Saturday, October 31, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: Which Soundtrack is the Best?

Here on BlurbMusings, it's clear that I love music. I have Music Zone articles highlighting my favorite songs at that moment in my life, and I have even had a Star Wars Saturday post noting my favorite Star Wars songs!

But which soundtrack, in its entirety, is the best?

This will only include the soundtracks of the original six movies, all composed by John Williams. While the music of The Clone Wars and Rebels is pretty good, it's only an echo of the music that Williams scored.

Why don't we rank them? Because an article can always use a good ranking. And we'll break it down with a few grades, as well. It's report card time, so I have that on the brain:

Since we're talking soundtracks, we should be listening to something. So here you go:

6. Attack of the Clones

Theme Song: B+
Battle Music: D
Repeatability: C-

I really enjoy the theme track to this movie, "Across the Stars." Even if the movie didn't get the love story across, the music portrays a tragedy of epic proportions. It is used a bit too much in this movie - every moment with Padme and Anakin and whoosh! The music comes soaring in again!

There aren't many songs that can be listened to by themselves, however. The battle music also becomes very long and forgettable, or you realize that it's music from The Phantom Menace that's being reused!. Plus, when you actually watch the movie, most of the end battle is cut up pieces of the music and not very fluid at all.

5. The Phantom Menace

Theme Song: A-
Battle Music: B-
Repeatability: B+

This soundtrack was listened to on repeat before The Phantom Menace was released in theaters. The chance to listen to new Star Wars music was too much to handle, even though certain tracks are not really memorable. However, "Duel of the Fates" is a great song, and even "Anakin's Theme" is beautiful in its simplicity.

Even though the title fanfare segues into something on the soundtrack that's different from the movie itself, the "Arrival to Coruscant" track is one of my favorites on the soundtrack because of the ending with the low strings. It segues very well into "Duel of the Fates," the second track.

I can't forgive this soundtrack for giving away such a major plot point, though. No wonder Lucasfilm is being so secretive about The Force Awakens.

4. Revenge of the Sith

Theme Song: A-
Battle Music: A-
Repeatability: B

There is a lot of pain felt in the "Battle of the Heroes" song. I do prefer it to "Duel of the Fates" in the long run. Instead of implying looming doom (like "Duel") this is proclaiming tragedy of epic proportions. I can just feel Obi-Wan's heart getting ripped out when he realizes all the horrors that are occurring.

The best songs come at the end of the soundtrack, from the Anakin/Obi-Wan and Palpatine/Yoda battles onward. The reason I place this soundtrack ahead of The Phantom Menace is because of the familiar themes heard at the end of the movie - Leia's theme, Luke's theme, and the Force theme.

3. A New Hope

Theme Song: A+ (Luke's theme, in my opinion)
Battle Music: A
Repeatability: A-

The soundtrack that started it all. It gave us some of the best themes (stated above in Revenge of the Sith) and spawned dozens of remixes. It also gave us the Cantina band and the punchiness of an entire orchestra when it is unknown whether Yavin 4 or the Death Star will explode.

This also introduced us to the idea of "suites," which were done for the opening fanfare/end credits (eventually released as a single which did very well) and "Leia's Theme." These songs weren't taken from the movie, but fleshed out into beautiful pieces that could be heard in their own right and appreciated for the brilliant music they are.

2. Return of the Jedi

Theme Song: A- (Emperor's theme? Ewoks' theme? Jabba's theme? Luke and Leia's theme?)
Battle Music: A+
Repeatability: A+

Ugh - this was a hard one to put at #2, because in my childhood I adored this album. The Ewok theme was so peppy! The Emperor's theme, with the brooding male chorus, was so creepy. And the song I would listen to on repeat was the suite for Luke and Leia's theme. It is so beautiful, but hearkens back so much tragedy from their past.

Nowadays, the battle music from Jabba's sail barge and all the different portions of the final Death Star battle are my favorites. It's very easy to place myself at just the right scene (or even just the right dialogue timing) in the movie. The soundtrack starts slowly, but ends with a bang!

