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May 25, 2017

Sneak Peek at "Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!" and "Summer of Heroes"

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Opening May 27 at Disney California Adventure is the newly rethemed attraction "Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!."

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Taking the place of the lightning-scarred "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" in the back of Hollywood Land, GotGMB is set in the massive citadel of Taneleer Tivan, The Collector, from the Marvel comics and the MCU films "Thor: The Dark World, " and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

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Surrounding the building is a collection of totems and fauna designed to pay tribute to The Collector and his artifacts referred to as "Gardens of the Galaxy."

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AllEars.Net was invited to take an early look at the attraction, guided by Imagineer and lead Creative Executive Joe Rohde.

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Once inside what used to be the hotel lobby, guests are met by a large assortment of glass cases containing any number of unique items in Tivan's collection.

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At the far end of the room is a screen where guests touring the collection are met by a video introduction from their host, revealing some of his newer, more reluctant acquisitions.

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After making their way out of the collection room into Tivan's private office (previously the library,) guests touring the facility are met with another taped message from The Collector that is abruptly interrupted by Rocket Raccoon, a Guardian of the Galaxy (the smart one.) He has a plan to free his friends that requires your participation, some peril, and a lot of explosions.

Moving through the power room, sharp eyes (it's pretty dark) may notice a number of items in the Collection that appear somewhat familiar.

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Entering the Gantry Lift, part of The Collector's staff will seat you and have you raise your hands for scanning (coincidentally checking for seatbelts at the same time) and then your tour/breakout commences.

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As far as the actual ride is concerned, there are six different drop profiles, each with their own different soundtrack. Intermittent pauses take place where the doors open to reveal clips of the Guardians escaping their boxes, dealing with all the other occupants that have also been let free, and making their getaway. Like Star Tours, these segments can randomize separately, so you may see the same ones in conjunction with different drop profiles or completely different ones. The original cast was present for all the video which was directed by "Guardians" writer/director James Gunn.

Mechanically, as you might expect, the ride isn't intrinsically different from ToT. I did feel that the drops were generally more prolonged/intense, with more time spent hovering in free-fall off the seat than previously. I've seen complaints about the in-ride sequences being just video screens, but unless we're saying the ToT ghosts were real, I don't think that's much of a change. On the whole, I think that whereas ToT depended more on suspense and atmosphere to yield a frightening/thrilling experience, GotGMB uses loud and dynamic action, humor, and mixtape music to give riders more of a shock/surprise.

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After disembarking the lift, "backstage" corridors lead you, as usual, back to a conveniently located gift store where you can buy all the merchandise a Guardian would want.

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At the end of the ride, Joe Rohde returned for a brief Q&A, along with Dave Bushore, VP, Franchise Creative & Marketing at Marvel Studios and Brian Crosby, Creative Director of Marvel Themed Entertainment. Some things they addressed to varying degrees: Why Guardians? How does The Collector's Citadel fit in with Hollywood Land? What was the reaction of the cast to being a part of a ride?

Having broken out the Guardians, we were then taken backstage where we were given an advance look at some of the different facets of the "Summer of Heroes" event coming to DCA.

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Executive Chef John State shared with us some of the many new culinary creations that will be available around Hollywood Land to keep heroes well-fueled for crime fighting.

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The three things I was able to taste were the Promising Future Falafel, the Most Dangerous Tacos in the Galaxy, and the Multiverse Parfait. My favorite was probably the parfait which was a little on the sweet side but which incorporated an impressive number of different flavored layers. The tacos were too spicy for my palate, but I am a complete spice wimp so your mileage will probably vary.

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Finally, Dan Fields, Executive Creative Director, Disney Parks Live Entertainment, gave a presentation (accompanied by some special guests) on a few of the various superheroes that might be encountered this summer.

Whether joining Star-Lord and Gamora for "Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off!" or getting drilled by Black Widow and Hawkeye in "Avengers Training Initiative," guests will find no shortage of chances to Hero Up.

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Clearly, a lot of activity going on in Hollywood Land this summer--one thing to note is the increasing emphasis on live character interaction for seasonal events which one could speculate is preparing people for more of the same to come in "Star Wars Land." Whether or not the encroachment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on DCA signals the beginning of a more wide-spread change in theme remains to be seen, but amidst all this uncertainty, there is a constant...

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...He is Groot.

May 24, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Press Junket

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This week, Walt Disney Studios releases its fifth entry into the evergreen "Pirates of the Caribbean" series with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."

While in town for the premiere, some of the film's cast and creatives were made available for mini-press conferences on the process of telling Dead Men's Tales.

[Non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

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Geoffrey Rush “Barbossa”

On the evolution of Barbossa: "...Of course, in the first film I got shot, you know, and I went well, it was fun. That was nice. Gore Verbinski phoned me up and said 'we're going to shift parts two and three to Asia--we're not going to just repeat the same sausage factory idea' and Jerry Bruckheimer is a very bold and creative producer on that level, and he said 'we're going to bring you back.' I said 'what, from the dead?' He said 'yeah, with voodoo!' I said 'not movie magic.' You can't just kinda go 'we want him back because he's popular.'

"But there was a purpose in that, in that I had to get all of the global pirate lords together to break Tia Dalma's curse in her association with Davy Jones and so forth. So I became the politician, and I liked that. And I think Barbossa's vanity liked the power base. I was going to get the G-20 of global pirates. And then I got to work for the King in the next film, and in this one, I'm kind of a corporate CEO--a rather vulgarly wealthy pirate. His taste is appalling. If he'd only spent some of the money on dental hygiene or his skin, you know...I always thought I'm in a commercial film, I should try to get an SK-II moisturizer ad, but no one's offered."

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Joachim Ronning / Director, Espen Sandberg / Director

On making this part of the "Pirates" franchise their own: "Well, we really studied the other movies, and especially number one...we really wanted to have a very strong emotional core. Every character had a journey--like in the first one, you have this young couple that traveled through the movie and you have all the other strong characters surrounding them...

"But Jack doesn't really have a character arc, you know, he doesn't learn a thing. So we still wanted to explore him too, so that's why we created the backstory, and that's something that we brought to it because we were curious about that: How did Jack become Jack Sparrow? And also we tied in Salazar's story in that, so we made sure it became a personal vengeance. And of course, Barbossa, we wanted to give him a really strong journey as well because he's such a great character and we want to do him justice.

"The third was interesting also, with the family theme of the film, of the franchise. We tell this story of what's really the treasure for a pirate."

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Jerry Bruckheimer / Producer

On continuing with the Pirates franchise: "Listen, I've made a lot of movies and I've certainly been very successful--I don't have to work anymore--but when I stand back in the audience and watch people really enjoy what we created...that's my thrill. We can take 'em for two hours and make 'em forget about whatever was bothering them and have a very positive experience--that's great! Because that's what I remember as a kid...I remember going to the theater and feeling great when I walked out. I forgot about everything that was going on in my life: The homework I didn't do or the test I failed or whatever it is, and I felt great. I just want to give that back to audiences, that's all."

