Jeanine Yamanaka Archives

March 13, 2015

Review: Cinderella



"Cinderella," a new live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale from Walt Disney Studios and Director Kenneth Branagh, regally depicts the well-known story of a girl, a fairy godmother, and a glass slipper.


Loosely based on the 1950 animated film, this version is gently updated for the modern times, with more backstory given to Ella's happy early days with her parents, and a longer look at the Prince who inevitably wins her heart.


It is her mother (Hayley Atwell) who encourages Ella's imagination and perception of good in everyone, and who leaves her with the strong commendation to "have courage and be kind!" Unfortunately, her father's second choice for a wife, Lady (Cate Blanchett) Tremaine, only holds truck with the first part.


Ultimately, as in the 1950's edition, Cinderella does make it to the ball, with a little help from her friends, and loses a shoe but gains a Prince in the end.


As the unwaveringly gracious Cinderella, Lily James gives a charming performance of a young woman determined to adhere to her dying Mother's advice (who wouldn't listen to Agent Peggy Carter?) and see the best in everyone. Helena Bonham Carter does her usual quirky best as the Fairy Godmother, and if her sequence alone seems to have dropped out of a Tim Burton film, that may just be by power of association.


The star of the film however, is Cate Blanchett. As the mostly-fearsome Lady Tremaine, she strikes a powerful image clad in sharply angled outfits reminiscent of Joan Crawford at her most hard-boiled. Treading a thin line, she manages to make the archetypal Evil Stepmother understandable, if not sympathetic: A product of love lost, thwarted ambition, and seething resentment. Her portrayal is so vivid that although you might wish she was given more screen time, to do so would likely overshadow the film's less-defined protagonists.


As a work of art, the movie looks gorgeous: Branagh is no stranger to sumptuously designed productions, and it shows here. Between the elaborate, striking costumes by Sandy Powell and the colossal baroque sets by Dante Ferretti, the world of "Cinderella" is as magical as any Fairy Godmother could wish.


While most of the film is a direct callback from the 1950 film, the new scenes meant to make the story a little more accessible to contemporary audiences work very well, with the most successful being the initial meeting of Ella and Prince/Apprentice Kit. The brief hint of "mansplaining" that goes on as Kit tries to help Ella control her horse, and her subsequent indignation at his tradition-based conservative viewpoints helps to establish them as equals and makes their exhaustive efforts to be together more believable.


Probably both the best and the worst thing about "Cinderella" is that it is an unabashedly unironic retelling of a very familiar story. There are no dramatic reversals at the end--the Stepmother is not revealed to be the heroine and Cinderella does not learn kung fu and slay any dragons. It is an elegant, straightforward tale that dares to recommend kindness and courage over anger and vindictiveness in a world that, like ours, seldom distinguishes between them...and perhaps, sometimes, that's all that's required.


Also playing with "Cinderella" is "Frozen Fever," the animated short sequel to "Frozen." It has Elsa planning a grand celebration for Anna's birthday, when she abruptly finds that a cold maybe bothers her anyway. With the same cute characters everyone loved from the original movie, and another catchy tune from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, there's little chance that this one's not going to go over like gangbusters. All they have to worry about at this point, is whether the Disney Stores will subsequently be able to keep the Snowgies on the shelves.

“Cinderella” is presented by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Rated PG, it stars Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgård, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur, and David Barron. Screenplay by Chris Weitz.

The film enters general release on March 13, 2015.

March 6, 2015

Cinderella and Frozen Fever: Press Conference with the Cast and Crew


"Have courage and be kind."
--Ella's Mother


The next big release from Walt Disney Studios and director Kenneth Branagh is a live-action retelling of the classic fairy tale "Cinderella," preceded by the new short "Frozen Fever," a sequel to the blockbuster animated film "Frozen."

As part of the press junket for the film's opening, a selection from "Cinderella's" prestigious cast and crew took a few moments for some roundtable interviews.



The first interviewees were Co-Director Chris Buck and Producer Peter Del Vecho for "Frozen Fever."



Next up was Cinderella herself, Lily James.



Just as Cinderella is always one step ahead of the Prince, so Lily James was followed by Richard Madden.



We were then joined by "Cinderella's" Director, the wunderkind Kenneth Branagh.



(Hopefully you cannot hear me hyperventilating because OMG, KENNETH BRANAGH.)

Afterwards, we were joined by Screenwriter Chris Weitz and Producers Allison Shearmur and David Barron.



With a movie as dependent on wardrobe changes as "Cinderella," Costume Designer Sandy Powell had her work cut out for her. Our morning ended with her giving us a glimpse into the creation of the film's impressive gowns.


"Cinderella," rated PG, will be released in theaters March 13, 2015.

January 23, 2015

Review: Strange Magic



"Strange Magic," a new animated feature from Lucas film Ltd., tells the tale of the denizens of a fairy tale realm, and the hijinks that ensue when love--real and pharmaceutical--enters the picture.


The story, conceived by George Lucas, introduces us to a fairy tale kingdom divided into a Light Side (Fairy Kingdom,) and a Dark Side (Dark Forest.) The Light Side is ruled over by a King and his two Princess daughters. The eldest, spunky, adventurous Marianne, is engaged to be married to the handsome narcissist Roland. Unfortunately, their wedding day reveals some compatibility issues that leave Marianne determined to swear off love forever.


As it happens, the border of the Light and the Dark Side is marked by primroses--a key ingredient in a magical love potion, which would seem to be the answer to a lot of problems for both Roland and Sunny the elf, who appears to have been sadly friendzoned by the younger Princess Dawn. Unfortunately, the production of said potion has been strictly curtailed by the Bog King, who seems to rule the Dark Side on a platform of "no love potions." It seems he too has had some unfortunate history that has left him determined to swear off love forever.



Eventually, pop songs are sung, potions are made, the wrong people are dusted, and a plethora of interesting matches are made, including what appeared to be maybe a lizard and a toadstool. In her efforts to protect her sister, Marianne must interact with the Bog King, and may discover that appearances can be deceiving, and beauty lies within.


