Monday, June 11, 2018

Moana: A Homecoming Celebration at Hong Kong Disneyland

While this isn't specifically a Disney blog, Disney is our life. And I don't just mean we're really big fans (though we are, especially me). I mean for over half my life, Disney has paid our bills and given us this wild, wandering life around the world, which in turn provides the fodder for this blog and several other projects. 

From my earliest childhood, all I wanted to do was travel the world. A wildly imaginative and precocious kid, my poor frustrated parents would frequently throw their hands up in the air and say, "What are we going to do with you, Heather?" My answer was always some variation of sending me to Germany, or other faraway location (fun fact: the first country I traveled to outside America was indeed Germany). I didn't know actually living around the world was a possibility, or else that would have been my childhood desire I'm sure. But here we are, having lived in five different countries (two of them more than once) as a direct or indirect result of a career with the Walt Disney Company. So yes, I'm a big fan, in a really unique niche of fans who might say they owe a lot of their fulfillment and quality of life to the Mouse. 

Right now we're back in Hong Kong where my husband is part of the team bringing new and exciting changes to Hong Kong Disneyland. We'll be here for several years (I keep saying four-to-forever years) and it's such a thrill to see the magic unfolding each time I visit. There's a lot in the pipeline over the next five years for this gem of a Disney Park, and the first brand new attraction in their multi-year expansion plan opened just two weeks ago. 

'Moana: A Homecoming Celebration' may only be a twenty minute live show, but it's a captivating and high energy experience for audiences of all ages. It takes place in the brand new Adventureland venue, Jungle Junction. It's a colorful outdoor stage, tucked into the green foliage of Hong Kong's natural landscape, reminiscent of island luaus, complete with the requisite island humidity and hot sunshine as a bonus feature!

The outdoor theater has three rows of benches, the front row reserved for the youngest guests who get to participate in some drumming, the second row for the little guests' guardians, and then the third row goes first come, first served. There's plenty of space to stand however, with decent views of the action. All my photos in this post were taken while standing behind the benches. 

The cast is small, just Moana, two live drummers in full islander regalia, plus six Voyagers who play a huge number of roles including Te Ka and Te Fiti, demigod Maui, chicken Hei Hei, Tamatoa the shiny crab, and all the Kakamora coconut pirates. Throughout the show, dozens of creative props and puppets add depth (and cuteness) to the story of Moana's adventures and her triumphant return to her village of Motunui.

In a theme park where guests speak a wide variety of languages, it's a challenge for a new show to get the story across in a meaningful way without redundantly repeating the same lines over and over in a trio of languages or dialects. While several of the entertainment venues at Hong Kong Disneyland utilize subtitles or characters within the show who only speak Mandarin or Cantonese, 'Moana: A Homecoming Celebration' moves the story along thanks to amazing choreography and talented dancers who use their bodies to create the sea, a wild fight on the high seas, and even the lava demon Te Ka. If there wasn't a single word in any language, we'd still effectively understand what was happening thanks to the beauty of very accessible visual storytelling. This, of course, is a big part of why I love Disney... the ability to create such an inclusive environment for its guests, with story at the heart of everything it does. 


I can't get enough of the rich color palette, the costumes full of movement, clever lighting design which adds so much even on a bright and sunny day, and the amazing texture of every part of the theater itself, which all add up to create a magical experience so much more than the sum of its parts. 

The rest of Hong Kong Disneyland is also joining in with the island vibe, publishing weekly Times Guides featuring Moana, new stickers available from various Cast Members, and even some new Polynesian-style meals, snacks, and beverages at the River View Cafe (Banana Beignets FTW!) in Adventureland.

There's so much more to come in the next five years at Hong Kong Disneyland, but if this sweet start is any indication, I can't wait to experience all the rest to come! Next up will be an all new attraction featuring Ant-Man and the Wasp, fighting off an army of Hydra swarm bots. I confess I'm just along for the ride with the Marvel Universe, hitched to the wagon driven by my husband and two teenage sons who are huge fans (unless we're talking Dr. Strange, and then I have no problem at all expressing the 3,642 reasons why he's my favorite Avenger). Even so, it will make a nice addition to the already Marvel-themed Iron Man Experience and Iron Man Tech Showcase in Tomorrowland.  

For now, you can catch me returning over and over again to Adventureland and Jungle Junction to visit the Voyagers and Moana to be charmed all over again. Let me know when you're going, we can meet up and pop over for some tropical drinks at the Disney Explorers Lodge to cool off later!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Theft hurts

Sad news today. My dear Shanghai Disney friends (let's face it, they're family) Adam and Jan Ostegard just lost a lifetime of irreplaceable original artwork along with almost everything else they own.

Adam is a Disney artist, who I hung out with frequently in Shanghai and text nearly on a daily basis now that he's in America. He's been in Los Angeles over the last year, and he and his wife were just getting ready to do a cross country move to Florida to start a new job there.

They'd finished packing up their U-Haul truck for the day with almost every single thing they owned and then went to bed, ready to get an early start after just putting a few more items in truck in the morning. That night, someone stole the whole truck from the street in front of their house. They live on a tiny, dead end street where two cars cannot pass at the same time, and there is zero through traffic, so the thieves knew what they were doing and specifically targeted their truck.

The truck was found abandoned by the police, the thieves had gone through each and every box and taken all Adam's 22 years of artwork for Disney, Universal, and others. They left behind a few family photos (thankfully) and even some high value non-art goods, which seems they had a specific goal in mind and knew what they were going to get when they took that truck. 

