From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 2, 2013.
First stop today, Disney California Adventure Buena Vista Street did not feel too crowded.
Condor Flats had a lot of guests moving about, only 35min for Soarin.
The Happy Camper was out performing along the trail near GRR.
Noticed this counter/register out near Rushin River Outfitters. I had not noticed it before.
Moving on .....
Cross St was not too crowded.
Guests waiting for the Pixar Play Parade. Today the 2pm parade started out in Paradise Pier.
The All-American College Band on the Backlot Stage.
Michael from the band performing Zero to Hero.
Took a look into Dancin with Disney and I think the Cast Members out numbered guests. I am guessing this is because of the parade making its way through the park.
Stopped by the Animation Building and there is now an ad up for Planes and Frozen.
Back out to Hollywood Blvd and managed to make it across before the parade.
I made my way out to Downtown Disney for the Summer Celebration that was going on this week.
A sand volleyball court was set up between the AMC and stage.
The stage had a DJ MCing the event. Also noticed the Downtown Disney Live! signage.. I do not recall seeing that last time I visited this area.
A couple of vender/sponsor tents set up.
The volleyball tournament was underway.
A shaved ice truck.
World of Disney has a large display of Planes merchandise out as you walk from Downtown Disney toward the parks.
A new program in the Disneyana store.. Disney Ink & Paint. They have artists handpainting cells/artwork.
The Big Thunder trail is closed. They are replacing the concrete along the trail.
Plenty of scaffolding up around the station for Big Thunder.
No visible wait for Pirates this afternoon.
A sign on the other side of the Big Thunder Trail near the BBQ warning you that the walkway is closed ahead.
Where the walkway is closed. Just beyond the ranch entrance.
The Billies were performing when I walked by.
The Jolly Trolley has returned.. as a photo op only still.
Looks like they may have updated the surface on the steps.
Time for the 6:00pm Flag Retreat.
Thought it was odd the Billboards reverted back to Brave from last summer.
Stopped by the Court des Anges in New Orleans Square. Soon the Pirates will move back in and if rumors are to be believed eventually this will be the entrance to Club 33.
It is one of the few places you can go in Disneyland to escape the crowds usually. It is too bad it may disappear/be repurposed.
Spent some time in Tomorrowland listening to Elvis, Scot Bruce.
Then it was off to Main Street for the College Bands final set of the night.
Thriller (from the Michael Jackson medley)
This video is from June of the Medley in case you missed it or were curious.
The sunset this evening with the clouds and colors was great to see.
The Cozy Cone fountain was not working this evening.
Back to Disneyland for Fantasmic. There was no Dragon
Then it was back to Main Street for Magical to end my evening.
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, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
"Disney's Planes" is a new 3-D animated feature from Disneytoon Studios set in the same world as Pixar's "Cars."
Early in the film, Dusty the cropduster wistfully exclaims that he wants to prove that he "can do more than what he was built for." His journey towards that goal, more than his race around the world, makes up the heart of this latest Disney feature.
In this third of the in-production (rumored) Planes Trilogy, our protagonist Dusty yearns to leave his cropdusting life behind for the glamorous, fast-paced life of a racing plane. Despite warnings from his personal mechanic Dottie that he is simply not built for that kind of metal fatigue, he manages to scrape his way into the prestigious "Wings Around the Globe" race. As it progresses, Dusty is faced with danger, romance, betrayal, and heartache, and is forced to prove his mettle in more ways than he could ever have dreamt.
Going into this film, you might expect it to have a lot in common with its Cars progenitors, and you'd be right. There's the small town/old crusty coach with a secret/dim-witted truck BFF/cute car pittys from Cars 1, and the international race/serious car deaths from Cars 2. What you might not expect is the wild tonal shifts the picture makes as it swings from gentle Pixar-ish character-based humor, to Dreamworks-ish topical/sometimes-crass humor, to realistic shots of Dusty taking on damage, to a oddly long and violent "Saving Private Ryan"-ish segment in a military flashback.
The main quibble I have with the picture is its main character, Dusty. He starts off the movie as a nice, determined, wisecracking dude, and ends it pretty much the same. There's no character arc, because there aren't any really distinguishing features about him--he helps others with their problems and works hard at racing, but doesn't really have any personal issues beyond his fear of heights to overcome. The acrophobia seems a little tacked on as well, and when he surmounts it, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason for why he does, except that...he does. This featurelessness more than anything else brands this as more of a children's movie for me, as often children's protagonists seem deliberately uncomplicated so that a kid can identify/replace himself with them. Then again, I thought the same thing about Harry Potter, and he proved pretty popular regardless.
It is probably not overstating matters to say that many people enjoyed Cars 1 and 2. It is probably also not overstating matters to say that many people had difficulties with the logistics of their world, as it was presented. Where were the people? How do the cars exist as completely independent entities? Cars have a Pope? I think it's a safe bet to say that if you couldn't get over cars not having opposable thumbs in those movies, Planes is not for you. On the other hand, if you enjoyed the Cars franchise before, but were maybe put off by the complicated plotting of Cars 2, you will likely enjoy Planes. If it occasionally shows its direct-to-video roots, it's still a pretty film to look at, with a lot of arresting action thrown in and an inspiring message of overcoming your physical limitations...which ends up working out better for Dusty than Mike Wazowski.
Subsequent to the media screening, AllEars was able to attend the Red Carpet opening of Disney's Planes' World Premiere, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Attending were the majority of the film's voice talent, along with Director Klay Hall, Producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn, p.g.a, Executive Producer John Lasseter, and a slew of other cinema notables.
Screenwriter Jeffrey M. Howard was kind enough to talk to us for a minute about working in the universe of Cars, and plans for the future movies.
Disney's Planes will open August 9, 2013. Director: Klay Hall; Voice of Dusty: Dane Cook. This is the first picture of the Cars franchise to get a PG rating.
AllEars was invited to the preview showing of Planes and the Red Carpet event.
