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.
"Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures" A Conversation with Bob Chapek
On November 19-20, D23 held its second biennial Destination D at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, "Destination D: Amazing Adventures."
The weekend's emphasis was on Adventure, in all its many incarnations throughout Disney properties around the world, and with a particular eye towards new and upcoming exotica.
(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)
To start us off, D23’s Jeffrey Epstein opened the weekend with Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, to talk about some of his fond Disney Park memories (pickles in bags!) and upcoming additions to the parks.
As part of the weekend's swag giveaways, attendees received their own MagicBand 2--a redesigned version with a removable center button that can be taken out (regular MagicBand 2's will come with their own custom screwdriver) and placed in a variety of personalized bracelet and non-bracelet wearable options.
Chapek then spoke in fairly nonspecific terms about what he's eagerly anticipating from "Pandora – The World of AVATAR." Some new concept art of the in-story dining and shopping areas was also released, as Deb Koma reported on here.
With the announcement that Star Tours would, as it was with the release of "Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens," be refreshed with scenes from "Star Wars: Episode VIII," Chapek again teased some concept art of the Star Wars expansion currently underway at both Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios.
Beyond that, Chapek again spoke generally about a major transformation in the works for EPCOT, that will make it more Disney, timeless, relevant, and family-friendly. He also expressed a wish to encase WDW guests in even more of a Disney bubble during their stay, mentioning on-property transportation as something that "is functional, when it should be magical!"
The next day, we saw an example of what he might have been talking about--a "Sorcerer-Class Concept Bus" not currently planned for production but an attempt to further differentiate the Disney transportation experience.
Inside, the bus featured mood lighting, and an audio track similar to the WDW resort hold music.
Finally, Chapek closed his part of the presentation by revealing a plan to make the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA) an overarching mythology that will thread through all the different Disney Parks of the world.
Of note, SEA already makes an appearance in Fortress Explorations and Tower of Terror in Tokyo DisneySea, Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland, the Oceaneer Lab on the Disney Magic, and the upcoming Miss Fortune Falls in Typhoon Lagoon. It also features heavily in the themes of Disney Spring's Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar, the defunct Adventurer's Club, and the Magic Kingdom's Skipper Canteen.
"Destination D: Amazing Adventures" Day One Continued
Continuing on the first day of D23's "Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures," film producer Don Hahn and Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives took the audience on "A Look Back at Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures."
(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)
Through a variety of rarely-seen photos and video clips, Hahn and Cline gave us a glimpse at the many challenges of filming and producing the nature series that was one of the key inspirations for the original Adventureland at Disneyland.
Breaking the topic up into categories of "C's," they spoke of the filmmakers' concerns with Companions: 50% of the photography was done by couples; Camera equipment: One team developed what appeared to be an armored Winnebago where they shot footage and lived from, for three years; Courage: Photographers were seen in all manners of horrific circumstances, from having to dress as bison, to being attacked by swarms of bees; Climate: Many shoots were in less-than-hospitable environments such as the Arctic, and required any number of innovative living conditions; Contraptions: In order to get the shots they needed, they would periodically invent devices, such as a camera that resembled a rifle to improve their accuracy in obtaining footage of birds in flight.
Hahn also spoke briefly about DisneyNature's upcoming film "Born In China," and showed the trailer for it. Referencing an early video clip they had shown of Roy Disney's troubles manufacturing a funny nature bit for Walt, Hahn pointed out how far they had come from the early days of Nature documentaries: "This is no longer the era of 'throw-a-duck.'"
Next up was Disney Legend Marty Sklar describing some of the giant contributions Imagineers Harper Goff and Bill Evans made to realizing Disneyland's Adventureland in "The Wonderland of Nature's Own Design."
From a recounting of how they first met Walt, to their involvement with concept art and practical construction design, Sklar showed some of the genius the two men put into the creation of Disneyland's most lush and mysterious land.
Destination D regular Jason Grandt moderated the next panel on "Disney Adventurelands Around the World," with fellow Imagineers Tony Baxter and Luc Mayrand.
Although they touched on the Adventurelands at all the parks, given Baxter's past role as executive producer of Disneyland Paris and Mayrand's recent position as creative lead on Treasure Cove at Shanghai Disneyland, it was kind of a "salute to all Adventurelands, but mostly Paris and Shanghai."
--Imagineering research revealed a big Western Europe interest in the tales of the Arabian Nights, leading them to retheme the entry to DLP's Adventureland in that vein.
--Similarly, they found few people there connected to the tales of Tom Sawyer, resulting in the substitution of the pirate-infested Adventure Isle.
--Over in Shanghai, a tepid response to their proposals for Frontierland caused the Imagineers to reallocate its space and integrate it with their initial Adventureland into two large lands--Adventure Isle and Treasure Cove.
