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July 24, 2017

Fantasmic! Dining Package

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Fantasmic 2017

Fantasmic! is back at Disneyland. It was a lengthy absence due to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge construction (so nice to finally have a real name for that project!) which required re-routing the Rivers of America and closing all of the water-related attractions, as well as the Disneyland Railroad.

Jeanine saw the premiere of the new version of Fantasmic! on Monday, July 17. You can read about the changes and see a full video of the show in
her blog.

Access to the viewing areas for Fantasmic! that are right along the Rivers of America requires a Fastpass, though there are standby viewing areas on the upper tiers available on a first come, first serve, basis. Fastpasses are available to anyone at no charge (note that you can NOT use the MaxPass feature to book Fastpasses for Fantasmic! or World of Color). The Fastpass kiosks are next to the Mark Twain dock along the Rivers of America. These still deliver a paper Fastpass that must be presented for access to the Fastpass viewing areas. The area to return to will be identified on the ticket, e.g. Mark Twain Dock.

For those who wish a premium viewing experience, there are several dining packages available at various price points. These packages include access to what are arguably the best viewing areas for the show. Both Blue Bayou and River Belle Terrace offer a three-course prix fixe menu. They share the premium viewing area: in the center, in the first tier along the water. Blue Bayou is $65 for adults and $25 for kids 3-9. River Belle Terrace is $45/$25. River Belle offers a premium option: for an additional $15 guests can dine at 8:00 and watch the 9:00 show from their tables at the restaurant. This option can only be booked by calling Disneyland Dining.

Hungry Bear Restaurant offers an on-the-go option. Meals are packaged in a box and include a bottled beverage. Guests can choose to dine at the Hungry Bear's seating area or take the meal with them. A ticket for the preferred viewing area will be provided at time of pickup and payment - at this writing it is to the left of the premium viewing area. The price is $29.99 for adults and 19.99 for kids 3-9.

Blue Bayou Fantasmic! Menu
River Belle Terrace Fantasmic! Menu
Hungry Bear Restaurant Fantasmic! Menu

Lee and I tried the River Belle Terrace package on Friday night. We did not opt for the premium option. While it would be nice to have an actual chair to sit in for the show, the viewing from River Belle is somewhat obstructed, and not nearly as close as being right by the water.

When I made the reservation on-line at Disneyland.com I was automatically assigned to the first show - which was what I wanted. Reservations can be made starting at 4:00 p.m., our time was 5:10. We arrive at the restaurant about 15 minutes early, but they were able to seat us right away. The hostess verified that we were there for the package and for the 9:00 Fantasmic! show. She gave us a choice of inside or outside seating - we chose to sit outside in the shade. It's really quite lovely being outside in the shade on a warm summer evening! Much quieter than sitting inside.

River Belle Terrace

Our meal was a modified version of the regular River Belle Terrace menu. Soft drink was included. As a starter we had a choice of the House Salad or Corn Chowder. I had the salad, which normally is served with Gorgonzola, but I requested that be left off. It had arugula, shredded apple, dried cranberries and candied pecans. It was a generous serving, and I enjoyed it.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Salad

Lee tried the Corn Chowder. Lots of kernels of fresh corn in it. He said it was very good, and that the peppers on top were a garnish and there weren't more in the soup. (I don't like peppers.)

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Corn Chowder

Most of the entrees from the regular menu were available to us. I ordered the Oven-Roasted BBQ Half Chicken. It came with baked beans and my choice of another side: seasoned tater tots, potato salad, green beans or tangy coleslaw. I asked our server if "tangy" meant the coleslaw had peppers, but she didn't know, so I went with the tater tots. The chicken was nicely cooked, though it needed more BBQ sauce, which our server brought out as a side. The tater tots were lightly seasoned - they could have been hotter. My favorite part was the baked beans - there were black beans mixed in with them, as well as bacon. Lee thought they were a little too sweet, but I like them that way.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic BBQ Chicken

Lee tried the Pork Spareribs. I thought the dish was nicely presented. The ribs were very tender and easily came off the bone. I didn't care for the spice rub on them, but Lee enjoyed them. He ordered the potato salad as a side. Neither of us liked it - the potatoes were a little firm, and there was something in the dressing that gave it a slightly reddish tint and an odd flavor.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Pork Ribs

For dessert I ordered the Maleficent Dragon. That dessert was the reason I'd chosen River Belle Terrace instead of Blue Bayou. :-) Crunchy milk chocolate base with caramel mousse and a spiced dark chocolate-blackberry ganache center. The "flame" sauce was orange-vanilla. It was very good, and surprisingly complex for a mass-produced theme park location.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Maleficent Dessert

The ganache in the middle WAS spicy - but we didn't taste it immediately, it was pretty late on the palate. A little too spicy for me, though I still really enjoyed the dessert.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Maleficent Dessert

I had fun playing with the white chocolate pieces. :-)

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Maleficent Dessert

Lee chose the Strawberry Shortcake. It was good but not exceptional...he liked my dessert better - he finished off my ganache. :-)

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Strawberry Shortcake

The service was good, except it seemed like they were in a hurry to get us out of there. They brought our entrees just a few minutes after our appetizers - we were no where close to finished with them. Our server was going to bring the desserts soon after clearing the entree plates, but we asked for a few minutes to digest first. So that ended up being the right amount of time between courses.

Our server brought us our Fantasmic! tickets when we paid for the meal. The viewing area opens an hour ahead of the show; she recommended getting there at least 30 minutes in advance.

River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Fastpass ticket

We received a 15% annual passholder discount on the meal, but with tax and tip it was still about $100 for the two of us. Given what a three course meal, plus beverage, would have cost us on the regular menu, we only paid about $5 for the Fantasmic! ticket. Now, on a normal evening would we have dined at River Belle Terrace? No, but we did it to get the premium viewing of Fantasmic!

We went back to the Rivers of America area about 8:30. It was pretty crowded, though there was still a fair bit of standby area available - Jason was able to get a good spot at almost center stage at 8:30. Our server had told us there would be a sign near Haunted Mansion telling us where to go, but we didn't see any signs at all. We asked a cast member in the area and she directed us - the entrance was down near the water close to the Harbour Galley.

