Attractions Review: Ford Rouge Factory Walking Tour

After years of having annual passes to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, we finally availed ourselves of one of the extended attractions offered. Apart from enjoying Greenfield Village one can also take a walking tour of the Ford Rouge Factory.

The tour started for us with the payment of a member discounted ticket for just $14.50 US ($17.00 for non-members). Seniors and child tickets are cheaper. We boarded the free shuttle bus and were taken quickly from The Henry Ford Museum to the Ford Rouge Factory.

Up front I’ll say that the staff for this attraction are top notch! Friendly and knowledgeable and obviously in love with their jobs. We were greeted at the door and given a brief overview of what we were to experience and then shown into the first of two theaters. Let’s begin your vicarious tour with the attractions:

Legacy Theater

Archival Footage of the Rogue – Featuring rarely-seen historic footage from The Henry Ford archives, you’ll learn about the triumphs and tragedies that took place at the Rouge and how Henry Ford’s soaring ideas became actualities and helped define American manufacturing and industry. The music you’ll hear was written and performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

I personally liked this presentation, but those who aren’t big on sitting in a seat for 15 minutes or so watching instead of doing… maybe not so much! But you will learn things you never knew about Ford.

Approximate time: 13 minutes

Manufacturing Innovation Theater

Manufacturing Process Up Close – Celebrating the engineering ingenuity behind the production of the award-winning Ford F-150 truck, this multisensory film experience comes complete with vibrating seats, gusts of wind, and winking robots. With jaw-dropping special effects, from “floating” 3D laser projection mapping and high-energy audio to a breathtaking behind-the-wheel finale, you’ll see the manufacturing process up close, from concept to highway.

This was much more entertaining than the first visual presentation. As far as attractions go, this one had some very cool features! Especially interesting was the use of the F-150 model as it was modified from basic shape to full-fledged running vehicle.

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Observation Deck

Bird’s Eye View of the Rouge – You’ll also get a bird’s-eye view of Ford’s famous “Living Roof.” This eco-industrial wonder – the largest living roof in the world – blankets the top of the final assembly building. Two interactive exhibits help explain the environment features in view.

Not much to see here really. You look out the windows and see buildings. If you’re into reading though, this is the place for you!

Approximate time: 5-15 minutes
Assembly Plant Walking Tour

View F-150 Assembly – The elevated walkway, a 1/3 mile journey, provides you with a unique bird’s-eye view of the plant’s final assembly line. You’ll see firsthand the complex web of equipment, robotics, parts delivery and skilled workers that come together to build one truck per minute at full line speeds.

The tour gives you glimpses of the trim lines for cab, box, and door as well as final testing. You’ll see the F-150 come into the plant as an empty shell and leave as a fully tested F-150 ready for you and me. I’ll take mine in red, please!

FUN FACT: We were told that it was rare to see a Raptor pick-up go by on the line. Why? It may have something to do with this trim lines price tag being upwards of $75,000 US!

The only thing I could nit-pick about this part of the tour is that you start near the end of the process and finish near the beginning as you walk the main plant area. You do then go out to see the finished vehicles being checked and driven away. I thought it might have been better to bring you in from the other side of the building.

Approximate time: 30-45 minutes

Legacy Gallery

Historic Rouge-made Vehicles – Take a journey through time and see some of the most famous Ford vehicles made at the Rouge. The cars on display inside the Legacy Gallery include:

  • 1929 Model A
  • 1932 Ford V8
  • 1949 Coupe
  • 1955 Ford Thunderbird
  • 1965 Ford Mustang
  • 2015 Ford F-150

Explore the stories and engineering behind this vehicle in the Truth About Trucks kiosk. Go deeper into The Henry Ford’s collections with the Collections Explorer kiosks that include interactive educational games, Expert Insight videos, curated collection highlights, and complete access to thousands of digitized artifacts.

Basically, you look at six vehicles and read some more.

    

Of course, no trip to the Ford Rouge Factory Tour would be complete without a visit to the Factory Store located next to the Legacy Gallery.

We picked up this commemorative pin for just $5.99 US at the Factory Store on our way out.

Approximate time: As long as it takes!

Buses leave for The Henry Ford Museum every 20 minutes or so. We finished our tour and boarded the bus for the trip back. One hitch came when we were dropped off at the final tour stop. The doors into the museum were closed because we came back close to closing time. So we had to walk to the front entrance. If it had been raining this would not have been good! The bus could have pulled forward and let us off closer to the front entrance as it had to exit the property via that route anyway.

