Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Haunted Disney Scare

Here's a fun scare for your Halloween night: Gather the family 'round (well, if your kids are old enough for scary stuff, of course) for a frightfully good time at the Haunted Mansion:

(Found via BoingBoing and Inside the Magic.)

This is an eleven minute, Blair-Witch-Style film shot almost entirely on Disney property, and it's incredibly well done. There are a couple of pretty decent scares in it, too, although I freely admit I'm the wussiest scaredy-cat out there. 

And for those who don't like it scary, here are some more adorkable little Epbot readers to wish you a happy Halloween! 

This is Eva. Eva's mom Amanda thinks she's the cutest little droid you'll see tonight - and I think she might be right!

Kitrina's two-year-old geekling announced that she was going to be "Princess Batman" for Halloween, leaving Kitrina to figure out the rest. I'd say she did a fantastic job!

Jennifer M.'s seven-year-old Emily is obsessed with dinosaurs, so last year she was a velicorapter, and this year she's a pteranodon:
Emily, you're going to have to teach me how to pronounce that, ok? And, mom? AMAZING.

And lest you think I'm leaving out the boys:

Shelley W. and her two sons definitely know the way to this geek girl's heart. :)

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

News Overload!!

There's been so much happening online the past few days, I feel like I'm on internet overload. Between Sandy and Disney-buying-Star Wars and all the Halloween goodies streaming in by the dozen, I've got about a billion tabs open and nearly as many things I want to share all at once.

I was up all night Monday watching the breaking news on Hurricane Sandy, and my heart is with all of the East Coasters currently without power or worse, and particularly with all the emergency workers. I just about lost it at the photo of a nurse evacuating a NICU baby, and the dramatic video of firefighters rushing into the building whose facade had just collapsed. So many heroes out there.

(On a personal note, the Cake Wrecks servers are in New York, and were supposed to go down Tuesday morning when the basement fuel tanks for their back-up generators flooded. Instead, the personnel there took turns hand-carrying fuel tanks up 17 flights of stairs all. Day. Long. The site never went down, and it's still up now. Talk about amazing dedication...)

And for one more inspiring story, have you seen the latest post on Katie, our own little Star Wars girl? Katie asked to be a Storm Trooper for Halloween this year, so the 501st community once again pulled together a Force-full minor miracle for her:

Grab a Kleenex and go read all about it. So, so amazing.

A few people have asked how I feel about the Star Wars news, but I don't think it will surprise any of you to know I'm cautiously optimistic about it all. Living in Orlando, I'm already used to seeing Star Wars at Walt Disney World, so this feels like a natural progression.

Sorry, Donald, but Katie wore it better.

And as for the new SW movie slated for 2015 - well, proponents point to Avenger's success as an example of what could happen. Opponents point to John Carter and the continued bludgeoning-into-the-ground of the Pirates franchise. I said, cautious optimism. Heh.

 I had a little fun with one of my pics from Star Wars Weekends. :)

Check back soon for my Halloween costume post, plus maybe some extra Halloween goodies. Like I said: SO MUCH STUFF TO SHARE!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Henry Franks: A Creepy Read for Halloween

Every now and then I have readers send me books they've written, since I will never turn down a book someone thinks I might like. I tell them up front that their work will probably never get on Epbot, though, so it's up to them to take the chance on sending me something I may never even read. And even if I do read it, I prefer writing reviews for books that really impacted me in some way. Most of the books I read are good, but I want to talk about the stuff that really catches my imagination, for better or worse.

Which bring me to Peter Salomon's book, Henry Franks.

 Spooky-looking, no?

In fact, this is a perfect Halloween read, so I only wish I'd written this review sooner. Like the cover itself, it's a bit dark, a bit creepy, and a lot unsettling.

Henry is a boy covered in scars from a horrific accident he doesn't remember. The story follows him trying to regain his memory while falling for the pretty girl next door, and while a series of mysterious murders ravage their small town.

In a nutshell, Henry Franks is a mystery, and one that is incredibly easy to spoil, so be careful if you go reading other reviews of it. Even the few I saw on Amazon contained references I'm glad I didn't know going into the story.