The voice acting in the film is perfectly respectable, with such Broadway veterans as Alan (Bog King) Cumming and Kristen (Sugar Plum Fairy) Chenoweth heading up the cast and tackling the large number of pop songs that pepper the film. One standout is Elijah Kelley who invests Sunny with enough likeability to overcome the impatience one might feel at his character's persistent credulity.


The animation is as fluid and proficient as you'd expect, coming out of Industrial Light & Magic, even if the character designs aren't entirely appealing. The goblins of the Dark Forest come out the cutest, while the fairies suffer a little from the "uncanny valley" effect, of being a little too close to real, but not quite close enough.


Ultimately, "Strange Magic's" main antagonist ends up being the demon of comparison: With the recent outstanding output WDAS has been producing, such as "Frozen" and "Big Hero 6," we are currently experiencing a boom time for animation. Unfortunately, whether it's because of relative inexperience or a smaller project scope, "Strange Magic" isn't really competitive with them on either an artistic or story level. That is not to say it isn't enjoyable, however, and if you and yours enjoyed "Shrek," "Gnomio and Juliet," and the Disney Fairies movies, this amalgamation may be right up your alley.


“Strange Magic” is presented by Lucasfilm Ltd. Rated PG, it stars Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph, Sam Palladio, Meredith Anne Bull, Alfred Molina, Elijah Kelley, Bob Einstein, and Peter Stormare.

Directed by Gary Rydstrom and produced by Mark S. Miller. Screenplay by David Berenbaum, Irene Mecchi, and Gary Rydstrom, based on a story by George Lucas. Musical director and
composer is Marius de Vries.

The film enters general release on January 23, 2015, and is distributed by Touchstone Pictures.

January 3, 2015

Three Kings Day at the Disneyland Resort



This weekend, January 2-6, 2015, Disney California Adventure will once again finish off its popular "Disney ¡Viva Navidad!" event with its annual Three Kings Day Finale. Here to tell us more about it, is performer and Cast Member, Carlos Martinez, with musicians Josh Dishan and Johnny Gomez:

A new addition to this year's festivities is "The Spirit of Navidad," a musical storytelling performance with bilingual performers who tell the story of Dia de Los Reyes while singing traditional holiday songs.


Along with the aforementioned Rosca de Reyes, there are a number of Mexican specialty foods available at the Paradise Gardens, such as pozole, torta al pastor, and champurrado. Toby Hollis, Area Chef for Pacific Wharf and the Boardwalk restaurants, demonstrated the making of buñuelos for us:

Of course all the spectacle and activity of ¡Viva Navidad! will still be ongoing, with character appearances by Fiesta Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy, and the Three Caballeros.


The ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party will also continue to enthrall people six times a day throughout the weekend.


Kids may also participate in arts and crafts, along with face painting and the making of paper crowns for Three Kings Day.


All this is only available at the Disneyland Resort until January 6th, so hurry out and enjoy the Three Kings Day offerings--rich in culture, food, music, and dance.


December 25, 2014

Review: Into the Woods


"Into the woods to get the thing
That makes it worth the journeying.
Into the woods to see the King--
To sell the cow--
To make the potion...
To go to the Festival--!
Into the woods!
Into the woods!
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods...
And home before dark!"

--Prologue: Into the Woods


"Into the Woods," Rob Marshall's filmic adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's classic stage musical of the same name, is an amalgamation of fairy tales, both old and new, put under a contemporary scrutiny.


The story revolves largely around the unnamed "Baker" and "Baker's Wife" whose desperate wish for a child drives them to enter the eponymous Woods to gather potion ingredients for their neighbor, the Witch. They learn that, as a result of a wrong the Baker's father did to the Witch, she cursed his household with sterility--a curse that can only be lifted if the couple can make the potion for the Witch by the end of the Blue Moon in three days time.


Also entering into the Woods to achieve their aims, are Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack the Giant Killer.Their stories play out pretty much as you might expect, and by the end of the first half, all that was wrong is now put right, with everyone who deserved it, destined to live Happy Ever After...


...Or at least until the second act, in which we learn that real life is rarely as simple or pat as that in fairy tales.


"Into the Woods" faces the always-interesting challenge of translating a stage play into a film--a medium very different in what it showcases well and what it does not. The intimacy of the close-up and realism of location shooting require a different sort of storytelling than that of the Broadway stage, and some of the changes made reflect that. The bulk of the musical numbers survive into the film with the ones eliminated referencing character traits or story details that didn't make the screenplay. As an example, the song "No More," resolving the issues between the Baker and his Father in the play, becomes less necessary when the character of the Father was largely removed. One of my personal favorites, "Maybe They're Magic," from the first half, may have been taken out in an attempt to make the Baker's Wife less morally ambiguous, although there is then less foreshadowing for some of her more questionable decisions later in the story.


The cast does an admirable job with the score, which is as challenging as a Sondheim score usually is. The songs seem sung a little slower than in the original soundtrack, however that might be more for increasing the clarity for the audience than a lack of musical adroitness. Meryl Streep is the star, and even if you have not quite forgiven her for dissing Walt Disney earlier this year, there is no denying that she possesses the part of the Witch with a vengeance. Johnny Depp as the Wolf manages to make a big impression with a relatively small part, and somehow seems less creepy in an outfit one moviegoer described as "part wolf and part pimp," than he did as Willy Wonka.


Child roles are always problematic, and the parts of Red Riding Hood and Jack can sometimes be played gratingly irritating, but Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone do a phenomenal job of making the parts likeable and understandable. Crawford in particular gives Red a nice element of pragmatism that is mirrored in all the other female characters of the story, as opposed to the generally less effective male characters.


If there's one number you're going to remember, however, it's likely to be Chris (Cinderella's Prince) Pine and Billy (Rapunzel's Prince) Magnussen's "Agony," in which the narcissistic, shallow princes bewail the unusual and novel (for them) tortures of not immediately getting what they want. Tearing up the scenery like male models in an Old Spice commercial, they do a hilarious performance that makes the elimination of the second act reprise a crime.


