Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

AfterShokz Aeropex Running Headphones Review

Aeropex AfterShokz Headphones

Do you ever feel like you get incredibly lucky from time to time?  Well, one night back in December, I was participating in a Twitter chat and at the end of the chat found out I had won a pair of AfterShokz Aeropex headphones.  I was so excited!  For years, I've heard about the quality and wearability of these popular headphones, but I hadn't had the chance to try them.  When they arrived, I had to celebrate with an unboxing. . .

What It's Like To Stay In A Hotel During Coronavirus

This past weekend we did something we hadn't done in months. . .stayed in a hotel.  As you know, my family loves to travel and we are always on the go having new adventures.  But coronavirus has sidelined us, as well as everyone else, from our "normal." So for Father's Day we decided that we were going to load up the bikes and head on a quick road trip up to Jim Thorpe, PA in the Pocono Mountains for some trail riding.  Along with that road trip, would be our first hotel stay in the era of coronavirus.  Long story short, travel fans can rejoice that while hotel stays are different thanks to COVID, they are still doable in my opinion.

Where did we stay?


Readers of my website will know that we are a Hilton family thanks to their great loyalty program and the amount of Hilton points we accumulate.  We used our points to stay at the Hampton Inn-Lehighton for two nights.  This hotel is just a few miles outside of downtown Jim Thorpe and provides a convenient location for cyclists and families that may want to check out the Lehigh Gorge Trail, part of the much larger D&L Trail.  The hotel staff could not have more friendly!  They were accommodating even before we arrived, talking us through some questions we had about the area and bike storage in the days leading up to our visit.  The room was a nice size to accommodate our family of four and there was easy access to the highway.

Hotel Cleanliness During Coronavirus



Top on everyone's list of concerns right now is keeping this clean and sanitized wherever you go, so traveling to a hotel can feel like a big decision.  You'll be happy to know that we were really pleased with the efforts of Hilton as a brand and this Hampton Inn location in particular.  When we arrived, the check-in area was blocked with sheeting so that germs could not pass back and forth.  Even with the barrier in place, employees wore masks and guests were required to wear masks in the lobby area.  The employee who checked us in was warm and welcoming.  She explained that with concerns about transmitting germs, they have currently opted guests out of daily housekeeping - that way once you enter your cleaned and sanitized room, no one but your family will be in there until you check out.  I really liked that option.  Now, if you're someone who isn't worried about having someone enter your room and you really like a "freshen up" each day - you could opt in to housekeeping, but you need to request it and alert the front desk.  If you have an extended stay and would just like fresh towels on different days, you can also call and request them from the front desk and they will be delivered outside your door in a sealed package.



Despite all the measures that were in place, we still brought our own Clorox wipes and wiped down high touch surfaces like the vanity area, dresser, nightstand, desk, etc. before be began unpacking and settling in.  I will also say that every time we were in the lobby, we saw employees wiping surfaces and cleaning.  It's easy to see that Hilton is taking the precautions seriously and we felt good about how clean everything was being kept.

Hotel Amenities During Coronavirus


Something worth noting as you decide whether or not to travel is that some of your typical hotel amenities may not be operating or may be different than what you're used to seeing.  In our case towards the end of June, the indoor pool, fitness center, and business center were all closed.  The commons area also featured socially distanced seating which means less seats available.  We went down to the lobby to eat delivery our first night and were the only ones there and both mornings we ate breakfast in our rooms so we never felt crowded or like seating was an issue during our stay.


One of the biggest changes worth noting is modified breakfast service.  Hotels that typically offer breakfast to guests may have some modifications in place.  Usually, Hampton Inn offers continental options and a daily hot option to guests on a buffet.  This trip, we found the experience to be different - which we expected and is completely understandable.  They had three types of cereal in individually wrapped bowls, a few types of pre-packaged muffins, one hot option individually wrapped in a warmer, and then fruit, yogurt, juices, and milk in a small refrigerator.  Coffee and hot tea were also available with coffee cups individually wrapped in plastic and stirrer / sweeteners also offered in one prepackaged set.  We anticipated that options may be limited so we took advantage of the fact that we were driving and brought some items with us - the kids' favorite cereals, protein bars, and protein shakes.  We grabbed drinks from the lobby each morning, but otherwise ate breakfast in our room.

While these experiences were in one hotel, I have a feeling that you could expect similar realities wherever you travel.  My best advice, call your specific hotel and ask questions ahead of your arrival so you know what to expect!  Happy Travels!


Artemis Fowl Movie Review


Artemis Fowl - Image from Disney+

New movie releases continue to drop despite the closure of movie theaters an the latest one for family movie fans to enjoy is Disney's Artemis Fowl.  Artemis Fowl was scheduled for a theatrical release, had it's date pushed, and then moved to a Disney+ release when COVID-19 sent us into lockdown mode.  This movie has some serious star power for a straight to Disney+ streaming release including Colin Ferrell and Josh Gad in leading roles.  Artemis Fowl also has a built in fan base from the popular children's books.  But would it live up to it's promise?  

Artemis Fowl Movie Review


So, now it's time for my confession.  I didn't finish the book before seeing the movie.  And according to some of my friends like Patty and Tessa, maybe that's a good thing.  In the movie, we meet young Artemis Fowl - his mother has passed and his father travels away from Fowl Manor frequently on mysterious trips.  Young Artemis is a very intelligent and curious boy.  When his father disappears off of his super yacht in the South China Sea, Artemis receives a cryptic phone call demanding a mystical object - the Aculos - as ransom.  Artemis begins formulating a plan to save his father from his captors while also clearing his name a a criminal.  


What follows is a story of trolls, fairies, dwarves, and human lives intersecting into one big adventure.  I'll be honest. . .there were parts of the movie that I was confused about what was happening.  Books and movies with a lot of "fantasy" elements generally aren't among my favorites (I've never been a Harry Potter fan - shocking, right??) and the hodgepodge of characters was difficult for me to follow.  I felt like there were some serious plot holes that movie just glazes over.  For example, when Artemis' dad goes missing and Butler introduces him to the work his dad had been doing with fairies and this whole underground world, it all just clicks for Artemis.  No struggle, no questioning - just straight to work.  It wasn't for me and didn't hold the attention of my kids either who I think couldn't figure out what was going on.

