My pal Jim Higley asked me to take part in his “Single Jingles Man Up Monday” blogging team to promote Single Jingles, a testicular cancer awareness campaign. While this post isn’t about cancer, it does touch on a recent incident where I, in many ways, lacked balls. Enjoy.
“Where are you daddy?”
It was a simple question, yet, in this case, extremely difficult to answer. I made no attempt to hide where I was. They had seen the picture I posted of their names drawn in the sand. I posted the Vine of me soaking up a cool, crisp day at Laguna Beach.
“California” I said. I mentioned these pictorial mementos to reinforce my claim. They could hear music and voices. “Who are you with?” they quizzed. I explained that I was at a hotel having drinks with some friends. Again, the truth.
Wish you were here.
They couldn’t tell that I was hiding something. There was information that I was deliberately withholding. They couldn’t know where I’d spent the day, nor where I’d spend the rest of the night. I chose my words cautiously, screening my answers in my head before saying them. One misplaced word, and the gig was up.
I didn’t lie to my kids. I just “neglected” to mention that I was at Disneyland.
My appearance at the Happiest Place on Earth was done stealthy, and without evidence. No pictures were posed on social media. No souvenirs were purchased. Not even a guide map made it back. This trip was planned with ‘Bin Laden raid’-like precision.
I couldn’t be the dad that went to Disneyland without their kids, which is exactly how they would view me if they found out. ‘Daddy didn’t take us to Disneyland’ is the wailing refrain Kieran would bellow out, just before dropping to his knees and burying his hands in his face. Casey, as he does with upsetting news, would “hmmph” and angrily cross his arms, pouting at me for denying him the chance to visit the place he asks to visit on an almost monthly basis.
The dilemma was, and it’s something that they couldn’t really understand, is that I was at the Disneyland Resort on a business trip. I went to the TEA Summit, which is a gathering of theme park designers from across the world. This was a massive networking and research opportunity.
Parents do this kind of thing all the time; jetting to conferences, client meetings and other business-related activities. Yet, the whole “theme park” thing creates an uncomfortable situation with kids. If I was interested in, say, making wine, the boys would feel no ill will about a trip to Napa, where I’d be discussing the finer points of pinots with winemakers.
There are times when you shield things from your kids. To blur reality and keep them from knowing that you lost your job, that the bills were going to bounce or a family member’s illness. They don’t understand the expense it takes to travel. To them, a plane ticket to Disneyland is as easy to get as a Slurpee. THESE things appear on-demand, why don’t THOSE?
Ok… I took ONE in-park picture.
I want to take my sons to Disneyland, a place that has deep meaning for my family, more than anything. If they’d had found out, it would have been a hard conversation to have about why they didn’t come along. How could you explain the simple truth - It just wasn’t the right opportunity? I was out of town for 72 hours, a good portion of that crammed into a meeting room or an airline seat. A first family trip to Disneyland requires three or four days. They should have hours of time to experience the parks and not feel rushed. We can do that on a vacation - an honest, dedicated, no other agenda kind of experience. A quick trip isn’t worth our time, or theirs.
There’s deceiving your kids, and then there’s lying to them. I simply… chose to pass over the details. If they’d found out, I’m sure they would have gotten over it. Life would have gone on. I had a good, quick trip and was excited to see the boys when I got home. The kicker was that my stealth trip only deepened my desire to take them there.
It will be fun to show them the attraction their dad worked on, and walk them through the magnificent Cars Land.
Disneyland is one family secret that needs to be shared.
Did you know that Testicular Cancer is the #1 cancer in young men ages 15 to 35?
Did you know that Testicular Cancer is highly survivable if detected early?
Did you know that young men should be doing a monthly self-exam?
What can you do?
Stop by the Single Jingles website for more information on Testicular Cancer
Request a FREE shower card with self-exam instructions - it just might save a young man in your life!
And if you’re feeling just a little AWKWARD about this conversation, check out this video from some parents who feel the exact same way!
The modern dad. Caring. Connected. Loving. Willing to leave the kids with the wife for the weekend in order to addend conferences about “Being good dads”.