Menken and Sherman Q & A: Together Again for the First Time
On August 6th, D23 hosted a conference call with two of Disney's preeminent songwriters, Alan Menken and Richard Sherman. During the course of the call, they answered a variety of questions concerning their music, their mutual admiration, and their upcoming joint concert "Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook" taking place on Saturday, day 2 of the D23 Expo. Here are some samples of the topics discussed.
The first third of the call was Alan Menken, answering questions by himself.
Question: What is it about Disney music that touches people?
Menken: "For me, it's because they're tied to specific movies...they're not just songs that are slotted in randomly. (In) the Disney Songbook, each song encapsulates the experience of a different movie, a different era, a different character, and a different time in the listener's life, so I think there's something really special about them. Also, there's no cynicism in the Disney Songbook. It really is a very heartfelt, genuine storytelling that's in these songs, and I think people love that about them."
Question: What's it like to perform before rabid fans?
Menken: "It's fun, it really is fun. It's a really powerful shared experience. I'd be lying if I didn't say it wasn't part of a pleasant ego trip because everything I'm doing they're reacting to so exuberantly to. It's kind of great! It's great fun, really."
Question: Any fanboy nervousness, performing with Richard Sherman?
Menken: "No, not really. Dick is such a nice man. He's been an extraordinary supportive presence in my life since I first came over to Disney. It's a relationship that he could have felt insecure, competitive but he didn't. He just was welcoming and generous and warm so I consider Richard Sherman to be a dear friend and I (am) really looking forward to the two of us entertaining people, and then we're going to sit down together and get interviewed together...I have no idea what it will be like, but I presume we're going to have a lot of fun."
In the second third of the call, Richard Sherman joined in and answered questions with Menken.
Question: Was it difficult to pinpoint songs for the concert? What will you be doing?
Sherman: "Do you want to take that first, Alan?"
Menken: "It's always a challenge to pick out just the right material for an audience, and we did have some requests from our hosts (at least I did,) and the way the structure...made it somewhat easy to decide on songs. Maybe the biggest challenge was which of the unknown songs or cut songs do I want to put in, and how do I want to contextualize so it becomes interesting for the audience."
Sherman: "Well the same thing for me, I think. You know, we have so many to choose from, you try to select and we try to do a potpourri, not a complete run-down of every single thing from a film, but just sort of a sampling of various things over the years that I did. So it was kind of a fun thing like looking at all my children and seeing which one I'll take on an outing."
Menken: "Exactly. I could not agree more...We're just going to be at the piano playing and turning and talking to the audience and just..."
Sherman: "We'll be our own accompaniment, so to speak. I'll take a turn, and Alan will take a turn, and then we're going to do a kind of special thing, we're going to get together and compare a little bit of our histories, and favorite pieces, our most endearing pieces to us personally, and it'll be kind of a fun thing, you know."
Menken: "And a little peek at some of our non-Disney things too."
Sherman: "Exactly. We'll touch on a couple of things that put us in the position to work at Disney."
Question: What is your favorite song of each others?
Sherman: "Oh, that's interesting. Alan has written so many gorgeous, gorgeous songs...He's a great melody writer, a wonderful harmony...there's so many..."
Menken: "There's so many. I mean, you have Jungle Book coming up and there are some songs in there that are just amazing. Let me think..."
Sherman: "I don't want to pick just one. There's so many..."
Menken: "You know, you look at Supercalifragilistic, and that's so known--so well known, but that's really...there couldn't be an Under the Sea without.Supercalifragilistic. And it's the combination of the exuberance, the rhythm, the cleverness of the lyric, and the catchyness of it...It just gets into your system."
Sherman: "An explosion of emotion."
Menken: "And it set the standard, it set the bar for what Howard and I did."
Sherman: "Thank you so much. I mean, you and Howard particularly wrote so many incredibly gorgeous songs...But one of the songs gets to me more than...I like so many, but I fell in love with Suddenly Seymour, which you wrote for a show way way back before I knew you and everything. It's such a passionate song, a wonderful explosion of emotion. And then I think Part of Your World--gets to me. It really just does. I just love that song. So there's really so many that he's written, if you try to pick one, it's impossible."
Menken: "It's a 'pick one out of a hat' kind of thing."
Sherman: "You know something? We're both fans of each other and it makes it kind of fun."
Menken: "Yeah, as songwriters, we're fans of the fact that we each have a...Richard has a unique voice that's in common with his work, and he comes through in his work, and I think I come through in my work, and I think that really--each song is just a manifestation of that voice."
Sherman: "Yeah, the feel we have about life, about people, and about music and about what we're trying to say with our gifts. Because you don't take too many big deep bows for a gift. You're just gifted with that, and it's what you do with it, that's important."
The third and last segment of the call was Richard Sherman by himself.
Question: How do you do that, over and over, making songs that can stick in people's heads?
Sherman: "Well you know, it's a funny thing, but I come from a musical family and my father was a very successful songwriter back in the 30's and 20's and 40's. His name was Al Sherman, and my Dad wrote very catchy tunes. And I used to listen to all his songs--I loved the way he wrote melodies, that they really grabbed hold of you and they were very definitely something you could take with you. And that was one of the things that I...Fortunately I had musical talent, so I could pick that up, and so I always tried to write something that's fresh and original, and yet very catchy and something that's easily accessible. And so basically, I'm not trying to be 'look how brilliant I am,' I'm trying to be 'look how much fun I am.' There's a difference. And I write fun songs that are kind of as original as they can possibly be, with catchphrases and little stuff. And the lyrics are very much a part of the song...If you have a very catchy idea. And so Bob and I both worked very hard to get the right lyric and the right words, so the melodies can soar."
Question: I applaud your longevity...
Sherman: "There's not much of an alternative, you know."
Question: What's your secret?