The movie isn't BAD though. . .it's just not something I know I'd rush to watch again.  The bond between Artemis and Holly Short is endearing as is the way that Artemis cares for Butler.  He acts as someone with the soul of someone much older.  Despite the separation between the fairy world and the human world, there is a strong connection between the two and the fairies demonstrate more times than one their care for humanity. Josh Gad is also a highlight in this film. . .I mean, isn't he always?  His character, Mulch Diggums is funny and kept me hanging in when I wasn't sure about where the movie was heading.  Director Kenneth Branagh did a beautiful job visually creating the worlds of both Artemis and the fairies as the colors, scenery, and camera work is very well done.

Overall, I think this was a good call by Disney to release this movie straight to Disney+ instead of pushing the release date again in hopes of a big theatrical release post COVID-19.  The ending of the film certainly leaves it open for more adventures from Artemis to come.  After all, "I'm Artemis Fowl and I'm a criminal mastermind."

Looking for more straight to Disney+ movie releases? Check out Disneynature's Dolphin Reef!


About Artemis Fowl (From Disney+ and Walt Disney Studios)



Disney's "Artemis Fowl," based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, is a fantastical, spellbinding adventure that follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he desperately tries to save his father who has been kidnapped.  In order to pay his ransom, Artemis must infiltrate an ancient, underground civilization - the amazingly advanced world of fairies - and bring the kidnapper the Aculos, the fairies' most powerful and coveted magical device.  To locate the elusive object, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan - so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.


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Think Like a Dog Movie Review

Think Like A Dog - Image from Lionsgate Movies

I don't know about you, but I feel like some of the entertainment side of my site has really gone to the dogs lately!  Over the past few weeks, we had the at home movie premiere of SCOOB and the new series It's A Dog's Life with Bill Farmer on Disney+, dogs are certainly a hot trend in entertainment.  The newest release for at home viewing from Lionsgate Movies is no exception.  In the new film, Think Like a Dog, families will get to do something they only dream of. . .get inside a dog's head.  

Think Like a Dog Movie Review 


Think Like a Dog was exactly what I wanted to see with my family right now.  It was cute, funny, and also relatable.  It's not only a movie about a middle school student who creates a way to talk with his dog, but also a movie about the life of a pre-teen in general.

At 12 years old, Oliver is dealing with some similar pressures and realities that other kids in elementary and middle school can relate with in their own experiences.  Oliver deals with a classmate picking on him, which has a pretty significant impact on his presentation of his science fair project in front of the famous inventor he is trying to impress.  He's also a pre-teenager who has a crush on a girl in his class and is going through all of those awkward puberty phases of figuring out how to talk to her.  In addition, Oliver's parents are struggling in their marriage.  While they try to cover a lot to protect him, he can tell something is off and that stress weighs on him.  Just when you think Oliver has too much on his young plate to handle, he discovers that his technology has been found out and that means people are after him. . .and Henry too!

Image from Lionsgate Movies

But through all of the uncertainty and adventure that unravels, Henry the dog is there for his best friend Oliver.   Even though Henry may be going through life on four paws instead of two legs, he shares his own insecurities and complex feelings with Oliver.  I think it makes Oliver feel better to know he's not alone in struggling with things and his dog becomes and even strong friend than before.  Henry shows the whole family how to live the simple life - it turns out that's why dogs are so happy all the time.

"When humans grow up they start to focus on the wrong things and forget about what matters." ~ Henry


Want more doggone fun?  Download a Think Like a Dog word game here!




About Think Like a Dog (From Lionsgate Movies)




Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox star in this whimsical family comedy about a boy and his dog, and a science project that will change all of their lives forever.  Think Like a Dog follows 12-year-old Oliver (Gabriel Bateman), a tech prodigy whose middle-school science fair experiment goes awry, creating a telepathic connection between him and his furry friend, Henry.  The bond brings Oliver and Henry even closer as they join forces to comically overcome complications at school, and help Oliver's parents rekindle their marriage along the way. 

Think Like a Dog is now available to buy on your favorite digital platform!

I received a digital copy of this film to provide this review.

SCOOB! Movie Review

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

As parts of the country still are under stay-at-home orders and others are slowly opening up, Warner Bros. Pictures came to the home entertainment rescue with the at home digital release of SCOOB!, the latest Scooby Doo movie in this longstanding franchise.  With a talented cast and a fancy at home premiere night, hopes were high for this film. . .but does it live up to the expectations?  Let's take a look.

SCOOB! Movie Review


I have to admit, all of this time at home has me really excited when something new hits the digital entertainment world and I was probably more excited about the "newness" of SCOOB! then I was for the actual movie.  I've never been much of a Scooby Doo fan and I actually don't think my kids have really seen much of anything Scooby Doo previously.  Regardless, we all excitedly tuned in and weren't disappointed.

Scooby fans will be excited to get a little backstory at the beginning of the film as to how Scoob and Shaggy become friends then their first interaction with Velma, Fred, and Daphne - the rest of what will become Mystery, Inc.  As the group of friends grow up from kids to young adults, they are taking on more and more cases.  Like many small businesses, they are looking for investors - enter Simon Cowell.  Yes, you read that right, a cameo by Simon Cowell!  In true Simon fashion he critiques the work of Mystery, Inc. - particularly where Scooby and Shaggy are concerned.  Hurt by the meeting, Scooby and Shaggy go bowling and that's where this newest adventure really begins.  The two friends come under attack and then are mysteriously rescued by one of their favorite superhero duos - Blue Falcon and Dynomutt.  While on board, they begin putting pieces together about an evil plot by the villain, Dick Dastardly, who is after Scooby himself!  Meanwhile, Fred, Velma, and Daphne learn of the attack on the bowling alley and the mysterious disappearance of their friends.  They jump into action themselves to try and rescue Scooby and Shaggy.  

The overarching theme of this movie is all about friendship.  Simon Cowell makes a comment when he is meeting with Mystery, Inc. that friendship won't save the day and throughout the movie, that theory is put to the test.  Viewers see Fred, Velma, and Daphne wrestling with the advice of Simon Cowell to distance themselves from Scooby and Shaggy while also wanting to remain loyal to their longtime friends.  But more poignantly is the changing dymanic of Scooby Doo and Shaggy on their adventure with Blue Falcon.  They challenge their beliefs about themselves and each other.  Can people (and dogs!) grow and change while still having their friendship survive?  Without spoiling the details of their adventure, there are many valuable lessons about friendship that you'll find in the film.