Last year, I attended the first Dad 2.0 Summit here in Austin. With the emergence and subsequent marketability of “Mommy Bloggers”, this was the first gathering for dad-friendly brands and dad bloggers to connect in person. I went in order to spread the word about my parenting web series, Imagination Situation. The conference didn’t lead to me becoming internet famous, but that wasn’t a big deal. I met some great dads, as well as moms. If throwing up in the parking lot and mistakenly using the women’s restrooms are signs of a good time, then Dad 2.0 Summit was a rousing success for me.
I’ve never considered myself a “Dad Blogger”. I don’t relay parenting stories on my blog with any consistency. If anything, I’m moving away from being a web-connected dad, and moving more towards being dad of the moment. The internet is fun and all, but I began to question why I was spending so much time staring at my phone. Was I REALLY missing anything on Twitter? The constant memes, pictures and clutter on Facebook felt like muck. I had to wade through so much crap in order to find anything of value. My “social media” obligations were interfering with playtime, game time and almost any other activity with my kids.
I took drastic measures. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone. The results have been great. I’m not missing anything of value. I’m more engaged and available for my boys, and wife. Unplugging from the internet has plugged me back into being a dad.
With this logic, it’s only natural that I attend Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston this weekend and social media hashtag the hell out of it.
Brands want to see immediate ROI on their social media efforts. Likes, retweets and hashtags have a monetary value. This weekend, I’m going to be chatting up a storm on Twitter, so this blog post serves as a warning and heads up. Twitter is a wonderful tool, but it can get out of hand during live events or any large gathering. I understand that most of you don’t need to know what’s going on, because you’re not parents or don’t read mom/dad blogs. I promise to tweet selectively and intelligently.
I may not be a dad blogger, but there are plenty of people that are - and they deserve to be read and acknowledged. There are people writing about their relationship to their children on deep, emotional levels that I don’t think exist in me. I want these people to be recognized. This will happen with brands and sponsors being engaged with them.
It’s my role this weekend to chat up the companies that are making this happen. I’m not getting any money about of this (so, I’ll be sneaking bites of dinner from the discarded room service trays at the Four Seasons Hotel in order to not spend money).
I consider Dad 2.0 Summit as my chance to support dad bloggers in a bigger way than page views. My Twitter feed will be my contribution to the conversations about modern fatherhood, and the impact they’re happen. So, please understand these motivations as I hashtag the weekend away. It’s for a very good cause.
Also: There may be an embarrassing karaoke video in it for those of you that don’t unfollow me.
Thanks for clicking. I know you’re busy. It’s hard to get people’s attention these days. I’m a writer that knows how to be brief.
Let’s say you need a copywriter. Here are 5 reasons you should consider me for your agency, in-house marketing department or freelance needs.
“Roby’s flexibility is a huge value. He can write corporate copy, but can also inject personality that makes it worth reading.”
“He has a creative approach to very corporate/vanilla subjects and an enthusiasm towards anything that he works on. He could work on his own, but also collaborated well within a team.”
Please check out my writing here and let’s do the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn thing . Don’t be shy. Also, please pass this along to folks that might need someone wise in the ways of branding and writing. Mahalo.
Roby Brown | Writer | Storyteller | 512-963-8785 | email@example.com
I’m a fun, fast and flexible writer with a knack for creating messages that are imaginative and memorable. With excellent conceptual development skills, I take vanilla ideas and splash them with fresh thinking and personality. Solid broadcast production experience. Protector of the people of Gotham.
Present - Wind Up Jet Pack, Austin, TX
I make clients extremely happy by crafting innovative digital and traditional messages, video scripts, collateral, articles and other materials. I make the corporate clever and the clever even better.
’08 to January ’12 - Creative Civilization, San Antonio, TX
Created strategic branding campaigns, presented ideas, and wrote copy for broadcast, interactive, print and collateral projects. Collaborated. Motivated. Was immersed in broadcast production.
’07 to ’08 - Amy Wick Marketing Communications, Austin, TX
Copywriter and Media/Traffic Coordinator
Lead the brainstorming, writing, directing and editing of various video projects. Handled media placement, as well as copywriting for various print campaigns. Hats worn = many.
’06 to ’07 - DMX Message Marketing, Austin, TX
Copy Coordinator/Messaging Assistant
Developed marketing copy for on hold & on air sales messages. Oversaw account management of customer projects . Showed initiative to write messages and was quickly promoted. Mom was happy.
