Thursday, April 10, 2008

Toys at Sea

This morning I headed out to the Disney Wonder, not to embark on my 62nd cruise (that won't happen till next month), but rather to see the premier of "Toy Story: The Musical."

Actually it wasn't a premiere in the pure sense, since the show's been on board for a couple of weeks now. But it was new to me, and I was anxious to see what had replaced the long-running "Hercules," which had been a staple since the Magic was launched in 1998.

In all of our cruises, we've watched shows come and go; now only one, "Disney Dreams," remains from the beginning, and it was revamped/upgraded recently. Thankfully, the changes were all improvements. They added laser effects, spiffed up the flying, and added Pumba and Timon to the "Lion King" number.

"Disney Dreams" is the signature show, so I can't imagine they would ever change it too drastically. It's a real heartstring-tugger, aimed specifically at the Disney fanatics (such as myself) who make up the majority of their cruisers. It has numbers from such classics as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast. The Little Mermaid (my favorite number), Aladdin, and Lion King. They're woven around the plotline of a little girl's dream: she wants to fly to the place where dreams come true, but she can only do it by finding her own magic. Fortunately, the Blue Fairy sends Peter Pan to help.

I've seen it so many times that I skip it occasionally now, but my husband never misses it when we sail. Since he's caught some matinees, as well as the regular evening showing, he's probably seen it over 65 times.

The other two original offerings in 1998 were "Hercules," which, as I mentioned, was just retired, and "Voyage of the Ghost Ship." Herc was very corny and didn't make much sense if you never saw the movie, but I still liked it. Hades, Pain and Panic always stole the show. There was some opportunity for ad-libbing, so they kept it fresh by continually updating many of the jokes.

Ghost Ship didn't last too long; it had one revamping, then was pulled altogether and replaced with "The Golden Mickeys." It was kind of dark and had no Disney characters at all; I think those two things played against it. It's a shame it wasn't released later, as with a little tweaking it could have been changed to take advantage of the current Pirate Fever. But alas, it was ahead of its time, and now it's merely the answer to a Disney Cruise Line trivia question.

I like "The Golden Mickeys," which has the theme of an awards show hosted by a relucant backstage hand. The best part is that it features Roy Disney and old-time footage of his uncle Walt. It's rare that you see Walt brought into a show; I love the connection and find it very touching. For a brief time, Whoopi Goldberg replaced Roy as the on-screen co-host, but thankfully he was restored to his rightful place in the show.

I'm probably partial to Golden Mickeys because it features two of my favorite, Stitch and Cruella, plus you've gotta love it when a giant Ursula sticks her giant tentacles almost literally into the first row.

The Magic also has "Twice Charmed," which is probably my current favorite. It's a twist on the Cinderella story, with Lady Tremaine and the wicked stepsisters appealing to their wicked fairy godfather Franco to help them set things "right." He sends them back in time and shrinks poor Cindy to mouse size. I love the masterful blending of drop-screens with the live action, and Franco's big dance number on a lighting staircase (think the sidewalk in "Billy Jean") is phenomenal. Sadly, since we usually sail on the Wonder, I only get to see "Twice Charmed" once or twice a year.

There was once another show called Cest Magique, which then morphed into Morty the Magnificent, but I think it had an even shorter run than Ghost Ship. Personally I liked the first version, but like Ghost Ship it didn't have Disney characters. It was very Cirque de Soliel-like, which apparently just didn't fly with the audiences. The Morty incarnation featured a plot of sorts, as well as Mickey Mouse, but it just never caught on.

Now comes the latest offering: "Toy Story: The Musical." It already has one big thing going for's based on one of the most popular Pixar movies. People always break into hysterical applause at the Toy Story number in Golden Mickeys, so this will give them a bigger dose.

I like the movie, although not nearly as much as my favorite Pixar flick, "The Incredibles." I'm a huge Syndrome fan and love the movie's commentary on the dumbing down of America, with memorable quotes like "When everyone is super, no one is" and "Everyone's special means that no one is." Toy Store has no such heavy philisophical undertone, save for the importance of friendship.

The shipboard Toy Story is an almost completely faithful adaptation of the flick. Obviously, some concessions had to be made for staging it in a limited timeframe and a relatively small area. But I have to hand it to DCL's creative team...they pulled it off much better than I ever imagined they could.

Toy Story takes the use of screens and sets to new heights. It's tricky transitioning from the full-sized human world down to the toy world, but the screens allow it to happen flawlessly, as well as to facilitate scene changes. Most of the scenes take place from the toys' perspective, although Andy and Sid do make their appearances (and you hear Spud barking frequently offstage).