1. The Empire Strikes Back

Theme Song: A+
Battle Music: A
Repeatability: A+

"The Imperial March" is the theme song that put this one on top. Not only is it perfect for the Empire, it is also iconic. Start humming that theme and pretty much anyone will join in with you, regardless if they are a Star Wars fan or not.

Throw in the simple beauty of Yoda's theme music, which pops up all over the place, and the sweeping romantic quality of Han and Leia's theme, and you have the foundation for a solid soundtrack. I've always loved the Hoth battle music, as well as much of the music that was in fact deleted from the final cut of the movie.

It was also pointed out on the Star Wars: Oxygen podcast that the oddly-sounding music from Cloud City actually sounds a lot like a siren song, reminding myth lovers of the sirens in Homer's Odyssey luring sailors to their doom. I got a kick out of that knowledge.

The best part of the soundtrack, though, is when the Millenium Falcon is going through the asteroid field. That bombastic music does a great job showing how terrifying that ordeal must have been. I adore that sequence of music.

So there you have it! The Star Wars soundtracks ranked from bottom to top - my own personal opinion, of course. Where will the soundtrack for The Force Awakens rank? Hopefully near the top, but it's going to be hard to knock off the albums that have been so iconic for so many years!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or 

More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: Trailer Reaction

Let's talk the trailer for a bit. How awesome was that?

Watch it again. I'll wait.

The first thing that came to my mind as I watched it was how amazing the music was. From the opening notes - in a high treble for Rey, a lower octave for Finn, and the deep, rich sound for Kylo Ren, the music conveyed tragedy and power. (Those opening notes are also the chords for "Han and the Princess," AKA Han and Leia's Love Theme, of which the entire theme is played later in the trailer.) And then the booming minor chords of the Force Theme, and finally, at the very end, the solo horn playing Luke's Theme. That ending is perfection.

The trailer also told us a lot, and nothing. It told us that Rey doesn't think highly of herself, and does have aspirations of leaving the planet (just look at the distant look of longing near the beginning of the trailer. Right before it cuts away her eyes are wistful with just a hint of a smile on her face, like she's imagining some far-off adventure.) Finn doesn't know what to do now that he's not a stormtrooper anymore. Kylo is going to finish what he believes was Darth Vader's mission. And finally, Han is saying that the "hokey religion" he didn't get in A New Hope is something he now believes in with his whole heart.

But we still don't know the main plot. Heck, we still haven't seen half characters, including Luke Skywalker! I'd be more upset if people on the Internet weren't assuring me that this is because Luke is so hugely important that his involvement in the plot can't be shown. (Thanks, Internet! Where were you Skywalker fans 20 years ago? I thought I was the only one!)

One thing that I heard in watching the trailer for the very first time was Han talking about all of it being true. He says, "The dark side." And then he says, as Poe Dameron passes Finn and greets him, "A Jedi." Most of the Internet is saying that it's "The Jedi." But no. Go back and listen carefully. Han is specifically talking about one Jedi - the Jedi that helped save the galaxy. Luke. That line becomes even more important when the right article (a, an, the articles) is put in place.

Something else I saw was that the dogfights in the trailers - the ones between the Millenium Falcon and TIE fighters, as well as the ones between X-Wings and TIE fighters - have all taken place in some sort of atmosphere. They're very close to planets. I don't think we've seen one space fight yet! Yes, we've seen ships in space, but unless you count (likely) Finn's TIE fighter getting blasted from the sky, they're keeping the battles out of space.

I had already purchased my ticket for the Star Wars Marathon on December 17: all seven movies in one day. But after the trailer, I went and purchased another ticket for December 18! If that was what the trailer was supposed to do, then it did its job. I can't wait for this movie. And believe me; if I'm not sleeping the Saturday after because of my marathon viewing, I will tell you all about my experience.

Since I've gushed over the music of the trailer already, you can listen to it sans dialogue and special effects here. Enjoy!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or 

More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Movie House Experience with Naruto

Last Saturday, I needed to get my mind off of things. Michigan had just lost a heartbreaker of a football game, and that kind of loss grates on you.

So I decided to take a leap and go see a movie, by myself, in downtown Denver. The reason I headed there was because the movie I wanted to see was a Japanese anime import, and it was only being shown in the area in one location: the Sei FilmCenter.