There were two entrances there: one for "regular" Fastpasses, and one for those with Premium viewing. Our Fastpasses were checked several times as we made our way along the river before we were directed into a viewing area near center stage. I was surprised to see that people who had the Blue Bayou package (identifiable because they were given seat cushions as part of their package) were sitting in the same section with us. It seems like they don't distinguish between Blue Bayou and River Belle in the preferred viewing areas.

Everyone had to sit on the ground in the preferred viewing area, with the exception of some people in ECVs who were allowed to sit on their vehicles at the back. A few people had been smart enough to bring blankets, and of course the Blue Bayou guests had their cushions. We were quite envious. :-)

The show...Wow. The projection system was updated and the projections on the mist screens were so much clearer, brighter, and more vibrant than they have been in the past.

Fantasmic 2017 Magic Mirror

In addition, the stage area on Tom Sawyer Island was digitally mapped. Projections are used to great effect to add depth and interest to the background area.

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The fountains were also upgraded - it seemed to me like they featured more movement and color, a la World of Color.

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This is a new version of Fantasmic!, and as you would expect, there are some new elements to the show - which means the removal of some older elements. The most controversial, I think, was the decision to remove Captain Hook and Peter Pan from the Sailing Ship Columbia and feature Jack Sparrow instead. I missed the charm of the Peter Pan version, though there is non-stop action and some fairly impressive stunts in the new one.

Fantasmic pirate ship

There are a number of new animated scenes featuring characters from "The Lion King", "Finding Nemo", and "The Little Mermaid".

Fantasmic 2017 Lion King

The movie "Aladdin" is featured prominently: Mickey interacts with a mist screen Genie to "Friend Like Me", and Aladdin and Jasmine float on their flying carpet to "Whole New World". I was a little disappointed in that scene: early press releases had described them as floating over a bed of fog, but there was little fog to be seen, and in fact we could see the support of the carpet.

Fantasmic 2017 Aladdin Jasmine

Flynn Rider and Rapunzel replace Snow White and her prince in the princess sequence. I thought the background of the island with the lantern projections worked very well there. Though that's not exactly new - it seems like every current Disney show has that particular scene and song from Tangled.

Fantasmic 2017 Tangled

Other than the Magic Mirror, the animation of the villains sequence looked basically the same - a little shorter. The quality of of the projections seemed noticeably inferior to me compared to the newer segments. I was surprised that they weren't upgraded. Nice to see the huge dragon back - though now it's Sorcerer Mickey that battles her rather than Brave Little Tailor Mickey.

Fantasmic 2017 dragon

Mickey is quite a bit more present in the new show as a live figure on stage, though he also appears in animation.

Fantasmic 2017 Sorcerer Mickey

I really liked the new show. Overall it looks so much better than it did before. Since it's so much brighter I hope it will be easier to view even for those guests who don't have the prime viewing spot that we did.

Since we saw the early 9:00 show, we were able to stay in the viewing area to watch the Remember, Dreams Come True fireworks show. Disney added projections on the Rivers of America mist screens for the 60th anniversary Disneyland Forever fireworks, and there are projections for the Remember show, also.

Remember Dreams Come True Fantasmic 2017

Different than what we would see on the castle if we were on Main Street, though much clearer and more visible than they are on the castle.

Remember Dreams Come True Fantasmic 2017

If you want a guaranteed good viewing location for Fantasmic!, then I think reserving one of the dining packages is an excellent option. Choosing River Belle Terrace and Blue Bayou will give you equally good viewing, so I think it's a matter of the price and which menu you prefer. The Hungry Bear viewing area will not be quite as good, but still better than you're likely to get with a regular Fastpass ticket, and that dinner package is certainly cheaper than the other two. But there's less food included with the Hungry Bear option, so in some ways it's a lesser value.







July 19, 2017

Happy 62nd Anniversary, Disneyland! Welcome Back, Fantasmic!

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On July 17th, 2017, Disneyland celebrated its 62nd anniversary as a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

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As part of an anniversary moment, the Disneyland Ambassadors, the Dapper Dans, the Disneyland Band, and 62 of the classic Disney characters gathered for the traditional playing of Walt Disney's opening day speech, a little song, a little dance, and a whole lot of confetti.

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One of the anniversary gifts Disneyland chose to share with us that day was the opening of a brand new "Fantasmic!"

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New scenes to the long-running nighttime spectacular include Aladdin and Jasmine flying their carpet to the strains of "A Whole New World,"

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Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates of the Caribbean on board the Columbia,

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and the addition of new characters from "Tangled," "The Lion King," "Finding Nemo," and "Aladdin."

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With the new emergence of projection mapping as the universally favorite show modality, there is no lack of it here. The whole surface of the Tom Sawyer Island stage has been digitally mapped and all technical elements of the show upgraded to provide clearer, brighter images on the island and the water.

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Whether you are new to the show or a long time "Fantasmic!" fanatic, you will surely want to come by and check out this updated version. Are the powers of Mickey’s incredible imagination still strong enough and bright enough to withstand the evil forces that invade Mickey’s dream? You are about to find out.

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July 18, 2017

D23 Expo: "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films"

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Expo time is here! That once-every-two-year weekend where D23 throws a huge celebration of all things Disney for just you and around 65,000 of your closest friends. I'm attending this weekend and will try to report back on the highlights.

One of the highlights of the first day was the Animation panel "Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Upcoming Films," in which John Lasseter and his special guests presented some of the many animation projects currently in the works for both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Pixar.

Introducing the panel was Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn who showed a brief montage of a lot of the upcoming films, animated and live-action. After the crowd went berserk over a quick view of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the remake of "Mary Poppins," he joked that the demand was such that they would bring back a version of "Mary Poppins" every fifty years.

[All photos and video provided by Disney.]

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He then introduced John Lasseter who came out with a t-shirt cannon and merrily shot shirts into the crowds. (I did not get a shirt.)

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After he finished lobbing projectiles into the audience, he began by introducing a clip called "Speed Test" from a Disneytoon Studio featurette as yet unnamed, which showed some fighter jets (with the trademark sentient vehicle eyes) and which will take a look at the future of Aviation. It will open April 12, 2019.

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Next Lasseter turned his attention to Walt Disney Animation Studios and their next visit back to Arendelle, "Olaf's Frozen Adventure," which will open with Pixar's "Coco."

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To help introduce the story of Olaf's quest to find some holiday traditions for the previously-estranged royal siblings Anna and Elsa, Kristen Bell took the stage.

