Upon hearing rumors about the Magical World of Harry Potter amusement park in Orlando Florida, my imagination immediately ran away with me. I envisioned riding on a dragon with a golden Snitch flying around my head and although I admit that it seems a little far-fetched, it was still what I was expecting.

Now, word has gotten out that more Potter theme parks are in the works. Well, this is fantastic because the news has arrived just in time for a Christmas wish list.

Now before we start, let’s just mention to the creators of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that the current park is still phenomenal. The little touches and details are frankly astounding and that’s something we hope to see in future parks! Now without further ado-

#8 Gringotts

Now, other theme parks have seen a park-wide currency system go very wrong, but Harry Potter is unique in that the currency system is integrated right into the mythos of the source material.

What were saying is that it would be amazing to convert our own money into galleons, sickles and knuts. I had a difficult time forking over fourteen hard earned dollars just for a full meal, but something tells me that if we were paying a galleon and three sickles instead, it might be a little easier on everyone’s collective psyche.

Also, the coinage would effectively function as its own souvenir. This spells more profit for the park as well as more fun for the visitor. To be honest, we just want the coins so that we can try to buy donuts with them in the real world.

#7 Nightly Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Fireworks

Yes, by suggesting Gringotts and by suggesting Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes we’re suggesting that Diagon Alley be added to the plans for the future park. Aside from expanding the size of the park (which is also very much needed, but we’ll get back to that later) it would also help Ollivander get back to his original home (which is not in Hogsmeade).

Okay, now onto the fireworks. An excellent fireworks presentation was afforded for the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but after that day, the skies of Hogwarts were never again brightened by pyrotechnics. Check out this video of the festivities below!

Now what we’re imagining is a nightly display hosted by the Weasley twins (not James and Oliver of course) in front of their joke shop (which we also want). They could gesture towards the castle as the brilliant show sparkles over Hogwarts. Do you think the giant CGI fireworks dragon from Order of the Pheonix can be reproduced? We certainly hope so!

#6 Alcoholic Butterbeer

We don’t wish to be mistaken for alcoholics or anything, and yes there is a full bar available in the Hog’s Head, but after seeing Winky get wasted on Butterbeer in Goblet of Fire, we’ve always wondered how many cups of the frothy nectar of the Gods we could handle before getting sloshed.

All we’re asking for is the option (for those who are legally allowed to drink of course) to have a traditional alcoholic mug of Butterbeer. Bailey’s Irish Cream might work perfectly in this scenario.

#5 Hidden Hallows

Now, this is a suggestion stolen straight from Disneyland. Any Disney-phile can tell you that if you search carefully, you can find the iconic mickey mouse head and ears in over hundreds of unique and secret locations in the park. Some are obvious and some are near impossible to find, but there are entire tribes of people that plan trips just to snap pictures of them all. Below is a simple example of one of the easier hidden Mickeys in the park.

See the head and ears hidden in the sign? This is just one of many, literally hundreds, and having an assortment of “Hidden Hallows” might add some additional intrigue to the park. Going on hunts for the sign of the deathly hallows could seriously amplify the repeated visitor ratio and give the visitors of the park yet another fun and exciting thing to do. Also, speaking of the park itself-

#4 A Larger Park

This is probably one of the biggest complaints so far concerning the park. It seems like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was only meant to accommodate a few thousand people which simply doesn’t seem to be enough for the Harry Potter nation.

There are plenty of locations to stretch the park into, Diagon Alley being the first and foremost, but the books are so rich with interesting locales and mysterious shops that it wouldn’t be difficult to expand the park and allow everyone a little bit more elbow room.

Anyone who has visited the park will tell you that not being able to find a place to sit at the Hog’s Head and not being able to even enter Ollivanders because of cramped conditions severely impact the enjoyment factor even if it’s the way that Harry Ron and Hermione experienced it. A few more restaurants, shops and rides might seriously alleviate the problem.

#3 A British Location

As soon as Orlando, Florida was announced as the future location of the first Harry Potter amusement park, we could have sworn that we heard a million English voices cry out in anguish at once. It was a disturbance in the Force that we had never experienced before.

Frankly, it’s not hard to understand why America was chosen ($$$), but anywhere in England seems to be a more suitable location. J.K. Rowling has insisted many times that the books are very distinctly British, so it was very much a slap to the jowel when Hogwarts suddenly showed up in America

Ideal locations for an additional park: Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo and London. Also, let’s get to work on a Harry Potter themed hotel in Vegas, shall we?

#2 The Hogwarts Express

It was a beautiful idea for the Hogwarts express to be the first thing that visitors see at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but it would be extra magical to take it a step further.