Overall, my kids really enjoyed the movie.  We watched it twice in a 24 hour period and they probably would have watched it more if we would have let them!  There are life lessons sprinkled among the laughs and it's a solid choice for family movie night.


Learn more about the SCOOB! premiere and get your FREE activity pack for the movie here!


About SCOOB! (From Warner Bros. Pictures)



"SCOOB!" reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma, and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures hared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world.  As they race to stop this global "dogpocalypse," the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

Disney / Pixar Onward - Movie Review

Chris Pratt and Tom Holland

If you're like me, as soon as you see Pixar's studio attached to an animated film, you know to pack the tissues.  While the stories told in these movies are often heartwarming and filled with laughs, they also pack an emotional punch that leaves softies like me ugly crying in theaters.  Would Onward be any different?  The newest film from Disney and Pixar actually had me questioning it during the trailers, but would Onward defy my initial trailer reactions and live up to the hype?  Let's find out.  Before taking a look at my thoughts on the film, let's take one more look at the trailer and information from the studios.

About Disney / Pixar's Onward


Sonic The Hedgehog - Movie Review

Sonic the Hedgehog raced into theaters and back into our hearts.  He's been delighting fans for decades in the world of video games so it's no wonder this movie met with big success opening weekend.  If you think this movie is one that just the kids will enjoy though, you're mistaken.  Fans young and old of the little "blue devil" will find comedy and life lessons to enjoy.

Ben Schwartz is the voice of Sonic
Image from Paramount Pictures

So why Sonic now?  I spent some time thinking about this as I watched the movie and came to the conclusion it was the perfect time for a Sonic the Hedgehog movies.  Those of us that grew up playing Sonic on our SEGA Game Gear's and SEGA Genesis systems now have kids playing Sonic on their devices.  As soon as the movie began, I felt a twinge of nostalgia at the excitement of seeing one of my favorite childhood games come to life on the big screen.

The Call of the Wild - Movie Review


"Well Buck, what an adventure."

Image from Walt Disney Studios
An adventure is just what you'll find when you head to theaters to see The Call of the Wild starring Harrison Ford as John Thornton and his loyal companion, Buck.  We have long heard that a dog is man's best friend and in this movie we see that come to life. I have always been a fan of Harrison Ford and you know my love of family films that appeal to kids and adults alike so I was really hoping to fall in love with this movie.  While I won't say it's a film that everyone will love, I left the theatre with my heart full and warm.  Wondering if it's right for you and your family?  Let's find out.

Review


Overall, I really enjoyed the film with my kids.  Having never read the book, I wasn't sure what exactly to expect.  I feel like the trailer tells the story of Buck and John Thornton on their grand adventure and I didn't realize how much of the move would take place before this adventure even begins.  There is a whole life that Buck has prior to going into the wild with Thornton.  Watching him go from a spoiled house pet, to a scared and captured pup, to a struggling mail dog, and ultimately to a confident leader, Buck embodies a transformation that humans can relate to as we go through the different seasons of our lives.  I felt a connection to Buck in a way I didn't expect to.  And then there's Harrison Ford as John Thornton.  His performance is memorable and just as you experience Buck's emotional journey during the film, you also do with Thorton.  As a man who has lost his family and is really trying to lose himself, he turns his life around and awakens to have the adventure he always dreamed of with the dog he never knew he needed.

Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker - Is the Force strong in this final chapter?

It's the finale that was 42 years in the making.  Fans have been waiting to see how the Skywalker arc ends in the Star Wars universe and now they finally have their answers.  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is quickly taking the world by storm, but should it be?  I waited 24 hours to post my review so I could process what I saw and what I wanted to say.  In an effort to keep this post spoiler-free, I'm going to discuss my thoughts on the film by breaking down some questions you may have before you see it.

Do you have to be a serious Star Wars fan to enjoy this film?


Yes and no.  I'm gauging this answer the same way I look at Avengers: Endgame.  If the only experience you have with Star Wars are more recent films (like my husband - Episodes VII and VIII, Solo, and Rogue One are it for him), you can certainly see the movie and mostly follow along, but you want appreciate the entirety of the story.  I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that Palpatine factors into this film as his presence was felt in the trailers.  My husband, a Star Wars novice at best, would have no idea who he is and his importance in the Skywalker saga.

JJ Abrams definitely made this film for the fans - even including several fabulous cameos and easter eggs.  Knowing your Star Wars history will maximize your enjoyment of the film.  I'm not a diehard fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I've seen the entire Skywalker saga and was armed with all the knowledge I needed to see this movie.  I'll openly admit though that I probably missed some other nods to the Star Wars universe because I have not watched all of the other shows / stories so those of you that have a PhD in a galaxy far, far away will have a field day watching this!

Is this movie appropriate for my kids?


The film carries a PG-13 rating like some other Star Wars films.  Judge my parenting you may, but I have allowed my 7 year old to watch Episodes I - VIII in their entirety and there is nothing in this film that is more or less appropriate than any of the others.  Star Wars films mainly carry that rating due to the violence that is portrayed.  Most of this fighting in this film is again lightsaber battles, air fighting, and large explosions.

But just because I feel like my son COULD see this movie, I don't know that it means he SHOULD be seeing it in theaters.  I'm still torn on whether or not I'll take him to the movies over the winter break from school to see it.  This movie is very dark.  Read that as you will.  Dark scenes both from a lighting standpoint and a "heaviness" to them.  It's an emotional end to a powerful saga - keep that in mind.  Knowing my son too, he'd ask A LOT of questions during the movie because, while he's seen all of the Skywalker movies, he doesn't necessarily have the details memorized.  Seeing this in your home might be a better option for little ones. . .if you can keep them waiting that long!

Was the end everything it should be?


This is going to be a very personal question for Star Wars fans.  It's an end.  You will walk out of the movie feeling like the Skywalker story is complete.  But will it be what you wanted?  That depends on you.  Again, I think Abrams worked hard to create a movie that fans will appreciate.  I did feel like some of the pithy one-lines from characters were a bit forced.  Don't get me wrong, I like Rey, Finn, and Poe as much as the next fan. . .but they don't have the same chemistry that Luke, Leia, and Han had and at times it feels like filmmakers are trying to force that chemistry on screen.