--Camp Discovery, with its dramatic Challenge Trails just won a TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) Outstanding Attraction award for 2016, along with Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure.
--The area's signature snack, turkey legs, became so popular the lines sometimes ran up to two hours, with people who worked their way through the front of the line selling them to people at the end for profit.
A look at the lighter side of Adventure came with former Jungle Cruise skippers Archivist Justin Arthur, Skipper Canteen’s Trevor Van Dahm, and Imagineers Chris Merritt, Wyatt Winter, Kevin Lively, and Alex Grayman who recounted some of the history of the legendary attraction and its jocular narrative in "Tales from the Jungle Cruise."
Afterwards, in "Disney's Polynesian Resort 45th Anniversary," D23’s Steven Vagnini, Disney Vacation Club’s Ryan March, and Disney artists Casey Jones and Richard Terpstra commemorated the occasion by giving us a glimpse into the iconic resort's genesis and development.
--The first concept of a South Seas resort was shown on the map of the EPCOT project Walt displayed on television.
--Welton Becket, designer of landmark structures such as the Pan Pacific Auditorium, the Ford and GE pavilions for the 1964 World's Fair, and the Contemporary, also designed the original look of the Polynesian Village.
--A John Curry memo from 1969 reveals that "Contemporary" and "Polynesian" were originally working names that eventually stuck with minimal additions.
--Although the resort started operation on October 1, 1971, the opening ceremony for the Polynesian was October 24th. The occasion was marked by the premier of the Electric Water Pagent and the Fantasy in the Sky firework show.
--Some early guests to the resort were Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Fred MacMurray.
--The Polynesian Tiki was designed by WED in the late 1960s, likely based on a carving from an Oceanic Arts shield.
--It was originally considered to be Maui, but after various different representations of Maui were created, it became known as the Polynesian Tiki.
--In a particularly nice homage, original Polynesian cast member Auntie Kau’I, cultural representative Ku’ulei, and musician Kalei joined the group onstage to reminisce about Kau'l's history at the resort and give a brief hula lesson.
To finish off the day, Screenwriter Jared Bush spoke on WDAS' latest blockbuster "MOANA: Building a Legend."
Work continues on re-configuring the Mickey and Friends Tram Stop to move security screening out here.
Canopies and rigging are being set up on a portion of the former Pinocchio lot.
Saturday was a Candy Cane day at Trolley Treats. So guests rushed to get in line for wristbands to buy handmade candy canes. They are $12.99 each this year and wristbands are distributed on a first come first serve basis. The line is on the right.
The Bugs have reclaimed their theater for the time being. The Moana preview has concluded.
At Disneyland Town Square was set up for the Candlelight Processional that evening.
First attraction of the day for me, the Jingle Cruise. Wait time was only a couple minutes.
Doughnuts are available for purchase at the Coffee stand in the hub.
Those are chocolate chip cookies on top
Peanut butter cups on top of these.
A look at the new rock formations taking shape along the Rivers of America.
Moana was greeting guests near the Oasis. Hard to get a picture without waiting in line.
Mickey was in front of the fire house.
Back at Trolley Treats the first batch of Candy Canes were being worked on.
For the holidays a new song has been added to the rotation at Luigi's. Jingle Bells. Here is a video clip of it.
A look at the Tower of Terror as it becomes Guardians of the Galaxy Breakout.
A line of guests for the Visa photo this morning.
Award Wieners has a new menu.
Caught the 12:05 performance of the Holiday Toy Drummers. Video of the Holiday Toy Drummers show.
Princess Elena of Avalor Meet and Greet.
The Three Caballeros
Disney Viva Navidad! time.
RAISE performing at the Pacific Wharf Stage as part of Disney Festival of Holidays They perform a variety of songs. Here is a clip from their Lion King Medley.
Grand Californian Gingerbread Houses for sale.
Stopped by Storytellers and was greeted by a friendly face.
A gingerbread house inside Storytellers Cafe.
The main lobby Christmas tree at the Grand Californian.
A large gingerbread replica of the hotel is on display in the lobby.
A video clip of the fireplace in the gingerbread hotel.
The back side.
In Downtown Disney the Pandora signage is now up.
Back to Disneyland.
Candlelight preparations were in high gear with less than 3 hours till show time.
My plan was to go watch the 3:15 parade and then find a spot but the first rows were already filled so I went to sit for Candlelight 2.5 hours before the show. Time for the Flag Retreat. Due to the Candlelight they just played a recording.
At about 5:25 Nancy started the orchestra for the procession.
The start of the procession entering Town Square at 5:30pm, then the cermony got underway.