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Javier Bardem “Captain Salazar”

On becoming Salazar:
"It was three hours makeup...drives you nuts. The first thing they do is to give you a coffee. Very nice. It's five o'clock in the morning, it's cold, it's Australia, you know you have a fourteen hour day in front of you, and then they give you coffee...and the second thing they do is to put glue all over your face. Actual glue! With a brush! Like you have a dog [lick sounds] on your face. Then they put this chicken breast on you, because there are chicken breasts...then they say 'don't talk, eat, or drink for the next three hours.' Then you start to get crazy. Then when they say 'ACTION,' you have the rage of the character."

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Kaya Scodelario “Carina Smyth”

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Brenton Thwaites “Henry”

Scodelario on Strong Female Characters: "There's a reason why that question never gets asked to guys, because their characters are always fleshed out and interesting and they're assumed that they're going to be strong and independent and all these things but yet there still has to have this conversation over a strong independent female role. And it's such a shame, but I think it's great that we're speaking really honestly about it now and I'm happy to fight a fight for that. It's an honor to play a woman that is so layered and so interesting, because I don't know a single female that isn't. I don't know any woman that's just simple, that you can define in one word or one sentence, so why should that be what we see in a movie? There's so many stories to be told, there's so many layers to peel back, and she's great and I'm really grateful to Disney for making sure that is a part of this franchise, and still holding strong with it."

On the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction:
Thwaites: "I've been on the one in Shanghai a week ago, and the one in LA a couple days ago."
Scodelario: "A COUPLE DAYS AGO?"
Thwaites: "...Yeah? I took my family--I did the family thing."
Scodelario: "I've never been to Disneyland!"
Thwaites: "The one in LA is great for story, you know, because you're there and you see the old dolls drinking beer and it's kind of fun and soft and a great ride...I had my little kid with me and she was loving it. But the one in Shanghai is a spectacle. It feels like a fifty-foot screen, you know, 180 degrees in curvature...you feel like you're at the bottom of the ocean. It's 3-D so water's spinning at you and there's air and people yelling and...yeah, it's crazy."

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"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" opens in US theaters May 26, 2017.

May 18, 2017

2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race Expo

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Tinker Bell Expo

Though I didn't run any of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend races this year, I visited the Expo. I wrote in my previous blog about my experiences working at the Expo that day as a paid employee. After my shift was over, I spent some time walking around the Expo.

I was surprised that the entrance to the packet pick-up area wasn't decorated at all. In the past the rug at the entrance has had the race logo, and portraits of the pixies have been on the walls. It was very plain this year.

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The packet pick-up area downstairs wasn't very busy at 4:00 in the afternoon. There were about 27,500 scheduled to participate in all of the weekend's events: Never Land 5K, Tinker Bell 10K, Kids Races, and Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Not all of the races sold out and bibs were still available for the 10K, half marathon, and Pixie Dust Challenge.

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There were still quite a few Dooney & Bourke bags available.

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The main entrance to the Expo upstairs was decorated with banners.

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Tinker Bell Expo

There were large maps of the race courses posted just inside.

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The Expo had most of the usual vendors - the New Balance Disney shoes, Clif Bars, Fit2Run, RawThreads, Sparkle Skirts, etc. Springa was one that I did not recall seeing before - they had lots of shiny, sparkly headwear.

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The runDisney booth had samples of all of the race medals. The medals for this year's Virtual Running Shorts series feature Pluto, and I thought they were cute.

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There were also samples of the medals that would be distributed for the Tinker Bell Weekend events. All of the medals had new designs this year.

Tinker Bell 5K medal

Tinker Bell Kids Races medal

Tinker Bell 10K medal

Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal

Tinker Bell Pixie Dust Challenge medal

I was surprised that there was no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. And as far as I could tell, all of the merchandise was still available, including some of the items that sell out quickly like the Tervis bottles, the weekend runDisney shoe ornament, and the wine glasses.

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And there were lots and lots of shirts. Of all different styles and colors - some of them very bright.

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There were also a few styles of pants.

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I liked many of the designs on the "I Did It" shirts this year.

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Plenty of the mini-medal pins for all of the races - those were always some of my favorites.

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Magnets, lots of magnets!

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A number of hairbands and headbands.

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I'd never seen Disney sell a medal rack before.

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Since I wasn't running any races this year I didn't feel the need to buy anything. Once I'd finished in the merchandise area I was done with my pass through the Expo. Nothing really stood out to me as being especially new or different this year.





May 17, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 5/12/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us this subset of photos from his trip to the Disneyland Resort on Friday, May 12, 2017.

Laura will cover the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo so I am going to focus on what has changed since my last visit three weeks ago. Starting off with a video clip overview of the Star Wars construction from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure.

In the three weeks since my last visit the attraction show building steel has expanded more and a second crane is onsite starting the second show building.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Here is the second crane on the left (north) side of the other.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Steel rising up for the second atrtraction building.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017


Here you can see some of the concrete work for the second attraction building foundation.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The planters throughout Downtown Disney have been replanted for spring.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The directory for Downtown Disney has been updated.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Tour Gardens is being renovated so the tour assembly point is now the west Esplanade information booth.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

First stop Disneyland. A look through the fence at the end of the Big Thunder Trail. The walkway looks to be be just about done.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

A new structure on the roof of Pirates. A second control room for Fantasmic has been added.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Looking up river a barge is at the cofferdam as they work to remove it.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The Tom Sawyer Island raft sign is gone. Looks like they just cut it down.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The view as you enter Critter Country.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The river is full of water again.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

A look through the fence by the Hungry Bear at the new train bridge and the entrance tunnel to Star Wars from Critter Country.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

In New Orleans Square, the tracks are clear and the station is returning to normal as the railroad reopening preparations are underway.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Indiana Jones is closed for renovation.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Snow White Grotto has reopened.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

A video clip of Snow White Grotto

The Matterhorn has returned from its annual renovation. It now features FastPass.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

FastPass distribution is across the walkway in the corner where the 60th photo op was. Walls are up so guessing a permanent set is on the way. For now just carts.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Work in one of the planters at the Tomorrowland Terrace. The tree and all plants are gone.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Light and dark side churros in Tomorrowland now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The Buzz Lightyear sign is functional again with wait time, time and return time.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Over at Disney California Adventure, the Pixar Play Parade returned on Friday. The parade has returned to traveling from Paradise Pier to Hollywood Land.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The Incredibles

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jack Jack

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Buzz Lightyear

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Cars 3 banners along the parade route.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Unlike past films which had more elaborate signs the Cars 3 one is just a banner.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

It appears there will be no major changes to the Guardians FastPass distribution area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The walls are down and the exterior work appears to be wrapped up for the attraction. Two weeks until Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! opens.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Just some small barriers around the entrance and left side of the attraction.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

The sign on the corner is covered up still.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

At Disney's Grand Californian Hotel one pool and spa have reopened.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Guardians lit up for the evening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

A couple video clips of the area.