You will walk away with strong feelings about Ren and Rey.  Both of these actors delivered powerful performances and I think this is Adam Driver's best Star Wars performance yet.  CGI Leia was a little weird for me in all honesty - just felt a little weird, but she needed to be there to end her story as well.   Notably absent was Rose who featured so prominently in Episode VIII.  She's there, but simply as a background character.  I really thought we'd see more of her.  And we also meet a few new faces as the final chapter comes to a close.

What happens with the Star Wars universe from here?


While the Skywalker story has come to a definitive end, there were several openings I noted during the movie where I can see more to develop.  I don't want to ruin any of the plot points for you so I'm not going to say much here, but keep an eye on Finn.  I don't think we've seen the last of him!

Overall, I think Episode IX will satisfy fans.  Will it astound you?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  As a fan of Star Wars, I walked away emotionally drained and very content with how the story ends.  I have a lot more I WANT to say about this film, but I'll write a spoiler post in a few days to unpack more of my thoughts after hopefully more of you have had the chance to see it.  Enjoy the final chapter and. . .may the Force be with you!



Top Gun: Maverick - New Trailer and Poster!!


I feel the need. . .the need for speed!  OMG - between Ghostbusters and Top Gun, I'm really living my best 1980s life right now.  When I heard that a new Top Gun movie was heading our way, I was on board from the beginning.  Bringing back Maverick to the big screen is amazing in my eyes.  I can't wait to see what this film brings and we just had another trailer released.  Let's take a look at what Maverick's up to when he hits theaters in 2020!



I don't know about you, but this trailer brings back that loving feeling!  The throwback imagery from the bar scene, the motorcycle ride, the air stunts, and more is everything I hoped it would be.  I mention in my reaction video that I didn't feel like I had a good sense of the plot and then, as I was putting this post together, I saw that a plot summary was released with the trailer as well!  Now more of the pieces are falling into place and it appears Maverick is going to be reunited with Goose's son (remember. . .he played with him in the piano "Great Balls of Fire" scene in the original?) for some intense training!  I'm here for all of this!!!

About Top Gun: Maverick


After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose.”

Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.


Top Gun: Maverick releases June 2020 from Paramount Pictures.

It's Good To Be Weird - A Spies in Disguise Review

What do you get when you combine the voice talents of Tom Holland and Will Smith with a great story and a talented animation team? The answer. . .Spies in Disguise, an action packed comedy that will have you championing Team Weird! I had the chance to be among the first in the world to see this movie complete - weeks before the "world premiere" even!  When I was out in California for The Geekly Retreat we had the opportunity to screen this movie with some of creative talent behind it.  I already had a sense this movie was going to be a hit, but I walked out loving every minute of the film and having a really hard time staying silent about it until embargo broke.  So let's dive right in to see what makes this the perfect spy movie for kids.

About Spies in Disguise


Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.

The Perfect Spy Movie for Kids


There are several reasons why I loved this film. First, the characters - particularly Beckett. Beckett and Sterling are the perfect on screen duo with the classic "opposites attract" feel to their relationship. While Sterling may appear to be the obvious hero, Beckett proves to us that heroes can also come from unlikely sources. "Let's get weird" becomes a tagline of the movie and I love the fact that a kid who is fascinated with science and engineering follows his dreams and sees them become a reality. As a mom of a boy who is also a STEM lover and an educator, I think it's awesome to have kids see it's cool to be smart - not just cool to be tough.

When it comes to brains, Beckett doesn't just have smarts in the science world, but also in the political philosophy department. Some of the messaging of this movie is incredible and just what I want to have my boys hear as they are watching an action packed spy movie. Here is just a sampling of lines that Beckett delivers in the movie that teaches kids fighting, violence, and war are not always the best or only option to consider. Without turning this into a political piece, we see a lot of violent messaging in our world - it's popular and it sells. This film shows that while the world may have violence, maybe it doesn't always have to be that way. Here's just a sampling of Beckett's lines throughout the film:

  • "You can do more by bringing people together than by blowing them up."
  • "I believe together we can find a good way to beat the bad."
  • "There's not good guys or bad guys - just people."
The value of teamwork is also central to this story. Sterling was an incredible super-spy, but he needed help from an unlikely source. In fact, early on in the film, Sterling remarks "Team? I fly solo." Little does he know how important the kid from research and development will become in his life. Not only does Beckett become a member of Sterling's team, but he develops his own "flock" of support as the movie progresses. This doesn't mean that everything is smooth sailing though as these team relationships develop. Friendships are tested and feelings are hurt - just like in real life. Characters learn what it means to change and grow, to apologize, and to accept the beauty of each other's differences.

I think this movie truly has it all for families to enjoy - action, humor, and heart. I can't wait for my boys to see it in theaters when it opens this Christmas. Make plans to fly to the movies too and see it with your family this holiday season!



Playmobil: The Movie Review

Over the past several months, I've seen the trailer for Playmobil: The Movie as we've headed to theaters to watch other family friendly films and my boys were excited to see this when it released.  So when opening night found us with nothing to do, we decided to head to the theaters and check this out.  I'll have to admit we were very surprised (and slightly concerned) that our local theater was running a "sale" on tickets for this movie on opening night - just $5 per person.  In fact, when we showed up just 5 minutes before the start of the movie, we were the only ones to have bought tickets and remained the only people in the theater for the whole show.  So why?  Was the movie really going to be that bad??


The answer is a definitive no - the movie is not THAT bad.  Now, compared to more popular competition like Playing with Fire and Frozen 2 still out and going strong in the family film genre, I think there's some tough competition.  Marketing of this film was also sparse in my opinion.  Honestly, outside of the trailers in theaters, I don't know that I really would have known anything about this film so opening weekend was likely not too exciting to draw crowds.  Out of these three films, Playmobil was my least favorite, but the boys enjoyed it which is what matters in the end.  The movie begins with live action characters who get swept into the make-believe world of Playmobil where they have the adventure they always imagined they would and remember the magic of their sibling relationship.  Musical numbers are placed throughout, but I think they seemed forced and even my boys said they didn't like the music.  They did enjoy the super secret agent Rex Dasher voiced by Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) and I enjoyed the character of Del voiced by Jim Gaffigan.  There's nothing GREAT about the film, but little ones will find moments to laugh and will likely enjoy the action.  Sorry grown-ups, you'll probably be bored with this one.

