Here’s Why Cars 3 is Going to be Epic

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Disney and Pixar just dropped the trailer for Cars 3 and it. Looks. Awesome!

Admittedly Cars was an honest effort. Even though we personally loved it, we know it’s not high up on people’s Pixar-meters. But it still stands high above non-Pixar animated fare.
Cars 2 was. Well. It just was, unfortunately. We’re going to be nice and leave it at that. If you haven’t seen it, let’s just say the summer Cars 2 was released was worse than the year Pixar didn’t give us a movie.
Then the internet broke into a fit of rage when Pixar announced they were releasing a third installment to the lackluster franchise.
THEN the internet broke into a morbid party when Pixar showed us that unforgettable teaser where Lightning McQueen bit it on the race track.
Darker!
Grittier!
Pixar-ier!
If anything, it was the greatest marketing campaign since Apple’s Macintosh announcementduring the 1984 Super Bowl.
CLICK HERE to see why I’m so excited about Cars 3!

Why Disney is Better Now Than When We Were Kids

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Walt Disney Pictures, in the 90’s, presented us with unforgettable films such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc. These formidable and successful years for the Walt Disney Co. are also known as Disney’s renaissance years, following many, many years of mediocrity just barely creeping out of the once-vibrant studio.

But the century turned, and the Y2K scare was debunked as a myth. Not so much. The mythical bug seemed to make its home inside the mouse’s kingdom, and sucked all the magic and life off of the studio’s story boards. Thus the studio tried to convince its well-earned masses that movies like Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Home on the Range were just as worthy to be included on the shelf with such greats as Tarzan and Hercules.

Not to mention the overwhelming amount of straight-to-video sequels, in an attempt to remind fans and audiences of the glory days. (A book I would highly recommend on this topic and the reason behind Disney’s temporary downfall is Disney War by James B. Stewart.)

But as great as Disney was back in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’90s, I believe it has never been as on target with their films as they have been for the last several years (or at least since Robert Iger took over as chairman and chief executive officer, and placed Pixar’s John Lasseter as chief creative officer). You see, Disney’s mantra, since Uncle Walt himself breathed life into his creations, had always been to follow your dreams, and you can be anything you want to be. All you have to do is wish on a star, or follow your heart, or sing a merry tune. Follow these three easy steps, and all will be well with your life.

Perhaps due to influences from Pixar Studios, Disney has recently taken up another message to feed its impressionable audiences. And in a most critical time in our self-serving, egotistical, lazy history, to boot.

Nearly everywhere a child turns, he’s bombarded with messages of self-indulgence, take without any give, you’re number 1 for no reason at all… but it seems to me that Disney has been taking a more realistic turn in its messages. Somewhere beneath the storyline of magical princesses and arcade room battles, the messages of Disney have turned from the deflating cushion of fantasy to the hard truths of reality.

I haven’t seen Planes, nor do I know what sort of message the upcoming  Frozen will turn out. But if you look at Disney’s recent films, you’ll see that they are promoting hard work, above wishing on a star (The Princess and the Frog), and there are some things about your life you just can’t change and you must learnt to live with (Wreck-it-Ralph). 

Even the zany Meet the Robinsons, the first non-Pixar movie Lasseter produced, was filled with the hard-hitting message that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And some mysteries are meant to remain just that – mysteries for us to never know. (This film happens to be a favorite in our house because it surrounds the theme of adoption in a very appropriate, and sombre way, despite the fifty minutes of pure silliness in the middle of the movie.)

Pixar, also, has taken a bold turn in their recent films as well, daring to teach kids lessons that no other animated film has had the guts to do (just watch Monsters University and you’ll see what I mean).

Not everything that comes from Disney is great, but the great things that do come from them far surpass any other entertainment medium out there (with the exception of Pixar films, The Lord of the Rings movies, and maaaaybe Harry Potter – I’m a latecomer to that franchise and brand new convert). But one thing’s for sure: When we finally do get a kid, I’ll have no shame in indoctrinating him (or her) with the latest Disney has to offer.

Image Credit

An Heritage; an Indian Orphanage

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My wife and her sister have a blog of which I am extremely proud of. My sister-in-law posted this yesterday about visiting the orphanage their grandpa started in India. She and her husband are missionaries there, and had the privilege of visiting the sacred site just less than a month before they come back home to the States.

I think every Christian dreams of living a life where we go around rescuing abandoned children off the streets and giving them food, shelter, and a promising future. I am proud and honored to say that my father-in-law’s father did just that.