It's also a mystery that excels in keeping you guessing. At the halfway mark I had this lightning bolt moment where I suddenly KNEW - I knew! - what the story was all about, but then I was wrong. Salomon throws suspicion everywhere, and even turns Henry himself into an unreliable character, until by the end you could believe almost ANYONE was the bad guy.

The story made me uncomfortable at times, and I have some qualms with the ending and the girl's character, but I honestly couldn't put the book down. I read it in less than two days, and despite my gripes with it, I have to say it was still a pretty good ending. Salomon gives us a solid resolution with a lingering sense of dread that's just right for the tone of the book.

My only real irritant with Henry Franks is something that is going to seem a little silly, and that John said I shouldn't mention, because once I do I'm going to curse all of you to notice this thing, too - like telling you not to think of pink elephants. So this paragraph is your warning: if you don't want to think about the pink elephant of Henry Franks, skip the next paragraph.

No? You really want to know? Ok, it's the heat. Yes, the heat. Franks takes place in Georgia, and for the first half of the book I felt like every other paragraph included some reference to how hot it was, or how much someone was sweating, or how it was so muggy and hard to breathe, until I felt like I needed to turn the AC down myself. I'm sure that was intentional on Salomon's part, and to be fair, I DID read it all in almost one sitting, which no doubt made me notice it more, but I still yelled at the pages at one point, "I GET IT: IT'S HOT." Heh.

So, to sum up, if you're looking for something creepy - not scary, but creepy - and suspenseful to read, I'd say give Henry Franks a try. In fact, if you'd like my copy (Only read once! In mint condition!) just leave me a comment on this post. I'll pick a winner at random tomorrow, and announce it here. And then you guys can tell me if it's hot in there, or if it's just me. ;)

UPDATE: And the randomly selected winner IS....Devon Pavan! Please e-mail me your mailing address, Devon, and thanks to everyone else for entering!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gettin' My Geek Card

I mentioned this on Facebook several weeks ago, but the other day I realized I'd somehow neglected to post about it here on the actual blog. WHOOPS. (I'm claiming temporary insanity/amnesia.)

So without further ado, allow me to present what is possibly the greatest honor I've ever been given:


Yep, my friend Len Peralta (the same artist who turned me into Mr. StayPuft for my birthday) added me to his prestigious Geek-a-Week project, which includes such geeky greats as Adam Savage, Wil Wheaton, Cory Doctorow, Felicia Day, and - in the same set as me - Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess.

Like I said, this is a staggering honor, and one which I actually attempted to refuse, because I am apparently a blithering idiot. ;) Fortunately Len persisted, though, and now - did I mention? - I HAVE MY OWN TRADING CARD. Plus Storm (of Paul & Storm) wrote this killer back for it:

So, for those of you missed this the first time, you can go here to listen to my interview with Len - but even better, you can browse through the dozens of other geeks he's interviewed, too, and listen to their podcasts. Everyone gets asked the same questions, and it's fascinating to hear the different personalities coming out in their answers.

Oh, and if you act really fast, you can still pre-order the set of cards I'm in for $12 here on Len's Kickstarter page. It ends tomorrow, though, so like I said: act fast if you want one! (The Kickstarter has ended, so just watch Len's store at the link below!)

And if you miss the pre-order, head over to Len's site for art prints and more Geek-a-Week card packs!

Geeky Halloween Treats by YOU!

My inbox is overflowing with geeky treats of the season, all courtesy of you readers. I can't keep up! It's fabulous! Here are a few choice morsels from just the past few days:

Annette E. sent over her truly terrifying pumpkin carve:


Nikki had a pumpkin contest at work, with the challenge being that they weren't allowed to carve it. So, she got out a little sculpey clay, some paint, paper, and cotton balls, and made this:
 It's mad. MAD, I tell you!!

And then there are the costumes. Ohhh yes, the costumes. I can't possibly post them all, but here are a few of my favorites:

The best Angry Birds costume I've ever seen, all handmade by reader Mags for her nephew. (Hit the link for process pics on her blog!)

