Set Phasers to Fun: Celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

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Star Trek has gone boldly where no franchise has gone before. The iconic Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 8th and the TV show has paved the way for science fiction and modern technology. It’s hard to pick a favorite series, movie, ship or character from the phenomenon that has survived five decades.

Star Trek (the original series), The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise. Has any other franchise produced five television series as Star Trek did?  Each show has had its own challenges led by different captains: James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janeway and Jonathan Archer. There was also an animated series based on the original show back in the ’70s. Many stations are running Star Trek marathons and specials like the Smithsonian channel’s Building Star Trek. But it doesn’t end there. CBS plans to launch a Star Trek: Discovery, a new series slated for streaming on May 2017.

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The big screen has seen 13 films. Star Trek the Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, (Yes the even numbered films were better) Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. Surely, there will be more.

Getting back to Star Trek, the original show was light years ahead of its time. Modern technology is moving at warp speed and catching up to some of the gadgets used on the original series. iPads/tablets were always signed off on by Captain Kirk. Siri and talking computers are common now. Communicators are like flip cell phones. In fact, Think Geek is releasing a communicator cell phone for the anniversary. It works off your current bluetooth cell phone.

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Besides watching the specials, series or movies there are many events to celebrate the occasion. Star Trek conventions are drawing huge crowds. The cons are a lot of fun and resistance is futile at the vendors’ tables. The conventions feature actors from all the series and movies. Vendors have a huge selection of uniforms, props, collectables, shirts and other merchandise. One company, Simplicity Creative Group produces a Star Trek series of dress uniform patterns called Make it Sew. The Star Trek: Mission New York convention featured a mock-up of the original Enterprise bridge for photo ops and a virtual reality gaming zone.

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The U.S.S Intrepid is hosting the Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. Like the conventions it features original costumes and props from the series and movies. You receive a watch-like wrist band that keeps track of your tour. You can play games, beam up in a transporter and take photos on a replica of the Next Generation bridge. When you are finished you can have your quiz results, Starfleet diploma and a video of yourself beaming up in the transporter emailed to you. The Intrepid also features a life-size Galileo Seven shuttlecraft perfectly placed next to the NASA Enterprise shuttle.

The Experience and the con is just a sampling of how Star Trek’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated. The U.S. Post Office has released a new Star Trek inspired forever stamp series in honor of the 50th anniversary. These stamps were presented by Walter Koenig at the Mission New York convention.

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Since 1991, Hallmark has released highly detailed Christmas ornaments of the Star Trek ships designed by Lynn Norton, as well as famous characters and scenes. For this year’s golden anniversary they released a gold TV pilot version of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

It’s music for your Vulcan ears, Star Trek the Ultimate Voyage is a live concert featuring a symphony orchestra playing a score set to footage from the classic Star Trek films and TV shows. The tour has played in over 100 American cities.

For fans who enjoy cosplay, M·A·C cosmetics has launched a Star Trek make up collection of astral hues. The cosmic women of Star Trek made the series immortal, their powerful sense of style sent space-age fashion to a new frontier and M·A·C lets you dress the part.

It’s not logical to miss out on the anniversary celebrations. Star Trek has flourished for 50 years. May it keep going strong. Live Long and Prosper Star Trek!

Article and Photos by Jim McLernon

Enterprise photo by José Soto

 

Celebrating A Star Wars Day At Sea

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For this year’s Spring Break, my family and I decided to spend the vacation taking a cruise. Not just any cruise…but a Star Wars cruise! Actually it was a vacation on the Disney Cruise Line ship Disney Fantasy and on one of the days at sea, onboard festivities were devoted to Star Wars. The cruise by itself was fantastic with impeccable service and amenities, in short, a Disney cruise is well worth the money and despite it not being a theme park visit you do feel the Disney experience.

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The icing on the cake for myself, however, was the Star Wars aspect, of course. Even though the Disney Fantasy was themed after all things Disney, the presence of Star Wars was felt throughout the cruise even before the Star Wars Day at Sea.

20160320_135155For starters there was the merchandising; the gift shops sold the typical Star Wars toys and paraphernalia that can be found just about anywhere on the planet. However, the stores did have moderate to expensive clothing, accessories and other keepsakes like art printings, t-shirts, shoes, magnets and bags. Then there were other collectibles near the ship’s theaters.