Overall, you can definitely wait until this one hits Netflix - no need to rush to the theaters.  But if you're kids are interested and excited, it's an OK film for the trip to the movies.

About Playmobil: The Movie


In PLAYMOBIL’s® animated action adventure, a top secret organization has caused citizens from different lands to vanish from thin air. The dashing and charismatic secret agent Rex Dasher (Daniel Radcliffe) must partner with smooth-talking food truck driver Del (Jim Gaffigan) and Marla (Anya Taylor-Joy) a smart, savvy civilian with her own secret agenda, to rescue them.  Against unthinkable odds, the trio go on a fantastic journey across stunning new worlds as they gather clues for their rescue mission.

#PlaymobilTheMovie


The Music of Frozen 2 - My Favorite Songs from the Film


Reviews are pouring in for Frozen 2 as it gets ready to open everywhere on November 22.  But you don't have to wait until then to start enjoying this magical journey in your own home!  The soundtrack just released and it is a force to be reckoned with. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who were also the songwriters for Frozen and Coco, really come through on this film with a soundtrack that is as memorable as the first.  I had some favorite musical moments that stood out from the film, but listening to the soundtrack (over and over again!), brings that whole flood of emotions back and I once again find myself in the woods with our favorite Frozen friends.  As an animated movie musical, the songs enhance the story so listening to the soundtrack may give you a few details about the plot itself, but no major spoilers to be found in the music or in this post!  Take a look at my top 3 songs from the film.

#3 - Some Things Never Change


This song comes early in the movie as we are catching up with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf.  I think part of what I like about this song is it features all of our lead characters singing to and about each other.  It's a cute song to watch as you see those close relationships the between each of the characters and the perfect way to bring them all back to us on the big screen.  Listening to the song again after seeing the movie, I enjoy the message of the song even more.  The world is constantly changing around us and sometimes it feels like things are spiraling beyond our control.  It's in these times that we look for the constants in our lives.  Who are the people that are always there for us no matter what?  When life gets scary, lean on those around you and take comfort knowing that "some things never change."

#2 - Into the Unknown


Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez,
songwriters for Frozen 2.
Much like it's predecessor, Frozen 2 turns to Idina Menzel to deliver a powerful and memorable musical performance as the rising action in the story climbs and our characters embark on their daring journey.  I mean, as if there were any doubt, this song is a technical masterpiece.  Menzel is spectacular.  It's mystical, beautiful, and powerful - all at the same time.  But don't overlook the alternative version of the song performed by Panic at the Disco during the closing credits and also available on the soundtrack.  It takes a totally different spin on the song which is equally delightful for listeners.  Whether your journey into the unknown is a new job, a new beginning, or venturing into the North Woods, you'll find all the courage you need to face the unknown with confidence in this song.

#1 - Lost in the Woods


Ok, ok. . .hear me out on this one.  If you are just listening to the soundtrack, I hope that you're enjoying this song like I do, but this is also one that you have to "see it to believe it" when I tell you this is simply the best musical moment of the film.  As you can tell from the lyrics, we find Kristoff at a bit of a crossroads emotionally and in a true 1980s power ballad way, he delivers a heartfelt song where he puts all of his feelings on the table.  He is in love and not afraid to say it.  The way he loves Anna during this film will leave people talking about how every man should treat his Disney princess.  I really fell in love with Kristoff during this movie and this number is a big reason why.  I have listened to it on repeat and each time can't help but feel my heart smile.  The delivery of this song in the movie is a highlight which will leave you feeling all the feels with Kristoff and also laughing out loud at the creative minds of the animators.  Hands down #1, I don't care what anyone else says!

If you haven't downloaded the music yet, what are you waiting for??  This is the perfect way to pass the time until the film opens and to relive all of your favorite parts once you've seen it.  Looking for more Frozen posts?  Check out what it was like to walk the red carpet and attend the Frozen 2 after party, read my review, and download FREE printable activities for the family to enjoy all here at Running on Pixie Dust!

About Frozen 2



Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer is calling her and threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she'll set out on a dangerous but remarkable journey. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—and featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2019.

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Frozen 2 Takes Us Into the Unknown

Are you ready to go "into the unknown" and "let it go" when Frozen 2 hits the big screen on November 22?  I had the chance to walk the red carpet and attend the Hollywood world premiere as part of The Geekly Retreat and it was an amazing way to experience this film! Get ready to fall in love all over again with your favorite characters and meet incredible new faces along the way.

Review of Frozen 2


We find Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff living their best lives in Arendelle as the movie opens.  However, Elsa quickly begins to question what is happening as she hears a strange voice calling to her.  She tries to shake it off, but the sound keeps coming back.  When the full force of nature seems to unleash on Arendelle, the queen and princess lead their subjects into the mountains surrounding the city to seek safety.  Grand Pabbie appears and fills Anna and Elsa into the mystical happenings taking place around them.  It becomes clear that to get the answers she seeks and to save her kingdom, Elsa must leave Arendelle.  Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff begin their journey northward to find out what is happening.

My thoughts on the film?  The story is as good as the first - if not a bit better.  All of the characters have more depth this time around - even little Olaf!  The trailers show a "darker" and "scarier" story than we saw in the original film, but I don't think this should deter young families from seeing the movie.  It's a more serious story at times, but also has many moments of heart, humor, and song that all everyone with find a connection with as they watch.  I will say that I thought the story is a bit more complex than the original and I feel like the first 20-30 minutes are a bit slow, but stick with it and pay attention because the information they go over at the start of the movie is crucial and the action picks up quickly once they arrive in the woods.  And then there is the music!  The songs from this film are their own version of iconic.  While I *think* I enjoyed the original soundtrack more on a standalone basis, I'm excited to listen to the music again when the soundtrack releases and when I see it with my kids to see if that changes.  Regardless, the songs are PERFECT for the film.  The powerhouse team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez certainly deliver again.  There is one song that may go down as my favorite Disney "music video" of all time. . .but I'll let you discover that one one your own!