’04 to ’06 - Office Team, Austin, TX
Receptionist & Administrative Assistant
I temporarily filled-in for vacationing receptionists, flied paper work and gave general admin support.
’00 to ’04 - DPS Film Roman, North Hollywood, CA
“King of the Hill” - Production Coordinator
Managed the distribution of all design materials, as well as script and storyboard breakdowns. Yep.
• Local ADDY ® Awards, Imagen Award, Pinewood Derby – 3rd Place
• Emerson College, Boston, MA - B.S., Mass Communications, Film
• Social media, SEO, HTML and Wordpress savvy. Final Cut, Premiere Pro, Final Draft, iMovie, Photoshop, GarageBand, and Mac/PC office programs.
• Screenwriting, Theme Park Show Writing, The Red Sox, Entertaining My Two Kids.
Somebody is bound to stop and notice if you hang skeletons on your roof.
That’s exactly what my friend Rick Polizzi was going for when he did just that.
Morse Ave is a quiet and unassuming street in Sherman Oaks, California. For most of the year, you’d never visit this street unless you knew someone that lived there. Yet, for a few weeks in October, strangers make an evening pilgrimage to this peaceful neighborhood. Traveling from across Los Angeles, they come here to see a family friendly spectacle full of silly skeletons, music and illusions. The whimsical special effects are on par with an Anaheim manor currently occupied by 999 happy haunts.
I’ve never asked Rick why he created Boney Island. Rick and I worked at the same animation studio back in my ‘King of the Hill’ days. A few of us Disney fans formed a bond with Rick, the man with the N’awlins accent that lined the walls of his office with vintage board games. Looking at Boney Island, you’d think it was created by a theme park-industry veteran. But no, Rick was a regular guy managing the not-so glamorous duties of animation post-production.
Welcome To Boney Island
Turning your front yard into a goofy sideshow of singing skeletons can take its toll on someone pulling in 50+ hour work weeks. Rick would blurt out “I’m not going to do it this year.. I’m done” when we pestered him about the yearly Boney Island plans. Yet, despite his protests, every October we’d find ourselves back on Morse Ave, marveling at the creation that had sprung from his head. Boney Island did take a turn into the graveyard of neighborhood haunts in 2007. But, 2011 saw it rise from the dead into a bigger and more elaborate cavalcade of skeleton silliness.
Boney Island didn’t remain a secret for long. Word of the backyard haunt eventually got the attention of the people at 1401 Flower Street in Glendale. Walt Disney Imagineering made their way over to see the skeleton show. Rick Polizzi became known by every themed attraction company, as well as special effects and make-up artists, writers and virtually anyone involved in the entertainment industry. Boney Island was a perfect draw for the creative communities and people that worked in the large studios that rest minutes from his house. Creativity seeks out creativity.
Earlier this year, Rick found himself out of work. Nobody could blame an unemployed father of two to put the breaks on Boney Island - 2012. Yet, on Thursday October 25th I found myself back at 4602 Morse Ave, witnessing a Boney Island than was miles more elaborate than the one I last saw in 2004. There were more skeletons… more gags, and even a cauldron fountain show.
Boney Island From Atop A Treehouse
That night, I found myself sharing a couch in Rick’s front-yard treehouse (yes, a two story tree-house, but that’s another story) with Tony Baxter. Tony is the Senior VP of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering. In the lexicon of theme-park attraction designers, he’s a legend (and on a personal note, the creator of many of my favorite attractions). He’s been responsible for multi-million dollar attractions, yet here he was videotaping a backyard Halloween haunt pulled together with stuff purchased at ACE Hardware. It was quite a sight to see an unemployed husband meticulously explaining his creation to a Disney legend.
That’s when Boney Island 2012 revealed its true purpose. This wasn’t a show for the neighborhood kids — it was a resume brought to life. A work sample that sings ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ tunes. A business card for every single entertainment industry person that visited. I can’t say for certain if Rick created Boney Island to get noticed by Imagineering. Yet, what started as a passion project - something born in the crazy corners of the mind - had sprung into an acclaimed attraction that showcased his creativity, passion, dedication and enthusiasm.
Indeed, Rick is now turning his sights on working in the theme park industry. His resume doesn’t list theme park experience, but it can be seen 13 nights a week in October.
