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September 3, 2013

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit should have a meet-and-greet at Walt Disney World

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This week's Limited Time Magic Celebration at Disney California Adventure focuses on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Clarabelle's Hand-Scooped Ice Cream is featuring a special Oswald-inspired ice cream sundae in a Trolley Car Cup, and stores are highlighting their Oswald merchandise.

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Seeing again that Oswald mostly is represented at the Disney Parks in North America in merchandise makes me wonder why he doesn't have a larger presence. Since The Walt Disney Co. regained the rights in 2006 to one of Walt Disney's first animated characters, Oswald slowly has been making a name for himself with a new generation of fans. (Walt drew Oswald between 1927 and 1928 along with Ub Iwerks for Universal Studios.)

Most notably, Oswald has been featured in all three Epic Mickey video games. As such, Oswald is quite grumpy about being forgotten all this time and he's a little jealous of his "younger brother," Mickey Mouse. Still, the rabbit loves to have fun and is funny when he wants to be, and, ultimately, he tries to make the right choices.

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With the games' promotion, we've seen Oswald's image appear on more merchandise, including T-shirts, plush animals, watches, pins and even last summer's rabbit-ear hats at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) that later were introduced in the Disney Parks. My son proudly wears his hat each time we go to the theme parks, and inevitably, other guests and cast members will comment, saying how fond they, too, are of Oswald.

Surely, the next step would be to have Oswald as a meet-and-greet character in the Disney Parks. Some Oswald fans have suggested that he be a black-and-white character who adds color, such as his blue shorts, during appearances. What a great idea! That concept reminds me of Animator's Palate on the Disney Wonder; it is an amazing experience to see the animation change from stark black and white to a rainbow of hues.

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And it would seem that near the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet in Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom would be the logical spot for an Oswald meet-and-greet location at Walt Disney World. After all, there's already a nod to Oswald and the characters' close relationship with a drawing of the pair posted in Mickey's dressing room. At Disney California Adventure, perhaps there is a spot near the rabbit's namesake store on Buena Vista Street.

Given the range of topics Oswald animated shorts covered during the early Disney years, there are a host of other locales that could be used just as appropriately at either the Magic Kingdom or other Walt Disney World parks. Face it: If cute little teddy Duffy and his, well " questionable " historical contributions to Disney's history and lore could lead to him having a meet-and-greet site at Epcot, then surely Disney's original creation deserves the same prestige at one of the parks here, as well.

So, fans of Oswald, tell us what you think! If you could design a meet-and-greet area in the Disney Parks with the Lucky Rabbit, what would it be like? I know we all agree it should have started already.

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For a class project, my son assumed the persona of Walt Disney, and he chose Oswald and Mickey as symbols of Walt's accomplishments.

August 25, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read all about Disney California Adventure's newspaper

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The entertainment company that gives guests a variety of ways to experience the past is offering them yet another relic. Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests can ride on steam locomotives, walk down an old-fashioned Main Street, U.S.A and step back into Tom Sawyer's era. Now, they also can get information from a 1920s- or 1930s-style newspaper.

As a former newspaper editor and writer, I find it ironic that The Walt Disney Company would choose to launch a newspaper of its own in this day and age. The industry has been struggling to reinvent itself in an era of instantaneous news and constant real-time updates so that it can remain relevant and profitable.

With consumers expecting -- and even preferring -- to get their news electronically, why would the Mouse think its busy guests would use such a product? It would seem more logical that they would be excited about the rollout of free Wi-Fi at Walt Disney World. (Read more about Wi-Fi here.) After all, they could stay abreast of the latest theme-park news via Twitter, Facebook and the like that way.

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Yet, The Buena Vista Bugle debuted this summer at Disney California Adventure as a short-term vehicle to explain the park's changes, and because of its popularity, the newspaper has published three editions. The Orange County Register reports that between 12 and 15 percent of surveyed guests used the newspaper for information.

So, what's Disney's secret? The four-page newspaper is designed in the print styles of the 1920s and 1930s. The Register describes the content this way: "The copy comes from an in-house writer but in the voice of the characters of Buena Vista Street. A snarky, fictional food critic, Inglebert Irving, gives recommendations on drinks and appetizers. A celebrity-sighting column shows where characters can be spotted. The back page is designed in the style of a want-ad section, but has listings of shows, entertainment and stores."

Frankly, that description reminds me more of a Disney Cruise Line navigator than a newspaper. And who doesn't use a navigator when you're on a cruise? It's packed full of useful information to help guests plan their day -- not lengthy narratives.

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Unlike today's newspapers, this one is free and handed to interested guests by cast members. Mimicking a traditional form of distribution, the newspaper also is available in metal racks throughout the park.

The Register notes that Halloween and holiday editions of The Buena Vista Bugle are planned.

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