The main flaw of "Into the Woods" the film, is probably the same flaw of "Into the Woods" the play, which is the mildly unsettled second act. The first half, following the traditional fairy tale molds, has a nice traditional storytelling arc that wraps up all the problems neatly. The second half shows the rapid unraveling of those ends, as "happy ever after" is shown to be largely an illusion. In one sense, the film is a victim of its more visually straightforward nature, as a confrontation with a giant, dealt with more or less off-stage in the original, must be shown and proves to be somewhat puzzling as to how it would practically work. There has also always been some incongruity present in the end, as in the big finale "No One is Alone," the cast sings about how "witches can be right/giants can be good..." but apparently it's ok to kill them anyway?


People who study such things note that in fairy tales, the Woods represents a place of metamorphosis--an unknown territory where people enter on the road to maturation, to discover what they want and who they want to be. All the characters of "Into the Woods" walk in with clearly defined wishes and goals and emerge triumphant at the half-way point. But what happens after? Real Life doesn't just stop after you reach a high-water mark--it keeps marching along, messy and unclear and ambiguous, and perhaps it's fitting after all, that the film's ending is equally inconclusive.


Ultimately, there are many different messages that can be taken away from "Into the Woods:" "You can't get what you want until you know what you want;" "being nice and good is not the same as being right;" "all people are connected on some level;" "wishes come true, not free." Perhaps the most practical one I took away was "don't live next door to a witch."

“Into the Woods” is rated PG. It stars Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lilla Crawford, and Johnny Depp.

"Into the woods, each time you go,
There's more to learn of what you know.
Into the woods, but not too slow--"

Directed by Rob Marshall and produced by John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Marc Platt, and Callum McDougal. Screenplay by James Lapine. Based on the musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

"Into the woods to mind the Wolf,
To heed the Witch,
To honor the Giant...
To go to the Festival!
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods--
And happy ever after!"

The film enters general release on December 25, 2014.

"I wish..."

December 24, 2014

Into the Woods: Press Conference with the Cast


"I wish...
More than anything...
More than life...
More than jewels...
More than the moon..."
--Prologue: "Into the Woods"


For Christmas this year, Rob Marshall and Walt Disney Studios are giving the cinema-going public "Into the Woods."

In preparation for opening, the studio held a screening and press conference with some of the the film's star-studded cast, costume designer, and director.


(No posed photos or video were allowed during the course of the roundtable discussions. Audio selections from the Q&A follow.)



First up was the hilarious duo of Tracy (Jack's Mother) Ullman, and Christine (Stepmother) Baranski.




Next was Costume Designer Colleen Atwood.



We were then joined by Director Rob Marshall.


The morning ended with three of the film's stars, Emily (The Baker's Wife) Blunt, Anna (Cinderella) Kendrick, and James (The Baker) Corden.




"Into the Woods," rated PG, will be released in theaters December 25, 2014.

December 19, 2014

D23 Destination D: Attraction Rewind, Day 1


DESTINATION D MAGIC BAND WINNERS: Jeff Finger , Chuck Strom and Claude Herbert! Send Deb your address via the Contact Us Form:

On November 22-23, D23 held its big annual event at the Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World, "Destination D: Attraction Rewind."

D23 Destination D Attraction Rewind Program

The emphasis on Saturday's schedule was an exploration of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair--a landmark in Disney history due to the four exhibits Disney presented there, all marvels of themed attraction innovation.

(No photography or recording was permitted during the presentations. All photos thereof are courtesy of D23.)

Early Construction at the 1964-65 World's Fair

To start us off, Historian Bill Cotter gave us a general overview in his presentation "Welcome to the World's Fair."

Worlds Fair Historian Bill Cotter

Displaying only a portion of his extensive (22,000!) collection of World's Fair photos (located online at Cotter took us on a whirlwind tour of the construction and layout of the Fair. Some of the futuristic developments the fair introduced: Phone booths, touch-tone phones, computers, carbon-free copies, and Bel-Gem waffles.

Next up were Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr generally discussing the Disney contributions in "Walt Disney--A Giant at the New York World's Fair."

Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr

With the easy familiarity born of all their cumulative years of Disney service, Sklar and Gurr shared many of their memories developing and experiencing the Fair attractions with Walt and the other classic Imagineers. Two notes they made of Walt's forethought: He had contracts drawn up to take possession of all the attractions he built after the fair for Disneyland (ending a six-year stagnant period;) and the month the Fair opened was the same month he began quietly purchasing land in Florida.

Walt Disney's its a small world New York Worlds Fair

Because neither Sklar or Gurr worked extensively on "it's a small world," video segments were played with Disney Legends Richard Sherman and Rolly Crump talking about their contributions on that attraction.

Photos of its a small world from the World's Fair

Interview with Disney Legends Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar

After a short break, Historian Stacia Martin shared with us "Disney Music Magic at the New York World's Fair."

Disney Historian Stacia Martin

Martin played a number of musical selections for us, including some of the impressive orchestral scores Buddy Baker came up with for Mr. Lincoln and Carousel, proof-of-concept recordings for the iasw roundelay, and George Bruns' many and varied musical adaptations for the Ford queue, as played by the Autoparts Harmonic.

Autoparts Harmonic Photo

The first of the Disney Fair pavilions discussed was "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln," with 2007 Disney Ambassador and Historian Michael Kelley and Imagineer Jack Gladish.

Michael Kelley and Jack Gladish

Interview with Imagineer Jack Gladish

The two went back over the history of Audio-Animatronic development from the Buddy Ebsen "Dancing Man" footage to the problems making forehead plastic crinkle when Lincoln moved his eyebrows. (Oddly enough, no thought at all was apparently given to this when Gary Sinese taped his "Mission: Space" footage right after botox.)

Artist Rendering of Mr. Lincoln

The initial presentation of the Lincoln figure was so impressive, the Illinois Commission was able to convince Robert Moses, Head of the World's Fair Corporation, to pitch in money for it--the only financial support he gave to any exhibitor--just so he could have the pavilion in the Fair.