I honestly had no idea what to expect as I drove down to the theater. Would the place be empty? Would I find ample parking? Would the movie be any good? Out of all of these, the last question was the least of my concerns. After all, I had a lot of experience with this particular Japanese anime.

So a little background first...

The Series: Naruto

See that white-haired guy at the top?
He's my favorite character, Kakashi.
Don't be fooled - he's always had
white hair - he's only 30 years old!
Over ten years ago, my big brother convinced me to watch this Japanese show that he and his friends were watching online. I had watched Pokemon way back with my little brother, so I was aware of many of the quirks of Japanese anime. Since my brother was the one getting me to watch it, I knew it would be a bit more kid-friendly than some other Japanese anime out there.

The show was called Naruto. It had been going on for a few years, based on a manga (Japanese graphic novel) that had started in 1999. The story revolved around a 12-year-old boy named Naruto, who as a baby had a demon nine-tailed fox sealed inside him to stop the fox from destroying his village. Oh - did I mention that this is a village that trains ninjas? So the boy goes to the ninja academy and does horribly, but his hard work and perseverance helps him improve in his skills. He also has a huge rivalry with his team member, named Sasuke. He has a whole backstory that you don't really need to know.

The TV series is funny, scary, serious, and dramatic - something I wouldn't expect from a cartoon, but is routine for an anime. It took me a bit to get used to it, but I kept coming back.

The first arc revolved around Naruto and his team - the aforementioned Sasuke, a pink-haired girl named Sakura, and their sensei, Kakashi. That arc helped to introduce the core four characters (well, except Kakashi, but his backstory was huge and deserved more build-up than this) and see how the different kinds of things ninjas in this world could do.

It was the second arc that got me hooked. The "beginner" ninjas (genin) can apply to be promoted to the next level of ninja, called a chunin. This introduced us to many other characters in the village, and they were all fantastic. They had unique abilities and unique personalities, and it made for incredible stories.

Once I got into the Chunin Exam arc, I couldn't stop. My brother and I would watch multiple episodes at a time, marveling at how the characters were developing. None of them got stuck as a one-note character. And even after the Chunin Exam arc, the show still got better.

One of my favorite parts was the opening credits. Every 20 or 30 episodes, the opening song and credit sequence would change, depending on the story arc. Some of the songs were okay, and some were incredible! One of my favorites is below.

...And then we caught up with the Japanese airings. It was just about the time that the Naruto anime had caught up with the manga, so to keep the show fresh in people's minds, the anime made a bunch of episodes that weren't from the manga. (Filler episodes.) They were part of the story, but didn't have the same emotional impact.

They made over 80 of these filler episodes, and I just wanted to get back to the main story. So my brother and I both stopped watching. I hoped that someday I would get back into it.

Fast forward to this September. I had just bought Netflix to watch another amazing cartoon, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and saw that they had Naruto! I put it on my queue, and came back to it when the fall shows still hadn't premiered.

I re-watched all the episodes I'd seen over 10 years ago and loved it all over again. I had forgotten a few things and was surprised once again. My favorite characters back then (Shikamaru, Lee, Gaara) were still my favorite characters now. And best of all? The anime had gone back to airing manga episodes about eight years ago, and I had 400 new episodes to watch on Hulu!

Needless to say I raced through the new anime, called Naruto Shippuden, showing all the characters grown up into teenagers (the setting was 3 years after Naruto ended). Everything got more awesome, and I ate it up.

There were two arcs in particular that had me on the edge of my seat as I watched it - one involving one of my favorite characters, Shikamaru, and the other featured Naruto at his best and finally revealed a pretty major plot point. I will rewatch those episodes as much as possible.

But then the anime stopped! And it wasn't done with the story! I checked online, and saw that the manga had wrapped up last fall in Japan, but the final mangas had only recently been translated into English and released in the States. As a matter of fact, the final volume had only been released just three days previous from the time I checked.

To my delight and amazement, my local libraries carry the Naruto manga! So I checked out the final four volumes and was able to complete the story. I was so pleased with the ending, and pleased with myself that I was able to finish it without being too spoiled.

