Zootopia: My Reactions and an Interview with the Directors

Posted by Carly Morgan

New Disney movie!!

We saw a screening of Zootopia a couple of days ago and I have to admit that I was a little iffy on this one. If you’re ever worried that I’m fluffing my reviews up because I’ve drunk too much of the Disney Kool-Aid, let me remind you that I was among the first to report back that Disney’s Chicken Little was NOT worth seeing in the theater and since that was another anthropomorphic animals comedy-esque film, I walked into this one with a very low bar and an expectation that it would be somewhere between straight-to-video and hey-that-one-scene-was-so-funny.

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Ok. It’s actually really cute.

Yes, the animals are wearing clothes and some of the humor is directed way over the heads of any kids I know, but it’s beautifully made, the characters are very rich, and the story had a lot of angles that could start some great family conversations (reminiscent of Inside Out). Kyle absolutely loved it and said it reminded him of the great buddy cop movies of the ’80s and we both noticed the insane detail in city that serves as the background for most of the story.

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As for the kid take-aways, it’s your typical little-guy-wins-by-being-kind Disney film, but there’s also a great relationship between the two main characters, Judy and Nick, and it’s the best example of a non-romantic male/female friendship I’ve ever seen in a family film. I always had best friends who were boys when I was growing up and there was never a good model for that because the assumption is that the guy is always saving the girl or that she “wins” by having the guy fall in love with her, which is an awkward game for 8 year olds who are all “thanks but nope” about each other. Loved that about this movie.

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I actually had the chance to sit down with the directors of Zootopia today and chat about that relationship and they had some great points to make about the character development. (Light spoilers here, I guess, but it’s really not that kind of movie…)

Byron Howard: I think it’s nice that Judy is such a strong character that she doesn’t feel like she needs another character to complete her. In a lot of these cop shows, you have very strong emotional relationships between partners and we loved that potential for this movie. You almost want to see them get together because the chemistry is so good between them, but we didn’t want to make that romantic.”

Rich Moore: I like that Judy is a character that isn’t looking for romance to make her life better. She’s following a passion – a calling – and that doesn’t involve a man who is going to get her to that level. This is a maturation story of self-discovery, but she does need a friend throughout the story. She has the world against her and Nick becomes that common misfit who has had the same background. It’s difficult for one person to heal themselves in a vacuum but when a conversation between two people that share common stories can happen, that’s healing.”

They also had some great things to say about the cast and how perfect each person was for his/her character:

Rich Moore: “It’s not by chance that the characters start to look like the actors. We shoot a lot of reference video of the actors as they’re recording and our animators look at that reference video, not to copy exactly what they’re doing but to see what the expression or mouth shape was on a certain line. It starts to seep into the performance so even though you have this character with an animal face, it starts to look like the actor because the animators are picking up on those things.

We were really lucky to get the top people that we wanted for this film because what we do is we build a board of characters and actors that remind us of the character. We put it up to get everyone in the room on the same page and from that we start to think of who would be good to play those characters. Using that as the pool, we go to our casting director and say “we see them as this person” and she’ll go out to try to get those people. We were so lucky – every character, she was able to get our top pick. This is our dream cast.”

Byron shared a great story about an unexpected source of inspiration from his childhood and it would kill it if I transcribed the whole thing, so I’ll just share my audio file from the interview. I don’t usually do this, but it’s only 13 minutes long and they said so many interesting little things that I know my Disney fan friends would love to hear. It starts just a little bit late into the interview because I’m a dope who was too excited to hit record before I started asking questions…

 

Thank you to the directors for making time to chat!

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Zootopia comes out on March 4th, which is both this Friday and Eva’s 5th birthday (don’t ask me how that happened!) so I hope you go and love it and send pixie dust birthday vibes to my girl while you’re leaving. I don’t know what we’ll be doing but a 2nd viewing is not outside the realm of possibility…

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The Finest Hours: A Review and Some Thoughts on Family History in Movies

Posted by Carly Morgan

I took my dad to a screening of The Finest Hours, the new moving Disney is releasing in a couple of days (January 29th). I knew that it was a historical drama about a Coast Guard rescue off the east coast in the 1950s, so I was glad dad was able to come along because his father was stationed in the same general area at the same general time. I also get a lot of my history geek genes from dad so anything that is even slightly accurate is usually a movie we’d both enjoy.