Sherman: "I have a good time. I never feel like I'm working...I was blessed...From early on, when I could finally say I made a living as a songwriter, I was always blessed with doing my hobby! My hobby was writing songs! I mean, I would have been happy to do it without getting any money for it...I love writing songs, and I love the challenge of writing different kinds of things, so it was always kind of a fun thing for me, and I guess I owe it to the fact that I have a good time at it. I mean, if I didn't, I would have retired years ago. But people want my stuff and want my opinions, and my feelings about how something's going to happen, and occasionally they want a song from me, so I'm happy to do it! Sure! And it keeps me going, I'm 85 years old, but I don't feel it--I have my health, Thank God, and I have my enthusiasm. I've always been that way."
Question: What is the main message you would like to get across to Disney fans, through this D23 Expo concert?
Sherman: "Well I think the message the Disney fans already know, but I'll just say it. There's a wonderful thing called being positive in your life, as opposed to being negative, let's say 'the upside of the coin.' Both Alan and myself have been blessed with the chore of writing things for very upbeat ideas--they're not depressing, they're not cynical--they're positive, there are strong feelings of goodwill in them. We were both blessed with that, and I think that makes a big difference. I think all the Disney fans will recognize that immediately. There's nothing cynical about our work--none of us.
"Somebody once asked me what was my biggest feeling, and the biggest, most wonderful gratification I get, is the fact that people get joy out of my work. And if that's the case, that's great. They feel good about it, they have a good time and they feel happy about it, and that is...truly my reward."
Richard Sherman and Alan Menken will be performing the Disney Songbook together on Saturday, August 10, 2013 at the D23 Expo. For more information: https://d23.com/d23-expo/
It's the end of day 1 of the 2013 D23 Expo, and I am very happy to report that overall it was a pretty good day. I can honestly say that I had a good time, and am far less frazzled than I have ever been after an Expo day. Not that everything is perfect, but those of you who have read my blogs on previous D23 Expos know how frustrating I've found them in the past. D23 seems to have finally learned a few things this time around and made some improvements to reduce the frustration level.
So here are a few of my observations from Day 1. Sorry that there are no photos - just no time to go through them, though I posted some to my twitter account: @allearslaura
1. There are still only three event venues: the Arena, Stage 23, and Stage 28, but the latter two are much larger this time - 2000 seats in Stage 23 and 850 in Stage 28. In addition there is an overflow area for the Arena that holds 2,000. (I didn't get a chance to see how that works yet.) Most of the Stage 23 sessions were not full.
2. This year they have implemented a "Stage Pass" feature. Expo guests can get a "Fastpass" type of ticket for sessions in Stage 23 and 28. This was one of my suggestions after the last Expo so I was eager to try it today, and I thought it worked quite well. Pending availability, guests can get two Stage Passes per day: one for a morning/early afternoon session and one for a late afternoon/evening session. Passes for the early sessions are available when the exhibit floor opens, passes for the later sessions become available at 12:30. There's a huge sign that tells you what passes are available, so you don't wait in line only to find that what you want is gone. At the venues, those with Stage Passes queue in a separate room and are allowed into the room first, about 15 minutes prior to the start. There can be a very long line to get the passes, though - I waited about 25 minutes to obtain my second pass of the day for the Broadway & Beyond evening session, which was quite popular (all passes were gone less than an hour after they started distributing them). But I'd much rather wait in a 25 minute line when I know I'll be able to see something, than waste time waiting in a two hour line just to get in to a room!
3. The Imagineering pavilion on the show floor seems bigger to me, and there were lots of things to see and do. There's a walk-through of some really wonderful Disney art which includes copies of the original drawings of Harper Goff's designs for a Disneyland near the Disney Studios in Burbank. And then, what I found most special, is the original pencil drawing of Disneyland by Herb Ryman. He drew it with Walt Disney looking over his shoulder - they worked on it for 42 hours. That was amazing to see. (No photos allowed in that exhibit.). There's also El Fortuno, an incredibly sophisticated audio animatronic fortune teller - but we'll have video of him. He was in the R&D section, where they had a lot of other neat "toys", too. It's also fun to talk to the Imagineers about what they do.
4. I thought that there was more to do on the exhibit floor. Most of it I didn't have a chance to get to (yet), but there's sections featuring Frozen, Planes, and Once Upon a Time, and a big Disney Interactive area. Lee and I saw a little bit of a demo of Honda's ASIMO robot. There's a lot of celebrities and special presentations at the Talent Round-Up and the Disney Channel Pavilion. Also live entertainment on the stage in the exhibit hall.
5. For the most part they have the the queue areas set up in areas that are away from the main traffic areas, which makes getting around somewhat easier. Things seem much more organized and planned this year.
6. There were a lot of guests wandering around in costume - there was a Costume Contest this afternoon which Lee and I attended. Really some amazing costumes - we'll have more photos and video coming.
7. Tonight DebK, Lee, Jason and I all attended the Broadway & Beyond event. (This was definitely a "Thank goodness for StagePass!" occasion.) It featured five very talented singers who have all performed in various Disney musicals on Broadway, singing songs from ten different Disney musicals. It was an amazing evening. As Lee said, THIS is the kind of event that makes coming to the D23 Expo worth it all - even if this was the only event we attended.
I know I've forgotten things, but I hope that gives you an idea of how it's going. It's not perfect, but it's better.
Another pretty good day at D23 for me. Today was sold out, and it was a LOT busier - the show floor was quite crowded after 11:00 or so. The biggest frustration I heard was how long it took just to get into the building, though - 60-90 minutes for those who arrived in the 8:30-9:30 range (doors opened at 9:00 for D23 members).
You can see some additional photos and info by reading my tweets: @allearslaura
I had time to visit the show floor this morning just after opening when it was relatively quiet, so I could take a lot of photos. And yes, I have photos with today's blog!!!
Seems to me like there are a few more third-party exhibitors this year, like Party City, Ridemakerz, Honda, and Hallmark. I liked this jelly bean collage that the Jelly Belly people are making. :-)
There's quite a large kid's area, with sample merchandise and photo ops from Frozen, Marvel, and Tinker Bell and the pixies, as well as Disney Jr. characters like Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Sofia the First, and Doc McStuffins.
You can even sing Ariel karaoke. :-)
You can become a Disney Voluntear, also.