My visit to Los Angeles was, in some ways, my own Boney Island. I can’t program shooting water fountains, but I can spin a story on paper. It takes ambition and motivation to get noticed in a small and difficult to break into industry. I got on the plane to LA as an unknown quantity, and left as someone known at some of the best theme park attraction companies in the country. Guarantees of work? No. But, I’ve risen above the stack of hundreds of “Dear Sir Or Madam” cover letters. I’m a person, rather than an email. A small but important step into a new land of enchantment.
We spend way too much time dwelling on failure. We desire to do things that make us WANT to get up in the morning, yet it’s always our lizard brain telling us to get back in line. The truth is, people won’t come looking for you. You HAVE to make your presence known. Don’t keep quiet about your desires. Make the first move. The unexpected move. The bold move. It can be as elaborate as a front yard spectacle or as simple as e-mailing people and asking for 30 minutes of their time. People want to work with, hire, socialize, follow and recommend people that are burning with desire to do great things. If nothing else, my 36 hours in LA put me in that category.
As the Boney Island skeleton show closed for the evening, I sat with Rick’s wife, Carla and chatted about the uncertain road ahead. Like my wife, the emotional and financial stress of a husband being out of work weighed heavily on her. We recalled our stories of how unexpected repairs always seem to spring up when someone’s out of work and about the frustrations of “affordable” heath coverage. What does it mean to be a good father when they’re not bringing in money? When do we know what’s “best for our family”?
It was clear that Carla was doing what’s best for her family that night by sitting at the Boney Island souvenir stand. Supporting (or enduring) yet another one of her husband’s crazy nights of entertaining friends and tourists. Every night may be the night where an invitation to a job meeting may happen, or the name of someone that’s hiring may be passed along. As much a drain Boney Island is on the power bill, it’s an absolutely vital way for Rick to break though in his job search. It will pave the way to a job where every day is welcomed, rather than just the 1st and 15th.
This Won’t Hurt A Bit
The uncertainly of life absolutely sucks. Taking the steps to live a great one requires you to ignore the easy route and simply roll the dice. Getting noticed is a conscious choice to position yourself away from the pretenders. Hanging skeletons on your shingles or doing whatever you need to present yourself as a dedicated, passionate professional is key to getting noticed and loving what you do.
Rick has found his audience. My trip to LA is my first step to finding mine. What’s yours?
When I was first laid off, I drank heavily from the fountain of job-related self-help books.
Every haul from the library was a refreshing dip into the mind of “career coaches” and others that had faced the crappy situation of job loss and come out squeaky clean. Sexy titles like “Landing On The Right Side Of Your Ass” and “Being The Best You” were supposed to offer solutions. It turned out to be chapter after chapter of fluff, better suited to be placed between bread and peanut butter.
The hardest concept for me to wrap my head around was this idea of using your downtime for a vacation. Road trip or once-in-a-lifetime excursion, newly paycheck-less people were implored to get on a plane and escape their reality. Relax. Refresh. Indulge. Taking this journey was to be your refresher course in living life. With your soul purged of the layoff, you’d be better prepared to figure out the next stage.
I’m all for airplane adventures, but not while collecting unemployment.
If the books provided anything, they emphasized the importance of face-to-face time. Signing up for informational interview and networking is vital to the job search. This is true, as casual chatting has brought me more job leads than online job boards and postings.
If it wasn’t for the abrupt ending to my advertising gig, I probably wouldn’t have started to learn more about theme park show writing. The theme park pros that I’ve reached out to are genuinely interested in helping new people. At the same time, e-mail isn’t the best way for lengthy information exchanges with people that are already busy. Answering questions from some random guy isn’t high on the priority list. All of our ‘social connections’ can’t replace a face-to-face chat. Successful information gathering and networking requires true socializing.
If the answers weren’t coming to me, I had to go to them.
It was time to play my travel card.
I’m coming back Los Angeles. For a day. Or two.
Right now, plans are in motion for me to make a short visit to LA around October 23-25 (Alternate is 2nd week of November). I’m not going for a job. I’m trying to arrange informational interviews with show writers/producers at theme park attraction companies. A short trip full of chats will go further than endlessly Googling for insight into the world of show writing.