Here are some video clips from the Candlelight.
The guest narrator this year was Ginnifer Goodwin
A young girl performing a solo, I missed her name and only invited guests get programs.
Silent Night sung by Drew Tablak
Main Street USA after the performance.
A video clip of Main Street.
On the weekend they are having a Holiday Celebration on the Rivers of America. It features the Jambalaya Jazz performing.The finale features snow fall during White Christmas.
Guests gathered in the snow.
A couple video clips of the Jambalaya Jazz performing at Rivers of America Holiday Celebration.
The Royal Swing Big Band Ball at the Royal Theatre
A couple video clips from the end of Main Street and walking down Main Street during the Candlelight, notice the audio is piped into the area.
Returned to DCA to close out my evening. A video of Luigi's Jingle Bells at night.
At night the Grizzly Bear Holiday sweater lights up.
A video clip of the sweater in action.
Show time for World of Color - Season of Light.
Mele Kalikimaka Segment
Goofy decorating segment is a highlight of the show.
That wraps up my long day at 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, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.
This last weekend, Lucasfilm and director Gareth Edwards screened 28 minutes of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" up at Skywalker Ranch. While the footage seemed deliberately cut to avoid major spoilers, it was enough to get some preliminary impressions.
*If you want to go in completely spoiler free, now is the time to cut out.*
1. As a move likely intended to distinguish the anthology story "Rogue One" from the main legacy movies, the film does not begin with the usual Star Wars title crawl--just the traditional "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.."
2. What I gather: Our heroine Jyn Erso's story begins when her family is fractured by Director Orson Krennic and his Death Troopers who need her dad, Galen Erso, to work on a secret Death Star project. In a jump forward, we then see a Rebel Alliance desperate to get the plans for the Death Star from Galen. In a bid to contact him, they recruit an adult Jyn to help them assemble the people they need--Bodhi Rook, a defector pilot, and Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel offshoot leader and Jyn's old protector.
3. Asians! For those of us who remember when JJ Abrams was asked at SDCC when Asians would figure into Star Wars, and his response was "go Asians!" Lucasfilm finally delivers with Donnie Yen's Chirrut Imwe--a blind monk who is one of the few remaining believers in the Force. As you'd expect from the martial art star, his fight scene in the clips we saw was suitably impressive.
4. "Rogue One" is clearly designed to show a grittier, morally complex side to the Star Wars Universe. Far from the black-and-white 1930's film serial view of heroism that influenced Episode 4, the rebels here have apparently accepted that war means occasionally distasteful compromise.
5. Alan Tudyk continues to earn his keep as Disney's good luck charm--his K-2SO droid is a hilarious CGI blend of HK-47 from "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" and Marvin the Paranoid Android from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Easily my favorite part of everything I've seen so far, he is BB-8 for the disaffected set.
6. Things continue to be grim if you are a mom in a Disney movie.
7. Stormtroopers are still questionable shots.
"Rogue One" enters general release December 16, 2016.
Fans of the pop culture juggernaut "Star Wars" will get their next installment in theaters December 16, when Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios present "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." The first in what they originally called the Anthology films, "Rogue One" starts a series of standalone films that detail different parts of the Star Wars timeline, but are not directly connected to the Saga films that tell a continuing story of the Skywalker clan.
"Rogue One" details the events alluded to in the original "New Hope" title crawl, in which rebel spies steal the plans for the Empire's ultimate weapon--the DEATH STAR. It takes place between Episode III and Episode IV, at a time when Order 66 has all but destroyed the Jedi Order and nothing but the bravery and daring of ordinary citizens can hope to free the galaxy.
[All non-attributed photos and video courtesy of Disney.]
Up at Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch, the cast and creatives behind "Rogue One" gathered to briefly discuss the film and their roles in it. The first panel consisted of Producer Kathy Kennedy, Director Gareth Edwards, Diego "Cassian" Luna, Alan "K2SO" Tudyk, Donnie "Chirrut" Yen, and Executive Producer John Knoll, who was also the VFX Supervisor, and who contributed the original story idea.
Some video highlights from the press conference:
Edwards on getting George Lucas' feedback: "So two days ago, we got to show George the movie, and we all had a phone call and I got to speak with him yesterday, and I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but I can honestly say that I can die happy now. He really liked the movie, so it meant a lot. To be honest, and no offense to anyone here, it was the most important review to me...what George thought of it. You know, you guys are important too, but come on, he’s kind of God when it comes to Star Wars."