Melinda's family always dresses up together, and their Peter Pan costumes from last year were amazing:

Sara R. and her husband have such mad geek cred that they even named their daughter Kaylie Eowyn, in honor of both Firefly and LoTR. (They would have used the Firefly spelling, she tells me, but that would have been too many "E"s in a row.) Happily, one of their shower gifts was this fantastic Kaylee jumpsuit:
So, naturally, her folks decided to go with the theme for Halloween and dress up as Zoe and Wash:

 PLUS, Sara also carved an appropriate pumpkin to match!

You're right, Sara; the logo really WAS meant to be a pumpkin carve!

You know, Elizabeth and little Piper, your Halloween costumes really remind me of someone. Who could it be...?

 Oh, that's right: THE BABE.

Stephanie H. tells me that when her little girl Charlee asked to be R2D2, she immediately thought of the cute R2 gal I photographed at Star Wars Celebration this year. So she made Charlee a very similar outfit:

I especially love the hat!

Oh, and Charlee also asked if they could dress up her baby brother Max as Yoda, so...they did:

"Irresistibly cute, find me you will."

And finally, Kim's two little girls Alex (age 4) and Maggie (age 2) are big Avengers fans, so when Alex decreed she was going to be the Hulk for Halloween, they all decided little Maggie should be Captain America. Kim put both costumes together with a mix of homemade and store-bought finds, and I think you'll agree she did an AMAZING job.

Cutest. Captain. EVER.

Kim made little Maggie's shirt herself, and found the boots at a thrift store. (And if the boots were in my size I would TOTALLY steal them.)

Here's four-year-old Alex with her mask off:

And here she is with it on, in what is possibly my favorite picture EVER:

This desperately needs a Hulk thought bubble, you guys. Something about being surrounded by princesses, methinks. ;)

 I hope you guys enjoyed the treats, and that you have a fantastic Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

I have more pictures from Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Friday night to share, plus a teensy bit of Disney ranting to do - so let's get to it!!

First, behold the awesome adorableness that is my friends Chris & Christie dressed as little Carl & Ellie from UP:

Behold the adorableness. I said, BEHOLD IT!

(I love this picture, graininess and all. These two are just so fun to photograph.)

Oh, and Christie made that big Adventure Book hollow so just could use it as a purse. How genius is that?! She also made custom bottle cap pins that say "CNC Pop" for their initials. LOVE.

Christie is also the reason we even went to the party at all this weekend. I was in a funk thinking the hurricane had ruined everything, but then Christie convinced me to come out anyway. It was definitely windy, but happily there was no rain!

Now, when you're used to convention-quality costumes, MNSSHP is definitely a bit of a let down. Ninety percent of what you see is straight off the shelves at Party City - and I was mildly horrified to see more than a few "sexy" costumes on young girls, and at least one guy in a giant foam Beer costume. (That disapproval I'm feeling means I'm getting old, doesn't it? Pretty soon I'll be shaking a cane through the window and yelling at imaginary kids to get off my lawn. Heh.)

Still, that just makes the occasional homemade costume so much more special - and especially ones with a twist:
 See what I did there? :)

Feast your eyes on this, Dizgeeks: it's a Dole Whip gal - holding a Dole Whip. WOOT! It was so dark when I took this you couldn't see the stripes in her hat, so I was delighted later on to see that it matched her shirt. (And yes, that's a real Dole Whip - we caught her right outside the window.)

I also spotted a hipster Snow White:

Another convention vs theme park difference: almost no one asks for pictures. The few I did ask seemed mildly shocked, and most people were so timid with John that they'd exclaim and point from a distance rather than ask for a pic.

Believe it or not, I even found an adorable girl Figment! Here she is with John:

Just to be clear: That's not me.  :) I can't tell you how long I looked for lavender pants, though, before giving up and having John make me a dress instead. (Pics are coming! I promise!)

It'd been a few years since our last Halloween party, and I have to say I was disappointed by some of the changes. [PREPARE FOR THE JEN RANT.] To keep my negativity manageable, though, I will sprinkle fun parade photos throughout:

First and foremost, it felt a lot more crowded than our previous years, so I can only guess they've increased the numbers of tickets they sell. It used to be these special parties had attendance caps that kept the park relatively crowd-free, but Friday night felt as crowded as any peak season day. The extra crowds mean you just can't do as much as you'd like, and with only five hours to see it all that adds a lot of extra pressure/stress. I felt like I'd run a marathon by the end of the night, and we barely managed 15 minutes to see the new Fantasyland area!