After all of the years watching and re-watching Frozen, I was left with a number of plot questions.  And when I heard a Frozen 2 was in the works, I found myself hoping that these questions would get answers.  This is a spoiler-free zone, so while we're talking about what questions that will be answered - no answers will be actually be given!

What happened to Anna and Elsa's parents?


In Frozen, we get a brief few scenes with Anna and Elsa's parents before they embark on a journey by boat.  We see the boat thrown around the ocean and then Arendelle receives news that the King and Queen have died.  While it appears clear that they perished at sea, I always wanted to know where they were going and more about what happened on that fateful day that changed the lives of both Anna and Elsa forever.  You WILL find out more about the death of their parents in this film.  Apparently Anna and Elsa, like me, have been asking this same question.

Where do Elsa's powers come from?


Anyone else find it strange that Elsa is the only one in her family that turns the world to ice when she touches things?  Grand Pabbie asks Elsa's parents early on in Frozen if she was born with the powers or cursed and her dad reveals that she was born with the powers.  How does that happen?  My academic brain thinks back to Punnett Squares and I'm fascinated that she has these icy powers while mom, dad, and Anna don't.  Well, rest assured that you WILL find out why Elsa has these magical powers as the story unwinds.

What's Kristoff's backstory?


Can we talk about Kristoff for a moment?  Here is this rugged mountain man who lives with his reindeer best friend and falls in love with a princess.  What happened to his parents?  Why does he live with a bunch of trolls?  I love me some Kristoff and want to know more!! So in this movie, Kristoff plays a more prominent role and we learn more about him for sure (in fact, some of my favorite moments from this film involve Kristoff) - but I did not get ALL of my questions answered.  Maybe this is Frozen 3 territory?  Or a Disney+ series?  One can hope!

About Frozen 2




Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer is calling her and threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she'll set out on a dangerous but remarkable journey. In “Frozen,” Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. In “Frozen 2,” she must hope they are enough. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—and featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2019.

Looking for more Frozen 2 fun?  Check out this trailer preview post including FREE downloads of activities for the whole family to enjoy!  Follow the Frozen fun on their social media channels!

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Get in the Christmas Spirit with Noelle

Who doesn't love a family friendly Christmas movie that gives us a glimpse of what it's like to be a Kringle?  For generations, movies have been made that pull back the curtain on the mystery of Santa Claus and his family, and Disney's Noelle puts an original twist on the family life of St. Nick.  Warning - I both laughed out loud and ugly cried in this movie far more than I expected which is the sign of an outstanding movie in my opinion!  Seriously, you'll want to keep reading this and then grab your yogurt pants (you'll get it when you see the movie!) and your hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and peppermint to watch this with the whole family.

Recap of the Movie


The movie begins introducing us to Santa's kids, Noelle and Nick.  When Santa passes away, it's everyone's expectation that Nick (Bill Hader) take over for his father.  Noelle (Anna Kendrick) is there to support her brother every step of the way as her Christmas cheer is infectious.  As his first Christmas nears, Nick is overwhelmed and questions his ability to handle the job.  Noelle encourages him to take a weekend getaway to clear his mind, but when Nick doesn't return, the North Pole goes into panic mode.  What happens when Santa goes missing and Christmas is just around the corner?  Panic sets in and Noelle's tech-savvy cousin, Gabriel (Billy Eichner), is named as the replacement Santa.  Realizing her duty to her brother, and really the world, to bring the real Santa back home, Noelle leaves the North Pole for the first time with her nanny, Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine), and heads to Phoenix, Arizona.  What follows is a series of hilarious events that teach Noelle more about the true meaning of Christmas than she can even imagine.  Seriously, Anna Kendrick is delightfully jolly as Noelle Kringle and her enthusiasm for the holiday season will easily come across the screen to everyone who watches.

Why Families Will Love It


Where do I even begin with this?  Let's first talk about messages that you'll walk away with from the film.  There is a big overarching look at expectations - both from society and from your family.  Nick is expected to become Santa because he's Santa's son.  No one stops to ask Nick if that's what he wants.  I don't want to give any spoilers here, but I'll just throw it out there that Nick isn't the only one struggling with this battle of what he wants and what is expected of him.  Learning to stand up for what you want and what you believe is a hard thing for all of us.

Noelle also grapples with the fact that the holidays can be a hard time for some kids.  As an educator, I loved that a Christmas movie shows that the holiday season isn't always perfection and lots of gifts and big families gathered under the tree singing carols together.  In the film we follow a young boy going through his first Christmas following the divorce of his parents as well as a young girl is living in shelter with her mom over the holiday season because they've lost their house.  I'm a big proponent of movies that show kids they are not alone is struggling with hard things at home and I think this is also a great reminder for kids who may be tied up in wanting the latest and greatest gadgets to be reminded what some of these kids in the movie wish for as their "present" this Christmas.  The idea of Christmas traditions changing as families evolve is also present throughout the film.  Most of my ugly crying happened during these scenes by the way.

At the end of the day, this is a family holiday movie that will leave you feeling all the feels.  It's certainly one that kids of all ages can enjoy right alongside of their parents.  Even young children who would miss most of these bigger themes I've been talking about will delight in the bright colors, fun music, and jolly holiday spirit.  Thank garland that Disney+ has brought us this film for the holidays!!

About Disney's Noelle




In Disney+'s holiday comedy, "Noelle," Kris Kringle's daughter is full of Christmas spirit and holiday fun, but wishes she could do something "important" like her beloved brother Nick, who will take over for their father this Christmas.  When Nick is about to crumble like a gingerbread cookie from all the pressure, Noelle suggests he take a break and get away. . .but when he doesn't return, Noelle must find her brother and bring him back in time to save Christmas.  The sudden disappearance of the new Santa (Bill Vader) leads to chaos in the North Pole, so Mrs. Kringle (Julie Hagerty) must step up to rein in the hi-tech replacement Santa, Cousin Gabs (Billy Eichner).  Meanwhile, Noelle and Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine), the family's acerbic but good-hearted nanny, are down South on a search-and-recover mission, during which Noelle (Anna Kendrick) comes to realize she has much in common with her father and begins to understand the true meaning of Christmas.  Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, "Noelle" stars Anna Kendrick, Bill Vader, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Billy Eichner, Julie Hagerty and Shirley MacLaine.  The film is produced by Suzanne Todd with John G. Scotti serving as executive producer.