Kennedy on diversity and representation in "Rogue One:" "I think, you know, having a cast that represents and reflects the world today and having characters that people can relate to all over the world, this is very much a global industry. Films mean something to people all over the world, and it was certainly important to this story...It lent itself very, very well. These are a group of people who come together in ways that are kind of inexplicable, but they share a very common belief and they feel very strongly in their desire to do the right thing and they work together incredibly well, and having that sense of diversity as people come together was really important to our story. Every movie has reasons for why you cast certain people, but I think what we’re doing today is just being much more mindful of that, and I think it’s important."
Yen on how his martial arts background helped him relate to the Force: "You know, I always think of the force–we all have the force, it’s just we don’t realize it. It’s kind of like–I think it’s interesting to see...to me, the Star Wars story is about reminding us of the things that we neglect and forget. And the force is–we always have these kinds of ability, and to answer your question, I don’t think of it as having the martial arts ability, it’s just being a human being–you do have the force."
Tudyk on getting into character on set as the CG droid K2SO: "I was wearing a, you know, fully body jumpsuit sort of thing, and it’s such a new technology, even still. We’ve been introduced to it a lot of different ways. Sometimes people wear cameras on their heads, sometimes there’s dots all over their face, they have balls all over their suit. The way that ILM did it, I wore a suit that was very comfortable, it didn’t have all of that restriction on it, it just had interesting designs on it which..it was very cool looking. Come on. It was like a luge costume from like the Italian team, like it looked cool. And yeah, I mean, it didn’t have the colors, but still–and then I was on stilts so I was 7 foot 1, so I towered over everyone most of the time, and it was great, you know, just even at that height it colors how you move and helped me get into character. It was fantastic." Luna: "It wasn't." Tudyk: "It was basically just acting, but then the makeup and the costume came later, but because you’re on set you are able to create a character with the other actors. Without that, you can’t tell a story with the true character who can react in a moment. With some of the stuff Diego’s throwing at you, you need to be able to throw it right back."
Luna on Cassian's moral complexity: "I think it’s a modern approach to Star Wars, and we live in a different world today, you know. If you revisit all the films, it’s kind of like a stamp of what was going on and a reflection on the world back then, you know? And ours has to do the same. And we live in a diverse...world where racial and cultural diversity is in fact making us richer and more interesting. But it is a complex world we live in, and making the right choice many times looks horrible, you know? And these people are in war. You know, when you mentioned Cassian doing something not heroic, I would say, no, Cassian is a true hero, as Jyn and everyone in this team, you know? It’s just that they are the heroes we can be, just regular people doing amazing stuff you know, and no special powers, no Jedis, it’s just conviction and teamwork and yeah, that hope of actually being able to shape the reality we live in, and that makes them great, you know? But yes, they have to make choices on the way and war is horrible. I mean, no one wants war to happen, none of these characters would choose war, you know, but it’s the last chance, you know, and they have to do it."
The second panel then took place with Producer Kathy Kennedy and Director Gareth Edwards returning, along with Felicity “Jyn” Jones, Ben “Krennic” Mendelsohn, Mads “Galen” Mikkelsen, and Riz “Bodhi” Ahmed.
Jones on finding her Inner Warrior: "Yeah, well, it’s in Jyn’s head, it’s very clear. She hates the Empire. So anytime she sees Stormtroopers she has this kind of a very clear instinct to take them down. So I just tapped into that, into that energy that Jyn has. And I’d never done that kind of thing before. It was very new, the whole kind of physical preparation, that side of acting. I’m kind of used to lots of, you know, talking in corsets so it was really nice to be running around with a blaster and a baton to bash Stormtroopers with. But yeah, it was an extraordinary process and you work very closely with the stunt team who take you through every kind of move and moment and support you throughout the whole thing and I’m very lucky to have a great support from the stunt team doing it."
Edwards on working with Ben Mendelsohn: "And Ben is so relaxed in front of the camera that he would start like just messing around, like he’s very playful. And I thought he was reciting Shakespeare or something, like to get himself into character, and then I would listen carefully to the lyrics and realize he was singing Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, and even like Frozen, I think. There was like times where..." Mendelsohn: "Oh yeah, I did sing a bit of Frozen." Edwards: "Yeah. What was it – we used to be friends or whatever?" Mendelsohn: "Yeah, that’s right, yeah, yeah, yeah. I did the we used to be friends – no, it’s escaping me now, but yes." Mikkelsen: "I remember it vividly."
Mikkelsen on Galen's moral complexity: "...I think that as actors we always try to find, like, the two sides of a character, but definitely it’s in this one because he’s working together with this gentleman (Mendelsohn) something that he believes from the very beginning as a project that has the ability to change the world into a better place. And though be it that it turns out that he’s working on something that he didn’t know, and for that reason he’s in a gigantic dilemma. And for other reasons I will not spoil here, the dilemma gets even bigger. So yes, that’s a gray zone here. As you said, you used to be maybe in the ‘70s and the ‘80s a little more black and white, but there are a lot of grays in here.