The Disney Fantasy has two theaters that played live musical productions and films as well. Of interest to fans was that the entire Star Wars saga was shown at various times throughout the cruise. It was a lot of fun sitting down and watching the films again on the big screen with like-minded audiences while munching on popcorn.

During the actual Star Wars Day at Sea, the Star Wars property took center stage, which was on a Wednesday, the halfway point of the cruise vacation. Throughout the Disney Fantasy, iconic music from the films were played and the ship’s horn blared out the infamous “Imperial March” at certain times of the day. Many passengers were decked out as their favorite Star Wars characters. Several took part in a costume celebration where they got to mingle with other fans or with the Star Wars characters that patrolled the ship.

The characters were well done and looked 20160323_122420_resizedauthentic, but more importantly stayed in character. For instance, Jawas popped out of nowhere near the atrium and tried to steal jewelry and other personal effects from passengers (it was all in good fun, mind you). Villainous characters like Darth Maul or Boba Fett silently intimidated passengers as they posed for pictures. However, Darth Vader took the prize for the most authentic recreation. Not only was the costume spot-on perfect, but he actually spoke to one young member in my party with James Earl Jones’ distinctive voice as he mocked the rebels.

On the Star Wars Day at Sea both theaters hosted Star Wars-related events. At the Walt Disney Theatre, for most of the day the production/attraction seen at Walt Disney World and Disneyland called Jedi Training: Trials at the Temple was shown. This is the one where a Jedi Knight teaches young Padawans on how to use the Force to defeat Darth Vader (who also appears and fences briefly with each youngling). The other theater, the Buena Vista Theatre, presented a Guest Speaker Series featuring Joel Aron, the special effects guru for Star Wars Rebels. The same theater also had a Star Wars-related PowerPoint presentation called Star Wars 101, which actually helped members of my party get caught up on the intricacies of Star Wars and was presented with lots of enthusiasm.

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D23 Expo Highlights: Star Wars, MCU, Theme Parks & More

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Disney had their own version of Comic-Con this past weekend with their D23 Expo held in Anaheim. As can be guessed, the convention was related to all things under the Disney umbrella and what’s coming up. The highlights from D23 Expo dealt with exciting theme park and genre film developments.

Star Wars

Many fans were disappointed that there wasn’t a new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but were titillated with the reveal of a Drew Struzan movie poster for the film and an official cast photo for the first Star Wars Anthology film Star Wars: Rogue One. There was also confirmation that Colin Trevorrow, the director of the mammoth hit Jurassic World, will direct Star Wars Episode IX. But the juiciest revelations had to do with the expected and highly anticipated Star Wars Land to be built in Disneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm and all of its intellectual property from George Lucas a few years ago, fans have impatiently waited for some kind of expansion of Star Wars in the Disney parks beyond Star Tours. Yes, the famous simulator ride had been updated with new, random scenes recently, but aside from Jedi Training Academy and the popular Star Wars Weekends, it seemed as if Disney hadn’t really paid a lot of love to its newest IP acquisition. Meanwhile, its rival Universal Studios Orlando stunned and dazzled Harry Potter fans with its meticulously developed Harry Potter lands in their parks.

That all changed with the announcement. Finally, Disney will have a worthy answer to Harry Potter with an equally revered IP. The Star Wars Land (note: it wasn’t called that in the announcement) will be 14 acres, which will feature a cantina and an immersive Star Wars environment on a new planet similar to what Universal did with Diagon Alley and Hogswart. There will be two new E-ticket rides, one will allow visitors to pilot the Millennium Falcon (most likely some kind of simulator ride), while the other will be based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There will be another update to Star Tours that will include a destination from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, an updating of Jedi Training Academy, and an interactive experience called Star Wars Launch Bay. This attraction will be in pavilions in both parks that will feature meet and greets, exhibits and stores, of course. The only drawback to these ambitious plans is that when it came to the time table for all of this the only answer was “coming soon”. Just thinking out loud here, but Disney should take heed on how quickly Universal builds its new attractions. Some of us would like to have something open before this decade ends!

Marvel Cinematic Universe

strangeThe two items that are keeping fans salivating had to do with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. With the latter, Marvel Studios guru Kevin Feige introduced concept art (Doctor Strange begins filming later this fall) that featured a classic look for the sorcerer that includes his red cape and Eye of Agamotto. A trailer for Captain America: Civil War was unveiled, which, of course, no one that didn’t attend D23 Expo could see. There are tons of fake “leaked” trailers out now on YouTube and the smattering of legit ones are taken down too fast to bother linking to, but rest assured as soon as its released to the masses, you can see it here. Based on the descriptions, it sounds like an awesome film and it could be part of the reason why DC/Warner Bros. moved their own superhero civil war flick to another date.