Cool Rating: 4.5/5

I would highly recommend the Ford Rouge Factory Walking Tour along with the other attractions offered at The Henry Ford Museum! That said, it is basically a one-time experience, as things won’t likely change quickly unless Ford radically redesigns the F-150 or updates the manufacturing process.


For full details, check out the Official Website here.

DVD Review: Walt Before Mickey – A “True” Story

“The true story of a boy whose dreams built a kingdom” is the tag line for this production which seems pretty inspiring. But with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 20% you know this movie isn’t destined to be a classic. Read my DVD review to see why…

Nice concept. Bad execution.

This movie was loosely based on ‘a true story’ as recounted in the book of the same name as the movie, to wit:

Synopsis: This film is about Walt Disney’s early years. For ten years before the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney struggled with, failed at, and eventually mastered the art and business of animation. Walt Disney worked in a variety of venues and studios, refining what would become known as the Disney style. This film captures the years 1919 – 1928, creating a portrait of the artist from age seventeen to the cusp of his international renown.

Hopefully Timothy S. Susanin did a better job of researching the facts in his book than the movie did! The forward for the book was written by Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter, so you naturally assume the content is legit. Well, the book may have been closer to the truth, but thankfully she wouldn’t have seen this movie (as it was released after her passing) as I’m certain she wouldn’t have approved (even though some sources give her a writing credit). As an example, one scene has Walt eating a sandwich out of a garbage can while obsessing over a mouse he had found in his studio. When the mouse runs away, Walt is depicted as almost having a mental breakdown over its loss. I find that hard to believe! However, the movie does depict Walt’s excessive smoking accurately.

From my negativity, you no doubt have guessed that I don’t like nor appreciate this movie? Please read on for my main reasons why:

The movie starts off well enough with only slight deviations from the truth which are forgivable to achieve a more streamlined plot. But about half way into things the facts become the enemy and artistic license rules the day!

Anyone watching with no knowledge of this time in Walt’s life will come away with entirely the wrong idea about the man, the events, and how they shaped the Walt Disney Company we know today. Although Walt had his bad points, this movie makes him a completely unsympathetic character with very few redeeming qualities. Even his determination to succeed and unwavering optimism is implied to come from others and not himself. And don’t get me started on how Roy is handled.

Thomas Ian Nicholas a.k.a. Walt Disney

The production values were good on a television movie level or for direct-to-video release, so kudos to director Khoa Van Le for that much. The acting was fair but the editing was choppy and some details of the plot were poorly relayed making for some confusing moments. Here is the trailer:

Vision Films – 2015 (107 mins.)

About the only thing I can say that is positive about this movie is that the cover art on the DVD packaging is awesome!

Cool Rating: 2/5

DVD Review Summation: The movie had the proper bone structure (basic facts) but entirely the wrong skin (or details) over top.

I will keep this movie in my Disney media collection because I’m a completist but I won’t likely revisit it anytime soon. You can check out the official website here to review their promotional materials or order a copy of the DVD for yourself.

I purchased a copy of this movie for review. No compensation was received.

Book Review: Commemorative Edition LIFE – Gene Wilder

From time to time I pick up a copy of the Commemorative Editions of LIFE magazine. I find them well written. I also appreciate the comprehensive overview of the subject in question, this time, Gene Wilder:

This is basically a quick look at a long life with many wonderful pictures. There are nine sections tracing Wilder’s career from early life to his final days.

I first remember Wilder in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (pictured above). This performance will always be the one my mind goes to when I hear his name! But obviously Wonka wasn’t the only character Mr. Wilder immortalized:

Young Frankenstein

Leo Bloom (The Producers), The Waco Kid (Blazing Saddles), and Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein, pictured above) are all characters Wilder created with director Mel Brooks. All of them will live on in comedic history! As will a comic pairing that spawned four films:

Wilder with Richard Pryor

Silver Streak and Stir Crazy will be the best remembered films from these two legendary comedians. Details of their relationship are shared in this magazine.

Four marriages. Two cancer episodes. A unforgettable career. A final illness. All of these, and (most) everything inbetween, are covered on 80 high-gloss pages.

Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

At a cost of just $16.99 CAN I thought this magazine was a good deal for such an emotional and inspiring look into the life of a man who brought so much fun and humor to so many!

Concluding thought: Wilder never shared his battle with Alzheimer’s because “he simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world” if one of his fans, mainly children remembering his Wonka character, should hear of it.

Why Disney’s LET IT GO Is a Bad Song

A Disney song has always been there to move the story along. It can define a character or delve into their motivation, or further the plot. Of course, it’s also designed to stick in your head so that you will love the movie and rush out to buy the soundtrack!

Fair enough.