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Unfortunately, as they began to play a clip from the short, the audio mysteriously cut out and who but Josh Gad should come to the rescue, singing one of the songs, “That Time of Year,” written by Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson, live with the animation track running behind him.

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Subsequently, Josh Gad noted that he was glad Olaf finally got a film where he was the star. Bell pointed out that it was really an ensemble effort, to which Gad replied "really? it's not called 'ENSEMBLE's Frozen Adventure!'"

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Moving on to "Frozen 2," not a whole lot of information was given, except that the original cast would be back, and it wouldn't be titled "Thawed." The original production team of Co-directors Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Producer Peter del Vecchio are all returning, and have already gone on a research trip around Scandinavia to prepare for it. It will open November 27, 2019.

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The next film up was the sequel to "Wreck-It Ralph," "Ralph Breaks the Internet." Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, who returns as the voice of Vanellope von Schweetz, showed clips of BFFs Ralph and Vanellope escaping their arcade into the Internet. A new character, Yesss, was introduced, with actress Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”) doing voice duty for her.

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They then showed a rough animation sequence where Vanellope and Ralph go to the Oh My Disney website and meet up with all manners of Disney consumers (I am reasonably certain the Tsum Tsum obsessed girl was not modeled after me.) Later, Vanellope has an encounter with a huge number of Disney princesses that is as hilarious as it is audacious for a company usually so careful with its property usage. It's not as coarse as, say, Shrek, but comes close to the same sensibility. All the original voice actresses came back: Auli‘i Cravalho (“Moana”), Kristen Bell (Anna in “Frozen”), Kelly MacDonald (Merida in “Brave”), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in “Tangled”), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog”), Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in “Aladdin”), Paige O’Hara (Belle in “Beauty and the Beast”) and Jodi Benson (Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,”) and in fact came out on stage for the largest grouping of Disney Princesses ever. "Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2" is opening November 21, 2018.

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Moving on to "Incredibles 2," they began with a video clip showing various models and designers giving tribute to one of the great design minds of our time, Edna Mode.

Subsequently Director Brad Bird did Edna Mode as a voice over where she finally agreed to come onstage "but only in the form of a disillusioned middle-aged man."

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In their new, mid-century modern design house, the Parrs resume life as a family that just happens to have super powers. Mrs. Incredible fights crime while Mr. Incredible does a stint as a stay-at-home Dad to baby Jack Jack. For the story, Bird promises new allies and enemies, with appearances from old friends as well.

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Bird was joined onstage with the cast of "Incredibles 2" which included all the original voices (Mr. and Mrs. Incredible--Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter, Violet--Sarah Vowell, and Frozone--Samuel L. Jackson) with the exception of Dash, now played by Huck Milner.

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After all the actors took turns giving newcomer Milner some helpful career advice (Jackson: "Never read the comments.") they showed a short clip from the film, depicting Jack Jack still manifesting his powers while putting the smackdown on a raccoon. "Incredibles 2" is scheduled for release on June 15, 2018.

Lasseter then made the announcement that on "Toy Story 4," he would no longer be co-directing, but that Pixar veteran Josh Cooley would be the full director. While they had no footage ready at this early date, they did show a short docu/mocumentary on a typical day in the life of a Pixar director. "Toy Story 4" has an opening date of June 21, 2019.

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"Monster's University" director Dan Scanlon then presented the concept behind "Untitled Dan Scanlon Movie." It will be set in a magical suburb, in a world where magic exists, but at a level of difficulty that most utilize contemporary technology instead. There are no humans--just elves, trolls, and sprites, and unicorns are rodents. The story is based on Scanlon's personal history of having lost his father at a young age, and revolves around two teenage elves in a similar situation, who embark on a journey to spend one last magical day with their father.

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Finally, director Lee Unkrich, co-director and screenwriter Adrian Molina and producer Darla K. Anderson presented "Coco," in which Miguel, a young boy from a music-hating family, dreams of a career as a musician. His desperation to follow in his deceased idol's footsteps causes him to defy his family's wishes and earns him a trip to the Land of the Dead.

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Michael Giacchino is in charge of the score, while the main song "Remember Me," is penned by "Frozen's" Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. As a finale, guests at the presentation were treated to the first ever public performance of "Remember Me," with special guest Benjamin Bratt (voice of Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel's musical inspiration) singing it along with 160 performers including the Grammy-winning Mariachi Divas de Cindy Shea and Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles.

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"Coco" will be in theaters Nov. 22, 2017.

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July 9, 2017

Helpful Hints for the Infrequent Conventioneer

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In case you are one of the vast majority of Mankind who does not regularly read my missives here, I regularly attend a lot of events--particularly conventions--of a variety of subjects and emphases. As we are once again approaching Disney's arguably largest event, D23 Expo, I thought it might be useful to share some general observations that might help people organize their thoughts for enjoyable con-going.

Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail:
Yes, this is a trite saying, and it also is a true one--painfully so, as many attendees of many conventions can attest. Unless a convention is a reasonably small affair where guests are pretty much guaranteed to be able to see every offering, there will be far more going on than you could possibly see or do, and far more people wanting to see or do each thing than could possible fit in the event's capacity. Consequently, it's a crucial thing to try to figure out your goals in advance. Do you love shopping and merchandise? Are you an autograph hound? Is your passion checking out exhibits? If you don't go over the schedules and lists of what's available, you'll run a good chance of missing out on the things you really want to see.

Personally, I mainly enjoy watching as many presentations on different topics as I can, which offers its own unique challenges. As a general rule, programming schedules are often set up to force choices between popular panels in order to break up crowds and lines. You need to prioritize the things you want to see vs the things you don't care about so much, vs the things you would sell your mother to see.