I was intrigued by this model of Capt. Hook's pirate ship from Once Upon a Time.
They take people inside in groups of about 10-12, where we were joined by some of the characters - like Prince Charming, Emma Swan, and Regina. We saw clips of the show from season 2 and there's a surprise gift at the end. The wait was pretty long, but I'm a big fan of the show so I enjoyed it. When I walked by later, Captain Hook was standing outside.
I finally made it over into the Collector's Forum, where there's lots of booths of people selling Disney memorabilia and collectibles.
There was no line for the Disney Dream store, and I took a look inside. I didn't buy anything, but this "4D" Disneyland puzzle caught my eye.
The first sessions of the day in Stages 23 and 28 have not been full - I went to the first session in Stage 28 (the smaller room), which was called Broadcasts from Buena Vista Street. It started off with six actors performing a scripted 1920s radio broadcast, somewhat reminiscent of War of the Worlds. Turns out that this broadcast actually can be heard in Oswald's on Buena Vista Street.
The actors were all very talented voice actors who have worked as voices of a huge variety of characters, both Disney and non-Disney. It was really interesting to hear them change voices in mid-stream, and suddenly sound like someone completely different! One of them said that it's really fun to become so many different people.
Stage 23 was just down the hall from the Treasures of the Disney Archives exhibit. It had no line, so I popped in. This time we were allowed to take photos as long as we didn't use a flash.
They had costumes and props from Once Upon a Time (today was my Once Upon a Time day, can't you tell?).
Also costumes and props from Return to Oz.
And the recent Oz the Great and Powerful.
I liked the little China Doll.
The next room was dedicated to Mary Poppins, with storyboards, props, and costumes. Here's the St. Paul's Cathedral snow globe featured in the song "Feed the Birds".
Mary's Jolly Holiday costume.
They had a few costumes from the upcoming movie "Saving Mr. Banks", which will tell the story of Walt Disney and P.L. Travers.
I mentioned that this was my "Once Upon a Time" day - well, today that was the topic of one of the sessions I had been looking forward to. I had gotten a Stage Pass for this one, so I only had to arrive about 20 minutes before to get a pretty good seat. It wasn't completely full, but had a good-sized crowd.
At the D23 Expo two years ago I was in the audience when the creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, showed us the pilot for a new show called Once Upon a Time. It was mesmerizing and I really enjoyed it, though at the time I questioned how long they could keep the show going when the goal was to break a curse. Happily that wasn't all there was too it, and even though they resolved that they have introduced other characters and twists and turns to keep it intriguing and entertaining.
This time they showed us a 19-minute mini-pilot for the upcoming "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland". This time they're going to put their twists on the Wonderland universe (as if it isn't already twisted enough!). I didn't find this one quite as gripping, but I'll still give it a try this fall. As they told us: "Nothing is impossible in Wonderland."
They also spoke about what we might be seeing on Once Upon a Time this season. We'll meet familiar characters like Ariel, Tinker Bell, Ursula and Eric, and we'll find out more about Peter Pan and how Hook became a pirate. We'll see flashbacks, and episode 2 will feature an old-fashioned Charming and Snow vs. the Evil Queen show.
They said that they would love to see Rapuzel and Tiana in the show, but that they won't introduce characters until they can use them correctly.
In one of their closing comments they told us how in our cynical world, this is a show for believers. You can believe that I will be watching! :-)
The session concluded at 2:00, which was when the Disney Legends ceremony was starting in the Arena. I went down to the show floor to check out the overflow viewing area. As it turned out I still could've gotten a seat in the Arena, but I decided to watch it from the overflow anyway. I was expecting this to be a standing area, but it was full of chairs, with five large video screens at the front, though only two were showing a live feed. There was hardly anyone in there...I don't know how well it worked for other more popular sessions, like the Disney Studios presentation earlier that day.
The Legends ceremony is always very touching. This year there were 8 recipients: Tony Baxter, Colin Campbell, Ed Wynn, John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Dick Clark, Glen Keane, and Steve Jobs.
John Lasseter accepted for Steve Jobs, and got rather emotional as he spoke about him and his vision for Pixar. (Lee is working on the video of the Legends ceremony which we will be posting to AllEars' youtube channel.)
At the end of Legends Bob Iger announced that there were would a 4th D23 Expo in 2015. That's also the year of Disneyland's 60th anniversary, so it will be interesting to see what they might bring out for that.
Tonight DebK and I saw the Evening with Richard B. Sherman and Alan Menken. They held this one in the Arena, and it was pretty close to full. They both came out together at the beginning, but then they each played a separate concert - Sherman then Menken, though they both came out together and each played one last song at the end. They have an amazing body of work...so talented! Richard Sherman told a lot of interesting stories, since he had actually worked with Walt Disney. Menken didn't talk quite as much - it seemed like he felt a little rushed.
It was a good show, but unfortunately a little bit anti-climactic because we heard a lot of the songs we heard last night at Broadway & Beyond. And, no offense to Mr. Sherman and Mr. Menken, but they aren't really singers, and the songs are much more powerful when performed by people who can sing. :-)
Not too much going on tomorrow session-wise, just a couple of things I want to see. I expect it to be a fairly quiet day.
You can see some additional photos and info by reading my tweets: @allearslaura
In a comment on Saturday's blog, Ilene reminded me of something I should clarify (thank you, Ilene).
I attended the D23 Expo on a regular 3-day ticket - I had the same access and privileges as any other D23 member. I was not credentialed Media for the D23 Expo - the one exception was that I attended the Sherman & Menken concert as the photographer for AllEars. For all other events and experiences I either obtained a Stage Pass or stood in line like everyone else.
Upon entering the exhibit hall on Sunday I got my Stage Pass for the Imagineering session on the DNA of Innovation - which I ended up not needing because it was only half full.
