Gaming with a 3 year old

Hello Imaginary Friends,

When Dragon gets enough days with no toilet accidents she gets a reward. We started in July and one of her rewards has been “Video Games with Papa”.

We’ve done 3 or 4 sessions now and she’s starting to get the hang of it. We’ve mostly played in the toybox of Disney Infinity and the PS3 Phineas and Ferb Game.

I’ve noticed huge changes in her abilities every time we’ve played. She started the first time no understanding that the remote controlled her character to actually participating in the combat and knowing what buttons to press.

Her hands are still a little small for the controllers, but she’s doing great. Saturday we played hide and seek in the toybox and she started to understand how to find me. Once she’s good enough, we’ll start playing the playsets.

She still gets stuck in corners now, but she’ll get there. She seems to like it and that’s the important thing.

We’ll see how it goes next time.

Éric

Zootopia – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2016 movie Zootopia.

*This was my favourite movie of 2016*

Story

Fast paced, coherent, with several great messages. It’s strange watching it in a post-Trump world and seeing messages that were clearly political. If by political you mean: don’t profile people, be kind, don’t give in to fear, and don’t give up.

The structure of procedural and buddy cop movie is done very well, with lots of allusions to other movies, while keeping the twist fresh. It’s also re-watchable even if you remember the twist.

Score: 1

Characters

To build relatable characters it’s important that they have flaws and strengths. To make great characters you need to have those strengths and flaws be intrinsically linked. Judy’s hopeless optimism and refusal to quit are strengths but they also blind her to the obvious dangers and villains.

Nick’s clever mind and overthinking are great for hustles but they make him doubt everything people do.

Score: 1

Dialogue

There’s a lot said out loud and a lot said between the lines. This movie could have easily been bogged down with world building dialogue but is instead filled with wonderful lines. I love the evolution of Nick calling Judy “Carrots”.

I also love the Disney humour. Hearing Idris Alba say, “Life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true. So let it go.” was just the kind of self-mocking humour I love.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

This movie is stunning and absolutely beautiful. Zootopia the city is as much a character as a setting and you quickly fall in love with it.

The music is perfect background and the Shakira song is catchy and inspirational.

Score: 1

Fun

Other than the press conference scene, I smile and laugh all the way through. It’s a movie that makes you think about the world you live in and the prejudices, while still making silly sloth jokes.

Score: 1

Overall

This movie is wonderful and has everything I’m looking for. There are a few contrived moments and it’s not absolutely perfect but it makes up for it in humour, heart, and making you think.

If you haven’t seen it, now is the time.

Final Score: 5 Stars*


*A 5 star review doesn’t mean the movie was perfect nor that it is perfect for everyone but it is a movie I believe is as close to perfect as possible.

Teen Beach 2 – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2013 Disney Channel movie Teen Beach 2

I reviewed the first one and gave it a 3.5

Story

While the first movie pretty much wrote the most basic story and used it as a love letter to musicals, this one decides to amp up the drama and show what happens after the endless summer.

This movie is the embarrassed child of the first one. It is ashamed of where it came from but can’t seem to forget it. The plot is basic teen angst until a third of the way in, then it shifts into fish out of water, then it sort of gets lost and forgets where it was going.

At the end, it really doesn’t matter, because through magic, the entire movie and it’s predecessor are wiped from existence.

It does however attempt to have a self-empowerment storyline and spends a lot of time talking about being yourself and accepting others even if they are different. It’s a positive message that I can get behind.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters are different. They don’t act or feel all that much like they did in the first one. They almost feel like caricatures of the originals, which were caricatures to start with.

Nothing is explicitly cancelled out, but liberties were taken with personalities and actions.

Again, it really doesn’t matter because they aren’t the same people at the end of the movie.

Score: 0

Dialogue

The dialogue is updated for modern times and loses the cheese that made the first a lot of fun.

Score: 0

Visuals and Music

The movie was pretty, the people were pretty, the clothes were pretty. I found that the contrast between worlds was lost and I missed the glossy Gidget-style look.

The music was adorable and the dances were great. This movie is only redeemed in it’s music.

Score: 1

Fun

I’m really sour about the ending and it kind of ruined the rest of the movie for me. I hate it when time travel etc re-writes the characters that we spent 3 hours getting to know. I feel cheated.

Score: 0.5 (Only because I loved the songs)

Overall

This movie isn’t hateful, but it isn’t particularly good. I’ll watch the dances on youtube instead of rewatching the movie.

If you loved the first one, be prepared to be disappointed. However, it’s not something I have to worry about showing my kids.

Final Score: 2 Stars

Magic Moments at Disney

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I believe that Disney is a magical place. An exhausting, expensive, and magical place.

On our most recent trip we had some great moments. Here are my top 5 Magic Moments at Disney.