But I also happen to feel that any song that plays in a children’s movie should be socially responsible. The content of the lyrics should promote good behavior, sound principles, and motivate the listener to be better in some way. I speak of songs sung by the protagonist, or hero, and not the villain. A song sung by a villain is designed to explain their reasons for being nasty and the bad ideas within the lyrics are shown to be wrong when the villain gets his or her comeuppance in the end!

So why do I say that the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen is bad? I know I’m going to be in a minority on this but I feel if people actually read the lyrics instead of just singing along with the tune, they just might begin to see some problems.  So let’s begin.

Let It Go was written by Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Emanuel Kiriakou and is  Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Walt Disney Music Company. I obtained the lyrics from Google Play Music and trust that they are accurate. I will show the lyrics one stanza at a time, analyze, then move on to the next stanza:

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried

Things start off well with Elsa simply surveying her new surroundings and comparing them to her inner turmoil. Which is admittedly great and understandably so!

Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know

Again, Elsa is honestly expressing her feelings about her treatment at the hands of her parents. Being told not to use her powers and then hiding her away from the world because of one accident was a knee-jerk reaction taken to an extreme level! Bad parenting doesn’t begin to cover this situation.

We begin to see a hint of the problem when Elsa callously flips off the line ‘Well now they know’. Yes they, her subjects, do, as their entire land is frozen, live stock and crops are dead, businesses are ruined, and if this was the real world, many are likely to die due to being completely unprepared for such a drastic change in the climate.

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore

This signature line from the chorus is the one sung heartily by everyone, even little children. But what are these lyrics actually saying? The idea is that when you can no longer handle a bad situation, let go (or lose control as Elsa does) no matter what the consequences are to yourself or others.

Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway

And this is perhaps the worst part of this song! Slamming the door in the face of the problem is not going to solve anything. Not caring while being aware of the bad situation caused by one’s decisions and cruelly saying ‘let it go on’ because ‘it doesn’t bother me’ is again not a lesson to teach small children!

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

Here Elsa has run away from her problems far enough to make them seem small and trivial, when in fact they are big and impactful. She is happy to be safe while everyone else is still in great danger.

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

So now that her powers are ‘outed’ she chooses to see just how much damage she can do with them instead of seeing if she can fix things and prove everyone wrong about her. We need to know and accept what is right and wrong and adhere to certain rules to have a safe and working society. Someone who feels ‘free’ from these concepts inevitably hurts others.

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on

Now Elsa decides not to face her issues but bury them deep inside her and simply let the world go on without her. She is also okay with the world having to deal with the mess she left behind, just letting ‘the storm rage on.’

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past

The past is never ‘in the past’ until there is a resolution to whatever the problem is. That is why we have coined the term ‘closure’. People spend serious time and money on trying to deal with traumatic events in their past so that they can have a better future. Elsa is in effect ceasing to live.

Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!

Elsa should never have been made to feel that she had to be perfect, nor that the way to achieve this was to hide who and what she was. But to decide to be, in effect, a bad girl, is not a healthy alternative!

Lastly, this final line is perhaps the most damaging lesson this song teaches. That if something doesn’t bother you, who cares about anyone else? Loving, caring, and well-adjusted people care about others, even if those people have made mistakes that hurt them or don’t seem at first to appreciate the effort.

This song seems to say that if you are treated poorly, become as bad as the abusers. Whereas I think we can all agree that the better path is to take the high road and rise above the crowd.

Does this look like a good attitude?

Conclusion: It should be noted that Elsa endured horrible treatment by the two people who should have loved and protected her, her parents. The damage that this would do to a young child is incalculable! So perhaps we can understand her position. But I put forth that her song is that of a villain explaining the reasons for doing what she does, and certainly not a song of empowerment. Remember that the Ice Queen in the original book was a villain and I don’t think Disney intended Elsa to be viewed as well as she has been, but has just run with it for merchandising dollars.

Why this song is held in such a high regard is that somehow Elsa has been cast as a suppressed victim who has every right to act as she does. And she doesn’t act well! In fact, she accidentally freezes Anna’s heart, and instead of trying to help, creates an Ice Monster to remove her from her presence. This monster then goes on to immediately try to kill Anna. I guess that didn’t bother Elsa either?

Also, many fixate on the ‘sisterly love’ angle of the movie, but again, I contend that there is no sisterly love, just one sister’s love (Anna’s) for her sibling (Elsa), which is not returned.

Now that we have analyzed the lyrics stanza by stanza, I would like to recommend that you consider Anna as the true hero of Frozen and consider looking to her as a role model for your little girl or boy, and not Elsa, even if she does have a catchy song.

