D23 Archives

July 23, 2018

Keeping Cool with Non-Dairy Treats while at Disney Parks


D23, the Official Disney Fan Club, has clued us in to a number of treats around the Disney Parks that will help us keep cool this summer, whether in California or Florida. As a bonus, all of these treats featured are non-dairy!

Just about every regular Disney theme park-goer knows about Dole Whip, the pinapple-y good soft serve that you can find on both coasts. You can enjoy the Dole Whip in Walt Disney World at the Magic Kingdom's Aloha Isle. You can also track it down at Animal Kingdom at Tamu Tamu., as well as at a few locations within the Polynesian Village Resort, like Pineapple Lanai. It even pops up in Epcot during some festivals!

If you find yourself in the California theme parks, you can gobble up this goodie at the Tiki Juice Bar in Disneyland's Adventureland.

When keeping cool in Florida on summer days you can enjoy several other treats, both in the parks and at the resorts.

Magic Kingdom:

Storybook Treats in Magic Kingdom introduced the Peter Pan Float this summer. It's Sprite with a soft green Key Lime Soft Serve. Be sure to order this without the chocolate feather adornment to make this truly dairy-free. It's $5.49 or a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan.


Gaston's Tavern is home to LeFou's Brew.


L'Artisan des Glaces in the France Pavilion offers several flavors of Sorbets .


Disney Springs:

Goofy's Candy Company has a host of flavors that you can mix and match for their Goofy's Glaciers (slushies)

If you're visiting the California theme parks there are a host of dairy-free treats in both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, too.


Tiki Juice Bar serves up the classic Pineapple Dole Whip, as mentioned above.

Maurice's Treats is home to the Boysen Apple Freeze

Disney California Adventure:

With the recent opening of Pixar Pier, DCA debuted a new snack spot called Adorable (not Abominable!) Snowman Frosted Treats, many of which are non-dairy. A particular favorite is the It's Lemon soft-serve, which can also be made into the Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait: it takes the non-dairy lemon soft serve and adds a blue raspberry swirl for $5.99.

Pixar Pier Parfait

And the Cozy Cone Motel offers several non-dairy treats:
Ramone’s Pear of Dice Soda
Fillmore’s Fuelin’ Groovy All Natural Lemonade
Fillmore’s Fuelin’ Groovy Pomegranate Limeade
Doc’s Wild Grape Tonic
Red’s Apple Freeze (pictured below)

red's apple freeze

It is encouraging to see Disney offering more options for vacationers with food sensitivities and allergies. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity always be sure to let a cast member know. Depending on the location, you can either ask to see the ingredients list, speak with the chef, or receive an allergy-friendly menu.

And whether you're going to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, be sure to check our Dining section before you go -- we have menus for most dining locations, with lots of enticing photos to whet your appetite!

September 22, 2015

D23 Expo 2015: The Magic Behind the Muppets



I realize that D23 EXPO 2015 is old news by now, having taken place more than a month ago already, but I've been saving my write-up of this one panel discussion I attended specifically for this week.

"The Magic Behind the Muppets" was held the first day of the Expo, Friday, August 14, and aside from the "big hall" presentations, it was THE ONE panel discussion I had to see.

Even though I considered myself a bit too old for Sesame Street when it first came out -- I was all of about 9 -- I have to admit that I sneaked a peek now and then when my little sister was watching. And, I couldn't help it, I secretly fell in love with some of those crazy characters, especially Kermit the Frog and that adorable "fuzzy and blue" monster, Grover.

My Muppet Love grew in my late teens and early 20s, when The Muppet Show appeared on the scene. The variety show appealed to adults as well as kids, with corny humor mixed with a bit of anarchy, and featured a range of veteran performers and pop culture celebrities from Ethel Merman to Elton John to Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamil. I didn't miss a show. In fact, after I got married in 1981, my husband and I would race home after work to eat dinner in front of the TV with The Muppet Show syndicated reruns. Evening news, schmews.

So I think you understand why I HAD to see this panel.

The morning of the panel was the first chaotic day of the Expo, so I was a bit later getting into the room than I had planned. I ended up further away from the stage than I would have liked, so most of the photos here are official pictures from Disney, but I was there and that's what mattered!

The session was hosted by Entertainment Weekly's Marc Snetiker, who, judging from the grin on his face, was as pleased to be there as I was. One by one, he introduced the panelists, whose names are probably already familiar to you if you're also a Muppet fan:

Dave Goelz, the elder statesman of the group, who started working with Muppet creator Jim Henson in 1973 and is best-known for his work as the Great Gonzo (but he's also Bunsen Honeydew and Beauregard the bear)...


Steve Whitmire, a part of the organization since 1978; he took over Kermit the Frog when creator Jim Henson died in 1990 and is also Rizzo the Rat...


Bill Barretta, who voices one of my all-time favorites, Pepe the King Prawn (he's not a shrimp, OK?) and Rowlf the Dog, amongst others, has been with The Muppets since 1991...


Eric Jacobson, with The Muppets since 2001, is now many of the characters created by Frank Oz, such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Sam Eagle...


... and Matt Vogel, a relative newcomer to the Muppets (since 2007), the voice behind more recent characters like Constantine, Uncle Deadly and Robin the little frog.


The camaraderie among this group was evident from the moment they took their seats. Through light-hearted anecdotes seasoned liberally with laughter, they related past Muppeting mayhem and answered questions from the audience both as themselves and along with their fabric and foam alter egos.

It soon became clear in moment like those illustrated in the video below that "The Magic Behind the Muppets" was the chemistry among the people tasked with making that magic.

Besides just giving fans a chance to gawk at these Muppet Men, one of the reasons for this panel was to promote the next chapter in the Muppets story -- a new ABC-TV show debuting this Tuesday night, September 22, at 8 p.m. After showing an in-depth, not to mention hilarious, trailer for the show, the men talked about its premise and what it has been like to work on this project.

Done in the "mock-doc" style of programs like ABC's "Modern Family," which interjects "private" interviews with the main characters into the running narrative, the show is very contemporary and set in the present day. Presented as a show-within-a-show, Miss Piggy has her own late-night television show and Kermit is her producer.

According to Barretta, Kermit has made only one mistake -- he has hired all of his friends to work for him. As a result, familiar faces populate the series. There's Pepe as one of Miss Piggy's writers, while skittish Beaker is handling props. The Swedish Chef is, naturally, in charge of the food (Craft Services), the Electric Mayhem performs as the show's band, and prim and proper Sam Eagle censors everyone in his role of Standards and Practices. Rowlf the dog operates the tavern across the street where everyone congregates after work.

"We are getting a chance to see what happens backstage after we call 'Cut!'" Barretta said. "We're focusing on the characters in their world."

"There's a real depth to the characters that we haven't seen before," Whitmire added, crediting the "very clever writers" that they have working on the scripts.

"The time feels right now," Jacobson noted. "And I'm so excited. I don't think I've ever been so excited about a project before."

Goelz eagerly agreed. "I don't think I've had this feeling since I worked on Fraggle Rock [a mid-1980s children's live-action series that featured Muppets called Fraggles]."

One of the things contributing to the Muppeteers' excitement is the way they have been able to shake things up a bit in this new incarnation of the show. Those of you who follow celebrity news will know that Kermit and Miss Piggy are no longer a romantic item -- a story that made headlines in the real tabloid press. Kermit even posted about it on his Facebook page:

After careful thought, thoughtful consideration and considerable squabbling, Miss Piggy and I made the difficult...

Posted by Kermit the Frog on Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cue the melodramatic tension! This is bound to lead to some interesting storylines on the show and has allowed the writers to play with what the public thinks it knows about these beloved characters.

"Even the most casual fans have treated this like a real break-up," Whitmire laughed. "But I think it's good for the frog."

"We’re always learning,” Goelz added. “Every day we like to surprise each other with new aspects of the characters.”