What if, in order to visit the new amusement park, one had to take the Hogwarts express? Disneyland uses that fancy tram to transport people from the parking structure, so a series of Hogwarts Expresses transporting people to and from the park wouldn’t be too far-fetched.

Just imagine. The journey would really only need to be a few minutes long to get the effect and the experience would be extra magical if Hogwarts and the grounds weren’t visible to the public until a certain point on the train.

#1 Rides, Rides, Rides!

One of the things that has always made us skeptical about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the serious lack of rides. Yes, I guess the existing park is really more of a “land” than its own amusement park, but does that mean that only three rides should be enough to satisfy Harry Potter obsessed visitors from all over the globe?

Yes, children love Flight of the Hippogriff, but people above the age of fourteen  quickly run out of things to do in the park after just a few hours and the source material has plenty of opportunities to introduce truly magical rides.

Where’s Quidditch: The Ride? Where’s our Triwizard Tournament ride? Yes, Dragon Challenge is similar, but as someone who wasted his childhood on Roller Coaster Tycoon I can see the millions of unused possibilities.  Should the Gringotts bank we proposed earlier have an underground cavern roller-coaster? After watching Deathly Hallows Part-2 we think it’s pretty much inevitable!

So what do you think? What additions would you like to see to Potter parks in the future? Let us know in the comments below!

The first two cast members for Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King have been announced by director Jon Favreau.

James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in the animated movie in the ’90s, is returning as the character in the live-action adaptation. Interesting!

Meanwhile, Donald Glover — who will co-star in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming for Disney and Marvel — will play Adult Simba.

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The first two cast members for Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King have been announced by director Jon Favreau.

James Earl Jones, who voiced Mufasa in the animated movie in the ’90s, is returning as the character in the live-action adaptation. Interesting!

Meanwhile, Donald Glover — who will co-star in this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming for Disney and Marvel — will play Adult Simba.

Favreau tweeted the news Friday evening:

According to a statement from Disney, The Lion King “will build on the groundbreaking technology used in The Jungle Book to bring the story of Simba to photorealistic life.”

A release date for the film hasn’t been set. Favreau also helmed the live-action Jungle Book for the studio.

So far casting is off to a great start!

What Disney can learn from the 2009 Chinese live-action ‘Mulan’

Here's what 'Hua Mulan' got right

4:30 pm EST, February 17, 2017

Disney seems to have a long-term plan to churn out live-action versions of its most popular animations, and Mulan is the latest of its projects. The live-action version of the Chinese legend is already getting us excited, but many people don’t know that an excellent live-action Mulan movie already exists, made by a Chinese studio.

Hua Mulan (sometimes translated as Mulan: Rise of a Warrior) is a 2009 film by director Jingle Ma. It tells the story of Hua Mulan, a young woman who goes to war instead of her aging father, and rises in the army’s ranks. It won many awards in China, and stars Wei Zhao as Mulan.

Disney’s Mulan wasn’t favorably received in China when it was released, with audiences saying it was too different from the original legend, and too Westernized. Now would be a good time for the studio to make the film as globally appealing as it can be — and Hua Mulan is a perfect example of how to do our favorite female warrior justice.

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Disney seems to have a long-term plan to churn out live-action versions of its most popular animations, and Mulan is the latest of its projects. The live-action version of the Chinese legend is already getting us excited, but many people don’t know that an excellent live-action Mulan movie already exists, made by a Chinese studio.

Hua Mulan (sometimes translated as Mulan: Rise of a Warrior) is a 2009 film by director Jingle Ma. It tells the story of Hua Mulan, a young woman who goes to war instead of her aging father, and rises in the army’s ranks. It won many awards in China, and stars Wei Zhao as Mulan.

Disney’s Mulan wasn’t favorably received in China when it was released, with audiences saying it was too different from the original legend, and too Westernized. Now would be a good time for the studio to make the film as globally appealing as it can be — and Hua Mulan is a perfect example of how to do our favorite female warrior justice.

Here are some things Hua Mulan got right that Disney would do well to learn from.

hua mulan decision

Bringing more realism to the legend

Hua Mulan follows a plot that is more loyal to the original legend of Mulan, which states that she was a warrior for the Chinese army for over a decade. In the film, she even becomes a General, and retires with the nation’s respect, even after her identity as a woman is revealed.

Seeing Mulan lead thousands of men in Hua Mulan is a rare and empowering experience. Her struggles as a woman in a position of power, and the various dilemmas that come with commanding such a large number of people, are what bring intensity and meaning to the story. Mulan itself explored the concept of honor and femininity as well, but we only got a very small glimpse at the power that the legendary Mulan is said to have actually wielded.