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Some things you might want to consider:
--Make a list of the panels you want to see. Then make a "plan B" and sometimes a "plan C" in case you don't get into the panels you want to see.
--Be realistic about your "plan B" and don't make it the same time as "plan A," because by the time you find out "plan A" isn't going to work, you'll have already missed your opportunity for "plan B."
--Look at a map and see how far apart the rooms are. If you want to see two panels twenty minutes apart and one is on the third floor of the convention center and the next one is in the ballroom of a hotel three blocks away, you are probably not going to make it.
--Have a sense of how popular the panels are going to be. Looking at the Expo schedule, there will be one panel on Disney Studios' Live Action films. Given the popularity of the MCU, and that they've already announced that "Star Wars" won't be making an appearance at SDCC this year, there will probably be a huge amount of interest in this, and likely a lineup that will start the night before. On the other hand, the Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media are doing Pancake Art demonstrations several times a day each day, so expect an easier time seeing that.
--Go all in, or not at all. If you know you have to see a thing, then get there hours (sometimes a day) ahead to scope out how bad the line is. If you blow that opportunity, then my best advice is to just show up 10-30 minutes beforehand and hope for the best. At least then, if you don't get in, you didn't invest that much time in finding out and were available to do something else in the meantime. What you don't want to do is start waiting an hour or two ahead of time in a line where everyone who is going to get in lined up three to four hours ago. I once spoke to a mother and daughter behind me in line who said they had spent their entire Expo day going from one line to the next, waiting a couple hours, and then not getting in. Don't Be Those People.

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Know How To Get What You Want If What You Want Is To Collect Things:
Check in advance whether your favorite companies or product lines have booths, and whether they are offering any limited edition items you want. If you know you will die coming home without that specific one-day-only-special-edition thing, you also need to look at a map of the floor and find out where that booth is, because you will likely only get one shot to safely hustle your way over there first thing at opening to get in line for it. Check official twitter accounts and webpages that are live reporting such things to see what the lines are like in advance--at SDCC, people regularly sleep out overnight to be the first ones into the Mattel or Hasbro booths, so this can be serious business. Know also that booth lines are not necessarily at the booths: In order to free up the passageways that can get clogged with huge lines, people are frequently lined up against the walls of the exhibitor's floor and then walked over in groups as people leave the booth. If you rush over to a booth for a popular item, and then realize the line is actually halfway across the room, it's probably going to be capped by the time you get over there and find it.

Also try to do the bulk of your shopping as early as possible, hopefully before the convention actually starts, if you can. Recently, I've been seeing a marked increase (even at Disney events) in sellers bringing merchandise in woefully insufficient amounts, often selling out by the end of preview night. While some booths will only sell a certain amount each day and then restock each night, some, either by design or accident, will just blow out all their goods immediately and then, I guess, just take a nap for the next couple days. Check sizing as well, if you're looking at t-shirts: Mickey's of Glendale and PIXAR are notorious for selling women's shirts in styles that run considerably smaller than most.

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...But Maybe You Shouldn't:
There are a lot of booths, and most of them will be giving away something: Art lithographs, posters, brochures, shirts, books...sometimes even chairs. In every case, as soon as people see there's something being passed out, huge mobs will form to try to get it. If you're desperate, you can usually tough it out in line, or haunt a given booth to try to time when they start distributing. Unfortunately, after a certain amount of time, it can be hard to know if you are desperate because you actually want something, or just because the crowd mentality has driven you insane and made you believe that it's reasonable to stand in line for 45 minutes for a paper tube (PSA: I've done this.) Sometimes you should step back and really consider whether it's worth spending your time and effort to get something that's just going to sit untouched in the free convention-provided tote bag in the corner of your room for the next five years.

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DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO

Security Might Not Make You Safer, But It Will Make You Late:
With the increased anxiety everyone has nowadays about security, measures to get into different panels and the convention itself have gotten increasingly elaborate and time-consuming. Unless you have some sort of priority access to entering in the morning, you may want to consider showing up hours early in case the given event decides it needs to search your bags, make you go through metal detectors, etc. As you remember from the airport, this takes forever with just your every-day people, but at a con where every third cosplayer has multiple bags with food, electronics, and prop weaponry, this can stretch into an eternity. I just finished attending one event where some people waited over five hours to get in the first day, and the lines stretched over blocks, snarling traffic so bad it took me 90 minutes just to circle the building to find parking. Few hate mornings more than I, but this is one time where you have to bite the bullet if you want to maximize your time.

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Everybody Has To Eat:
Eventually, you are probably going to expect to eat during the day, but where? And when? If the eating options in the convention center are limited, expect long lines that may cut into the event you wanted to see afterwards. It also goes without saying that the prices will be higher than normal, and the quality somewhat lower. You can bring your own food, assuming you have the energy and time to do it when you stagger back home exhausted each day, but then know that a lot of meeting rooms won't allow food or drinks. There may be only a comparative handful of tables and chairs in any convention center, and by and large you can't even sit on the ground most places, or people will come and yell at you to leave before the Fire Marshal declares you a hazard. I'm particularly bad at meal planning and have spent more than one con week subsiding on a diet of M&Ms and kettle corn.

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...But Maybe You Shouldn't:
Look, there's no doubt that the healthiest thing for you is to eat regular meals, but just be aware that any time not spent getting in line can make or break you for the next thing. I remember being in one panel and discussing with the woman next to me that we both wanted to go to the book-signing right afterwards. She went to the restroom and I didn't, and that's why we ended up meeting again, this time on opposite sides of the line cut-off rope.

On Q&A:
I have seen a lot of Q&A in my time, and some of it has been very insightful, and some of it has been at least interesting, and a WHOLE LOT of it has been reeeaaally bad. People are entitled to say whatever they want, of course, but for all that is Holy, I beg you to reflect on this.

Your question might be a bad question if:
--You start off saying "well, I guess this isn't really a question..."
--The topic can really only be of any interest to you and your immediate family.
--You are requesting one of the panelists touch you in a sexual or even non-sexual manner.
--You have been talking for over five minutes and have still not gotten to anything remotely close to a question.
--What you are saying is insulting/hostile/demanding/racist/sexist/terrible.
--The moderator tries to stop you by saying "we're not answering questions on that today."
--The moderator tries to stop you by saying "NO, DON'T COME UP HERE."
--You want someone on the panel to take a selfie with you or autograph an item.
--You are rapping.

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As Long As You've Got Your Health:
Con crud is a real thing. You're going to be stuck in a number of rooms and corridors with literally thousands of other people, some of whom are going to be Patient Zero for some horrific disease. You're going to be jammed into crowds where you can barely move because the cast of "Agents of SHIELD" are out on a table signing autographs and everyone wants a photo and the guy next to you is coughing non-stop into your face. Pity the poor celebrities, who are constantly assaulted with pleas for hugs/kisses/handshakes from everyone--no wonder they all charge >$100 for a picture nowadays. I actually found it fascinating that at Anime Expo (a convention I'll talk about in another blog soon) most of the predominantly Asian celebrities specified for autograph sessions "NO HIGH FIVES."

