Monday, July 18, 2016


"Maybe we can be each other's soul mates...
... and then we can let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with." -- Charlotte

As longtime friends and readers of this blog know, I have a small but close-knit circle of people in my life that I have come to refer to as "best friends." To paraphrase Mindy Kaling, "Best friend is not a person; it's a tier." Anyway, most of these wonderful people unfortunately live nowhere near me. Heck, only one even lives in the same time zone! Thus, visits with these special people mean the world to me. And visits from my Erica, well... those are in a category all to themselves!

Erica hails from the Mile High city, although we met long ago in the other mile high city, Albuquerque. While most of my "best friends" are people I love because we are so much alike, Erica and I have grown close in our diversity. I like to say that she's the ying to my yang - sure, we have a lot of similarities, but our differences or quirks are nicely complemented by each other's. Needless to say, I miss her dearly. When the opportunity came up for her to visit, I quickly jumped at the chance!

Erica had only one request for her visit - she wanted for us to get the "best friend" tattoos we have talked about for years and years. Seriously. This isn't a joke. It has come up in conversation every time that Erica and I have vacationed together in the last 10 years. We originally just planned to get tattoos at the same time, but recent circumstances called for more! After committing to finally doing it, I called a good friend of mine to ask for the contact information for her tattoo guy. During that conversation, my friend asked if Erica would like to see the Walt Disney Studio Lot, and I said yes! (I don't want to name my friend for fear that others will ask her for similar access, but THANK YOU! You know who you are, and it was an amazingly generous gesture, my friend!) We have lots of pictures from that adventure, but I'll share them separately. 

After a nice visit on the Studio Lot, Erica and I hurried down to my friend's tattoo guy's parlor to get our tattoos. We looked at a TON of pictures for inspiration, but every one we found didn't feel quite "us." Some were too young; others too frilly. We finally found a trio of pictures for inspiration, and provided them to Jeff for him to design. The resulting tattoo was so friggin' cute! Erica's tattoo is in the foreground in the picture above, while mine is in the back. Jeff picked which tattoo should go on each of us, and we both got a kick out of how he picked. Erica's girl is very prim and proper... much like me. My girl is more silly and playful... much like her! We were thrilled with how these turned out!

After our tattoos were done, we headed to Universal to pick up our friend, Shika. (Shika got a fancy new job, so she couldn't join our earlier hijinks) Earlier in the week, someone had shared with me the news that a new New Mexican inspired food truck had started up in LA. We learned that the food truck was scheduled to be in Burbank that night, so we planned to find it and try it! Boy, was it worth it! Sopaipillas, green chile burgers, real sugar coke... it was like being home! We roamed the boutiques along Magnolia for a while before dropping Shika off and heading home.

When I asked Erica what she wanted to do while she was here, she had two suggestions: either visit an old, giant fig tree in Santa Barbara, or visit the old, giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Forest. Given the "ah" factor of the latter, I suggested we go to the Trail of 100 Giants. This place never gets old!

Being the awesome girls that we are, Erica and I invited my intern to join us. It was a perfect morning for a hike! Both were struck by the tremendous size of the trees, and the stillness of the forest. It was the busiest I have ever seen the park (we got one of the last parking spots), but you could still hear a pin drop when you ventured away from the main paths. The Trail has experienced a lot of trauma recently, and one of the trails was closed while we were there. To quote the Park Ranger, "Some of the old trees are dying and falling. Don't get on the closed trail. Those trees will squash you like a bug in seconds. Have a great time!" And despite the closed trails, we did have a great time!

Because we went to the park so early in the day, we got home with plenty of time to plan other adventures. First, we met with one of my closest local friends for "coffee" (read: coffee for me; tea for everyone else) at a local bookstore. Erica and I bought the sunglasses pictured above at Audrey's Boutique in Burbank the night before, so of course we had to take a selfie wearing them! Later in the evening, I took Erica to see my friend perform in a comedy show... at a morgue. Something fun to tell her friends back home, I'm sure! She's a big comedy fan like me, though, so we had a great time.

Like all of the best things, Erica's trip came to a quick end the following day. We took our time and had a lazy morning, then slowly made our way to LAX for her departure. The plan was for me to drop Erica off at her gate, then walk down two gates to pick up my niece who was arriving the same day. And that is what we did... 

About two hours after leaving LAX, however, I received a call from Erica stating that she missed her flight. I panicked - I wasn't sure how to help her or what to do. Luckily, the airline angels assisted her and were able to get her on another flight the next morning. Not wanting to leave her stranded, my niece and I headed back to LAX to pick her up. We grabbed burritos in Marina del Rey, and helped her find a hotel for the night. It was nice for the two of them to see each other and get caught up, so the missed flight was a blessing in disguise. Alas, it was getting late and we all needed to go to bed. We bid Erica adieu, and left her at a hotel near LAX.

I wrote this originally about a week after Erica left California, but wasn't sure when I would see her next. I'm super excited to report that I now know that I will be heading out east in her direction in September. Yay! I can't wait to see her again. 

Stay tuned for my other Disney post... soon!

Until next time...