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Get in the holiday spirit as Disney's Noelle begin's streaming on Disney+ when the service goes live November 12, 2019!

Lady and The Tramp Review

Disney+ is just about to make it's debut and already it has gone to the dogs!  We all know that Disney's live action remakes have been knocking it out of the park (check out my reviews of Disney's Aladdin and The Lion King which also released in 2019), and with the release of Disney+ we find yet another live action remake that is set to rekindle our love of these classics!

Disney's animated Lady and the Tramp was released in 1955 - long before many of us were even born!  But the iconic story of two dogs from opposite sides of the city who find love over a meatball and some spaghetti is a timeless story that has been entertaining audiences for decades. Fans of the original will be happy to know that there are few changes to the storyline, and those changes only add to the storyline.  Let's take a look. . .

How it Compares to Original


There are many scenes in this remake that pull directly from the original and will tug at your heartstrings as you see them recreated with actual dogs.  I felt a deeper connection with the dogs during this film - in both times of joy and times of sadness.  When you watch Lady climb the steps and hop in Jim Dear and Darling's bed, you can almost feel her wet nose and soft fun snuggling up against you.  And as you watch the dog catcher chase Tramp through the streets, you're heart will race with nervous worry - even though you know how it ends!  There are a few small "tweaks" to some of the scenes as Lady and Tramp explore the city together, but they really don't add or detract from the original storyline in my opinion.

Besides the obvious change of creating the movie in a live action rendition, viewers will also find a more diverse cast in this remake.  As Disney continues to reimagine their classics, we have seen this trend and I think it's wonderful for casting to be more representative of all fans and viewers.  We'll dive into this topic, along with others in my post recapping the interview with Yvette Nicole Brown and Adrian Martinez who play Aunt Sarah and the Dog Catcher respectively.

Overall, I had much stronger emotions during this remake than I had with the classic animation and found myself crying at a few points during the film.  I think fans of the original will enjoy this movie and those of you who maybe didn't enjoy the classic should also give this one a chance too - it's worth the watch!

Kid Friendliness


While there is certainly nothing inappropriate about Lady and the Tramp, I think it's meant to be enjoyed by a slightly older audience.  My 4 year old has grown up with a mom who loves Disney movies and has watched a lot of live action and animation Disney films in his short life.  He would probably enjoy the film, but I don't know that it would hold the attention of all young kids the same way.

The only other caution I would give to parents with young children about the movie is that emotional connection I felt was stronger in this film.  I think it's easier in a cartoon to distance yourselves from the characters and the situations, but it is much harder when you're watching a live action movie.  When Aunt Sarah takes Lady to get a muzzle, it's heartbreaking to watch as is the scene at the dog pound when you see the dogs locked in cages and sad.  Those very raw emotions can be a lot to process for some kids.  In fact, I think my 7 year old may have a harder time watching this film for that reason than my 4 year old who may not fully process what is happening with the animals.

About The Film





In Disney+'s "Lady and the Tramp," a timeless re-telling of the 1955 animated classic, a pampered house dog and a tough but lovable stray embark on an unexpected adventure and, despite their differences, grow closer and come to understand the value of home.  Life is good for Lady, an overachieving American Cocker Spaniel who resides in an upscale suburban neighborhood.  Her owners, Jim Dear and Darling, spoil her daily and her neighbors, Jock, an outspoken Scottish Terrier and Trusty, a world-weary Bloodhound, are always within barking distance.  But when a baby enters the picture, Lady is no longer the center of attention, and the arrival of cat-loving Aunt Sarah only complicates matters.  Lady soon finds herself alone on the streets in an unwelcoming part of town.  Fortunately, Tramp steps in, and the streetwise mongrel is quick to teach her the ways of the world.  Before long, the prim and proper pure bred and the fast-talking mutt are partaking in moonlit strolls in the park and romantic spaghetti dinners by candlelight.  Tramp savors the independence of a world without leashes or fences alongside his roguish friends Peg and Bull, but Lady misses the comfort and safety of a family, and soon both must decide where - and with whom - they belong.  A heartwarming romantic adventure that seamlessly combines live action and photorealism animation, "Lady and the Tramp" stars: Tessa Thompson as the voice of Lady and Justin Theroux as the voice of Tramp; Kiersey Clemons as Darling; Thomas Mann as Jim Dear; Janelle Monae as the voice of Peg; Yvette Nicole Brown as Aunt Sarah; and Sam Elliott as the voice of Trusty.  The film is directed by Charlie Bean from a screenplay by Andrew Bujalski and Kari Granlund, and is produced by Brigham Taylor with Diane L. Sabatini serving as executive producer.

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Disney's Lady and the Tramp begins streaming on Disney+ November 12, 2019!  Be sure to check it out!

Maleficent Mistress of Evil Movie Review

Images from Walt Disney Studios
Hello, Beastie.  If you thought meeting your in-laws was tough, just wait until you get a load of what happens in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil!  But, I'm jumping ahead.  Remember when Disney's Maleficent originally ended we found that it was Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) herself that had delivered true love's kiss to wake the sleeping Aurora (Elle Fanning) - not some dashing prince like we had all been led to believe.  Maleficent and Aurora were all set to live "happily ever after" with Aurora being named the new Queen of the Moors.  But, she still has her eyes on that dashing young prince and at the beginning of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) drops to one knee and pops the question to young Aurora who eagerly accepts.  There's just one problem - they have to tell their parents.

Prince Philip's dad is excited about the new union as he sees it like the young star-crossed lovers - a union of not only two people, but of two kingdoms.  However, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) is fearful of the Moors and distrusts Maleficent.  Maleficent is also less than thrilled at the idea of this marriage, but reluctantly agrees to dinner with the royal family of Ulstead to celebrate the engagement and attempt peace between the two.  The night turns uncomfortable quickly as Queen Ingrith and Maleficent trade barbs with each other, despite attempts by the King, Prince Phillip, and Aurora to move back to small talk.  Maleficent is finally pushed to her breaking point and goes, well, "Maleficent" on everyone - which confirms the fears that the kingdom held.  When tragedy befalls the King, Aurora even begins to question whether Maleficent can be trusted.  Heartbroken by this, Maleficent leaves the castle in Ulstead and, through her own unfortunate turn of events, discovers she is not as alone in this world as she thought.