To a certain point there's nothing you can do. If you crap out and it's your turn to get some debilitating cold, you're going to get it. The best you can do for your immune system is to get as much sleep as you can, eat appropriately, and use hand sanitizer liberally. I'm also a huge believer in just holding your breath as long as you can in ultra crowded conditions--I've also considered using masks as they do in Japan, although those are more effective if the sick people use them.

As always, nothing is universal, and for many people none of these suggestions will be applicable. Some people don't have any goals or expectations going into these things, and are content to just wander around taking in the sights and then going home when the crowds become oppressive. Other people purchase priority access memberships ("Sorcerer's Package" for D23 Expo and "Master Jedi VIP" for Star Wars Celebration) which enable them to bypass the worst of the lines at a sizeable cost. That even at $2,250 the Sorcerer's Packages sold out in seconds is a measure of how valuable people find that advantage. Here, as is often the case, "money talks" and the rest of us...wait in line.

See you at the Expo!

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July 4, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates from June 30

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, June 30, 2017 to kick off the 4th of July weekend.

Let's start with a video overview of the Disneyland Star Wars construction site from the Mickey and Friends parking structure.


A steel tower that will support the rock facade of the Millennium Falcon building is now in place.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

Looking toward Critter Country, trees have started to be planted on the new berm.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

The support structure for the exterior (and interior) walls of the battle escape building is taking shape.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

To the right of the large show building this concrete structure continues to grow. Looks like supports being set up inside for a second story.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

Splitsville steel structure is being assembled in Downtown Disney.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

I finally spotted Cruz Ramirez in Cars Land. She has been making the rounds for a couple of weeks but I have had bad timing and missed her.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

A video clip of Cruz on the move.


The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performing for the holiday. Here is a series of video clips from the United States Air Force Honor Guard performing at Disney California Adventure.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

Work has wrapped up on the Adventureland re-organization/renovation project. Tropical Imports is now stroller parking.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

South Seas Traders and the Outpost are now a seating area and the fruit stand moved in.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Shrunken Ned is in the center of the room.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
In the back there is a bar area to stand around, some standing tables and some regular tables.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

The former Outpost, the upper seating area, is much smaller and was busy so only a couple quick pictures of the area.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

Beyond Bengal you can see a new palm tree. The small seating area that was there is now removed opening up the walkway more.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

Moving out to Tom Sawyer Island now. Looking toward the Hungry Bear and what will eventually be a walk way into the Star Wars area, more concrete has been poured and most of the walkway looks complete now. Just one section was still awaiting concrete.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

The scaffolding is being removed on the eastern/Frontierland side rock work.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
The eagle has a new nest and is in a more visible location.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
In the distance scaffolding is removed and they are patching up the holes from where the toothpick/steel was.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

The train trestle in Critter Country is complete.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
To mark the return of the Rivers of America there is a small scavenger hunt going on.There are six cards available at various locations in Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Frontierland highlighting the returning attractions. These are free while supplies last (they were out of the Fantasmic cards on Friday).
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

If you flip the cards over they form a map of Tom Sawyer Island. Note my missing spot since they were out of the Fantasmic cards.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

The United States Air Force Honor Guard arriving for its Town Square performance.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

A video clip of the US Air Force Honor Guard in Town Square at Disneyland.


Returned to Town Square for the Flag Retreat.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

The Disneyland All-American College Band Star Wars Medley during their 6:05 p.m. set.


Stopped by the Royal Theatre at 7:15 p.m. to see the All-American College Band.This evening they were joined by Wayne Bergeron.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

Wayne Bergeron performing with the 2017 All-American College Band in the Royal Theatre.


The Cars 3 preview has ended and Tough to Be a Bug has returned.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 2017

To Honor America.. fitting for this 4th of July weekend.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 30, 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.








June 27, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - FastPass Scanners, Disneyland Railroad Readies for Opening

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, June 23, 2017. This week Jason noted that the new FastPass scanners were operational, and that the Disneyland Railroad was running tests in preparation for its reopening next month. A couple video clips of the Star Wars Construction taken from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure.

The large battle escape attraction building continues to grow.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

To the right and park side of the building more forms are up.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

The Millennium Falcon attraction building: on the right you can see the curve on the front of the building.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Looking toward Critter Country.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

My first stop today was Disney California Adventure. The Summer Of Heroes Showcase has movie posters over the Award Wieners seating area.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

In the main waiting area are Four Avenger costumes and props. The film consisted of a series of clips from most of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was presented in 2D and had a running time of under 7 minutes.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Mr. Incredible in Paradise Pier, Mrs. Incredible was nearby, too.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

The new FastPass scanners are now in use. They scan your park ticket. Paper FastPasses are now considered "Reminder notices".
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Signs are up at the distribution points informing you of the new process. The guide maps do NOT note this.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Because of the low crowds and quick return times for some attractions you could hold several FastPasses at once.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

The 2017 All-American College Band was performing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. This is the All-American College Band performing a Disneyland attraction medley.


Another section of concrete was poured on the new walkway along the Rivers of America in Critter Country, which will one day lead to the Star Wars area.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Note the walls/scrim on the second floor of the Hungry Bear Restaurant were partially removed.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017
Over on the east side of the island, the Indian Village appears to have gone backwards. On the left note plants waiting to be planted.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

More wildlife showing up along the Rivers of America.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

A beaver has joined the scene.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Back on the mainland, the view from Critter Country.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

The walls are down where the temporary walkway used to connect to the Hungry Bear lower level and water has returned to the creek.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Here you can see all the walls on the right are gone as they prepare to reopen this Hungry Bear seating area.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

A sign near the New Orleans Square station announces the return of the railroad. I also spotted this same sign in Town Square.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

From the Monorail, here's a view of the Splitsville work.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Back in New Orleans Square a poster on the return of the Rivers of America and Fantasmic!
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Stopped by the New Orleans Square station and saw the C.K. Holliday arriving. They have started to conduct test runs of the Disneyland Railroad after the construction crews finish for the day.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

A video clip of the C.K. Holliday arriving at New Orleans Square Station.


I moved over to the Big Thunder Trail to see the train go by there. Here are some video clips of the Holliday passing by the Big Thunder Trail area.