Ahmed on becoming an action figure: "I did get an action figure. I was very pleased because I think he’s a lot better-looking than I am. I think they accidentally modeled it on Diego or something, we're easily confused. Yeah, it was a kind of surreal, amazing moment, to be honest. I remember kind of playing with those toys as a kid and so to be part of that universe, you know, in plastic, is an amazing thing.
"Rogue One" will open in theaters December 16, 2016.
I've been traveling a lot, but I wanted to make another visit to Disneyland during the holiday season. When I renewed my annual pass earlier this year I opted for the Signature AP, which is blocked out during the Christmas holidays - December 19-January 1 - so this weekend was my final opportunity before that. (I really don't WANT to be at Disneyland during those two weeks anyway!) Jason (Disneygeek) met me there on Friday afternoon and we wandered around for the rest of the day and evening.
We had a rare southern California rainstorm on Thursday and Friday, but according to the forecast the rain would be over in Anaheim by noon. When I left San Diego at 10:30 it was still raining there, but by the time I reached Anaheim the roads were dry and there was even a little bit of blue sky. As the day went on the clouds completely cleared off and we had a sunny day, though it was cool by southern California standards - only about 60 degrees.
Some major changes at Disneyland this week: most of the security checkpoints have been moved. Downtown Disney is now a "secure" area, so guests coming from the Mickey and Friends garage go through security before boarding a tram. I was surprised to see a fence up along the tram route where it goes through the garage. If you park on the first level then you cross the tram route inside the garage rather than from the Pinocchio parking lot as it was before.
The bag check is still done manually, and then everyone goes through a metal detector. I wish they'd installed x-ray machines rather than the manual check. I arrived about 12:20, and things weren't very busy then, so I got through quickly.
There are additional security checkpoints set up at the other entrances to Downtown Disney. From the Downtown Disney parking lot:
From the Grand Californian:
There's also one from the Disneyland Hotel, though I didn't get a photo of it. The security setup on the east side of the esplanade (for guests coming from the Toy Story parking lot and the hotels on Harbor Blvd) is unchanged. They still go through security on the east side of the esplanade.
From the tram I could see the demolition that's occurring at the former House of Blues location. According to a recent Disney Parks Blog post, Splitsville Luxury Lanes will be opening there in late 2017.
When I got off the tram, it was great to be able to walk directly to the esplanade without going through security! And the esplanade looks so open now! Jason reminded me that the security tents at the esplanade had been in place for over 15 years. Wow.
This was the first time I'd been to DCA during the day this holiday season.
My first order was to have something to eat, so I visited a couple of the Festival of Holidays Marketplaces. I never saw any lines at any of the booths except the Brews & Bites booth that sells beer. As I mentioned in my initial review of the Festival, I think the prices are just too high.
This time I tried the Harvest Puff Pastry with Leeks and Parmesan from the "Treats for Santa" booth. $4.25. I was surprised that it wasn't served warm. But it was pretty tasty, and I thought $4.25 wasn't a bad price, since it was a good-sized serving. Much more in line with the price I expect.
From "Mosaic Delights" I tried the Mini Falafel Donuts with Pickled Vegetables & Tahini Drizzle. This one was $7.00 - and it should have been $4.25. :-) Though it says "donuts", it's really a savory dish. I liked the flavor of the falafel and the pickled vegetables. It was just too expensive.
I felt really badly for the cast members working the food booths - they had very little to do, and I'm sure that makes their shifts seem really long.
Jason and I met at the World of Color Fastpass machines. Even though it was almost 1:00, we were still able to get Fastpasses in the Blue section (the best of the non-dining package sections) for the 9:00 showing of Season of Light. Because of the rain there weren't too many people out and about yet. There was a second show scheduled for 10:15...I have a feeling it was very sparsely attended.
Since I'm writing this resort update instead of Jason there's going to be more words than photos, so if you're interested in Jason's excellent photos and construction update please visit his web site: www.disneygeek.com.
There's an AP Corner for Annual Passholders set up in the Grizzly Peak Recreation area. It opened November 11 and is available through January 8. Pretty minimal offerings compared to some of these in the past. There's a button, a photo backdrop, and a coloring area. But no character greeting opportunity or refreshments like water and popcorn as there have been at previous AP areas. Also, there's only a single button for the event, rather than a different one each week (you can see my button on the left in the photo below). There were no guests there when we arrived, and the cast members looked pretty cold! The location is out of the way, and a little hard to find, though there were signs for it at the entrance.
There were additional craft opportunities along the parade corridor. This one was Christmas-themed, but I saw one for Kwanzaa also.
