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April 6, 2017

2017 Disney California Food and Wine Festival - Sweet Sundays

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Disney California Food and Wine Festival

This year's Disney California Food and Wine Festival includes additional Premium Events that weren't a part of last year's Festival. One of them is Sweet Sundays, which was a part of the original Festival. I've attended these events at both Epcot and DCA's Food and Wine Festivals, and I was happy to see it return this year.

Sweet Sundays starts with a light breakfast and features a guest celebrity chef who demonstrates the preparation of several desserts. All guests receive their own desserts to sample. In past sessions I've learned several interesting techniques and ways to make some desserts even better.

The cost is $79/person plus tax and gratuity. There are three Sweet Sundays events this year, featuring Duff Goldman, Emily Ellyn, and Keegan Gerhard. We saw Emily Ellyn. I have to admit I'd never heard of her before. She's been on a number of Food Network shows, like "Food Network Star", "Cupcake Wars", and "Cutthroat Kitchen." She's known as the "Retro Rad Chef", and wears vintage clothing styles and trademark cat-eye glasses.

The events are held in the Festival Showplace - Stage 17 in Hollywood Land. It started at 10:30, and check-in was supposed to start at 9:45. But no one was there at that time. We wandered around a bit and went back about 10:00 and there was a short line. Unfortunately the check-in process was very slow - it took 20 minutes until we were seated. I had made the reservation and pre-paid so all the cast members had to do was verify my last name and then check our ids and give us a wristband. It doesn't seem like that should be a really slow process.

We were seated at a table rather than choosing our own seats. The event is fairly small - there were 15 tables, each seating 6 people. Half the tables were already full. Servers came around fairly quickly and offered us glasses of sparkling wine. There were carafes of orange juice and cranberry juice already on the table so that we could help ourselves. I was surprised that we were not offered coffee or tea. We later asked for coffee and tea, and eventually it was brought to us, but it was very difficult to get a refill. I wish that a beverage station had been available so that we could've gotten our own hot beverages.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There was a basket of assorted pastries on the table for us serve ourselves.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

In past events there's been a breakfast buffet, but this year we had a "light breakfast" that was pre-plated and served to us at our tables. It definitely saved a lot of time to do it that way, but there wasn't the selection there has been in the past. We received scrambled eggs, bacon, and a potato cake. The scrambled eggs had some salmon in them, we think. I didn't think they were cooked quite enough, and they were too soft for me. The bacon wasn't crispy, and the potato cake was just ok. I was pretty disappointed in the breakfast.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Emily Ellyn came out while we were still eating. Rather than staying on stage and starting to cook she came out into the audience. She told us a lot about her background and her cooking philosophy - like taking tried and true recipes and make them your own. It was entertaining, but we were there for a cooking demonstration.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Finally she went up on stage and started working on the different parts of her desserts with the assistance of the host, who is a Disney chef. I was really not excited about her desserts at all. "Candied Fennel Upside-Down Cake served with Citrus Chocolate Pudding, Toasted Fennel Sesame Brittle and Orange Ash." Does that sound like dessert to you? I do not like fennel - I can't stand that licorice flavor. And as far as I'm concerned citrus and chocolate should NEVER be combined. Sigh.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Her presentation was enjoyable, but there wasn't a lot of substance to it. As I mentioned earlier, I usually learn something from these sessions - I really didn't learn much from this one. And these recipes are nothing that I will ever make. (Fennel desserts???? Did she think she was competing on Chopped?)

I will say that she's the first person that I've ever seen who engaged with the cameraman to make sure that something she wanted us to see was going up on the big screen - she was often talking to him as she showed things to him.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The desserts themselves...I took a bite of the Citrus and Chocolate Pudding but couldn't eat it, and the Fennel Sesame Seed Brittle on top was just nasty.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The Upside-Down Cake was not as bad as I thought - the cake itself was moist and didn't have any fennel flavor to it as long as I stayed away from the pieces of fennel that were on top. I still have no idea what the Orange Ash (the black stuff) was supposed to add - it simply tasted like ash.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

When she finished and we'd eaten our desserts she took a few questions. By then it was 12:00, and time to leave. They needed to get us out of there since they were going to have to completely re-set the area for the 2:00 Culinary Demonstration. Those use rows of long tables and not the round tables we had.

Ms. Ellyn was available afterward for photos, but we didn't wait in line for that.