While Disney may not want to make a movie that ventures too far from a family friendly atmosphere by portraying a Mulan who goes to war too realistically (as in, showing her killing enemies), it would be great to see her rise in the ranks and revolutionize such a male-dominated space the way she is said to have done.

hua mulan warrior

Not shying away from the grit — but not making it too grim, either

Hua Mulan does an excellent job of skirting the line between grim tragedy and friendly comedy. With thousands of extras, the battle scenes are as breathtaking and inspiring as they are horrifying. There’s a scene where Mulan counts the dog tags of all the fallen soldiers, and a considerable amount of time is spent exploring her despair and responsibility as the army’s struggle becomes more desperate. The emotional rawness of the story creates a very real, very flawed, yet very lovable Mulan — and takes audiences on an exploration of heroism, perseverance, and honor.

Of course, we can’t expect Disney to go all out with blood and grit — they’re bound to bring out Mushu, after all — but Disney prides itself on epic battles and fantastic special effects, and they’ll want to serve us war scenes as breathtaking and realistic as possible.

However, we’re all tired of grittiness for grittiness’ sake. Despite the heaviness of the more emotional scenes of Hua Mulan, there is sweetness and humor. The friendships in the army, much like those of Disney’s version, can be laugh-out-loud funny, and the scenes of Mulan’s struggle to preserve her male appearance are equally fun to watch.

Related: Disney’s live action Mulan lands female director

After all, audiences won’t be going to see Mulan to see war and sadness — the animated version was fun and adventurous, and although it had somber moments, it still managed to keep things just lighthearted enough for us to not get too sad. With animation, that lightheartedness is an easier task; portraying war with real actors could prove a more difficult challenge.

Establishing more depth in the main relationship

In Hua Mulan, Mulan and Wentai’s relationship is beautiful, but it builds over a long period of time, and strengthens through their mutual respect as they both struggle to lead an army. Their love is based on that combination of trust built over time, and shared responsibility.

Shang and Mulan have what is possibly one of the best relationships Disney has ever come up with. Among the Disney ‘princesses,’ Mulan and Shang probably have the greatest chemistry and story of all, and scenes from the animated film continue to be shipping fuel. Presumably, they’ll want to replicate this relationship in the new live-action version.

However, the animated film was sadly limited to only a few glimpses of the developing relationship. It would be amazing if we could see more of the friendship between Shang and Mulan (as Ping) and how it becomes something more. It’s rare in a ‘princess’ movie to see romance begin with sincere friendship, and it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the confusion regarding Mulan’s gender in both a funny and profound way.

Giving it a more realistic conclusion

There are some scenes that could do with a makeover, especially at the very end. Mulan’s final trick to kill Shan Yu — by dressing three soldiers in drag and having them attempt to distract him — is hilarious in the animation, but would come off as strange and unrealistic in a live-action movie, and perhaps even a little offensive.

Hua Mulan’s approach to defeating the enemy is a much more powerful one. Although it equals Mulan in stealth and cleverness, it involves realistic strategy and power dynamics, and finally involves her making a deal that saves China through negotiation, rather than war — and making a terribly painful personal sacrifice.

Disney has a penchant for epic final battle scenes, but that isn’t what happens in either Mulan or Hua Mulan. In both cases, it’s Mulan’s cleverness that saves the day. It would be great to see that cleverness translated into a realistic solution, in the same way it does in Hua Mulan.

It’s not like Disney hasn’t subverted its own canon, after all. In Maleficient, it isn’t the prince’s kiss that lifts the spell. Disney could certainly benefit from giving Mulan a more epic finale, and perhaps one that does her legendary character justice.

Immersing us in historically-accurate China

Besides perhaps The Jungle Book, we’ve yet to see a live-action adaptation that takes place in a non-European culture. In fact, this would be the first film to employ solely actors of color. What Disney decides to do here will be particularly interesting; since Aladdin will be getting its own adaptation soon, and Pocahontas could also follow in the live-action trend, the decisions taken here will likely set a precedent for what will be done with those films.

There were rumors earlier of Mulan having a white love interest, which now seem to be crushed, thankfully. We want to see a film with an entirely Asian cast — hopefully at least mostly Chinese — and get a chance to explore the scenery, sets and props of ancient China.

Although, it’s only fair to say that Hua Mulan also has its own white character — a Russian singer called Vitas, who inexplicably pops up now and again. That’s another tip for Disney: don’t just insert white guys into the story for no reason.

