A few months ago, I started ruminating about what I might do for a Christmas card illustration this year. Just as I do when brainstorming any creative project, I kept my eyes open wherever I went. You never know when you might come across something that might inspire some ideas, things that might cause you to ponder "What if...?".
Hanging in my living room for several years is a piece of shadowbox artwork that I treasure. I bought it from the Disneyana store on Main Street USA at Disneyland. It's by Dave Avanzino and for years his work has been featured at the park, cleverly crafting these framed words and messages from iconic elements inspired by things Disney and Disneyland.
While admiring one of Avanzino's latest pieces on a recent visit to the Disneyana store, the notion came to me to adopt his brilliant idea for my holiday art. Soon after, I started building my word collage. It was going very well. And this was back in October. So on top of the phrase art looking good, I also got excited that I might actually get this year's art done WAY early!
I wanted to highlight several noteworthy events from the past year in my design.
Taking Avanzino's cue, I spelled out my holiday message with letters lifted from visual elements related to those events.
While I was pretty happy with this part, I wasn't with the background. I was also hoping to do something even more creative than just delivering a plainly printed card. So I ended up taking a break on it, hoping that coming back to it in a few days would give me fresh eyes on my project. Those "few days" ended up lasting for over a month as I had a trip to Florida coming up, Thanksgiving weekend, freelance work and other distractions.
But when I finally came back to it in mid-December, it took me just a few hours to not only design a background but also design the rest of the actual Christmas card, which became another pop-up design. At the end of this blog is the final result.
But leading up to that, I've provided explanations for what each of the characterized letters represents from moments of my past year with some extra photos and links if you want to learn more.
M from "Musical"
On May 19, my team, "Naboombu All-Stars", won First Place in MousePlanet's latest scavenger hunt game, MouseAdventure Musical, which took place at the Disneyland Resort. It was also our second time earning the top spot. You can read all about this event in MousePlanet.com's Recap. And my history playing MouseAdventure is summarized in this blog.
A backwards "3" from the Club 33 logo
On June 23, through the generosity of a friend, we later celebrated our win with a celebratory lunch at Disneyland's VIP restaurant Club 33. My pictures from Club 33 are posted on Flickr.
R from "Treasures"
On February 9, my Naboombu All-Star friends and I traveled to Ojai to tour the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit on display at the Ronald Reagan Library. I enjoyed both the Disney exhibit and the Reagan tour. My pictures from the visit are also posted on Flickr.
R from "Ordinary"
Running September 6 through September 29 was a heart-warming production of the musical "Ordinary Days". My friends produced, staged, directed and performed in it to rave reviews, among them from The Hollywood Reporter, NoHoArtsDistrict.com and The Tolucan Times. I was surprised and honored to be asked to design their set. Below are two concept drawings I produced followed by a shot of how the final set turned out.
Y from "Willy"
Running August 3 through August 17 was Torrance Theatre Company's summer musical production of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka. And in it, I had the good fortune and fun to play reporter Phineous Trout. Below are shots from the production. And if you hadn't read it before, don't miss my blog about the pop-up Golden Ticket cards I designed and produced for the cast and crew.
C from "Capsule" in the logo I designed
On February 23, before earning our February MouseAdventure win, the Naboombu All-Stars created our first of three installments of our home-grown scavenger game for the year. Questacular - Time Capsule: 1973 is the quest we hosted for our friends, giving them another chance to get together and hate us and/or love us some more as they scavenged for clues and answers all afternoon and evening throughout Disneyland.
The other two quests we hosted were Summer Questacular: The Quest for the Truth played at Disney California Adventure and Questmas Cards back at Disneyland.
H from "Hollywood"
On March 26, I accomplished what most everyone who comes to Los Angeles wants to do someday. After 18 years living in LA, I finally hiked up to the Hollywood sign! I wrote about my adventure in a blog.
r from "Travelling" in the logo I designed
On the weekend of April 27-28, my Relay for Life team, Travelling Turtles/Friends of the Arts, participated in our fifth consecutive weekend walk to raise donations for and awareness of the American Cancer Society. And our team sported tee-shirts generously donated by Embroid Me with the artwork I produced. We'll be involved once again together in 2014, our sixth year together as a team.