The Holliday steaming by.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

You should get some nice views of Big Thunder from the train now.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017
The Lily Belle passing by.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Spotted the Ward Kimball making the rounds too.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Some of the cars were not quite show-ready yet.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

The Lilly Belle passing by the Big Thunder Trail.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Ron Carter was a guest of the All-American College Band this evening.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Ron Carter with the All-American College Band.


The Backlot Dance Party takes place nightly from 8 p.m. to park closing.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Back to Disneyland, Scot Bruce was performing Elvis music at Tomorrowland Terrace this evening.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Toad Hall this evening. Quiet because the area is closed off for the fireworks.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017
I returned to the Rivers of America to take pictures of the projections during Remember Dreams Come True. The area is pleasant right now with no Fantasmic! running.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 23, 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.






June 25, 2017

Recap: E3 2017

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So once again it's time for a look at this year's E3--the preeminent trade show for electronic entertainment. Here is where most of the major game companies make their big announcements and trailer releases for the year.

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So the big change-up this year was the addition of non-industry/media folk to the mix. For the first time anyone--even you, Dear Reader--could purchase a ticket for all three days of E3 for $150-250. That this was coming down the pike might have been anticipated from last year's E3, which also promoted a mini-E3 off-site for the general public.

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With several of the big game companies (such as EA and Bethesda) either not participating or having their focus on off-site installations, the first day on the Exhibitor's Floor was pretty much a madhouse.

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Booths were so jammed full of people, you could barely move in some of the closer passageways. Fortunately, after the first day, crowds seemed to die down quite a bit and it was actually possible to get a look around.

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As is usual for any big convention, photo-ops and selfie opportunities abounded.

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Because of the prohibitive wait times and my fondness for oxygen, I didn't shove my way into many demos this year, but as is typically the case, all the new games in the works were introduced in the various big company press conferences that took place prior to E3.

[Advisory: Games are rough, and some of the trailers depict language and activities you might not want emulated in your household. Watcher beware.]


Playstation


XBox


Nintendo


EA


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On the whole, the games that seemed to generate the most buzz online and around the floor were Marvel's Spider-Man,

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Super Mario Odyssey,

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of War,

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Star Wars: Battlefront II,

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and Monster Hunter World.

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Also new to this year was the addition of panel discussions to E3. Previously there was no formal programming--just demos that were often back in meeting rooms for invitation only. Perhaps because they were now charging admission they felt the need for more content and took over The Novo (a club in the L.A. Live complex) and turned it into the E3 Coliseum. Although the experience watching the presentations there was fine, logistically it was difficult as the theater was a few blocks away from the convention center, making walking it a haul that you wouldn't want to make multiple times in the day in the blazing heat. Additionally, they didn't allow you to bring your own food in, so if you planned to stay in for most of the day, you were forced to rely on the bar inside for food which wasn't much of an economical option. Because I was able to utilize the media entrance, I'm not sure how the wait was generally to get in, but I also didn't speak to any non-media people at E3 who attended any of the Coliseum talks, so possibly they weren't hugely popular.

The first panel I watched was "Swing Behind the Scenes with the New Spider-Man for PS4."

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Ryan Penagos (Marvel Digital Media,) Bill Rosemann (Marvel Games,) and Bryan Intihar and Jon Paquette from Insomniac Games discussed the upcoming web-slinging game...or at least tried to, because a few minutes into their time, the sound of a pop and glass tinkling heralded the breaking of a bulb in one of the overhead lights that promptly CAUGHT FIRE. Although they tried bravely to carry on, eventually the amount of smoke that was generated, together with the flames the audience could see from the light fixture, forced them to stop until it was put out.

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By the time they came back, they basically had just enough time to run through the trailer with commentary.

It's a good looking game, but the main things I took away were a) the Marvel and Insomniac guys displayed pretty good sangfroid about carrying on in a room that's on fire, and b) the smoke detectors at The Novo are maybe not that adequate.

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The next panel was an interview between two funny men Jack (Brutal Legend) Black, and Tim (Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, The Secret of Monkey Island) Schafer.

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Their discussion ran the gamut from what superpower they would want (Schafer picks invisibility;) what they're playing nowadays (Black: "Titanfall 2," Schafer: "Zelda," on Switch;) and favorite games (Black: "Red Dead Redemption.") The middle of the conversation was memorable for an audience member who suddenly shouted over their discussion that she wanted to come up and take a photo and get a hug from Jack Black, which would have once more proved that Q&A is a bad thing, except we hadn't even gotten to the Q&A part yet.

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Other panels I saw were basically gameplay demos of "Middle-earth: Shadow of War," and "Life is Strange: Before the Storm."

I had been hoping for some word of "Kingdom Hearts III," but there was a pronounced lack of Disney content in general at E3, presumably because they're holding everything back for Expo next month. There was a concert of "Kingdom Hearts" music performed during E3, at which Square Enix revealed a new trailer for it.

"Star Wars Battlefront II" was first unveiled over in Orlando back at Star Wars Celebration, where we got our first look at the latest installment of the Battlefront series.


[Star Wars Battlefront II panel starts at 4:27:04]

Things we learned from that panel:
--The focus they had making the game was "anyone can be a hero."
--New to this installment is the single-player campaign/storyline.
--This game tells the story of some of the elite special forces soldiers of the Empire and their reactions to the destruction of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi
--The protagonist is Iden Versio, Commander of the Inferno Squadron.
--Events in the game are considered official Star Wars canon.
--Backstory on the Inferno Squadron will be revealed in the novel "Star Wars Battlefront II" Inferno Squadron," on July 25, 2017.

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--One of the new locations in the game is Vardos, Versio's home planet.

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--In the single player mode, players will have the opportunity to play as Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren.
--For multiplayer, all eras of Star Wars will be playable, including notables such as Darth Maul.
--New classes will be introduced with new unlockable abilities.
--Combat now extends into space, with space ships again hailing from all Star Wars eras.
--Game release date is November 17, 2017.

At E3, Battlefront II had its biggest moments during the EA press conference [video above--Star Wars Battlefront II segment starts at 46:50] where Janina Gavankar, actress for Iden Versio, gave a more in-depth look at the game.
--Battlefront II has more than 3x the content of Battlefront I.
--A new battlepoint system enables players to earn points to spend on new weapons, vehicles, or heroes.
--Finn and Captain Plasma will be present as part of the first season of free content.
--All post-launch additions will be free for all game owners.