While I was happy to see the return of Sweet Sundays, this one wasn't as good as those I have attended in the past. The desserts were really out there, and just not very appealing to me at all. I think this is the first one I've been to where the presenter was a "celebrity chef" rather than a recognized chef who is not necessarily famous. I would have preferred to see less personality and more demonstration of skill.

In contrast, here's the review I wrote about the last Sweet Sundays event I attended in 2010:

Sweet Sundays - 2010 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I think that's more like it.

In other Food and Wine Festival news...we sampled some additional menu items from the various Festival Marketplaces, and also tried one of the full-size menu items at the Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden.


As I did in my previous blog on the food items, I'm going to assign grades to each for Taste, Presentation, and Value. "Presentation" combines a number of factors such as creativity, interesting use of ingredients, and the way it looked. GIA denotes whether or not I would Get It Again.

From I (Heart) Artichokes: Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop. $4.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: B
Value: C
GIA: No way
Comments: When asked about Festival food items, this is one that almost everyone mentioned that they liked and that we should try. (The fact that Emily Ellyn raved about it should've warned me.) There was nothing "cakey" about this at all. The inside was a sort of firm artichoke mousse. I thought it was tasteless, but Lee said it tasted vaguely of artichoke, which he doesn't really like. Even the chocolate on the outside didn't have much flavor.

From Garlic Kissed: Grilled beef tenderloin slider with chimichurri sauce. $7.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A-
Value: C-
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee tried this and really liked it.


From Bacon Twist: Smoked bacon mac and cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions. $7.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: B+
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee really enjoyed this. He's more of a mac and cheese fan than I am. I thought it was fine - I liked the crispy onions on top the best.

From Bacon Twist I also tried: Bloody Mary Cocktail with candied caramel bacon strip & blue cheese stuffed olives. $11.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: This was yummy. A little bit spicy, but not too much, and the bacon was very good. A reasonable amount of alcohol in it.

From Seafood...Sustained: Verlasso sustainable salmon tataki with avocado-wasabi puree and Furikake dust. $7.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: B
Value: C-
GIA: No
Comments: The salmon was completely tasteless.

From Off the Cob: Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onion and sour cream. $6.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee described this as "a bite of awesomeness." I tried one of the corn nuggets and it was very good - a bit creamy inside with a nice fresh corn flavor.

From Sweet & Sourdough: Milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce. $4.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: C
Presentation: A-
Value: C+
GIA: No
Comments: This was good bread pudding, but where was the chocolate? When the name starts with "Milk chocolate" I expected it to be chocolatey, but there were just a few small pieces.

From Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden: Beer-braised pork tacos served with pickled apple slaw, black beans and queso. $10.99

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: A-
Value: B
GIA: Yes
Comments: The tacos were quite tasty. The pickled apples on top had a nice vinegary zing. The items at Paradise Garden Grill are full-size dishes, and as such are a better value than those at the Marketplaces.

Still more misses than hits in this year's food items. I may get back to the Festival one more time before it closes on April 16 - though I think most of what I really want to try is either desserts or the full-size items at Paradise Garden Grill.







April 10, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 4/07/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, April 7, 2017.

A video overview of the Star Wars / Rivers of America Construction site this afternoon from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure

An overview picture of the site.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Starting on the left with the massive show building that continues to take shape.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Walls going up near the circular structure. Looks like the forms are all in for the interior walls. Guessing concrete will be poured soon there if it has not been already.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

A new bridge taking shape in Critter Country where the Disneyland Railroad will pass over the walkay leading to the Star Wars area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Arriving at the parks. The annual Eggstravaganza Easter Egg hunt is underway. There are 36 eggs...12 in Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney. I spotted my first one as soon as I exited the tram. I will be doing some extended posts on my site with all the eggs.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Here are the prizes this year, same ones for all three quests. Maps are $5.99.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

First park today Disney California Adventure. Oswald was greeting guests near his service station.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

A Cast Member in front of the Five and Dime on Buena Vista Street showcasing the DCA Egg-Stravaganza

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring treats in the window of Trolley Treats

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

FastPass has been extended to Toy Story Midway Mania

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

My ticket.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

At the attraction the standby wait is posted at 45 only. Half the line board time of 90 and less than the app which said 80.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The Annual Passholder button this week features Donald.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Nick Wilde from Zootopia was out in the Bay Area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The Camp Notices board has seen better days.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The FastPass return line for Soarin' was backed up out into the walkway this afternoon.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Mickey and the Red Car News Boys cruising by.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Almost all the scaffolding from the Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! has been removed.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Next stop Disneyland. Inside the Opera House Lobby in front of the Disneyland Map are several finalists in the Cast Member Environmentality Art Challenge. There were too many people to get a nice wide picture so here is a look at each sign and entry. Each team/department created an original piece of art using recycled items from the resort.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

This one actually moved

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The winner this year was from the Golden Vine Winery.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Here is a video look at the finalists for the 2017 Disney Environmentality Art Challenge.