When the day of Aurora and Phillip's wedding arrives, Aurora begins to put pieces together that something seems amiss around the castle.  Will Phillip and Aurora find their happily ever after or will the differences between their families lead to a war that will tear them apart??



Overall, I enjoyed this film much more than the original.  I enjoy both Maleficent films for the fact that they tell a classic Disney story from a totally different perspective, but I feel like all of the characters develop more depth in this second chapter of Maleficent.  However, it's a bit darker and more violent than the first so this may not be totally appropriate for your young kids, even with the PG rating.  I went alone to see the movie, and while there wasn't anything terribly objectionable for my 7 year old, I don't think he would be "into" the story much and the fighting scenes definitely push my boundary to the edge of what I would say is OK as a mom.

Angelina Jolie once again nails the part of Maleficent - perfectly complex as the "villain" you can't help but love.  I think though Michelle Pfeiffer rivals Jolie on camera though as a dynamic force that you won't soon forget.  They both deliver perfectly timed one liners during the "meet the parents" dinner scene which adds more wit to Maleficent 2 that was missing a bit in the first.  This movie is all about strong females as they wrestle with the battle of good versus evil inside of them.  Even Aurora steps out of her comfort zone as the pretty young princess to stand up for her beliefs - whatever the cost.  If you enjoyed to original Maleficent, you will certainly want to check out how the story continues!

Want more Maleficent?  Check out the family press kit which includes coloring pages, games, and activities that you can download here!  And don't forget to follow #Maleficent2 on social media!

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Meet The Voices Behind Young Simba and Nala in The Lion King

What would you get if you packed talent, brains, personality, and a little bit of spunk into two young actors?  You'd get JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph of course!  These two are rising stars and are the voices behind Young Simba and Young Nala in Disney's The Lion King opening everywhere July 19th.  I recently had an opportunity to sit down with these two when their press trip brought them to Washington, D.C. for an interview to get to know them better.  It's probably wrong to actually call this a true interview though.  I was joined by two other bloggers and the actors - that's it. It was an easy conversation in a suite at The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. instead of the feel of a big media event.  Because of this atmosphere, we had a nice chat with the two young stars about making The Lion King, what it's like to be a star on the rise in the music and movie world, and what's next for them!  So let's check it out!

On Making The Lion King - Several of the questions we asked JD and Shahadi were about their experience making the film.  Both of them talked about the influence the 1994 animated classic had on their performance.  Like most everyone else, they've grown up watching the animated version of The Lion King and certainly thought back on it as they dove into their roles.  Shahadi shared that they wanted to stay "as authentic as possible while adding our own personalities to it."  JD agreed and described the opportunity to play Simba as a "dream come true."  When asked about their favorite scenes to record, Shahadi shared that her favorite was "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" as she has been "loving that song for a long time," while JD enjoyed recording the stampede scene.  Sharing a bit of the emotions that can take over when creating movies, JD told us that he really cried when recording that particular heartbreaking scene.  Along the same lines, each of the actors found ways that they connected with their characters.  JD talked about really looking up to his dad, just like Simba does with Mufasa, and also being brave adding "I used to get scared of stuff a lot easier than I do now."  On the other side of the table, Shahadi felt that she can relate to Nala's spunk, wit, and confidence.  I then posed a question about the new technology that Director Jon Favreau used in this film.  To create the world of The Lion King with a "live action" feel, Favreau used virtual reality to allow actors to actually be transported to Pride Rock, the Elephant Graveyard and throughout Africa. On using the new VR headsets, JD shared, "We put it on, we had these controllers in our hands, and just looked around.  You can see Pride Rock, the savannah, the watering hole.  We saw the elephant graveyard and everything was so real. It was crazy."  Helping to add to the realistic feel, Favreau had young Simba and Nala work with some of the other actors in the film as well when recording.  The two young stars had a chance to record with the hyenas, Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), and Billy Eichner (Timon).  The hyenas were apparently as scary to record with as they come across in the film!

JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph voice Simba
and Nala in Disney's The Lion King. Photo from
Walt Disney Studios.
What Their Lives Are Like Now - Both young stars are incredibly down-to-earth and humble, especially given the fact that their careers are literally exploding right now.  As musicians and actors these two keep themselves busy.  When we talked about balancing the entertainment industry with being a kid, both JD and Shahadi made it all sound easy!  Shahadi continues to attend regular school in New York and finds time to hang out with her friends when she's not working.  Likewise, JD enjoys playing video games just like many other 12 year old kids and is homeschooled in Los Angeles.  Both also talked about getting some rest and relaxation following this whirlwind press tour that ends shortly after the release of the film.  Shahadi couldn't hold back a smile when she talked about ending the press tour just a short subway ride away from home and looking forward to a family cruise later this summer.  My daily work with middle school students lead me to ask this 12 and 14 year old what advice they would have for kids their age about pursuing their dreams.  Shahadi, showing a maturity well beyond her years, began "I think that you should find something that you are really passionate about and just keep striving for it, keep working for it."  JD then added "The people that kept going for it and never gave up, always made it to where they wanted to go."

What's Next For Shahadi and JD? - Speaking of following their dreams, these two are certainly doing that! Shahadi has already starred on Broadway, coincidentally playing the role of Young Nala, and on screen.   Now, she's tackling the music world and was excited to share that she just released a new single, "Skin I'm In" that was debuted by Billboard just a few days before our interview.  JD has been busy making waves in the music industry himself, as the youngest male solo artist ever signed to Hollywood Records.  He released an EP, "Shine" that features 4 songs and was also beaming as he talked about his singles "Keep in Touch" and "My Name." One thing is certain - we are only beginning to hear from these bright young stars!

These two certainly shine on the big screen as Simba and Nala and I'm sure you'll join me in falling in love with them when The Lion King opens in theaters on July 19.  In the meantime, don't miss my thoughts on this film.  You can also download a FREE family activity packet courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.  You can follow all of The Lion King fun on social media below! Hakuna Matata!

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