5. Sleepy Adrien

Bringing a baby to Disney is fun. They get excited about random things and fall asleep everywhere. If you don’t mind lugging them and all their stuff and realize you’re doing it for yourself, you’ll have fun.

4. Keladry meeting Tigger

The first day we went to Magic Kingdom we asked Keladry what her favourite part was, without hesitation she said seeing Tigger. We were pretty surprised since she’d only seen him at a distance. So we made sure to go back. She loved meeting him.

3. Fireworks while Riding The Mine Train

The first real roller coaster that Keladry went on was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It’s a fun little coaster that even my motion sick mother in-law can ride.

As we started going up the fireworks started. The ride designers must have expected this since they were right above us. We then rode through the ride with fireworks going off. It was awesome in every sense of the word.

2. Carousel of Progress Breakdown

The Carousel of Progress is a ride that needs updating. It’s four parts with the same family showing the evolution of technology. The last one is a vision of the future from the late 90’s or early 2000’s.

Each section ends with the same song. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. It’s a catchy song and nice and upbeat. Very much the hopeful futurism of Disney.

When we went on the ride it broke down and repeated the last part. The first time it repeated no one reacted. The second time people tried to get out and a park person over a speaker told us to sit and wait for our safety. The third, people started heckling and quoting good naturedly.

The fourth time, the sound cut out and when we got to the part where they normally sang, the majority of the audience started to sing the song. It’s like everyone decided at the same time. It was really impressive and fun. It’s the kind of shared experience that Disney can’t manufacture but that makes going so much fun.

We were all given free fastpasses after our concert but I would have been happy just with the experience.

1. Grandparents’ Joy

People say that during a wedding you should always take a look at the groom because they look so happy to see the bride.

The same goes for grandparents at Disney. I love my son and daughter but I don’t always take the time to appreciate their joy and wonder. Their grandparents, however, always seem alert for those little moments.

From shows, to rides, passing by food, statues, and merchandise, whenever my daughter, or son, were excited or in awe; the look was mirrored and combined with joy in their grandparents.


Magic isn’t what you do, but how much you enjoy it with others. I think that’s important to remember.

Later days,

Éric

Growing up Poor and Disney

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Growing up, my mother gave us everything she could, but she wasn’t rich. We were definitely poor although she did her best to not let us know.

March break to me meant reading, playing video games, and maybe going to the movies. Summer vacation was much the same but with biking, yard sales, and maybe a trip to Ottawa. The trip to Ottawa was an 8 hour drive and us staying with family.

I remember the first time someone I know went to Disney. I was in first or second grade and everyone thought it was awesome. As I grew older I noticed that only the richer families took their kids to Disney. Then I started seeing Disney World on television. The characters in Full House, Roseanne, Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and many more. It re-enforced to me that only the wealthy went to Disney.

Don’t get me wrong. There are ways to do Disney on a budget but for a kid of a poor single mom in Northern Ontario, it seemed impossible. I went for the first time with my in-laws when I was 28.

My first time at Disney meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too.

In the decade since, we’ve gone to Disney World 3 more times and Paris Disney.

Even during my most recent trip I still got the excitement of being able to do something that young me would never believe I could do. There’s a thrill to getting to experience everything.

Walking around Disney and doing all the activities, eating the food, and meeting the characters is amazing and cheesy. Everything is shiny and cool (except the dinosaur section in Animal Kingdom… yikes) and it all feels like an accomplishment. There’s this feeling of having somehow snuck into an exclusive club where I’m not supposed to be.

Going with my in-laws was great, but getting to bring my children was amazing. It’s ridiculous and silly but being able to give them an experience that I couldn’t have makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

However, and this is a topic for a future post, bringing my children to Disney wasn’t about them, it was about and for me. The experience of going to Disney at 7 months isn’t something either kid will remember, and I’m fairly certain that my 3 year old’s memories will fade too.

There are experiences that as a kid I romanticized as “rich people” things. Some were disappointing (looking at you caviar and taking a plane) but Disney wasn’t. Maybe because I built up the vague notion but didn’t really know any details, maybe it was the excitement and childlike wonder on my wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law’s faces.

Whatever the reason, it was magical to be able to go to Disney after growing up thinking I couldn’t.

Later Days,

Éric

The Griswold Effect and Your Disney Vacation

Hello my Imaginary Friends,

Holidays and vacations are stressful. It’s one of the few times in life where you feel you need to be perfect and make everything perfect for everyone around you. That stress can turn to anger and depression.

The need to make everything perfect on holidays and vacations is colloquially known as The Griswold Effect. There’s only one result to expecting perfection in a holiday or vacation, and that’s disappointment.

My father in-law said on our second day at Magic Kingdom:

“They say this is the happiest place on earth but I keep hearing crying and people screaming at each other.”

I had noticed the same thing. From little kids on leashes screaming at their parents, to one uncool man swearing at a Haunted Mansion cast member, to parents yelling at their kids.