There were some pyrotechnics too (of course there would have to be, considering that Sid plays a major role in the plot), but I was actually even more impressed with Buzz's spaceship. He makes quite an interest! You'll feel the same sense of awe that Andy's playthings do as they gather round.

One thing that distracted me when I originally saw photos of the show was that the various toys are not to the same scale as they are in the movie. For example, Rex is smaller and slinky dog is bigger in comparison to Woody and Buzz. But you pretty much have to chalk that up to the limitations of the stage. Even tho' I am rather anal retentive, I quit noticing the size thing pretty early on. Instead, I was drawn into marvelling at the costumes. You really think you're looking at characters right off the screen. You'll see Slinky Dog, Rex, Ham, and Mr. Potato Head, as well as the green soldiers and monkey from the barrel. The monkeys were the only ones that didn't work for me. Their costumes are orange cloth, which just doesn't jibe with the look of the toy. If you're not familiar with the movie, you might be hard pressed to guess what they are at first.

Woody, Buzz, and Bo Peep are "face" characters, as are (obviously) Andy and Sid. Woody and Buzz were both great in their roles, but the Sid was the total scene stealer. He's much more wicked and depraved in the play than in the movie, and he considers himself an artist of destruction. He brims with manic energy, and his songs are a total riot. I am a big villian fan, and this show gave me a whole new appreciation for Sid. In the final bows, he (or perhaps I should say "she," since he's played by a woman) got some of the loudest clapping and cheers.

The toys in Sid's room are recreated as faithfully as those in Andy's. I marveled at the staging of this show and said a silent prayer that it won't turn into a technical nightmare. But everything worked smoothly at the premiere, and the pace of the show made it seem to fly by.

The only effects that didn't really "work" for me were the first two times that Buzz tries to fly. If you're familiar with the movie, you'll recall that in his first attempt he makes a spectacular showing thanks to a Hot Wheels car and skateboard. The second time, in Sid's house, he jumps off a railing and his not successful, falling and breaking off his arm.

Obviously, skateboards and railings and the like are not too easy to show on stage. The way it's handled just didn't look genuine due to the limitations. I promise you won't be disappointed at the end when Woody and Buzz are launched with the rocket tho'.

You also can't help but love the little green alien dolls in the claw machine. Next to Sid, they were my second favorite thing. I could tell by the reaction of the audience members around me that virtually everyone in the theater shared my opinion.

Overall it's a cute show, and even if you don't like "cute," you can't help but marvel at the technical aspects. I'm looking forward to our next cruise in May so I can see it again and catch all the little details I most likely missed.

It will also be interesting to see if the Toy Story number in the Golden Mickeys is replaced in the near future or if the two with co-exist. I suspect the latter, since Toy Story isn't on the Magic so it's their only dose of Woody.

After the show, it was very difficult to drag myself off the ship. Since I, along with the rest of the crowd, were only there to see the show, we had to disembark immediately once it was over. As I headed down the gangplank, I could see the lucky cruisers milling around in the terminal, eager to begin their "wonder"ful weekend. How I would have liked to join them! But work and responsibility awaited me, so I reluctantly boarded the bus for home.

Oh well, next time I see it I won't have to worry about disembarking so quickly. And even though it will be cruise #62, I'll have yet another new (well, mostly new) thing to look forward to.

Visit my Celebration, FL website:

Click below to visit online counseling office at Kasamba:

Ask an Expert - Visit my Virtual Office at Kasamba


Justmatt said...

Great Review! I have been following this show since it was announced it was in development. I can't wait to see it in Sept when the wife, kids, & I head out on Disney Cruise #3 (nothing compared to your 62! WOW!)

BTW - I too love Syndrome - as you can see by my photo - Jason Lee is great! Best line - "You sly dog, you got me monologging..."

CoxPilot said...

Because we have been planning a move to Celebration, we have been doing a LOT of reading, and find you blog very informative (especially about the pitfalls, etc.). I would rather find out early if the move is for us (I'm sure it is) rather that grumble about it later. I ounce worked at Disneyland during the first years of it's opening, and have been a Disney-file all my life.

We are from Maine, and find your contrasting Chicago/Celebration experiences a striking parallel. We also drove the trip in a Saturn Vue with our pets, AND drove back. Our big worry is finding the right place (and price) that will allow the number of pets we have (two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, and one English Bulldog). We even traded the Vue in on a Equinox.

I started reading you blog about two months ago, and decided to begin at the beginning (May 31, 04). So far, I'm up to Aug 23, 05 and read about 2 or 3 a day to catch up to the present. But know I'm worried.

I noticed that you have not made any postings since June 10th, 08, and that's seems a long time. Are you running out of steam? Or, just on another cruise?