If you own anything at all from Shanghai Disneyland's Grand Opening, chances are Adam designed it. And if you collect Disney memorabilia and suddenly find a bunch of artwork or collectibles created by Adam Ostegard on the market, including the piece below, chances are it was stolen. Please reach out so we can do something about it. 

But in the meantime, can I ask for you to donate a small (or large) amount of money to help Adam and Jan? They lost nearly everything, not just the irreplaceable original art... I'm talking furniture and personal goods as well. 

I'm so angry about this. My husband and I were at Hong Kong Disneyland when we got the text from Adam saying what had happened. I shed some horrified tears and then looked around at the park we were standing in... everything around us had a Disney artist's fingerprints on it, in the DNA. Disney brings joy to thousands of people every day around the world. Let's bring some joy to a person who has been directly responsible for being part of that joy. Please share this, especially if you're part of any Disney groups. There are images of his stolen work in the Go Fund Me link. 

*Updated to add: If you come across any of Adam's suspected stolen art or collectibles for sale online or at a show, please send a link or other information directly to Adam at 

Thank you friends.

Sketching live for Shanghai Disneyland's first Pin Trading Fun Day.

Shanghai Disneyland's first Pin Trading Fun Day, where we all came out to support Adam who was creating art for the thousands of Disney guests who came to see him and his work.

Adam's last birthday, when my friends Jacob, Hollie, and I went to our closest Disney theme parks (Shanghai Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland) to take a photo with a character to send to Adam who was at the original Disneyland with his wife, Jan. Adam and Jan are wonderful people. Please share the Go Fund Me link!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Typhoon Season is here!

Last night my husband and I went for groceries and were greeted with this sign, taped to our building's lobby windows:

So here we are, officially in Typhoon Season 2018 for Hong Kong! Granted, a T1 is nothing to be worked up over (it's kind of a standby signal), but less than a year ago when we had just moved into this flat, we got a T8 and a T10 (the highest rating) in the same week. Our home on the 16th floor flooded (windows don't like rain that blows horizontally for hours on end) repeatedly while my husband was on a business trip in America. It was frightening in a way this girl who grew up in earthquake-prone California has never been frightened! When I see the yellow sign with a number, any number, boxed in red, that week of very wet, scary hell comes rushing back to my mind and I just want to curl in a ball somewhere very dry and cool without any wind or shaking buildings. 

The current storm heading our way is expected to slow down and fade away rather than intensify, so we're good for now. But don't you love the way the storm kind of did a little twirl there? Maybe it was doing the Hokey Pokey and it turned itself about... The name of this storm is Ewiniar, which sounds like it would be right at home in a JRR Tolkien novel. It actually comes from the name of a storm god from the island state of Chuuk in Micronesia. While the storms in America go in alphabetical order and swap from traditionally boy to girl names, the storms in Asia go in alphabetical order of the countries who submitted them, and they aren't even all names... some are ideas or things, like flowers or trees. 

We have a great app called My Observatory that tracks the Hong Kong weather for us and sends us alerts for everything you can think of, including fire danger, cold warnings, heavy rain, and yes - typhoons. The alerts at this exact moment are many... The first line with the green symbols and arrow, with the blue waves below is a special announcement for flooding. We got three inches of rain in an hour, and its causing flash flooding in certain parts of the New Territories (the area of Hong Kong attached to Mainland China). The yellow Thunderstorm warning is important, as there are many lightning strikes in Hong Kong, and when this warning is in place, swimming pools are closed and outdoor activities are cancelled. The Amber Rain warning is indicating that we are getting a certain amount of rapid rainfall, which in turn can cause flooding. The T1 is the Typhoon warning level. The second row starts with the storm tracking map (see the photo above for what that looks like when you click on it). The triangle with the exclamation point is any current warning, which right now was an alert to be on the lookout for flash flooding. And finally the TV is a link to any current news stories featuring the storm. 

It also gives helpful info like the current temperature, the forecast high and low temps, the wind speed and direction, and the relative humidity (currently at 96%). If you have the notifications turned on, it will send alerts when anything changes. 

But you know what else this means? It's the start of the season when Lucy Rocket is perpetually terrified. While fireworks and firecrackers do not concern her at all, thunder makes her whimper and cry, running all over the house, panting and shaking. Two nights ago we had thunder and lightning all night long, from midnight until 7:30 a.m. She woke everyone in the house up to share in her great discomfort. Michael and I took shifts sleeping and caring for her, and I shockingly had the very first morning of 2018 where I slept in past 7:00 a.m. because I was so completely exhausted. It's like having a newborn baby all over again. But a very mobile one who will not be calmed until the thunder stops. 

This is her this afternoon, trying to climb inside of me while giant booming thunder crashes around us. Yeah, I'm wearing Christmas jammies in June at 2:00 p.m. I work from home which makes this quite the perk! Hilariously, when I finally took my shower a bit later, she clawed at the shower door until I let her in. And then she stood there, attached to my ankles, water and shampoo and soap cascading down on her (sorry, no pic of that). This is a dog who absolutely hates baths and water (she is unaware that Poodles are a water breed, that their very name means Puddle...), so that gives you an idea of how much the thunder frightens her. Oooh boy, it's gonna be a long summer with this precious scaredy cat of a dog! 

Hope wherever you are today is dry and warm, not blazing hot and humid. Unless that's your thing... and if it is, may I cordially invite you to Hong Kong for the summer? Maybe you can dog sit while we go somewhere cooler? 

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