I from "Iron"
On May 2, I joined my geek buddies and former toy company co-workers for one of several trips to the theatres this year. On this day, it was to watch "Iron Man 3" in IMAX 3D at Rave Motion Pictures.
S from the new Superman logo
On June 14, my geek buddies watched "Man of Steel" together in IMAX 3D at the decent screening time of 8pm on opening night again at Rave Motion Pictures.
T from "Thor"
On November 12, we headed to ArcLight Cinemas to watch "Thor: The Dark World" in 3D. (If you didn't already know, we love comic book super-heroes.)
M from "Men"
Running March 1 through March 30 was Torrance Theatre Company's production of "12 Angry Men" where I played Juror 6. Below is banner art I designed to promote our show, using a photo by Brad LaVerne.
A from "Castle"
I just love this show!
s from "Disney"
I hadn't been back to visit Walt Disney World in fifteen years. But MousePlanet also hosts MouseAdventures over there. And after playing together at Disneyland for a couple of years, my Naboombu All-Stars friends made sure we played in at least one of them over there! So off to Florida we went from November 13 to November 18, to play World Explorers V over that weekend. No other crazy way to visit all four parks for essentially the first time than while playing a timed scavenger hunt!! On this very first try playing there, we proudly placed 7th out of 39 teams. Here's the recap to read all about the quests we played and how we had to get our answers. And with a hundred less teams playing there than MouseAdventure at Disneyland, we also managed to get featured in a couple of candid shots in the recap.
At the end of Game Day #1, each team was given a blank Vinylmation Mickey and asked to decorate it and bring it with us at check in the next morning. That's when we learned that in the middle of Game Day #2, our goal was to travel throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort and take pictures of ourselves with it at as many locations specified on a provided list as we could reach within four hours. Traveling by monorail, tram, boat and in the last half hour, even running, we reached 19 spots out of 28. Here's a photo collage I layed out of all the locations we reached.
Of course, these weren't the only best and memorable moments from my year. There were others. These were just the ones that just found their way into this design. For each and every moment of fun, challenge and good fortune that has come my way, I am truly grateful.
And Happy New Year!
I hope you all enjoyed just as memorable and wonderful a year with your family and friends too!
Added December 27, 2013:
Here's how the pop-up snail mail version turned out.
George Lazenby (in plaid)
Remember my last blog about hiking to the Hollywood Sign? No, well go read it!
For the rest of you, I headed back to the same area yesterday. I had a ticket to watch On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the third film in the Alex Theatre's five-week event series "James Bond 007 50th Anniversary" which featured an appearance by that film's Bond, George Lazenby. The trail leading to The Batcave is on the way to the Alex Theatre in Glendale. And since my New Year's Eve mission this month was to "Visit the Batcave", I did just that!
The Batcave I'm talking about is the actual shooting location used in the 1960's Batman TV series starting Adam West and Burt Ward. It's located in an area just east of Hollywood called Bronson Canyon. I discovered this area last month while researching ways to get to visit the Hollywood Sign, my March NYE mission.
Now I've been a Batman fan for practically all my life, through both comic books and the 60's TV series. Watching it as a little boy, the infamous camp humor of the show was nowhere to be found. Instead, all I found were the brightest colors of the Dynamic Duo fighting against the forces of evil. Caped Crusaders to the rescue!!
So when I discovered where the actual Batcave was, where they shot the scenes of the George Barris-designed Batmobile roaring out of a secluded cave that was supposedly outside Wayne Manor, I was more than thrilled to check the place out for myself.
So nearly a month after I was here, I was back again! Back to the Camp Hollywoodland sign in Bronson Canyon to trek up the other pathway leading away from the Hollywood Sign and onto the bygone lair of Batman's secret underground headquarters.