But now what? Would I just go on Pinterest and pin Naruto fanart until Star Wars comes out? Well, yes. But I also saw that the animators had also made several Naruto movies - one of which had just been released on DVD in the States called The Last! (I was having amazing luck with timing.)

I bought it and watched it and loved it, and then saw there was an even more recent movie about the next generation of ninja. Like the other movie, I checked online to see where I could buy the DVD. But it turned out, the movie had just been released in theaters in the States, and to my shock, the movie was showing at the Sei FilmCenter in Denver the exact same day that I was researching it online. And that day only.

The stars were aligned. I had to go.

The Theater

I made it to the theater without any problems and in plenty of time. They had a nice little lobby where they were showing playoff baseball on a TV and a few small tables and chairs. Like any theater, there was a concession stand, but I've trained myself not to even bother. Plus, this showing was at 9:30 at night, so I wasn't very hungry.

There was another movie showing at the same time, but as I drove into the parking garage, the first people I saw were actually doing cosplay of Naruto characters, so I knew there would be at least a few people in my theater.

When I got out of the bathroom I milled around by the theater entrance, which was still being cleaned from a previous movie showing. I wasn't thinking anything of it as I checked my phone and picked up a poster I saw on a table, but then I turned around. There was a line of people waiting to get into my theater! That made me excited.

I was close enough to the front of the line to snag my favorite theater seat: front row of the back section with the railing to put up my feet. I got in a conversation with the girls next to me who were recommending other Japanese anime, and right before 9:30 I took a look around.

It was so awesome; the theater was packed! I definitely was not expecting that. Even when the show started, people were still coming in and couldn't find a seat - they sat on the stairs!

Two guys I sat by must have worked in the theater, because one of the workers went up to them before the movie started and said, "So I guess I'll have to show more anime, huh?" He was clearly as shocked as I was that the theater was so full for a kid's anime. Nearly everyone was in their 20s or 30s, except for a girl who must have been 7 or 8. I almost gave her a high-five for her good taste, but held back.

The Experience

Most of you - if not all of you - have had experience watching shows on your computer. While it is incredibly convenient, the screen is pretty small and the sound quality is merely adequate. I had just spent 6-7 weeks watching an entire anime series this way - and by myself, with only my own comments and reactions.

So you could imagine my eyes widening and my jaw dropping when the first scene of the movie came up, and it was a massive fight scene. The surround sound! The animation! The cheers! I was swept up immediately from the first frame.

The crowd in the theater was great. They laughed at the comedy, they expressed shock at the dramatic parts, and they cheered when something great happened. This movie took place 15 years (or so) after the anime, so whenever a character returned looking older, everyone got really excited.

The movie was very good. The experience was phenomenal. It was so great to be sitting in a theater with people who loved this anime and manga just as much as I did. It can be hard to fall in love with a show or movie and not have people around you to appreciate it with you. This theater experience was just what I needed.

Would I do any more of these small theater/international movie showings? Absolutely. The Sei FilmCenter was a very nice place to watch a movie, and I would go there again. Clearly it knows what will attract an audience.

As I got into my car, I was relieved for those hours that I had spent not thinking about that awful football game and just relishing the opportunity I'd been given. It was worth every cent I spent!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: Luke and Han's Brother Dynamic

I was going to save this post for a later date, because it's one of my favorite things to think about in the Original Trilogy. However, I have a feeling that future Star Wars Saturday posts will be leaning a little more towards The Force Awakens after this week.

You see, rumors are overflowing that the new trailer will debut sometime on Monday. I say rumors because nothing has been confirmed, unless you count a deleted Good Morning America tweet that said they'd have something new on Monday. Speculation abounds.

I am looking forward to seeing the trailer like I am excited to get the latest Star Wars comic that is set after Return of the Jedi, and like I was excited to get the Journey to the Force Awakens books in September. I just want something new. I want more information! I don't need detailed synopses or plot points. I just want something new.

I also want to see Luke and Han and Leia in action, which brings me to my topic of the day.

Of those three characters, the bond between Luke and Han is the one that shines the least. Luke and Leia are brother and sister. Han and Leia are in love. But Luke and Han? That's an interesting dynamic.