Sunday was a much less busy day than Friday and Saturday had been, at least in the various sessions. I don't think any of them filled up - I know for a fact that the two Arena presentations and all of the Imagineering sessions still had room for people to walk in. The exhibit floor was busy, but not as crowded as Saturday. I had a chance to go through the new Tomorrowland exhibit, which had opened the previous afternoon. It contains "artifacts" from the supposed "1952" box. Bizarre, and since I didn't see the Disney Studios presentation I didn't really get it.
For some reason the first sessions started earlier on Sunday than they did the other two days - 9:30 and 10:00 instead of 10:30. If you weren't a D23 member and couldn't enter until 10:00 that made it difficult to attend them that day.
My first session of the day was Secrets of the Lost Chords. (The room was less than 1/3 full.) "Lost Chords" are songs that were written for Disney movies, but were then dropped for one reason or another - sometimes the movie was too long, or the song no longer fit the story, or wasn't right for the actor cast to play the role. Many of them had demos recorded which the archivists have also found. I had attended a Lost Chords session four years ago at the first D23 Expo and found it very enjoyable - i wanted to see what they did this time. Last time they had a live chorus singing the songs. Since then they have taken some of the music and have re-recorded it in a recording studio with an orchestra and professional singers. There was no chorus this time, instead, presenter Randy Thornton told us something about the pieces that he had selected, and played some of the original demo and then the new recording. We heard songs from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, The Aristocats, Peter Pan, and The Rescuers.
One of the most interesting to me was a song that was originally written for Alice in Wonderland, called "Beyond the Laughing Sky". It wasn't used in that movie, but it still had a very familiar melody - because it was re-written as "Second Star to the Right" for Peter Pan. :-)
The next set of "Lost Chords" they are working on are songs that were written for Mary Poppins. We heard the "North Pole Polka".
The Lost Chords, both the original versions and the new, are available as digital downloads on iTunes and amazon.com - just search for "Lost Chords".
Lost Chords ended at 11:00, and I went up to the Imagineering session that started at 11:15. Walked right in - it was half full, maybe. This one was called The DNA of Innovation, and featured a panel of six Imagineers, including Disney Legend Bob Gurr, who provided some insight into "then" versus "now". Though the tools are quite different than they were 60 years ago, the creative process is largely the same. Some of the "rules" of Imagineering:
Don't hire anyone who needs to be managed.
Don't write down the rules.
Innovation is messy.
Celebrate spectacular failures that enable magnificent success.
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in this one - it was more like a corporate leadership presentation than something of interest to Disney fans. I think they should have let Bob Gurr tell more stories. :-)
Lee attended the day's big arena presentation by Disney Interactive that focused on video games: Fantasia: Music Evolved and Disney Infinity, the new Disney Animated application for iOS and new on-line only digital content: Blank: A Love Story and Small World. He said there was lots of enthusiasm for the presentation and he will be writing a blog post on the topic soon. (The cynic in me says that the reason most people attended was to get the Disney Infinity Sorcerer Mickey figure that will not otherwise be available until January.)
Lee, DebK and I attended the screening of the pilot for the upcoming Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I think we all enjoyed it. It won't feature any of the Avengers, but is definitely a follow-on to that and makes references to the movies. Looks like there are some interesting characters. It'll air on Tuesday nights at 8:00 on ABC.
That was our final D23 event. When we left the Arena we could see one of the staff members taking up the masking tape that had been used to define the queue lines. That's a huge ball of tape, and he still had a long way to go...
As we headed out we saw this chalk artwork on the walkway outside.
All in all it was a pretty good weekend. I'll have another blog with more of a review and, of course, some recommendations for the NEXT Expo. :-)
The D23 Expo encourages guests to come in costume and one of the fun things to do is wander around and see all the people who dress up. There is a lot of creativity and artistry involved in those costume - you don't see people dressed in costumes they bought at a costume shop!
By the way - thank you to everyone who allowed us to take their photo!
This year for the first time the D23 Expo held a costume contest: Heroes and Villains a la Mode. Guests were competing for one of five Edna Mode (The Incredibles' costume designer) trophies. There were five categories: Best Craftsmanship, Best Re-creation, Original Design, Best Young Fan, and Best in Show.
On Friday morning contestants could sign up for the costume, and there was some pre-judging done, because only 40 entries made it to the final costume contest on Friday afternoon. (This was held in Stage 23, and there was PLENTY of room - lots of empty seats.) A number of people who didn't make the final cut were in the audience...and there were some pretty incredible costumes that were left out!
The judges were Mona May, costumer designer for "Enchanted", Jai Rodriguez, from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", and Devon Odessa, from "My So-Called Life". The contestants came out from backstage where they posed behind this shadow screen, then came out and took a turn on the runway before going over to let the judges have a better look.
Mona May is a costumer designer, so she was especially interested in seeing the costumes up close. She asked lots of questions about the costumes and made some very complimentary remarks. One of the best moments was seeing the two people who came out dressed as Giselle and Prince Edward - costumes that Mona had originally designed. They didn't know that Mona would be one of the judges, and she seemed impressed by their re-creation of her design. (They eventually won the Best Craftsmanship award.)
After all the contestants had come out the judges had to leave to deliberate, and that left the host with time to fill, and apparently no one had considered what to do with that. Some of the other costumed people came up on stage and that helped fill in some of the time.
When the judges came back all of the contestants came out and we got a final look at them. There were some really great costumes - I was very impressed by the Hat Box Ghost (and amazed that it didn't win anything).
Lee has put together a video of the Costume Contest, below I have some additional still photos that Lee or I took.
I was surprised this didn't win for Original Design:
And this one was really well-done:
Three generations in this group!
All of the winners:
Best Re-Creation (this was really gorgeous):
See elsewhere at the Expo:
Great use of a wheelchair!
They have a few kinks to work out of the costume contest, but I hope it will be back - it was fun to watch. Congratulations to all of the participants - there was really some incredible creativity and craftsmanship in all of the costumes.
D23 Expo 2013: Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends
So the other week, Disney had its third biennial Expo. Perhaps you've heard of it by now? Oh...
Well I had a great time anyway. The first day I started off checking out the various pavilions on the Exhibitor's Floor. The big hit for this year, as for all the other years, was the Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion.