After fielding questions from fans, the Muppeteers treated the crowd to a "behind-the-scenes" look at what it takes to make a Muppet scene. Six lucky volunteers were brought up to try their hand at operating their own Muppet.

Taking two recruits at a time, Whitmire demonstrated the proper way to the hold the Muppet (with arm fully extended overhead) and the correct way to make the Muppet speak. After a few minutes of practice, the two new Muppeteers had the chance to dance with the masters. Although the exercise was instructive, the results were simply sidesplitting when the group danced to Beyonce's "Single Ladies," followed by Pepe's rather suggestive dance to Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing."


This latter episode begged the question, "Will the new Muppets TV show be TOO racy?"

"Oh, it will be a little edgy," Whitmire said, "but nothing that parents can’t let their kids watch.”

"We always have worked to amuse ourselves," Goelz explained. "After all, we're stuck there at work all day. That was even true of Sesame Street before me."

"Yes, with love and all due respect to our fans," Whitmire added, "we have always done this work for ourselves. But with this show, I have to say, I am laughing out loud when I read the scripts."

As the program ended after an all-too-short hour, I found myself thinking about how lucky I was to have been in that room to see those talents at work first-hand. That's the amazing thing about the D23 Expo -- the chances it gives you to get a glimpse into creative worlds that have had such a huge impact on you throughout the years. That's what keeps me coming back every two years and has me looking forward to D23 Expo 2017.

But first, I'm looking forward to this week. The Muppets. ABC. September 22 at 8 p.m. As Fozzie Bear would say: Wocka wocka!

August 13, 2015

D23 EXPO 2015: Preview Day Highlights



The D23 EXPO 2015 hasn't even officially begun and I am already exhausted!

After attending the previous three D23 Expos as a member of the media or as a "private citizen," I am going to this year's event with what is known as the Sorcerer Pass. This is part of a special package that comes with a number exclusive benefits (and a big price tag), among them the opportunity to get a sneak preview of a lot of the Expo before it officially opens tomorrow, August 14.

After obtaining my special Sorcerer welcome package first thing this morning, I spent the day taking advantage of all the previews that were offered. I thought I'd share some of the highlights with you.

One of the main benefits of the Sorcerer Pass is early access to the merchandise. Today Sorcerers were able to poke around in the three main Disney shops at the Expo: The Dream Store (D23 EXPO 2015-themed official merchandise and other specialty items from Disney Theme Park Merchandise), the Disney Store and Mickey's of Glendale (Walt Disney Imagineering exclusive merchandise). I'm not usually much of a shopper, but when the goods are this special, I found that I couldn't resist. You've probably seen a lot of the merchandise on other blogs already, but to give you an idea of what's available.

From the Dream Store:





From The Disney Store:



In Mickey's of Glendale:


OK, I admit it. I actually enjoyed shopping a little bit today and succumbed. I bought those last two shirts for myself. And maybe I got a few Star Wars-related things in the Dream Store -- I mean, how could I resist that adorable droid R4-D23 with its cute little Sorcerer's Hat? And maybe a Pandora charm found its way into my shopping bag as well. I couldn't help myself. But I think that's what the Expo does to you -- when you're surrounded by so much cool Disney merchandise, what's a die-hard Disney fan to do?

Another one of the perks of being a Sorcerer guest, is a sneak preview of the Expo show floor and the Disney Parks and Resort pavilion before the grand opening. For me, these looks behind the scenes were priceless.

Early in the day, we were shown around the floor, just to give us an idea of the lay of the land. No photos were allowed during this glimpse "backstage," as things were still very much in process -- forklifts carrying pallets of boxes and rolls of new carpeting, cherry-pickers lifting workers up to adjust displays, designers ripping fabric to drape around exhibits... it was such a beehive of activity and you could almost see things coming together as you stood and watched. The excitement was building!

But the real treat came later in the day, when we were taken for a special advance viewing of the Parks and Resorts pavilion.

SPOILER AHEAD -- if you're going to the Expo and want to be surprised as to what's on exhibit, read no further!

The first section of the pavilion is dedicated to the new area of Disney's Animal Kingdom that is being developed based on the film AVATAR. We were introduced to the exhibit with a film from "Alpha Centauri Expeditions" (ACE for short), the fictitious travel company that will transport guests to another world -- the world of Pandora. If you've seen the film AVATAR you'll be familiar with the sights shown in this short video (watch for the special cameo appearance of Imagineer Joe Rohde, responsible not only for this project but also Animal Kingdom, Disney's Aulani resort in Hawaii and so much more). The video gives big hints about the types of attractions guests will be able to experience when this new section of Disney's Animal Kingdom opens -- in 2017! Who can wait that long?

Further into the pavilion, we saw a model of Pandora, with cast members there to answer our questions.



They confirmed that among the attractions guests will be able to ride a banshee around floating mountains. There were also models of creatures and artifacts from Pandora, as well concept art.




As we exited the exhibit, we found a fun photo op -- a chance to pose with a striking bust of a Navi, one of the blue-skinned natives of Pandora. I was lucky enough to be joined in my photo op by the aforementioned Joe Rohde, who just happened to be entering the area when I popped back in for a quick second look.


The other major area of the Parks and Resorts pavilion focuses on Shanghai Disneyland. As the opening date for this new Asian Disney resort nears (2016 is right around the corner), more and more information has been released, but seeing the models, cast member costumes, artwork and even concept videos in person was quite interesting.







Every area of the new Shanghai resort was represented, from pirate-themed Treasure Cove to Gardens of Imagination, not forgetting the Disneytown shopping district and the Toy Story Hotel. Most exciting for me was learning more about Shanghai's Tomorrowland, which will feature a new ride called TRON Lightcycle Power Run, a coaster-style attraction where you will board a train that looks straight out of Disney's groundbreaking TRON films. We captured a short video of the exhibit here:

Coaster fan that I am, I hope that I'll be able to ride this attraction some day -- truly looks amazing!

And although it's an overused word, that's how most of today was -- amazing. All the little sneak peeks and behind the scenes glimpses that we got today did little more than whet my appetite for what's to come the next few days.

If you're curious to see what I see, follow me on twitter @dmk_allears and on Instagram @dcdeb52. And, if the internet gods smile on me -- I hope to also broadcast a Periscope or two -- you'll find those through my Twitter account as well. Hope you'll tag along with me as I explore!

August 10, 2015

2015 D23 Expo! Follow Along!

The D23 Expo begins in a few short days. Four members of the AllEars team will be in attendance, Deb Wills, Deb Koma, Kristin Ford, and Jeanine Yama.

Here's how you can stay in touch following the AllEars team that will be attending!


Twitter @allearsnet or


Twitter @allearsdeb or
Periscope: connect through twitter allearsdeb

Twitter: @dmk_allears or
Periscope: connect through twitter dmk_allears

Twitter: @Kristin_B_Ford or

Twitter: @justjeanine or

And don't forget to say hello and ask for your Free AllEars Trading Cards (while supplies last).


August 17, 2013

The Disney Legends Ceremony 2013

Once again, the D23 Expo hosted the Disney Legends Ceremony on Saturday, August 10th. This year the new Legends are: Tony Baxter, Collin Campbell, Dick Clark, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Jobs, Glen Keane, and Ed Wynn.

The ceremony ran over 2 hours so we cut the video into segments for easier viewing.

Disney Legends Ceremony Introductions:

Ed Wynn

Tony Baxter

John Goodman

Collin Campbell

Billy Crystal

Dick Clark

Glen Keane

Steve Jobs

July 15, 2012

Win a Pair of Tickets to D23's Destination D: 75 Years of Animation

Win a pair of tickets to this summer's D23 blockbuster event

Destination D: 75 Years of Animation

August 11 and 12, 2012

at the Disneyland hotel in California.

One lucky AllEars.Net reader will win the two tickets, which are worth $450! Read on for details!

Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features is an unprecedented celebration of the art, storytelling, music, voices, imagination, and innovation of Disney's benchmark films.

From Walt Disney's groundbreaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the upcoming Wreck-It Ralph, guests will experience a two-day journey through the art of Disney feature animation -- filled with fun, laughter and rarely or never-before-seen artwork, photos and film clips of beloved Disney characters and stories -- all the while surrounded by some of the world's leading animation legends, artists and authorities.

This is a not-to-be-missed event! If you have attended a Destination D event by D23, you know they bring out material never or rarely seen before.

Featured panelists such as Don Hahn, Tony Baxter, Burny Mattinson, Joe Hale, Eddie Sotto, Eric Goldberg, Margaret Kerry, and Andreas Deja will be on hand, along with and many others.

Special one-of-a-kind evening performances include:

An Evening Concert: Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix - The fun continues into the night with an unforgettable evening of harmony provided by Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix. The popular vocal quartet is led by legendary television, Broadway and film star Dick Van Dyke, with three renowned west coast musicians -- Mike Mendyke, Bryan Chadima, and Eric Bradley.
(Read about the Vantastix performance at 2011's D23 Expo HERE.)

An Evening With Disney Legend and Oscar®-Winner Alan Menken - The celebration concludes with a rare musical concert by Disney Legend Alan Menken. With eight Academy Awards®, Alan Menken, known for the scores of such Disney classics as "Beauty and the Beast," has received more Oscars than any living person.

To enter for a chance of winning a pair of tickets to this event, log in using your email address or Facebook account below.

NOTE: Only the pair of tickets to this Destination D event are offered in this contest. Transportation, accommodations and all other costs are the winner's sole responsibility. Tickets are non-refundable, non-exchangeable and non-transferable so be sure you can attend this event before entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The tentative schedule is as follows:


Walt Disney and the First Golden Age of Disney Animation

Walt and his original team of animators and artists invented an entirely new genre of film-making storytelling. Together they created unparalleled bodies of work that continue to delight audiences around the world.

Join panelists who participated first-hand (or witnessed) the remarkable creation of Walt Disney's feature animated films:

Joe Hale -- 43-year Disney veteran who contributed his artistic talents to such films as Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Mary Poppins.

Burny Mattinson -- Disney Legend and 50-year veteran of Disney animation who contributed his artistic talents to such "Golden Age" favorites as Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and The Jungle Book.

Ted Thomas -- Son of legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas and director/writer of the acclaimed documentaries Frank and Ollie and Walt & El Grupo.

Roy E. Disney and the Second Golden Age of Disney Animation

Roundtable discussion of Roy E. Disney's influence on the "Second Golden Age of Disney Animation" -- from The Black Cauldron and The Great Mouse Detective through the modern-day classics of the 1990s.

Join panelists who participated first-hand (or witnessed) Roy E. Disney's remarkable stewardship of Disney's contemporary animation renaissance:

Dave Bossert -- Author of an upcoming book on Roy E. Disney, and creative director and head of special projects at Walt Disney Animation Studios; artistic coordinator and visual effects supervisor on Fantasia/2000 and associate producer of the short "Destino" among many other accomplishments.

Roy P. Disney -- Son of Disney Legend Roy E. Disney, former Disney Imagineer, and first-hand witness to Disney animation's second "Golden Age."

Don Hahn -- Noted author, Disney animation historian, and producer of some of Disney's most successful animated films of the second golden age, including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and The Emperor's New Groove.

The Greatest Disney Animation You Never Saw

Enjoy a "Behind-The-Magic" peek at the art of Disney feature animation. Academy Award®-nominated film producer and author Don Hahn and Creative Director for Walt Disney Animation Studios David Bossert present rarely seen (or never before seen at all) Disney artwork and animation from more than 75 years of Disney animated features.

Animating The Disney Parks

Disney Parks owe a great deal of their creative development and design to the roots of Disney animation. Join current and former Disney Imagineers as they discuss how legendary Disney Imagineers, including Marc Davis, Mary Blair, Claude Coates, Herb Ryman, John Hench, and many others, successfully transferred their skills and talents from the world of Disney feature animation to "animating the Disney Parks."

Join panelists who personally worked with many of these Disney animation and Imagineering greats:

Tony Baxter -- Senior vice president, Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering, whose project credits include Disneyland Paris, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones™ Adventure, and Splash Mountain.

Eddie Sotto -- Noted experiential designer, mixed-media producer, conceptualist, and former Disney Imagineer, whose projects included the design of Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Paris, early work on Indiana Jones™ Adventure at Disneyland, plus Mission: SPACE at Epcot and Pooh's Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland.

An Evening Concert: Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix

Exclusive Screening: Walt & El Grupo -- The Director's Cut - Presented exclusively for D23 Members and their guests is the definitive director's cut (not available on DVD) of the acclaimed 2009 film documentary Walt and El Grupo. Hosted by Director Ted Thomas and Producer Kuniko Okubo, the film chronicles the amazing 10-week trip that Walt Disney and his hand-picked group of artists and film-making talent (later known as El Grupo) took to South America in 1941 at the behest of the U.S. Government.


Wacky and Wild Disney Animation

Go on a wacky and irreverent ride through some of the most psychedelic and visually stunning animation ever put on film in this fun and humorous retrospective of Disney feature animation. Along the way you'll learn of the contributions of such "characters" as Disney Legend Ward Kimball, renowned artist Salvador Dali, and many others.

Your hosts through this animation "Wonderland":

Jerry Beck -- Well-known animation historian, with 10 books and numerous articles to his credit. Jerry is an animation producer, and industry consultant to Warner Bros., and has been an executive with Nickelodeon and Disney and is also a popular blogger on the subject of animation.

Eric Goldberg -- A veteran director, designer and animator, his Disney credits includes being the supervising animator of Genie in Aladdin, co-director of Pocahontas, animator of Phil in Hercules, followed by Fantasia/2000, which he directed, wrote, and animated two critically acclaimed sequences: "Carnival of the Animals" and "Rhapsody in Blue." His animation work can also be seen in the Tokyo Disney Seas attraction Magic Lamp Theatre and the recently unveiled Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros at the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot.

Tinker Bell: The Evolution of a Disney Character

Have you ever wondered how a character becomes a Disney character? Take a fascinating trip through the decades in a presentation filled with never-before-seen art, photos, and film clips, and you'll see how Tinker Bell developed into one of Disney's most iconic characters.

Your tour guides include:

Mindy Johnson -- Author of the upcoming book Tinker Bell: An Evolution (new for Fall 2013 from Disney Editions).

Margaret Kerry -- Live-action reference model for Tinker Bell in Walt Disney's 1953 animated film classic Peter Pan.

Disney Feature Animation Stars-Drawing With Personality

The Walt Disney Studios is often credited with perfecting "personality animation," creating paper and pencil characters that seemingly live and breathe. In this entertaining and educational presentation you'll discover the secrets behind the creation of some of Disney's most beloved animated stars, plus you'll get the chance to design your own Disney animated character, under the guidance of a master Disney animator.

Your instructor: Andreas Deja -- 30-year Disney animation veteran, whose impressive body of work includes serving as supervising animator on characters in several classic Disney animated features, including Gurgi in The Black Cauldron, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Jafar in Aladdin, Scar in The Lion King, Mickey Mouse in Fantasia/2000, Lilo in Lilo & Stitch, Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog, and Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. He's also a noted Disney animation historian and authority on the work of legendary Disney animator Milt Kahl.

Hearing Voices: A Salute to Disney Character Voice Artists

Meet the artists behind the voices, the many men and women who have supplied some of the most familiar voices ever to grace movies screens. This unique reunion of Disney character voice talent highlights some of the great voices of the past as well.