Disneyland Drive looked like a parking lot when I was leaving with traffic at a near standstill as far as you could see.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, May 12, 2017

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







May 15, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Race Support Employee

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Earlier this year many long-time runDisney runners and race volunteers were very surprised when runDisney announced that they would not be using volunteers at the upcoming Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. Instead race support would be provided by employees of two temporary employment agencies. Employees would be compensated at a rate of $13/hour - higher than the California minimum wage of $10.50/hour.

Tinker Bell Race Support

There's been no explanation for the change, though there's lots of speculation. I personally do not believe it was a cost-cutting measure. It's quite an involved process to hire that many people, and given my experience it does not seem that it was a cheaper option for runDisney.

I'd never volunteered for a race before, but I was curious about how this new process would work. (I should mention that we'd decided not to run any of the Tinker Bell races this year and instead had a family vacation scheduled to start that weekend.) I had Thursday free so I contacted the two agencies - Apple One and Volt - to see if I could work that day. Apple One didn't really respond to my inquiry - I received an empty email in response. The coordinator at Volt got right back to me with information and answered a few of my questions. She told me which shifts were available - at that point it was Expo shifts on Thursday and Friday, and early morning race support shifts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I could work every day if I wanted to (but only one shift per day). I told her that I was only available to work on Thursday, and she was OK with that.

So then we started the process. And it was a process. I think it's much more complex than the volunteer system. To begin with I filled out an on-line application form. It was a generic form for prospective Volt employees, and nowhere did it say that I was applying to work Race Support, so I was a little worried. In addition to listing previous jobs, etc., I had to provide a point of contact for a previous job reference - though that person was never contacted.

One twist: runDisney required that the two agencies run a seven-year criminal background check on all those who were hired. So that was the next on-line form that I had to complete.

Within a few days I received another set of "paperwork" in my email. These included some forms that had to be printed and signed to complete my "onboarding". The agency was in Irvine, and I was in San Diego, so they arranged for me to visit their San Diego office to complete the paperwork. The main thing they needed to verify was my "right to work" in the United States, which required that someone verify my documentation (passport, in my case) and attest that it was valid. I could have had a friend or neighbor do that (but NOT a family member) and return everything to Irvine via FedEx. But the reality was that there were so many documents, and I wasn't sure what I really needed to sign or not, that it was much more straightforward to just go to the local office to do it.

Less than 10 days out I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement that Disney provided. That one I printed out, took a photo of the signature page and emailed it back.

On the Tuesday before I was scheduled to work, I received information on parking and check-in. They provided a parking pass to park for free in the Mickey and Friends garage. I was checking in at the Disneyland Hotel in an area next to Packet Pickup. I also received information on the dress code and lunches and breaks. I was advised to bring as little as possible since there was no place to store belongings.

Whew. As I said - it was a process. And since it's a job, I think it's quite a bit more invasive than it was in the past for volunteers - between the job application and the background check I had to provide a lot of personal information. I can understand that going through all of that would not be attractive to a lot of people - and it took a fair bit of my time to do it all.

It seemed like the company representative did a good job passing information along (I think she got it to us as fast as Disney got it to her). She verified and re-verified what shift I was working - but I think that getting people to show up for something like this can be a problem. She certainly kept offering me more shifts if I wanted them! As of Wednesday they were still trying to find people to work Sunday's half marathon. They apparently also drew upon people who had previously signed up with their agency - the woman I was working next to knew nothing about runDisney, but said Volt had contacted her and said they had some work if she wanted it. She was working four days - including two early morning race shifts.

So...as of Wednesday night I had my parking pass and instructions on where to meet and when.

Thursday morning I arrived at the parking garage about 7:20 - I was supposed to check in by 8:00. I was pleased to see that there were signs directing to the Disneyland Hotel, although once I reached the hotel itself there were no signs telling me where to go - fortunately from previous experience I knew where I was going.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Along the way there were some race weekend signs.

Tinker Bell Race Support

The Family Reunion area was still being put together.

Tinker Bell Race Support

The Finish line was in place, and workers were assembling the bleachers.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Once I checked in I got my Race Support shirt - this was to be worn as our top layer.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Who knew that Race Support had sponsors?

Tinker Bell Race Support

Then at the next table I received my assignment for the day. Everyone from Volt was being assigned to Runner Shirts and everyone from Apple One was going to Packet Pickup. I would've preferred to work Packet Pickup, but oh well.

The Expo wasn't scheduled to start until 10:00 (though we heard it would open at 9:30), so we still had a lot of time where we were just sitting around. Fortunately there were enough tables and chairs for everyone. Other than ice water dispensers and cups there were no refreshments of any kind. One of the men sitting at my table had volunteered at a number of runDisney events in the past, and said that they used to provide food and beverages to the volunteers - but that's gone by the wayside.

The workers were generally older - there were a number of retired people, though there were some younger people who looked like they were in their early 20s.

About 9:00 a couple of runDisney people came to give us a pep talk about how important we were to the process, etc., etc., and then escort us to our work areas, where we would receive whatever training we needed.

My group went upstairs to the main Expo floor and the shirt distribution area. Most of us would be giving out shirts, but they needed a few people to work the Shirt Exchange and others to be the "runners" who brought out additional shirts and bags from the back as they were needed.

The process was quite simple - each runner's bib had a tear-off strip indicating the size of shirt they were to receive. Each of us had only one size shirt available at our station - I had 5K shirts, size Adult Small. So I had to verify that the bib was a 5K bib, and the shirt size was "AS". Then tear off the strip and put it in a plastic bag that was taped to the counter. Under the counter was the stack of clear plastic runDisney bags, which already contained a Clif bar and a packet of safety pins, and each runner received one of those in addition to the shirt.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Here's a photo of one of the shirts I was distributing. I thought they were really cute, and I was surprised that a number of runners didn't like the color or the design. Most thought that it was really cute, though. You can't please everyone. At least it wasn't gray. :-)

Tinker Bell Never Land 5K shirt

The runDisney guy in charge of the shirt area had very definite ideas on how he wanted it to work. Understandable, since obviously he has lots of experience at this. Whatever size was at our station was what we gave out - we were not to reach over or move to fetch a different size. If the bib said they were to receive a small, but they wanted a medium, we gave them a small and directed them to Shirt Exchange. We were always to face the guests. We were to refer anyone with questions beyond "where do I get my shirt?" to one of the black-shirted runDisney employees, or direct them to the information booth in the lobby. No cell phones. We were to smile and thank the guests, but not chat too much with them. We were not supposed to lean on the counters. (Since we were standing the entire time, that was a little bit difficult.) We were always supposed to have a full contingent of workers at the counters, even when things were slow. So that meant if anyone needed a break, our leads had to bring someone up to fill the space. I guess there were some extra "floaters" who did that.