Our next destination was Disneyland, so that I could see the "A Christmas Fantasy Parade" for the first time this season. We went all the way back to the parade start at "it's a small world". Not real crowded, but there were more people back there than i expected. We still had a spot behind just one row of people, though.
For some reason the toy soldiers were missing when the parade first started this holiday season, but they are back now. Always one of my favorite parts of the parade.
We left our viewing spot just before the final float appeared so that we could get in line for "it's a small world" Holiday before the crowds descended on it after the parade was over. We had a good view of that last float with Santa Claus from the line.
"it's a small world" Holiday is celebrating its 20th holiday season this year. In recognition of that, some number of "hidden 20s" have been placed in the attraction this year. Jason is very good at spotting them and pointed them out to me, though the only one I was able to photograph was this one at the exit.
We went back to Frontierland to take a look at the Star Wars Land construction progress. This is the first time I've seen anything other than piles of dirt!
And this looks interesting. No idea what it is, though. There's still no official word out of Disney as to when Star Wars Land might open, but at least now there's actual construction underway. As I mentioned, Jason has a lot more (and better) photos available on his www.disneygeek.com site.
On Main Street we caught the end of the performance of the Dickens Yuletide Band. In the clip below they perform a medley from "The Nutcracker."
We were planning to see some of the holiday entertainment over at DCA, so went across the esplanade back over there. But first we went back to Hollywood to check on Fastpasses for Tower of Terror. After dark, the Tower of Terror offers "Late Check-Out", where the attraction takes place in the dark, with no soundtrack. Fastpasses were not originally available for the after dark part, but that changed recently. We were there about 3:00, and there was a sign out to that effect.
And the Fastpasses themselves denote Late Check-Out.
We still had some time before the first holiday act, so we went for a spin on Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters, since it had a short line. For the holiday season there's a new song: Jingle Bells. We heard it as we were walking to the attraction, but it wasn't the song that played for our ride.
The Holiday Toy Drummers was the first entertainment offering we saw, and they are my new favorites. They were so much fun to watch - especially since they seem to be having so much fun themselves. This is a video Jason took of them several weeks ago - they don't have any variation in their sets.
Holiday entertainment takes place in a number of different locations around DCA. The drummers were near the Boudin Bakery in Pacific Wharf, and from there we went to Paradise Gardens to see Princess Elena's Musical Grand Arrival. It was pretty well-attended. Elena sang several songs, including two Christmas songs.
The Stilt Circus performs along the parade corridor, though both time we saw them they were in Carthay Circle.
To get to Downtown Disney we exited through the Grand Californian. I hadn't seen the gingerbread hotel in its finished state - they were still decorating it when I was there in November. Pretty impressive structure.
There's a new Pandora store in Downtown Disney now, right next to Jamba Juice.
I was surprised to see a very large outdoor seating area outside Tortilla Jo's. During most of the year that might be pretty attractive, but it was a chilly afternoon and we didn't see anyone sitting outside.
The tree in Downtown Disney is in a new location this year. No skating rink, probably because of the construction of the fence for the security perimeter.
We took the monorail back to Disneyland from Downtown Disney. It was very nice not to have to go through a bag check there. And there was no line for the monorail, in fact some of the cars were empty. Jason and I were the only people in our car. We saw the start of sunset on our ride.
At the Star Wars Launch Bay cast members were distributing Rogue One - A Star Wars Story buttons since the movie had just opened. There were a couple of display cases with costumes and props from the movie - pretty much the same as what I saw in Florida the week before.
The lights weren't on yet, but the castle was decorated for the holidays.
We had dinner at Village Haus, largely so that we could sit inside where it was warm. There weren't very many people in there, and it was so quiet that we could actually hear the background music! It was the same holiday track that is played on Main Street. It was very nice to hear it.
The castle lights were on as we walked through the castle after dinner.
The Jambalaya Jazz group has added some holiday cheer to their set.
After dark their last song is White Christmas, and it snows.
When we walked by Tropical Imports in Adventureland we noticed a sign for a new dessert - a Pineapple Parfait. Layered pineapple mousse, vanilla cake and pineapple topped with whipped cream and a chocolate Heart of Tefiti pendant. Normally I would've tried this, but it was a cold dessert and I was already cold enough.
Back to DCA to catch some more of the Festival of Holidays entertainment. Starting at 5:30 there are four different acts in a row at the stage in Paradise Park. We missed the first one, but we saw RAISE - an acapella group, Mariachi Divas, and Mostly Kosher. The latter are pictured below. They were surprisingly entertaining.
The wind had come up and it was quite chilly by the water after we'd been sitting there for almost an hour. I suggested we go "under the sea" to warm up. :-) We walked right onto the clamshell vehicle.
