A Year in Stardew Valley, Part One – Introductions

Since February 2016 — not quite a year and a half as of this writing — over 2.6 million people have moved to Stardew Valley. The population of the community there used to be around 40 souls: their growth rate is so mind-boggling it could practically unbalance the axis of the world.

In spite of that, Stardew Valley remains a beautiful, bucolic place, with friendly folks and points of interest. A hamlet nestled in the valley is called Pelican Town, and it has all of the hallmarks of quirky, small-town living. For example, there is a peaceful, restorative spa built high on a mountain, where I can soak away my aches and pains, but it’s also next to a noisy train station where a loud freighter comes through once a day throwing rocks and debris everywhere.

Main Image
This seems like a nice place to get away from it all…

My place is just outside of town, on some overgrown acreage I inherited from my grandpa. It’s taken a lot of work to get the property as far along as it is. I’m farming, if you can believe it. I’ve tried making friends with the neighbors, but it’s been a slow process. As willing as people are to talk, they can still be a little guarded.

The whole situation would be like something out of a television show, if it wasn’t already something out of a video game.


Continue reading “A Year in Stardew Valley, Part One – Introductions”

Disney Music Notes: Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday Loop

The Holiday season is a great time to visit a Disney theme park. Not only are guests introduced to seasonal food and entertainment offerings, but the Holiday decor ranges from blindingly apparent (a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree) to charmingly subtle (Holiday-themed paper cups), and rewards curious visitors who scout around.

It's easy to underestimate how much a person can enjoy quasi-European splendor combined with American commercialism.
It’s easy to underestimate how much a person can enjoy quasi-European splendor combined with American commercialism.

Although all the domestic parks and resorts get makeovers,* the biggest concentration is in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The element that binds it all together and moves you from land to land is the atmospheric Holiday music; and the loop on Main Street, U.S.A. is a particular pleasure. The songs are a chime-y mix of Christmas standards, and sound like they came straight out of a December cocktail party at Walt and Lillian’s house.

[*One of the under-appreciated wonders of modern management is the decoration of six theme parks and thirty resort hotels by Disney cast members in Florida and California. Not only is the level of detail astounding, but most of the work is completed without the guests seeing it happen.]

The authoritative breakdown of the Main Street, U.S.A. loop was compiled by the great Al Lutz, and his post is the starting point for these notes. I highly recommend clicking over, it’s great. In fact, go ahead and do that right now. This will still be here when you get back. Although, I mean, make sure and come back, too! Haha, don’t just… you know; click away and stay away. You know what? I am overthinking it. Just… do whatever you want.

Assuming you have come back from Al’s post, and with the background out of the way, let’s dive into the Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday music loop notes. The songs in each category are listed in no particular order.

Continue reading “Disney Music Notes: Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday Loop”

The DONALD Rankings Top 20: #18 Inside Out

The DONALD Rankings are scores for Disney animated films that combine personal opinion with a pseudo-scientific veneer of hard data. For a full introduction to the DONALD system, please go here. Contribute your scores in the comments!

The next film on our Top 20 list is Inside Out from Pixar, which won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Based on a story by director Pete Docter (Up) and co-director Ronnie del Carmen (a key story guy at Pixar since 2000), Inside Out follows the life of 11-year-old Riley Andersen through the lens of five personified emotions that control her interaction: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear.

I suspect the insides of most 11-year-old's heads is much weirder than this.
I suspect the inside of a typical 11-year-old’s head is actually much weirder than this.

Inside Out is anchored by an extraordinary and complex story, with deeper concepts not often found in a family film. It was also the first Pixar film created without input from studio co-founder Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011. Pixar moved forward with admirable poise, especially when contrasted to the precipitous dip in quality at Walt Disney Animation Studios that followed the passing of their visionary founder in 1966.

Inside Out received universal critical acclaim, and was screened at all of the swankiest gatherings of film buffs, including the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It was praised as the strongest Pixar film in recent years, and reviewers used expressions like “transcendent,” “buoyant,” and “therapeutic” in their breathless descriptions.

But how does it stack up against the greatest Disney animated films of all time? Pretty well, actually…

Continue reading “The DONALD Rankings Top 20: #18 Inside Out”

It All Started With A Duck, Part One: Introducing the DONALD System for Ranking Disney Movies

A little more than a year and a half ago, my wife and I took the first tentative steps of what would become a monumental journey. We fired up our DVD player and inserted the disc for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Four months later, as the credits rolled on Monsters University, we had watched every single animated feature film from Walt Disney Studios.

From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to No White and the Six-and-a-Half Dorks
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to White Background and the Six-and-a-Half Dorks

As a lifelong, dyed-in-the-wool, Disney fan, it had been easy to imagine that I had seen all of the films before. But, as it turns out, I was so, so wrong. Our first watch list had 68 titles: 52 from Walt Disney Animation Studios, 15 from Pixar Animation Studios, and one from DisneyToon Studios.

Because we committed our free time in the evenings and weekends on the films, I decided to use the viewing exercise as an opportunity to wrap my head around the entire Disney movie library. To accomplish this, I created the DONALD* system of movie rankings. This is a set of criteria intended to help a viewer think in critical terms, rather than just falling into the trap of saying: “I love Disney movies, therefore, this movie is wonderful.” Continue reading “It All Started With A Duck, Part One: Introducing the DONALD System for Ranking Disney Movies”