Here's what my area looked like. That space between the bins held two of us - not much room to move around. The woman to my right had two sizes of Youth 5K shirts.

Tinker Bell Race Support

We didn't really see the first people come to shirt pickup until after 10:00. In the meantime we could see what the Expo floor looked like with no one in it.

Tinker Bell Race Support

It all was in spurts. Sometimes I had people waiting, but most of the time I just stood there.

I got my first 10-minute break after about an hour, and wandered around the show floor briefly before I went back. There were two leads from Volt who made sure that everyone got their breaks and lunches.

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We only got 30 minutes for lunch, which was really very little time to try to go someplace, get food, and eat. Since I was told not to bring a bag, I didn't bring lunch (I had been warned that lunch would not be provided and that I would only have 30 minutes). About all I had time for was to grab some yogurt at Tangaroa Terrace... I didn't have time to go through the security line and into Downtown Disney.

The afternoon was like the morning - brief periods when it was busy, but mostly a lot of standing around. A little excitement when one of the guys restocking shirts dumped the wrong size shirt in one of my bins - but I caught it before I gave any of them out. I was quite ready for my 10-minute break, which I largely spent sitting down backstage. I'm fairly used to standing for long periods of time, but not having any room to move around made me more tired.

At about 3:30 they brought up the people who would be working the afternoon/evening shift. We were responsible for training them - not that there was much to that. Though I think we got all of about five minutes before they told us to move out. Our group was escorted back downstairs. I clocked out with the Volt representative and my day was done.

I mentioned that my group seemed to be an older crowd. The afternoon shift appeared to be quite a bit younger on average.

In my area I didn't see any problems with having paid employees versus volunteers. I heard that there were issues in packet pick-up - some people said that no one checked their IDs! And we had one woman come to shirt pickup who had been given an extra bib that wasn't hers. Fortunately she realized that and gave it to a runDisney person. She was pretty frazzled and said that packet pick-up had not been a good experience for her. I'm curious to hear what the on-course experience is like for runners with the paid support versus the volunteers.

Working the Expo was an interesting experience for me. Not exactly challenging, but I enjoyed my interactions with the runners. I only saw one person I knew (Hi, Gail!), but I saw a number of people I recognized from previous Disney races. I'd do it again, though I'd like to try Packet Pick-up the next time. For one thing you get to sit down for that!





May 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Disney Afternoon Collection

by Guest Blogger Sally Jacka

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Like most children of the late '80s/early '90s, the Disney Afternoon was a huge part of my childhood. I’d race home from school every day to watch my favorite cartoons in a convenient block of television featuring songs that I can still sing to this day. I was pretty obsessed! Despite that, I still managed to clock an embarrassingly short amount of time to die while previewing this game at WonderCon. (I got an awesome slap bracelet out of that experience, so there was an upside.)

[Screenshots and video provided by Capcom.]

Regardless, I’m up for the task and it’s time to step right up and come on in, here’s where the fun begins… see what I did there? Let’s just get to the review.

The Disney Afternoon Collection is here to tap into all the nostalgia we’re harboring for the simpler times of childhood. This “brand new” offering features 6 classic games in a sleek collected format.

The games are in 1080p HD which I’m not sure really matters when everything is in 8-bit. This could also just be one of those things I don’t understand because I’m an old lady and don’t care if my media is in high definition or not. My husband, who I made play these games when I got angry because I kept dying and who is very much about resolutions, also says that this isn’t a huge deal. You are also able to customize your screen some with game-specific frames, different aspect ratios, and filters that mimic old television screens, in case you feel like taking the nostalgia of playing these games to the next level.

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The biggest addition to The Disney Afternoon Collection is the “Rewind” feature. This button is a godsend! At WonderCon, the Capcom rep at the booth told me they added it because people don’t remember how hard these games actually are. There is literally no way I would have gotten through more than three minutes of these games without it. Though it feels a little like cheating, it’s a great option for those of us who want to re-experience these games without the insane frustration of having to start all the way at the beginning of a level after death. That still happens, but it’s a little less frustrating when you get the hang of rewind and learn you can cheat death! The only drawback to this feature is in the Chip ‘n Dale two-player mode, where only Player 1 can rewind. It’s a minor inconvenience, but both players being able to rewind would probably also be annoying.

There are two other game-play options that have been added to all six games in the collection. The Boss Rush mode allows you to fight all the bosses in your game of choice in rapid succession. This is a fun new feature, for me at least, because I’m usually so bad at these games that I can’t get to the boss battle.

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The other mode is Time Attack, where you attempt to beat the game as fast as possible. We looked into this feature on the original DuckTales game and the fastest time as of this writing was 7 minutes and 30 seconds. This is completely insane! The best part of this feature is that you can watch other players' run-throughs to see how they did it. It’s interesting to be able to see how someone else runs/glitches their way through the game and I’m sure for someone trying to improve their time it’s also a good learning tool. Again, as I die a lot and “rewind” is not available in Time Attack, this is not a mode for me, but it is fun to watch.

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This collection also comes with some great extra features, including the isolated soundtracks for each game. You also get to take a peek at the Disney Afternoon Museum. This is basically a gallery of box art, advertisements and source material vs final concept art for the featured games. We spent a lot of time browsing through the vintage images and reminiscing about the gaming days of old. It’s a neat addition, especially for Disney fans who want to see more than just the old restored games.

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Assorted thoughts:

--The Moon Theme is so insane to me. It is the catchiest song -- arguably moreso than the main DuckTale theme. There is also such an insane, almost cult-like following for the music, especially in my experience, with 30-something males. Honestly, we played that level the longest and the song has been stuck in my head ALL DAY!

--I wanna name a punk band "Beagle Boys on the Moon."

--I’m not a big fan of bees in real life, but the bees in the jungle level of DuckTales are the worst! THE WORST!

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--Both Chip and Dale games are decidedly easier with two players. However, the fact that you can incapacitate the other player is annoying and would have gotten this game banned in my childhood home.

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--TaleSpin was probably the hardest of the games for me and involved a lot of death and rewinding before I finally gave up. Also, the physics of Baloo just hanging upside-down and not moving left lots of questions. It does at least give you the option to turn your ship around and shoot behind you which is not common for most side-scrollers. This game also actually allows you to use game currency to upgrade your items.

--Darkwing Duck was the game I was most looking forward to and it was worth it alone just to see Darkwing on an 8-bit Ratcatcher. It’s also the only game to recreate the source material’s theme song and opening credits in 8-bit, which is adorable.

--The one boss battle I played in Darkwing was against Quackerjack & Mr. Banana Brain. I am very confused by the latter dropping banana peels on you. I never assumed he was sentient and thought he was just the product of an insane clown duck’s dementia. That might be one of the weirder sentences I’ve ever written.