As part of the press conference, the first gameplay trailer and live multiplayer gameplay were presented as well.

So looking back, I would say that the addition of paying guests to E3 definitely made it more challenging to maneuver around and see things than in previous years, not just because of the added volume, but because the crowd behavior of people who attend things on a purely recreational basis is different from that of people who are there for at least semi-professional reasons. One example is the tote bags that they usually just have lying out in racks in the convention center lobby--typically, they sit there all three days as people occasionally grab them when they need to have something to hold their giveaways. This year, not only were they all out the first day after about half an hour, but for the rest of the days people would line up, sometimes for up to an hour, until workers came out to hand out a few more boxes of bags.

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In general, there were fewer things given out for free because now companies were allowed to sell merchandise on the floor, which they couldn't do in the past.

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All in all, this felt somewhat like a transition year for E3, with maybe not quite enough content for paying guests yet, and a need to balance out the experience for Industry Professionals. For those of us in-between, it's still a loud, noisy celebration of digital entertainment that is always attention-grabbing and engrossing, even when the room is on fire.






June 20, 2017

Disneyland Star Wars Land Progress, All-American College Band and More!

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com already shared some photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, June 16, 2017. In addition to those, which dealt mostly with attractions that had opened in Disneyland, he has sent us these other updates from around the Disneyland Resort. This update includes videos of the progress being made on the new Star Wars-themed land, as well as videos of the return of the All-American College Band.

Let's start off with a couple video clips showing the Star Wars-themed land construction, taken from the Mickey and Friends parking structure.


The Millennium Falcon attraction show building.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The forms and temporary supports have been removed from the concrete around the circular structure. Steel for this show building is now going up in the area nearest the parking structure.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Steel staged and ready to be lifted into place for the roof support.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The Splitsville building is taking shape. To the right they are setting up a Coke promotion. I did not make it back out there in the evening to see what it was.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

To celebrate the opening of Cars 3, buttons were available at both parks today as you entered.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017
This past week the re-launched DCA turned 5 years old. This includes Buena Vista Street and Cars Land. Also World of Color turned 7.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The Cars Land entrance is now out from behind walls. In addition to including Cruz Ramirez, the planter has been removed so you can go right up to the sign. Cruz has started to make appearances in Cars Land. I stopped by three times and did not see her out, guess I kept missing her.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The Animation Building lobby is still closed, but the Animation Academy has reopened and is using the side door.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Frozen is dark until June 26.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Knowhere Eats is open.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Pirates is gone and now a Summer of Heroes Showcase is inside. I did not have time to visit this trip though.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Over in Disneyland, Adventureland started a series of renovation projects last week to try and ease congestion. South Seas Traders and Indiana Jones Outpost have closed. Some of the merchandise from those two shops is now in Adventureland Bazaar.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Walls are up in front of the closed locations. They will become indoor seating for Bengal BBQ and Tropical Imports will relocate, too. The current Tropical Imports area will become stroller parking. The work is expected to be completed by July.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 All-American College Band started performing in the park yesterday. Here is a video from their 3:15 p.m. Sleeping Beauty Castle Set - A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017
Meet the 2017 All-American College Band


This year the band has added a Moana medley to the Castle set.

Later in the day, gathered in Town Square with the All-American College Band for the Flag Retreat.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The All-American College Band in Town Square for the 6:10 p.m. Train Station Set.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017
The 2017 All-American College Band performing Bubbles was a Cheerleader


Clips from the All-American College Band Train Station set.

At 7:15 the All-American College Band performs at the Royal Theatre in Fantasy Faire.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Normally the band will do their Jazz set here sitting down. This being the first week, they are standing and playing songs from their other sets. Here is a video clip of When You Wish Upon a Star.

The College Band arriving for their final set of the day, 8:05 p.m. at DCA.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017
The All-American College Band performing Uptown Funk at Disney California Adventure.

Caught some of the Main Street Electrical Parade from the Small World mall area. Dopey driving the mine train.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Here is a video of Remember Dreams Come True fireworks from New Orleans Square showcasing the new projection screen video.


Now a couple of cell phone pictures of the show (since I was using the SLR for the video). The projections were clearer and sharper than the previous ones and better in person than the phone captured.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 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.








June 19, 2017

Disneyland Attractions Reopen - 6/16/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the Disneyland Resort on Friday, June 16, 2017.

A number of attractions and areas at Disneyland reopened today after having been closed due to construction and renovations.

First, here's Tom Sawyer Island, which reopened today.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The Treehouse has survived the renovation work, but it is permanently closed-off now. At least it's still standing. As of my last visit to Tokyo that one was still open so if you want to climb into the treehouse head to Japan.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

A view of Adventureland from the Tree House.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Looking upriver on the east/Frontierland side of the island.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The guest areas of the island are virtually untouched.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The big change is the new view as you head toward the back of the island. This is looking upriver from the east (Frontierland) side. You can see the new trestle for the Disneyland Railroad.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

A closer look.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Looks like the beavers moved upriver and went to work on the trestle.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017


The Indian Village is back and has been moved slightly from its old location.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Here are a couple video clips of the view from Tom Sawyer Island of the construction.

The graveyard is gone and a new storage building is built on the site.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017


The new walkway to the Star Wars land will be along the water. Behind it is the extended seating area for the Hungry Bear restaurant.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The lift is on the Star Wars land side of the bridge.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The Hungry Bear
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The Big Thunder Trail has also reopened since my last visit. Here are some pictures from my first walk through heading from Frontierland to Fantasyland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

The pond has returned and looks the same, the water looks a little milky though.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017


Eventually this will be one of two walkways into Star Wars land from the Big Thunder Trail.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Further up the trail near where the Big Thunder Ranch entrance used to be there is now a large rock formation.
Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Working my way toward the rockwork.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Looking toward Fantasyland. To the left that wall is for the second walkway to Star Wars land.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

A new FastPass scanner at Big Thunder Mountain was visible and on, but not in use yet.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, June 16, 2017

Hope you enjoyed this overview of the recent reopenings. 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.






June 16, 2017

"Cars 3" Press Conference

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June 16th, Disney-Pixar embarks on one more road trip with Lightning McQueen in "Cars 3."