As I’m working the connections I’ve already made, I’m also going to need help from you, dear reader. If you reside in the LA area (sorry OC friends… not this trip) or work in the theme park industry, I’d like you help in one of these areas -
A) Meetings - If you’re reading this and you know someone that works in theme park design or writing, please let them know about my trip. If you ARE someone that works in the theme park industry… um.. HI ! Can we chat? I’m looking for any and all opportunities to chat with people. Lunch. Dinner. Coffee. Office… wherever is convenient. There won’t be a Take 2 of this trip, so every moment counts. I’m reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org . And please, tell a friend.
B) A place to stay - I would be grateful to any of my Los Angeles friends that would consider hosting me for a night or two. I’m fully house trained, and would really appreciate using your spare room/couch/futon/dog house. As I mentioned, one or two nights is all I’m thinking.
I consider myself a paint-by-numbers kind of guy. Never known as “Mr. Impulse”, I’m not the kind that would leave my wife and kids at home as I jet off to LA ( On the other hand… Sara may want nothing MORE than two days without me.)
The facts are that, eventually, I’ll need to do what’s best for our family. I don’t know how close or far I am away from being a show writer. I don’t want the checking account balance to be the deciding factor for quitting.
The trip is a gamble, but one I’m willing to take. Theme park show writing just makes sense for me in this stage of my life. I have the writing chops. I have the understanding of theme park and attraction storytellingt. Now, we see how it all comes together, and if I have what it takes.
There’s nothing gained without venturing. This short LA adventure may be the trip of a lifetime, or a mere footnote in my life. There’s no book that I can reference that will provide answers. The next few chapters of my life aren’t written, but they won’t be interesting unless I seek out things worth writing about.
Avengers… assemble your comic book collections!
Dads and moms, I need your help finding something. Head to the attic, the garage or the back of the closet and dig out your old Captain America comics. I’m not looking for a particular issue, more of an action. A very specific action, of which you don’t really need powers to achieve. One involving a toilet.
Yes, I need a picture of Captain America sitting on the can. Doing #2. Relieving himself of his… um.. patriotic duty.
I hesitate to use the word ‘training’ in our efforts to help Kieran realize the benefits of the toilet. Training implies that there is a teacher imparting wisdom to a student. That someone is growing wiser from the experience. We’ve slowly dissolved from a teacher/student mentality into one that features pleading, begging, demanding and outright screaming. The Tyler Durden school of training.
Our first one wasn’t this bad. While there were obviously accidents and mishaps, Casey managed progress from training toilet, to comfy seat, to flying solo rather well. I’m sure the reward of the huge Tonka truck helped.
This time, the bait and switch isn’t working. Every potty time reminder is greeted with a swift and stern “no thank you”. He seems to think the politeness will solve all his problems. It’s a game to him. Even after a good 10-15 minutes seated atop the throne, a load soon appears in his nighttime diaper. We’ve taken away things, promised the wonders of Toys R Us Reward trips. Nothing. I’m just desperate enough to see about replacing the bathroom toilet with one of those fancy Japanese toilets.
What’s that you say? Haven’t experienced the Lexus of toilets? Get your butt to Japan (pun intended). It’s the Disneyland of toilets. Take that as you will. Moving on.
The odd part is that Kieran plays toilet rebel role against type. At his best, he’s an overly generous four year old. He’s been known to use his Christmas gift cards on toys for his brother. He throws birthday parties for stuffed animals and gave Sara Mother’s Day celebrations on two consecutive weekends.
Along the way, Kieran became swept up in “The Avengers” craze. Not being a house of comic book geeks, it was strange to see him care about super heroes. Yet, thanks to day care, an interest in all things super sprung up. It was the plastic Captain America shield that did it. Soon, his life revolved around the First Avenger. Not a day goes by without hearing him sing his hero’s theme song. Listen in. Good luck getting that out of your head.
When he’s not fighting us over his dirty underwear, Kieran fights the imaginary Red Skull and his army. While not the most imaginative child, he gets deep into his role playing. And it’s here where I’ve found the strange kinship between toddler and super soldier.
At his core, Kieran embodies almost every trait of his hero. Captain America is selfless. Generous. Always placing others before him. Kieran is athletic, not afraid of the baseball as so many kids his age can be. Contrast this with his older brother, Casey. A smart yet selfish boy content to tinker with Legos and Lincoln Logs has gravitated towards… who else…Tony Stark’s Iron Man.
