The Magic of Disney Imagineers: Enjoying a world where creativity is unleashed and money is not an obstical

For me, the most enjoyable parts of life come from cultures that are “can doers” as opposed to those who use every excuse in existence not to do something. Whether its family, friends, co-workers, political alliances, or just basic economic considerations, I enjoy most what can be done and hate the most when people point barriers as to why something can’t. That is why so many of my articles are about taxes, politics and prohibitive psychology. The people I like most in the world are those who find ways to do something. Those I like the least are those who must be drug through the mud on everything, whether it’s a movie, buying a new car or house, or just going to the shopping center to purchase socks or something iniquitous toward daily life. Therefor, when it comes to my own needs to recharge my batteries, I find places full of energy and creativity the best for me and is my idea of a vacation. And more specifically, I love the type of people that the Disney Company hires as Imagineers, very imaginative and whimsical people who are also very smart on the engineering side of things. I enjoy the products they create and is my idea of a vacation to see their work.

With all that said my two favorite kinds of people are very creative types, and engineers, very smart and logical people. Sadly, for me, those traits often don’t exist in the same people, so I have to speak to a lot of people to get all those elements in my life. But in doing that, it takes time away from other things, which for me there never is enough of it to give. I fly in and out of meetings with people because there is always something going on that I need to do and in my own pursuits of these creative things, it’s a lot like digging for gold, you put a lot of effort into getting just a little bit. However, at places like Disney World, the reason things cost so much money ultimately is because the entertainment company tends to hire just the kind of people I have said I like the most and over the last decade, under the guidance of Bob Iger the Disney Imagineers have been given a lot to do and I enjoy watching them do it.

I think Bob Iger as the CEO of Disney has done a great job and in many ways I am thankful for him and the chances he has taken to advance the input Imagineers have had on the company. I’m not at all crazy that Iger is a Democrat. For this series of articles, I won’t hold that against him because he has made some great decisions to free the type of people I am talking about up so that they could do the best work possible. So for my vacation this year I have been at the Disney World complex in Orlando which I make no mistake in loving as I’ve said many times in the past. But this time the scope of my visit has been to enjoy the work of the Disney Imagineers in the way that one might enjoy the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or any other place where great creativity is on display. I consider the work of Disney Imagineers to be far better and superior to other acts of human endeavor and capitalism is the fuel they have to create such fantastic attributes. So under that definition, I have always loved Disney World and that is an emotion that grows as time advances.

I timed my visit to the parks this time to match the opening of the new Rise of the Resistance ride at Hollywood Studios and to enjoy the new Star Wars land that its in called Galaxy’s Edge. But its more than just geeking out on Star Wars, for me its all about the Imagineers who have been turned loose by the Disney Company to make so many great creations over the last decade that I have been so excited to see on a whirlwind trip that I had been looking forward to for a long time. Disney+ the new streaming service showcasing the many products of Disney over the years has a great show they produce dedicated to their Imagineers which I would highly recommend watching, even for a casual observer. If the world had more people like those Imagineers in it, everything would be better. And in spite of my thoughts on how the Disney Company has handled Star Wars, by introducing way too much social justice into the franchise and pushing it to near ruin, the vast financial resources that Disney has can not be understated in giving their Imagineers the time and money to make some of the neatest creations on planet earth, which I think is far more significant.

So this vacation of mine has nothing to do with rest and relaxation, or unplugging from the world, its all about relishing the products of raw creativity and vast amounts of financial resources. For instance, the new Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios and the park in Anaheim, California cost around $1 billion. No company on earth in any country could do something like that, so I can think of no place anywhere to visit that is better for my purpose, and that is to enjoy as much Imagineering created by raw capitalism that could be found anywhere. And for me, the first stop was to the newly renovated Disney Springs shopping complex where a bar was dedicated to one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Indiana Jones called Jock Lindsey’s Bar and Grill. I literally got off the airplane at the Orlando airport and headed there first because it’s something I’ve been wanting to see for a few years now.

The restaurants and shopping district of Disney Springs is what I would call a perfect marriage of the kind of world we should have everywhere. Because of the way Walt Disney bought the property in Florida, they have their own central government which helps with their regulatory burdens. When they need to fix a road or get a permit for a new building, the amount of land they control has given them their own governing ability, which keeps the bureaucracy to a minimum. A place like Disney Springs would not have happened any other way, and certainly nothing like Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar would have never been born from the minds of Disney Imagineers. But its not just that, all around the complex the input of the Imagineers is everywhere, most spectacularly in a recreation of the kind of springs that are so popular in Florida as the centerpiece. It was spectacularly beautiful and in a lot of ways much better than nature itself. The marriage of so much creativity with corporate capitalism at Disney Springs is something that was just wonderful in so many ways, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be to recharge my own batteries.

Politicians and other bureaucrats in any community anywhere in the world would find a million reasons not to build something like Disney Springs. And that is just the reason I love going to those types of places, because the level of creativity and the money to spend on it is so abundant, it is great to see what the human mind can produce if only they are allowed to. And in no place in the world are imaginative engineering types even employed, let alone turned loose to create so many fine works of art for the purpose of entertainment. And in our American culture, that is something to cherish, and to provide plenty of reverence, which I do.

Rich Hoffman

‘The Death of Ivan llyich’: Living the life of Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘Flow’

Everyone should read Leo Tolstoy’s little book published in 1886, The Death of Ivan llyich. It is the perfect story to exhibit what the great psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi articulated in his ground-breaking work on human motivations in his work titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experiences. Ivan llyich was a successful man who had cancer and was dying and he had to come to terms with the meaning of his life essentially as it was closing. Slowly had to realize that the social climbs he had done throughout his existence, his marriage, his career, the things he put his value in up until the time he found out it was ending were worthless and personally disingenuous. The book is important because the great Tolstoy was knocking on the door he never quite entered in that book written late in his own life. The essence of it is that most people, if any people truly live any kind of fulfilled life and they never come to realize it until it was too late. Csikszentmihalyi later would take the next step with his book Flow, but back in 1886 is was quite something to ask such psychological questions sprinkled with elements of deep philosophy which is what high art should be.

Most people today, in 2019 are living the death of Ivan llych even as they think that what they are doing is living life. They meander about buying the things that society tells them to, reaching for the goals that they are told matter in life. I continue to be surprised at how people even in their 60s are obsessed with titles and office space because they are searching for meaning in their work that they just aren’t getting any other way. They have after all worked hard and towards the ends of their careers they need to know that it all mattered, yet nobody seems to care what they did or how they did it, because what they did do wasn’t authentic. Too often we allow ourselves to fill this empty feeling with political and religious motivations, both of which are quick to blame this effect on capitalism which is extremely disrespectful to the greatest economic device which produces the greatest human autonomy of anything ever invented by the human mind. But without facts and understanding people facing the problems of Ivan llyich who get pulled below the line in their thinking can’t come to terms with how they arrived where they did so quickly at the end facing the grim reality that none of it really mattered. Once they die there will be a funeral, people will come to it, but nobody will really care or miss them. And that is a tragedy most just can’t handle.

I was exposed to the writing of T.S. Eliot early in my life. I used to work at a high scale Chinese restaurant as a busboy and was dating the pianist who played there ever weekend and her daughter. They were both high art women who roamed around Cincinnati going to all the art exhibits, knew all the names of every wine and dined at the best restaurants. The mom was personally wealthy, her husband had died in much the same way that Ivan llyich had and left two very beautiful women behind to fend for themselves, one was in her forties and facing the prospect of losing that beauty forever and wanted desperately one adventure in life that mattered and the daughter was looking for a big personality to fill that void left by her father that was actually filled with quicksand she didn’t want to be consumed by. So I learned all about T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land and would talk to them about it in ways that made them happy. The relationship was very fulfilling to them, but for me it was another example of how women can often be the boons of new experience, especially for men, young men at that. I was able to launch myself into a lifelong journey that started what I would say was a life of Flow as understood by Csikszentmihalyi. The Wasteland was about the same kind of sentiment as The Death of Ivan llyich and I was determined not to fall into that trap so you might say I have lived a very adventurous life. Not a comfortable one, but certainly one that was filled with great Flow and that continues even to this day 35 to 40 years later. I will never have the problem of Ivan llyich or even Leo Tolstoy for that matter. I learned Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow before he published his groundbreaking book in 1990 and I have lived it every day through some very scary stuff.

All this came up the other day because all my grand children and my children were raised on the Indiana Jones movie Temple of Doom which came out in 1984. I would have never guessed when I saw it in person in the theaters way back then that it would be so important to my future family. My two youngest grandkids just love the energy of that movie even though it’s actually filled with some of the scariest stuff that one might find in human experiences. After all Indiana Jones in that movie gets tortured, poisoned twice, burnt, cursed, crushed and almost eaten by alligators. But at the same time he has a lot of fun making jokes even in the worst of circumstances and at the end of the film instead of sitting around crying about it seems to be ready for the next adventure. The movie is filled with crazy stuff from beginning to end but it is also all about the Flow experience that Csikszentmihalyi would later put to paper in his great book. Kids are born with a natural understanding of Flow and they enjoy Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom because it feeds them. The movie isn’t about some character arch about learning some progressive lesson in the movie, it’s about literally going to Hell and back without the bitterness of living through such an experience and openly accepting whatever life brings next, but the purpose is to live that life to the fullest, moment by moment every day.

I bring all this up to convey a message about how to live life. The best way to do it is with a sense of Flow and to enjoy it for whatever it is at any point that you experience it. The world we live in now assumes that you are suffering from the ailments of the fictional character Ivan llyich and are afraid of losing that nameplate on your desk or your office only to be replaced slowly by the next generation as the world has only use for the panicky youth full of sexual ambition and filling their bellies with food and drink. There is much more to life than even the most sophisticated circles of politics can even dream of. Living a life of Flow is the goal and should be for everyone. However, to do that you can’t get hung up on dumb stuff, and you can’t expect life to be perfect. Darryl Parks from WLW radio once asked me on air how I did it, how did I even manage to go anywhere after being such a controversial figure, because whenever you enter a grocery story or shopping mall where people might recognize you, there is always those little snickers in the corners of the room from people who wonder if it’s really you, the person that so many people hate or just dislike for a multitude of reasons. I told him off air during a commercial break that I didn’t usually see them because they were living in The Waste Land and weren’t living an authentic existence, so their opinions didn’t matter to me. I was living in my own Flow, and they obviously were stuck. They were all future Ivan llyichs. And that is the nature of most of our politics these days, and most of our understandings of economic theories—even our education systems. And my point is that we need to change the whole system into something that has more Flow and less Ivan llyichs.