To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Imagineering, the booth was made up to suggest the actual building that houses Imagineering Headquarters in Glendale.
Inside, the pavilion was separated into various "cubicles," each of which spotlighted a specific area of Imagineering and housed Imagineers ready to discuss their work...mostly. There were displays up front representing work being done on both the Avatar and Star Wars franchises, but no news was particularly forthcoming about either.
Some of the most amazing sights were not available for photographs, particularly the Art Library section which housed the original Herb Ryman sketch of Disneyland, and the Peter Ellenshaw painting of Disneyland, publicly shown under black light for the first time.
Another exceptional feature was the handful of original concept models for attractions that were never built. Attractions such as the fabled Western River Expedition for WDW's Magic Kingdom...
...and the abandoned original Land pavilion from when it was still to have been sponsored by a lumber company.
There was one booth playtesting an interactive adventure called "Adventure Trading Company."
The idea was that you would complete various quests/adventures ($5 each,) and on completion would receive a "juju." The first one was free, and involved you having to make up a name for yourself and tell your story to the Adventurer in the booth.
Subsequently, some days after the Expo, I received a survey asking a lot of questions about the playtest, so presumably they are actually considering implementing this in the parks.
In one office labeled "Dimensional Design," you might have found items as old as the Carrara marble Snow White and Seven Dwarves statues from Disneyland's wishing well...
...and then turned around outside of it to find something as new as one of Disney's latest additions to its costumed fold.
Over in Show Animation, they had an impressively gesticulating Hatbox Ghost, along with a variety of other retired animatronics, such as the smoldering Iago and Tiki Goddess Uh-Oah, from Under New Management.
Set Decoration had an abundance of decor samples from Hong Kong Disneyland's new Mystic Manor attraction...
...and there were a jillion more areas with fascinating tidbits everywhere, if you didn't want to see anything else at the Expo. "Had we but world enough, and time..." Ah well.
Just outside the pavilion Mickey's of Glendale had their shop set up with enormous lines, just like every time I've visited the actual Mickey's of Glendale! The truth is in the details.
Speaking of shopping, the one booth that I was never able to get into because of the long lines, was, oddly enough, the Disney Store booth.
Disney Interactive was out in force, promoting the newly release Disney Infinity with many of the same photo-ops and giveaway machines they featured at E3.
Disney Consumer Products had a large number of displays showing off all the different branches of merchandise they develop. Some new friends...
...And some old ones.
Walking/working the floor were a number of Disney notables, such as Chief Archivist Becky Cline...
...Head of D23, Steven Clark...
...And Bob Iger, Disney Chairman and CEO.
(Side note: I was trying to be all cool and unobtrusive taking this photo, and one of the security guys basically laughed at me. I would make a bad spy.)
Again, there were a boatload of other pavilions, both by Disney and by outside vendors, but there just wasn't time enough to see everything in the detail you'd like as well as see the talks and panels. Each booth also usually had schedules of celebrity/artist/writer signings and giveaways if you didn't already have enough events to coordinate for the weekend.
By the way, does this booth look familiar to you? It should if you were following The Optimist--a alternate reality game Disney implemented in the weeks leading up to Expo (http://optimist.disney.com/) It was very fun and well implemented, with an elaborate climax over in Disneyland.
But on to the panels! The first day, I spent the bulk of the day in the entertaining but very long Art and Imagination: Animation at the Walt Disney Studios. Here, they went over most of the new movies in production from Pixar, Disneytoon, and Walt Disney Animation. While a lot of familiar players were featured here, such as Finding Dory and Planes, a standout surprise for me was Big Hero 6--a story of a robotics prodigy who, with his robot pal, joins forces with other crime-fighters to combat a threat to their town of San Fransokyo.
Their powerhouse however, was Frozen--they showed several clips from it, including a song from Olaf the snowman, and ended the presentation with Idina Menzel singing the movie's showstopper "Let It Go." Sadly, no photos or video were allowed.
Hosted by John Lasseter, it was an amusing presentation but it ran over by almost two hours, insuring that anyone staying to the end missed Tony Baxter's Undiscovered Disneyland talk (Gah!) in which it was announced that he would be awarded his own window on Main Street this Fall. Congratulations Mr. Baxter!
The next talk I made it to was Disney Imagineering Legend Marty Sklar Presents...Dream it! Do it!
Honestly? I've heard Sklar speak on a number of occasions, and this, quite frankly, wasn't his best. He started off saying that they had asked him to speak and he had responded that everything was in his new book. It seemed like a joke at the time, but the rest of his talk was such an amalgamation of material from talks he's given before, that perhaps it wasn't. The bulk of his presentation was video clips that either have been presented multiple times in the past, or are readily available on DVD, and a retelling of Walt's Four C's, and Mickey's Ten Commandments. It seemed like a talk more suited for company training programs than Disney enthusiasts.
The last event I saw for the first day was Broadway & Beyond...Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway.
Hosted by Thomas Schumacher, President/Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, this was a rousing romp through the musical catalogs of all the many productions Disney has had on Broadway. The cast was made up of Heidi Blickenstaff (The Little Mermaid,) Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast,) Merle Dandridge (Tarzan and Aida,) Josh Strickland (Tarzan,) and Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King.)
This was a great concert, with really strong performers doing both lesser-known songs, and songs they themselves performed in the shows. Josh Strickland in particular showed off his versatility, singing parts as varied as Tarzan, Quasimodo, and one of Ariel's sisters.
And that was only the first day! Phew!
The second day started off for me with Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios. Again, no cameras were allowed.
Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn hosted the session that went over the lengthy docket of films currently in production. As expected, no big news on Star Wars VII was released, but then Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, got the party started with his presentations including clips and star appearances from Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey then introduced footage and stars (both in person and by remote,) of a variety of films such as Muppets Most Wanted, Into the Woods, Cinderella, and Maleficent.