Our latest attempts at toilet bribery play off this connection. The new goal is the Captain America mask that hovers over the living room. We play into the roleplaying, reminding him that the Captain takes breaks from fighting evil to use the toilet. Still, I fear it’s not enough. That’s why I put the call out for something that I can show Kieran that says, yes, even heroes have to go.
Eventually, all heroes realize the correct way to use their powers. I hope our little good hearted Captain America eventually rescues his parents from the tyranny of toilet tantrums. Soon.
And when it’s done, we shawarma. Of course.
I didn’t want to make ‘Project Omni’. I HAD to make ‘Project Omni’.
As I build my directing and editing skills, it’s important to get things made. Unsure if I’d be able to get another Imagination Situation episode done, I toyed with doing a pop-culture project. I didn’t walk down this path lightly. I’m not a big fan of taking a universe that someone else created and spinning a unique story from it. The world has enough ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Harry Potter’ fan videos. I wanted to find something I was passionate about, yet hadn’t been done already.
Friend and local filmmaker Ben Moody has done a great job combining his aspirations (filmmaking) with his passion (video games). He’s hooked into an audience that likes fan-made video game shorts, and he gets to make them on a regular basis. I needed to find my hook.
If you’re a creative person and a big Disney theme park fan, then you’ve probably dreamed of creating an actual Disney attraction. After arriving in California many moons ago, I hooked up with a group of friends who wanted to do just that. They built models, illustrated signs and designed entire new lands and attractions with pen and paper. Most of them were able to get actual positions with Walt Disney Imagineering.
It was one thing for you to be able to draw or paint. What about those of us that were good with scripts and storyboards?
Through a random sequence of events, I once ended up on an interview with Theme Park Productions, Imagineering’s in-house production company. They write narration scripts and the stories of the filmed portion of Disney attractions. It was a surreal experience to be in a room filled with people who wrote “Honey I Shrunk The Audience” and ”Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”. At the time, I had zero writing experience, much less anything to offer them. The door closed before I knew it was really open.
I’d be lying if I said that missed opportunity didn’t lead me directly to ‘Project Omni’. The idea of a pre show video for a Disney attraction excited me. People didn’t need millions of dollars to do their ‘Star Wars’ films. Instead of a spec commercial, why not a spec attraction video? With the right attraction, it just might be crazy enough to work.
I never experienced Adventure Thru Inner Space at Disneyland, but I’ve always been fascinated by it. The Mighty Microscope. The journey though a snowflake. The surreal narration by Paul Frees. I knew it had a following. Pulling it off would take hard work, favors and imagination.
Adventure Thru Inner Space was created when Disney wasn’t telling an immersive pre -show attraction story. Your journey was the story. Today, attractions use a pre show video to immerse you in the world and set up the story. Countless Disney attractions use a backstory involving a company (Alien Encounter’s X-S Tech or the International Space Training Center in Mission: Space). My backstory was that the Mighty Microscope was built by A.T.O.M., the Association To Optimize Miniaturization.
A few viewings of ‘Man In Space’ from ‘The Wonderful World Of Disney’ gave insight into how Disney would have done one of these films in the 60’s. The first thing you notice is that the hosts are always male. Camera movements were limited. Long takes. No flashy cuts. It was an easy set up to replicate.
Modern pre-show videos feature humor. Settling in on a straight man/funny man routine, I was lucky enough to find two great actors. Weldon Phillips was Mr. Coats. As a dad and improv pro, he had great comedic timing. Phillip Olsen was another casting coup. With a wife that collected 1960’s vintage clothing, he had the threads, and the clean-cut look to play the straight-laced Dr. Charles Allen. I wrote the script, but they MADE this video work. I’m lucky to have found them.
The first person I contacted about Project Omni was Eric Scales. Eric has a great gig working at Century Timepieces on Main Street in Disneyland. Knowing his skills and passion for Disney parks, I asked if he would create the logo for A.T.O.M. . I was confident that he could capture the optimistic 1960’s feel that Tomorrowland attractions had, and he nailed it. He has a great blog about his drawings . Visit it, and hire him if you have the means.