Theme Park News

The other major announcement regarding the Disney theme parks was that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will build a Toy Story Land for the young and young at heart. At 11 acres, this land will have two new rides (a spinner ride and a family coaster), expand Toy Story Mania, which is probably the best news because the wait times for that attraction is beyond ridiculous (and frankly not worth the wait). No time frame was given as to when this will happen. But based on the other big construction needed for Star Wars Land, Disney might as well shut down Disney’s Hollywood Studios until all of this is finished. They may finish ahead of schedule that way, make fans even happier, who will more likely spend money sooner.

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Speaking of slow construction, the Avatar Land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is still chugging along. At least with this expansion we have an actual opening date (2017). For anyone that doesn’t know, there will be two attractions based on Avatar, one is similar to the popular Soarin’ ride and will allow visitors to fly over the skies of Pandora, and the other attraction will be a boat ride.

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Here’s some news that will rankle North American Marvel fans, Hong Kong Disneyland will have an Iron Man ride. Similar to Star Tours, the Iron Man Experience will feature the Golden Avenger facing off against the forces of Hydra in Hong Kong. Sounds great for anyone who has an updated passport and the money and time to burn. Look, we understand that there can’t be any Marvel rides in Walt Disney World, but couldn’t they have this slotted for Disneyland? That agreement between Disney and Universal only applies to rides east of the Mississippi.

Upcoming Films

Disney had presentations for its upcoming film slate and the announcements were fast and heavy. New animated films include Gigantic, Moana, Zootopia, live-action versions of Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell, and The Jungle Book, a remake of Pete’s Dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Alice Through The Looking Glass. Part of the presentation focused on Pixar, which showcased The Good Dinosaur and announcements for Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, Coco (based on the Dia de los Muertos festival), and Toy Story 4. This fourth film in the franchise will be more of a love story and will be about Woody looking for his lost love Bo Peep. The Pixar stuff is exciting except for the third go around with Cars. But marketing types at Disney would disagree with that!

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All these announcements and presentations at D23 Expo confirm that Disney isn’t resting on its laurels. The next few years will be exciting times for fans, at least when it comes to films. The theme park components will pay off at a much later date.

 

Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley Opens At Universal Studios Orlando

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The big news regarding theme parks of course was the July 8 opening of Diagon Alley, the new expansion of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando. Based on the popular Harry Potter book and film series Diagon Alley is an immediate hit with parkgoers and Harry Potter fans. The newest land added to Universal Studios Orlando consists of the hidden wizarding alley found in London, England. Adorned with cobblestone streets and maze-like alleyways and streets, Diagon Alley boasts several shops and as the centerpieces Harry Potter And The Escape From Gringotts ride and the Hogswarts Express train that connects Universal Studios Orlando with Islands of Adventure.

After the runaway success of Islands of Adventure’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an expansion was fastracked by Universal Resorts. But instead of just encroaching the faithfully recreated Hogsmeade village into other areas of Islands of Adventure, the innovative idea of putting the expansion into Universal Studios Orlando was utilized instead.

Expressway To Both Parks

100_2309The expansion can be found next to Disaster! at the area where the old Jaws ride was located. Visitors coming to the area will first see a replica of a section of modern-day London complete with a train station that leads to the Hogwarts Express and the magical Knight Bus featured in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. To gain entry to the train ride, you need a two-park ticket otherwise you are forced to remain in Diagon Alley and vice versa. The train itself is a perfect rendition of the one seen in the Harry Potter films and can accommodate large amounts of passengers.

Once assigned to a roomy cabin, the first thing that strikes the eyes is the passenger-side window that is actually an HD screen showing a brick wall with steam rolling about. On the aisle-side of the cabin, the windows are frosted. After the train leaves, passengers can look out the window and see the London cityscape and surrounding suburbs, but with signs of the malicious Dementors afoot. Meanwhile on the aisle-side of the cabin, silhouettes of Harry Potter and other characters are seen walking back and forth. At one point the Dementors invade the train who are seen as silhouettes, but are quickly dispelled.

