From PJ Media: 5 Things You Need to Know About Disney’s New Star Wars Experiences

Since Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World is at least a year or two away, some of the prime real estate in that theme park is a construction zone. Disney has come up with some creative ways to add value to the Hollywood Studios experience and add a Star Wars flavor in anticipation of the new land coming soon.

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From PJ Media: Happy 45th Birthday to Walt Disney World!

For hardcore Disney fans like me, October 1 is a special day, one that we hold as high as the birthday of a relative or dear friend. It’s the day Walt Disney World opened, marking the culmination of Walt Disney’s greatest dream—one that he did not live to see.

Even marginal followers of Disney history know the origin story of Walt Disney World, but I’ll summarize it here for the uninitiated. Walt and Roy Disney were thrilled with the early success of Disneyland, but one factor took them aback: the urban blight that quickly enveloped the area surrounding the park. Walt vowed that, if he had another chance to build a park, he would build again on enough land to control not just the areas where guests would visit, but the surrounding area as well.

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From PJ Media: ‘Star Wars’ Creator George Lucas Compares Disney to ‘White Slavers’

Over the last couple of weeks, the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, has become a phenomenal success, raking in $1.5 billion worldwide and becoming 2015’s biggest blockbuster in a mere thirteen days. However, not everybody was happy about the film at first.

George Lucas, the mastermind behind the Star Wars galaxy, took an opportunity to express his disdain for Disney in an interview with Charlie Rose. Lucas’ sour grapes stem from the fact that he mapped out an outline for what would become The Force Awakens, but Disney chose to go their own route.

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Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

My 2015 In Review

I don’t know about you, but I can’t figure out where 2015 has gone. It’s been an eventful year, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t seem like it was terribly long ago that I was ringing in the new year with friends.

This year has seen its share of ups and downs, excitement and difficulty, elation and frustration. But all in all, it’s been a great one! I’ve witnessed some amazing television (Bloodline, Quantico), seen a few incredible movies (Tomorrowland, SPECTRE, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), and immersed myself in some wonderful music (Zac Brown Band, Adele, so many great songs from Nashville – and Liz Vice sounds even cooler on vinyl!).

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

My dad kicked lung cancer’s butt!

I’ll never forget spending the second weekend of the year at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta while my dad had a portion of his lung removed. The people there were nice, and the folks at Fisher House were wonderful and welcoming to my mom and me.

Cancer is always a scary thing to hear, but my dad handled the surgery and every treatment with a good attitude and a sense of humor. He was able to celebrate his 70th birthday as a healthy man! Glory to God for the healing!

We survived an office move.

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During the spring and much of the summer, the Eastridge staff spent our days in temporary digs. We finally got rid of the trailers we’d been leasing for a decade and made plans to renovate the house on the church property as offices.

The original estimate was about three weeks’ renovation. It took three months. Somehow we were able to keep the church running – including VBS – with no conflict while operating on just the basic office needs in spaces that served as classrooms on Sundays and Thursday nights. It’s a testimony to the amazing people I work and serve with.

I got to go to Walt Disney World three times.

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Only people who share my family’s Disney obsession will be impressed, I know. I’ve had a couple of years where I’ve been able to go to Disney World twice, but this was the first time I went three times. We took a family trip for Spring Break (awful crowds – never again) where my mom fell and broke her wrist. I took a “grown ups” trip with a friend of mine in September, and we took another family long weekend trip in November to experience some of the Christmas fun. I hope I’ll have more three-trip years.

Not only did I get to see Liz Vice live, but I got to have great conversation with her, AND I got to help her out.

If you know much about me at all, you know that for a little over a year I’ve fallen head over heels for Portland-based Christian soul singer Liz Vice. Her retro take on music is refreshing, her voice is second to none, and she just happens to sing songs about Jesus!

She came to Atlanta in October, and I went in with some friends to get a table at Eddie’s Attic to hear her in person. She communicated on Facebook that her band needed a drum kit for the show, and Eastridge let us loan her the Jackson Lake Campus drums for the night, which meant extra time to hang with her before and after the show.

Liz is a down-to-earth lady with a huge voice, and I think she’ll go places.

I became a published author!

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I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been aware of what writing is, though I’ve only had the opportunity to write professionally for about five years. As an outgrowth of these writing opportunities, I received the challenge from my colleagues and editors to write a book.

The result, Football, Faith, & Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter To The South, was a dream come true, though maybe one of those dreams I never thought would be real. I wouldn’t trade the process for the world: the writing, the editing, the promotional fun, the autograph signing. (And I still have plenty of autograph cards available; if you didn’t get yours, hit me up!)

I owe so much of it to my friends, (former) editors, and writing champions David Swindle and Hannah Sternberg – and to the incomparable Lisa De Pasquale for writing the intro.

That’s my year! Here’s to a year unlike any other, and an even better 2016!

From PJ Media: ‘Saturday Night Live’ Skewers Star Wars Toy Collectors

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this coming weekend. And of course we know the arrival of the newest chapter in the story that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away means more than just a night at the movies. The toys released in conjunction with the new film have already helped rescue a lackluster shopping season, and experts estimate a stunning $5 billion in merchandise revenue the first year alone.

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From PJ Parenting: 6 Budget-Conscious Ways To Do A Disney Trip

In my book, Football, Faith, And Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter To The South, I write about how special a Walt Disney World vacation can be, and part of what makes Disney so wonderful is that families can enjoy the parks and resorts together regardless of budget.

For those families who are hoping to make a vacation to the Disney Parks a reality, here are six budget-conscious ways to do it. Enjoy!

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From PJ Lifestyle: Class Warfare, Disney-Style?

I’ve been a Disney enthusiast my entire life, and the biggest reason for my love of Disney is the fun and excitement of Walt Disney World. I even used a family trip to Walt Disney World as the “hook” for my first book, Football, Faith, and Flannery O’Connor: A Love Letter To The South!
Vacations to Walt Disney World have been a family tradition as long as there has been a Walt Disney World. My siblings and I have instilled this Disney obsession into the next generation.

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From PJ Lifestyle: Someone at Cracked Thinks You Should Be Terrified of Disney Theme Parks

Not long ago, I wrote about Cracked.com‘s unfunny TED Talks parody of Walt Disney. The writer of the video filled it with so much knee-jerk character assassination that it took me two posts to refute the abject lies, all of which were meant to make Walt Disney look like a bigot and all-around bad guy.

It turns out that somebody in the Cracked organization apparently has some sort of ax to grind with Disney, because their site is littered with list posts intended to smear Disney as some sort of horrible organization.

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From PJ Lifestyle: The Future in Tomorrowland is Bright, Optimistic, and Fun — Just Like Walt Disney Envisioned It!

Tomorrowland was one of the three movies I was looking forward to this year. (The others? SPECTRE and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.) Tomorrowland presents an exhilarating vision of what could be that matches what I call the optimistic futurism of the studio’s founder, Walt Disney… As I walked out of the theater at the end of the film with my friend, I turned to her and said, “I wonder what people who aren’t familiar with Walt Disney’s futurism will think of it?”

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From PJ Lifestyle: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics

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WARNING: this post contains plot spoilers! If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, go watch it, and then come back to read this.

I recently watched Disney’s latest Oscar-winning animated feature Big Hero 6 for the first (and second) time. I loved the film so much that I watched it twice in less than 24 hours. The story of Hiro Hamada, his robot buddy Baymax, and their college pals who become unwitting superheroes surprised me in so many ways that I believe Big Hero 6 deserves a place among the classics of Disney animation, and here are a few reasons why.

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