FUN FACT: Note the shape of the balusters in the railing in the above picture. Does the repeating shape remind you of anything? It resembles the chest insignia of Wonder Woman, the ultimate symbol of female empowerment. Coincidence, or subliminal message?

Jungle Book ’67 vs. Jungle Book ’16

It’s a battle 49 years in the making but the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ has finally arrived! Today we are pitting the 1967 original animated film against its 2016 live-action remake. So we have classic animation vs. CGI and tried-and-true voice actors vs. today’s A-list talents.

Who will win? To find out we are going to pit these two films head-to-head in five categories. The one who wins the most categories will be the best. The original film will henceforth be referenced as JB-67 and the new movie as JB-16.

~ SPOILER ALERT ~

Although I don’t go into too much detail about the new film, I do mention certain plot points that may ruin things for you if you haven’t seen it yet. You are warned!

CATEGORY ONE

Premise

Random Tiger Attack vs. Shere Khan Murder Plot

    

Both movies stick pretty close to the same plot: Mowgli is abandoned in the jungle, he is raised by wolves, the tiger hates and fears him, his friends end up removing him from danger. Hi-jinks ensue between these events.

JB-67 keeps opens by having Mowgli lost in the jungle after a random tiger attack whereas JB-16 has Sher Khan killing Mowgli’s father and continuing his murderous vendetta against the son. Sher Khan simply hates man in JB-16 and his fear of fire isn’t really the driving force behind the villains actions, which helped to make the reasons for his actions realistic and understandable in the original. In fact, I felt his motivation was a bit unfocused which hurt the new film somewhat.

Also, Mowgli ends up leaving the jungle in JB-67 by going to the Man Village which doesn’t happen in JB-16. For this reason I think the original film had a more rewarding ending.

The winner of this category is JB-67 for delivering a satisfying movie with more heart.

CATEGORY TWO

Characters

Old Interpretation vs. New Interpretation

    

JB-67 definitely has a lighter tone than JB-16. It rolls along smoother with more fun and with much more engaging character development. Let’s take a look at the main characters one by one:

Shere Khan – You just can’t beat Sebastian Cabot’s voice work on this character! The tiger in the remake looks like it has the mange.

Bagheera and Baloo – Again the original voice actors did a marvelous job of bringing these characters to life, especially Phil Harris with Baloo! But Bill Murray gave a game performance and I’d have to say that no one else could have pulled the big bear off as well.

Kaa – Swapping genders for certain characters in remakes is all the rage now and I agree with it to add more diversity to the cast. But again, poor Scarlett Johansson had a big voice box to fill in replacing Sterling Holloway!

King Louie – Here Christopher Walkin just didn’t do it for me. Louis Prima knocked this character out of the park in the original. However, I have to say that having Louie be a rare giant orangutan was one of the highlights of the new film!

Most of the other support characters were fine in both films and we’ll cover Mowgli next. So obviously I’m going to award the win in this category to JB-67. The original voice talent was just too perfect for anyone to successfully replace them!

CATEGORY THREE

Mowgli

Bruce Reitherman vs. Neel Sethi

    

All through the remake I just couldn’t warm up to Neel Sethi as Mowgli. I’m not alone in feeling that the original movie was as close to perfection as a Disney movie gets and this was certainly in no small part due to the voice actors! Bruce Reitherman was able to imbue Mowgli with a greater range of wonder, courage, and fear.

I have to award another win to JB-67 for simply outclassing the new talent.

CATEGORY FOUR

Music

Original Versions vs. Remakes

The Sherman Brothers. What can you say? I was both glad and worried that the remake kept some of the iconic songs in the movie. Unfortunately it was my disquiet that won out as the new versions played. Because the songs were butchered! Sorry, but it has to be said.

I can’t even bear to talk about it so I’ll just give the win to JB-67 and move on.

CATEGORY FIVE

Effects

Animation vs. Live-action/CGI Hybrid

Both movies are visually pleasing. The animation of JB-67 was basic but immersive while the live-action/CGI effects of JB-16 were done quite well, although some of the animals could have had more realistic movements.

But I think I can finally award a win to JB-16 here! Technology has indeed come a long way since 1967.

RESULTS

Winner: JB-67

I have to admit I am not surprised by the 4-1 outcome in favor of JB-67! I just didn’t have as great a connection with the remake as I did with the original. JB-16 tried hard but just didn’t quiet achieve the emotional level of JB-67.

Remakes are hard to pull off and I really believe, although it did good business and got fair reviews, JB-16 is not a worthy addition to the Disney canon. Do you agree?