so I had to have my hosting company delete it to free up some space. Now I can get back to my daily posting schedule!

    The Witches / Roald Dahl : 4 of 5

    I received two Roald Dahl books for Christmas, The Witches and The Twits (or, as Dad liked to say, The Bitches and The Twats), and while The Twits was very short, The Witches is a long tale of adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed! Right away I need to say that if I had read this book as a small child, I would have been scared out of my mind, since the beginning starts off telling you this is a true story and witches are real, and then gives enough details to turn any kid into a cowering paranoid! After that, the story heats up, involving a crazy cigar-smoking grandmother and her grandson, who ends up battling the Grand High Witch herself! The grandson gets turned into a mouse, and the descriptions of the joy of being a fast little mouse who can swing by his tail are just wonderful. It's the love of the grandmother and grandson that makes the story sweet, though, especially as they deal with his mouse-ness in the final chapters of the story. As always, Dahl's creativity is through the roof, and while this book is quite a bit longer than some of his other stories, the excitement made me read it extra quickly!



    A few congratulations:
  • Happy Birthday to my Mom!
  • Happy Birthday (yesterday) to my pal Jonathan!
  • Congratulations (very late) to Chris, Eliza, and Kristin for finishing the Motorola Marathon faster than last year!
  • Congratulations to me for adding a post to WEBmikey just about every day for a month! (Of course, I'll be breaking my streak for a few days to hang out with Dae and Mickey!)
  • DisneyMania 2 : 2 of 5

    As you already know, I like all forms of Disney music, even "updated" renditions, if they're done right. The first DisneyMania CD was really fun, even though it had a few stinker tracks, so I bought this sequel CD soon after it was released. The good news is there are a few great tracks on here, but there are many more so-so tracks. Overall, I guess I enjoyed the first CD more, but this one still has been playing in my car for several days, so it's not all bad. I actually like the Baha Men's version of It's a Small World - nice and jumpy, and When You Wish Upon a Star is kind of a country ballad, but it works. The biggest dud is A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, which is sung big band style by Daniel Bedingfield, who just can't sing (one note is so off-key I don't know how they let this track on the album!), and I'm not a fan of this version of Second Star to the Right, because it's one of my favorite Disney songs, and they have totally changed the chord structure! There are some other fun tracks, to be sure (the Jump 5 track is great, but not as good as Beauty and the Beast from the first CD), but the whole thing is just a little ho-hum for me.


    Moon Station Foxtrot

    My pal Matt has been hoping to launch his own website since he moved to Japan, and it's finally happened! He's just getting things going, but there's already a ton of fantastic photos of beautiful vistas and close-ups, and of course, Matt & Kumiko frolicking in their happy lives together. I'm looking forward to visiting the ol' Moon Station often and watching it grow! (Hey, Matty! How about a detailed photo essay of KiddieLand?)

    Visit site: Moon Station Foxtrot

    Disney's Early Years Through the Eyes of a Photographer: 3 of 5

    This is the second book of this "picture book" series, filled with wonderful photos that continue to amaze me! This volume of the set has a few semi-boring photos, like a cast portrait of the Golden Horseshoe Review, but even that's kind of interesting to see the old costumes. The best shots are still the aerial views - some of them are so incredibly sharp that I can make out really small details! I've decided that I want to visit the Disneyland of the early 60's - there were so many fantastic things there around 1962 that I want to experience (but at least I can enjoy them in these books!). The old pre-Big Thunder Frontierland would be terrific - riding the stagecoach or the train through Nature's Wonderland would be a dream come true. Once again, the photos are dramatically out of order, but it's fun to see the layout of Tomorrowland and see how much it changed year to year. Disneyland has an astounding history, so I'm glad these books have captured it.


    7th Annual Academy Awards Party

    My yearly Academy Awards party was a lot of fun this year! It was a smaller group than usual, since some of my pals were out of town for a wedding, but on the plus side, the webcam coverage was expanded this year, now including Japan (Matt & Kumiko) as well as Los Angeles (Dae)! I also managed to snag the 3rd Place prize - this is the first year I've ever won at my own party. What a crazy year for awards, huh? I think Return of the King deserved everything, and at least Lost in Translation won Adapted Screenplay (I wish there could have been two Best Directors!).

    View photos: Academy Awards 2004

    Alice in Wonderland / Masterpiece Edition : 4 of 5

    Alice in Wonderland is definitely in my top ten list of Disney animated features. Even though it's a little disjointed (just like the book), the creativity and color is just astounding, and Alice herself is simply perfect (her movements are just as realistic as Mowgli in The Jungle Book). I already had the movie on DVD, but of course, I had to get this new two disc edition! I enjoyed the movie again, but the bonus material is what makes this set worth it! There are definitely some weird things on here - the "Virtual Wonderland Party" is a live action madhouse, kind of like a deranged Romper Room. Thank goodness this set includes One Hour in Wonderland in its entirety! This was Disney's first television special, kind of an hour-long advertisement for the movie (and Coke!). It includes fantastic scenes of a young and energetic Walt, plus Kathryn Beaumont (the super-cute voice of Alice), a performance by the Firehouse Five Plus Two, and best of all, a long segment from Song of the South! It had been so long since I had seen Brer Rabbit in action - it was completely hilarious!