Viewing the trail on Google maps, it was certainly a much shorter hike than the hike up to the Hollywood Sign. But I was surprised by how much shorter. It's about a ten minute walk from where I parked. Just up a curvy hill and you're there.
Me and The Batcave
I'll be honest. The entire moment was a little anti-climactic, not the least of which was due in part to the fact that there were a lot of cars parked in the area! Apparently, I showed up on a day when a music video was gonna be shot here. Also, it looked different than how I remembered it. I'd been told by a friend who'd been there that it'd be different, but it's a lot more striking to actually be there and see the difference.
I asked a nearby security guard if it was okay to roam through the area, and he said it was fine since they hadn't started shooting yet. I walked to the cave, walked through the cave, found more set ups for filming, and was pleasantly surprised to find a beautifully framed view of the Hollywood Sign from the other side of the cave. There's a road that circles around that leads you back to the front of the cave and that was the end of my tour.
I brought with me a small die-cast model of the 60's Batmobile and a DVD movie titled "Return to the Batcave". I had hoped to showcase them in the foreground of a shot of the Batcave somehow. But there were no rocks or low hills in front of the cave that I could use as a stand to put them on, the ground here being very level and plain. Plus there was production people walking around and the winds today were really gusty, so the notion went away fairly quickly.
But I was glad I got here in the afternoon, with the sun was behind me and flooding The Batcave area with a lot of natural light. I'm sure I got better shots at this time than if I'd decided to avoid freeway traffic and get here in the morning.
So that's my short visit to The Batcave. All told, I was there for probably just over a half hour. Nothing like my hours-long trek to the Sign. It was a productive little trip. And with some Adam West Batman action figures coming out this summer that might inspire better ideas for some pictures, methinks I'll be back...TO THE BATCAVE!
You can see the rest of my Batcave photos at my Flickr site.
This past New Year's Eve, my sister and brother-in-law threw a small party to ring in the new year. It was a PJ party, and while I didn't think it would turn out this way for myself, I ended up crashing the night on their couch. The party officially ended when the pizzas arrived for lunch the next day.
It was a fun evening, with plenty of food, drinks and playing board games. Then, at some point, my sister gave everyone a jar with our names on them and 12 slips of paper inside each one. Then, she told us to think of 12 things to accomplish during 2013 and write them down on the slips of paper. Then each month during the year, we would have to pull one out to do.
Three months later, I've actually done good and accomplished three of my "resolutions". In January, I went to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, my first time ever. The next month, I visited the Ronald Reagan Library, a place I'd never been to before, where they were hosting an exhibit I wanted to see, Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.
This month, the card I pulled read "Visit the Hollywood Sign". March has been a busy month for me, performing every weekend as one of the "12 Angry Men" for the Torrance Theatre Company and also fortunately getting some steady freelance work during the weekdays. But this last week of the month, I finally got a free day - and some sunny weather to boot - yesterday to check off my third resolution of the year.
Now again, here was another something-I-never-did-before thing, so the night before I hit the internet to look for some tips. Hollywood Sign Trip was the first site I looked through, and I was grateful for the photo-by-photo guide of the trail they recommended you take to reach the sign.
I looked for other sites and found an article on LAist which offered three hiking trails up to the sign, rating them by physical challenge from easiest to more difficult. As soon as I saw two words in the second suggestion, I knew immediately that had to be the one I'd take.
Route 2: Rated PG
I hit the freeway a little after 10am for the Brush Canyon Trail. It took me less than an hour to get there. I drove up Canyon Drive through a quiet neighborhood and at the end of the street, it reached a park. I drove through the park as far down as I could and parked in the last parking lot, near this sign.
After taking advantage of the Gump (Renaissance Faire-speak for porta potty) there were one of two trails to take. I took the one at the end of the road that headed in the direction of the Hollywood Sign that I'd seen on Google Maps rather than the one that seemed to head down to where the Batcave would be.