Hua Mulan’s shots of rural China are beautiful and unique, and it would be amazing to see what Disney can do if they choose to show much of what they did in animation, with real sets and locations. Hopefully, Disney gets a chance to actually film in China itself.

All this doesn’t go to say that we want a copy of Hua Mulan. Not at all. Hua Mulan is an excellent film in its own right, but it’s considerably more adult than Disney would ever dare make an adaptation. The realism of its wars and of the toll duty takes on Mulan and her companions is nothing like the fun, if occasionally emotional, adventure Disney took us on with Mulan.

Disney’s version is a movie to be excited about, and the additions the animated film made to the legend are what makes it a classic. It would be amazing to see Mushu, Shang, the ancestors, and maybe even the cricket, on screen, as well as the songs, of course! “Make a Man Out of You” with real actors will definitely be one of the biggest highlights.

So far, we know that Mulan’s director will be Niki Caro. Although she isn’t Chinese, a matter that raises a lot of questions about representation, it’s still encouraging to see a female director chosen — and if Caro’s powerful film Whale Rider is any indication, she’s rather good at telling empowering stories with female leads. Hopefully, the rest of the team can be filled with talented Chinese filmmakers that deserve to have a hand in rendering such a culturally significant story properly.

After all, Mulan is primarily a Chinese legend, and her story spans a history much longer than the 18 years since Disney’s animation came out.

In the meantime, go check out Hua Mulan, which is a fascinating film (although a considerably more adult one; you’ve been warned)!

What are you expecting from ‘Mulan’?

There’s a new drama coming to HBO this Sunday and you can’t miss it. Big Little Lies is a delicious trip through the small, rich, and scandalous town of Monterey, California.

Featuring an all-star cast — Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley — HBO’s book to TV adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s wildly popular novel should please both book readers and newbies (I’m the latter) thanks to the soapy drama and lack of censorship.

‘Big Little Lies’ review: Come for the cast, stay for the story

Big Little Lies takes elements of True Detective, Real Housewives, and Gone Girl, and mixes them into one lovely, hate-filled cocktail. Set in the beautiful coastal town of Monterey, the secrets and connections between characters run deep.

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There’s a new drama coming to HBO this Sunday and you can’t miss it. Big Little Lies is a delicious trip through the small, rich, and scandalous town of Monterey, California.

Featuring an all-star cast — Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley — HBO’s book to TV adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s wildly popular novel should please both book readers and newbies (I’m the latter) thanks to the soapy drama and lack of censorship.

‘Big Little Lies’ review: Come for the cast, stay for the story

Big Little Lies takes elements of True Detective, Real Housewives, and Gone Girl, and mixes them into one lovely, hate-filled cocktail. Set in the beautiful coastal town of Monterey, the secrets and connections between characters run deep.

Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline is the ringmaster. She’s the typical Helicopter Parent trying as best she can to keep Monterey’s relationships and extracurricular activities together. Bringing her down is her ego and never-ending animosity toward a couple of characters, including her ex-husband’s new bae Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz, below). Together, Bonnie and Madeline’s new hubby Ed (Adam Scott) want to keep the peace between their two partners, but they’re the only two who seem capable of keeping tempers in check.

Meanwhile, Perry (Skarsgård) and Celeste (Kidman) have serious marriage issues that seem impossible to resolve. Of the leading ladies, Celeste seems to be the most level-headed despite her shitty husband. Then there’s Laura Dern’s Renata (below), who hates Madeline with all of her heart. Some of the best scenes are between these two ladies.

Not helping the Renata/Madeline relationship is the latter’s new friend Jane (Woodley). She’s just moved to town with her son Ziggy, who might’ve caused serious trouble on his first day of school.

It’s this event that initiates the show’s biggest mystery: A murder. Who did it? Who’s dead? The answer is not revealed in the first four episodes despite flash forward sequences in which we see an investigation taking place. As you continue to watch, it becomes increasingly clear that any of the characters could be be the victim or murderer. (This writer hasn’t read the book, so please don’t spoil me.)

Big Little Lies is the perfect show to cuddle up with on Sunday evenings for the next two months. While some have called this show corny, I find it to be a delight. I just have one suggestion for every viewer: Bring a glass of alcohol to the party. While screening the episodes, I very much enjoyed watching the drama unfold with a drink in hand.

The only problem? It’s just seven episodes long. Here’s hoping for more seasons or more adaptations of Moriarty’s books at HBO.

Big Little Lies premieres Sunday, February 19 on HBO.