[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]

While in town for the film's premier at the Anaheim Convention Center, performers Owen Wilson “Lightning McQueen,” Armie Hammer “Jackson Storm,” Cristela Alonzo “Cruz Ramirez,” Kerry Washington “Natalie Certain,” Nathan Fillion “Sterling,” Lea DeLaria “Miss Fritter,” Isiah Whitlock Jr. “River Scott,” Larry the Cable Guy “Mater,” with Director Brian Fee and Producer Kevin Reher, gathered at a press conference to talk about bringing Lightning McQueen's last chance at the Big Time to life.

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[SPOILERS FOR THE FILM AND ITS ENDING DISCUSSED. FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED.]

Select moments from the press conference video above:

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Wilson on the enduring appeal of "Cars.": "I think that it's also the animators...did a pretty good job. 'Cause I know when they were first kind of animating the cars, before they figured out where they were going to do the eyes and stuff...there's something kind of human or inviting about the expressions, and so I think that helps to kind of make the cars more relatable and life-like to people. I think that's a big part of it. And the voice! The voices! Don't forget these voices! Pump a little life into this!" (gestures towards car stand-ins.)

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Hammer on the how Jackson Storm measures up to McQueen: "It's definitely a change. He's part of this class of racers called The Next Gen, and they're faster, they're smarter, they're better looking...just saying! I mean look at that thing! (gestures towards Jackson Storm) Look at it!"
Wilson: "That does look pretty cool."
Hammer: "I want to put a motor in that thing and take it home!"

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Alonzo on whether "Cars 3" will appeal to all genders: "It's not really about boys and girls for me, personally--I actually approach it as an economic level. 'Cause I grew up so poor...that I want poor kids to know that they have a shot at doing it. So for me, I think the lesson surpasses gender and actually goes to the childhood that somebody has...

"I love that you said that this is Pixar's 'Wonder Woman,' because for me, I think that we don't have enough stories about female characters actually in a world with male characters, where they get to succeed in a way that isn't romantic or anything--it's just being empowered and succeeding. So, I think it surpasses gender for me. It's just anybody, any kid, that feels disenfranchised, disappointed, feels like they don't belong, feels like what's the point...this is the story for them. For me, this is a story about hope. And we need more stories like that, because the kids are the ones that grow up and they're the ones who take over the country."

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Washington on why "Cars 3" resonates with everyone: "What's so special to me about this film is not that the girl beats the boy, but that they win together. And I feel like that's such an important message, that she wins, but that they win together. That there's room for the Mentor and the Mentee. There's room for the girl and the boy. There's room for the Champion and the Newcomer, and that if we work together, there's room for everybody at the table. And I think that's the one of the most special things about the film."

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Fee on the message of "Cars 3:" "It was a very important movie for me, personally, and for us as a studio. Again, coming at it from a parent, you know...There are certain scenes with McQueen and finding out what he meant to Doc Hudson--to finding out that he was the most important thing in Doc's life...you know, that's a scene that I had with my kids, when I realized that being their father was the most important thing in my life. So it's a very personal story to try to get as a parent, going through transitions, right? But also, just having two daughters and again, wanting them to have the freedom and the courage to do whatever they want without any barriers. And if there are barriers, what do they need to break through the barriers? These are the things we tried to get into the film."

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Next up was the second panel of the morning with the second half of the major cast.

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Whitlock Jr. on the importance of knowing your history: "I really feel that we need to pay attention to a lot of the pioneers, a lot of the people who have come before us and some of the struggles, especially with the character that I play, Wendell Scott. We need to pay attention to that, to see how we got to where we are today and I know with Wendell Scott (River Scott that I play)...he did not have the sponsors and the equipment and especially racing in the segregated South...There were so many obstacles, and yet he was able to persevere. And I think that's the key word there is "perseverance"--overcoming a lot of those obstacles to be successful. That's sort of the heart of racing...when we think about racing, we think about the passion and the heart and what it's all about. I think the character I play exhibited that over time."

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Cable Guy on Mater:
"I think Mater has a good role in this. Mater does what he's supposed to do, you know? Just when you're about to cry, Mater says something stupid and then you laugh again. There's no "Cars" without Mater. That's what it's all about! About McQueen and Mater and what's going on in their lives. I don't care if Mater's got one line, Mater's Mater and he'll always be Mater."

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Fillion on working with Pixar: "Here's my theory: Nothing happens by accident in a Pixar movie. They tell a story one pixel at a time. So. By the time it gets to the point where I'm sitting there in front of a microphone, all the hard work has actually been done. I rely very heavily on the director, we get to play around a little bit, but in all honesty, you're looking at a Thanksgiving meal, and Nathan is the pepper. You know what I mean? The work is kinda been done. Just need a little pepper buddy! <snap> ...and you're done."

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DeLaria on having input on Miss Fritter's design:
"They used my high school on the side of the bus, which I think is amazing. And the license plate is my birthday. It wasn't like...I didn't call them up "I WON'T DO IT UNLESS MY BIRTHDAY IS THE LICENSE PLATE!" They called me and said 'what's your birthday? What high school did you go to?' and the next thing I knew, I was actually saying my high school in the script and it was on the bus, and I just think that's kinda great."

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Fee on 'Humphrey Hop:" "I watched a lot of TV when I was a kid, Disney Channel and...'Humphrey Hop' is one of those songs, now I'm 43 years old, and still a week doesn't go by that I'm not singing that tune in my head. It's just ingrained. It's a childhood favorite...it's just one of those moments where you kind of realize well, I'm directing the movie. I can do whatever I want. I want the 'Humphrey Hop' in there! I'm glad someone else recognized it and got something out of it, because I thought that was just for me."

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Reher on the Pixar method of filmmaking: "My favorite is when some...we've had a couple comments where people come up and said 'I was crying over a car! Come on! Wow, you killed me!' And then I'm like yeah, we did right. We did it right.

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In conjunction with the two panels, we were treated to a presentation on the short "Lou" with Director Dave Mullins and Producer Dana Murray.

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This was very similar to the talk the two gave at the Early Press Day that took place at Pixar previously this year (I wrote it up here.) In it, the duo described Pixar's method of developing an animated short which is as long and as painstaking as you'd expect of its quality of work.

"Cars 3" will open in theaters with "Lou" on June 16, 2017.

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