In the map above, I've traced out the path I took on what ended up becoming a 3 1/2 hour hike, and I never even bothered to find out how long the trail was. And as I write this, I still haven't. Going in, I just had an idea of the hike. But now that I've traveled it, I recognize pretty well the routes I took.
And when I say "hike", OMG it was a hike! I don't hike regularly, and while on the trail, I discovered that reading the words "hike" and "trail" didn't really sink in until I was actually hiking on this trail.
I left the park around 11:15a and the start of the trail has a steady uphill grade that lasted for about half the distance of the journey, weaving and snaking around the sides of the canyon. All the way up as I maintained an internal dialogue of whining and moping, I kept wondering if I'd make it or if maybe someone would come around a hill and see my body lying prone on the trail, unable to take one more step under the noontime sun! But I persisted, thinking "slow and steady" and took my time and resting occasionally. And with my ONE SINGLE BOTTLE OF GATORADE as my only nutrient on this excursion, I also thought I was a complete idiot!
But this idiot had a mission, and after reaching the halfway point, the trail got noticeably easier for me. A sense of accomplishment renewed my spirit and I got to enjoy the hike a lot more. Horse packs shared the trail with me and the many other hikers this day. And can you believe some of the families were also pushing strollers on the trail!?
As I mentioned the trail wrapped around the rolling hills of the canyon, and often as I rounded a hill I could see the Hollywood Sign looking just a little bit larger than the last time I saw it. Finally, I reached paved road. It would be a sign that I'd reached the last part of the trail on my journey to reach...
The trail dead ends at the edge of a neighborhood. To be honest, I was hoping the trail led closer to the sign. But by this point, I was glad to say "mission accomplished".
Until, on my way back, I looked up at the sign again and was able to make out tiny people on the hilltop above and behind the sign. They were taking pictures from there. From my research, I knew folks were able to reach that backside of the sign too, and thinking about the trail I took up here, I remembered a split in the trail, where a second trail headed up the mountain, probably up and around the back side of the hill that the sign sits on.
By this time, I had hiked about two hours. It was close to 1pm, I had half a bottle of Gatorade with me standing under a hazy sunny sky. I was a tired idiot. But this idiot knew his mission wasn't fully accomplished. So as I backtracked on the trail and reached that fork, I chose the trail not previously traveled and continue on up...
...until finally reaching the top and viewing not only the back of the Hollywood Sign but also an amazing view of Los Angeles county. If it weren't so hazy, I know I'd've see the Pacific Ocean as well.
With just days left in the month to accomplish this latest resolution and too many things already scheduled on a number of those days, today's adventure was pretty much an impulse decision. It started out exciting, became torturous when the hike began, but ultimately I accomplished a lot today and felt good about the whole thing. I also realized this put a pretty strong dent into catching up on a lot of exercising these past three months that I haven't done, so there's that too.
On my way back down the the mountain, I found the first half easy. But there was a patch of uphill grade I ran into just before the midway point that threatened to strangle the back of my left thigh into a tight, painful cramp. So I sat down and rested a bit before moving on. Then, and I can't believe this, I found myself hiking further and further up hill. I soon realized I'd missed another split in the trail and was on a hiking path heading for the Griffith Observatory, way further than where my car was parked!
I quickly double backed and found the right trail to be on. And the rest of the trail was literally down hill. But I found it still wasn't as easy an effort heading back to my car as I'd hoped. The grade was still noticeably steep, so I had to put some effort into my legs walking down the steep grade. And because of that, you know that feeling you get that the trip going home is always quicker than the trip heading to your destination? Didn't happen for me here. It was long trek back.
But I made it safe and sound back to the park and to my car. My legs, feet and body were pretty spent, and with it now approaching 3pm, I figured it was time to finally get some food and then hit the freeway earlier than later and avoid getting stuck in LA traffic.
But I will be back to this park. There's still a need to visit the Batcave!
To see more pictures from my hike, they're posted on Flickr.
Thanks for reading!
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!