I call it the brother dynamic. (I have seen the brother dynamic many times, since I have an older brother and a younger brother. Watching the two of them interact is fascinating!)

When Han first meets Luke, it's in the cantina and Luke has just been thrown around by Ponda Baba. That's not really showing your maturity - especially when an old man has to come to your aid. So Han immediately sees Luke as a kid. It is amazing, if you listen, how many times Han calls Luke "Kid" in the original trilogy.

In Luke's early stages of development in the Hero's Journey, he is still wide-eyed and aware of everything, with a positive outlook and gung-ho attitude. Han by this point is over all of that. He has a realistic - almost pessimistic - view of the world, and knows when to back down and when to step up. These two contrasting attitudes come together in a wonderful way when Han and Luke are together on the Millenium Falcon for the first time. Han actually swats Luke's hand away when Luke is trying to find out what the flashing is on the Falcon's console.

Don't we see that as how an older brother treats a younger brother? When the younger brother comes in, eager to play with the older brother's stuff, but the older brother, seemingly wiser, kicks the kid out or swats his hand away from his precious stuff.

While Han, Luke and Leia escape the Death Star with Chewie and the droids, Han is still not all-in with the Rebellion. Luke, meanwhile, is more than willing to give his life for the cause. Han sees Luke as the bright-eyed boy, even though the death of Obi-Wan really takes an effect on Luke. Luke even takes time to chastise Han about not seeing the big picture before he heads out on the Death Star run.

But Han develops too, and comes back to help Luke out. When Luke succeeds in blowing up the Death Star, what does he say? "Great shot kid! That was one-in-a-million!"

Another great brother moment. When the little brother succeeds, the big brother is there to congratulate him and boost his confidence.

Three years later, Luke has really grown up, even rising to the rank of Commander in the Rebellion. Han is also very involved, but always has his sights set on his departure. When Han decides to leave, the leadership isn't surprised. They express their regret and move on.

But what keeps Han on Hoth a bit longer? It's Luke. He gets attacked by a wampa and dragged away, and Han is the only one who goes out in the freezing temperatures to find him. And he does! He does everything in his power to make sure Luke stays alive. And when Luke is finally recovered on Echo Base, Han reminds him, "That's two you owe me, junior."

Brothers often get into scrapes, and sometimes the older brother has to bail the younger brother out, no matter how tough it may get.

We don't have another scene with Luke and Han except for in passing when Luke is headed toward his speeder. But when Luke finds out that Han and Leia are in danger on Cloud City, he barely hesitates. While his masters are trying to tell him not to go, Luke ignores them because he knows he has to save his friends.

Fast forward one year. Han is a showpiece in Jabba's palace. Even with rumors of something special happening and the success of the Bothan mission, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, and the droids head to Tatooine to rescue their friend. They have the plan down pat - all the way to Leia freeing Han from the carbonite to every single hero being in place at the Sarlaac pit. Han is minimally helpful (well, if you count his accidental bashing of Boba Fett's jetpack, very helpful), but Leia kills Jabba and Luke shows his strength in defeating everyone else.

However, even after Han says "Now I owe you one," Han still calls Luke "Kid" one more time. Remember?

They are on the Shuttle Tydirum. Luke's Jedi powers sense Darth Vader on the Super Star Destroyer Executor. He realizes that maybe going on this Endor mission wasn't a good idea (even though we know that the Emperor and the Empire are already fully aware of the plan). What does Han say? "It's your imagination, kid."

Even after four years of working together, Han still calls Luke "Kid." When the situation calls for it, Han will still act like the older brother, even though Luke has surpassed him in many ways.

When two brothers are adults, they have a lot more things in common. They have jobs, responsibilities, bills, and sometimes more. They can talk as equals instead of talking up or down. The younger brother can even succeed in ways that the older brother couldn't. However, the older brother still sometimes feels like he needs to exercise his elder status at certain points. For Han, this was one of those times.

Han sees Luke grow even more on Endor. When Han decides to ambush the speeder trooper, Luke is the one that cautions him: "Quietly! There might be more of them out there." Instead of talking down to Luke, Han just flashes his smile and says, "Hey! It's me!"

