Mary McNamara

Nov. 28, 2013 | 11:01 a.m.

Disneyland’s holiday tweaks twinkle with seasonal magic

A woman sports Christmas-colored Mickey Mouse ears as she awaits "A Christmas Fantasy Parade" on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The scattered nature of Southern California’s expansive urban grid is never more noticeable than during the winter holidays. While lights festoon certain streets and artistically ambitious homeowners create over-the-top front-lawn tableaux, Los Angeles still lacks the central pedestrian thoroughfares that make Christmas so enchanting in cities like New York and Chicago, London and Paris. This means that, as with so many other things, we have to drive to Christmas. Or at least Anaheim. The new trend in open-plaza shopping may offer more local town-square seasonal activities — the Grove and the Americana have tree-lighting ceremonies and nightly “snow” fall, while Pershing Square and Nokia Plaza host skating rinks. But none of them beats the faux Main Street that started it all. At the resort the mouse built, Walt Disney’s nostalgic imagining of Americana has become more crazy festive with each […]
Nov. 16, 2013 | 8:30 a.m.

Disneyland amps up Christmas with Jingle Cruises, ‘Winter Dreams’

Mickey and Minnie Mouse are wearing their Christmas sweaters, even if the weather is balmy some days. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)
The scattered nature of L.A.’s expansive urban grid is never more noticeable than during the winter holidays. While certain centers festoon the streets with lights and artistically ambitious homeowners create front lawn tableaux, Los Angeles simply lacks the central pedestrian thoroughfares that make Christmas so enchanting in cities like New York and Chicago, London and Paris. But if we don’t have Oxford Street, we do have the Disneyland resorts, where Walt Disney’s initial nostalgic imagining of Americana has become more festive with each passing holiday season. What began in 1956 with a Christmas tree on Main Street and a Santa hat on Mickey has become an increasingly dramatic, and dramatically marketable, Christmas-fication of Just About Everything. The Christmas fantasy parade, the holiday version of “It’s a Small World,” the sudsy snow falling in “Believe,” the Haunted Mansion gone all “Nightmare Before […]
May 28, 2013 | 6:00 a.m.

‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ redraws Disneyland plans

Mickey Mouse with the wizard on the video screen in the premiere of "Mickey's Magical Map." at Disneyland. (Mickey Mouse with the wizard on the video screen in the premiere of "Mickey's Magical Map." at Disneyland. (Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland / Associated Press)
Eastern philosophy is not the first thing one associates with the Disneyland Resort, but the message of the Fantasyland Theatre’s new and quite splendid stage show “Mickey and the Magical Map” is decidedly, and surprisingly, Zen. Or as Zen as a show can be in which young men and women in rustic fantasy-wear sing and dance their way through some of the studio’s greatest hits in front of a gorgeous three-tiered screen awash in animated wonder. Like many characters of his demo, Mickey Mouse is, above all, a seeker of enlightenment. In “Mickey and the Magical Map,” he’s back in Sorcerer’s Apprentice mode, trying to prove himself by filling in the final empty space on his master’s map. The black spot, which does not want to be painted, comes to life and takes Mickey on a magical, musical, multimedia tour. […]
March 24, 2013 | 4:00 a.m.

‘Doctor Who’ lords it over time and space, and TV

The signs of a seismic shift became clear a year or so ago, in even the nonhipster communities of Los Angeles: a tween boy in a “Bow Ties Are Cool” T-shirt, a silver Camry with a license plate holder reading “My other car is a TARDIS,” a girl at an elementary school Halloween costume parade dressed in a homemade blue police box and bearing a sonic screwdriver. By the time TV Guide got around to putting Matt Smith on its cover, it seemed almost old news: The Doctor, ancient and perpetually regenerating Time Lord, savior of multiple universes, wearer of classic bow ties and trench coats, wielder of the multi-purpose sonic screwdriver and intergalactic protector of Earth, has at long last jumped the pond. It’s a triumph for long-term fans, the newly high profile of “Doctor Who” — now celebrating […]
March 17, 2013 | 5:00 a.m.

Schwarzenegger, your He-Man days have come and gone

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from the 1982 film "Conan the Barbarian," left, and during his term as governor of California, right. (Reuters; Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
COMMENTARY Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent decision to return as executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines makes one thing abundantly clear: The former bodybuilder, movie star and California governor can’t seem to grasp the simple fact that his era is over. He tried to ride out the revelation that he had secretly fathered a child with his housekeeper by penning an autobiography that was long on self-aggrandizement and short on introspection. Then he ventured back to the big screen with “The Last Stand,” prompting critics to declare him too old, too odd-looking (who knew Austrians turned orange as they aged?) and too mired in scandal to resurrect his action hero career. Now he plans to return to his bodybuilding roots because he just doesn’t get it: The He-Man is dead, and few mourn his passing. While Schwarzenegger was governating, […]
Dec. 17, 2012 | 10:00 a.m.