There was still over an hour until it was time to be back for World of Color. I was looking for warm places, and we went into the Animation Building. There were a number of other people with the same idea, but we lucked out and there was a sofa we could sit on. I always enjoy sitting in there and watching the animation clips and artwork and listening to the music. I saw something I hadn't noticed before - it looks like there was a "Coppertone moment" in Frozen during the "In Summer" song. Cute.
On the way back to Paradise Bay we stopped at Award Weiners so that I could get some hot chocolate. That tasted pretty good - and it felt good in my hands. :-)
Jason knows the spots, and found us an excellent location to watch World of Color - Season of Light. We were just behind the dessert party area, so there was no one standing in front of us.
It was windy, but not enough to cancel the show. It made for some interesting effects on the fountains. I was surprised at how clear the projections still were, despite the wind.
This is such a good show. All of the effects work so well together.
We made the right decision to choose to see World of Color and not the fireworks show at Disneyland - it was canceled because of the wind.
That was the end of our day. When we arrived back at the Mickey and Friends garage I was surprised to see that almost all of the security check lanes were still open. It was almost 10:00 - not too many people arriving at that time of night.
It was a good day - I was able to see all of the entertainment that I'd wanted to see. And thanks to the rain and the cool weather the parks weren't very crowded at all.
Continuing on to day two of D23's "Destination D 2016: Amazing Adventures," historians Keven Neary and Susan Neary spoke briefly on their new book, curated by Imagineer Vanessa Hunt, "Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai."
(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)
From the early maps of Disneyland in 1955 to the international parks of the current day, their book displays all the creative artwork and history of Disney park maps.
Subsequently, attendees got a look behind the development of some of the recent Disney World entertainment additions in "New Walt Disney World Adventures."
Entertainment Show Director Tom Vazzana started us off with a look at the new holiday nighttime show at Disney Hollywood Studios, "Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!"
Through a high-energy walkthrough, Vazzana talked about the different segments of the show and the technical challenges of integrating high-definition projections, lasers, fireworks, and snow.
Imagineer Wyatt Winter then took the stage to talk about the development of the new Frozen Ever After attraction that's taken the place of Maelstrom in the EPCOT Norway pavilion.
--Some of the same animators that worked on the movie "Frozen," worked on the attraction to give life and consistency of movement and expression to the ride figures.
--This is the first time an attraction is using all electric figures, as opposed to hydraulic.
--The newly designed area of the pavilion is intended to travel across Norway, much like the area of Liberty Square and Frontierland travels geographically across America.
--Runestones placed around the area can be recognized as homages to Maelstrom.
After the morning break, Imagineers Jason Grandt and Alex Wright returned to Destination D with "Magic Journeys: 45 Years of Walt Disney World Adventures."
With the use of historical photos and video, the two gave everyone a quick and hilarious look at some of their favorite adventurous memories from Walt Disney World.
From a walkthrough of the departed (at least from WDW) Mr. Toad's Wild Ride to an exploration of all the different activities that used to be found at Fort Wilderness...
...to Discovery Island, to the Seven Seas Lagoon wave machines, to If You Had Wings, they covered the gamut of wacky to wonderful past WDW entertainment.
A look at "Pandora--The World of AVATAR" was then hosted by "AVATAR" creators James Cameron, Jon Landau (as Alpha Centauri Expeditions Founder Marshall Lamm,) and Imagineer Joe Rohde.
Enthusiastically discussing the many voyages they've taken to the planet Pandora, the group shared new concept art and insights.
--Tourists will visit Pandora at a time far in the future from the events of "Avatar," after the Resources Development Administration (RDA) war is over.
--One reason for bringing tourists to the valley of the floating mountains is the variety of habitats that can be found there. Shade and water runoff result in rainforests at the bases and underneath.
--The mountains float because Unobtanium, a naturally occurring superconductor, occurs there in large concentrations. Magnetic fields, called flux vortices, can lift the Unobtanium out of the ground, force pinning it into the air.
--A large part of Alpha Centauri Expeditions' mission is conservation. Tourists will see an environment that has been disturbed by humans but which is being ecologically rehabilitated by nature and the indigenous population.
--The Banshees, a cross between a raptor and a pterodactyl that evolved from fish, are able to bond with Na'vi who use them for riding and hunting.
--The Pandora Conservation Initiative (PCI) found abandoned RDA avatar facilities in the jungle, which allow them to offer tourists the experience of a flying initiation ceremony.
--Nature follows the same rules and reflects parallels between Earth and Pandora.
--Na'vi do not use metal in construction.
--Windtraders are a Na'vi clan that unites the cultures and maintains a common language through trading. The main shop in Pandora is named after them.