Here is the post from my wife and her sister’s blog, Flatstolofts:

Before WWII, our Grandpa spent 10 years working at a girls orphanage in India. We grew up with stories of them going out at night and picking up the abandoned girls that were left by the road. My favorite picture of him is when he is holding a cobra he killed – and it was as tall as him. Coming back to the States during WWII, we heard stories of them not being allowed to use any lights on the ship at night out of fear of being spotted by German U-boats.

Click here to read the rest (Also, be sure to search the site for pictures of our new puppy!)

From Barren to Blessed

Here on AdoptingJames we talk a lot about pop culture, faith, and writing. One institution we like to highlight  – as suggested by the name of the blog – is adoption.

Meet Caroline. She is a woman of God who struggled for many years with the despair of infertility. She struggled so much so that she chose to let her pain come between her and God, as so many of us do. Eleven years ago she decided to take her aunt up on her invitation to come to church, and she still attends to this day, being drawn closer and closer to her loving Father.

In 2006 Caroline and her husband decided to become Foster parents and God was gracious to give them their first placement the day they became licensed. They worked closely with the child’s mother who could not keep him, and they officially adopted him to be their son when he was 20 months old. They received their daughter, who had been abandoned, at seven weeks old. They adopted her when she was just sixteen months old.

They are currently no longer fostering, but are working in child welfare, and their passion for the children is immense. I encourage you to read their story. I have provided two links for you to check out. Caroline is currently writing a book about her life.

Fostering His Will

Around the Fire

Summer Books for Your Kids (Part 1)

I consider myself a treasure-hunter. Part of that means storing up treasures for my kids to inherit in the future. This is one of the reasons why I watch so many animated films and read children’s books on occasion. Buried somewhere under all the Harry Potter and Captain Underpants influenza is a Tuck Everlasting , or a Charlotte’s Web. Stories that last for more than the 192 pages printed within the covers. Stories that stick with you forever in some way or another …are treasures. Here are some finds I have come across over the years that you can feel safe having your kids read, or that you can read to them, no matter how young they are.

Special Note: I have listed the following books on the right of this page. If you purchase any through those links you’d be supporting our sponsor and helping us reach our goal with adopting James.

101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Sarabeth and I read this a few years back and still consider it one of the best fictions we’ve come across. This book is a milestone of children’s literature. It is just as engaging for adults as it is for kids. Talking dogs handling real-life problems. It’s a great ride, even if you’ve seen the old movies. There are still plenty of surprises to keep you and your kids on the edge of your seat.

 

 

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I’ve never had so much fun giving my brain a workout. This is a highly imaginative book for kids who might be turned off by the girl heroine in Alice in Wonderland. If memory serves correctly, it was the first full-length novel I ever read, and I liked it so much I returned to it as an adult, and had just as much fun. And yes, to those of you wondering, this is the book they rave about in the show Parks and Recreation.

 

 

Peter and the Starcatchers trilogy by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry

Ever wonder how Peter Pan became Peter Pan? Find out in this adventure book loaded with short chapters and lots of pictures. This would make a good movie. There are four in the series, but I’d say the first and second are the two worth reading. And no, the author is not related to J.M. Barrie.

 

 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Talk about pure gold. While your boys are immersed in Neverland adventures, pull out this classic treasure for your girls. Even as an adult I find these books to be among some of the greatest children’s literature of our day. It’s yet another book about an orphan who is reluctantly taken in by the Cuthberts, and how she changes their lives and the world of Avonlea for the better.

 

Check back next week for more books you and your kids will enjoy. Tomorrow: Are your eyes fixed on Heaven?

Summer Movies

I have a few weird habits concerning my movie collection. First, I alphabetize my DVDs. I’m sure that’s one of those things that’s weird, but common. Second, I categorize them into Drama, Action/adventure, Comedy, and animated in four different cabinets throughout our loft (and of course a special shelf that exclusively displays my Pixar movies). Now, that’s getting a little weirder. But wait – there’s more! The weirdest thing I do is watch my movies seasonally. Most people have regular movies, and Christmas movies. I divide mine up into Christmas, winter, spring, and fall movies. Quirky, I know. I just can’t watch White Fang when it’s 98 degrees out, you know?

So with that said, I’ve just pulled out all of my Summer movies that we’ll be watching in the next few months and I realized that most of them have a recurring theme (no, this was not intentional). Most people have common themes that run through their DVD and book collections. For some, their themes might be romance, and finding your true love (Never Been Kissed, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bridgett Jones’s Diary). For others it might be the idea that death and blood and gore are glorified elements (Halloween, Freddy, Walking Dead). For many, the theme is mindless (and sometimes funny) 90-minute breaks from reality (Dumb and Dumber, Anchorman, Monty Python).

