Author: Angie Harris

Professional social influencer attacking adventures, searching for amazing food and finding new friends.  Home in Branson, MO or exploring Disney, I am searching for deals, finding new experiences and sharing stories along the way.

Onward: A Disney Movie Review

Onward is a no go for me!

First of all, I love movies, and I love Disney, but this time, I am a ‘NO’ vote.  Let me explain why I feel this way about Onward.

Here is the real question.  Should you go to the movies to see Onward? Wait until it comes out on DVD? See it at home? Or just avoid it altogether?  To help you make this decision, I am going to spoil the storyline.  I feel like it is essential before you take your child to see it that you have a larger picture. 

Dad Passed Away

Dealing with death is hard for adults and even more so for small children.  My father died when I was 12, and I can tell you that the grief and understanding come in waves as you age.  I’m not sure sitting in a movie theater is the best place to deal with a child’s grief and pain.  

The movie opens with Dad already gone.  You do not see him die, but as the movie progresses, you learn that the dad died of an illness. 

Youngest Son, Ian

Ian is the awkward, anxiety-riddled teenager that has been raised by a single mother and an older brother.  He never met his father because he died before Ian was born.  He makes lists of his deepest desires, which include having a heart-to-heart talk with his dad.

Oldest Son, Barley

Barley still lives at home as an over-weight, game playing, rule-breaking, undesirable.  His biggest regret in life is that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his dad.  He shares the story of being scared when his dad was hooked up to tubes and machines and, as a young child, could not force himself to go into the room to say goodbye.

Onward Review Quote

New Mushroomton

The setting is a ‘modern’ town filled with dragons, elves, and memories of magic.  Toss in a nod to Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, and fantasy adventures, and this should’ve been a fun experience. 

There were tons of amazing characters introduced throughout Onward, but they are not developed and leave you wondering to the point of being annoyed.  They used both feet and jumped straight into the emotional trauma of death but did only wrapped it up for one character.  

The two brothers create this awesome 24 hour adventure with the quest of bringing back their dad so that Ian could meet him for the first time, and Barley could apologize for not saying goodbye.  Unfortunately, Barley got a few seconds with dad while Ian saw him from a distance through a hole in a rock.

There are many times in their quest where the situations are high stress.  One specific scene is where Ian steps out over a gorge on an invisible bridge.  Everyone in my group said they physically responded to that scene with nausea, wiggly knees, and a rapid heart rate.  It was realistically shocking.  

My mind went to small children throughout this entire movie—those dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress.  Depending on the child, I would proceed with caution. 

In the End

Ian realizes that his older brother was his dad, and his life has been blessed. He no longer has anxiety and moves on with his life.  Barley has proven himself to be an asset to his family and no longer feels like the loser he was originally portrayed to be.

There are many variables to consider when attending this movie.  Has your child lost a parent and what was the circumstance of the death? What is the current relationship your children have with their siblings following the death?  Maybe your child has not lost a parent but has the fear of losing a parent?  Overall, this is emotional and you need to be prepared to deal with those emotions.

The audience, the mother, and the youngest son Ian, never get to communicate with the father.  We are left with the only closure being that Barley got to say he was sorry and hug the dad.  I get the meaning, but after over an hour of swimming in grief, it was not enough closure.

If you decide to go watch Onward, take the tissues.

You can watch the trailer for Onward here.

A Branson Christmas: Do you feel what I feel?

As adults, it’s often hard to compete with the Christmas memories of our childhood.  Growing up in Van Buren, Arkansas, several traditions tripped my excitement meter to the bursting level.  Some of those things included the day the city started putting decorations up on the street lamps in downtown, the day we drew names for the gift exchange in our classroom and the day we saw the three Wise Men decked out in blue lights walking against the Arkansas River.  Mix those few traditions with the smells of mom baking pies, the special scheduled events, surrounded by family, and my young heart was thrilled.  

At 30 years old, I found a new home in Branson, MO.  There are many things I remember about the first time I saw an Ozark Mountain Christmas, but most of all, I remember how I felt.  That was nearly half my life ago, but every November 1st, I am reminded about the first time I felt a Branson Christmas.

In 1948 with a population of just over 1300 people and very few phone lines in town, the city of Branson held its first-ever Adoration Parade.  Different organizations, clubs, and churches in the community came together, built floats out of tissue paper and crepe paper, and walked through downtown in celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. The decision was that for this parade, no one person or business would be highlighted but that every float would focus on celebrating Jesus Christ.  There’s no way that a small group of citizens could’ve predicted the feeling they would create and how it would spread over five generations and throughout the entire city.  