A mother duck and ducklings out for a walk in the hub.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Out at the Big Thunder Trail some fence has been moved so you can see a little more clearly into the new walkway. Guessing it was moved so they can work on the new walkway. A tree has been brought in and is waiting to be planted.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The view as you approach Critter Country.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Looking through the fence.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The lower level of the Hungry Bear was quiet today. The signs have been moved off the wall on the left to be along the new walkway. A wall up as they restore the area that was used as the temporary walkway entrance during construction.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The new walkway has opened to reach the lower level of the Hungry Bear.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Passing over the stream that will flow through Critter Country to the river.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

The moon over Ornament Valley in Cars Land

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Flo's this evening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

Found a spot for the Main Street Electrical Parade

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 7, 2017

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







WonderCon Returns to Anaheim

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After a year away at the Los Angeles Convention Center, WonderCon once again returned to the Anaheim Convention Center, conveniently located across the street from the Disneyland Resort.

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Continuing the trend of the larger media companies pulling back from a lot of these conventions, this year saw the same shift as the last few years away from celebrities and big studio presentations, and towards more panels/booths by, about, and for fans and fandom.

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Disney didn't have much of a presence this time around, its most visible asset the Disney Music Emporium booth on the floor.

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Disney's ABC Television Network brought some of their properties to WonderCon, including the ever-popular "Agents of SHIELD," and their new sitcom "Imaginary Mary."

After screening the second episode of the new series, they held a brief panel with the two stars of the show, Jenna Elfman and Stephen Schneider, and executive producers Adam F. Goldberg, Doug Robinson, and Patrick Osborne, who worked on animating such films as "Big Hero 6" and "Wreck-It Ralph," and who won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2014 for "Feast."

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An interesting look into the potential future of entertainment was detailed in "Secrets of Storytelling in VR and AR."

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With a panel of experts from VR production companies such as Mandt VR, Clever Fox, and LittlStar, the presentation described some of the roles augmented/virtual reality can have in the storytelling process, such as the pannable 360 degree video Mandt did for the 2016 "The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration..."

...Or the 360 augmented photo writer/director Dekker Dreyer did for the "Star Wars Land" groundbreaking.

Animation fans enjoyed a variety of internationally acclaimed shorts in "The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows," including Disney's "Inner Workings" by Leo Matsuda, and Pixar's Academy Award winning "Piper" by Alan Barillaro.

In "Rogue One: The Magic Behind the Mission," Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor Hal Hickel, with moderator Scott Mantz, gave insight into making the stunning visual effects featured in the last Star Wars installment.

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--Many different attempts were made at bringing K-2SO to life, including giving him blinking eyes which ultimately made him look too much like an animated cartoon.
--Alan Tudyk was credited for making him a full character. An example was the "and there's a fresh one if you mouth off again" sequence, in which Diego Luna suggested the slap, but Tudyk added the dialogue. A replay of the clip from the film reveals Diego covering his face to hide him cracking up.
--As an aid to developing the movement of the AT-ATs, elephants were used as reference models.
--The digital recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin involved taking stand-in actor Guy Henry, digitizing his facial motions, then recreating them in digital Peter Cushing's features. A keen eye to anatomical detail was given, including such factors as the change in blood flow to different areas of the face with movement.

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The usual high level of cosplay was evident throughout the convention, and particularly during the annual WonderCon Masquerade.

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Disney Legend Bob Gurr helped close off the weekend of panels in "The OC Automata and Animatronics Legacy," with fellow automaton builders Garner Holt, Bill Butler, and Thomas Kuntz.

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The panel discussed the varied and innovative animatronic history of Orange County, including the larger parks of Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland, as well as smaller institutions such as the Japanese Deer Park.
--Bob Gurr discussed the ill-fated "charging rhino" gag that was ultimately too unreliable to be kept in the Jungle Cruise.