The roster of Disney character voice talent stars include (to date -- more to be confirmed over the next few weeks!):

Dick Jones - Voice of Pinocchio (Pinocchio, 1940)

Kathryn Beaumont - Voice of Alice (Alice in Wonderland, 1951) and Wendy Darling (Peter Pan, 1953)

Lisa Davis - Voice of Anita (One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 1961)

David Frankham - Voice of Sergeant Tibbs (One Hundred and One Dalmatians, 1961)

Bruce Reitherman - Voice of Mowgli (The Jungle Book, 1967) and Christopher Robin (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, 1966)

Chris Sanders - Stitch (Lilo & Stitch, 2002)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Still "The Fairest of Them All"

Walt Disney's animation masterpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs introduced an entirely new film-making genre -- the Disney animated feature -- and put in motion the creation of an unparalleled library of films that remain unrivaled in their artistic and storytelling achievements.

Salute this groundbreaking film with a rare west coast appearance by 93-years-young Marge Champion, the live-action reference model for the character of Snow White. Also joining the presentation will be Gabriella Calicchio, CEO of The Walt Disney Family Museum, to provide insights on the museum's upcoming Snow White exhibition and an exciting new D23 opportunity.

An Evening With Disney Legend and Oscar®-Winner Alan Menken

Exclusive Screening: Waking Sleeping Beauty - The Director's Cut

Presented exclusively for D23 Members and their guests is the definitive director's cut (not available on DVD) of the acclaimed 2010 film documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. With screening hosted by director Don Hahn, the film chronicles how by the mid-1980s the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney had fallen on hard times. Waking Sleeping Beauty is the true story of how Disney regained its magic with a staggering output of hits -- The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and more -- over a 10-year period.

September 12, 2011

D23 Expo 2011: Star Tours - The Adventures Continue


Wow, I can't believe the D23 Expo was three weeks ago already! There's still so much I wanted to share with you all -- for example, what I learned at the Making of Star Tours - The Adventures Continue program, presented byTom Fitzgerald, Executive Vice President & Senior Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering.


Honestly, with all the hype that surrounded the opening of this updated attraction earlier this year, I thought I had heard it all and knew everything there was to know about the new Star Tours. I'm so glad I decided to attend this presentation anyway -- I actually found out a lot of little details to satisfy my inner Star Wars geek.


If you haven't yet ridden or read about the revamped Star Tours attraction at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland, and you want to be surprised, foolish you will be to read further! Revealed will details be!

Fitzgerald began his talk with a short video of a bearded and much younger version of himself discussing the first incarnation of Star Tours, circa 1980s. Very cool that he is still the lead Imagineer in charge of this attraction, beloved by Disney and Star Wars geeks alike.

Fitzgerald explained how the revamping of Star Tours had actually been in the works for years, as far back as 1998, in fact. (The ride originally opened in January 1987 in Disneyland and in December 1989 in Walt Disney World.) It was in '98 that Star Wars director George Lucas was working on the prequel to the original trilogy, and he suggested to Disney that a scene from that film would be perfect for updating the attraction: an action sequence known as the pod race. Fitzgerald and his team of Disney Imagineers agreed, and even went ahead and created a whole new storyline for the ride. (And now I know where those rumors came from that were circulating for years about the ride being updated to include the pod race!)

But even though the story was outlined -- they had even gone so far as to decide to do the attraction in 3D back then -- they opted to wait to see what the next two movies in the new trilogy brought. In October 2003, as Lucas was filming the third new movie (Revenge of the Sith), Fitzgerald said that technology had progressed to a point where they realized they might be able to keep the Star Tours attraction fresh for years by using a sort of a "pick and mix" approach. With that in mind, they developed a matrix, listing different elements of the movies that could be combined in numerous ways to create many unique experiences.


Obviously, though, Star Tours isn't the only project that Fitzgerald and his Imagineers had on their plates. It wasn't until late 2005 that they were able to return to the concept and refine it further, coming up with a more streamlined matrix that contained elements that were realistically "do-able."


This version of the matrix is very similar to what became the final concept for the ride: there are two different opening scenes or "launches", three different "detours", and three different final scenes, which can combine in dozens of unique ways.


By early 2007, Disney was ready to take their ideas to Lucas, and they showed him another matrix, which had added a few additional elements. They had determined that the story for the new attraction would take place sometime between the first and second Star Wars trilogies -- in other words, after Revenge of the Sith, but before the original 1977 Star Wars movie (aka "A New Hope"). They dubbed this Star Tours 3.5 to indicate that timeframe.


In October 2007 they took actual storyboards to Lucas for his approval... and didn't get it! (Fitzgerald described the process sort of like Dorothy having to go back again and again to the Wizard of Oz -- you know, "We have the witch's broomstick, can I go home now?") Since Lucas had told them that he didn't "do" storyboards any more, they instead created what are known as "animatics" to give him an idea of what the ride would be like. (Animatics are animated mock-ups of a scene using images edited together with dialogue or a soundtrack.) Fitzgerald shared one of these animatic scenes that they developed for the new attraction in early 2008:

If you've ridden the new version of the attraction, you'll realize that the animatic is very close to what you'll experience today on Star Tours.

At this point (about May 2008), the ride was ready for production with Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), and Fitzgerald related lots of little anecdotes about how George Lucas's input shaped the story and the finer points of the ride. He also shared some interesting little trivia about the attraction that I had had no clue about. Some of the more interesting tidbits I learned:

-- When it came time to film the pre-show, they searched high and low for the woman who had done the safety spiel (she of the unique, sideswept hairdo). But they couldn't find her! Time constraints forced them to instead create the new "spokesbot" Aly Jan Jan, who is voiced by actress Allison Janney (famous for her role in the TV show West Wing, as well as the voice of Peach the starfish in the film Finding Nemo.)

-- Seat belt use is demonstrated by the same woman in the safety videos for ALL versions of Star Tours, throughout the world.

-- In the attraction queue, the droid performing the scan on humans is voiced by actor Patrick Warburton (who also does the pre-show spiel for the Soarin' attraction). Warburton was originally slated to provide the voice of the new Star Tours pilot, Ace, but when the Imagineers decided instead to make C-3PO the pilot (in an effort to inject more comedy into the show), Ace was relegated to a minor role. Still, they loved Warburton so much, they asked if he would instead voice the droid, which he does with much hilarity.


-- Also in the queue, there's a droid scanning luggage, who lets some unusual items slip past him. Some that Fitzgerald pointed out I'd seen already, but I'll certainly be looking for some of the others, especially Wall-E's belongings and Madame Leota!

-- In the scene at the beginning of the film, where either Darth or a droid is looking for the rebel spy in the StarSpeeder, one of the images that flashes on the screen is that of George Lucas. Fitzgerald said other Imagineers and people who worked on the show are hidden in files as well.

-- In one of the live action sequences filmed for the show, several of the actors were actually members of the ILM and Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) teams, including show writer Steven Spiegel.

Even though I'd been impatient to see an updated Star Tours over the years, I have to agree with Fitzgerald, who pointed out several times that by waiting for technology to progress, the new Star Tours has a much stronger concept than if it had been done years earlier. And this behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the attraction was just the sort of insider program that makes the D23 Expo worthwhile for avid Disney fans.

August 21, 2011

D23 Expo 2011: Voices of the Parks


(Author's Note: I apologize for not getting this online sooner, but I came back from the D23 Expo with a cold, then experienced the big earthquake the next day -- I live in the DC area, now getting ready for Hurricane Irene. Yes, this week has been a doozy! Anyhow...)

Aside from the Friday night performance by Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix, my favorite program of the entire 2011 D23 Expo Weekend was the Voices of the Park session earlier that night. Featuring nearly a dozen actors whose distinctive voices are more familiar to us than their faces are, this session looked at what it is like to leave an unusual but oh-so-important mark on a Disney attraction.