I have to admit, I was a little unsure about this one because I don’t think of the Coast Guard as being particularly exciting. It’s terrible, since my grandfather was in the Coast Guard for more than twenty years, but I don’t hear about big things the Coast Guard is doing so they mostly go unnoticed. (I’m sure it doesn’t help that I haven’t lived by a coast of any kind since I was six years old. Not a lot of Coast Guard action here in Salt Lake City.)

The good news is that the movie was good – definitely better than I had expected – and all of the actors did a great job. Ben Foster in particular stood out as someone who really sank into the role and even though Chris Pine will always be a bit of a pretty boy for me (and maybe a little too pretty to play the bashful main character), he made it work for this one. Fair warning: we saw it in 3D but it’s definitely quite the ocean-y action movie so if you aren’t keen on feeling like you’re actually getting tossed around by giant waves I would go for the 2D showing.

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I’m actually much more interested in my grandfather’s Coast Guard career now that I’ve seen this movie. The good thing about this one for me is that it was probably spot-on as far as giving me an idea of what being stationed in that area was like since he was in nearly the same place within two years of the date of this movie.

Grandpa in the Coast Guard

Obviously, his service days probably weren’t quite as exciting as Chris Pine and Ben Foster’s were, but I still got an idea of what kinds of things they were sent out to do, how the chain of command worked, what the different jobs were among the men, etc. I also got a good sense of how it was to live near the people who had lived on the coast all their lives (fishermen, etc.) and what it was like to be the Coast Guard wives waiting for the men to come back home after the rescue boats went out.

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Plus, since my father was born in Massachusetts in November while grandpa was stationed out there, I got a fun look at what the weather would have been like around that time. According to letters I have, grandpa couldn’t be there for dad’s birth, so my grandma would have been doing the single mom thing with her two daughters somewhere near the base in the middle of what looks like an incredibly unpleasant winter. Seriously, how do people live out there with freezing ocean spray and scary ocean blizzards? No bueno.

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I have a bunch of documents from my grandfather’s service, but I haven’t been motivated to piece them together to map out exactly where he was and what he was doing. Having seen this movie, though, I’m going to sit down this weekend and do just that.

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Honestly, if you’ve gotten a little bored in your genealogy and you’ve hit a bit of a rut, I would look for a historical film based in the same area/time as your ancestors. Granted, the movies won’t always be a perfect fit for your family’s story, but any historical movie worth its salt will have had researchers working to get all the details right…which means they’ve saved you a lot of work when it comes to recreating a narrative of what daily life looked like!

Also, you should go see that movie. I think it’s one of those that will be better in the theater when you’re seeing it for the first time. Biiiig scary ocean waves and all.

8 Movies to Watch When You’re Pregnant

Posted by Carly Morgan

Baby fever! I have it!

I’m headed to the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas very soon with my very pregnant very good friend Kate. Kate’s attendance is part of an exciting announcement that I’ll be making in the near future (no, I’m not pregnant) but in the meantime I’m gearing up for the expo by drooling over all of the promotional emails full of baby gear (no, I’m not pregnant) and researching things like “20 must-haves for the first month” (really, you guys, I’m not pregnant).

I just, you know. Yum. Love them babies.

Calvin as a Newborn

Anyway, the expo is apparently massive and I’m so excited to walk through with Kate and finish planning out what she might need for the next year or so. I’m also excited to spend some quality (and long overdue) BFF time with this person who has been like a sister to me for a couple of decades. Cookies will be involved. Pajama pants. And also some movies appropriate for bonding when someone is super pregnant and the husbands are at home.

Without further ado, I give you 8 of my favorite movies to watch if you’re pregnant:

Movies to watch when pregnant

This list contains affiliate links.

1 /// What to Expect When You’re Expecting

You know how everyone reads the book when they get pregnant? Well, that book ought to come with this movie because it’s pretty much the greatest pregnancy movie ever. Including all future pregnancy movies. Hilarious and touching and all of that.

2 /// Babies

This movie should be required viewing for people who are pregnant for the first time. It’s a documentary that follows four babies and there’s no narration or anything, so you’re just watching the babies grow during their first year or so of life. There’s nothing that will make you feel better about having the wrong shade of yellow in your nursery than watching someone else’s baby happily chew on a rock.

3 /// Juno

A good mix of sarcastic and sweet, this teen pregnancy classic has everything going for it, including the ever-adorable Michael Cera.