When you’re creating something for no money and no financial return, it’s good to get your wife involved. Knowing that her husband is incapable of manual labor or arts and crafts, she offered to create the Mighty Microscope and the Atommobile (aka the Omnimover)
The Omnimover began as a styrofoam head. Slicing off the face, ears and part of the neck, it began to take the familiar rounding shape of the vehicle. The original plan was to hollow out the head, but digging though styrofoam would have taken forever. It took 2-3 color experimentation to get the right paint shade of blue.
The Mighty Microscope was a project of trial and error. Originally crated in styrofoam, the white paint wouldn’t stick to the foam. Instead, Sara cut out pieces of cardboard, taped them together, then wrapped a plastic foam around them. That’s a mason jar shoved into the side of the microscope body, topped off with silver painted styrofoam, wrapped in the same paper foam.
Our props aren’t going to impress anyone in Hollywood, and that’s fine. I think my wife did a fine job, if not a thousand times better than I could. She believed in the project and wanted to help.
‘Project Omni’ took a little over five hours to shoot. I was extremely thankful to Woody Harrison (no, not the Cheers guy) for letting me use his studio. It was a favor of paying back the favor from working on his ‘ JFK - Ninja Assassin ‘ short. He brought great ideas and a killer eye for cinematography and lighting.
‘Project Omni’ was a way for me to test out working on Adobe Premiere Pro. It’s a great system to work on. I used Magic Bullet to give the video its dated look, and was lucky enough to find some stock music that worked. I learned that I need to get a better sense of color before editing begins. I have much to learn about color correction.
‘Project Omni’ is filled with nods to Adventure Thru Inner Space. Even the names of the characters are tied into the attraction’s history. Can you pick up the nods to other past Tomorrowland attractions too?
There is a richness to doing passion projects, one I haven’t really experienced when paychecks are involved. At every stage of the process I worked with talented people who (besides my wife and Eric) have no interest in anything Disney. I hope ‘Project Omni’ will give Disney fans that brief moment of excitement, imagination and fun storytelling they get from the “real” pre-show attraction videos.
I went beyond showing off my skills. I created a deeply personal project wrapped up in something that’s relatable to millions of people. For a few weeks, I was filled with purpose and excitement… something I don’t always have in my underemployment. Telling this story made my passion for storytelling even stronger.
I had to make ‘Project Omni’. I hope people are glad that I did. I know I am.
Filling ten years with laughter, love, drama and surprises is difficult. Many marriages start hot, but quickly fizzle as the story lines become trite and redundant. It takes dedication, change, new challenges and commitment for a long, healthy and watchable run. Marriage is a test of devotion in the face of every conceivable attempt to screw things up. What is it that’s made the marriage of Roby and Sara Brown such a success, even as off-screen drama swirls around them year after year? They are a delightfully watchable and fun pair, even with their faults.
2002 - The Pilot Marriage
Roby and Sara Brown, dubbed by critics as “A Cute Couple”, premiered on July 21, 2002 in Leander, Texas. The producers decided against the flashy, pompous and overstated weddings in favor of a small backyard ceremony. Friends and family were treated to a short and sweet ceremony, followed by barbecue, cake and Krispy Kremes. Per the bride’s request, no dancing was allowed.
Hoping to give audiences a peek into future wacky predicaments, Tokyo was the chosen honeymoon destination. Japan, the land of geishas, sushi and two Disney parks, welcomed the couple with open arms, and vending machines that served beer. They rode on bullet trains and honey pots. They witnessed baseball in the Tokyo Dome. Promises were made to return, but fluctuating production budgets haven’t been so accommodating over the years.
2002 - 2004 The Sometimes Happiest Couple On Earth
With wedded bliss comes a fair amount of standard episdoes, like “We Live In A Tiny Pasadena Bungalow”, “Guess Who Forgot The Dishwasher” And “Our Wedding Photographer Is A F*cking Bitch, Who We’ll Have To Sue In Order To Get Our Photos”.
Road trips episodes found the couple in Las Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco. The Happiest Place On Earth was frequently visited. Friends were made. The Southern California lifestyle suited the first few years well, even as things behind the scenes weren’t as sunny.