After lunch we reconvened to hear Bill Cotter and Bob Gurr return to the stage to talk about Walt, cars, and dinosaurs in "Ford's Magic Skyway."

Bill Cotter and Bob Gurr

Sadly, this is the one ride that did not make it back to Disneyland, as Walt apparently deemed the ride system too large to take back and fit into the park. Consequently, his contracts for the Skyway were written for him to be able to take the dinosaurs and a few other small pieces, and leave the rest.

Fords Magic Skyway at New York World's Fair

The presentation ended with a video ride through reconstruction which is the closest any of us will get to riding Ford's Magic Skyway today.

[For more concept pictures on this ride, I refer you back to a blog I wrote on the 2010 Destination D, when we were still allowed to take photos:]

Marty Sklar then returned as well, to talk with Imagineer Gary Landrum about the making of "Carousel of Progress."

Marty Sklar and Gary Landrum

The two went through a brief history of the attraction, detailing its proposed origin for the unrealized Edison Square, then its first life in Progressland, and again, to its subsequent existence in Disneyland's Tomorrowland.

Carousel of Progress

Carousel of Progress

Tim O'Day, standing in for an absent Alice Davis, had a chat with Disney Legend and assistant manager of the Disney World's Fair projects, Bill Sullivan about "it's a small world," and some of the Imagineers that worked on it.

Marc Davis, Walt Disney, and Mary Blair
Artist Rendering its a small world

Interview with Disney Legend Bill "Sully" Sullivan, Worlds Fair Historian Bill Cotter and Imagineer Gary Landrum

Next up was Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline, who gave us a fascinating look at some proposed projects that did not come to fruition in "Lost on the Way to the World's Fair." The highlight was a presentation of the script and concept art (long misattributed to the Tiki Room,) for a theater show pitched for the Coke Pavilion, entitled "Legends of the Enchanted Island."

Legends of the Enchanted Island

The first day of Destination D presentations then closed out with "Tomorrowland's" Supervising Art Director Ramsey Avery, discussing the work that was done for the film to reconstruct parts of the World's Fair in "A Sneak Peak at Disney's Tomorrowland."

Ramsey Avery

While they did show some footage just for the Destination D event, you can get a quick glimpse of some of their work in the recently released trailer:


Here's how you can win a special Destination D Magic Band! Simply leave a comment below about Destination D Attraction Rewind OR leave a comment on one of the videos posted in this blog between now and midnight December 24, 2014. We will pick a comment at random for the Magic Band!


...And that was just the first day! More from the second day of Destination D: Attraction Rewind, to come!

November 14, 2014

Holidaytime at Disneyland


November 13th marked this year's arrival of the holiday season to the Disneyland Resort!


To kick it off, the ceremonial lighting of "it's a small world" took place, presided over by the Gallardo Family. Their daughter Maya had battled acute myelogenous leukemia when she was 16 months old, but was ultimately cured by a stem cell transplant from her older brother Aaron.

Afterwards, the family was joined by their Pediatric Hematologist, Dr. Rosenthal.


Later, the "A Christmas Fantasy" parade ran for its 20th year, celebrating its anniversary with the addition of "Frozen" princesses Anna and Elsa.


Finally, over at Disney California Adventure, a newly-reworked version of last year's "World of Color - Winter Dreams" opened with an increased "Frozen" presence, as the songs "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "Love is an Open Door" were added into the spectacle.

In addition to these holiday offerings, there is a plethora of returning entertainment around the two parks:

--Jingle Jangle Jamboree in Big Thunder Ranch
--Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle
--" Holiday Magic" fireworks
--Haunted Mansion Holiday
--Jingle Cruise
--"Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort" guided tour

Disney California Adventure

--"Disney ¡Viva Navidad!"
--Classic department store Santa at Elias & Co.
--Holiday version of "Mad T Party"
--Seasonal makeovers to Cars Land, "a bug's land," and Buena Vista Street

Downtown Disney
--"Olaf's Frozen Ice Rink"
--Downtown Disney Winter Village
--Gingerbread House in the Grand Californian

Happy Holidays!


November 7, 2014

Review: Big Hero 6



Fresh off their wildly popular "Frozen," Walt Disney Animation Studios presents their latest offering, "Big Hero 6."

*************** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***************

"Big Hero 6" tells the exciting action story of young robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada who, with the help of the adorable robot Baymax, his friends GoGo Tamago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred, forms the superhero team Big Hero 6. Together, they use their powers to try to fight the mysterious villain Yokai and bring it to justice.


Wait...Maybe that wasn't the story.

OK, "Big Hero 6" is actually the inspiring story of a bunch of young brainiacs that come to realize that technical brilliance can be as good a source for superpowers as any radioactive spider bite, and that cohesive teamwork can create a force far stronger than each individual.


Actually, you know, that might not be it either.

Well, "Big Hero 6" is really a comedy about a sharp and cynical boy who forms a relationship with a naive and compassionate robot, and the funny friction that ends up taking off their rough edges and molding them into friends.



Loosely based on a 1998 comic mini-series (at the press conference, the directors stated "all we took was the name,") "Big Hero 6" is a complicated film with a dazzling array of engaging characters, gorgeous artwork, and multilayered storylines.

While the original source material was set in Japan, the film creators reset it in an amalgamation of San Francisco and Tokyo--the beautiful San Fransokyo. This serves a number of different functions: It differentiates it from the "real world" of the rest of the Marvel Universe, avoiding the inevitable question of why the Avengers don't swoop in and save everyone; and gives it a unique identity as one of the few animated features revolving around a Japanese-American protagonist. With so little Asian representation in entertainment in general, the movie might be significant for that alone.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I might be biased, because the Bot Fighter in the beginning of the picture has the first half of my last name printed on the back of his jacket.]


The voice acting, as we've come to expect from any WDAS production, is top-rate, with Ryan Potter doing an endearingly convincing Hiro. Although his character is often selfish and angry, Potter lets us see the pain and uncertainty behind his actions that keep us firmly on his side. Similarly, Daniel Henney does a lot with a short amount of time to show us how special an older brother Tadashi is to Hiro, and why his understanding and compassion are so important an influence on him. Alan Tudyk provides his usual deft performance as well, moving him one notch closer to John Ratzenberger status with WDAS.