--- Becks

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Everyday Magic

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious 
and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." -- Walt Disney

I cannot believe I have this guest pass in my possession. Yes friends... after years of showing visiting friends the adorable Walt Disney Studios from outside of the gates, I finally was invited inside! Just a week after Eugene's visit, a friend invited me to lunch at Walt Disney Studios! Now, y'all... I was excited enough to be invited to lunch, let alone at Walt Disney Studios! But to experience what got to experience that day was, well... just keep reading :)

We arrived early for lunch, and were told to just "hang out" until my friend could take her break. Having never been on the lot before, I took the opportunity to explore Legends Plaza on the north end of the lot. Legends Plaza is a large square anchored on one end with the Legends statue (featuring Mickey's arm holding a star-tipped wand on top of a scroll) and at the other with the Partners statue (featuring Mickey and Walt holding hands). Each of the columns surrounding the courtyard contains plaques honoring each of Disney's Legends, recognizing individuals who have had an extraordinary and lasting impact on the Disney empire. 

(Note in the above picture that the seven dwarves are featured prominently on the building in the background. These statues are HUGE, and very symbolic. At the time that "Snow White" was created, Disney Studios was losing money and was flirting with bankruptcy. They hoped and prayed that "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" would be successful... and it was! The film grossed over $8 million, and held the title of highest grossing motion picture until "Gone with the Wind." The dwarves today "hold up" the Team Disney building to symbolize the power of their first full feature animated film. You can read more fun facts about the dwarves here.)

Also featured on the plaza is a statue of Roy Disney with Minnie Mouse as pictured above. 
Love this!

After my friend was released for her lunch break, we made our way further into the lot to have lunch in the commissary. On the way, we passed the delightful Pluto's Corner - pretty much catty-corner to the commissary. Because I'm a nerd that researched the studio before visiting it, I knew this site well. The street sign pictured above is actually a prop from a pseudo-documentary called "The Reluctant Dragon." This adorable 1941 was produced by the studio as an entertaining way of showing off the studio and giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on there. The street sign above was created as a prop for that movie - the street names and locations are all real, but the signs aren't pointing towards the direction of where the locations are actually located. It's a great looking prop - so great that the studio decided to keep it up after filming. 

Such attention to detail! Notice the three paw prints near the hydrant -
it would seem our friend Pluto stopped to mark his corner!

Also near the commissary is one of the original buildings from the studio's former Hyperion Avenue studio location in Hollywood. The 1935 bungalow was selected as one of the buildings that Walt wanted to hang on to, so it was moved from Hollywood to Burbank when the studio lot was created between 1939-40. 

As interesting as the Hyperion Bungalow is, however, it is not the oldest building on the lot. On the other side of the studio lot is a small, unassuming building that houses Disney's Digital Studio Services. This building, built in 1937, is another of the original Hyperion buildings and is the oldest of them on the lot.

My friend had to leave us for a while to attend a meeting, so she dropped us off at her building to visit the Walt Disney Archives while we waited. This was SO COOL! Pictured above is one of the animator's desks, with Walt warmly greeting you to take a peek :)

Near the animator's desk is an original sketch of Steamboat Willie, as drawn by Walt Disney himself.

The "Little Man" project was also on display. These were so cool. The figures and busts of little men were created by engineers and architects to test form and motion. Some of these had tiny gears inside that allowed the figures to move their jaws and blink their eyes using tiny wires to control them. This project was the precursor to Disney's Animatronic marvels, the earliest of which you can see at the Tiki Room in Disneyland. There were so many other antiques, film props, and Walt Disney personal memorabilia on display in this room. I took a ton of pics, but in the interest of brevity, I'm not posting all that here. You'll have to take my word for it!

My favorite moment, however, came as a complete surprise. As we were leaving the archives, one of the cast members allowed us to hold and photograph one of Walt's many Oscars! I never thought I'd be holding an Oscar in my lifetime, friends... let alone Walt Disney's. Did you know Walt Disney is one of the most, if not THE most, winning artists/entertainers in Oscar history? He personally won 32 of these statues, and accepted several more under the studio name. I spent a good 5 minutes with this Oscar. It was seriously cool. 

Outside of the archives is one of my favorite pieces of animation history - the multiplane camera created and used for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." This picture doesn't do the camera justice - this thing is gigantic! This invention was revolutionary for animation as it allowed animators to capture depth in a 2D drawing. While not actually multidimensional, the camera did allow animators to capture different layers of the scene at different speeds. This was possible by moving things closer and further from the camera. The camera was housed at the top of the device, with as many as seven planes set up beneath it. 

After our archive tour, my friend gave me a quick tour of the studio's Animation and Ink & Paint buildings. Did you know that a series of tunnels connected these, and other, buildings on the studio lot? Me either! These were apparently created to allow employees to move freely between the buildings in inclement weather. I know what you're thinking... it never rains in LA. But keep in mind that early animation was all done by hand. Each cell was hand drawn and hand painted, and these were delivered from the ink & paint building to the animation building one at a time to keep them in pristine condition. Rain or other weather would have ruined these cells, and stopping production for weather would have been costly. The tunnels were very interesting, but very creepy. I can't imagine being down there by myself or after-hours. 

We spent the rest of our visit touring the actual stages and studios on the lots. In the interest of not making this even longer, I'm going to hold off on posting those pictures for now. I took better pictures of same when I went back to the lot just a month later, so I'll post about those then. (Yes, I got to go back. Squee!) In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at the Walt Disney Studios! I am so immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this place! I'm a blessed girl to have such great friends take me on such amazing adventures!

Until next time...

... Becks