He finished with the two films that have arguably been getting the most attention in the fan circuits the last few months: Tomorrowland, and Saving Mr. Banks. For Tomorrowland, filmmakers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof came out and displayed the enigmatic "dusty old box" they brought in lieu of the film's star George Clooney, and showed some curious animation they claimed to have discovered, promoting the mysterious organization hinted at in The Optimist (remember when I spoke of that game earlier? CALL BACK, friends.)
They also announced that a booth dedicated to the mysteries of the box would be unveiled out on the Exhibitor's floor later that day, and that limited edition Tomorrowland t-shirts (worn by Brad Bird in the photo) would be on sale at the Dream Store.
Saving Mr. Banks showed us additional footage which added a few minutes onto the trailers already online, and brought out Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak who play Richard and Robert Sherman in the film.
The whole thing ended in a grand finale as Richard Sherman came out and sang "Let's Go Fly A Kite" with them, while confetti and kites whirled about the audience.
After that was over, I sprinted upstairs to catch ABC's Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale panel with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Laura already wrote about that in a much more timelier fashion than I, so I'll just say while the footage from Wonderland didn't impress me quite as much as Once Upon A Time, I'll certainly be watching as well.
After that, it was a mad sprint back to the Arena, where the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony was already in progress. Fortunately I got there in time to see the first award recipient, Tony Baxter.
All the acceptance speeches were very nice, particularly Glen Keane who looked back fondly on his start at Disney Animation, where he was met with the creative incense of "pencil shavings, cigarettes, and scotch."
(As a surprise to Richard Sherman, Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak returned to the stage to sing a number with him.)
Consequently, the part where they were together was whittled down to one song from each of them while they were both on stage as a curtain call. Ah well--more for next time.
Finally, we arrived at the third and final day, which was largely going to be taken up by a series of panels celebrating Imagineering's 60th anniversary.
The first discussion, called WDI 60th: Working With Walt, celebrated the early days of Imagineering, with Marty Sklar, X Atencio, Alice Davis, and Bob Gurr.
Subsequently, I saw WDW 60th: Craft of Creativity with Chris Montan, Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Jacobson, Daniel Jue, Joe Lanzisero, Kathy Mangum, and Joe Rohde. This was an interesting discussion that largely revolved around how they all became Imagineers, and how what they do compares to the popular conceptions of Imagineering.
Next up was WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy, with WDI Chief Creative Executive Bruce Vaughn, and former WDI Executive Marty Sklar.
The two spoke on and answered questions about the challenges and satisfactions inherent in leading a team of creatives.
Finally, the last panel of the weekend for me was WDI 60th: Leave 'em Laughing. This was a discussion on humor in the parks with Imagineers Dave Fisher, Joe Lanzisero, Kevin Rafferty, Jason Surrell, and George Scribner.
It was a nice way to wrap up the weekend, with some good humor to soften the post-Expo dejection.
In between the panels I finally got around to seeing the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives--an exhibit I totally missed last Expo, not knowing that it closes early on the last day.
The objects on display were all impressive and attractive, although I would have liked to see more historical items in lieu of the artifacts from Disney's more contemporary franchises. Loved the Once Upon A Time stuff, nonetheless.
Perhaps in expectation of Saving Mr. Banks coming out soon, there was a heavy emphasis on Mary Poppins in the form of costumes, storyboards, art and props.
In the last hour or so, I was able to take one more turn around the Exhibitor's floor to see anything I might have missed before, such as the pirate ship from Once Upon A Time that was last seen at Comic-Con.
Finally, I was also able to check out the Tomorrowland booth which had an enormous line, complete with FastPass. As it turned out, the line was to borrow an iPad for the audio tour so I was able to skip it as I had already downloaded the app to my own.
Although they prohibited any photography in the booth, most of the papers and arcane items on display from the "mystery box" can be seen with descriptions in the Tomorrowland app from iTunes. It was a very professionally put-together exhibit that alluded to mysterious activities and futuristic discoveries made by a secret society whose members included Jules Verne, Nicholas Testa, and perhaps...Walt Disney? We'll have to wait for the movie to find out.
SO, that was the D23 2013 Expo. My thoughts, in summary:
The Good: I felt the content this year was really stepped up from last year. Year One Expo still feels like it had the most material of the three, but as that was prior to the start of the Destination D series, probably understandable. The increase in room size was a huge improvement over all past years--I had initially had no expectations of getting into even 50% of the Imagineering panels on Sunday, and yet I don't think anyone was turned away from any of them. The Parks and Resorts booth was remarkable in all the detail and gawk-worthy items and the concerts both nights were exceptional experiences that would be worth a trip even as stand-alone events.
The Legends ceremony and the panels with the original Imagineers were really the main reasons to attend this Expo, however--with the emphasis on looking back over the history of the company, the opportunity to see and hear from the people instrumental in building and continuing the Disney Legacy is something you can't get from many other venues.
The Bad: While the lines have improved, they continue to be something of an issue, primarily in the morning. I heard frequent complaints that there were insufficient people available to scan badges and that morning talks were going half-full because people couldn't get inside the hall fast enough to get to them. Lines for shopping were much longer than I remembered from past years, despite the fairly limited amount of Expo-specific merchandise that I saw.
I also think the topics of some of the talks could be beefed up. The speakers were great, but sometimes they either spoke really generally, or reiterated already widely-known anecdotes. Speaking just for me, I'm not so much interested in the streamlining of business communication, but in the specific history of Walt Disney and his company. I don't want to hear that you shouldn't crush your co-workers ideas, as much as I want to know, say, about the time you had lunch in the commissary the day before Disneyland opened. What did everyone say? What did they feel? Were they funny? Did they have nerves? What did they think were going to happen? These are things only the people who were there will know, and everything they don't tell us will be lost to time.
My main complaint would be one of time. The first Expo was four days and I think going back to that would really help alleviate some of the hysteria involved in trying to crush seeing everything in between overlapping panels. Unfortunately, the response to feedback like this usually tends to involve cutting the amount of presented material--NO. Less content is NOT desirable. Too much is better than too little, but more time to see everything would be best.