But the heart of the movie is Baymax, and that Baymax is as successful as he is at touching both Hiro and the audience, is due in no small part to Scott Adsit. Taking the newbie robot from his first, child-like beginnings, to a position of parity among the fledgling super-hero team, to an almost parental role for Hiro, Adsit expertly treads a line between expressing the emotionless robot and the soul he must certainly develop through the course of the movie. The relationship between them drives the story, and as Potter said in one of his interviews, it is apparent that as Hiro rebuilds Baymax physically, Baymax rebuilds Hiro emotionally.


Although the trailers all emphasize the action and comedy inherent in the film (and there is an abundance of both,) the story turns much darker than you might expect. Characters experience loss and must grapple with overcoming all the resultant grief and anger you'd expect. I've seen some question whether it might, in fact, be too much for children--and while every parent certainly should make their own decisions, I would say that although Hiro lives in an imaginary world, and has fantastical technology at his disposal, all of the problems that matter to him, are problems that can exist in real life to anyone--child or adult. I don't think it's giving anything away to say that by the end of the film, Hiro survives and begins recovering from his issues...and I would think that would help encourage any kid facing similar ones to do the same.


Tragedies happen to everyone, often for no good reason at all. What "Big Hero 6" tells us, is that heartbreak doesn't define us. What we do afterwards, does.


"Big Hero 6," in fact, manages to be both everything and nothing you'd expect. It incorporates all the above storylines, and still, like the team Big Hero 6 itself, ends up being more than the sum of its parts.


“Big Hero 6” is presented by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Rated PG, it features the voice talents of Scott (Baymax) Adsit, Ryan (Hiro Hamada) Potter, Daniel (Tadashi Hamada) Henney, T.J. (Fred) Miller, Jamie (GoGo Tomago) Chung, Damon (Wasabi)
Wayans Jr., Genesis (Honey Lemon) Rodriguez, James (Professor Robert Callaghan) Cromwell, Alan (Alistair Krei) Tudyk, and Maya (Aunt Cass) Rudolph.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, and produced by Roy Conli.

The film enters general release in 3D on November 7, 2014.

*At the screening I saw, the last moments after the credits were suspiciously blank. This is a movie, at least tangentially from the Marvel Universe, however, so I think any True Believer would probably be safe in expecting a post-credit sequence.

October 31, 2014

Big Hero 6: Press Conference with the Cast


"I fail to see how flying makes me a better Healthcare Companion."
"I fail to see how you fail to see that it's awesome."
--Baymax and Hiro Hamada, "Big Hero 6"


Coming up swiftly on release date is Walt Disney Animation Studio's latest offering "Big Hero 6."

In preparation for opening, the studio held a screening and press conference with the film's voice cast, directors, and producer, along with the producer for "Feast," the animated short preceding "Big Hero 6" in theaters.

(No photos or video were allowed during the course of the roundtable discussions. Audio selections from the Q&A follow.)



First up were the lead voices of "Big Hero 6," Ryan (Hiro Hamada) Potter, and Scott (Baymax) Adsit.


Next was "Feast" Producer Kristina Reed.


Directors Chris Williams and Don Hall then joined us, along with Producer Roy Conli.


Finally, the rest of the main voice cast came in. First, the girls--Genesis (Honey Lemon) Rodriguez, paired with Jamie (Go Go Tomago) Chung...


...And then the boys, Damon (Wasabi) Wayans Jr., paired with T.J. (Fred) Miller.


"Big Hero 6," rated PG, will be released in 3D on November 7, 2014.

October 23, 2014

ScareLA: A Showcase of Fright


So, now that Halloween is creeping up on us once again, it's time to take a look back at the ScareLA convention that was held this year for the celebration of the season.


The weekend started off with a presentation commemorating the Haunted Mansion's 45th anniversary, with Disney Legends Bob Gurr and Alice Davis, hosted by's Jeff Baham.


As a part of their show schedule, ScareLA also hosted the Captured Aural Phantasy Theater, performing "Chilling Tales of the Haunted Mansion--Live" in the form of an old radio show.


Some names familiar to the Disney community presented a history of "90 Years of the Anaheim Halloween Parade"--artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily.


The Anaheim Halloween Parade will be held this month at 6pm, October 25th. If you are interested in either volunteering or just spectating at the parade, information on the schedule and the route can be found at I attended last year, and while it was an impressive event then, it looks like they're working hard to make it even better for this year.

Garner Holt, of Garner Holt Productions, Inc., spoke about his personal journey from childhood to leading animatronic expert, in "Garner Holt: I Was A Teenage Haunter."


He also showed slides of some of the work he's done for theme parks all over the world, including this one for the Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare overlay in Tokyo Disneyland.


Some of the bigger draws were the presentations by Knotts Berry Farm and Universal Studios on their plans for the Halloween season, however there were also a variety of smaller talks on topics like the use of future technology in fear experiences, and Halloween at the Magic Castle.

Along with the regular panels and presentations, there were also activities and storytelling for kids, such as actress Amber Benson reading "The 13 Nights of Halloween."


And, of course, like any convention, there was an extensive exhibitor's floor, where a wide variety of macabre vendors plyed their wares.




As an added attraction, the floor had several mini-demos from various upcoming Haunted Attractions, such as "The Hellevator from the Field of Screams Haunted Stadium," and "Fear Station's Freakshow of Fears."


Like any good convention, there was far more offered than anyone could experience in one weekend. Simultaneous to the panel presentations, they also offered a wide range of hands-on classes on topics such as pumpkin carving, costuming, and Halloween party planning. A film screening program ran throughout the show, and a "Ghostly Gala" separate ticket party kept conventioneers entertained on into the night.