Rich Hoffman

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An Indiana Jones Land at Animal Kingdom: Yes, there is a heaven on earth–or rather–there soon will be


I love covering these more fun topics because there is a lot of very serious news out there.  But to me all this is connected whether we’re talking about business, politics, or entertainment—we are talking about culture building.  What makes human beings distinct and very unique in the universe is our vast imaginations.  Even if we were to meet intelligent life capable of working out the details of Type 1 or 2 Civilizations of interstellar travel I would put the human imagination up against anybody.  I see great promise for human potential in our arts, our literature, our religions, our buildings, sculptures, and paintings and I think over the next 1000 years we will become to be known as distinctly unique among all creation.  So I have no problem taking a moment to revere elements that I think are very special.  For me personally Walt Disney “the man” was the king and his vision for Disney World was magnificent.  The way he bought up all that property in Florida under a cloak of secrecy was brilliant and it’s starting to pay off big time 50 years later in the evolution of the human race.  Everyone who reads here knows how excited I am about the new Star Wars Land called Galaxy’s Edge that is coming to Hollywood Studios in 2019.  I’ve made no secret about what I think that does on a vast scale of art and human achievement—aside from just being a cool place to visit.  Well, rumor has it which has gained serious traction in mid-August 2017 that an Indiana Jones Land is being considered at Animal Kingdom and let me just say that for me that is jaw dropping exciting.   I may move there just to visit it every day—that news is that exciting to me.

To some, Indiana Jones is just four movies with a fifth one on the way that were fun throwbacks to a style of filmmaking that died in the 1950s.  They are still fun to watch and people generally like them.  They’ve certainly held up to the tests of time.  However, I would argue that Indiana Jones has been the single greatest contributor to science and the funding of sciences in the history of the world.  Because of Indiana Jones—I would argue—science went from a geeky academic pursuit and moved to a mainstream coolness that is largely funding the efforts of cable television to this very day.  Without Indiana Jones I don’t think Josh Gates would have any television shows on The Travel Channel.  I don’t think half the archeology which has really opened up our understanding of history would have happened especially the great work that English Heritage has done in Europe.  Indiana Jones made studying history cool and that has greatly benefited the entire human race in ways that are impossible to pin down.  If you interviewed most people in the history fields you’d find an Indian Jones fan deep in their hearts.

Even the History Channel’s popular show Ancient Aliens got a lot of its fuel for programming investment based on the premise of the last Indiana Jones film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   So the footprint of Indiana Jones on the sciences in our culture is huge.   I grew up with those movies and it’s hard for me often to tell which I like more, Indiana Jones or Star Wars as products of Lucasfilm.   Indiana Jones suits me more on a personal level.  I love the character and the enthusiasm Indiana Jones has for life—he’s a wonderful invention from the mind of George Lucas and a real gift to our civilization.  I personally think Raiders of the Lost Ark is the greatest movie of all time—it’s better than Citizen Kane, it’s better than Casablanca, it’s better than Ben Hur.  It’s a technical masterpiece in every film making category and it justifiably deserves its place in history.

In the back of my mind I was hoping that under the Disney ownership of Lucasfilm that Indiana Jones would be elevated in their park presence.  For me the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios is worth the price of admission all by itself.  To have his own land similar to what is being done for Star Wars would be I think a magnificent endeavor that would spark the minds of many would-be scientists for decades to come.   Even better the chance to immerse yourself into an Indian Jones story is something a lot of people would enjoy.  I know I would.  The study of archaeology is a new science and there is a lot to yet uncover about our own past—and starting from a point of imagination—asking “what if” is the way to begin that productive process.

Having an Indiana Jones land at Animal Kingdom would without question ignite many of those young minds to a more serious career in the sciences by revering some of the fun that can happen in the world of adventure.  I’d be inclined just to go there to read books in that fantasy Indiana Jones environment.  Based on what Disney has done with Avatar and is doing with Toy Story, Cars, and now Star Wars—making an Indiana Jones land would dramatically enhance the goal of Animal Kingdom as an education platform attached to thrilling entertainment.   Indiana Jones may be a fictional character but he is the jumping off point for most people in understanding the reasons behind science.  I find the character and spirit of Indiana Jones to be remarkably optimistic and fun.  It is fun to learn new languages, it is fun to discover new things, and it is fun to always try to do something even if it doesn’t work out.  Indiana Jones isn’t always successful, but he does always try to be.  He’s a wonderful character.

IMG_5099.JPGI enjoyed Raiders of the Lost Ark so much as a kid that I bought and read The Egyptian Book of the Dead when I was 12 years old complete with hieroglyphics.   When I was 13 my grandmother gave me some really fantastic books, The Living Bible Encyclopedia in Story and Pictures which came in 16 volumes and were published in 1968.  They are real treasures before revisionism of history had really set in to contaminate such works.  I spent the next couple years reading them voluminously.  At 14 I was a member of the New York City club for rare books and prints.  They didn’t last very long, they didn’t make it out of the 80s, but I loved getting their catalog and sometimes saving up $200 in lawn mowing money to buy some rare book from a remote corner of the world—and reading it.  Nobody in public school convinced me that reading was important but once I saw Indiana Jones, reading became a huge part of my life and still is to this day.  Indiana Jones was smart and tough breaking the belief that you had to be one or the other and for me that made a life changing framework which still is a huge part of my life.  So having a real Indiana Jones world that you can walk around in and interact with would be tremendous to young minds waiting for a spark to ignite their imaginations.

More Indiana Jones in our culture would help it.  With that said, Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones.  But there have been other actors in the very good television show The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which I have all the DVD collection sets that use the character to tell the story of our history and they are real treasures.  There is a lot that Disney could do with Indiana Jones to inspire education in youth while telling fresh stories to keep the imaginations alive in all people no matter what their age.  Just the movies have done much of what we see today in scientific optimism.  I was at the Louvre in Paris a few months ago standing at the Mona Lisa and I joked to my daughter that we had first experienced that painting at that famous museum during an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as she was growing up.  That’s what we did as a family.  We watched Indiana Jones movies together and I certainly gave them the adventure bug because of it.  In fact today one of my son-in-laws is going on a cross-country motorcycle trip today and both of my daughters are going sky diving—and when they were all younger we watched  Indiana Jones movies and those Young Indy DVDs together—and they inspired them too.  Anyway, we’re at The Louvre talking about Indiana Jones and the Mona Lisa and an employee who was French and couldn’t speak a bit of English came over and spoke to us upon hearing the name, Indiana Jones.  Yes, he understood the show we were talking about, he had seen it and that was what inspired him to work at The Louvre and become interested in art.  We were able to communicate because we all mutually loved Indiana Jones.  That is the power of that kind of character and the marvelous opportunity that Disney has by putting an Indiana Jones land in their Animal Kingdom.  It would be sheer magic for me, but for many other people, it would be a place of inspiration and adventure.   I can’t freaking wait!

Rich Hoffman

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How College Destroyed Steven Spielberg: Losing the magic touch by thinking collectively


At a commencement speech to Harvard graduates, Steven Spielberg revealed why his movies have evolved into a much less blockbuster status than his previous work—his pre-college work.  After his outstanding success, colleges looking to ride the coattails of the famous director as second-handers gave out honorary degrees as a way to attach themselves to his genius.  Unfortunately, Steven grew up a little insecure and the sudden attention and social acceptance was enjoyable and he found himself bending more toward the liberal view of things as progressives had infiltrated Hollywood at every level, from finance, marketing, to actual manufacture—and Spielberg was the top of the heap, the standard-bearer of the entire movie industry.  Unfortunately, the last brilliant movie of Steven Spielberg was Schindler’s List which he made the same year as the first Jurassic Park.  From a box office standpoint, and the quality of art perspective, Spielberg has been in decline since 1993.  He has done good work, but it hasn’t been on nearly the same level largely because of his acceptance of the global education he received from his honorary degrees and return to college to finish what he started before success interrupted his education at USC.

During the commencement speech Spielberg explained that he attended California State University, Long Beach but dropped out of school in favor of an internship at Universal — a choice, he said, that affected his filmmaking: “Up until the 1980s my films are what you could call escapist, but I was in a celluloid bubble because I cut my education short and my world view was limited to what I could dream up in my head and not what the world could teach me.”

He later re-enrolled and, in 2002, he completed the credits that were necessary for a B.A. from CSULB. He joked: “It helped that they gave me a course credit in paleontology for the work I did on Jurassic Park.”

Spielberg has since garnered an impressive list of honorary degrees from schools like Boston University, Yale and the University of Southern California, which rejected the director from its film school when he applied out of high school.

I watched Bridge of Spies recently while on an oversea trip and I thought it was good.  But it wasn’t great.  The same with Lincoln.  It was a pretty average movie, certainly not on par with Spielberg’s earlier work—like The Color Purple or Always.  Now in my opinion, Steven Spielberg earned the right to make whatever movie he wants to.  He had a string of films from 1975 to 1993 that dominated the box office and essentially made Universal Studios a successful business.  Without Steven Spielberg, there would be no Universal Studios, Florida theme park.  From E.T. to Jaws, Jurassic Park, to the Transformer series—even Back to the Future—if it wasn’t for Spielberg, there would be nothing.  Likely, the brilliant film composer John Williams would still be in obscurity and unknown if he had not fallen into the fortune of working with Spielberg then his friend George Lucas in the late 70s.  It is important to understand that all of Spielberg’s early success and the industry of Hollywood essentially, came as a result of him dropping out of college.  Clearly, Spielberg doesn’t understand the Metaphysics of Quality.  He has natural talent that was best utilized as a direct result of his individual mind, not the collective efforts of team collaboration.  He is a collaborator, obviously, otherwise he wouldn’t be a great film director, but in essence, his trust in his abilities drove everyone from the front, not from the boardroom of collective input.  Once Spielberg allowed for that type of collective—“worldly” thinking, the value of his work decreased immensely.  Spielberg no longer means GREAT!  Now it just means—interesting.

All the world can teach us is to be average, and submissive to its limits.  That is the Spielberg after 1993 to the present—a broken man who has fallen into the rut of “average.”  He no longer strives for perfection, or his place in history as a great filmmaker.  He is surrounded by “yes men” and second-handers—and that includes the last four presidents of the United States.  I still watch his movies, but often I wait until I can catch up to them a few years after their release.  They are no longer for me opening night events—and that makes the world not a better place, but a far worse one.  I would say that the movie industry was better off with Spielberg produced films like Batteries Not Included and Gremlins than it is with Munich or that stupid movie he did with Oprah recently about French food.

Spielberg upon reading this might think I don’t know what I’m talking about, but he’d be wrong.  I grew up just a few miles from where he did in Cincinnati.  I’ve read many of the same books and have very similar interests.  The difference is, I never really grew up into an adult, and that was something that made Spielberg appealing as a filmmaker to many people who had lost their childhoods—as cynical adults.  I have fought that “growing up,” because I don’t see the value in it.  Colleges are more about crushing individuality into a collective mush, and that is not a good thing.  Intellectuals call that “worldly” I call it “defeated.”   I deal with really smart people every day—several of them with doctoral degrees and often they require me to navigate for them through the mine fields of business.  I have to waste a lot of time “re-teaching” them how to unthink all the garbage they learned in college to get back to their inner child.  Personally, I don’t think human beings should stop learning with the wonderment of children.  Sure adults need to be responsible caretakers of civilization, but getting through Harvard doesn’t do it—nor does getting honorary degrees.  Success comes from individuality, and it is something that is very unique.  They don’t’ teach success in college.  They teach compliance.