Hosted by Brian Nefsky, senior casting administrator with Walt Disney Imagineering, the panel included a mix both of names that were familiar to me (Corey Burton, Dee Bradley Baker) and those I'd never heard of before (BJ Ward, Audrey Wasilewski, Chris Edgerly, Stephen Stanton, Bill Rogers, Jeff Fischer, Mark Silverman, Bob Joles, Fred Tatasciore).

After introducing each actor by way of airing a short clip of his or her more popular vocalizations, Nefsky went down the panel asking each member a question about how they got their Disney gig, or what inspired them to pursue a career in the voiceover field. Some of the answers were serious, such as Corey Burton's story of how he had emulated veteran voice actor Paul Frees (voice of the Haunted Mansion's "Ghost Host" and several buccaneers in "Pirates of the Caribbean").

Others were hilarious -- I absolutely loved Mark Silverman's demonstration of how he eases into Rod Serling's (from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) cadence.

Still others were the stuff of future trivia questions. Who knew, for example, that Baker, now known for his work on the animated Star Wars series "The Clone Wars," and "Family Guy," got his start at Disney working as an Anacomical Player in Epcot's old Wonders of Life pavilion? Or that he vocalizes the popular Perry the Platypus on the Disney Channel series "Phineas and Ferb?" Or that he can mimic a chirping cricket with an eerie believability?

Of course, he wasn't the only one with long and strong ties to Disney. Most of the actors' lengthy resumes include turns with Disney animated series, video games, videos and movies. Burton voiced the popular General Knowledge in the old "Cranium Command" attraction in 1989, and has been involved with many old Disney series dating as far back as Duck Tales and Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers (if not earlier). Bill Rogers, known as the voice of Disneyland, has been with the company for 20 years, warning park visitors of the impending fireworks programs, and more. Here he is talking about how he got the job with Disney:

No matter how these actors found their way to Disney, their stories were all alternately fascinating and funny, heartwarming and inspiring. And not surprisingly, they all revealed what big hams they were, each clearly trying to draw bigger laughs from the audience - and also not surprisingly, they succeeded.

Instead of trying to TELL you how immensely entertaining this program was, I thought I'd SHOW you with a series of clips. See how many of these voices you recognize! This is just a short snippet from each of these talented actors, whose behind-the-scenes contributions are integral in creating the Magic that we all enjoy every time we visit a Disney park:

The program ran late, as it was clear that no one wanted it end, not even the actors themselves. The only thing that convinced most to leave their seats was the promise of the upcoming Dick Van Dyke show... well, that and the cast member who said we really had to get out!

Oh, would that all D23 Expo sessions had been this entertaining and enlightening. I can only hope I have a chance to see (and hear) these actors in action many more times in the years to come!

August 20, 2011

D23 Expo 2011: Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix



As most of my friends know, Mary Poppins is my very favorite Disney movie, and the Practically Perfect in Every Way nanny is my heroine. One of my earliest memories is seeing the 1964 film at the drive-in when I was about 4 years old, and I've subsequently seen it more times than I can count (not to mention the Broadway show a few times, as well). When I saw that my very favorite chimney sweep, Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert in the film version, would be performing with his a cappella singing group the Vantastix at this year's D23 Expo, I knew I could not miss him.

Luckily for me, I was able to get in to see his overwhelmingly popular performance last night, which was no mean feat. Some people waited for more than three hours for the program, and many, many more were turned away, as the venue it was held in had a capacity of less than 1000.

After a lot of waiting, and a long delay in getting everyone seated, the show finally started a half-hour late at 9 p.m. (And to their credit, I have to say that Disney cast members made every effort to be sure that every seat was filled, to turn away as few fans as possible.) To say that Van Dyke and the other "Vantastix" (Bryan Chadima, Eric Bradley, and Mike Mendyke) received an enthusiastic greeting is an understatement.



The program was filled with familiar tunes, many from the nearly 86-year-old Van Dyke's long career, interspersed with anecdotes and reminiscences. Some of the tunes the audience went wild for: The Ol' Bamboo and the title track from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and a medley of Sesame Street songs, including a touching rendition of It's Not Easy Being Green. The group also touched on old standards like Accentuate the Positive, Swing on a Star, and Put on a Happy Face, and, of course, a number of Disney classics, such as You've Got a Friend in Me and The Bare Necessities.

Van Dyke looked great, even though he occasionally seemed to flub the words -- he more than made up for it with his charm and famous smile, and quickly recovered. Though he swore that they had no set program, they moved from song to song effortlessly, and knew exactly what their Disney fan audience wanted to hear. They even managed to stump the audience with a Disney trivia question -- who was the "actor" credited with playing Mr. Dawes Senior in Mary Poppins. Correct answer? Navckid Keyd, an anagram for Dick Van Dyke, who actually played the part. (An audience member who came close to the right answer got an autographed Vantastix CD.)


Taking a seat about midway through the show, the foursome talked about how they formed (seems it all started when Van Dyke met Mendyke in a Starbucks in 2000 by chance and the two discovered their common interest in a cappella music). The group has since performed at many charity events, at Ford's Theater before President Obama for the 4th of July, even at the installation of the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Van Dyke's costar in the sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show", Rose Marie, who was actually in the audience. (Also in the audience was composer and Disney Legend Richard Sherman, who co-wrote the music for Mary Poppins.)

After about an hour, the program drew to a close, but not before Van Dyke and the Vantastix were presented with D23 certificates, and made official D23 members. Van Dyke was also given a gift of a signed painting commemorating his performance in Disney's Mary Poppins.


Of course, no one wanted the night to end, least of all me, so we were all thrilled when the group agreed to an encore -- a very fitting medley of tunes from Mary Poppins, ranging from an energetic version of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that saw Van Dykes dancing very nearly like a spry 20-something again, to a rap version of A Spoonful of Sugar that had the audience rolling with laughter. (I apologize for the poor quality of the video below, but the place was so packed I couldn't get a good view of the stage, and the screen just did not record well, but I wanted to share at least a snippet of the evening with you.)

As I hope you can see, it was really a fabulous event -- and I am so happy I was able to attend. Now, if I can only manage to see Julie Andrews in person, my life will indeed be Practically Perfect in Every Way!

August 19, 2011

D23 Expo Media Preview


As you probably know, if you're any sort of Disney fan, the D23 Expo is being held this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. Several of us from the AllEars.Net Team are here, and will be reporting on all the happenings as much as time (and our stamina) will allow! There's a LOT going on!

Last night, Deb Wills and I had the chance to attend a media preview of the Expo floor, and also got a sneak peek at the Treasures of the Disney Archives collection. Before I get into the thick of all the presentations today, I thought I'd share some of what we saw.

We walked over to the Anaheim Convention Center for the preview, which started around 7:30 p.m. We were greeted outside the Parks and Resorts pavilion, which features what they're calling the "Carousel of Projects", by none other than my favorite, Sorcerer Mickey!



Once we were let into the pavilion, we were treated to a brief pre-show, a montage of images of Disney parks and resorts throughout the years. Black-and-white and full-color images whizzed by, enhanced by familiar voiceovers from Walt Disney -- early Disneyland memories, plans for Walt Disney World, and finally images from the expansion parks in Asia whirled by to get you in the mood for what you were about to discover inside.

As the curtain drew back, the first visual that struck us was that of a huge model of the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.


And then we were free to roam around the pavilion and explore.

There is quite a large exhibit relating to the cruise line, including a replica of Mademoiselle Minnie, who will grace the lobby of the Disney Fantasy when it is launched next March.

Being more of a Walt Disney World person than anything, though, my eyes went straight to the huge model that dominated the one section of the room -- the new Fantasyland currently under construction in the Magic Kingdom.


I spent some time talking about the project with Imagineer Lauren Baldesarra, who told me that this was the first time they'd revealed a full model of the project like this. I have to say, seeing it in 3D like that really brought everything to life much more than just seeing the 2D artists' renderings had.