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--The first time the term "audio-animatronic" was used in print was in a brochure for Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. (Did you think it was for the Enchanted Tiki Room? I did!)

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Out on the floor, examples of some of the engineering artisans' work could be seen up close:

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Garner Holt's yeti, apparently a pet project, is being developed in his workshop to communicate in American Sign Language for deaf children.

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Kuntz's "Fakir," a magician performing a fascinating ball-and-cups trick was on display as well. More information on it can be found at his website, here.

More information on Bob Gurr's many contributions to the audio-animatronic industry and more can be found in his recent documentary "Bob Gurr: Turning Dreams Into Reality," which can be purchased from Ape Pen Publishing.

WonderCon continues to grow and diversify as a convention, and seems to present more in the way of fan-based and niche programming than SDCC for example. If you're looking for more opportunities to get advice and instruction about different aspects of fandom--cosplay, fan fiction--or even information on how to move from being a consumer of genre material to a producer, WonderCon has a lot to offer.

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April 15, 2017

"Caring for Giants" -- A Close Look at Some Big Friends

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Photographs taken by Linda Eckwerth.

A new tour offering at Disney's Animal Kingdom is "Caring for Giants," which offers guests the opportunity to get a closer look (80-100ft) at the African elephant herd otherwise seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction.

Elephants as seen riding Kilimanjaro Safari
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Guests check in at the tour desk near the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction and are given a brief run-down of the upcoming activities, as well as admonishments not to take photos while backstage. We were also reminded that the elephants roam on their own and their closeness to the viewing area is not guaranteed.

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Afterwards, you're taken on a short jaunt through some backstage areas to an awaiting van that takes the tour group through the savanna to your vantage point.

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Once you reach your observation spot------

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----- elephants!

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During the 30 minutes you have to spend in the observation area, two cast members talk briefly about the elephants and aspects of their lives, both in Animal Kingdom, and in their native home of Botswana.

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Some of the information shared:

--African elephants are a keystone species of the savanna and help to maintain the entire ecosystem.

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--The elephant herd is a matriarchal system in which females form a large bonded family and males are kicked out in their teens to lead largely solitary lives.

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--The country of Botswana is underpopulated and home to the largest number of elephants in Africa.

--In order to preserve their crops from the elephants, farmers there utilize "bee boxes." These swinging boxes of bees emit bee sounds (and some bees) when disturbed by elephants. The elephants in turn leave and emit elephant vocalizations -- low-pitched sounds virtually inaudible to humans -- that can warn off other elephants from five miles away.

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--The baby is named "Stella."

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While the tour is pretty brief, it affords a nice look at animals that are not always sufficiently cooperative to display themselves to the Kilimanjaro Safari. Additionally, for people trying to pack a lot into their WDW vacation days, it represents a relatively small investment of time and money.

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Tours cost $30 and can be reserved by calling (407) WDW-PLAY or (407) 939-7529. At this time, reservation can not be made online. Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders qualify for discounts.

We all felt it was well worth the money to experience the elephants in such a unique way.

All proceeds from the tour go toward conservation efforts.

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If you've taken the tour, why not write a short review to help other visitors!

April 17, 2017

Born in China" Roundtable with Roy Conli

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On April 21, 2017, Disneynature will debut its seventh theatrical feature "Born in China." To commemorate the opening, Producer Roy Conli held a roundtable Q&A about the various challenges involved in creating this True Life Adventure film.

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On getting involved with "Born in China:" "I was asked to come in right after 'Big Hero 6.' The project actually started in 2013, and then I got involved right around 2014...This is the first time I've done anything like this. Early in my career I did a little live-action (I really came from theater) but I really fell in love with this format. For the first half of my career I probably thought of myself as a theatrical producer working in animation, and since I've been working with John Lasseter, I really feel like I'm an animation producer who used to work in theater, and this...I really feel like I'm just a producer now. I feel that this type of storytelling is quite different than animation...You know, when you work in animation you start with whole cloth, and you start with a script and you start boarding and then you start putting up sequences and you start from an idea to an image.

"Here, it's almost exactly opposite. You start with an image, and you work back, and somewhere you meet in the middle, and you create the story. You've got these these amazing cinematographers who are out in some of the most remote places in the world filming this stuff and journaling everything that they're seeing... so you depend on those incredible cinematographers to help feed you with the information you need to tell that True Life Adventure because they're the one who are actually experiencing it.