Things to note for next year:

--Lines just to get in were considerable, particularly on Saturday, and many people were turned away from the Haunted Mansion panel because the room filled to occupancy. Get there early if there's something happening first thing that you really want to see.
--If there are presentations that you have your heart set on, consider purchasing the upgraded "Fear Freak"/"Scare Students" tickets. Those guests got priority entrance before the general admission guests, and in some cases almost filled the rooms by themselves.
--If, like me, you prefer your Halloween experiences on the "not-so-scary" side, maybe take a good look at what you want to see here. This was, in some aspects, a trade show for the whole spectrum of Halloween, from the cute Haunted Mansion ghosts and bats, to chain-saw murderers and ghouls that would prowl the exhibitor's floor periodically shrieking at people for startlement purposes. Be prepared to turn from admiring a display of cartoon monsters, to gaping at an operating room tableau with bloodied instruments and flayed open bodies. ScareLA has a ton of fascinating offerings for those interested in all things Halloween and horror, but it may not be for everyone.

Information on ScareLA can be found at their website: They are also on twitter as @ScareLosAngeles.

September 30, 2014

Star Wars Rebels: So it Begins...


“If all you do is fight for your own life, then your life is worth nothing!”


This week sees the start of a new chapter in the Star Wars saga--"Star Wars Rebels."

This new Disney XD series takes place between "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," and "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope." It tells the story of the Galactic Empire's increasingly oppressive rule over its citizens, and the burgeoning sparks of outrage that ultimately kindle into outright rebellion.


Our entry point into the current state of affairs on the planet Lothal is Ezra Bridger, (voiced by Taylor Gray) a 14-year-old thief and con artist, with a finely developed sense of self-preservation, but an atrophied sense of altruism. A clear analogue to Aladdin, he is introduced in a sequence strikingly similar to "One Jump," even down to the local authorities running him off with the sneer "Loth-rat!"

As a result of his own innate sense of opportunism, and at least partially guided by the Force, Ezra is forced to throw his lot in with the crew of the starship Ghost--a ragtag band working to improve conditions for those downtrodden by the Empire.


While the ship is captained by the motherly but authoratative Twi'lek Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall,) it is Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.) who must resume the Jedi role he abandoned after Order 66 in order to teach the Force-sensitive Ezra. Together, with Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar,) a Mandalorian demolition expert and tagger; muscle Zeb Orrelios (voiced by Steve Blum,) a Lasat honor guard; and a disgruntled astromech droid called Chopper, they begin to show Ezra the benefit of being part of a group and the value of caring about others.


Helmed by Dave Filoni, the series can be expected to have a feeling of continuity with his last project, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." While both series, to some degree, revolve around young protagonists learning the ways of the Force, "Rebels" seems likely to revolve more around the team dynamics, with a less episodic feel than "Clone Wars." The CGI is occasionally a little jarring with a slightly different feel than the past animated series, but that may be due to the art design borrowing from the original Star Wars concept art by Ralph McQuarrie, which may be in turn designed to distinguish the series from the upcoming live-action Star Wars sequels.

Recently, Filoni and the voice cast of "Rebels" met at a press conference to answer questions about the new series:


Ultimately, the series looks to fill in an interesting portion of Star Wars history, as the spirit of rebellion develops both in Ezra and in the galaxy at large. At what point does oppression and injustice become so widespread and intolerable that they overbalance a person's instincts to stay uninvolved? How much suffering does one have to see before deciding to take action against it? Compelling questions for any time, whether it's here and now, or a Long Time Ago.


"Star Wars Rebels" will air its one-hour Movie Premiere on October 3rd, 9pm ET/PT on the Disney Channel. The Series Premiere will air on October 13th, 9pm ET/PT on Disney XD.


September 24, 2014

Once Upon a Time Season Four Premiere Event: Arendelle Comes to Storybrooke


This week, "Once Upon a Time" had its fourth season premiere event at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.


Prior to the screening, the cast held court on the red carpet outside, to the delight of their multitudes of fans.




At check-in, we traded our cameras for popcorn, drinks, and an assigned seat.


In the lobby, the persistent and the fortunate were able to catch glimpses of some of the stars making their way to their seats.




Once at your seat, a slideshow of cast photos gave you something to look at while waiting for everyone to find their way inside.




Prior to the screening of next week's season premiere, the show's creators Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz came out to give thanks to all the people involved with the show.


Then, they presented the entire main cast, including newcomers Georgina Haig (Elsa,) Elizabeth Lail (Anna,) and Michael Socha (Will Scarlet,) returning from the finished spinoff "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland."


Thoughts on the premiere episode: As you'd expect, the first episode of the season is pretty heavy on exposition, given the gap of time between when we left Elsa ice skating with Olaf at the end of "Frozen," and when we saw her bust out of Rumple's bottle after who-knows-how-long an imprisonment. Delivered largely through flashbacks, Elsa and Anna come off very well, with Lail doing a good job emulating Kristen Bell's cheerful babbling delivery.

The main questions for this season so far (and my best guesses:) What is Elsa's problem? (Anna.) Is Rumple ever going to forgo power for Belle's love? (No.) What's Regina's badness level by now?


Afterwards, the cast and crew adjourned down the street to the Roosevelt for further festivities, and the rest of us grabbed our parking validations and cars, and headed back out of Storybrooke, to home.




Once Upon a Time's new season begins on September 28, 8-9pm ET on ABC.

September 19, 2014

El Capitan Special Engagement: Disney's "Tangled"


For a limited time, Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre is showing a special engagement of Disney's "Tangled."


Preceding the 2010 cinematic update on the fairy tale "Rapunzel" is a song and dance from Princess Sofia, of "Sophia the First," with a brief look at the upcoming Disney Junior show "Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy."


For those endowed with fanciful follicles, there is also a "Crazy Hair Nights Parade" for all ages.


Following the film, the audience is treated to yet another princess as Rapunzel herself comes out to dance a little as the credits roll.


She does dance off before the credits end, however, so people wanting more of a meet-and-greet with her should consider booking a breakfast with commemorative photo offered on select days before the 10am show (reservations required.)


After the credits, the short "Tangled Ever After" runs--it seems a little odd to have a short after the main presentation, but it is a sequel.