I asked her specificially about the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, as they also had a short video showing the development of that new coaster. She pointed me to the mock-up they had on display of what a "mine car" will be like, illustrating how it will sway from side to side as it rolls along the track, simulating what a real mine car might be like.

As for the Snow White Scary Adventures attraction, she confirmed that it would eventually be closing to make way for a new princess meet-and-greet location.

She also talked enthusiastically about the new Casey Jr. waterplay area, which will feature a Casey Jr. train that's been hijacked by monkeys, who will be squirting water at guests, as well as the new Big Top merchandise area, the Silly Side Show, the rethemed Barnstormer (known as the Great Goofini) and the play area that will connect the double Dumbos.

According to her, they are still projecting phased openings of the new area, with an early 2012 opening for the first phase. Quite honestly, I can't wait!

Another attention grabber in the pavilion was the Amazing Destini, an exhibit that showcases future technology, presented by Walt Disney Imagineering.

Featuring a little Audio Animatronic type fortune teller who bore a strong resemblance to Tom Morrow, only sporting a moustache and a turban, the Amazing Destini will actually interact with you in a very individualized experience. (I could swear I took a photo of him, but I guess I didn't. You'll have to wait until I get back over there!) You talk to him, and he responds, telling your future in an amusing demonstration. At first I thought it was akin to Turtle Talk with Crush, where a live human is somehow watching and reacting to you, but in talking to the Imagineers on hand, I learned that no, Destini is completely acting on his own. Clearly, they are using some sort of facial recognition technology, but Destini can also tell if there are others around you, and can also tell the denomination of coin you insert in his slot to start the fortune-telling process. According to the Imagineers, they aren't quite ready to put Destini into the parks yet, but I really do think he'd be quite popular just about anywhere -- the repeatability factor is high, since he has so many different "fortunes" in his repertoire, you'll seldom get the same experience twice.

After we had had a chance to meander a bit, Steven Clark, head of D23 spoke about the Expo for a few minutes and introduced Tom Staggs, president of Disney Parks and Resorts:

Both men talked about how the Expo gave Disney a chance to share the "unbelievably exciting" things that are coming up in the future for Disney Parks and Resorts.

Other highlights in the pavilion are some glimpses at what'll be coming to Carsland at Disney California Adventure, as well as other changes around the Disneyland Resort, like revamped Cathay Circle theater and Buena Vista Street.

To cap off the evening, we were allowed to browse through the Treasures of the Disney Archives exhibit upstairs, even able to take photos of some of the amazing memorabilia that's on display. Deb Wills put up a short video showcasing these items here:

And here are some stills:



All in all, it was a great way to rev up my excitement for the next few days -- I can't wait to get out there and see what else the Expo has in store!

If you're not already, be sure to follow the AllEars.Net Team on Twitter:

I'm @dcdeb_allears
Deb Wills is @AllEarsDeb
and the site is @AllEarsNet

Laura Gilbreath will be blogging each day, and other members of the team, including Jeanine Yamanaka and Lee Zimmerman, will be attending presentations and taking photos and videos to share with you in the coming days.

Oh, look at the time! I better get going or else I'll miss everything!

August 4, 2011

Billy Dee Williams Debuts Artwork at D23 Expo



UPDATE: We just received word that the artwork by Billy Dee Williams mentioned in this blog will not be finished in time for the Expo. However, Billy Dee will still be appearing at the event to sign autographs and meet guests -- and celebrate the relaunch of Star Tours!

If you read the recent article in our AllEars® newsletter in which I "outed" myself as a Star Wars fan, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that I was super thrilled when I found out that actor Billy Dee Williams, better known as the charming rogue Lando Calrissian from the Star Wars films, was going to be attending the upcoming D23 Expo in Anaheim.

You can just imagine my further excitement, then, when the chance arose for me to join in yesterday on a conference call with Williams, who was set to talk about, among other things, the new artwork he has created featuring Mickey Mouse and the rest of the "Fab Five", which will debut at the upcoming D23 Expo.

I remember reading some time ago that Williams was an accomplished artist - he has work hanging in an impressive number of nationally known galleries, including the Smithsonian! - but I didn't realize how seriously he had returned to what was his first love in recent years.

In yesterday's half-hour telephone interview, Williams talked about Star Wars, of course, but also about his relationship with Disney.

"I've always related to Mickey Mouse," he said, when asked how his affiliation with the D23 Expo came about. "Like everybody else, I've been a Disney fan all of my life. I'm pretty much amazed by all of it" like most people. It's magical."

But how did he come to create something featuring Disney characters? I asked him. I could have understood if he had painted his character, Lando, and other Star Wars images, in tribute to the newly renovated Star Tours attraction... but Mickey? How did that happen?

"I went to the Disney archives a while ago, to see the history of Disney," he explained. "I thought it would be a nice idea to do something with the characters that we could make into a litho. It's a cute little idea - it's a very simple piece."

Williams described the work, which he did in acrylics and colored pencil, as a jazz presentation of the five characters - Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy - surrounding Williams himself.

"I was thinking of us as jazz musicians," Williams said. When asked if he had a particular jazz tune in mind when he developed the artwork, Williams laughed and thought a moment. "Well, Minnie is singing" but, yes. 'Take Five,'" he said, referring to the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet jazz instrumental.

The piece has been reproduced as a Limited Edition lithograph that will be available exclusively to D23 attendees for $99.95, which will include an autograph. Williams will be at the Expo for the unveiling of the work, and will also be available to pose with fans and sign autographs. (Note: Separate autograph tickets for Williams will be available for purchase for $40.)

"I'm looking forward to the Expo," Williams said. "I can't imagine anyone not having a good time at Disney."

The man whose 3-1/2-year-old grandson sometimes call him "Grandpa Lando," will be at the D23 Expo to pose for photographs with fans, and to sign autographs, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, August 19, at the Coolwaters Productions booth in the Collector's Forum.

(Note: an image of the lithograph should be online in the next day or so -- I'll update
this blog post when it's available.)

September 18, 2009

Recap of D23 Expo Day 3 & 4

Jet lag. Ugh. It's an awful thing.

It's taken me a few days to recover from being on the West Coast, sorry about that.

However, here I go, with a recap of Days 3 and 4 of the D23 Expo.

You already know about the biggest highlight of Day 3 -- Jay Rasulo's Parks and Resorts presentation, in which he announced a huge expansion of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, as well as the update, finally, of the Star Tours attraction! If you missed that news, be sure to read HERE and view the videos my colleague Laura Gilbreath included in her blog HERE

There's also Disney's official video from that presentation here:

The rest of Day 3 was actually a string of disappointments for me.

I had intended to go to the Princess and the Frog presentation at 3:00 that day, but was shut out -- got over to the line too late, and when I say it was unbelievable, I'm not exaggerating:

When I went up to see if I could sneak in about 45 minutes after the show was supposed to start, I was told they were still trying to seat people -- they had to check bags/cameras and go through security! When I went back up 45 minutes after *that* I was told that they had only just started about 5 minutes before.

I had been planning to go to the Prep & Landing presentation after that, but because of the late start, that show wasn't going to start until
probably 7 p.m.! Prep & Landing is an animated holiday story done
by Disney for ABC -- the first time they've done anything specifically
for TV like that. Previews I saw for it in other presentations
were really cute, so I really did
want to see it... guess I have to wait until December, since I couldn't
stay until 7 p.m. -- I had dinner plans. Ah well.

Instead, I walked around down on the main floor and tried to see some
of the exhibits I'd missed. Most notable was the Storytellers Sandbox,
a cute interactive exhibit that had you getting your hands dirty in the sand, upon which various images were projected.


I eventually wandered back to the room to work a bit, then had a lovely evening with my colleagues Deb, Laura and Lee at Catal in Downtown Disney. But that's the topic of another blog...

Day 4, Sunday. I would be lying to you if I said by Day 4 I wasn't exhausted. Running up and down the length of very long convention center multiple times a day, getting up at 6 a.m. and hitting the hay very late each day -- well, let's just say this convention-going isn't as glamorous as it sounds!