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"Shane Moore, who was the cinematographer for the snow leopard unit...he was 253 days shooting over four trips, over six seasons. He was living in a little uninsulated shack, next to a monastery in the Qinghai Plateau. He and his very small team would leave before dawn and get back after dark and shoot straight...for the length of their visas. Now, they were coming in on journalistic visas, and essentially had to leave after three months. The first shot of snow leopard that we got was ninety days into his first stay. He had to leave the day after he got his first shot. But, it's a testament to what kind of, not only perseverance, but what kind of professionals these guys are."

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"Pandas are incredibly isolated and they don't like a lot of companionship around them. And they're also 800lb animals. So a mother panda with an 800lb cub can be somewhat dangerous. So what the cinematographers on that crew did was essentially don panda suits and would put panda scent on them (you can imagine what panda scent is) and would stay a significant distance away...Shane, on the snow leopard front, started about 400 meters away with telephoto lenses and really focusing on building that relationship. By the time he ended, he was somewhere between 40-50 meters away."

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On striking a balance between creating a narrative and keeping the integrity of the animal behavior: "What we're committed to is making sure that, within the filming, that we're not setting anything up, and then when it comes to the actual reportage, it's those journals that the cinematographers keep that really help us in terms of shaping the story. Then we brought on Phil Chapman and Brian Leith and a really wonderful writer by the name of David Fowler...they do an awful lot of research, we make sure we have scientists working with our writer to ensure that any information that is being passed on is accurate to the species and what's being done, and then he's using those journals to actually shape a story. Then (Director Lu) Chuan is using all that information in terms of compiling the end product.

"Now the cool thing, and what I'm so proud about with this film, is what Chuan was able to do within the structure, was bring in the Earthly, being the chiru, and the Spiritual, being the crane, and kind of parenthesizing this amazing story. Up to now, we've had a film called 'Bears,' and it was about bears...what I love about this is that it's a broader swath, and that there's an uber theme that kind of runs through, and that theme became very important. And that's what you craft, is how to tell the story so that theme can come through."

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On the importance of True Life Adventures to children: "It's interesting because we really refer to these as 'True Life Adventures' as opposed to documentaries, in the sense that these are more narrative, and yet we shoot with the concept of documentary. We won't go and set up shots, we won't go and alter what is actually happening in nature.

"But for me...I grew up watching the True Life Adventures that Walt Disney actually released.
From 1948-1960 he made thirteen True Life Adventures which won eight Academy Awards, and through the 60s and 70s, they would use those on 'The Wonderful World of Disney,' so you saw those used in different ways. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, so my introduction to wildlife was through these films. So I think the Disneynature label really gives an opportunity for not only kids, but adults as well...I think it really introduces children and adults into the wonder of this world, and understanding what an amazing world the natural life has to offer...It's incredibly beautiful and incredibly important to protect."

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"Born in China" opens in US theaters April 21, 2017. GO SEE IT OPENING WEEK (April 21-27, 2017)--Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the World Wildlife Fund to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.

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April 19, 2017

"Caring for Giants" -- A Closer Look at Some Big Friends

jeaninebanner.jpg
Photographs taken by Linda Eckwerth.

A new tour offering at Disney's Animal Kingdom is "Caring for Giants," which offers guests the opportunity to get a closer look (80-100ft) at the African elephant herd otherwise seen on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction.

Elephants as seen riding Kilimanjaro Safari
caring-for-giants-14.jpg


Guests check in at the tour desk near the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction and are given a brief run-down of the upcoming activities, as well as admonishments not to take photos while backstage. We were also reminded that the elephants roam on their own and their closeness to the viewing area is not guaranteed.

tour-office.jpg

Afterwards, you're taken on a short jaunt through some backstage areas to an awaiting van that takes the tour group through the savanna to your vantage point.

caring-for-giants-18.jpg

Once you reach your observation spot------

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----- elephants!

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During the 30 minutes you have to spend in the observation area, two cast members talk briefly about the elephants and aspects of their lives, both in Animal Kingdom, and in their native home of Botswana.

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Some of the information shared:

--African elephants are a keystone species of the savanna and help to maintain the entire ecosystem.

caring-for-giants-34.jpg

--The elephant herd is a matriarchal system in which females form a large bonded family and males are kicked out in their teens to lead largely solitary lives.

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--The country of Botswana is underpopulated and home to the largest number of elephants in Africa.