People adjourning to the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop next door can find a limited amount of merchandise to accompany them home.


So, if you're ready to see some other princesses besides the Arendelle sisters, you might consider checking out some old friends down at the El Capitan, where Rapunzel still has her frying pan, Flynn still has his smolder, and Mother Gothel still Knows Best.


"Tangled" will be running at the El Capitan from September 12 to October 9, 2014. Showtimes are at 10am, 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 1-800-DISNEY6.

Additionally, on Sundays at 4pm and Wednesdays at 7 p.m., El Capitan will be showing the Spanish language and 3D version of Disney's “Tangled.”

September 3, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 5]


So the largest amount of representation Disney brought to SDCC this year was, unsurprisingly, their Marvel properties.


Marvel's "Agents of SHIELD" had a panel in Ballroom 20, which is probably the second-hardest room to get into at SDCC. To go through the line for Ballroom 20, you habitually have to go outside, walk a good part of the length of the convention center, go back in, walk BACK the same length of the convention center, and then, after some double-backs, maybe get to cross the aisle and enter the room. Needless to say, I didn't make it.

I did, however, manage to catch a few glimpses of the cast, as they made their appearances over at their booth on the Exhibit Hall floor.




Of course, their big gun was Marvel Studios, which has been dominating the box office for the last few years.


Their booth, filled with rotating movie props, special limited-edition merchandise, and occasional franchise stars, could always be counted on to block floor traffic all day long.



They too held a panel, however theirs was in the infamous Hall H, which has the distinction of being THE hardest to enter. Part of the puzzle is the fact that the rooms aren't cleared after each session--once in, the con-goer can effectively squat in there for the duration of the programming day. Because of this, it develops that someone who wants to see, say, the Marvel panel at the end of the day, needs to get in that room at the beginning, because there's effectively no seat turnover during popular days. To get into the Marvel panel, which was towards the end of Saturday, some people had been in line since around 2-4pm the previous day.


So it didn't happen for me. Luckily, there are many YouTube recordings of all the panels up by now, including these snippets:

In addition to the panels and appearances, there was an endless stream of merchandise available to commemorate all the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.






Like any convention, SDCC brought out an immense number of cosplayers, who drew from every influence under the sun. This year, however, I almost think I saw as many Elsas as metal-bikini-Leias, which is saying something.







So, although I did attend more non-Disney talks, these last blog entries make up the bulk of the Disney content from this year's 2014.

The "pro:" A ton of offerings, touching on virtually every piece of existing pop culture; .chances to see and get autographs from any number of celebrities; more merchandise than you could even examine during the course of 4.5 days.


The "con:" So crowded. Every year seems more crowded than the next. This year, I was determined to try to at least walk by every booth on the Exhibit Hall floor, but huge pockets of people would block the aisles and make certain intersections almost completely impassable, so I wound up traversing a lot of the same pathways repeatedly to get around them. Everything is so much in demand, to see one star-filled panel or buy one limited edition piece of merchandise, you might have to give up seeing anything else for half of the day before, and sleep out on the sidewalk with the roaches and the hobos.


For next time: There is also an enormous amount of stuff outside of the convention center--this year saw a huge Simpsons area; a parkour course; a chance to zipline over Gotham; an entire area of Petco Park given over to an "Experience Zone" with interactive exhibits from a number of different properties, such as Comedy Central and Sleepy Hollow; and several different locations where different organizations centralized to offer celebrity talks, game demos, and more. Just trying to navigate around inside the convention center was so difficult, I didn't have much time to explore around outside until Sunday, when a lot of it was already starting to be broken down.


And with that, another SDCC goes in the books. Until next year, San Diego!


August 22, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 3]


While Disney didn't have much to present at SDCC on the next Star Wars movie, currently in production, Star Wars in general was as prevalent as it usually is.

Frequent Star Wars Weekend host Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka from The Clone Wars) was present in the Exhibit Hall, at the Her Universe booth.

Star Wars cosplayers were out in "Force."





And there was plenty of merchandise related to both the existing movies, and Disney's next foray into the Star Wars universe, "Star Wars Rebels."




Premiering this Fall, the new animated series (which was prominently featured at Disney Hollywood Studios' Star Wars Weekends this year) takes place directly after the enactment of Order 66, which called for the termination of all Jedi. The story follows Ezra, a 14-year old Aladdin-esque urchin, who joins up with the crew of the Ghost to fight back against the ever-increasing oppression of the new Galactic Empire, and to learn what it means to have a cause larger than yourself.

As a backdrop to his journey, the series will show the grassroots origin of the rebellion from a handful of scattered individuals to the Rebel Alliance seen in Star Wars IV.

At the main Star Wars Rebels panel discussion, Dave Filoni (Executive Producer,) Freddie Prinze Jr. (“Kanan,”) Simon Kinberg (Executive Producer,) Steve Blum (“Zeb,”) Taylor Gray (“Ezra,”) Tiya Sircar (“Sabine,”) and Vanessa Marshall (“Hera”) were in attendance.


Some of the discussed topics:
--Marshall is by far the biggest Star Wars fan of the cast.
--Light saber fights will be infrequent on the show, given that all the remaining Jedi are in hiding.
--"Rebels" will resemble the original trilogy more than Filoni's last series "Clone Wars."
--The cast often records as an ensemble, developing a family dynamic similar to that of their characters.
--Art direction is aimed towards the original Ralph McQuarrie designs.
--During SDCC weekend, Marshall and Sircar became honorary members of the costume club "Mandalorian Mercs."
--The series will begin with the Jedi branded as traitors, and show how the Empire oppression gradually breeds rebellion.
--As the show progresses, each character's motivation for joining the rebellion will be revealed.
--Prinze Jr. says that Kanan has an adolescent darker side as a result of having his training cut short when Order 66 exterminated over 90% of the Jedi, but learns control by teaching Ezra.
--The ship's droid "Chopper" is less cooperative than R2-D2.
--Fan expresses doubt that a "girl" like Sircar would be interested in Star Wars, setting genre social equality back another 60 years.

The next day a roundtable discussion with the panelists was held:


Freddie Prinze Jr.