4 /// Father of the Bride 2

I wouldn’t normally throw a sequel into a “best of” lineup but this movie is so very sweet and it’s really Steve Martin at his finest. Oh, and Martin Short. I die.

5 /// Where the Heart Is

This is more of a general chick flick than a baby movie, but the movie starts with a pregnancy and the thread of motherhood is carried throughout. I just love little pregnant clueless Natalie Portman…much more than scary Black Swan Natalie Portman.

6 /// Away We Go

This movie is not clueless and has almost a little too much edge for comfort (not something you want to watch with your parents if you’re still putting off that birds and the bees talk after thirty years…) but the acting by this everyone-is-in-it cast is pretty great.

7 /// Nine Months

This movie almost didn’t make the cut because the humor is a little nineties-dated and I’m always distracted by the fact that the two main actors apparently hate each other, but it does have some good moments and Jeff Goldblum is in it, so it automatically becomes watchable.

8 /// Look Who’s Talking

And also, the baby movie of all baby movies. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but hearing Bruce Willis’s voice come out of that cute face is going to make you want to have a baby and a baby and a baby. (If you’re looking to stop at just one baby, pick up the sequel. Hearing Roseanne Barr’s voice come of that baby will stop your ovaries cold.)

Honorable mentions: Penny Serenade (a Cary Grant classic that I absolutely adore, but it’s a total tearjerker), Rosemary’s Baby (only watch it if you’re feeling a little masochistic), Parenthood (some cute moments but this is Steve Martin at his so-neurotic-he’s-practically-unwatchable), She’s Having a Baby (this eighties movie drags at some parts but the lawn mowing scene was pretty entertaining), Three Men and a Baby (it would have made the list but I get the eebie-jeebies from Ted Danson sometimes), and Willow (yes, I’m a total nerd but how can you not love this totally-baby-centered film?).

 

Playing Dress Up and Making Our Own Coloring Pages with the Avengers

Posted by Carly Morgan

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AvengersUnite #CollectiveBias

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Avengers!!!

How excited are you about the new movie? Well, I don’t know if you can be more excited than Eva. Now before you jump all over me because we let the four year old watch action movies, you have to admit that Captain America is a pretty good role model. Eva loves that he’s such a strong leader and ever since we caved and let her have an action figure of him, “Cap” has gone all over Salt Lake City.

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So, when I got the chance to head to Walmart to pick up some Avengers snacks and merchandise to celebrate the opening of MARVEL’S The Avengers: Age of Ultron, I was pretty much in the car ten minutes later. Toys and shirts and themed food? TAKE MY MONEY.

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Before we let the kids see the haul that I brought home, we had a movie night to watch MARVEL’S The Avengers. It’s fun because we all have our favorites. Eva loves Captain America, Kyle loves Iron Man, I’m a huge fan of Dr. Bruce Banner, and I’m pretty sure Calvin’s favorite Avenger is Dr. Banner’s other half. I made a movie mix with the Avengers Cheez-It crackers and we had fun picking out and trading the crackers with the right characters. Note: I found the Avengers snacks stocked with the regular snacks when I was at Walmart, so if you can’t find a movie display up front don’t forget to scan the shelves.

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The big toy reveal happened the next night at the playground. I had this big plan to do a side by side photo session with the kids posing like the toys (that Hulk is for Calvin since he’s jealous of Eva’s buddy) but alas the kids were waaaaaay too excited and hyped up to cooperate. I blame the Avengers fruit snacks.

Instead, we came up with a game where the toys kept getting stuck places by bad guys and the kids had to rescue them in superhero form. Turns out, this is the key to getting them to do things that they’re afraid of, like climb the larger ladders. They were so psyched to be in rescue mode that they forgot to be afraid!

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Despite my photo plans going offroad with the toy and sugar frenzy, I got some really fun pictures of the kids playing with their new Avengers gear and ended up turning a few into coloring pages so they could color themselves as their favorite heroes.

It’s pretty easy to create coloring pages from photos if you have Photoshop, so I thought I’d share the process in case anyone wanted to do some personalized coloring of their own:

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1. Open the photo in Photoshop. I try to keep the photo files as large as possible when I turn them into sketches or coloring pages because it allows for more detail and prints up better.

2. Use the  shape tool to draw a white rectangle so that it completely covers the photo, overlapping on all sides. Drop the opacity of the rectangle down to 30% or whatever level allows you to see enough detail coming through for the photo.