When Han's plan does go awry, Luke is able to aid Leia when she takes charge of a speeder bike to apprehend the other Imperial speeder patrolmen. Han is left behind while the others go on an adventure - that doesn't happen very often.

Finally, Luke uses his Jedi powers to lift C-3PO on his throne to convince the Ewoks to let them go. It's never mentioned if Luke actually tells Han and Leia and Chewie what actually happened, but I like to think if he hadn't said anything, they figured it out. And Han's reaction was that he was pretty impressed with Luke.

A relationship with a brother grows over time. Han and Luke's brotherly relationship certainly didn't grow under normal circumstances, but it still resulted in a strengthening of bonds. The two of them unite in a great battle, and because of the two of them - and countless others - the Empire is dealt a devastating blow.

I hope that in The Force Awakens Luke and Han have a scene together. It would be interesting to see where the two of them ended up in their friendship. Has it been fractured? Does Han still call Luke "Kid"? Is there any awe over what Luke has become (if he's become anything bigger than just a Jedi)?

Right now, we can only speculate on the status of this brotherhood. But hopefully this week, we'll get a little glimpse of what is to come.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Walt Disney World Music: Main Street U.S.A.

I'm introducing flashback posts for the next couple of weeks! This first one is my very first blog post from 

Have you ever tried to watch a movie without a soundtrack? I have watched behind-the-scenes documentaries of movies and TV shows where they show a dramatic scene or huge action sequence, and it sounds...well...dull. But once that soundtrack is inserted, with the ebbs and flows matching the feelings and actions on screen, suddenly the scene pops!

With this in mind, can you imagine walking down the streets of Magic Kingdom park in Walt Disney World without any of that music coming out of the speakers? Maybe you've never really paid attention to the atmospheric soundtrack, but that music subliminally creeps into your psyche and gears you up for wherever your feet take you!

If there was no music, the only thing you'd hear is the noisy people around you. And let's be honest: anything that helps keep your mind off of the loud discussions, crying, or crabbiness surrounding you and keeps you in your "magic zone" is a welcome one!

In this first installment of a new series, I want you to imagine yourself in Town Square on a beautiful, sunny morning in Orlando, Florida, and you are about to walk down the strange-yet-wondrous turn-of-the-century street that leads to a beautiful fairy tale castle.

What kind of music do you hear?

Skipping is an appropriate method of movement down Main Street USA!
Have you noticed how fast-paced the music is as you walk down Main Street, U.S.A? This is because as tourists enter the Magic Kingdom, everyone (well, hopefully everyone) has had a good night's rest, and are ready to take on the attractions of the park with gusto. The soundtrack heard strives to match that giddiness and excitement.

The tunes heard as you begin to meander down the street match the style that is emanated by the buildings surrounding you: the turn of the century. Ragtime was the popular American musical style of the time, characterized by syncopated and springy rhythms. If you think about it, "springy" is exactly what Cast Members want you to be as you walk down Main Street, U.S.A., to your first attraction. The lighter your step, the happier you are!

To what exactly are you listening? 

You can find a pretty stellar list of Main Street tunes at, but a sample of the hits include the "Triplets" xylophone rag, "Old Timers Waltz Medley," "Junkman Rag," and "Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby."

Now not all of the songs that you hear were composed during the early 1900s. Some songs composed later in the 20th century were arranged in the ragtime style to match the rest of the music loop. For example, many children's ears have perked up when "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" comes on. This song was composed for the 1964 musical Hello, Dolly! but was popularized recently by the 2008 Disney/Pixar film WALL-E.

Another two that may be familiar to those well versed in live action Disney musicals are "Summer Magic" and "Flitterin'," which were taken from the 1963 film Summer Magic starring Hayley Mills and Burl Ives. (Fun fact: the music of Summer Magic was composed by the Sherman brothers!)

And who could forget songs taken right out of the 1957 musical The Music Man: "Gary, Indiana" and "The Wells Fargo Wagon"?

Hello, Dolly!Summer Magic, and The Music Man all take place at the turn of the century, placing these pieces of music perfectly on Main Street, U.S.A.

How do you feel? 