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After a few minutes the train reaches Hogsmeade (and shortly before, Hagrid himself appears outside the window striding a flying motorcycle) allowing passengers to disembark onto Islands of Adventure. If you want to go back to London and Diagon Alley, you have to leave the station (which is next to the twin rollercoaster ride Dragon Challenge) and get back on line with your two-park ticket handy. On the way back to London, passengers will witness magical creatures like the hippogriff and centaurs trouncing around the forest surrounding Hogsmeade. Either route provides a nice, comfortable ride between the parks. The character silhouettes and the passenger windows certainly add an interesting touch to the experience. Even though it isn’t an E-ticket ride, Hogswart Express is a novel way to transit the parks. Continue reading

Theme Park Wars: Spider-Man Vs. The Transformers

Usually, theme park wars are between two different theme park companies. In this case, however, the theme park war is within the same company: Universal Parks & Resorts. The contenders are two of its rides: The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man and Transformers: The Ride-3D.

The former ride debuted in Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando back in 1999. It featured a revolutionary ride system that was part dark ride, part simulator that was developed by Universal Creative with vehicles developed by Oceaneering International. That system was so unique and kinetic that it wasn’t a surprise that the Spider-Man ride is still one of the most popular rides in any theme park.

The Scoop On Spider-Man

In The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man, riders donning 3D glasses board a vehicle called the Scoop that is used by the Daily Bugle newspaper company for newsgathering. Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man) boss J. Jonah Jameson assigns riders to board the Scoop to cover a breaking story concerning Doctor Octopus. The mad scientist is using an anti-gravity cannon to steal the Statue of Liberty with the help of other supervillains (Electro, Hobgoblin, Scream and Hydro-Man).

100_9890As these ride stories go, the Scoop and its passengers wind up getting caught in the melee between them and Spider-Man. Along the way, the riders are made to feel as if they’re actually in the pages of an animated comic book with huge screens that project 3D images as the vehicle constantly swerves wildly from scene to scene. Adding to the intensity of the experience are practical effects used that immerses riders into the adventure. The best example of that is where at one point Spider-Man is fighting with the Hobgoblin. First riders witness a large-screen 3D fight by a New York bridge between the two and the Hobgoblin tries to lob pumpkin bombs at the Scoop vehicle. Spider-Man catches one bomb and hurls it away before it can do any harm. But the Hobgoblin manages to throw one that explodes very close to the vehicle. Through the clever use of effects, actual flame erupts from part of a nearby wall which simulates the exploding bomb. The real heat from the blast makes elated riders feel like they’re part of the story.

It’s because of these immersions that the Spider-Man ride has remained so popular for so many years. Recently, the ride received an HD upgrade to make the 3D images sharper and more colorful. Part of that upgrade included slight changes to the characters, especially Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus who more resemble their cinematic counterparts. In addition, iconic comic book creator Stan Lee makes a few cameos in the ride itself as assorted civilians.

Ride The Transformers

The ride format from The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man was a unique hybrid that combined motion simulators, practical effects and 3D images into a wild dark ride. It’s so well thought of and successful, that it was only natural that Universal Studios would repeat the formula for another ride.

Transformers: The Ride-3D originally made its debut in Universal Studios Singapore in 2011 and later in Universal Studios Hollywood and most recently in Universal Studios Orlando. All three incarnations of the ride were instant hits with park goers.  Riders get to feel what it’s like to be in a high-octane Michael Bay special effects spectacular.

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The ride follows the storyline and characters of the film series, where the good Autobots are allied with the people of Earth against the evil Decepticons. As with the movies, both robotic groups are after their MacGuffin, the AllSpark, a cube-like object that can bring ordinary mechanical and electronic objects to life. One of the Autobots called Evac first has to retrieve the AllSpark from Decepticons who have stolen it. Then after recovering the AllSpark, it’s up to him to protect the object while Decepticons like Megatron and Starscream pursue him throughout a city. Being that riders are inside of Evac, who is the ride used in the attraction, they’re given front-row access to Evac’s efforts to safeguard the AllSpark from evil Decepticons. Good Autobots like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee aid Evac in his journey throughout the chaotic cityscape.

As the Evac vehicle zigzags throughout a city landscape to evade his enemies, the constant pitching, and jerking motions of the ride make the riders feel as if they’re actually being tossed about in the vehicle. Selling this illusion are the 3D effects from  large screens featuring gargantuan Transformers fights and the rough simulator motions from the vehicle. It can be said that being inside the Evac vehicle can be compared to being inside a vehicle that is undergoing a violent accident.

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