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Thursday, June 16 2016 22:12

Disney Movies Under the Stars at Rock Father HQ: ZOOTOPIA

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Backyard Theaters are a trend that's been picking up steam in recent years, and for good reason: Families have really been taking advantage of ways to "take the indoors outdoors," and having your own movie screen in your backyard can be a crowning achievement. While the idea might seem complicated or expensive, it certainly can be, but it hardly has to be. With a little preparation, you can enjoy the communal cinematic experience of "Movies in the Park" or an old-school Drive-In right in the comfort and freedom of your own backyard. My friends at The Walt Disney Company asked if I'd be up for starting a backyard screening series right here at Rock Father HQ, and to be honest - it was something I was already looking into doing, so when they offered to provide some tools for the kick-off, those plans got rolling fast, with a screening to celebrate the home release of ZOOTOPIA in-mind. But first, I needed a trial run.

To build your own backyard theater, you really only need these five simple items: 1 - An LED projector; 2- something to project from (iPad/Tablet/Laptop/Blu-ray Player/etc; 3 - Speaker/Speakers; 4- proper cables to connect all the devices; 5- something to project onto - Screen/Wall/Fence/etc.

The folks at Disney sent us an Ion Audio Tailgater - a one-piece portable speaker/P.A. system; an Axxa PICO P300 Micro Projector; an Amazon Essentials Digital AV Adapter for my iPad Mini; and an Amazon Basics 3' HDMI Cable. Coming up with a screen was in my court, and it took me a few days to officially decide that I didn't want to go the DIY route for it (though a quick Google search will reveal plans for those who'd like to build one), and needed to research the right screen for us - and there's so many options. It came down to a choice between the 10' Inflatable Disney Mickey Mouse Movie Screen that Gemmy sells as a Walmart Exclusive, or the Camp Chef Outdoor Entertainment Gear 92" Portable Outdoor Screen.

zootopia supplies

I chose the latter for its size and portability - it's a metal frame that snaps together, stakes into the ground, has rope for windy uses, and the screen has tension hooks all the way around. The best part is that it all fits back neatly into a lightweight carrying case. Ease of set-up is great, but also swiftness of break-down... which we learned first-hand during our trial-run when an unexpected storm came up minutes into STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. The wind and lightning came from the west, and within 20 minutes I had everything packed-up and inside.

Getting an actual "schedule" for ZOOTOPIA was something the weather didn't cooperate with, as the sunny days made way for rainy nights, so we had pull it together on the first night where we knew it wouldn't rain - last Friday. Using the Digital Copy from the ZOOTOPIA Blu-ray Combo Pack, I streamed from the iPad Mini to power the screening, while the girls and their friends enjoyed the atmosphere provided by some ZOOTOPIA party supplies and a blanket that Disney sent. As a bonus, TOMY sent over a talking Judy Hopps plush, and her Police Cruiser with Action Figure - perfect additions to the ZOOTOPIA collection that The Rock Daughters™ had already been amassing.

zootopia parties

That blanket, though... that gave the girls a fine idea to add to the mix... to break out the air mattress!

zootopiablanket

The only thing left to do was to wait for darkness, and rally some friends. If you don't have one, a private neighborhood Facebook group is a great thing to have, and something that one of our neighbors set up a few years back. 

Zootopia Screening

We're going to make movie nights a regular thing here at Rock Father HQ not just in summer, but also into the Fall. Disney's got some heavy-hitters in the pipeline like THE JUNGLE BOOK, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR plus all the recent ones like THE GOOD DINOSAUR and BIG HERO 6 (not to mention all the Disney classics). By fall I bet we'll have FINDING DORY, too!

Over the months ahead, keep an eye on my social channels as we share our adventures with Disney Movies Under the Stars...

zootopia nick

BONUS: What connection do ZOOTOPIA and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS have with each other for The Rock Father? In December of 2015 while working the Global Press Event for THE FORCE AWAKENS, the group of writers that I was a part of took a detour to meet with the filmmakers behind ZOOTOPIA for a series of three features. Read them here, here and here!

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, a writer for the Netflix #StreamTeam, and serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. Current special projects include promotional campaigns for PJ Masks (eOne/Disney Junior) and Beat Bugs (Netflix). 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for Napalm Records' PRODUCT OF HATE.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

Learn more here

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