--"Pongu Pongu,” the repurposed Quonset hut that is the canteen means “party party."
--Nighttime on Pandora is transformed through reactive bio-luminescence.
--A boat ride through the bio-luminescent grotto shows tourists a Na'vi Shaman performing a ceremony of song.
--The Na'vi are connected through the "Eywa" or "biological internet" whose purpose is to protect the Great Balance.
--The message of Pandora is to live in balance with the environment and with each other.
After lunch, the afternoon continued with Imagineer and Senior Production Designer Chris Merritt discussing "The Art and Adventures of Marc Davis."
--Merritt is currently co-authoring a new book, "Marc Davis Goes to WED," on Marc Davis with Pete Docter and Vanessa Hunt--two volumes, due out in 2018.
--In the 1960's Davis was moved by Walt from animation to WED to work on Disneyland.
--Some of the legendary attractions he worked on were Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
--Davis originally proposed and designed an omnimover ride for the America Pavilion at EPCOT, as opposed to the show that was eventually developed.
--One of his last projects before he retired was a proposed addition/replacement of a Kachina doll diorama to the Grand Canyon Diorama on the Disneyland Railroad.
In "The Imagineering Adventure," Steven Vagnini brought back Disney Legend Tony Baxter and Shanghai Disneyland Portfolio Creative Director Luc Mayrand to look at some of Disney's more adventurous creations.
--Baxter spoke on the three basic rationales used for getting the company to spend money on a new attraction: Timing, need, and technology.
--Big Thunder Mountain Railroad came about with the derailment of the Western River Expansion project. It both preserved part of the planned attraction and filled a vacant area for DL.
--In an attempt to preserve the threatened Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Baxter used the promotional budget for "Tarzan," that would normally have been used for a parade, etc., and rethemed it to Tarzan's Treehouse.
--Splash Mountain came about as a result of the availability of AA figures from the retired America Sings attraction and Dick Nunis' fondness for flume rides.
--"Fear - Death = Thrill" --Eddie Sotto's formula for the appeal of adventurous rides, such as Indiana Jones and the Eye of Mara.
--Mayrand then took the audience through some of the research behind the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Shanghai and showed us clips of some of the scenes.
--The original pirates attraction there was eventually split into two--a ride and a stunt show.
--Boats are driven by silent magnetic motors.
--The ride has been blessed with water from all the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions around the world.
Afterwards, Director, Animal and Science Operations Dr. Scott Terrell spoke briefly about some of the preparations that to be made to adapt the animals at Animal Kingdom to the new nighttime experiences there, in "Guiding Animals Through Change."
--Animal Kingdom scientists constructed welfare studies that developed parameters to measure change in the animals in response to changes in their environment.
--Structures in some of the habitats are completely soundproofed, so that animals can have the option of a quiet space.
--Beaker, a black vulture, was introduced to the audience, as well as Willie the aardvark.
--Vultures are currently being poisoned by the millions by poachers to avoid detection while they illegally kill animals.
Finally, to close out the weekend, Joe Rohde returned to talk about "Disney's Animal Kingdom: Evolving A New Species of Theme Park."
--Prior to AK, the idea of theme parks was based upon the Magic Kingdom: An isolated, perfected, familar storybook land that stays timeless.
--Animals do not fit in this idealized situation.
--The three core values of AK: Intrinsic value of Nature; adventure; and personal story.
--The environment must then look overcome by Nature and poorly maintained, as if adventure could happen to you differently every time.
--The berm in AK is perforated to the outside world through conservation and research.
--Various research trips involved a plethora of dangers, such as snakes, erupting volcanoes, and temple ceremonies.
--RE his earrings: "It was out of emulation and respect for indigenous peoples of the world who now all wear Gap."
--A huge amount of the animal carvings in AK are from a Balinese family.
--Whole temples in AK around Everest are designed and built in Nepal by professional craftspeople there.
--While you do not have to go to Africa for an adventure, you must be able to step out of the frame of the common everyday experience.
--On building Pandora, they realized that there was insufficient imagery in "Avatar" of the environment to create an actual place.
--Elements of Pandora then, are filled in with elements of the real world that act on the same principles--bio-luminescence, for example.
--"You cannot make this stuff up. The World has more detail than you can imagine."
--Pandora will have the same level of realism that the rest of AK has, because it is constructed with the same integrity.
--The Pandora area was originally going to be based on Eastern European mythological animals. Now it is about modern-day mythology: The things we need to think about and do in relation to our relationship to our planet.
--The Tree of Life will come to life at night and express the beauty of animals and the surrounding world.
--The park is a promise that you will have an adventure that is as if you did it for real.