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--I know there are limited pixels and color palettes but so much of the coloring of so many of the characters (I’m looking at you, Dewey and Louie) in each game was wrong. This bugged me, but I’m a nerd so this probably doesn’t bother other “normal” people

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So, after playing through some of all six games, I can say that this collection is an excellent addition to your Disney game library. There’s a feeling of nostalgia whether you played the games when you were younger or just love all things Disney Afternoon. For those who are better at video games than I hope to be, it’s a ton of fun to get to revisit these classics from the past. And for those who have kids of their own, it’s a great intro to the world of The Disney Afternoon. The addition of features like “rewind” make it much easier for us non-gamers to enjoy the games without the frustration of losing quickly. The added bonuses of different game-play modes and bonus material make it an even better value for gamers and fans. I mean, to me, it’s honestly all just worth it to listen to those 8-bit theme songs on repeat!

"The Disney Afternoon Collection" is currently available in North America and Europe for $19.99 as a digital download on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

DISCLAIMER: A copy of "The Disney Afternoon Collection" was provided to me for the purposes of review without restrictions on expressed thoughts or opinions.

May 3, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Press Conference

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"All you do is yell at each other. You're not friends."
"No. We're family."
--Nebula and Drax, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2"

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May 5th, Star-Lord and his ragtag band of miscreants are once again tapped to save the galaxy in Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

As part of the premier events for the movie, the cast and creatives involved gathered at a press conference to talk about the making of the film. In attendance was Chris Pratt “Peter Quill/Star-Lord," Kurt Russell "Ego," Elizabeth Debicki "Ayesha," Michael Rooker ‘Yondu,” James Gunn/Director, Zoe Saldana “Gamora,” Sylvester Stallone “member of Nova Corps,” Karen Gillan "Nebula," Dave Bautista “Drax the Destroyer,” Pom Klementieff "Mantis," Sean Gunn “Kraglin,“ and Kevin Feige/Producer.

[Photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

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Chris Pratt on working with Kurt Russell: "You know, there’s this thing that happens...you promised yourself you’re not gonna do the thing where you geek out, but...it’s a little inauthentic if you don’t, because if you just go in there and you be like, oh what is it, Kurt? Hey, nice to meet you. Chris. And if I don’t acknowledge...how much I love him and what a fan I am, if you don’t get that out of the way, then it feels a little inauthentic. So I think I did that immediately, and...it doesn’t really take that long to tell someone that you really love them, you really respect their work, and for them to go, yeah thanks. And then, that’s it. At that point, you move forward and there’s this really cool thing that is probably the one thing I never would’ve imagined looking for when I first moved to Hollywood, but like the greatest, the greatest part of it, the biggest secret, is you become somebody’s friend and somebody’s peer rather than a fan. And that’s really nice, and I think Kurt and I have become friends. We connected on a lot of things outside of just the movie. And you know, I have his cell phone number and I’ll give it to each and every one of you--"
Kurt Russell: "Yeah. 310..."

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Zoe Saldana on her favorite part of the filmmaking process: "I think that what I loved the most and it may sound selfish but definitely the relationship between Gamora and Nebula. I just, I’m one of three sisters. I have been itching and yearning to see more of a female presence in action films because I love action films. I’m not that deep...I love watching The Equalizer and I’ll watch that 50 times over any kind of dramatic piece. And so to have a film with three female characters that are adding such unique qualities to the film...they are very relevant and their relationships are explored deeply. I was appreciative and super excited and in a way anxious because I know that Gamora is a much more reserved character, so we couldn’t make it a soap opera like I would have wanted to. I wanted to be crying with nose goo and everything and James is like, “You’re like the Clint Eastwood of the movie,” and I was like, “Who’s that? What’s that?” But anyway, that was my favorite. And my least favorite was obviously the makeup process, so."

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Sean Gunn on playing the dual role of Kraglin and motion reference actor for Rocket: "I played two roles in the movie… you know… when you act there’s both the input and the output. The input is the work you put into it and what you do on set and then the output is what you see onscreen, so for me the input is very similar for both characters, but the output is, is totally different because it takes a whole team of people to make Rocket. So, you know, I’m just a member of that team. But yeah, it’s interesting in this movie because Rocket and Kraglin have a few scenes that they’re in together, so…juggling the two things was a very strange and challenging experience for me. But I love it."

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James Gunn on sequels: "...So many sequels are not good. The primary reason in studying them seemed to be that so many of them just kind of do the same thing the first movie did with different template, and so they say, oh people liked the dance-off in the first movie, so what’s our version of the dance-off? People liked “we are Groot” in the first movie, what’s our version of “we are Groot”? And instead of doing that, we really tried to let these characters grow and change. We want to watch them become new people and different people in every film that we come up with. And I think allowing them to be themselves and do their thing, I know that sounds strange because I’m writing what they say, but sometimes I’m just letting it happen inside my own imagination and letting the characters go where they want to go. I think the thing that I didn’t want to mess up was just trying to be a rehash of the first movie."

Gunn on belonging: "I never feel like I belong. I feel like Rocket, you know. So I think that...for me it’s a very personal film. I have always felt like I didn’t belong. And fortunately I have some people around me who maybe helped me feel like I’m not completely alone in the world, and just as importantly, I think I grew up with some art, some movies, you know, by people...everybody from David Cronenberg to Steven Spielberg, movies where an outcast didn’t feel so alone or music by Alice Cooper, The Clash, for outcasts. Or maybe I was this little kid in Manchester, Missouri who felt like he was completely alienated from all his peers, and by listening and, you know, hearing music and watching movies, I felt a little bit less alone, and I hope that that’s what the Guardians does for people. It’s a movie about outcasts for outcasts. And there’s people all over the world that it touches, and that’s the most rewarding thing by far about making these movies."

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Kurt Russell on becoming young: "Dennis Liddiard’s been my makeup man for 28 movies, and before we went in there...we assumed that it was gonna be all CGI. And he said to James and the cinematographer, hey, I can young this guy down. I got some tricks in my bag. Would that be helpful? And they said, yeah, as much as you can. That would be great. And I was speaking to the gal last night who does the CGI. She said, what did you think of what we did? And I said, I thought it was great. But I understand you didn’t do a whole lot. She said, no we didn’t...we touched it up here and there. He did a fantastic job. He does have a lot of tricks, not just makeup. Cosmetics I should say. But there’s a lot that goes into that actually. It’s not just what you think. Without giving away things, because I hate giving away tricks, you have to create an impression, not an image. And there’s stuff that goes into that. And you want them to look certain places and not look other places...then when you’ve got the help of modern day abilities with technology, I think it’s a much more natural look..."

