Spirited Away

a kate west favorite

Hayao Miyazaki is a brilliant Japanese filmmaker. Unknown in the States until the release of "Princess Mononoke", his other greats such as "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "Howl's Moving Castle" gained acclaim as well. Combining hand-drawn artistry with computer animation, his films have garnered several prestigious awards, including the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for "Spirited Away". This film in particular is most known in America.

It revolves around a little girl who must travel to the spirit world to rescue her family. The breathtaking finesse of imagery that serves as the background to this amazingly imaginative story will never leave you. The films are not simple, but rather illustrated with mysticism, symbolism and heavy magic. There are often social messages as well, such as a profound nod to environmentalism. One cannot fully explain how special these movies are in words alone as it is a truly visual art.

Thank God for DVDs, although you really need to try and catch one of these masterpieces in a real movie palace.

Directed by:
Hayao Miyazaki
Kirk Wise (co-director) (English version)

Writing Credits:
Hayao Miyazaki (story)
Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)
Cindy Davis Hewitt (adaptation: English version) and
Donald H. Hewitt (adaptation: English version) and
Linda Hoaglund (adaptation: English version) and
Jim Hubbert (adaptation: English version)

Rumi Hîragi ... Chihiro / Sen (voice: Japanese version)
Miyu Irino ... Haku (voice: Japanese version)
Mari Natsuki ... Yubaba / Zeniba (voice: Japanese version)
Takashi Naitô ... Chihiro's Father (voice: Japanese version)
Yasuko Sawaguchi ... Chihiro's Mother (voice: Japanese version)
Tatsuya Gashuin ... Aogaeru, Assistant Manager (voice: Japanese version)
Ryunosuke Kamiki ... Bôh (voice: Japanese version)
Yumi Tamai ... Lin (voice: Japanese version)
Yo Oizumi ... Bandai-gaeru (voice: Japanese version)
Koba Hayashi ... Kawa no Kami (voice: Japanese version)
Tsunehiko Kamijô ... Chichiyaku (voice: Japanese version)
Takehiko Ono ... Aniyaku (voice: Japanese version)
Bunta Sugawara ... Kamajii (voice: Japanese version)

To Watch It:
Spirited Away Read more!

Walt Disney and Disneyland

a kate west reflection

When I first moved to Los Angeles, the first thing I did was visit Disneyland to see if it was every bit as magically wonderful as I remembered from my teenage years. It helped that I actually worked for Disney and could get into the park free. My brother and I used to visit my Aunt down here every Spring when we lived in the Bay Area and we usually took that mandatory trip to the Magic Kingdom so I couldn't wait to go every chance I had. And it was even better than I thought it'd be.

First of all, if you work for Disney, you get to start work at the Disney University in the studio lot during orientation (and all you jaded cynics can stop reading here). Yes it's cheesy (was that a mouse joke?), but if you're a Disney fan, it's also delightful. I know people refer to Disney as "Mauswitz" and worse, but at the time, I really bought into it and it's easy to do since you're surrounded daily by like-minded people. True, Disney can be intimidatingly strict, but they have a mighty product to protect and their legal department is fiercely loyal to that cause. As they should be. Besides, what other corporation has a department called Imagineering (where they plan and build for the theme parks)?

Secondly, you really get to know the inner workings of Disney and all about Walt's history, etc. And it's all fascinating. From the first Oscar-winning Animated film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" to the "Lion King", they've consistently been the best in their genre. Their success in animation eventually led to launching a theme park, something radically different from a boardwalk amusement locale. Whatever you may think of him today, Walt was a true visionary and wanted Disneyland to be something special and you can't deny that in that respect, he succeeded beyond expectation. You can't tell me our generation wasn't riveted by "The Mickey Mouse Club" or "The Wonderful World of Disney" on television every week.