--In order to preserve their crops from the elephants, farmers there utilize "bee boxes." These swinging boxes of bees emit bee sounds (and some bees) when disturbed by elephants. The elephants in turn leave and emit elephant vocalizations -- low-pitched sounds virtually inaudible to humans -- that can warn off other elephants from five miles away.

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--The baby is named "Stella."

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While the tour is pretty brief, it affords a nice look at animals that are not always sufficiently cooperative to display themselves to the Kilimanjaro Safari. Additionally, for people trying to pack a lot into their WDW vacation days, it represents a relatively small investment of time and money.

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Tours cost $30 and can be reserved by calling (407) WDW-PLAY or (407) 939-7529. At this time, reservation can not be made online. Disney Vacation Club members and Annual Passholders qualify for discounts.

We all felt it was well worth the money to experience the elephants in such a unique way.

All proceeds from the tour go toward conservation efforts.

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If you've taken the tour, why not write a short review to help other visitors!

April 23, 2017

Star Wars Celebration Orlando: 40 Years of Star Wars

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

The first panel to kick off the weekend was "40 Years of Star Wars," which featured George Lucas on stage, reminiscing about the origins of Star Wars with most of the major recurring cast of the series.

[Unattributed photos courtesy of Disney.]

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George Lucas

"I'm not supposed to say this, and I wasn't supposed to say it then...it's a film for twelve-year olds. It was designed to be a film, like mythology, of this is what we stand for. You're about to enter the Real World. You're twelve years old, you're going to go on into the big world, you're moving away from your parents being the center focus...you're probably scared, you don't know what's going to happen...and here's a little idea of some of the things you should pay attention to: Friendships, honesty, trust, and doing the right thing. Living on the Light Side, avoiding the Dark Side...these are the things it was meant to do."

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Dave Filoni

"The most important lesson there (from "Clone Wars") honestly, and it kind of combines everything, (Lucas) used to always tell me: 'Don't be afraid.' It seems very simple, and most of the big ideas you have are very simple, but when you're coming on board to direct this major franchise that all of you love and around the world people love, it's easy to get overwhelmed by that idea, and that is going to limit you and more importantly limit your creativity, if you become afraid of it...It's just a true thing in life, as you've always said, 'just don't be afraid. Make no decision out of fear.' That's key."

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Liam Neeson (taped message)

"I'm actually here on location in the Canadian Rockies. We're making a movie--a very unofficial movie...about Jar Jar Binks, and what happened to Jar Jar. Spoiler alert: He did go to the Dark Side."

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Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid

McDiarmid: "The one (scene) that stands out for me is in 'Revenge of the Sith,' and that's when we all get to go to the opera...The reason I liked that so much is I'm a theater actor too, but more than that, Hayden and I could really sit down and, from my point of view anyway, have an evil chat."

Christensen: "I will share with you one of my challenges: I had been conditioned from a very young age to make the sound effect when I'm swinging a light saber...it was a difficult habit to break. I remember on a couple of occasions, George would come over after we had filmed a fight scene and, in a very encouraging way, say 'you know Hayden, that looks really great...but I can see your mouth moving and...you don't have to do that. We add the sound effects in afterwards.'"

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Samuel L. Jackson (taped message)

"And while you're all sitting there, I know you're all in my corner on this, we know Jedis can fall from incredible heights and survive, so apparently I am not dead. Yes, I have two appendages right now, but we know the long and rich history of Star Wars characters reappearing with new appendages and being stronger and better than they ever were. Mace Windu is awaiting his return! Let's make it happen!"

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Warwick Davis, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams

Williams: "There are two components: (to Lando) The cape and 'Calrissian'--an Armenian name. And I thought wow, that's interesting. Let me play around with this whole idea. 'Cause I didn't want to do a kind of stereotypical, cliche kind of character. I wanted to bring something really special to it. Something bigger than life."

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Peter Mayhew

On how he and Chewbacca are similar: "Well, we're the same height, for starters."

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Mark Hamill

"I can never get over the fans. They are supportive; they're with you in good times, bad times...they're more supportive than my actual family."

As series star after star appeared, the roar of the crowd increased exponentially, until the final actor Harrison Ford entered and the room exploded.

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Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford

Harrison: "You can have the most brilliant cast in the world, but they have a story to tell; and the story we had to tell was more than sufficient. It was full of humor, emotion, and conflict, and it was a brilliant invention of a mythology that has sustained interest for over forty years--and that's made out of whole cloth by George. An actor without a story to tell might as well go home, so it was a brilliant opportunity for all of us."