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Sylvester Stallone on becoming part of the Guardians Universe: "...Early on in my career I just always became fascinated with mythology and Joseph Campbell and you know, Man of a Thousand Faces and so on and so forth. So when I started doing Rambo, whatever...there was an evolution that takes place and each generation has to define itself and find its own heroes and find its own mythology and this is the new...generation, and maybe even the next generation’s mythology...When Kevin invited me on board I said, 'This is interesting because I haven’t gone here"...I mean, I’m kind of earthbound, I’m terrestrial. You know what I mean? This is something that takes place in a whole other sphere where James and the Marvel people have created their own world, their own reality. So I said, yeah, let me visit. Let me drop in here and see what’s up, where the future’s going, you know, and it was great. And it got me out of the house from my three daughters, which is really…Thank you. That’s why I gave you my salary back. My pleasure, my pleasure."

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Kevin Feige on whether Stakar is assembling the original Guardians of the Galaxy from the 1969 comics at the end: "Yeah, they’re definitely the original Guardians. That was the fun of it, and when James had the idea to do more with the Yondu character who was also an original Guardians, the notion that he had a team once like Peter does now...it’d be fun to see them. And he’s (Ving Rhames) definitely Charlie 27. Where we see them in the future, time will tell."

Feige on Stan Lee's cameo: "Stan Lee clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump gate sequence in Guardians was something very fun and James had that idea and we shot that, shot that cameo and loved it so much...you see it a couple of times in the movie and it wasn’t in for a long time and we put it back in towards the end of the process where he references that time he was a Federal Express agent and we thought it would be fun to put that and keep that in there because that really says, so wait a minute, he’s this same character who’s popped up in all these films."

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Dave Bautista on what is "family:": "It just doesn’t have to be one definition to family. I think just the people you love in your lives, like these people up here are...we’re a family, you know. I think that’s what it is and I think that’s the message of our film, that you know, even though families may be dysfunctional, it’s still at the end of the day, do you love this person? Do you care for this person? Would you do anything for this person? And if that answer is yes, then they are your family.."

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" opens May 5, 2017.

May 1, 2017

Star Wars Celebration Orlando: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars Celebration, the Lucasfilm convention devoted to all things Star Wars, took place on Orlando, FL this year, with its usual star-studded panels and coveted merchandise.

One of the most anticipated panel of the weekend was "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which promised to yield more information on this year's sequel to the blockbuster "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."


[The panel begins at 10:29]

[Unattributed photos courtesy of Disney.]

The panel began with the introduction of its host, everyone's favorite snowman, Josh Gad.

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Josh Gad

[So this was a great panel, but actually one of my favorite parts is that I ended up sitting next to a very nice person who was apparently attending Celebration as part of a work obligation and turned out to be the one person on Earth with zero knowledge of Star Wars.]

After a short history of his love affair with the Star Wars universe, Gad wasted little time in bringing out the cast and creatives of "The Last Jedi."

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Writer/Director Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy

[Person next to me: "Who did they say the guy was again?"]

Johnson on the status of "The Last Jedi:" "We're in post-production, we're still editing but we're very far along. We're doing quite well and it's all coming together."

Kennedy on working with Johnson: "He has an amazing uniqueness to what he does. He also writes as beautifully as he directs, which is quite incredible, and he writes amazingly fierce and independent women."

Next on stage was the star of "The Last Jedi," Daisy (Rey) Ridley.

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Daisy Ridley

Gad: "I've got a couple of questions I'd like to ask you, up to you whether or not you want to answer. Are you and Luke related by blood?"
Ridley: "..."
Gad: "No to that one. Are you a Skywalker? Is your name Rey Skywalker?"
Ridley: "..."
Gad: "Is your name Rey Kenobi?"
Ridley: [Crowd roars] "That's a popular answer, clearly."
Gad: "WHO DOESN'T KNOW THEIR OWN LAST NAME? Can you imagine if I went up to you and said 'my entire name is Josh, good to meet you?' Are you the Madonna of Jakku?"

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Ridley: "In 'The Last Jedi,' we go deeper into Rey's story, and what is very apparent from where we left off in 'Force Awakens' and where we begin with 'The Last Jedi,' is Rey has a certain expectation as to what she might be getting from Luke and what that might entail, and as a lot of people know, it's difficult when you meet your heroes because it might not be what you expect."

Of course, no current-day Star Wars panel is complete without the appearance of BB-8.

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BB-8

[Person next to me: "Did he say...B, B...ate?!"]

Gad: "How are you today, 8. Do you mind if I call you 8?"
BB-8: BEEP
Gad: "Oh, he says 'no, please call me BB-8. Unlike Daisy, I have a full name, and I intend to use it.' Oh, that's passive-aggressive, BB-8."

Johnson: "He's the Buster Keaton of this movie."

Joining his co-star next, was John (Finn) Boyega.

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John Boyega

Boyega: "I think Finn definitely stood up for himself after the end of 'Force Awakens,' and caught a bit of an injury to the back. So he's in recovery, but he will be back in 'The Last Jedi'...and he's not playing this time!

"In 'The Last Jedi,' it's a test for all the characters, but specifically for Finn--he wants to find his place now. Is he going to be a part of The Resistance or is he going to keep running away from The First Order? We'll see."

Johnson then introduced one of the new characters from "The Last Jedi"--Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran.

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Kelly Marie Tran

Tran: "So my character's name is Rose, she's part of The Resistance, and she works Maintenance, and I just can't wait for you to meet her!"

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Johnson: "Rose is a Maintenance worker in The Resistance. For me, growing up, one of the things, as a kid in Colorado, watching these movies...watching Luke Skywalker kind of get pulled out of--and I think that's why people respond to Rey also--get pulled out of wherever he is and be this unlikely hero...the notion that anyone out there, any of us, can step up and turn into a hero...that's where the character of Rose comes from. She's not a soldier, she's not looking to become a hero, and she gets pulled in a very big way into an adventure in this movie with Finn, and Kelly just embodies that for me."

Finally, the MVP of the whole weekend, Mark Hamill completed the panel.

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Mark Hamill

"In 7, you discovered Luke obviously as a hermit on this island, that he's...there's so much unsaid about where he's been and what he's done...actors like to write their own backstories, you know. You want to figure out what you've done and where you've been, but I realized that wasn't really important to the story of 'Force Awakens'...To a certain extent, it's not Luke's story anymore, but I think he's an important part of the overall arc of the saga and, again, there's a lot of mystery about him, even within the film, so you have to fill in your own backstory."

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"And by the way, I look down and I see Olaf, I see Wonder Woman, I see God, I see my daugh--my colleague Daisy, my son...and this one, if she were any cuter, she'd be an actual Disney cartoon."

After a few more anecdotes and insights from Hamill on being part of the Star Wars legacy, Kennedy and Johnson revealed the new teaser poster for "The Last Jedi," after which they closed the panel by showing the new teaser trailer.

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[Person next to me: "What was the symbol everyone cheered about at the end?"
Me: "It was the symbol of the Jedi Order."
Them: "..."
Me: "..."
Them: "LUKE'S A JEDI?!"]