I honestly miss Steven Spielberg.  I am grateful he has done what he did, but I miss the energy and hope of his pre-college work.  He calls them “escapism” films but the important thing to ask is why people feel a need to escape in the first place.  What is it they want relief from?  It is the world of college destroyed autonomous thinking that has ruined the minds of millions of otherwise very smart people.   Steven used to give people hope that life wasn’t so bland.  Now his movies are about accepting how bland it is—because that’s the world view he learned in college—and it’s quite sad.  What he told the Harvard graduating class is probably the worst advice anybody could probably give those young minds.  But then again, Steven had the same advice given to him—which he followed toward his own destruction—and the eventual destruction of the entire film industry coming soon to a multiplex near you.  Escapism is good when the world wants to throw shackles on your mind and destroy it for collectivist consumption.  And that used to be why Spielberg films were always so special—and why they no longer are.

Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman


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What Makes Harrison Ford Great: An actor recovering after a crash landing that belongs in a movie

There are a lot of phonies in Hollywood. Most of the time actors will tell you that they are nothing like the people they play in a movie. Some actors even try hard to find roles that are not even close to their real personality. I’ve had a chance to meet some of them, and I always walked away from those projects feeling let down. Even though my adult mind knows and understands show business well enough to comprehend that actors are just actors—when they attempt to portray tough people in the context of a story but are afraid of a bug that crawls across the table during lunch—it’s a let down. But I have high expectations because one of my favorite actors is Harrison Ford, and he has always been at his core—the carpenter that he was when he first started. He’s always been very physical in his roles which obviously goes back to the days that he broke into the business while building a studio for a producer when George Lucas asked him to read some lines for Star Wars as Han Solo. I’m one of those people who think that Star Wars and Indiana Jones would have never been as good as they were without Harrison Ford because of what he does to bring his characters to the screen.

When the 72-year-old crashed shortly after taking off his vintage era World War II single engine craft to the air at the Santa Monica airport due to engine failure I was a little worried for him. I understand he’s old, but he’s been one of my favorite actors for most of my life. I don’t expect him to live forever, but it would be sad to see him lose his life in such a ridiculous fashion—after playing some of the most loved and most action oriented roles of any actor. Ford has played a hot-shot pilot in the Star Wars films and in every Indiana Jones movie; airplanes are a very important part of the story lines. In two films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the Last Crusade, the feature character had to crash-land airplanes. I raised my kids on those movies so it would have been sad to see Ford die in a plane crash like so many other stars have in years past.

As details emerged from the crash it turned out that Ford was in real life every bit as creative and dynamic as Indiana Jones or the role only he could have played—Han Solo. According to a NTSB report filed after an investigation of the March 5th 2015 crash Ford took off from Santa Monica which is in a heavily residential area–lost power nearly immediately not even getting any altitude to give time to glide away from the city or make a ditch in the ocean. Ford as a very good and experienced pilot made a critical decision to turn left back to the airport instead of right because of some quick thinking of making an emergency landing. He made a call back to the tower to make an emergency landing hoping to glide back in, but realized quickly that he wasn’t going to make it. So he set up an unpowered landing over the golf course spotting a place that would take him away from the people below and hit the ground before he overshot the narrow patch of turf and into the road beyond.

He cut his head badly and broke some bones. It was the second time in a year that Ford had broken bones in his leg; the first was during the filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now it was during a recreational flight he was taking between film projects as he has been lobbying for another Indiana Jones film from Disney. Some would say that Ford should hang it up—that he’s too old to do these kinds of activities and that all these broken bones should tell him to stop for his own safety—but that is why I like the actor—because he’s always been an incredibly physical person and his characters have shined because of him.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark during the filming of the flying wing fight, Ford tore his ACL when the plane ran over his leg during a stunt. Then in the Temple of Doom Ford herniated a few disks in his spine aggravated by riding elephants. The film was brutal for even actors in great shape. There was even more crawling around and tumbles that Ford had to do even with his stuntman Vic Armstrong doing most of the back to camera work. Because of all the injuries on the set of Temple of Doom it is unlikely that a major film will ever feature so many live action stunts again. Liability insurance these days make such a thing prohibitive. Ford was out a month nearly shutting down the picture—ironically just as was the case for the upcoming Force Awakens. Ford spent more time hurt as a younger man in his thirties and forties than he has in his 50s and 60s and it’s good to see him getting back into the kind of roles that made him a household name in the first place.

One of my very first favorite books was The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark which chronicled the day-to-day efforts of making that classic film. Harrison Ford was every bit as much of an action hero off the screen as he was on it, and in many ways I liked the story of making the film more than the actual film. I loved the stunt guys and the general attitude on the set and I never stopped loving everything about that movie, from the sound editing, the music, to the screenplay—but most of all the dirty, gritty daily life of an action movie set in the desert. I’ve judged movies off the Raiders standard ever since—fair or unfair. I think for Ford it shaped him as an actor as well—it set the bar so high that he had to live up to it, and as a hard worker first, an actor second, Ford never shied away from holding himself to that standard. As good as he was playing Han Solo; it was really Raiders of the Lost Ark that put Ford into another universe as an actor.

For me what makes his roles better is knowing that the real person playing these roles is an authentic, and sincere person—and Ford is. He’s everything an iconic actor should be on and off the screen. When Indiana Jones crash lands a plane in the Last Crusade you want to think that such things are possible so you can believe in it when you see it on the screen. One of my favorite sequences from Temple of Doom is the plane crash in that film where Indiana Jones and the gang jumped out in a life raft which inflated during the decent. It was a real stunt and I’ve never seen it topped in any film since—and it just might work in a life and death situation. So when Ford crash landed his vintage aircraft on a Santa Monica golf course there was more at stake than an old man dying from his injuries. There was the fear that the magic of movies would remain in the realm of fiction, and that real people actually buckled under such pressure and succumbed to fate. Instead Harrison Ford always the good pilot no matter what the conditions had an escape plan already in mind when his engine cut out at the most dangerous period of flight—the take-off. Ford knew the plane was going down so he set up a situation that would do the least amount of damage to himself, his plane, and the property and lives around him. He hit a very narrow window to achieve the best case scenario.

A month later Ford was at home recovering and telling his old-time friend and producer Frank Marshall that he was ready to play some tennis. Marshall was the Nazi pilot in the flying wing sequence, so he has seen the actor hurt on set many times. And as the producer reported, “Harrison is at home and he’s up and about, he’s recovering remarkably. He made an incredible landing, to his credit. He is after all Indiana Jones.” And that is the difference between Harrison Ford and every other actor. If Disney truly wants to make more Indiana Jones films, Harrison Ford will have to be a part of them; otherwise the audience just won’t buy into the change. Indiana Jones is much better than James Bond—the fan base won’t follow a new actor the way they did Harrison Ford because there is always the belief when the actor is seen on the screen that all the things the adventurer is doing is possible in real life. At 72 years old, Harrison Ford is showing that a life lived is more important than a life saved at the expense of safety. When it comes time to make the hard decisions, Ford is as able as any fantasy character created in the mind of a writer—and that is what makes his characters better and his movies timeless—like the man himself.

Rich Hoffman


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A U.S. Wings Special Treasure: Indiana Jones closing at Hollywood Studios

It was bitter-sweet news for me to learn that the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show at Hollywood Studios, Florida is closing at the end of fiscal year 2014 to make way for a new Star Wars land in the popular park. While I can’t wait to take my grandkids, and children to the new Star Wars land, since in our family, those films have so much reverence—I have a long history with the Indiana Jones show that I will always cherish. I wrote about my latest visit to the park in an article complete with footage from the show. Years ago, I nearly moved my family to Florida to be a stuntman in the show which was only supposed to run for 3 – 5 years according to casting agents 20 years ago. But, the show has been so popular that it has endured all this time. On the same day as I received this news, my friends at U.S. Wings let me know that they had a new Indy jacket limited edition that they were releasing based on the original measurements from Raiders of the Lost Ark made of kangaroo hide. Kangaroo hide is a favorite of mine as many of my whips are made from the common Australian hide and is very tough stuff. The jacket will cost $849 which is well worth the price giving more meaning to fans of the popular show in Florida. Once the show closes, it will mark the end of an era with Indiana Jones that the world will never see again. If fans of the films wanted to buy a special jacket to remember this time—now would be the time to do it.

untitledClosing the Indiana Jones show along with the American Idol exhibit will free up a lot of space in the already packed park. Star Wars is the future of Disney—so it is only fitting that they make good use of the area. As much as I love the Indiana Jones show, it is dated and can only really be enjoyed in a nostalgic way. Star Wars will fill that space far better than the same space is used now—so it’s a great decision. But for me, Indiana Jones will always have a special place that can’t be matched any other way. I am happy I was able to take my first grandson to the show at least once. Crowds for the show from now until the end of 2014 will be intense and in high demand as fans from all over the country will flock to see it one more time. For those people I suggest remembering this year with an official jacket from U.S. Wings which is the closest thing to the jacket shown in the show that anyone will ever get anywhere. Here is the press release from U.S. Wings:

Limited Edition – Back By Popular Demand! We last manufactured a kangaroo Indy-style jacket more than 10 years ago, but we’re once again offering one in this outstanding leather! We’ve chosen to offer our authentic Indy-style “Legend” Jacket (which is based on the specs of one of the original movie jackets from three decades ago) in this ultra-durable material. Besides being a rather rare and unique jacket material, Kangaroo-hide is outstanding for its practicality: it’s perhaps the most rugged leather available while still being light in weight.

Features include two front cargo pockets with original-style pocket flaps, side-entry handwarmer pockets, pleated action back for freedom of movement (with correctly-sized small side gaps), small yoke on back panel, original-length side adjustment straps with rectangular sliders, an interior pocket, satin nylon lining, brass zipper, and plain cuffs & bottom. Also features a shorter overall length and a trimmer, more tailored fit in the body & sleeves. Our Kangaroo jackets have that desirable “rugged look” right from the start, because the hides come from wild Kangaroos, not farm-raised. The hides will display naturally occurring scratches, scuffs, and other range marks which adds character to the jacket. This will be a limited production run, so get this unique jacket while you can. A U.S. Wings exclusive. Made from hides imported from Australia.

Limited production run: once these jackets are gone, they will no longer be available.

Availability: These jackets will be available late Summer 2014.

As I’ve said in previous articles I have a U.S. Wings leather jacket of a similar style and I wear it every day. They don’t just look good, but are actually functional—which is basically why Indiana Jones wears that type of clothing no matter if the time period is the 1930s, the late 1950s—or the current time. There isn’t a better style jacket for a person who conducts their life with actual adventure. I have an A-2 variation of the same jacket that U.S. Wings is offering made of Kangaroo hide and let me declare how tough and stylish it is.

Just the other day I had people from outside the country visiting and we were meeting in downtown Cincinnati for dinner.   It was a hot day and I had to high tail it to the city from about 30 miles out in 20 minutes, so I was speeding down I-75 during rush hour in heavy traffic with bugs and grit from cement trucks bouncing off my U.S. Wings leather jacket. Without the jacket, the ride down a busy highway at those speeds would be nearly impossible. At times I had to use the emergency lane which was filled with gravel to avoid crashing into cars coming to sudden stops in the wall to wall procession of cars heading south. I was late to dinner and parking downtown anymore on a motorcycle is a nightmare as the parking garages no longer allow them, so I was pressed. After a series of adventures parking in a safe lot about eight blocks from Fountain Square, I climbed over walls, up ladders, across rooftops and then back through heavy traffic in a full sprint dripping with sweat dressed in a suit. Protecting the suit was my U.S. Wings jacket which was covered with bugs that I was brushing off as I approached the restaurant and directed the hostess to take me to my table where the guests were already waiting with expensive wine and appetizers. I was stylishly late, but better yet, the jacket was dressy enough to match the surroundings, but tough enough to get me there without screwing up everything that was underneath. That is the gift of a U.S. Wings jacket.