After the actors had accepted the crowd's accolades and left the stage, Lucas and Kennedy led a short tribute to the late Carrie Fisher, along with Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd.

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Billie Lourd

Lucas: "...She really is a modern woman, and she isn't just a woman that, you put guy's clothes on her and she becomes a hero. She was a princess, she was a senator, she played a part that was very smart, and she was having to hold her own against two big lugs...goofballs who were screwing everything up, but she was the boss, it was her war....She was brilliant, and obviously we'll all miss her, but she'll always be the princess who took command and never backed down, never was in jeopardy--she was always helping the other guys get out of the messes they created. We'll all love her forever and ever."

Lourd: "My Mom used to say she never knew where Princess Leia ended and Carrie Fisher began. She went from being an unknown actress, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, to Princess Leia, a character synonymous with the idea of the ultimate Strong Woman. A soldier. A fighter. A beyond-capable, independent, sensible woman in control of her own destiny. A rebel who resisted the norm. She was imperfect in many ways, but her imperfections and willingness to speak about them are what made her more than perfect. My Mom, like Leia, wasn't ever afraid to speak her mind and say things that might have made most people uncomfortable, but not me and not you. That was why she loved you, because you accepted and embraced all of her: The strong, soldier of a woman she was, and also the vulnerable side of her, who often and openly fought her own Dark Side, knowing early on that we all have a Dark Side of our own, whatever it may be."

After a short retrospective of Fisher's various on-camera appearances--sharp, incisive, irreverent, and unrepentant--one of the most poignant moments of the morning came as, revealed in a corner of the room, John Williams and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, began playing "Princess Leia's Theme." They followed it up with a mini-concert of selections from the iconic soundtrack.

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The music of Star Wars is so powerful and so integral a part of the cinematic experience, this performance with the in-person appearance of the legendary John Williams made it a highlight of the panel...which was already a highlight of the entire Celebration. If you could only make one session of the four days of programming, this was certainly the one to attend, and it is no wonder huge numbers of people slept out overnight to get a seat in the room. It was a phenomenal way to kick off Star Wars Celebration Orlando.


April 24, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 4/21/17

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, April 21, 2017.

A video overview of the Star Wars Construction site from the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Looking toward Critter Country forms are still up for the new railroad bridge.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

More steel being added to the large show building. It now extends out over half the basement/pit.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The circular structure now appears to be a spiral perhaps, notice the left side higher than the right.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The Downtown Disney banners have been updated to reflect the new end date, August 20th.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

A Canadian Anaheim Music Festival taking place in Stage 17 today and Saturday. A workshop was wrapping up when I stopped by.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! opens in about 5 weeks on May 27th. The exterior is receiving the finishing touches. Scaffolding is all removed now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

A look at the entrance way.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Ornament Valley this afternoon.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Some cactus are starting to bloom in Ornament Valley.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is hosting Earthweek activities.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Nature play sets in the camp circle area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The Environmentality Art Challenge entries have been moved from the Opera House to this area.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Cast Members hosting more activities.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

From Critter Country you can see the rail for the boats is being installed and the rock work is moving along on the north side of the Rivers of America.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

A closer look.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The new bridge for the Disneyland Railroad over the walkway leading to Star Wars.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

In some of the planters of New Orleans Square some new statues have appeared over top of utility plates.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Mary Poppins and the Pearly Band.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The Castle Holiday Shoppe opened Thursday replacing the Castle Heraldry Shoppe in Fantasyland.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

A quick look around inside.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The pools at the Grand Californian have been closed since early this year for a major refurbishment. The pool closest to the walkway looks close to reopening. The decking looks complete and it is filled.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Returned to use a Toy Story FastPass and at 5:24pm this was the posted wait time and return window.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Elena of Avalor photo opportunity in Paradise Gardens.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Corn Dog Castle is closed for renovation. Paradise Garden Grill has a new menu featuring corn dogs and other fried items.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Cars 3 merchandise in Sarges

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

The Sunset Showcase Theater is hosting a Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No Tales Sneak Peek.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

A display case houses some costumes and props. A little hard to get a good angle with guests waiting right in front.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Captain Jack Sparrow Costume

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

Carina Smyth costume worn by Kaya Scodelario

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

A family of ducks out for a walk at Disneyland near Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, April 21, 2017

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







April 26, 2017

Cars 3: Tales of Production, Design, and Lou

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"Cars 3" is rapidly approaching the finish line for release this June 16th. To learn more about it, AllEars.Net was invited up north for an early look.