Producers cast Sara as an elementary school teacher. Her strong demeanor perfectly balanced her husband. Roby arrived in tinseltown with ambitious dreams, but found himself in a place where expectations were low, and chances to get out were even lower. A memorable series of events lead to interview, job discussions, and a trip to N’Awlins to explore careers in Minor League Baseball. Credit is to be given to Sara, who supported every decision, and was a huge catalyst and supporter for the events that led to location recasting.
2004-2005 Lone Star State Of Mind
The production relocated to Austin in July of 2004. Citing lower production costs, new talent and no sign of the 405 freeway, the move reinvigorated the series and added new story lines. Such classics as “It’s So Dam Hot Here” , “Look Who Bought A House” and “Barbecue, Barbecue, Barbecue” came from this era. By far, the most talked about episode during this time is “Game 5”. This episode featured Roby trying desperately to retrieve updates on the pivotal Red Sox vs. Yankees playoff game as Sara celebrated her 30th birthday alone in the restaurant booth. This is an instant classic, still fondly remembered to this day.
2006-2008 Bringing Home Baby
As the marriage began to take solid footing, producers felt that adding new cast members to the fray would liven things up. Writers wrote a pregnancy into Sara’s storyline, and on March 21, viewers and cast alike were introduced to Casey Quinlan Brown. The new arrival quickly captured screen time, and the hearts of audience members everywhere. Who can forget memorable episodes like “3am Feeding Time” “It’s Not Colic, I’m Just Loud” and “That Kid’s Got Balls”, the classic testicle surgery episode.
With ratings up due to the new arrival, a second pregnancy was written in. Kieran Scott arrived in 2008. While Kieran was a welcomed addition, producers felt the show lacked drama. America watched in awe in the cliffhanger “Pink Slip - Part One”, where Roby was laid off from his job. This move intensified the drama, as they dealt with crap in more ways than one. Job loss hits every marriage hard, but Roby and Sara remained committed to each other. Sensing that audiences wouldn’t tune in for a trying job loss story for long, a new job was written in. While the decision to position the new well paying job in San Antonio was a bold move, it directly lead to the couple’s most trying and challenging times yet.
2009-2011 Commuting Between Dissatisfaction
Now set between San Antonio and Austin, producers scrambled to set up storylines that would work between the two settings. A mother of two managing dinner alone while balancing two toddlers provided much comic fodder. Who can forget the evaporated looks on Roby’s face as he arrived back from a 90 minute commute to the screaming, messy sites of the dining room attended by a stressed out Sara?
Emotional fallout soon followed. Roby openly questioned his role as “dad”, with the commute allowing less time to be involved. Production costs began to spiral out of control, while new funding dried up. Stress increased, as did disagreements between the stars. It’s safe to say the marriage commitment they had entered into showed signs of unraveling.
Producers bit on this drama by reintroducing the job-dissatisfaction theme into Roby storyline. However, this time they introduced a goal. The subplot of becoming writing/directing/video creator provided drive and direction. This was different than past seasons, where the writers were content to dangle ideas out there with no resolution.
Through the fraying episodes of these years, this is the period of marriage where Sara shines. She grows into the role of mother, lover, friend, wife and solid foundation. There is 100% commitment to making things work, even there isn’t even a hit of solid resolution. Her love for her husband, a person whom isn’t the easiest person to get long with, is evident behind every step Roby takes towards the balance between good parent and creatively fulfilled.
This was an era where the marriage was at its most difficult. Every show suffers slips in the ratings, but commitment from the stars pulled everything together.
2012 - A Decade Begins Again
With the boys developing into school-aged angels/terrors/demons, the producers realized the commuting storyline couldn’t sustain another season. Another layoff was introduced. While the first time was introduced with panic and desperation, this one was met with relief and excitement. It serves as a chance to take the marriage in a new direction. Introduce new creative directions. Over the past few months, viewers have watched the trails of “Work At Home” , “Job Interviews From Hell” and delighted in “Little League, Big Kieran” and “Onward To First Grade”. The showrunners are still working out storylines as they scrape together funding to continue the adventure.
As Roby and Sara wrap up their 10th year, it’s clear that the unknown direction of life is something that they’ll work through together. As they continue to find out just what’s going to work in life, and in family, it’s clear that the love it still there. It may not be as giddy as it was back on July 21st 2002. But, you don’t stick with something for 10 years and not wait around to see the conclusion.
- Reviewed By R. Brown