The theme for our Summer movie lineup, I discovered, is redemption. Bellow are films I highly recommend if you’re browsing through Netflix and just need to be inspired to get off your chair and do something meaningful for others and your family. Feel free to recommend some of your own. Enjoy!

The Last Samurai

I remember years ago when I saw the poster for this movie hanging up in the hallway of the movie theater, I thought instantly, “That has got to be a joke.” Tom Cruise as a Samurai warrior… really? But this film wows me the more times I see it. Though my wife and I quibble over the validity of this film’s origins, it is a wonderful reminder that no no matter how far we’ve sunk, how far we’ve fallen, or whatever we’ve done, there is always a reason to redeem yourself and a chance to start your life anew.

The Majestic

Say what you will about Jim Carrey, but he really does pull himself together for this one. It’s a perfect film to celebrate 4th of July or Memorial Day. This film is a testament to why we should stand up for what we believe in and not be so pacifistic as many of us have become. It reminds us that our freedom came at a very high cost and that there is shame in shrugging it off as no big deal. Our country was worth the fight, and if we agree, we will show a little more respect toward it.

Sweet Home Alabama

I’m not much into romantic comedies at all, and this movie is hardly a funny, though it is lighthearted. I appreciate this movie so much because it defends the honor and integrity of marriage. The main characters have been trying for a divorce for many years, but something in them just won’t let them go through with it, even if it means ditching the new boyfriend. Marriages are worth fighting for, and this movie shows that it’s not easy, but the rewards can be great.

Cinderella Man

Whenever you put Russell Crow and Ron Howard together, you’re in for a great time. Not great time as in, escapism. But more like, getting to see a movie for what, I believe, movies are meant to be made for – documenting the lives of otherwise overlooked, great personalities in our world’s history. Cinderella Man is a fine film that does just that. Our country is headed toward hard times, and this is a great film for fathers and husbands to see to give them a picture of how a real man handles difficult times.

The Sandlot

This is an oldie, but very much a goodie. And yes, the 4th of July scene with the fireworks makes me cry every time. With all this talk about putting a stop to bullying these days, this is a great film for kids to watch as it shows that we can’t expect to change society to accommodate our insecurities, but we must be willing to adapt to some surroundings if we want to be accepted into a group. Show ’em what you’re made of and you’ll earn their respect.

Other redemptive movies: Finding Neverland, A League of Their Own, A Beautiful Mind, Finding Nemo, Cars

Image credits: Last Samurai, The Majestic, Sweet Home Alabama, Cinderella Man, The Sandlot

Don’t Fear the Children

So one thing you’ll quickly learn about me is that I’m a huge Pixar/Disney fan. I’ve been watching Monsters Inc. in segments this past week and I can’t help but think that we’re just as blind and ignorant as the monsters in the movie.

In case you haven’t seen it, the idea is that the monsters in Monstropolis get their electrical energy by kids’ screams. The way they get those is by portable doors that are brought to the monsters which leads into every child’s closet. The monsters then come out of the closet and scare kids, capturing their screams, thus supplying energy to Monstropolis. However, the monsters have been brainwashed into thinking that the children are dangerous and even deadly. So what is a monster’s greatest fear? Children!

But we’re not much brighter. We fear man. We clamor for man’s approval and stop at nothing to gain the respect of the masses. And if we’re honest with ourselves, on our worst days, we’d rather be judged by God than by our bosses. This is the wrong way of living. Jesus is very clear in Matthew 10:28: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.”

We’re so anxious to please others and remain certain not to offend ignorant people with the Gospel, but we’d much rather offend the One who commanded us to do just that! Think about it. There are plenty of reasons why we don’t witness the way we ought. Laziness and carelessness may be at the top of the list, but fear is most certainly right up there. Why won’t you witness to your boss? Because you’re afraid of getting fired. Why won’t you witness to your neighbor? Because you’re afraid of making future front yard conversations terse and awkward.

Remember. These people who do not know the Gospel are as harmless as a child in Monster Land. You have the Holy Spirit fighting with you, and enabling you to carry on the task. And don’t loose sight of who the real enemy is: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Don’t be like the monsters who are scared of little children. Know who your real enemy is and realize the potential – through Christ – they’re keeping you from. And if you haven’t seen Monsters Inc., you might want to check it out before the Prequel comes out in the next year or so. It’ll be big.