This is why the actors of the Indiana Jones show in Florida have used jackets like these A-2 types for years. Indiana Jones wore them to allow the stunt men to do all the dangerous stunts with an added layer of protection that still looks good on film. In the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, the actors use those jackets show after show, after show giving that added protection in the hot Florida sun as the stuntmen fall from the ceiling and rappel into the stage area five times a day for twenty years. The leather jacket doesn’t just to look good; they protect the people who wear them.

So in the year that the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is closing for those who are willing to drop a couple thousand dollars to watch the show one last time before it closes, do yourself a favor—buy the new Indy-style “Legend” Jacket from U.S. Wings at the link provided. Don’t even waste your time thinking about it—because it is a real treasure that you can give yourself. I like the jacket so much I may even buy another one. The jacket U.S. Wings is offering is thinner than the one I use everyday, and would have its uses on hot summer nights in remote locations far from home—which is of interest to me.

I’m sure Disney will do something with Indiana Jones that will appease fans—but it won’t be the same as the era that we have all just moved through. That era of live shows at Disney World and Harrison Ford films will end in 2014 and for that a treasure is deserved—and I can think of nothing better than a new U.S. Wings jacket from their “Legends” collection to hang in a closet and remind the owner of a period in their life where Indiana Jones was new, fresh—and original.

Rich Hoffman


In the “Rabbit Hole” at Hollywood Studios: The best that the world has to offer metaphysically

I don’t turn down media requests often, but I did the day I was visiting Hollywood Studios recently with my family.  We had just parked for the day as swarms of people were migrating to the entrance when an interview request came over my cell phone.  I told the producer that I was at Disney World and that I would not be giving any interviews for the entire day.  Hollywood Studios for me was more than just a visit to an amusement park; it was a life centering expedition that was the climax of a vacation where I turned off everything for one week, including personal email correspondence.  I had some difficult problems to work through and the best place to do it was at one of the most creative places on earth, Disney World, and more suitable to my personal tastes was Hollywood Studios.  What sets Hollywood Studios apart from every other theme park in the world is that they go to the extraordinary trouble of having so many live performances as part of their attractions.  Hollywood Studios has all the showmanship of a Vegas stage show, with the purity of imagination and family entertainment that is specific to Disney, and I relish those environments as a way to recharge my own creative impulses.  So I spent the week leading up to our trip to Hollywood Studios reading books on the balcony of our Cape Canaveral condo, eating 24” pizzas, playing board games with family members till late in the night, playing miniature golf, visiting local tourist spots, throwing football on the beach, and preparing to see two of the greatest live stunt shows anywhere, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Lights, Motors, Action, Extreme Stunt Show.  My footage from these events can be seen in the video below.  Media interviews were forbidden as my thoughts were pretty far down my own personal rabbit hole.

The reason for my self-imposed media exile was that I was thinking of a controversial and complicated thought that I had been wrestling with for about 6 months, and I needed to confirm my suspicions by visiting a known refuge for dreamers, and social statists alike who all desire the same thing.  At Disney World no matter what the political affiliation, no mater what the personal philosophy, no matter what the demographic background, every visitor at least wishes to touch the face of greatness for just a moment, and at Disney World this experience is very expensive.  But the Disney Company uses the money they make to purchase paradise from the hands of tyranny which exists just out of reach from the Disney Properties in Central Florida.   I have said that my favorite place on earth is the Epcot Center located on the property, but very close to it is my love of Hollywood Studios, which holds within it the magic of imagination in the purist form that came directly from the mind of Walt Disney.  Located on the Hollywood Studios property is the regional airplane that Uncle Walt used to buy up the Central Florida property in small increments to create his Magic Kingdom.  If Disney had not bought up all that “worthless” property and had the vision to build all the wonderful things that are currently at the Disney World Complex, the earth would be on a march back toward the primitive tribal tendencies of mankind’s origins.  It was the work of one man who made Disney World such a great place with the solitary intention of giving all human beings in the world the hopes that can only be created with thoughts produced from the mind.DSC04794

A few days prior my oldest daughter flew into Orlando prompting us to pick her up at the International Airport that was built because of Disney World.  The airport has a gigantic hotel in the center of it and is a marvel of efficiency.  It is one of the busiest airports in the world and has direct flights to it that are only rivaled by places like Hong Kong, London or Paris.  People fly to Orlando for one primary reason, and that is to attend one of the many parks that are in Central Florida—all of which exist because of Walt Disney.  As we waited for my daughter to come down the terminal merge, my wife and I notice how many foreign nationals were filling the unloading area.  There were clearly people from Brazil, Argentina, China, France, and Russia waiting around us as they all had matching t-shirts indicating their origins so they wouldn’t become lost from one another in a strange country.   I saw some of those same t-shirts just a few days later at Hollywood Studios.  They had traveled from around the world to see some aspect of Disney World.  But why…………………that was the source of my quagmire?  It wasn’t enough for me to rationalize that Disney World was just a neat place.  There was more to it than that, and I needed the answer to complete my nagging thoughts.  This is why I had to visit Hollywood Studios with my family and visit some of the attractions that are very dear to my heart.  In some ways visiting Hollywood Studios was like returning home for Christmas to me.  The ideals represented at that particular park are part of my very soul.DSC04777

One of the things that most impresses me at Hollywood Studios is their live shows, the amount of instances where an actor/actress actually handles the attractions.  This is most notable at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Lights, Motors, Action, Extreme Stunt Show which to me are worth the price of admission by themselves.  The Indian Jones show is housed on a huge stage that takes up nearly a sixth of the entire park grounds and holds 2000 people in the stands.  It is quite a production by itself.  But over at Lights, Motors, Action, that show features a grandstand that puts to shame most seating platforms at any state fair in the country, it is so massive that it rivals some football stadiums, and was built just for the stunt show which only plays three times a day.  Those stands hold 5000 viewers for each show, and are truly colossal when taken into perspective.  Only at Disney World could stunt shows be given these kinds of financial resources, which is why those two features are so valuable to me.  I had my grandson with me and even though he was only 9 months old, the pictures of his visit will mean a great deal to him later.  Plus I have a very strong belief that worldly impressions are written into the brain of children from a very young age, so it is my task to make sure he gets these experiences, even if he doesn’t consciously remember them.DSC04778

Hollywood Studios because of their other theme parks is able to dedicate their attention to these live performances, which would be devastatingly cost prohibitive if attempted on their own.   I did rough calculations of the amount of employees that Hollywood Studios employed on the grounds and the results are unfathomable.   Hollywood Studios does not skimp.  Even on their Great Movie Ride, they have theatrical performances where actors/hosts, interact with animatronics to provide a truly epic performance where they didn’t have to.  The Little Mermaid stage play featured many live puppeteers where most theme parks would have relied on mechanical props that would give repeatability time and time again.  Hollywood Studios is not just dedicated to memorializing the movie business, it is dedicated to the unique human touch that live performances provide and the employees bring a lot of heart and soul to each performance.DSC04781

When my wife and I dined at the Sci Fi Drive In restaurant, the employees were all happy to be working, and projected a feeling of competency.  The same level of attention radiated to even the gift shop attendants.  While my wife and I watched our grandson as my kids rode the Tower of Terror a rainstorm erupted and we sought shelter in a gift store where a nice woman with a heavy Kenyan accent showed us to a nice spot in the store where the air conditioner was running on overdrive so we could cool down the baby and get him out of the direct rain.  She didn’t have to be nice in that situation, but she was.  She was happy to be working there, and it showed.  This was the usual experience, not at all the exception.

But the epic performance that easily could have been shown on Broadway in New York was the Fantasmic firework show that took place in an amphitheater setting behind the Tower of Terror ride.  For over a half hour Hollywood Studios put on a firework show, a light show, a stage show, and a puppet show on a lake of fire with a giant fire-breathing dragon all rolled up into one performance.  They had built another 5000 seat theater similar to the one at Lights, Motors, Action and it was filled with thousands of voices cheering on Mickey Mouse as he battled the dragon from Sleeping Beauty and Fantasia.  A gentle roar emerged from the crowd that was as ambitious as a crowd at a football game.  As I watched it looked like at least a 100 employees where working to make the Fantasmic show work in a section of the park that was only used for one show at the end of the day.  The show itself was just another example of the audacity of Walt Disney World to build huge theaters only to be used once a day.  Hollywood Studios seems to almost show off their vast employment ability by providing jobs that no other place of business could afford to make available.DSC04799

No government on earth at any level of endeavor could create the kind of jobs that are created at Disney World.  Hollywood Studios is able to provide large quantities of jobs to creative oriented people just because they are such a large organization that is so profitable they can provide jobs that require such incredibly large overhead.  And that is why so many foreign visitors packed the Orlando airport and Hollywood Studios.  There is only one country in the entire world and really only one individual from that country that could even envision a place like Disney World.  As I studied the vast packs of people from other countries navigating the streets of Hollywood Studios with great enthusiasm the concept hit me like a ton of bricks.  The countries where these visitors came from are completely unable to produce any version of Disney World on their own.  The only way they could get close to such a place was to save enough money to fly to the United States and visit the place for themselves, a world created by Walt Disney with sheer imagination.DSC04801

Most people come and go from Disney World without any inkling as to what they saw or why they liked what they saw.  They only know as they travel back to their hotels and rest their tired bones in beds that are not their own, leaving them in debt from a vacation that cost between $2000 to $10,000 to do correctly, that they tried really hard to get their families to Disney World for some mysterious reason that dawned on them when they arrived at the front gates in the morning. At Hollywood Studios I took a mental survey all day long counting employees, both in front and behind the scenes, and the general philosophy of the entire place and I realized that the cost of the $90 admission ticket per person was paid for with just two of the major stunt shows, Indiana Jones and Lights, Motors, Action.  The rest of the park was just value added, bonuses if visitors had the courage or wherewithal to understand what they were seeing and how important it was to see.  Most people who I watched leave at the end of the day saw a lot, but remembered very little except what their cameras would reveal to them later as their minds were on information overload.  For most visitors they left Disney World a couple grand poorer, and wondering if it was all worth it because they saw so much that they can’t remember anything.  But I don’t have that handicap, and neither does my family.  I was much honored to see that my kids enjoyed most at Hollywood Studios the exhibit dedicated to Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream and the Animation Art Gallery.  Those two exhibits were hidden in the back of the park and were the least visited areas by far.  My kids didn’t want to leave them as we spent nearly 1/5th of the entire day in that small section of the park as the key to all of Disney World was contained within the displays.DSC04800