It is likely in the morning that you have achieved peak excitement as you start to walk down this lovely red street. You may even feel the urge to swoon (i.e., faint) at the sight of Cinderella Castle up ahead. But the music surrounding you joyfully exclaims, "Pick up those feet and let's get moving - you've got a wonderful day ahead!"

During the hot afternoon, the music encourages, "Keep up the enthusiasm, and don't let that hot Florida sun bring you down!"

At the end of the day, the music might be a little softer, and the songs may have a slower tempo. However, the music tries to keep your exhausted feet from dragging themselves out of the park. Instead it urges, "Make your steps light, dwell on your day with happy reflection, and look forward to the day of magical excitement awaiting you tomorrow!"

Now whether that happy excitement follows you out to the bus stop and ferry dock is completely up to you...

Do you have a favorite piece of Main Street, U.S.A., music that I missed? Any catchy stories about walking down Main Street, U.S.A., that you'd like to share? Post them in the comments below! 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: May 19, 1999

All this anticipation for buying tickets for Star Wars The Force Awakens has me thinking about previous ticket buying experiences I had. I’ve seen a few midnight showings, including Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, But my strangest experience at an early showing came when I was 14 years old. The main reason is because the showing wasn’t at midnight!

In 1999 I was very excited for the new Star Wars movie to come out. I got sucked into all the marketing from Pepsi, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. I watched Total Request Live on MTV religiously at the time (I’ve been an *N SYNC fan since ‘98) and loved when the music video for “Duel of the Fates” premiered. I even bought the trading cards! So when the tickets for the opening day of The Phantom Menace went on sale, I begged my father to buy us tickets for the midnight show on May 19.

Well, he tried. But at that time, movie screens were still working with film and didn’t have unlimited screens to show a movie. (That changed by 2002 with the implementation of digital screens.) So when a showing sold out, they couldn’t just add an extra screen to fill up. When my dad went to get tickets, all the midnight showings in the area were sold out.

However, one theater’s way around this was to have screenings of The Phantom Menace right after the midnight showing. TPM was a long movie, and including end credits, theater clean-up, and time to fill up the theater, the second showing would start around 4:15 a.m.

And that’s the tickets that my father bought.

Luckily for me, my school had a field trip (COSI in Toledo) that day, so my odd hours of sleep would not affect my studies. This was pretty much the only way that my mother would have let me see this movie at this time, and being an adult now, I can understand.

But when I was a child, I was more than thrilled that my father and I would be doing this great Daddy-Daughter Date in such a weird way!

My alarm clock was set for 3:00 a.m. (At the time, I wished it was technologically savvy enough to play “3AM” by Matchbox 20 instead of its annoying buzz.) I did my best not to wake up my sister, who shared a room with me and had no interest in Star Wars. (Her loss.)

We didn’t eat breakfast, but jumped in the car and headed for our local grocery store, Busch’s, which at the time was a 24-hour grocery store. Dad knew that I didn’t like popcorn, so we stopped there so he could buy me some cheap candy. It felt very strange being in a near-empty store with a bunch of college kids who worked the overnight or early morning shifts.

We drove to Ann Arbor to the Showcase Cinema with almost no people on the roads. The bar crowds were already gone, and the early risers weren’t even out of bed yet. We got there before the midnight showing had let out, so there was a queue for us. Yes, there were other people crazy enough to decide that a 4 a.m. showing. There were a few people that were dressed up, but most didn’t. (I did wear my TPM t-shirt.)

It was interesting watching people going out of the theater from the midnight show. Most just were walking out as if they’d come out of any other movie. There wasn’t a lot enthusiasm, but one guy did lift his arms in triumph and said, “It was awesome!” I didn’t really care - I was just excited to see the movie myself.

I do admit I was surprised at how full our theater was. I honestly didn’t think anyone else would be as nuts as my Dad and I. (Little did I know about Star Wars fans at that time.) It was about ½ full, and consisted of a variety of people, but mostly people in their 20s and 30s.

What were my first thoughts? I really liked it! I liked the lightsaber parts. I loved Obi-Wan Kenobi (and Ewan McGregor) right away, and wished he was in it more. The podrace was fun. Most of the other stuff went over my head, and I do remember at the very end, when it went to the closing credits, I was surprised by the opening fanfare coming back. I did register that the movie didn’t feel like it was supposed to get that fanfare ending from the original trilogy. But overall, I liked it.