Still, I persevered.

Day 4 saw me over at the convention center early to be sure I had seating for the big John Lasseter presentation at 11 a.m. Not to worry, I managed to secure a good seat. Although we couldn't take photos, Disney did supply some footage from the presentation, at which Lasseter showed lots of clips of upcoming Pixar films, most importantly Toy Story 3 (in 3-D)!

Aside from Toy Story 3, we also heard about the upcoming sequel
to Cars, which has a great storyline featuring Mater the tow truck, as
well as the other original characters. There were also clips of Rapunzel, the new Tinker Bell series, Winnie the Pooh, and Princess and the Frog.
(I have to say, all told I saw about 45 minutes of this film this weekend,
and it only made me want to see the rest -- this looks like such a great

Later in the day, I desperately wanted to see the special Muppets presentation, but again was shut out due the crowds. How long must
those people who got in have waited?! I hear, however, that several
big Muppet announcements were made in this presentation, including that Muppet*Vision 3D was going to be upgraded to digital 3-D, and that there would be a new preshow video for this attraction. Also, they announced a Mobile Electrical Mayhem Band, along the lines of the
Mobile Muppet Lab that was tested in Epcot a while ago. I'm really sorry I missed this presentation, but they did take our names and addresses and promised to send us a "We're Sorry" gift. Maybe it will be a DVD of
the presentation we missed.

Since I couldn't get into the Muppets program, that freed me up to attend the second John Lasseter program of the day, "Imagineering Pixar for the Disney Parks." It was touch and go for a while, but eventually I managed to get in to this presentation, and it was so worthwhile! The Imagineers and Lasseter basically went over the evolution of how Pixar characters have been incorporated into Disney parks -- with some interesting factoids along the way.

Lasseter was as charming as could be but he really won the crowd over when, near the end of the session he spoke a bit about the importance of quality both for Disney and Pixar. After saying that they would rather
not do a project at all if they had to cut too many corners to meet a budget, he added:

"Are you gonna be the one explaining to everyone getting off the ride that it's successful because it's done on time and under budget, but it's a piece of crap?!"

Thunderous applause followed. Talk about tapping into the zeitgeist of the audience!

I believe Deb Wills captured this moment and the following press conference on video and will share it in her D23 Expo blog coming soon. If memory serves, this is where they casually dropped into the conversation that they would be doing an update soon of One Man's Dream in Disney's Hollywood Studios!

While we were in Pixar heaven, elsewhere in the convention center a bevy of Disney Channel stars were holding forth. Though no one from our team attended this event, Disney provided some footage here:

And thus ended my D23 Expo Adventures. I was sad that I wouldn't
be able to attend the debut of the Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3-D double bill, but my red-eye flight back to the East Coast awaited me.

In summary, I really enjoyed the D23 Expo -- every program that I got into was excellent, and overall I thought the whole weekend was extremely well done. In fact, I've written an article expressing my thoughts about the execution of the D23 Expo here:

Reflecting on it all, I think I would go to the Expo again next year -- I just need some time to recover from the jet lag!

September 13, 2009

Recap of D23 Expo Day 2

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

Well, Day 2 of the D23 Expo was quite a day, if not as hectic as Day 1.

I started the day with a session that was supposed to feature authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, talking about the books that they write for Disney's subsidiary Hyperion -- they collaborate on a series of books that are prequels to the Peter Pan story (the "Peter and the ..." books) and Pearson writes a series of teen thrillers (the "Kingdom Keepers" series).

Unfortunately, Barry was not here in California, but he appeared live via a video link from his home in Miami. Though he was miles away, that did not decrease his humorous perspective on things. He was a delight to listen to, as was Pearson, whose work I was unfamiliar with -- but I'll be seeking him out now! I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation, both as a writer, and as a Disney fan.

The Kingdom Keepers books, if you don't know, are not only thrillers for younger readers, but are set IN the Walt Disney World theme parks. To research for these books, Pearson has been given "unfettered" access to the parks. This means he's been there at all hours, behind the
scenes, with the chance to ride Expedition Everest multiple times at 5 a.m., or walk through It's a Small World in the dark... without "that song" playing over and over again. His anecdotes about his experiences in the World, along with Barry's stories, made for a very entertaining session.



After this presentation, I walked around the main Expo floor, checking out some of the exhibits that I'd missed earlier.

I encountered PUSH, the walking (OK, rolling) and talking trash can:


Took a stroll through the Disney Consumer Products area, which had a larger-than-life recreation of Andy's Room from Toy Story:


And I wandered past the Spectromagic turtle float again (Spectro Rules!):


And then I made one of the most foolish decisions I've ever made -- I decided to NOT go to the presentation on upcoming Disney films, Disney Movie Magic. I decided instead to go back to the room and work on a blog.

Why was this such a foolish choice? Because at that presentation, a whole slew of celebrities showed up to help promote their latest films! I missed the opportunity to see producer Jerry Bruckheimer, directors Robert Zemeckis and Tim Burton, singer Miley Cyrus, and actors Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston and... Johnny Depp. JOHNNY DEPP! I cannot believe I missed the chance to see Johnny Depp, in full Captain Jack Sparrow gear as they announced the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides. What a disappointment. *sigh*

My afternoon was not such a disappointment, however. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Although I had to wait in line for nearly 90 minutes (the Storytellers Theater, in which many of the more notable presentations are being held, only holds about 500 people so lines and wait times are incredibly long -- just like being at a Disney theme park!), the session "We Make the Music" was more than worth the wait. (I should also add that my wait was made a lot more enjoyable by my line-mate and AllEars reader Arturo -- our conversation made the time almost fly by. Thanks!)

The program featured a number of composers who have been involved in developing music for theme park attractions, and it couldn't have been more interesting. I was expecting maybe three musicians, but instead we had the opportunity to listen to Bruce Broughton (who composed the new score for the updated Spaceship Earth, as well as the music for Ellen's Energy Adventure, among other things); Joel McNeely (who wrote the music for the Tower of Terror in Tokyo and the recent Hall of Presidents update); husband and wife team Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn (responsible for the Toy Story musical that's performed on the Disney Cruise Line); Richard Bellis (the Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland, Reflections of China in Epcot); and Michael Giacchino (Space Mountain in Tokyo, and most recently, the score for the new Luxo Jr. show in Disney's Hollywood Studios). Each of these composers has a non-Disney resume that is unbelievable -- many Emmy and Grammy awards among them -- but when you factor in their contributions to the parks, you have to be impressed.




It was fascinating to listen to each of these composers discuss the challenges they've faced in developing music for the theme parks, as well as hearing snippets of those compositions. Many of them had extremely interesting anecdotes about traveling to Disney parks to get the sense of the space or attraction they were writing for -- I absolutely loved Richard Bellis's story about riding the Indiana Jones Adventure repeatedly with stopwatches and legal pads, trying to get a sense of where the music should go. Host Jeff Kurti, who has authored several Disney-related books, did a good job of keeping the conversations flowing, and even though the program ran a half-hour longer than scheduled, I was never bored.

That was pretty much all I had time for on Day 2, but I'll be back with a report on Day 3 soon. (If you haven't already, though, be sure to read the news update I published from Day 3 HERE.)

September 12, 2009

NEWS! D23 Expo - Day 3

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

OK, OK, I know I said I'd write a Day 2 recap, and it's coming, I promise... but we have breaking news from TODAY.

And when the news breaks, the news breaks!

So, what's so important?

Well, today, at a presentation I attended just a little more than two hours ago, Jay Rasulo, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Chairman, made some really exciting announcements that I wanted to share right away!

First, the rumored expansion of Walt Disney World's Fantasyland is TRUE!

They are going to be more than doubling the size of Fantasyland and adding a number of
amazing new attractions.