Disney World sells hope, dreams and the power of imagination to people who are short on supply.  On the other end, Disney World supplies thousands upon thousands of good jobs to people who wouldn’t otherwise have them.  There is more wealth in just Orlando because of Disney World than most of the counties that visited from across the world’s oceans, and all that activity was driven by one man who simply wanted to open up the minds of all people and plant dreams upon their thoughts hoping to make their life just a little bit better.  Disney World is expensive, but they more than give back the value of their efforts if visitors can maintain the ability to absorb everything.DSC04787

One of my son-in-laws is from England and under the simmering nighttime lights toward the close of the day; he proclaimed how grateful he was to be able to attend a Disney World park.  He stated that like the many visitors I had seen that day from countries all over the world that he feared that he might never make it to such a place in his lifetime. Now he has been to the Epcot Center and Hollywood Studios and his imagination was on overdrive.  It was for people like him that Disney dreamed a dream of creating Disney World.  Disney offered the experience to everyone who could come up with the price of admission, but he knew that only a handful out of thousands would walk away at the end of each day aware of what Disney World was all about.  It is a credit to the company of Disney that they have not forgotten who their founder was, and fight to this very day to keep his dream alive without pretentious input on the behalf of arrogant CEOs who wish to leave behind their own mark of greatness.  For Disney it was never about being great—just being good.DSC04783

When I arrived back to the condo that night sitting by the raging stormy waters of the Atlantic I read the reviews to the new Disney film, the Lone Ranger and saw that like Man of Steel, critics had panned the film a dud.  The modern-day progressive critics can’t stand a clean hero who saves the day with a white hat and stallion which is what the Lone Ranger represents, and they are hoping desperately that the film falls on its face as a financial loss for Disney.  Those same critics chastise the Disney Company for the high cost of their theme parks and their empire-like status over so many treasured stories, like Pixar films, Marvel Comics, Star Wars and of course the great classics.  They despise the Disney Company because they are a successful organization that makes good things for people.  Without Disney, much of the world would not currently know anything of goodness, because it is the foundations that were set by Walt Disney which carry on to this very day that are the only hope for large portions of the world to touch ideals that are bigger than their statist lifestyles could garner for them under any other circumstances.DSC04767

I treasure our visit to Hollywood Studios for deeply personal reasons.  I feel calibrated in ways that are better than what I’ve felt in over a decade.  I felt as at home at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular as I do in my own living room.  I feel I know every person who worked that stage, and worked as stunt people even though I have not met any of them.  They knew the same as I did about Hollywood Studios, and they understood how special the place was, and is to the minds of the world.  There are lessons that should be taken from Disney World that government everywhere would do well to follow.  I left the park that day feeling deeply sorry for the people who had to fly 10,000 to 20,000 miles to arrive at a park I only had to travel 1000 miles to attend.  I wish that they lived in a culture that could produce a comparative experience, but they don’t.  Only in America can such a place exist, and only America can produce people like Walt Disney without crushing them out of relevance with statist controls over their very minds.DSC04765

When I turned down the media request that morning upon arriving at Hollywood Studios, now the answer to why is known—I consider the place to be sacred–that nothing of the outside world should penetrate under any circumstances, and I held to that oath.  My daughters watched me hang up the phone to the producer who had called me, and understood without any words needing to be exchanged.  In our family there is nothing more sacred than the thoughts that the mind produces, and there is no place on earth more dedicated to thought and imagination than Disney World.  When we visit, the rest of the world goes on hold.  When I visit such places I touch the most essential parts of my character, and find thoughts that my mind has been desperately trying to push out into the light of day.  And for that even though Walt Disney has long since left the earth, he has handed to me a baton of understanding that his Disney World complex was designed to invoke.  I know what to do with that baton, and understand the meaning behind the meanings.  DSC04756What is sometimes obvious to all, are simply the contorted images of fatigue that can be seen at the gates of Disney World at the end of the day.  Most people see and hear the same things, but they are unable to absorb the information and understand the value.  They only sense that something important happened and they immediately begin saving their money for the next visit.  But the lesson of Disney World is not that it is to remain an empire in Central Florida, but that the ideas are intended to spread to the far corners of the world to take hold and improve the lives of everyone.  The lessons of Disney World are not to copy the business plan of the Disney Company, but to spread the message that underlies everything that the company represents, the telling of stories that are important to the soul of all human beings and their need of mythology to communicate their hopes and dreams to others representing their innermost values.  For me it is in the stunt shows at Hollywood Studios.  At many levels, I feel an affinity for the danger, the glory, and the explosive hype of the stuntmen who must bring to reality the thoughts of a writer with their finger on the pulse of mythology and the yearnings of the human race fighting against all forms of statism.  At Disney World the fight is in the imagination, but in the reality outside the property borders it is quite literal, and the great quest to attend the parks every year from visitors is to escape for just a few hours that horrific realization that no place but Disney World can provide such a safe haven for those with thoughts in their minds and the courage to use them.

Rich Hoffman

“Justice Comes with the Crack of a Whip’!”

‘Zorro’s Fighting Legion’: Celebrating Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ with a tribute to Yakima Canutt

Many industry professionals have cautioned me that due to my Tea Party like beliefs, I will have limited opportunities to work in film, either in front of the camera as a whip consultant, as I have done a time or two, or behind the camera as a writer.  My specific attitude toward collective oriented labor unions is the nail in the coffin as today’s Hollywood for the most part has become an arm of the federal government, and the policies of statism advocated there.  But there are rare exceptions, and of late Warner Brothers with Legendary Pictures have produced fantastic films like Man of Steel and Dark Knight Rises, while Disney Studios is putting out pictures like Iron Man, the Avengers and now the upcoming The Lone Ranger.  It is the Lone Ranger that has me extremely excited because that character as I have mentioned before goes deep into my past.  I love the old versions of the Lone Ranger, the old Saturday morning serials that were recaptured by George Lucas when he made Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  I love the old serials so much that I have seen many of them, even though they are way before my time.  While they lack the polish and sophistication of modern films, they are filled with heart and soul.  Many of the film techniques used today in all the popular blockbusters were developed during the period of the popular Republic serials.  And of those serials there was none I love more than the 1939 series called Zorro’s Fighting Legion.

For readers of my novel The Symposium of Justice, I pay tribute to that 12 chapter serial in three different ways.  The first is that the character conflict of Fletcher Finnegan is much like the fight that Don Diego had with Don Del Oro in Zorro’s Fighting Legion.  I even went to the trouble of naming the antics of my protagonist in the novel Cliffhanger’s Fighting Legion.  The third is that the restaurant that Fletcher Finnegan worked at as a grill cook so that he could learn the movements of the towns politics behind the scenes was named Republics, after of course the company that produced Zorro’s Fighting Legion.  It was Zorro’s Fighting Legion that inspired me to take up the bullwhip to the extent that I have, and make it part of my life, almost as important to me as an arm or a leg on my body.  There is a lot of whip work in Zorro’s Fighting Legion and I wanted to learn every single trick, which I did.  I came to learn about Zorro’s Fighting Legion because I learned at age 12 while watching a documentary about the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark that the great stunt performed by Terry Lenard during the famous “Desert Chase” scene was first done by the great stuntman Yakima Canutt who I feel virtually built Hollywood on his back.  Without the great work of stuntmen like Yakima Canutt and Republic Pictures there would never have been a modern-day Star Wars, an Indiana Jones, or even movie versions of Man of Steel, Iron Man, or Dark Knight Rises.

Hollywood was not always liberal.  Communism slowly seeped into the Hollywood movie machines in the late 1930s during The Red Decade, but studios resisted.  Hollywood Black Friday is the name given, in the history of organized labor in the United States, to October 5, 1945. On that date, a six-month strike by the set decorators represented by the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) boiled over into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers‘ studios in Burbank, California. The strikes helped the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and led to the eventual break up of the CSU and reorganization of the then rival International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) leadership. The Conference of Studio Unions was, at the time, an International union belonging to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and represented the Carpenters, Painters, Cartoonists and several other crafts working for the Studios in Hollywood.

Seventy-seven set decorators broke away from IATSE to form the Society of Motion Picture Interior Decorators (SMPID) and negotiated an independent contract with the producers in 1937. The SMPID joined the CSU in 1943 and the CSU represented the SMPID in their contract negotiations. After the producers stalled the negotiations for nine months, IATSE questioned CSU jurisdiction over the Set Decorators which led to a further five-month delay as the CSU and IATSE fought over jurisdiction. When the Producers refused to acknowledge an independent arbitrator appointed by the War Labor Board‘s assessment that the CSU had jurisdiction over the Set Decorators in February 1945, it set the stage for the strike

By October, money and patience were running low as some 300 strikers gathered at Warner Brothers’ main gate on October 5, 1945. Temperatures were abnormally warm for the already hot LA autumn. When non-strikers attempted to report for work at 6:00 in the morning, the barricades went up and tensions flared. As replacement workers attempted to drive through the crowd, their cars were stopped and overturned.  Hollywood would never again be the same as a gradual erosion of value began to leave Hollywood projects as the labor unions were backed by communist sympathizers with eyes favoring the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Reinforcements arrived on both sides as the picket increased to some 1,000 people and Glendale and Los Angeles Police came to aid the Burbank Police and Warner Security attempting to maintain the peace. When more replacement workers attempted to break through to the gate, a general melee ensued as strikers mobbed them and strikebreakers responded by attacking the strikers with chains, hammers, pipes, tear gas, and night sticks. Warner security rained more tear gas down from the roofs of the buildings adjoining the entrance. Warner firefighters sprayed the strikers with fire hoses. By the end of the day, some 300 police and deputy sheriffs had been called to the scene and over 40 injuries were reported.

The picketers returned the following Monday with an injunction barring the police from interfering with the strike while Warner retaliated with its own injunction limiting the number of pickets at the gate. Although the violence would continue through the week, national exposure forced the parties back to the bargaining table and resulted in an end to the strike one month later but the CSU victory was a Pyrrhic one, where contentions over wording dictated by an AFL arbitration team would lead to further questioning as to CSU and IATSE jurisdiction on the set.


Zorro’s Fighting Legion was created during this turbulent period but was still free of unionized influence.  That makes it much more special to me for the sheer fact that the foundations of American story telling were built upon these Republic serials.  It was film projects like this one that helped slow the erosion of communism in America with the western that so proudly articulated American values of justice, and Zorro’s Fighting Legion is certainly that type of film collection.  I see the Republic serials as Hollywood’s response to the growing tension forming ahead of the Cold War between the communism of the Soviet Union and the capitalism of America.  The struggle of this philosophical debate is all over the story of Zorro’s Fighting Legion, and has resonated with me for decades.  One of the greatest days in my life was when the emergence of DVD technology allowed me to purchase the entire series to own for myself to watch over and over again, which has only been possible in recent years.  But even better than that, Zorro’s Fighting Legion is now available on YouTube, so to share this unique treasure with my readers here, and to share my vision of what Hollywood is all about in celebration of the upcoming Lone Ranger by Disney, please do enjoy all twelve episodes shown below.  They are kind of slow and boring compared to today’s entertainment, but try to watch them the way I do, for their purity of purpose, simplicity in design, and sheer bold stunt work by the great Yakima Canutt.  Mixed through the rest of the article between the episodes is information that is needed to compliment the films.


