Mike Bastoli

Mike Bastoli has been blogging at The Disney Blog since 2009. Until 2011, he covered Pixar Animation Studios on his own website, The Pixar Blog, which became one of the most popular on the Web dedicated to Pixar news, the New York Times calling it the “definitive unofficial chronicler of the animation powerhouse". In 2011, Mike expanded his coverage to the entire world of feature animation, renaming his site Big Screen Animation. He retired Big Screen Animation in 2014 and is considering future writing opportunities. Besides Disney, Mike is an avid fan of Apple and The Beatles. He resides near Toronto.

Muppets Most Wanted Teaser Trailer

Disney has unleashed the first teaser trailer for Muppets Most Wanted, the recently-renamed sequel to 2011’s The Muppets, opening in theatres March 21, 2014. As much as I loved the The Muppets, I think this trailer could have been better. But then again, it’s still early… Read More »Muppets Most Wanted Teaser Trailer

‘Blackfish’ an Eye-Opening Look at Orca Captivity

Editor’s Note: I have not been presented the opportunity to view Blackfish and urge you to consider both sides of the argument before drawing any conclusions. A good place to start is this NY Times article on SeaWorld Park’s and Entertainment‘s response to the movie and what it sees as distortions of the facts and message. I want to thank Mike Bastoli for continuing to post here on the blog; even when I’m not 100% comfortable with his topics, I’m glad I can provide a forum for his ideas.

Blackfish_SeaWorld_TilikumFirst of all, I’d like to thank John for giving me the opportunity to comment on Blackfish here. Even though we are of different opinions on whether orcas—killer whales—should continue to be kept in captivity at SeaWorld and places like it, we both agree that everyone should have an opportunity to evaluate the facts and make up their own mind on the issue. Really, we are the jury.

Blackfish begins with a black screen and a terrifying 911 call: “A whale has eaten one of the trainers,” the voice on the phone tells the dispatcher. That call was made on February 24, 2010, moments after SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum, a 12,000-pound male orca who had taken human life twice before.

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Junk Metal: Inside the California Disney Pin Counterfeiting Bust

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A Note on Sources

The following article is based primarily on documents on file with the Superior Court of California, County of Orange in the case of The People of The State of California vs. Larry James Allred and Robert Edward Smyrak, 11NF1191.

My research in these was supplemented by telephone interviews with the defense attorneys involved (I thank them for taking the time to speak with me); law enforcement press releases; public record searches; and, in a few instances, previous media reports from reputable news-gathering organizations such as the Los Angeles Times.—Mike Bastoli

S

eptember 29, 2011 was not a good day for Robert Edward Smyrak. At 8:00 AM in Courtroom N3 of the North Justice Center in Fullerton, California, the 52-year-old Anaheim man appeared before Judge Nicholas Thompson of the Superior Court of California, Orange County to receive his sentence.

Smyrak, who goes by Bob, was pleading guilty to one count of felony trademark infringement. The penalty, at least as paper, would be one year in jail, three years probation, plus restitution. In truth, because of overcrowding in California’s prisons, he would serve out his sentence entirely at home, through supervised house arrest. But it was still, to be sure, an unfortunate turn of events for the IT operations manager whose most serious prior conviction was for using a cell phone behind the wheel.

Smyrak’s journey into California’s madhouse corrections system had begun, at least in earnest, in the early days of 2010, with a little help from a friend, Larry James Allred, then aged 56 and a resident of nearby Walnut.

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First Look: Tom Hanks in Character as Walt

Disney released this first still from Saving Mr. Banks earlier today, showing Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. The pair appear to be at Disneyland. The film, which opens in select theatres on December 13, follows Walt’s struggle… Read More »First Look: Tom Hanks in Character as Walt

Disney Reveals Updated Movie Release Schedule

The Walt Disney Studios just revealed their updated theatrical release schedule. Included in the announcement (reproduced below) are a name change for the upcoming Muppets film, formerly titled The Muppets… Again!, and the first official mention of a sequel to DisneyToon Studios’ Cars spinoff, Planes. SAVING MR.… Read More »Disney Reveals Updated Movie Release Schedule

Disney is Working on a Muppets Musical

Variety reports that Disney Theatrical has begun work on a live Broadway musical starring The Muppets. A 15-minute “elaborate presentation” already took place May 31 in near-secrecy at the New Amsterdam Theater—a “test of concept”, according to division president Thomas Schumacher. “The brief showcase… incorporated… Read More »Disney is Working on a Muppets Musical

Trailer Debut for SeaWorld Exposé ‘Blackfish’

Editors Note: Mike has asked for permission to share this here. I’m allowing it because everyone needs to make up their own mind about SeaWorld’s role in animal care and conservation and more data is almost always better than less data. The movie ‘Blackfish’ is… Read More »Trailer Debut for SeaWorld Exposé ‘Blackfish’