The Hmm...: The highlighted issue of this year seemed to be the "no new announcements" one. Prior to Expo, it was generally announced that there would be nothing new/exciting announced for the parks this year. During Expo, it became clear that there would, in fact, be no new announcements. Subsequent to Expo, there was loud hue and cry from some areas that the whole thing was a waste of time, because there were no new announcements.
Putting aside the question of why you would enter into an event expecting something you had explicitly been told not to expect, it's hard for me to imagine a Disney fan that couldn't find something of interest here. If you like the contemporary stuff, Disney Channel and Disney Interactive, along with ABC and the Studios all exhibited current projects and programs. Stars? Billy Crystal, Angelina Jolie, Chris Evans, Anthony Hopkins and more were in attendance. If you're a fan of the history of the company, Tony Baxter, Alice Davis and a plethora of other Legends had you covered. If you just like the music, there were concerts and panels by Randy Thornton and Stacia Martin. If you primarily follow the parks, there were exhibits and Imagineers available to answer questions on almost every facet of attraction development. If your entire interest in the Disney company boils down to only caring about new developments for the parks and resorts...well, that is some impressive specialization, and no, this probably wasn't for you.
Having said that, I guess the next question would be, "well, why aren't they announcing anything?" The pat answer would be that they simply didn't have anything to announce, however we've seen in the past that that is often not the case. The company has had huge releases in the past, sometimes in the next few weeks after the Expo, and it just seems as though they might be able to schedule it a little better. Just this last weekend saw Disney Infinity appear in stores and online for purchase--doesn't it seem as though making this available during Expo would have generated some sales? Obviously there must be creative and legal reasons for why a given thing might not be ready for announcement but on the other hand, you do have two years to make your arrangements. While I certainly don't think the presence or absence of startling news at each Expo is a make-or-break issue, the times when it looks like the news is passing the Expo by, makes it look like more of an after-thought to the company when it really should be a vital way for it to celebrate its past and display its vision for the future.
Quibbles aside, I thought this was a fantastic event, particularly for fans of the history of the Disney Company, that was a vast improvement over the last Expo--I look forward with expectations of an even better one in 2015!
Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, August 16, 2013, including the new Mara effect at Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, and the final performance of the 2013 Disneyland All-American College Band.
Arrived at the Disneyland Resort just after lunch and decided to walk to the parks from the Mickey and Friends parking garage.
I had not been this way in the daylight so here are a couple pictures of the expanded walkway near the gate on Magic Way for pedestrians.
I still think it is humorous they use the temporary signage vs the permanent sign that was installed. I cannot believe they have not replaced or fixed that sign yet.
Along the walkway saw several of these signs. Wonder if there was something going on or just a lot of lost guests recently?
The Waffle-inator we saw at the D23 Expo has moved to Downtown Disney for this weekend.
Due to this the valet parking area was closed. There was no real crowd this afternoon.
The Blink store has closed and walls are up. I believe this will be the recently announced Downtown Disney Starbucks location. Lets see if that can survive in the location. I think this space has had among the highest turnover.
Halloween is creeping up in the stores. Here is a display in World of Disney.
There was a 5-10 minute single rider wait so went for a spin on the Racers.
Thought this was odd.. temps were in the mid 80s and it was the middle of the afternoon and this stand in Bugs Land was closed.
No wait for Tower...guests were walking right in.
The All-American College Band wrapped up its summer run today. Here is a clip from their Backlot set.
The Rivers of America this afternoon.
Big Thunder is still moving along. I did not make it onto the Mark Twain this trip so no views over the walls.
Scaffolding lines the rooftops in Fantasyland as they work on hiding the safety railings.
I made my way out to the Ranch area.
The All-American College Band.
A clip from their set.
This past week Disneyland added a new effect to Indiana Jones.. they now have projections and a new voice in the first room where you encounter Mara...so I paid the temple a visit. Here is a picture from the queue.
A couple of clips of the changes.. first up a wide angle pass then a tighter shot that did not come out that well.
The food cart near the Tiki Room exit/Oasis entrance was not out today.
The College Band heading to the Castle for their 5:05pm set.
Since it was their last day they had some props for the Monsters Inc number.
This video is from earlier in the summer performing If I Didn't Have You from Monsters University.
I ate dinner along the Rivers of America since it was a pleasant evening. Here was the view from my table.
Time for the flag retreat in Town Square.
Walked around Toontown.
Soundsational making its way through Fantasyland.
Noticed this bobsled looks like it has a new undercarriage.
For comparison another one parked nearby.
Only two seagulls out today.
At Tomorrowland Terrace you can now get your Kids Power Pack in an R2D2 bucket (the popcorn buckets) for $5 more.
The regular meal is $5.99.
No real visible progress on the Market House/Starbucks project.
Mickey and Minnie strolling through Town Square on their way to take photos with guests.
Time for the All American College Band's finale set.
Since I enjoyed the set this time around... no new video but here is one of their opening if you missed it or were curious about the band. They open with their theme song: "Bubbles was a Cheerleader."
Meet the members of the band (this is a video clip from a previous visit).
Another previous video clip.. this is of their Michael Jackson Medley.
Ron brought their choreographer out to thank her.
Before the start of the last song the band swarmed Ron.
A video clip of the finale to their season and the end of their Earth, Wind, and Fire medley.
The Emporium has Halloween merchandise out.
Moving across the street to the Disney Showcase, it is all Halloween.
The Mad T Party was not crowded at all. No walkways or CMs out to keep traffic flowing since there was no need. The Mad T Party Band was performing when I walked by.
The Drink Me bar was not open this evening.
Mr. Potato Head was behind his curtain when I passed by Toy Story (which had a 40 minute wait).
Waiting for World of Color. Decided to watch from under the Silly Symphony Swings.
This is one of the best views of the fountains with minimal wait. But you unfortunately miss a lot of the show since you cannot see the projections and many of the effects do not look correct from this angle.
One last fire shot from the Pirates sequence to end this trip to the Disneyland Resort.
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, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.