3. Use the layers menu to add a new layer.

4. Choose the brush tool and select a brush that matches the thickness of the lines you want to create. Set your color to black.

5. Trace your photo, including only as much detail as you need to get a general idea of the picture. This can be a little tricky the first time around, but with practice it becomes a pretty fast process. I have a tablet with a pen that I use to trace, but I’ve also done this just using the mouse. Little tip: zoom way in when you’re tracing things like faces and hands. You’ll have better control of the detail. Just don’t reset the brush size when you zoom in or your lines will be all different sizes.

6. When you’ve finished tracing, reset the opacity on the rectangle you created so that it’s 100%, blocking out the original photo. Finish any lines that weren’t quite complete and you’re ready to print your coloring page!

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I should tell you that they’ve done some fun things at Walmart to make shopping for Avengers gear in preparation for the new movie even more exciting. You can download the Super Heroes Assemble app and turn your phone into a portal to exclusive MARVEL’s Avengers: Age of Ultron content. Keep up to date with the latest movie and behind-the-scenes action. Plus, scan Avengers displays at Walmart and Walmart.com to become your favorite Avenger, explore a Hulkbuster training facility in a cool 360 degree interactive space and to bring Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron characters to life with augmented reality. Starting today, if you scan the 12-pack of Dr. Pepper themed to the movie, you unlock digital comic book!

So, raise your hand if you’re seeing MARVEL’s Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend!

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Playing Dress Up and Making Our Own Coloring Pages with the Avengers

Our Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Night #OwnTheGalaxy

Posted by Carly Morgan

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #OwnTheGalaxy #CollectiveBias

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Guardians of the Galaxy is out on DVD, just in time for the holidays!

Being huge Guardians of the Galaxy fans, we’ve been waiting and waiting for the chance to own this movie. Once the movie came out on December 9th, we had a big movie night with my family and I had the chance to brainstorm a fun way to create a heroes party that everyone would enjoy. I had all these fancypants recipes brewing and was going to go in an Oscars party direction, when I realized that the best part of Guardians of the Galaxy is how casual and fun it is. So, we did a “Best of the Eighties” movie snacks buffet!

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Shopping for this one was so much fun. Imagine a free pass to buy all of the stuff you would have bought at eight years old if you were in charge of grocery shopping. First, I picked up the movie and a bunch of Guardians of the Galaxy toys at Walmart. If you buy the Combo Pack (Blu-Ray/DVD/HD), it comes with an exclusive character O-sleeve, an exclusive music zinepack, and a 64 page magazine with cast and crew interviews plus exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and trivia. You also get a custom “cassette” laptop decal.

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Then, I went movie snack food crazy! I picked up mini cans of soda, cheese puffs, mint chocolate chip cookies, Twinkies, chips, tons of movie theater candy, and supplies to make chocolate pudding cups with cookie crumble topping. I also grabbed some foam core board and some gift wrap with a holographic print to set the mood. Remember when everything was holographic? The eighties were the best!

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Since the majority of our party guests were eighties kids, everyone was pretty excited to see the display (and excited to have a chance to indulge in all the things we’re supposed to be too grown up to eat these days). The kids were excited too, since we let them go to town and pick out whatever they wanted. Even my niece-on-the-way seemed to be a fan of the movie night buffet!

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As a game to play during the movie, I created some Guardians of the Galaxy Bingo cards featuring different moments of the movie like “Star-Lord dances” or “Gamora gets mad about something”. For prizes, I found a free printable online for boxes that look like Awesome Mix cassette tapes and I put different gifts cards in them ranging from $5-$15.

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We used Sour Patch Kids as game pieces (although I’m pretty sure they were mostly eaten) and it got pretty competitive. Dangle the promise of a gift card in front of my family and things heat up! You can download the free printable Guardians of the Galaxy Bingo cards here:

///  Four ready-to-print Guardians of the Galaxy Bingo cards

/// Four blank Guardians of the Galaxy Bingo cards with a game sheet so you can make as many as you’d like for your movie night 

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All in all, we had a great time watching the movie and it definitely brought me back to the days when we were all little and movie night was something I did with my siblings all the time. It was a lot of fun to do something together that everyone liked and after the movie even the adults started playing with the toys (to the dismay of the kidlets). Everyone was trying to sneak out with Star-Lord in their pocket, so I see some Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise in the future…perhaps with a Christmas bow on top?

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