Zorro’s Fighting Legion is a 1939 Republic Pictures film serial consisting of twelve chapters. It features Reed Hadley as Zorro. The plot revolves around his alter-ego Don Diego’s fight against the evil Don Del Oro.

A trademark of this serial is the sudden demise of at least one native informant in each episode. The direction was identical for each informant’s death, creating a source of unintentional humor: each informant, upon uttering the phrase, “Don Del Oro is…”, is shot by a golden arrow and dies before being able to name the villain’s alter ego. The serial is also unusual in featuring a real historical personage, Mexican President Benito Juárez, as a minor character.

The mysterious Don Del Oro (“Lord of Gold”), an idol of the Yaqui Indians, has emerged and attacks the gold trade of the Republic of Mexico, planning to take over the land and become Emperor. A man named Francisco is put in charge of a fighting legion to combat the Yaqui tribe and protect the gold, but he is attacked by men working for Don Del Oro. Zorro comes to his rescue, but it is too late for him. Francisco’s partner recognizes Zorro as the hidalgo Don Diego Vega. Francisco asks Diego, as Zorro, to take over the fighting legion and defeat Don Del Oro.


Republic Pictures was an American independent film production-distribution corporation with studio facilities, operating from 1935 through 1959, and was best known for specializing in westerns, movie serials and B films emphasizing mystery and action.

The studio was also responsible for financing and distributing one Shakespeare film, Orson Welles‘ Macbeth (1948), and several of the films of John Ford during the 1940s and early 1950s. It was also notable for developing the careers of John WayneGene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Yakima Canutt (November 29, 1895 – May 24, 1986), also known as Yak Canutt, was an American rodeo rideractorstuntman and action director.

Born Enos Edward Canutt in the Snake River Hills, near Colfax, Washington; he was one of five children of John Lemuel Canutt, a rancher, and Nettie Ellen Stevens. He grew up in eastern Washington on a ranch near Penawawa Creek, founded by his grandfather and operated by his father, who also served a term in the state legislature. His formal education was limited to elementary school in Green Lake, Washington, then a suburb of Seattle. He gained the education for his life’s work on the family ranch, where he learned to hunt, trap, shoot, and ride.[1]


He broke a wild bronco when 11. As a 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) sixteen-year-old he started bronc riding at the Whitman County Fair in Colfax in 1912 and at 17 he won the title of World’s Best Bronco Buster. Canutt started rodeo riding professionally and gained a reputation as a bronc rider, bulldogger and all-around cowboy. It was at the 1914 Pendleton Round-UpPendleton, Oregon he got his nickname “Yakima” when a newspaper caption misidentified him.[2] “Yakima Canutt may be the most famous person NOT from Yakima, Washington” says Elizabeth Gibson, author of Yakima, Washington.[3] Winning second place at the 1915 Pendleton Round-Up brought attention from show promoters, who invited him to compete around the country.[2]

“I started in major rodeos in 1914, and went through to 1923. There was quite a crop of us traveling together, and we would have special railroad cars and cars for the horses. We’d play anywhere from three, six, eight ten-day shows. Bronc riding and bulldogging were my specialties, but I did some roping,” said Canutt.[4]

During the 1916 season, he became interested in divorcee Kitty Wilks, who had won the Lady’s Bronc-Riding Championship a couple of times. They married on July 20, 1917 while at a show in Kalispell, Montana; he was 21 and she 23. The couple divorced about 1922.[2] While bulldogging in Idaho, Canutt’s mouth and upper lip were torn by a bull’s horn; but after stitches, Canutt returned to the competition. It wasn’t until a year later that a plastic surgeon could correct the injury.[2]


World’s champion

Canutt won his first world championship at the Olympics of the West in 1917 and won more championships in the next few years. In between rodeos he broke horses for the French government in World War I.[5] In 1918, he went to Spokane to enlist in the Navy and was stationed in Bremerton. In the fall he was given a 30-day furlough to defend his rodeo title. Having enlisted for the war, he was discharged in spring 1919. At the 1919 Calgary Stampede he competed in the bucking event and met Pete Knight.[2]

He traveled to Los Angeles for a rodeo, and decided to winter in Hollywood, where he met screen personalities.[4] It was here that Tom Mix, who had also started in rodeos, invited him to be in two of his pictures.[2] Mix added to his flashy wardrobe by borrowing two of Canutt’s two-tone shirts and having his tailor make 40 copies.[4] Canutt got his first taste of stunting with a fight scene on a serial called Lightning Bryce [6]; he didn’t stay, and left Hollywood to play the 1920 rodeo circuit.

The Fort Worth rodeo was nicknamed “Yak’s show” after he won the saddle-bronc competition three years in 1921, 1922 and 1923. He had won the saddle-bronc competition in Pendleton in 1917, 1919, and 1923 and came second in 1915, and 1929. Canutt won the steer bulldogging in 1920, and 1921 and won the All-Around Police Gazette belt in 1917, 1919, 1920 and 1923.[2] While in Hollywood in 1923 for an awards ceremony, he was offered eight western action pictures for producer Ben Wilson at Burwillow Studios; the first was to be Riding Mad.



Canutt had been perfecting tricks such as the Crupper Mount, a leap-frog over the horse’s rump into the saddle. Douglas Fairbanks used some in his film The Gaucho. Fairbanks and Canutt became friends and competed regularly at Fairbanks’ gym. Canutt took small parts in pictures of others to get experience.[2] It was in Branded a Bandit (1924) that his nose was broken in a 12-foot fall from a cliff. The picture was delayed several weeks, and when it resumed Canutt’s close shots were from the side. A plastic surgeon reset the nose, which healed, inspiring Canutt to remark that he thought it looked better.[2]



When his contract with Wilson expired in 1927, Canutt was making appearances at rodeos across the country. By 1928 the talkies were coming out and though he had been in 48 silent pictures, Canutt knew his career was in trouble.[5] His voice had been damaged from flu in the Navy. He started taking on bit parts and stunts, and realized more could be done with action in pictures.[2]

In 1930 between pictures and rodeoing, Canutt met Minnie Audrea Yeager Rice at a party at her parents’ home. She was 12 years his junior. They kept company during the next year while he picked up work on the serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. They married on November 12, 1931.[2]

When rodeo riders invaded Hollywood, they brought a battery of rodeo techniques that Canutt would expand and improve, including horse falls and wagon wrecks, along with the harnesses and cable rigs to make the stunts foolproof and safe.[4] Among the new safety devices was the ‘L’ stirrup, which allowed a man to fall off a horse without getting hung in the stirrup. Canutt also developed cabling and equipment to cause spectacular wagon crashes, while releasing the team, all on the same spot every time.[4] Safety methods such as these saved film-makers time and money and prevented accidents and injury to performers. One of Yakima’s inventions was the ‘Running W’ stunt, bringing down a horse at the gallop by attaching a wire, anchored to the ground, to its fetlocks and launching the rider forwards spectacularly. This either killed the horse, or rendered it badly shaken and unusable for the rest of the day.[4] The ‘Running W’ is now banned and has been replaced with the falling-horse technique. It is believed that the last time it was used was on the 1983 Iraqi film al-Mas’ Ala Al-Kubra when the British actor and friend of Yak Marc Sinden and stuntman Ken Buckle (who had been trained by Yak) performed the stunt three times during a cavalry charge sequence.[7][8]


It was while working on Mascot serials that Canutt practiced and perfected his most famous stunts, including the drop from a stagecoach that he would employ in John Ford‘s 1939Stagecoach. He first did it in Riders of the Dawn in 1937 while doubling for Jack Randall.[2] In his 1981 film Raiders of the Lost ArkSteven Speilberg paid homage to Canutt, recreating the stunt when a stuntman, Terry Leonard, (doubling for Harrison Ford) ‘dropped’ from the front of a German Army transport truck, was dragged underneath (along a prepared trench) and then climbed up the back and round to the front again.[9]

John Wayne

While at Mascot, Canutt met John Wayne while doubling for him in a motorcycle stunt for The Shadow of the Eagle in 1932. Wayne admired Canutt’s agility and fearlessness, and Canutt respected Wayne’s willingness to learn and attempt his own stunts.[10] Canutt taught Wayne how to fall off a horse.[11]

“The two worked together to create a technique that made on-screen fight scenes more realistic. Wayne and Canutt found if they stood at a certain angle in front of the camera, they could throw a punch at an actor’s face and make it look as if actual contact had been made.”[10]

Canutt and Wayne pioneered stunt and screen fighting techniques still in use. Much of Wayne’s on-screen persona was from Canutt. The characterizations associated with Wayne – the drawling, hesitant speech and the hip-rolling walk – were pure Canutt.[12] Said Wayne, “I spent weeks studying the way Yakima Canutt walked and talked. He was a real cowhand.”[13]


In 1932, Canutt’s first son Edward Clay was born and nicknamed ‘Tap’, short for Tapadero, a Spanish word for a stirrup covering. It was in 1932 that Canutt broke his shoulder in four places while trying to transfer from horse to wagon team.[2] Though work was scarce, he got by combining stunting and rodeo work.

In 1934, Herbert J. Yates of Consolidated Film Industries combined MonogramMascot, Liberty, Majestic, Chesterfield, and Invincible Pictures to form Republic Pictures, and Canutt became Republic’s top stuntman. He handled all the action on many pictures, including Gene Autry films; and several series and serials, such as The Lone Ranger andZorro. For Zorro Rides Again, Canutt did almost all the scenes in which Zorro wore a mask, and he was on the screen as much as the star John Carroll.[14] When the action was indicated in a Republic script, it said “see Yakima Canutt for action sequences.”[4]


William Witney, one of Republic’s film directors, said:

“There will probably never be another stuntman who can compare to Yakima Canutt. He had been a world champion cowboy several times and where horses were concerned he could do it all. He invented all the gadgets that made stunt work easier. One of his clever devices was a step that attached to the saddle so that he had leverage to transfer to another moving object, like a wagon or a train. Another was the “shotgun,” a spring-loaded device used to separate the tongue of a running wagon from the horses, thus cutting the horses loose. It also included a shock cord attached to the wagon bed, which caused wheels to cramp and turn the wagon over on the precise spot that was most advantageous for the camera.”[15]

In the 1936 film San Francisco Canutt replaced Clark Gable in a scene in which a wall was to fall on the star. Canutt said: “We had a heavy table situated so that I could dive under it at the last moment. Just as the wall started down, a girl in the scene became hysterical and panicked. I grabbed her, leaped for the table, but didn’t quite make it.” The girl was unhurt but he broke six ribs.[5]



Canutt tried to get into directing; he was growing older and knew his stunting days were numbered. Harry Joe, Canutt’s second son, was born in January 1937. Joe and Tap would become important stuntmen, working with their father.