The population of Branson is just now over 10k, and it was 1996 before every home was able to get a private phone line.  It’s amazing that such a small group of people create such a colossal holiday transformation.  What used to be a weekend-only event for four weeks is now all week for nine weeks.   Each year Christmas begins on November 1 and runs through December 31.  The buildings decorate inside and out, the music switches to holiday medleys, the costumes change, and you can feel Christmas everywhere you go.  The individual businesses create their version of decorations and theming, but it all seems to end up with a holiday emotion that you want to bottle up and take home.

Several places in town still embrace Christmas spirit to another level.

The 28 foot Adoration Nativity sits on top of Mount Branson just above the Branson Landing and can be seen from most of downtown.  In February of 2017, a devastating tornado roared through the little town damaging the nativity.  The community pulled together to replace this iconic piece, and it never missed a season.  Each year on the first Sunday in December, it is lit to kick off the Adoration parade and sits as a reminder to keep Christ as the center of our celebrations.

Silver Dollar City presents a precious Christmas moment as they transform their train ride.  The steam locomotive is decked out in holiday lights filled with passengers singing carols while the train chugs through the dark hills.   Surrounded by woods in the darkest part of the hills, the train comes to a complete stop and turns off its lights.  A single spotlight shines on a grandparent sitting in a rocking chair.  No explanation offered; he begins to read from the book of Luke in the bible, and as he shares the story of the birth of Christ, as different elements of the event appear spotlighted in white light.  The pure and simple story, as read by a grandparent, is touching and one that most people remember from their childhood.  

“The 20-minute train ride during Christmas at SDC is a magical moment to experience. Our family loves the music and learning about the birth of Jesus. Our hearts leave warmed and ready for the true reason for the season.” Thena, HodgePodge Hippie

The Sight and Sound Theatre presents The Miracle of Christmas.  The producers do a fantastic job of mixing acting, speaking, and music to share the story leading up to and including the birth of Jesus Christ. You will feel like one of the entourage as you travel from Bethlehem to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and all of the live animals.  Then your heart will sing as the shepherds, and wise men appear for that miraculous moment.

Branson Christmas, Hughes Music Show, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

The Hughes Brothers Christmas Show is one of the very few performances in town that is Christmas from beginning to end.  The first half of the show is all about family traditions and musical treasures.  The second half starts with a handbell choir that sings and moves to the sound of the bells.  Santa immediately follows by saying, “Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas.”  The rest of the show is Santa presenting the symbols of Christmas and how they all lead back to Jesus Christ.  The Hughes family sings and dances their way through the story until it leads to the birth of the Christ child.  Then angels Harold in the birth with a real baby as the newborn Savior.  

“Christmas in Branson is magical! October 31 may be Halloween, but in Branson, Christmas lights turn on the very next day and stay on through December 31. It’s the craziest of times as the busiest season in Branson unfolds. I as a theatre owner and mother & grandmother of the “world’s largest performing family” have to deal with a daily boatload of managerial tasks and huge stacks of paperwork.  I feel overwhelmed, but when the music drifts up to my office I can not resist following it. I sit down in the auditorium and I’m immediately spellbound by what is happening on stage —and I look around at the faces of our audience and see that they are enchanted too.  Once again our show has captured the true essence of Christmas and as I stand by the door and thank people for coming, they clasp my hands and say things like “this was an amazing experience—it was truly magical!” I am now rejuvenated and say to myself, “It was truly magical—people are changed.  This is why we do this,” “ shared Miss Lena Hughes, The Hughes Brothers Theatre 

The residents of Branson and those that visit all seem to have the same experience.  It’s just that special feeling.

Branson Christmas, Hughes Music Show, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

“I’ve always got a tear in my eye as they’re doing their finale because I never want that experience and an almost indescribable feeling of warmth, love, and family to end.”  shared Gina from Illinois. 

Experience Christmas year-round in the 9000 square foot Kringles Christmas Shop at the Grand Villages.  Holiday cheer fills all your senses as you stroll through the 125 themed Christmas trees listening to Christmas Carols and letting your memory skip down memory lane.  There’s a nativity, ornament, or collectible to fit every personality on your Christmas list. 

“The Kringles Christmas shop in Branson feels comfortable and warm.”  Ava from Missouri. 

The Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center on selected dates during the Christmas season, late in the evening when the guests have returned from the day of Branson adventures, they gather in the Christmas hall for storytime and a kiss goodnight.  Each night a different Branson entertainer reads a different Christmas story while the guests young and old drink hot wassail and eat sugar cookies.  This bedtime tradition is very touching and is never the same two nights in a row. 