So although the panel didn't reveal all that much about the "The Last Jedi," I think the general expectations of cast introductions and a new trailer were certainly met. Mark Hamill always puts on a great performance for affairs like this, and continued to do so in numerous presentations throughout the weekend. The new character of Rose is particularly exciting to me, because as people may remember from when "Rogue One" was coming out, one of my pet issues I vehemently support is ASIANS IN SPACE. This one's a woman, too! Hope she doesn't die!

"The Last Jedi" is scheduled for general US release December 15, 2017. Enjoy the trailer, and know that no matter what questions you might be left with, you will never be the most confused person watching it.

More coverage from Star Wars Celebration Orlando: "40 Years of Star Wars"

April 30, 2017

2017 Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, Part 2: 10K and Half Mararthon

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Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Kim Scharoff and Tom Troost continue their coverage of the Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon weekend events as they describe their successful completion of the Dark Side Challenge - the 10K and Half Marathon races.

Saturday, April 22 - Dark Side 10K

The 2016 Star Wars Dark Side races at Walt Disney World were inaugural events. As with most first time events, it went okay, but there were things that could have been better. We were excited for the 2017 versions of the next two races because they would both be following a new course.

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The 2017 10K course was a point-to-point race. This meant we were starting in one location in the Magic Kingdom parking lot near the Ticket and Transportation Center, running down closed roads and finishing at the EPCOT parking lot. Due to this fact, we decided to take the race transportation to the start. The 10K race also started earlier at 5:30am (compared to the 5k 6:00am start). We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and had no issues with getting to race start on the Disney buses.

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In the pre-race area at Magic Kingdom everything was well organized. The pre-race character meet and greets were the same characters from Friday and DJ Elliott was spinning tunes to get everyone up and excited to run. The DJ was reminding people to hydrate and that the characters would also be in the finish area. There was plenty of space for folks to hang around before heading to the corrals. We milled about and used the porta potties, which we felt were in ample supply before heading to the corrals. For the 10k, the corrals went from A to F. Each corral was subdivided into two or three waves and were sent off in two minute intervals. Every wave was sent off with fireworks.

For the 10K, we were starting in separate corrals and decided to take different approaches. Tom hung to the back of his corral and Kim went to the front of hers.

Rudy, John and Carissa sent everyone off for the race. We started the race by heading back toward World Drive and got to run through the back side of the toll booths for Magic Kingdom. Within the first half mile, there was a local high school band playing Star Wars music. The kids and their adults were highly enthusiastic, cheering and giving high fives. The first three miles were down World Drive, a divided highway. You needed to stay alert to the side of the road because of construction, but most of it was well lit and well-marked. There were no PhotoPass photographers on the highway portion of the course for action shots, but there were character stops. R2-D2 was in this area of the course. Character photos were also available with Star Wars Rebels, the Emperor's chair and Darth Maul. After running a little more than half way we left World Drive, and snuck in to Hollywood Studios by the back of the Tower of Terror and the Fantasmic show area. At this point, there was an exciting group of cosplayers from the 501st Legion and the Saber Guild.

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As you came out into the Studios, there were some Storm Troopers available to take pictures with.

We made the left onto Hollywood Blvd. to go out the entrance of the Studios. There were lots of Cast Members with light sabers cheering us on at this point and at least 4 to 6 PhotoPass photographers.

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It was now time to go down the path to the Boardwalk and over to EPCOT. This was the only place we felt the course was a bit narrow and bottlenecked a little, although it was not like last year when it came to a complete stop. On the path, they had the Endor speeder bikes out for a photo opportunity. We took the boardwalk past the front of the Yacht and Beach Club. This was nice because there was some shade from the trees and folks out cheering with signs all along the area. We entered EPCOT in World Showcase and Chewbacca was near the backstage entrance by the International Gateway (the same spot as the 5k). We made our way from World Showcase to the front of EPCOT. The Storm Troopers were on the fountain again for photos.

As we headed backstage for the final two tenths of a mile, there were more cosplayers available backstage where the gospel choir is normally during Marathon and Princess weekends. As we approached the finish line, we stopped to talk with race announcers Rudy and John briefly before crossing the finish line with our arms raised in victory.

The finishers area where you get your medals, water and snack boxes was perfect. We stopped to get our photos taken by the PhotoPass photographers.

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As the temperature was getting warm already, we headed to the buses to head back to the resort and had no waits getting right on a bus. One thing that did surprise us was that while there were adequate water stops, there was no Powerade available on the course.


Sunday, April 23 - Dark Side Half Marathon

When we woke up for the half marathon, the temperatures were already in the low 70s. We knew this was going to be a rough one. We got ourselves prepared, made sure we had full water bottles and damp cooling towels and boarded the bus to Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Like the 10K, we got to the pre-race area with plenty of time to spare, but three days of three a.m. wake up calls were taking their toll. We met up with old friends, made some new friends, used the porta potties and casually made our way to the corrals.

While in the corrals, the race announcers were great at reminding everyone to be careful and safe due to the heat. They even got Jeff Galloway on camera to remind us that it was important to watch your pace and to listen to your body. We took the same approach as yesterday with Tom starting in the back of his corral and Kim starting in the front of her corral hoping to meet up early in the race.

The new half marathon course started the same as the 10K by going towards the toll plaza of the Magic Kingdom. The band was there again, doing a great job of motivating the runners as we went by. Then it was time for a few new twists. The course turned off of the familiar World Drive route and they routed us down Bear Island Road. Those who have run the full Marathon or the 2016 Wine & Dine course will recognize this as the road behind the Speedway, running by the water treatment plant.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

R2-D2 was out again early on. Then we ran back in to the quiet and darkness of the 5:30 a.m. start.

As we ran back onto the dark roadway it seemed a little creepy until suddenly we were in the middle of the battle of Endor. There were laser blasts, sound effects and fire balls to make it feel like you were in the middle of the action. This was a great addition to the race.

Also during this stretch, they had out the speeder bikes and meeting with an Ewok around mile 2.6.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We entered Animal Kingdom backstage and made our way into the park. We ran a little backstage, saw some of the holding cages, and then popped onstage near Kali River Rapids. All of the water in Kali was a very cooling thought for what was yet to come. We got to pass by the Nemo theatre, where there were Storm Troopers for photos, and exited the park near Chester & Hester's Dinoland attractions.

We went through a backstage area where there were plenty of cosplayers and then out into the near-park side of the Animal Kingdom parking lot. This can be a long stretch but they did a great job of breaking it up with people cheering and a water stop.

There was also another photo opportunity, the ice cave on Hoth where you had to try to reach out and use the force to recover your light saber. We were a little more than halfway there at this point.

Then the hot happened.