Every ride is practically a cinematic experience and although the park has been through a lot of for-better-or-worse changes (like the ludicrous political correct attempt at messing with the Pirates of the Caribbean), it's still one of the most visited places in the entire world and children are still drawn to it like little consumer magnets. If you have any remote memories of liking Disney, you will thrive there, whether during a delightful stroll down Main Street USA or passing through the gates of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Your imagination will spark and there is room for every age, from Fantasyland's gentle rides for the very young to Tomorrowland's speedy rides for the braver and older kids. Adults will be happy everywhere (except maybe colorfully noisy Toon Town - that's a ten minute visit, tops). If you have only a short time, don't miss Indiana Jones, the Pirates, the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and maybe a few smaller rides. Don't bother with California Adventure since a mere few miles away you can see the real thing. But Downtown Disney is fairly diverting.

Nothing beats the original park though (or the even more developed Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida) and during the summer you get some pretty spectacular shows that may have you believing in Pixie Dust again. Work with me, you have to WANT to believe in it, which is the key to any happiness in life, right?

Backstage at the Park:
Walt Disney Treasures - Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic

The Whole Alphabet:
Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia (Third Edition)

The Nine Old Men:
Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation Read more!

Star Trek:Voyager

Star Trek: Voyager
a kate west favorite

(Jeri Ryan as Borg refugee Seven of Nine)

The Star Trek phenomenon is like no other. Before I started reading Issac Asimov, my introduction to science fiction consisted of me being mesmerized by reruns of the original and retro-heroic 1960's "Star Trek". I had a crush on Spock (Leonard Nimoy), my first cold intellectual. And then William Shatner was a nicely virile and quite hammy Captain Kirk, of course. I loved that show so much. James Doohan and his dire technological predictions as Scotty. George Takei as Sulu and Walter Koenig as Chekov and DeForest Kelley as "He's dead, Jim" Bones. And Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura - a woman on the bridge of a starship! (Ask me if I know someone who looks like her). I saw every episode a hundred times and wished there were more. Wouldn't it be great to attend Starfleet Academy? I just couldn't get into "Next Generation" really. It didn't speak to me. I discovered "Deep Space Nine" well after it aired, but before that:

Came "Star Trek: Voyager". With a woman captain! And a female head engineer! And a converted Borg drone who becomes an essential member of the crew. Plus heartfelt story lines, emotional character development and lots of action. The Borg, introduced in "Next Generation" are featured prominently, once again threatening to assimilate inferior species ("Resistance is futile"). Lots of characters and lots of aliens, even a surprise visit from the annoying Q (John de Lancie).

Captain Janeway (the Katherine Hepburnesque Kate Mulgrew) has to lead her crew back to Earth in the Alpha Quadrant after getting lost in the Delta Quadrant, which is so far away, I can't even show you the map. Everyone is likeable and interesting, like Ethan Phillips as the Talaxian Neelix and Robert Picardo as the holographic doctor who learns what it means to be human. Roxann Dawson is the hot-blooded, half-Klingon, afore-mentioned Engineer B'Elanna Torres. She butts heads with anyone and everyone, until she learns to control that temper (sort of). They even have a Native American, First Officer Chakotay (Robert Beltran), complete with facial tattoos. Head of the rebel Maquis, he has to make some compromises in order to work with the Federation. Robert Duncan McNeill is the cavalier Tom Paris, best pilot in the quadrant and his buddy Harry Kim (Garrett Wong) helps him create black and white holonovels. And yes, they have their own Vulcan too, Tuvok (Tim Russ).

There's lots more and it's all fascinating. Totally fun in reruns. Look it up. Or rent it. It wasn't as popular as the other new Star Treks unfortunately (and I never could get into "Battlestar Galactica", sorry). But it did run for seven seasons. And I loved it. I know. I'm a dork. Live long and prosper.