Branson Christmas, Hughes Music Show, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center

I hope you know the feeling.  The one where people are just a little kinder, they open doors, smile and make eye contact, share a table at a crowded restaurant and say Merry Christmas as a greeting.  The feeling you get when you hand your kiddos coins to put in the red kettle, purchase extra toys and clothes for someone you don’t know or take can goods to the local food pantry.   I love the feeling I get for the nine-week Christmas season.  It never gets old! 

Creating Disney Magic

Discovering ways that your family can create their own magic will transform your Disney vacation into an enchanting Disney adventure that your children will never forget! Creating Disney magic is easier than you think!

Wishes

One time when my baby duck and I were vacationing at Disney by ourselves, she had an amazing idea; she wrote a note that read “Your wish is on me.” and placed it on the side of Cinderella’s fountain along with several pennies. We then found a place in the distance where we could sit and watch. Some guests took a picture, others pointed out the note and pennies to people around them, and a few just picked up a penny and made a wish. One sweet lady was emotional and teary-eyed as she read the note. Every person responded differently to the act of kindness and the experience was unforgettable!

 

Creating Disney Magic, Going Out The Door

Characters

The characters have a demanding job. They are required to constantly smile, take an interest in every person, and create lasting memories for the gazillion daily guests! Why not return the favor and create some magic for them? Present small gifts such as handmade pictures, jewelry (like macaroni necklaces), or candy. The cast is not allowed to keep expensive items so keep your tokens simple. The important thing is to provide an opportunity for your family to do something nice for someone else. Spreading magic is fun for even the smallest of Disney visitors.

 

Creating Disney Magic, Going Out The Door, Akershus Royal Dining

It’s my Party!

Disney provides their guests with free personalized buttons celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, the last chemo treatment, or anything your heart desires to celebrate. When you spot people wearing buttons, it is fun to call them by name and offer congratulations. Little princes and princesses love this, especially when they are dressed up and addressed as their character. For example, ‘Happy Birthday, Cinderella’!

 

Creating Disney Magic, Going Out The Door

Smile!

When you see a family taking a group photo, offer to take it for them so everyone can be in the shot. My favorite way of creating Disney magic is to photobomb other people’s pictures. Smiling, of course!

 

Creating Disney Magic, Going Out The Door

You light up my life!

Papa Bear LOVES to take our little ones shopping for fun light up toys for the parade which is a big deal for him and them. However, when you are staying seven nights and have 6 grands, the light up money runs out very quickly. We buy plenty of glow sticks at the dollar store before we leave home and our grands have a great time to share with other children! You can also buy light up disney themed bubble wands at department stores like Walmart.

 

Going Out The Door Disney, Chef Mickey, creating Disney magic

Flying Solo

When you notice a single guest in line for a ride, invite them to be part of your group, share seats, and make a new friend!

 

Creating Disney Magic, Going Out The Door

Blooming Surprise

Our biggest surprise came when someone sent flowers to us at Disney World. Our plane had been canceled and we were stuck at the airport with no hope of getting to our Disney family trip before it ended. Out of thousands of people stranded that day, we met the sweetest couple ever. After twenty-four hours, we managed to get a plane to Orlando just in time to make our family dinner reservation at Ohana. To our total surprise, a beautiful bouquet of flowers decorated the table when we arrived, sent by our new friends! A month later, I ran into the husband again at a different airport while on my way to a work convention. It really is a small world after all.

 

Creating Disney Magic, Going Out The Door

Thank you to my sweet airport friends for the flowers. We will never forget you!

The Disney parks offer many opportunities for your little ones to share their giving hearts. Taking the extra time and effort to create your own magic while planning your Disney trip will truly be an exciting and remarkable experience for your family!

P.S.  After posting this blog my Disney loving friend Amanda Wilbourn shared her family’s magical activity.  Here is her description:

“My kids spend every day at Disney taking note of cast members who go above and beyond to create magic, help us out, or just engage them in conversation.  At the end of the day, we go to City Hall and film out exemplary service forms for each cast member.  We love this tradition and it’s almost like a treasure hunt for the kids.  They are actively focused on finding the good in other people and ‘rewarding’ them for it.”

She suggests that when you do this remember exactly where they were working, what time of day it was and be sure and get their name. Thank you, friend Amanda for sharing your awesome tradition of creating Disney magic. If you enjoy visiting with other Disney friends, please join us on Going Out The Door Disney Facebook page.

You can find other Disney blogs by Angie Roberts Harris at Going Out The Door..com ​​