We started on another long highway stretch down Osceola staring into the rising sun. First we got to make jokes about the double suns of Tatooine. The heat jokes got old, so we started the chant “I am one with the Force, and the Force is one with me.” Somehow this morphed in to “I am one with tequila and tequila is one with me.” Heat and humidity can do silly things like that.

We had to run up the circle entrance ramps from Osceola to World Drive and again from World Drive to Buena Vista Drive. The incline on the ramps wasn’t bad, but the sloping of the Florida roads around the circle ramps led to more silly comments as we made our way towards Hollywood Studios. The sun was pushing its way up, and the comparison to living on Darth Vader’s volcanic planet of Mustafar was mentioned.

The clouds blocked the heat a little, but with no breeze it got muggy quickly. The path we followed into and through Studios was the same as the 10K. Back through the Fantasmic Theatre (no cosplayers on Sunday), down Hollywood Boulevard and then out to the park entrance. There were plenty of PhotoPass photographers in this stretch and lots of people were hamming it up for the camera.

The course then went back down the path to the Boardwalk resort where we went closer to the shaded BoardWalk side. It was in this area that there the various running teams out supporting, cheering and having snacks available. We also got to see a famous (?) podcaster who is just a little taller than an Ewok and another section of additional cosplayers.

We entered EPCOT and made the right to go the long way around World Showcase. We joked that we could have ridden the Frozen ride because we hit this part at park opening. The lack of an open margarita stand was also pointed out. We continued to make out way to the front of EPCOT. There was a final group of cosplayers in the backstage area again.

After seeing our favorite race announcers near the end we tried to dance our way across the finish line and learned that Kim has much better rhythm than Tom.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As we made our way through the finish area, we were given our medals and the blessed relief of new cooling towels. The medical volunteers were out in full force encouraging us to hydrate hydrate hydrate.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We got medals and finish line pictures, and they had beer and food available in the reunion area, as well as merchandise opportunities for people who missed out at the expo, but Tom was too tired. We hopped right on to a bus for a ride back to the hotel.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

While we were smart with hydrating and using cooling towels during the race, this was a tough one. The new courses were a refreshing change from what we are used to running. The minimal crowding on the course made it very enjoyable to run. With lots of time on open roads the crowd was able to thin out and you got an excellent balance of open running time mixed with some time spent in the parks and seeing characters.

We would recommend these races to those who are Star Wars fans. We believe that as Disney does more with the Star Wars franchise we will see more variety of characters on course and ultimately a change in the course when Star Wars Land opens. This weekend certainly wins most improved over the inaugural experience and it will continue to get better with time.


From Laura: I'd like to say a huge thank you to Kim, Tom, and Molly for sharing their experiences at the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend with us! After reading their blogs I'm seriously considering signing up for the Challenge again next year...







April 29, 2017

2017 Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, Part 1: Expo and 5K

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Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Lee and I did not attend any of the events of this year's Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side weekend, so I prevailed upon friends to blog about the race weekend instead. Kim Scharoff and Molly and Tom Troost collaborated on notes and photos, and Kim wrote Part 1. A big thank you to all of them!

Thursday, April 20 - Expo

Tom, Molly and I are veteran runDisney runners and know that the Expo can be crazy at opening, so we decided to wait until later in the day. We drove over to the Expo around 3:30pm. We had no problem getting parking and walked right in.

The set up was the standard for WDW events - bibs in one building and Expo in another. While all of us printed out waivers prior, we forgot them at home and needed to print them on site. This was extremely easy to do. We were able to quickly get our bibs - all of us for the 5k and Tom and me for the Challenge.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

In the same area where we picked up our bibs, the race shirts were available. The shirts were gray, maroon, and red, with black writing to keep with the Dark Side theme.

(Laura's comment: Of course there was a gray shirt. There's ALWAYS a gray shirt.)

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Upstairs there was a merchandise area. Tom went to pick up some commemorative items that he had pre-ordered while Molly and I went to check out the merchandise.

The merchandise was well stocked. It had race specific items as well as Star Wars generic items. We did not see pins in this area or the "I did it!" shirts.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We went back outside and across to the main Expo. We first went to the runDisney merchandise area. Again, there appeared to be no shortage of anything. In addition, this area had the pins and shirts. Molly and I both purchased capri sweatpants that were Star Wars themed. Going through checkout was simple as well, requiring a less than 5 minute wait.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We walked around the remainder of the Expo, checked out some of the exhibitors and picked up a couple of items that we needed. New Balance sneakers were readily available and easy to purchase with no wait. I was able to basically walk right up and speak with Jeff and Barb Galloway and get my usual picture with Jeff.

We were done within 2 hours and headed off for dinner prior to calling it any early night since we knew the morning would be an early one.

Friday, April 21 - Dark Side 5K

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Since the 5k was the usual EPCOT 5k that everyone knows from Marathon and Princess weekend, we drove over early so we could explore the pre-race area, and arrived at 4:00. Going through security to get in was easy. They continued with the bag vs. no bag lines and considered someone with a water belt as no bag.

DJ Elliot was spinning the tunes to get everyone pumped up. There were 7 picture back drops/characters that you could take photos with - Rogue One, Boba Fett with a carbonite Han Solo, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, and BB-8. We were able to quickly get Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and BB-8, never waiting more than 15 minutes.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Darth Vader

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Kylo Ren

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side BB-8

By that time, the lines had gotten long and for the first time, runDisney had signs with estimated wait times for each character. The ground was also nicely marked for moving the lines.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We made sure to make our way to the corrals with time to spare before the 6:00 race start. We were starting from corral C so that we could all stay together as we walked this race. There were the usual 5 corrals. Prior to the start we were reminded of proper course etiquette. It was relatively cool for Florida in April - about 61 degrees at the start, but quite humid.

Storm Troopers came out and told us this was Level One of our training. This was the same script that was used last year.

Rather than release an entire corral at once, they subdivided the corrals into 2 or 3 waves and released them at 2 minute intervals. This definitely helped to reduce some of the crowding on course.

Once on course, we felt they had a nice selection of characters. Less than a mile into the race, there were two Ewoks. The line was long when we got there and we decided not to stop, which is something we regretted later. We kept going and right before entering EPCOT near Test Track, the Emperor's Chair was available for runners to sit and take photos.

R2D2 and Star Wars Rebels were available in World Showcase for photos. Chewie was also in his usual spot for the runDisney events on the path near the International Gateway which allows for plenty of space for a long line. As you came near the Fountain in Future Wold, there were Storm Troopers on the ledge to take pictures with but without a PhotoPass photographer which we thought a bit strange.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We saw lots of cool costumes, especially mash-up type costumes and we even dressed as droids. We got lots of great photos from the PhotoPass Photographers stationed throughout the course.

Of course, right before we crossed the finish line, we had to stop and talk with race announcers Rudy Novotny and John Pelky and take a selfie.

We all enjoyed the 5k race. Molly was now done racing for the weekend but Tom and I had two more races to go....

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side







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