Series Directed by:
David Livingston (29 episodes, 1995-2001)
Winrich Kolbe (19 episodes, 1995-2000)
Allan Kroeker (14 episodes, 1997-2001)
Michael Vejar (13 episodes, 1997-2001)
Terry Windell (11 episodes, 1999-2001)
Cliff Bole (10 episodes, 1995-1999)
Alexander Singer (10 episodes, 1995-1998)
Les Landau (9 episodes, 1995-2000)
LeVar Burton (8 episodes, 1995-2001)
JesúsSalvadorTreviño(5 episodes, 1997-1998)
James L. Conway (4 episodes, 1995-1996)
Kim Friedman (4 episodes, 1995)
RobertDuncanMcNeill(4 episodes, 1996-2000)
Anson Williams (4 episodes, 1997-1999)
Jonathan Frakes (3 episodes, 1995-1996)
Robert Scheerer (2 episodes, 1995-1997)
Marvin V. Rush (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
Robert Picardo (2 episodes, 1997-1999)
Kenneth Biller (2 episodes, 1997-1998)
Nancy Malone (2 episodes, 1997-1998)
Andrew Robinson (2 episodes, 1997-1998)
Allan Eastman (2 episodes, 1998-1999)
John T. Kretchmer (2 episodes, 1998-1999)
Victor Lobl (2 episodes, 1998)
Roxann Dawson (2 episodes, 1999-2001)
John Bruno (2 episodes, 1999-2000)

Series Writing Credits:
Brannon Braga (50 episodes, 1995-2001)
Joe Menosky (37 episodes, 1995-2000)
Kenneth Biller (35 episodes, 1995-2001)
Bryan Fuller (21 episodes, 1997-2001)
Michael Taylor (20 episodes, 1998-2001)
Jeri Taylor (19 episodes, 1995-1998)
Michael Piller (14 episodes, 1995-1998)
Robert Doherty (14 episodes, 1998-2001)
Rick Berman (13 episodes, 1995-2001)
Lisa Klink (13 episodes, 1995-1998)
Mike Sussman (11 episodes, 1996-2001)
Raf Green (8 episodes, 2000-2001)
André Bormanis (7 episodes, 1997-2001)
Jimmy Diggs (6 episodes, 1995-1999)
Gene Roddenberry (5 episodes, 1995-1998)
Mark Gaberman (5 episodes, 1996-2001)
Andrew Price (5 episodes, 1996-2001)
Nick Sagan (5 episodes, 1998-1999)
Harry 'Doc' Kloor (4 episodes, 1997-1998)
James Kahn (4 episodes, 2000-2001)
Phyllis Strong (4 episodes, 2000-2001)
Ronald Wilkerson (3 episodes, 1995-2000)
Robin Bernheim (3 episodes, 2000)
Greg Elliot (2 episodes, 1995-1998)
Steve J. Kay (2 episodes, 1995-1998)
Michael Perricone (2 episodes, 1995-1998)
Jean Louise Matthias (2 episodes, 1995-1997)
Anthony Williams (2 episodes, 1995-1996)
Thomas E. Szollosi (2 episodes, 1995)
Shawn Piller (2 episodes, 1996)
James Swallow (2 episodes, 1998-2000)
Ronald D. Moore (2 episodes, 1999)

Series Cast:
Kate Mulgrew ... Captain Kathryn Janeway / ... (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Robert Beltran ... Chakotay / ... (172 episodes, 1995-2001
Roxann Dawson ... B'Elanna Torres / ... (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Robert Duncan McNeill ... Tom Paris / ... (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Ethan Phillips ... Neelix (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Robert Picardo ... The Doctor (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Tim Russ ... Tuvok / ... (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Garrett Wang ... Harry Kim / ... (172 episodes, 1995-2001)
Tarik Ergin ... Lieutenant Ayala / ... (116 episodes, 1995-2001)
Jeri Ryan ... Seven of Nine (104 episodes, 1997-2001)
Jennifer Lien ... Kes (71 episodes, 1995-2000)
Majel Barrett ... Computer Voice / ... (70 episodes, 1995-2001)
Stephen Pisani ... Starfleet Crew Member / ... (21 episodes, 2000-2001)
Scarlett Pomers ... Naomi Wildman (17 episodes, 1998-2001)

Old School:
(and my first love)

Starting Out New:
Star Trek Voyager - The Complete First Season Read more!