‘Hobbit,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Big Bang Theory’: Geek goes mainstream

(From left) "Star Trek" stars Brent Spiner and Will Wheaton with Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki on "The Big Bang Theory." (Monty Brinton/CBS)
This post has been corrected. See below. COMMENTARY It started with The Big Bang. Not the still somehow controversial theory of the universe’s origins, the CBS comedy, “The Big Bang Theory.” Before those two wacky physicists and adorably mismatched roommates Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) began wooing hearts and winning Emmys, the term “geek” was something of a pejorative. Proudly worn, perhaps, by those to whom it applied–comic book collectors, math heads, Trekkies, sci fi and fantasy fans and other obscure genre devotees–but certainly not in any way synonymous with popular, or influential or, heaven forbid, hot. Now, of course, we live in a Brave New World. San Diego’s Comic-Con International is a pop cultural touchstone/marketing platform, video games are truly the next new art form and Stephen Colbert proudly brandishes his pricey replica of the Elven blade […]
Dec. 07, 2012 | 7:00 a.m.

Philippa Boyens: Del Toro’s ‘Hobbit’ would have been ‘amazing’

Phillipa Boyens, one of the writers of Peter Jackson's new HOBBIT movie and a longtime collaborator with Jackson and his creative and life partner Fran Walsh. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
“There and Back Again” is the subtitle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” and it would certainly serve handily for a biography of many of those involved in taking the book to film, though none perhaps as well as Philippa Boyens. Asked one day in 1997 if, as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, she might have any interest in helping out friends and fellow New Zealanders Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh adapt “The Lord of the Rings” for film, Boyens, a former teacher and then executive director of the New Zealand Writers Guild, shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?” “I figured it would last a couple of weeks,” she says now, laughing at the memory, “maybe a month.” Instead she, like so many Tolkien characters, was swept away on a life-changing adventure, down roads long and sometimes perilous. Fifteen years later, […]
Oct. 05, 2012 | 7:30 a.m.

Wonder Woman: 40 years later, still a feminist flashpoint

Wonder Woman Ms. magazine (featured image)
COMMENTARY We’ve come a long way, maybe. Although no doubt meant to inspire, and tap into the delectable demographic of  comic-book culture, the appearance of Wonder Woman on the 40th anniversary edition of Ms. magazine, available on newsstands this week, is just as poignant as it is empowering. For the official debut issue of the magazine, Gloria Steinem and the editors put her under the cover line “Wonder Woman” for president. Forty years later, we’ve had no woman president, the myth of the Super Woman continues to dog us and poor old Diana of Themyscira remains the only major DC Comics hero without a feature film to her name. (Seriously? Green Lantern before Wonder Woman?) Although Joss Whedon thoughtfully included a gal in “The Avengers,” and Scarlett Johansson did a fine job as the Black Widow, the self-described feminist filmmaker […]
July 13, 2012 | 12:51 p.m.

Comic-Con: Television is a conquering hero

Big Bang Theory (FI)
Think of it as TV’s Comic-Cannes. Since its inception 42 years ago, Comic-Con International has been a celebration of fanboy culture. When geek became the new cool, it also worked as a marketing platform for Hollywood and video game makers. Now, it’s the place where the television industry comes to build buzz for new shows and reward the audiences of established ones. More than 80 television series courted the crowds at Comic-Con last year with premieres, panels and promotional events. This year in San Diego, the numbers are just as high – and the visibility even greater. From the poster-plastered pedicabs to the building side displays, TV is taking center stage. NBC has overtaken Gaslamp Square Park and created interactive experiences with its fairy tale series “Grimm” and new J.J. Abrams thriller “Revolution.” Inside the Convention Center, AMC’s wildly popular […]
July 11, 2012 | 10:54 a.m.

Comic-Con: ‘Bones’ fans can help us dig into show

Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan and David Boreanaz as FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth in "Bones."
“Bones” is among the network shows headed down to Comic-Con, and the moderator of the panel — Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara — invites fans to join in her on-stage investigation.   The cancellation of the “Bones” panel at last year’s Comic-Con International left many fans disappointed and distraught. But fear not; “Bones” is back, Friday at 1:45 p.m. in Ballroom 20, and I, lucky girl, will be moderating. What the seventh season lacked in length (only 13 episodes ran due to star Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy), it made up for in intensity. Not only did Bones (Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) become parents (in a stable, no less), but criminal-tech genius Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds) managed to frame Bones for murder. Result: in the season finale, Bones and baby Bones went on the lam. Not exactly what to […]
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