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

The trip began with a visit to Pixar Studios for a screening of some scenes from the movie still in production.

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Director Dave Mullins and Producer Dana Murray screened and spoke on the adorable short "Lou," that will accompany "Cars 3" in theaters.

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Dave Mullins

--John Lasseter gave Mullins guidelines on the specific ingredients that make up a Pixar film: Heart, entertainment, setting, and animation.
--Heart: The main character is flawed, but experiences personal growth throughout the film.
--Entertainment: The story must be unpredictable and funny.
--Setting: The film must transport the viewers to a place both exciting and new.
--Animation: The film must call for being animated and must use animation's full potential.
--After eight years of pitching ideas, Mullins came up with a story revolving around a character who could hide in plain sight, and a character who longed to be accepted.
--The final story stars a Lost and Found pile that loves returning toys, but fights back when a bully starts stealing from kids.
--The characters were reworked several times to make them more sympathetic.

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The next day, presentations on the making of "Cars 3" kicked off with "Start to Finish: Pixar’s Production Pipeline." Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta, Supervising Technical Director Michael Fong, and Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch spoke on the film's technical process.

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Michael Fong, Jon Reisch, and Bobby Podesta

--Making something visually tangible is rooted in making something emotionally tangible.
--A sequence where Lightning McQueen is in a Demolition Derby is a physical manifestation of his intangible feelings of being out of his element.

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--After a research trip to real-life Demolition Derbys, the animators tried to come up with ideas as to what it would feel like, to be different types of cars in that situation, and how different characters would react to that environment.
--Technical effects are vital to creating believable interactions that ground the characters in this world. At their best, by making physical jeopardy believable, they increase the emotional stakes.
--Simulating mud was one of their big challenges for this film, much like snow was for "Frozen," and hair was for "Brave."

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--The mantra "Story Is King" effects every department at Pixar, including the technical ones.
--All the visual effects in the scene need to be adjusted to avoid stealing focus from the story beat, which is McQueen's emotional state.
--If McQueen's fear, anger, and embarrassment in this sequence isn't conveyed effectively, it makes his subsequent scenes where he lashes out feel unearned.
--The goal is not photorealism, which is not always aesthetically pleasing or best for the story. The goal is Directed Realism, in which physics can be broken if true physics would detract from the storytelling.

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Next up was Directing Animator Jude Brownbill, Production Designer Jay Shuster, and Characters Supervisor Michael Comet talking about the new characters to "Cars 3"--"The Next Generation."

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--Looking at the next generation of cars introduced to the world of "Cars," they display all the advantages of the technological advances since the first movie came out.
--With generally better aerodynamics, they are lower to the ground with a better wind profile than McQueen.
--The virtual construction of the cars mirrors actual car construction with various shading passes done for different layers of paint, gloss coating, etc.
--McQueen is the baseline, from which all the other cars should differ in comparison.
--Subtle changes were made to McQueen to make him appear slightly less stable and older on the track.
--Aspects of all the "Cars 1" models had to be revised because the rendering quality is so much better now and flaws more evident.

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--McQueen's new nemesis Jackson Storm is designed in stark contrast to McQueen: All sharp edges and corners compared to McQueen's friendlier, rounded body.

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--Low to the ground, Storm has a tight suspension so he has less vibration and can make tight turns.
--He drives with precision and calculation and appears to race almost effortlessly, which makes him more of a threat to McQueen.
--Personality-wise, Storm is overconfident, arrogant, and intimidating. He cares about nothing but winning and himself.
--Outside of racing, Storm holds himself relatively still, which helps give him the aura of power. Vocally, he over-articulates and often expresses with his eyes a disdain that is in opposition to what he is saying.

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--Cruz Ramirez, McQueen's young high-tech trainer, has a design somewhere between Storm and McQueen.
--She's a powerful technologically advanced racer, but in contrast to Storm, also has a heart and a passion for the sport.
--Full of enthusiasm and energy, Ramirez has done all of her training on simulators and is a little out of control when it comes to real life racing.
--Ramirez's character is based largely on her voice actor, Cristela Alonzo: Smart, determined, funny, and from modest beginnings.

"Cars 3" opens in theaters June 16, 2017.

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About April 2017

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in April 2017. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2017 is the previous archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.