All Disney parks are huge, exhausting, and filled with people who think the whole park is there for them. There’s this image of the parks as perfect experiences of awesome, but they’re like every other vacation.

Don’t get me wrong, Disney is absolutely fantastic and I’m sure I’ll be going back (I’ve been to Disney World 4 times and Paris Disney once.)

The trick is to keep your expectations realistic. Rides break down, you wait for hours to get on, everything is overpriced and there’s more than you can do in one trip. You also have to account for down time and eating. Everything is bright, loud, and exciting which makes it really easy to get overstimulated. It’s also super easy to forget to eat. Use your eating time to decompress, plan, and most of all, adjust expectations.

The most important part of any holiday or vacation is being with those you love. Nothing will ever be perfect, so plan, set things up, prioritize what’s most important, and then hold on for dear life as the universe throws everything it can at you.

Good luck,

Éric

Disney Vacation Posts

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

For the next few weeks I’ll be writing articles on Disney Vacations. I’ve read horror stories and seen terrible things.

I’ll offer tips and tricks, tell you how I felt, and all kinds of other ridiculous stuff.

And don’t worry I’ll have cute pictures of the kids too.

Later Days,

Éric

Teen Beach Movie – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2013 Disney Channel movie Teen Beach Movie.

There are a few movies about people getting sucked into their favourite movie, book, or game. I’m not sure what this niche genre is called but I obviously love it since I wrote a book in the same genre. Go check out Everdome.

Story

The movie’s plot is simple and too the point. It’s almost completely unimportant and used as a vehicle for the music, whimsy, and references.

Score: 0

Characters

The main characters in this movie are basically Disney Channel cutouts that develop as time goes by.

Oddly enough the “real” world characters have less depths then the stereotypes in the movie world.

They are however very sweet and extremely fun to watch.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

This movie is pure and utter cheese and ham. The movie revels in some of the best cheese lines.

The dialogue is delightful.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie is surprisingly pretty. They really worked towards making it over saturated and beach movie like.

The music is a love letter to teen love stories and classic movie musicals.

Score: 1

Fun

Fun music, cool concept, and extremely entertaining dialogue. This movie has a very low cringe factor and a lot of fun.

Score: 1

Overall

If you’re a fan of musicals and classic beach movies you’ll love this one. I’ve seen it twice and it’s the kind of movie I’d watch without being annoyed. I will also absolutely sing along.

Final Score: 3.5

Enchanted – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2007 movie Enchanted.

Story

This is a tongue-in-cheek love story to Disney princess movies made in a time where there hadn’t been a princess movie in nearly a decade (Mulan came out in 1998). This was before Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen; and way before Sophia. The love of princess movies was considered childish unless you liked them ironically (That’s 2000’s for making fun of something you like so that you come off cool and aloof.)

All that being said, this movie revels in fairy tales and magic. It swims and dances in all things genuinely innocent and magical.

Underneath all that, it is an expertly pulled off Rom-Com.

Score: 1

Characters

Intentionally grating in their saccharin sweetness or in their jaded bitterness (dude, it’s the late 2000’s, enjoy having survived the 90’s and prepare for the ridiculous and horrifying 2010’s.)

There are three characters that grow, Giselle and Robert do the old innocent and grump move towards each other and fall in love, dance. And Nathaniel realizes he’s just a minion and learns to love himself.

Giselle could easily have fallen into the manic-pixie-dream-girl category but over the movie she adjusts to the world and gains agency. She goes from needing to be caught to catching. It’s lovely development but without insulting what she started as.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Like the rest of this movie, the dialogue is peppered with in-jokes and allusions to Disney. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s fun to pick out. Beyond that, the dialogue relies heavily on double meanings and misunderstandings. I really enjoy the way the characters talk with each other when the misunderstandings happen.

Although well done, the dialogue sometimes got self-indulgent in the, “I’m from a fairy tale” sense.

I also rolled my eyes hard at, “I have a gift / A book I know.” I realize they were trying to make him seem down on fairy tales and wanting her to find real life role models, but it just came off as hating on books. I wish they’d had a scene with the little girl and Giselle geeking out over the book.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

This movie is colourful and beautiful. The music is great.

However, the Central Park song (How do you know) is one of the greatest musical moments I’ve ever seen. Both in it’s contrast with Robert’s disbelief and eventual acceptance and with the pure joy that everyone throws into it.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie is a joy to watch from beginning to end. James Marsden hams it up with a delightfully nice prince. (Look at his face with Giselle and Robert kiss.) There’s action, romance, and lots of Easter-Eggs.

Score: 1

Conclusion

If you like Rom-Coms, princess movies, musicals, or fish out of water stories, this one is worth a watch. The world of 2007 was a different place and time, but you have to love it’s innocence.

It’s also a movie filled with strong, capable, and lovely women with urgency and character development. Something that is sometimes lacking in Rom-Coms.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5