After the movie, it was sunny outside, and everyone at home was awake and getting ready for school when we got there. They were very curious about our experience, and we told them about it as I ate breakfast and got ready for the field trip.

While the movie was average, the experience surrounding it was wonderful. I am so thankful that my father tried so hard to make sure I could experience this movie in such a unique way. And there aren’t many people out there that can say they saw the a movie the day it 4:00 in the morning!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or 

More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Star Wars Saturday: The Importance of Chewbacca

Out of all the legacy characters from The Force Awakens, the only one getting a huge pull of merchandise at this time is Chewbacca. This isn't surprising, since he remains relatively unchanged since Return of the Jedi and has been shown in one of the teasers that has been released.

Lots of people love Chewbacca. It might be because outside of that scruffy exterior, he has a heart of gold (sound like another Star Wars scoundrel we know?). It might be because of his wicked awesome bowcaster. It might be because of his dialogue. (Everyone tries it, and almost everyone fails.)

I love him because he never felt like he was too big for any creature. He offered his services (and his friend Han's services too) to Obi-Wan Kenobi when they were looking for transport off Tatooine. He fixed the Millenium Falcon countless times. He rescued C-3PO from the Ugnaughts on Cloud City and chose to strap the droid on his back rather than leave him behind.

My favorite Chewbacca moment comes in Return of the Jedi. Chewbacca takes a little time to adjust to the tiny creatures called Ewoks, but eventually he develops quite a good report with them. Whether it was because of their Rebellion leanings or the fact that they looked like underdeveloped Wookies, Chewbacca becomes friends with them in a short amount of time.

It's no surprise that, while Han and Leia immediately set off for the bunker to get back inside and set the Rebellion's attack plan in motion, Chewie instead tramples off into the forest with the Ewoks to help them defend their planet. And while we don't see much of his action against the Imperial forces...

(...hold on...let me get the music ready....okay, click on this while you read the rest of the article!)

...we do see a very important sequence take place. Chewie, Wunka, and Widdle Warrick (I'm not making this up) spot an AT-ST mowing down poor Ewok brethren. With his amazing Tarzan-like skills, Chewbacca swings the two Ewoks and himself onto the top of the AT-ST. They easily overtake the vehicle and travel to the bunker to see what Han's doing, destroying stormtroopers and other AT-STs on the way.

That's all well and good, but it's when you realize what would have happened if they didn't take that AT-ST down that you appreciate Chewie even more.

If they hadn't taken the AT-ST, that crew would have killed more Ewoks. Han would never have figured out how to get back into the bunker - or even if he had, it might have taken too long, resulting in the Rebellion's fleet being utterly crushed by the Death Star, Star Destroyers, and various TIE fighters. While Luke might have succeeded in his own personal mission, he might have needed to take drastic measures to get off the Death Star, and likely leave his father behind. And even further, there is a slight chance that, with the Death Star being fully operational, and the fact that the natives of the forest moon were starting to get cranky, the people in charge of the Death Star might have just turned the battle station on the moon and blown it up!

This AT-ST takedown was the great turning point of the battle. In this point of view, Chewbacca was the hero of the battle. Yes, Lando and Wedge took down the Death Star, and yes, Luke defeated Darth Vader and Palpatine, but without Chewbacca's heroics, none of that would have been able to happen as it actually did.

As I've mentioned before, I love the idea that there was a medal ceremony after the Battle of Endor (which we now know did take place, thanks to the novel Aftermath), and that Chewbacca received a medal for his work in the battle. He had a role in the destruction of the first Death Star for sure, but he had the most pivotal role in the destruction of the second.

I'm excited to see where Chewbacca is at the stage of his life where we see him in The Force Awakens. Wookies are known to have very long lifespans, so his appearance and personality will probably not have changed as much as his best friend Han. But I'm hoping that we'll get to see more Chewie in action, taking a large part in helping preserve the galaxy!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or 

More Star Wars articles by Claire Nat:
Fears and Star Wars
Why Star Wars is the Best Trilogy Ever