 Tick tock!

Next they shrunk the candy bags by half (that little bag Figment up there is holding) and were surprisingly stingy with the candy. I know it seems silly to complain about candy, of all things, but I remember being so delighted by the CMs shoveling out treats with both hands in our prior years. Now they carefully give out 4 or 5 pieces at a time, tops. (And they gave out boxes of raisins, y'all. NOT COOL.) With the extra crowds, that means you could wait ten minutes in line for a few Tootsie Rolls and a lollipop, which really doesn't feel worth it. (Yeah, I just dissed Tootsie Rolls. Sorry.)

On top of that, the candy bags had non-Disney coupons in them and were plastered with movie advertisements, which made them feel more like corporate-sponsored giveaways than something that's supposed to be included "for free" with your $65 ticket. ($60 if you pre-order)

We didn't have a spare second to go on any rides, but for those who did, not all the rides were open. Jungle Cruise was blocked off completely with these big black light Tiki heads:

 JC used to be one of my favorite nighttime rides, so that was a shame to see.

Like I said, the five hours you get in the park really zips by, so if you want to get candy and see the parade, stage show, and fireworks then odds are you won't get to go on any rides at all. Photos with characters eat up your precious time, too; we tried queuing up for a pic with the Seven Dwarfs, but after ten minutes only two families had gone through - and there were at least 20 more people in front of us in line. Rather than spend our precious last hour in line, we gave up and left.

The Halloween fireworks are Ok; the soundtrack is all classic Disney tunes reworked into bubblegum pop versions, so it's lacking the grandeur shows like Wishes have. The ending is pretty spectacular, though, so at least they nailed the finale.

The stage show is also Ok. Nothing spectacular, but it's always fun seeing the villains come out and boogie:

The best thing by far at MNSSHP is the parade, and I tell everyone to see it at least once in their lifetime. (The parade runs twice at each Party, and I always try to see both.) It's the only place you'll see the Headless Horseman galloping out on a midnight black steed, or the ghostly ballroom dancers, or the graveyard caretaker walking his big basset hound bloodhound through the streets:

Sorry for the blur.

In fact, it's the whole Haunted Mansion section of the parade that makes it so amazing. After the caretaker comes my personal favorite: the Mansion butlers who draw sparks on the road with their shovels:
Here's another shot from the first parade that shows the sparks a bit better:

After the butlers come the gorgeous and ghoulish ballroom dancers, who stagger and loll their way through a jerky waltz:

Lastly, the three famous hitch-hiking ghosts move with animatronic perfection, to the point it's hard to believe they're actually live actors:

 The back of their float is even prettier than the front:

So, to wrap up my not-so-little rant: I don't think I'll go back to MNSSHP next year. When you consider that a full day's ticket only costs about $15 more, I just don't think these 5 hours and the parade (which hasn't changed in years) are worth the expense. Disney keeps chipping away at the little things - like the free photo they used to include with your ticket - and raising the prices, so until they introduce something more I think I'll just stick with the Christmas Party each year.

I can't wait to head back to the Kingdom later, though, to see more of the new Fantasyland area. (Nice video tour at that link.) The few minutes we managed to get over there were awesome:

 I am definitely coming back here with the tripod.

The new Be Our Guest restaurant closed before we could see it, but we did race into Gaston's Tavern to try the new "LaFou's Brew," Disney's version of Butterbeer.

The brew mostly tastes like an apple juice slushie, although I'm sure there's probably some other fruit juices mixed in, too. The foam on top tastes like a creamy Passion Fruit sorbet, and isn't quite as sweet. I liked it really well mixed in with the apple slush, but our friend Chris made a face and said the foam tasted like soap. Ha!

So there you have it: our night at MNSSHP, a Jen rant, and soapy fruit foam. :D

I'll leave you with my favorite castle shot of the night:

Hope you enjoyed!