In 1938, Republic Pictures started expanding into bigger pictures and budgets. Canutt’s mentor and action director for the 1925 Ben-HurBreezy Eason was hired as second unit director, and Canutt to coordinate and ramrod the stunts. For Canutt this meant hiring stuntmen and doing some stunts himself, but laying out the action for the director and writing additional stunts.[4]

“In the five years between 1925 and 1930, fifty-five people were killed making movies, and more than ten thousand injured. By the late 1930s, the maverick stuntman willing to do anything for a buck was disappearing. Now under scrutiny, experienced stunt men began to separate themselves from amateurs by building special equipment, rehearsing stunts, and developing new techniques.” – fromFalling: How Our Greatest Fear Became Our Greatest Thrill by Garrett Soden.[16]


John Ford hired Canutt on John Wayne‘s recommendation for Stagecoach, where Canutt supervised the river-crossing scene as well as the Indian chase scene, did the stagecoach drop, and doubled for Wayne in the coach stunts. For safety during the stagecoach drop stunt, Canutt devised modified yokes and tongues, to give extra handholds and extra room between the teams.[4] Ford told him that whenever Ford made an action picture and Canutt wasn’t working elsewhere, he was on Ford’s payroll.[2] Also in 1939, Canutt doubled Clark Gable in the burning of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind; he also appeared as a renegade accosting Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) as she crosses a bridge in a carriage driving through a shantytown.


Second Unit Director

In 1940, Canutt sustained serious internal injuries when a horse fell on him while doubling for Clark Gable in Boom Town (1940). Though in discomfort for months after an operation to repair his bifurcated intestines, he continued to work.[2] Republic’s Sol Siegel offered him the chance to direct the action sequences of Dark Command, starring Wayne and directed by Raoul Walsh. On Dark Command, Canutt fashioned an elaborate cable system to yank back the plummeting coach before it fell on the stuntman and horses; he also created a breakaway harness from which they were released before hitting the water.[17]

It was in 1943 while doing a low-budget Roy Rogers called Idaho that Canutt broke both his legs at the ankles in a fall off a wagon.[2] He recovered to write the stunts and supervise the action for another Wayne film In Old Oklahoma. In the next decade Canutt became one of the best second unit and action directors. MGM brought Canutt to England in 1952 to direct the action and jousting sequences in Ivanhoe with Robert Taylor. This would set a precedent by filming action abroad instead of on the studio lot, and Canutt introduced many British stuntmen to Hollywood-style stunt training.[2] Ivanhoe was followed by Knights of the Round Table, again with director Richard Thorpe and starring Robert Taylor. Canutt was again brought in for lavish action scenes in King Richard and the Crusaders.[18]

Canutt directed the close-action scenes for Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus, spending five days directing retakes that included the slave army rolling its flaming logs into the Romans, and other fight scenes featuring Kirk DouglasTony Curtis and John Ireland.[19]


Ben Hur

For Ben-Hur, Canutt staged the chariot race with nine teams of four horses. He trained Charlton Heston, (Judah Ben-Hur) and Stephen Boyd, (Messala) to do their own charioteering. He and his crew spent five months on the race sequence.[20] In contrast to the 1925 film, not one horse was hurt, and no humans were seriously injured; though Joe Canutt, while doubling for Charlton Heston, did cut his chin because he did not follow his father’s advice to hook himself to the chariot when Judah Ben-Hur’s chariot bounced over the wreck of another chariot.[21]

Walt Disney brought Canutt in to do Second Unit for Westward Ho, the Wagons! in 1956; the first live action Western Disney feature film followed by Old Yeller the next year, and culminating in 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson which involved transporting many exotic animals to a remote island in the West Indies.

Anthony Mann specifically requested Canutt for Second Unit for his 1961 El Cid, where Canutt directed sons Joe and Tap doubling forCharlton Heston and Christopher Rhodes in a stunning tournament joust. “Canutt was surely the most active stager of tournaments since the Middle Ages” – from Swordsmen of the Screen.[18] He was determined to make the combat scenes in El Cid the best that had ever been filmed.[21] Mann again requested him for 1964’s The Fall of the Roman Empire. Over the next ten years, Canutt would continue to work, bringing his talents to Cat BallouKhartoumWhere Eagles Dare and 1970’s A Man Called Horse.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Yakima Canutt has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street. In 1967, he was given an Honorary Academy Award for achievements as a stunt man and for developing safety devices to protect stunt men everywhere. He was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (Hall of Fame).

1985 – Yakima appeared as himself in “Yak’s Best Ride” directed by John Crawford. Produced by Clyde Lucas and Ed Penny

Yakima Canutt died of natural causes at the age of 90 in North Hollywood, California.[22]

He is buried at Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery there.


Now you might understand why dear reader that I feel the way I do.  The kind of Hollywood, and adversely the kind of America I want is the one that made movies like Zorro’s Fighting Legion which were populated by men like Yakima Canutt.  My admiration for George Lucas is that he kept this type of America alive for the world by paying direct tribute to the old Republic serials, particularly Zorro’s Fighting Legion with his creation of Indiana Jones.  Like Republic Studios, George Lucas’ Lucasfilm made movies with the same level of independence which fashioned the Republic serials to be so important in American storytelling.  Raiders of the Lost Ark, not to take anything away from the visionary story of placing a globetrotting archeologist in a high adventure setting which has advanced science in so many wonderful ways, borrowed heavily from the old Republic serials and because it did, made me aware of their existence across time and space.   And now you too dear reader have seen one, the best one in my opinion.  One of the big fears that many current day Star Wars fans has is that Disney will ruin the Saturday morning serial feel to the films that mean more to people than even modern religions can duplicate.  The reason is that the stories have values that are not provided in modern society, and movie fans are hungry for films with value.  But Disney, even though it is a large company has not forgotten where it came from.  It knows what Uncle Walt told them from beyond the grave and Star Wars is in good hands.  The evidence is in The Lone Ranger which Disney is producing to re-invent the western the way they re-invented the pirate stories.  But it cannot be forgotten that what came first, was the great Republic serials like Zorro’s Fighting Legion where truth, justice, and the American way were plot points of value not avoided by a growing consensus toward world-wide communist domination.

The Don Del Oro of our time is all those statist lovers who would destroy all who attempt to stand for goodness.  They reside among us in reality with masks hiding their true intentions from behind the desks of union leadership, political office, even movie studio heads.  But not everyone is playing by the rules, and like Don Diego from Zorro’s Fighting Legion there are film producers like George Lucas who kept the old serials alive for a new generation, and Jerry Bruckheimer who is making the modern version of The Lone Ranger possible.  But more importantly, it is the work of men like Yakima Canutt, and Terry Lenard who gave wings to the ideas of freedom, which motion pictures have traditionally stood for, and still do in isolated cases like Disney’s The Lone Ranger, and Warner Brother’s Man of Steel.

It is worth taking a day or two to watch all these clips.  So make up some snacks in the kitchen and take some time to enjoy the foundations of American film and the heroic ideals that accompany them.

Rich Hoffman

“Justice Comes with the Crack of a Whip!”

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Mankind: Live Snakes at COMIC CON!

It was reported to me that the Indiana Jones booth at COMIC CON in San Diago July 11th through July 15th will have a recreation of the famous Well of Souls scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark complete with live snakes to celebrate the release of all four Indiana Jones films to Blu-Ray. For those who need a map and want to know where to go, the Indiana Jones booth is 2913 at the Lucasfilm pavilion on the show floor. In the spirit of this exciting push to keep the name of Indiana Jones alive I am going to spend a moment to defend the last film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from the scrutiny it has received, which I have been thinking about for 4 years now.

To me all the Indiana Jones films are innovative fun escapades into the deepest questions of our times. Few people know it but George Lucas originally wanted to be an anthropologist but since he settled into a job as a “filmmaker,” the character of Indiana Jones allowed him to explore aspects of archeology that he could have only dreamed of as a field scientist. However, I will say this; George Lucas should go down in history as one of the greatest archeologists who ever have lived for the simple fact that many of today’s current world explorers, scientists, physics geeks, treasure hunters, mercenaries, and authors have been profoundly inspired by George Lucas’ creation of the character Indiana Jones. Because of Indiana Jones hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars have been invested in archeological research that would have never happened in the field of that scientific endeavor if not for the first Indiana Jones movie, the greatest movie in the history of the world in my opinion, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I would have come to use a bullwhip anyway, since my grandfather passed on to me the love of it which predated Raiders. He and his father were deeply inspired by old Zorro films like Don Q Son of Zorro from the silent era, so he was going to teach me whether I liked it or not. But when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, which was a tribute to those old Saturday Matinees it allowed my generation to understand what my grandfather’s generation had loved so much. From the early film era of the 1940’s it was Zorro’s Fighting Legion that I love the most, and Indiana Jones was the modern mythic tale of those old adventures. So I took to the study of the bullwhip which has personally led me on many unique adventures and has given me a view of the world few get to see through that martial art weapon.

Some die hard film critics will say that Temple of Doom was the worst Indiana Jones film. Even Steven Spielberg has said he isn’t proud of that movie. Yet, the film is one of the most beloved movies in the history of film. It invented the PG13 rating because the film was too violent to be simply rated PG and was too family oriented to be rated R. Temple of Doom is the ultimate adventure film and studios have been trying unsuccessfully to tap into the magic of that particular movie for many, many years. I’ve seen it at the movie theater over 15 times that I can remember, the most exciting time was when I was on a high adventure camp excursion deep in the hills of Kentucky within one week of Temple of Doom’s release. I was only 15 at the time so I was under the care of adult supervisors. After a day of intense backwoods hiking and spelunking the members of our camp went to bed around 9 PM. Two of my friends in the same tent waited patiently with me for everyone to go to sleep since everyone was exhausted and covered in dirt and sweat. When we no longer heard voices speaking from the many tents, we quietly escaped and ran 5 miles into a nearby college town to catch the last showing of Temple of Doom for the day at 11:15 PM. With sweat pouring down our faces and backs we bought our tickets and sat down in the wonderfully air-conditioned theater just as Indiana Jones came into the Club Obi Wan with his white tuxedo. I have raised my children to the movie Temple of Doom. It played on our television every day for about 8 years. I raised my niece and nephews on the movie since my wife and I helped raise them as children. To this day, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom brings them found memories that they cherish from their childhoods. It is the story of good and evil and even though Indiana Jones gets stabbed, burnt, tortured, poisoned, possessed, and beat up in countless ways he somehow comes out heroically in the end facing all the dangers by stating, “It’s a long way to Deli,” meaning anything can happen, and we’ll deal with it as it comes. To this day my wife and I say that to each other whenever a series of bad things happen, and it brings comic relief.

(This is a personal friend of mine, Gery Deer in Jamestown, Ohio performing at the Murphey Theater in Wilmington.)

When Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out, I took my oldest nephew who was 5 at the time out of school to the premier. We saw the movie on opening day for the very first screening. I figured he would learn a lot more at that movie than he would in school, which I was of course right. In Last Crusade the archeology follows along the lines of the typically Christian pursuit of archeological relics. Made just 8 years after the first film in Raiders, Last Crusade had not yet experienced the changes in archeology that would come as a result of the massive amount of money that was flowing into the science because of Indiana Jones. Last Crusade was about the legend of the Holy Grail which is an item that runs deep into Christian religions. This film took Indiana Jones back to his childhood so audiences could see what kind of events helped shape the kind of person that Indiana Jones would become as a man. The concept was so successful that George Lucas started a television show called The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles that would be geared to teaching people about the events of world history taking place from 1900 to around 1919. (Yes, I have every one of them on DVD and my kids have watched them all with me many, many, many times.)