The down side? Toontown is going to go away. Completely. Although the Imagineers have said they are going to try to save Goofy's Barnstormer somehow... they're just not sure how yet.

Based on Rasulo's presentation, and a press conference I attended afterward with several Imagineers and Rasulo as well, here are some of the major features of the expansion:

-- A country chateau where Cinderella lives with her stepmother and stepsisters, where you'll see her transform.
-- An area for Sleeping Beauty, in which you can make birthday cards for Aurora's Sweet 16 birthday party and give them to her.
-- Beast's Castle, which will house a 552-seat restaurant that is counter service by day, table service by night. The castle will have three areas, including the "West Wing", in which you will be able to see the Beast's private antechamber and the rose with dropping petals, featured in the animated film, Beauty and the Beast.
-- An "under the sea with Ariel" attraction, like the new Little Mermaid attraction in Disneyland, only with a completely different queue area.
--Expanded Dumbo -- Basically two Dumbo rides, and NO queue. Instead, there will be a 3-Ring Circus interactive play area with bleachers for adults, so that you can have fun while you wait for your "feather" to be called so that you can ride.
-- Pixie Hollow, which will be a second phase of the expansion, will eventually join the rest of Fantasyland.

Construction on the first phase of the expansion is expected to start soon, and, according to the Imagineers, impact on guests and existing attractions in Fantasyland should be minimal. The new areas should be completed by 2012, with the second phase following in 2013.

The second biggest announcement came as a good news/bad news thing.

The bad news? Star Tours in Disneyland is going to close in October 2010.

The good news? A whole new Star Tours, in 3D, will open in 2011!

The new attraction will feature scenes like the Pod Race in The Phantom Menace.

Although it was unclear when Star Tours in Walt Disney World will close, it, too, will be
receiving the new makeover.

For the official press release on this and other remarks Rasulo made today at the D23
Expo, as well as some artist renderings, check out our Disney News Blog HERE.

I'll be back more later with a recap of Day 2 and 3!

September 11, 2009

Recap of D23 Expo Day 1

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Senior Editor

I'm taking just a few minutes here to give you a quick recap of the events of yesterday, September 10, the first day of the first-ever D23 Expo, AKA the Ultimate Disney Fan Experience.

Wow, is it ever! Someone described yesterday to me as like drinking out of a fire hose and they couldn't have been more right. There is so much coming at you, full force, from the moment you set foot in the doors of the Anaheim Convention Center.

I mean, every aspect of Disney you can imagine is represented here. When you walk in to the first floor convention hall area, it's simply breath-taking. It seems like every square inch of the place is crammed with something to look at or something to do or, well, let's be honest, something to buy. But still, if you're a Disney fan, what better place to find ways to spend your money?

Yesterday's big events were the kick-off keynote address by Disney CEO Bob Iger, followed immediately afterward by the induction of the 2009 Disney Legends. It seemed like it took forever to fill the 4000 seat Arena, due in part I guess to the fact that attendees not only had to check ALL electronics (everything, cell phones, cameras, etc.) before entering, but also had to pass through a security checkpoint.


As a result, Iger's talk started a half-hour late. He opened with a montage of images from all of Disney's various business units, from TV to movies to ESPN to theme parks to you name it. Zac Efron, Captain Jack Sparrow, Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers... all of it. After pointing out Disney Legend Art Linkletter in the audience, Iger spoke about the meaningfulness of honoring the fans with the creation of the fan club D23, as well as other things happening within the company. When he mentioned Disney's recent announcement that it planned to acquire Marvel Entertainment, he met with enthusiastic applause.

A special treat of Iger's presentation was a 30-minute sneak peek of Disney's upcoming animated film, "The Princess and the Frog." As Iger noted, the clip we saw was only about 87% in color, with a temporary score in place. Still it was fascinating to see this work in progress. And I have to admit that I was so totally engrossed in the story I was disappointed when it ended! Iger said it was "destined to be a classic," and while as CEO I know that he has to say that, I agreed with him.

Another bonus was that singer Anika Noni Rose, who voices the lead character in the film, came on stage and performed one of the songs - she was fabulous, even though battling a bout of bronchitis.

The final surprise of the presentation was the awarding of a night in the Walt Disney Suite in Disneyland - an unexpecting audience member found a secret envelope taped under his chair and claimed his prize only after several awkward moments had passed. The young man was clearly stunned and mentioned as he accepted the prize that his father had been a street sweeper in Disneyland many years ago. Awww... that was really nice.

Following Iger's presentation and a 10-minute break, the Disney Legends ceremony began, hosted by television personality Tom Bergeron and Iger. It was extremely interesting to me to hear the backgrounds of the various legends, and I was pleasantly surprised that many were on hand to receive the award themselves - although a few of the awards were bestowed posthumously. But what a surprise to find out that present-day Imagineer Kim Irvine is the daughter of newly inducted Legend Leota Toombs Thomas - the Haunted Mansion's Madame Leota. Tony Anselmo (the voice of Donald Duck) and Bill Farmer (the voice of Goofy), both spiced up the proceedings by accepting their awards in character, and the audience was of course delighted to see former "Golden Girl" Betty White and comedian Robin Williams, who quipped that when Disney builds a theme park in Shanghai, perhaps they will have a character called, "Mickey Mao."


The ABCs of Disney, which featured clips of many of ABC-TV's new shows, was another highlight for me. Following the snippets, actors Ed O'Neill, Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammer, and Courtney Cox (who was apparently a substitute for previously announced Joseph Fiennes) came on stage to talk about their new roles.

The new season of Dancing with the Stars was also touted, and dance professionals Derek Hough and Cheryl Burke performed a short routine, followed by one of this coming season's new contestants, singer Donny Osmond, with his partner Kym Johnson.


After the presentation, Osmond, the Dancing stars and Bergeron were available for autographs and photos, but unfortunately the queue snaked halfway around the world - no autographs for me.

Aside from those big presentations, here are a few of things I saw that stood out to me:

--In the Parks and Resorts pavilion, the animatronic dinosaur Lucky and the lovable Wall-E are available for photo ops - Photopass photographers are even on hand! The two alternate appearances at 20-minute intervals, and I made sure to get my close-up with both.


-- Also in the Parks and Resorts pavilion, there is a huge display on the upcoming new land for Disney's California Adventure, Carsland, with plenty of Imagineers available. Look for more on that, once Laura Gilbreath, our Disneyland correspondent, has a chance to get online.

-- As a more frequent Walt Disney World visitor, I was a little disappointed at the lack of exhibits relating to the Florida parks, but I guess there isn't much new going on there at the time. Jay Rasulo is supposed to be making a presentation on Saturday, however, so I'm anxiously awaiting that.

-- There's a special VoluntEARS area where attendees are encouraged to spend a few minutes working on a charity project. Yesterday they were putting care packages together, today getting people to send video messages to the troops overseas.

-- The collector's area is impressive - all sorts of Disneyana, memorabilia, various goods and services" THE place to stop for the Disney collector.

-- The Treasures of the Disney Archives room is amazing as well. So much history in such a small space. As a Mary Poppins fan, I got a bit teary-eyed when I saw her actual traveling costume, even though it was missing the famous parrot-head umbrella.

-- One of the last sessions of the day was an Afternoon with Imagineering Legends, featuring the likes of Marty Sklar, Don Iwerks, and X Atencio. I was shut out of that session, unfortunately, but was able to attend a brief press conference held afterward. The stories these men and women have to tell!


I paid brief visits to the Baby Einsteins play area and the Disney Consumer Products displays -but I really need more time to investigate! Truly, there is so so much to see and do, it's almost like being at Walt Disney World - you just can't do it all!

OK, that's it for the Day 1 wrap-up. I have to get back over to the Convention Center now -- Need another drink from that fire hose!

Return to Blog Central

About D23

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in the D23 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

AllEarsNet TV is the previous category.

Debra Martin Koma Blogs is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.