UPDATE: A reader asked me to post that last castle shot over on DeviantArt so she could buy a print of it. (And if you ever want to make my head swell, that's how!) So in case anyone else would like a copy, you can see all the different sizes available here!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Little Spark of Inspiration

Last night we went to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, where John debuted his Dreamfinder costume. The weather and some logistical issues prevented me from wearing my Figment costume (the Hurricane's winds would have ripped my wings off), but I promise I'll still post pics of it as soon as I take some decent ones. (And yes, I'll get some with John in costume, too!)

In the Dreamfinder:

This costume definitely separated the Dizgeeks from the casual Disney fans; people either shrieked for joy or just stared in puzzlement. (Most tragic was the cast member who kept calling him - not the plush - "Figment." Stab me in the heart, why don't you.) Throughout the night he was also called Dream Weaver, Dream Catcher, Abraham Lincoln (??), and Mr. Monopoly. Heh.

The Party is so dark and crowded that it's hard to see all the costumes, so it wasn't until we were waiting in the Castle forecourt for a friend that John actually drew a small crowd. They all wanted a picture with him, as opposed to just *of* him, which I loved, and I was glad to be out of costume so I could take their pictures. "This is my childhood, right here," one woman enthused, while another began ranting about how terrible the new ride is. (Ha!) I think as many guys wanted pics with John as gals, though, and working cast members everywhere pointed and gave him a thumbs up - even ones in the parade. One survey-taker chased John down by the train station just to shake his hand, and even though the CMs couldn't come out and say it, most gave him a grave nod that said, "Yes, we miss him, too."

Great, now I'm getting all misty over here.

Quick, more pictures!!

To recap: the costume was my idea, but that's about all the credit I can take. John was immediately on board with it, and within about a week he'd sewn the entire suit from scratch. (Since I can't sew a straight line to save my life, I stuck to just cutting out all the fabric pieces for him.)

This was the first item of clothing John's ever sewn, btw, proving yet again my man can do anything. :)

Since it's probably been a while since you've seen the original Dreamfinder, here are two of the reference photos we worked from:

 It seemed every photo I found of DF had him with slightly different beards and hats, so we just did our best to make what we had work. (The curly beard would have been impossible, so we went with the straighter version.)

We found a thrift-store suit jacket to use for a template - cutting the front and back to make the tails - and then spent a few days searching fabric stores for the best vest option.

Of course we included the bright pink lining. It's just about standards, you know?

I found the spats, gloves, and bow tie all online, along with the vintage Figment plush. (You would not BELIEVE how much nicer the original Figment dolls were than the ones they sell now. Or, ok, maybe you would.)

The cheap top hat we originally purchased at a costume shop was way too small once we got the wig on John. It perched on top of his head and looked like someone had attacked it briefly with a shrink ray. So John made a new one.

The process is deceptively simple: just roll a piece of posterboard (ours is a specialty plastic, but it's the same thickness) into a tube, and then sew a slipcover for it from felt:

The brim is more plastic posterboard, rolled to give it a curve and cut into a donut shape, covered with more felt:

To connect the two, cut slits in the felt all around the brim interior and glue them inside the hat:

Here are the two hats side-by-side - you can see how much larger John's had to be:

The beard and wig were the hardest part, if you can believe it. We tried a couple of different wigs before settling on a mullet style that already had the feathered portion in the front, so I just had to trim the back. The beard was a steal at only $15 with shipping (here's the link), but it took about a gallon of hairspray to wrangle it into shape. I even made curly ends for the mustache, although they don't show up very well.

They don't make ginger beards at all - or at least not that I could find - and wigs were impossibly rare, too, so I bought both in blonde and we dyed them with alcohol inks.

The only thing left was penciling in John's non-existent eyebrows with some auburn powder, and Dreamfinder was complete!

This has been such a fun process, and it was sweet waking up this morning to see one or two Disney people already talking about the "awesome Dreamfinder" at MNSSHP last night. I know it's a very select group of people who can and will appreciate our labor of love, so I'm glad I get to share it here with you guys!

Stay tuned for more pics from the Party, plus my Figment costume!