For many fans, The Last Crusade would be their last impression of Indiana Jones. Archeology to them would be biblical in scope, and the adventures of Indiana Jones would end. Life would move on. To the rest of society, people get old, and they put away the items of childhood, which Indiana Jones was. The television show was enjoyed by people like me who naturally loved history, but was not geared to the swashbuckling action of the movies. Instead it centered on the character development of Indiana Jones as a young man.

Over the years many things happened in popular culture. Thousands of archeologists who went to college and pursued their dream of working in that business because of Indiana Jones were doing investigations of their own. Private investors who loved the Indiana Jones movies poured millions of dollars into college research projects giving archeology a lot of money that it didn’t have prior to 1981 when Raiders of the Lost Ark hit theaters. In the 1990’s archeology were doing some big things—but the revelations being discovered with all this new money was not more of the Christian based study that many would have thought it to be. The evidence being discovered was that human existence on planet earth was much more complex than we previously thought and it appears that mankind had help getting started. So when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, audiences who did not know of these developments were a bit mystified to see what had happened.

My oldest daughter asked me how I managed years ahead of the film’s release to make many of the statements about human society that Crystal Skull was making. I explained to her that George Lucas was following the Robert Pirsig “quality rule” as he was in front of the train yet again while the rest of society was well in the back. Crystal Skull offered an explanation to the advanced societies all over the planet that were obviously connected in some way. This science was revealed in part by Indiana Jones films, so it was up to Indiana Jones to offer the difficult reality that other beings played a part in human evolution, and not just beings from outer space, but “interdimensional” creatures. I had come to this same conclusion years ago after my own studies, which is why my daughter was amazed that Crystal Skull was right on target with what I had been saying for nearly 10 years, that earth was seeded from another civilization that did not originate on earth and that the idea of God had suddenly become much larger.

After 20 years of not seeing Indiana Jones on the big screen audiences were suddenly confronted with an Indiana Jones who was 70 years old who was still in fist fights, romancing women, and performing unbelievable stunts. This is a difficult reality to a society of people who cast senior citizens into disregard past age 65. Seeing a film icon like Harrison Ford looking quite good as a 70 year old man shattered perceptions of what the elderly could do, and opened up the possibility that aging didn’t have to be a degrading process. The second thing that audiences had trouble with was that Indiana Jones survived a nuclear explosion by climbing into a lead lined refrigerator. Many fans did not know that the only objects to survive nuclear explosions in the many tests done were lead lined refrigerators, so Indiana Jones true to his past exploits of always finding a way to survive climbed into the only thing that would have saved him from a nuclear blast, a lead lined refrigerator.

Fans were mixed on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It wasn’t what they thought it should have been. Indiana Jones as a character had evolved over the years through the television show, which was incorporated into the new film and it served as a kind of bridge to merge the films and the television show together. The abandonment of typically Christian relics also caused some anxiety as the plot of Crystal Skull centered on the ancient alien oriented plot complete with flying saucers and little green men. And of course people had a hard time accepting Indiana Jones as an older person with a society that thinks age 30 is the end of life as they know it. But, society will catch up to the vision of George Lucas. They are doing it already. The current show on the History Channel Ancient Aliens would have never become possible if not for the mass audience exposure to the kind of information that has been coming in from archeological research. The mainstream audience was confronting for the first time in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the possibility that mankind’s Gods were in fact beings from another world, and possibility from another dimensional reality which really messed with the stereotypes many had formed over the years through their religious studies.

Before seeing Crystal Skull I had already read several books by Zecharia Sitchin and of course the great Forbidden Archeology by Cremo and Thompson so I could almost see George Lucas smiling from behind the movie screen as I watched the events of the latest Indiana Jones movie play out. I knew exactly what he was doing, and slowly, four years after the release of that very innovative movie, people are beginning to catch up to Lucas’ vision. In the years to come, it will be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that will be known for changing the way human beings see themselves as science is only now starting to admit that the discoveries of Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull film are turning out to be more of a reality than they ever dared to admit.

I personally loved Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and I place it somewhere in quality to being between Last Crusade and Temple of Doom. To this very day it is Raiders of the Lost Ark that is my favorite movie of all time. So much so that the CD soundtrack has been played in my home and to my family well over a thousand times—my oldest daughter actually used to sleep to it. When she was married, it took her about 6 months to finally learn to sleep without listening to the Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack. My favorite song on that soundtrack is called “Desert Chase” which I listen to almost every day at least once. In fact yesterday as I cleaned my motorcycle, I listened to that part of the soundtrack on my iPOD.

For my birthday several years back, my family bought me a leather flight jacket from U.S.Wings that was made from the same roll of leather that created the leather jacket for Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I have put that jacket through absolute hell. It’s been drug in the dirt, pelted with rain, snow, ice, and had just about every kind of living creature crawling on it. It has been to the top of mountains and touched the breath of foreign countries. It has seen 30,000 miles of torture from a motorcycle. I said to my family just the other day that the jacket was just now starting to get the look of “character” that I like. In another 15 years, it should look just about right. Indiana Jones is known for his period style hat, his beat up leather jacket and his whip. Many of those things are part of my personal attire as they are of many science lovers coming out of the 1980’s who found magic and hope in Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones for millions has set the bar high for not only what we expect in our movies, but also in what we expect out of ourselves.

People often wonder how I have done and survived many of the things I have, and why I am not content to just drift off into the sunset on a sail boat. Well, I spent a lot of time watching Indiana Jones and raising my family on those films, and it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t give them the closest thing in reality to that dynamic character. The magic of Indiana Jones is in saying “yes” to life, to not allowing convention to rule the day. If Indiana Jones is anything, he is probably the most tenacious character ever to appear in film, and he is a survivor to such an extent that not even a nuclear blast can stop him. He’s not a superhero from some other planet, or a multi millionaire who can afford to build the machines of his dreams to combat crime. Indiana Jones is just an ordinary man with an extraordinary sense of wonder and hope, which has never learned the word can’t, and that is why fans will flock to the Indiana Jones booth at COMIC CON and take pictures of themselves next to the live snake exhibit. They’ll do it because there’s a little bit of Indiana Jones in each of them, thanks to George Lucas who decided to make his kind of movie from the front of the social train while the rest of society watched from the back.

Yes, I will buy the new Blu-Ray set of the Indiana Jones films. I have a grandchild coming and I can promise that his first images, his first sounds, his very first impressions will be of Indiana Jones punching a bunch of maniacal Thuggee in the face from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. My grandchild has a lot to learn from me, and to prepare his mind for what his life will be like, he had better start thinking the way Indiana Jones does—that nothing is impossible, that life is a never-ending adventure, and even when the worst that can possibly happen happens—there is always a way out so long as your mind can dream and adapt.


This is what people are saying about my new book–Tail of the Dragon

Just finished the book and am sweating profusely. Wow, what a ride !!!  Fasten your seat belts for one of the most thrilling rides ever in print.

Visit the NEW Tail of the Dragon WEBSITE!  CLICK HERE!

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior

Kali Ma Will Rule the World: Why the labor unions are by definition THUGS

Do you know where the word “THUG” comes from? It’s the slang term given to the Thuggee criminal fraternity of Hindu thieves dating from the 17th century and going into the early 20th century. The Thuggee were a cult of maniacs engaged in mass murder. The modus operandi was to join a caravan and become accepted as bona-fide travelers themselves. The thugs would need to delay any attack until their fellow travelers had dropped the initial wariness of the newcomers and had been lulled into a false sense of security gaining their trust. Once the travelers had allowed the Thugs to join them and disperse amongst them—a task which might sometimes, depending on the size of the target group, require accompaniment for hundreds of miles—the Thugs would wait for a suitable place and time before killing and robbing them. (Source )

The film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had some fun with the terrible culture of the Thuggee in the popular 1984 film as Matt Clark and I did also in the Sunday November 20, 2011 broadcast on his ClarkCast radio network heard on WAAM Ann Arbor. The subject was comparing the labor unions of Ohio who led a $30 million plus campaign to repeal Issue 2 in Ohio to the human sacrifice aspect of the Thuggee culture which is why I think all labor unions are no different from the Thugs of that old Hindu culture.

I know many of those union “brothers” and “sisters” in the public unions don’t appreciate being called “THUGS” but what else are you? During the whole Issue 2 campaign your side did nothing to argue in favor of the union position. Your union’s arguments relied almost exclusively on “fear” to win people over to your side, which is what thugs do, they “scare” people into action they might not otherwise take. Sure, it’s not murder what the unions participated in, but the idea that everyone else in the world should sacrifice themselves to your honor is what you portrayed, so I’ll repeat what I said to Matt in our interview. In the end after all the votes were cast it was the reign of the mindless Thuggee union lobby that turned out the most votes, not because they were more deserved, but because the votes were cast or not cast based on fear. There were a lot of people who stayed home that night and didn’t vote. Those voters of indecision were simply instigated into terror, which was the design of the Thugs.

The labor unions in the course of the Issue 2 campaign told Ohioans that the earth would open up and swallow whole women and children, that fires would erupt all over Ohio, that thieves would be breaking into our homes and there would be no police to come. We were told that schools would fail, that nurses would not be on staff to care for the sick. We were told that the public employee is similar to a divine entity and that the tax payers owed their lives to their existence and that required a tax sacrifice of not just dollars, but of blood. We were shown that any reform of any initiative connected to the public labor unions would be met with a mob of protestors chanting for more sacrifice, more money spent on their behalf. The unions convinced much of Ohio that the sky would open and the wrath of God would cast itself upon the earth and that in this battle Satan would emerge with pitchforks in hand and armies of demons would bring havoc upon the entire state in a never-ending apocalypse that would go on till the end of time.

We were told that if Issue 2 was not repealed that ambulances would sit idle as our senior citizens grabbed at their hearts in their last dying moments. Fire trucks would sit idle as forests grew across the parking lots and wrapped their roots about the tires. Police cars would sit rusting away in the sunlight of an apocalypse as the sky burned with fire and meteors from thousands of light years away pummeled Ohio into ruin.

We were told that to prevent these things from happening that the gods of public service required more blood sacrifices, more taxes, more support to be successful and that if they did not get these sacrifices then the world as we know it would come to an end with a fury unmatched since the dawn of the human race. The sacrifices required the lives not only of ourselves, but of our children and our children’s children in a never-ending ceaseless debt which would extend into the foreseeable future or as long as the sun continued to burn and that if there was anyone who questioned the validity of this sacrifice, then they would be the worst, most despicable species of human to ever walk the earth………………..they would be big, mean, greedy people who only care for themselves……………selfish beyond refute or excuse, and a menace to all humanity.

And after all that was said and done and the unions had Issue 2 repealed, the problems that brought it into existence still persist, and the fears that the unions uttered will still come to pass. Firefighters, police and teachers will still lose their jobs, because tax increases are not the solution. There cannot be anymore blood sacrifices of our hard-earned money to the cult of the Thuggee band of union workers. Sorry, we are fresh out of blood, human hearts and dollars to give you in your blood thirsty quest to dominate the world with a progressive utopia held in reverence to the great Kali!

“Kali Ma will rule the world!” But not with our money!
(For more on Kali and reference pictures: )

Rich Hoffman!/overmanwarrior