Simon Kinberg


Dave Filoni


Vanessa Marshall and Steve Blum


Tiya Sircar and Taylor Gray


"Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion," the series premiere, will air September 29 on, the WATCH Disney XD app for smartphones and tablets, and Disney Channel SVOD; October 3 at 9pm ET/PT on the Disney Channel; October 4 on Disney XD VOD, and for purchase through Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play; and October 6 on Disney XD at 8pm ET/PT.

August 15, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 2]


So the first day of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) saw the beginning of the weekend's vast schedule of panel discussions, starting off with talks on upcoming Disney animated projects "Toy Story that Time Forgot," and "Big Hero 6."


See this poster? This was done for Toy Story by the comic book artist/writer Mike Mignola of "Hellboy" fame. I really wanted one, and they actually did gave them out, but inexplicably gave them out at the ABC booth in the Exhibit Hall, right as the panel was ending, thus insuring that virtually no one could get down there fast enough to get one before they were all out. Sigh.

That was, however, the only disappointment as Director Steve Purcell, Producer Galyn Susman, Head of Story Derek Thompson, and Moderator/Composer Michael Giacchino showed off some impressive clips and art assets from Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story that Time Forgot."




Initially planned as a six minute short, John Lasseter was impressed enough with the footage that he asked them to expand it to a half-hour Christmas special. The basic story is that Bonnie, the recipient of all the toys at the end of "Toy Story 3," takes them to a friend's house where they encounter a new set of toys--the "Battlesaurs"--who do not realize they are toys.


The leader of the Battlesaur society is the Cleric--the spiritual head of their culture.


There are a number of different types of soldier Battlesaurs, because they are constantly needed to fend off the Outland Beasts, like the Goliathon.


(All the inhabitants of the Battlesaur world have been mutated from...conventional dinosaurs, through irradiation from Zeta Rays.)


Our lead Battlesaur is Reptillius Maximus, who is of the Champion class, and wielder of the mighty Star Talon, a sacred weapon. He is voiced by Kevin McKidd.


Our lead of the familar Toy Story cast is Trixie, played by Kristen Schaal. As a surprise, when her character was introduced, Kristen Schaal herself joined the panel.


(When asked why she thought Trixie was chosen as the star toy for this outing, Schaal responded "...Tom Hanks is really busy, but I am completely available.")

As part of the Christmas setting, a new Toy Story character is also introduced, the mildly disturbing Angel Kitty. ("I am armored with goodness.")


For those who want to recreate the story afterwards, there will also be actual toys on sale of the various film characters in their battle gear.


The special "Toy Story that Time Forgot" is schedule for broadcast on ABC, December 2, 2014.


Next up was a panel on "The Art of Big Hero 6," the upcoming feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS.)


The panel, which did not allow photos or video of the displayed art, featured Producer Roy Conli, Visual Effects Supervisor Kyle Odermatt, Production Designer Paul Felix, Director Don Hall, Character Designer Shiyoon Kim and Visual Development Artist Lorelay Bove.


The project came about when Hall developed an interest in creating a project that would join both WDAS and the recently acquired Marvel properties; the relatively obscure "Big Hero 6" seemed to fit the bill, and with Marvel's blessings, became the studio's love letter to Japanese culture.


The creation of the film's setting "San Fransokyo" took an enormous amount of work, requiring the animators to start with a geographical map of San Francisco, and then increasing the hill size and skyscraper density to give it the feel of Tokyo. Combining the detailed ornamentation of a Japanese city with the Painted Lady architecture of SF, and throwing in some quarter of a million trees and one million streetlights, they created an image of a city that had both depth and energy.


Kim then described some of the process he went through while trying to find the character Hiro, the 14-year-old genius protagonist.


Looking to his own childhood for traits like perpetual bedhead, Kim also tried to incorporate elements of today's youth, making him an expert multitasker.


Hiro's inflatable robotic sidekick Baymax, a health professional turned superhero, came out of multiple visits to various robotic departments at a number of different universities. Wanting a huggable robot, Hall finally found a prototype for a robot composed of vinyl balloons that he thought was perfect. Baymax's face, a simple two circles connected by a line, was derived from the openings on a bell, his walk from a penguin, and his general shape language from a rice cooker (adorable, but with hidden technology.)


To introduce some clips from the film, the panel was joined by Hiro's voice actor, Ryan Potter.


Subsequently, we were treated to a brief description of each of Hiro's other teammates:





Of course, the Big Hero 6 experience didn't end with the panel--there was already a reasonable amount of cosplay anticipating the movie.


Attendees of the panel were also treated to a small Kaiju!Fred! as a giveaway.


Downstairs in the Exhibit Hall, "Big Hero 6" had their own booth, where a limited edition armored Baymax was for sale.


On display were other toys and figures that will be on the market closer to the film's opening.


Guests were encouraged to #MeetBaymax and take a photo with him, at which time they might be given a smaller Baymax of their own (until the booth ran out for the day.)



"Big Hero 6" is scheduled to be in theaters November 7, 2014.

August 13, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Something Good, Something Bad — A Bit of Both. [Part 1]


Ah Comic-Con.


Nothing says the height of summer, like spending four and a half days with 130,000+ of your closest friends.


Each year, fans of virtually every genre under the sun converge on Downtown San Diego to celebrate and enjoy all different forms of entertainment. As the largest comic-con in North America, it attracts any number of companies displaying their wares and promoting their new and upcoming products, and Disney is no exception.


I started off my comic-con weekend at the Disney Infinity Preview Event.


Located a block or so away from the San Diego Convention Center, the Disney Infinity Pop-Up Shop was open each evening and provided guests with an opportunity to try out Disney Infinity 2.0, along with the new playset "Guardians of the Galaxy."


Along with gameplay time, the location also offered snacks, character artists, giveaways, special guests, and the chance to pre-purchase Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes.



Also available for pre-order was the new Collector's Edition starter pack, exclusive to the Playstation.


Subsequent to SDCC, Disney Infinity has continued to roll out new 2.0 characters such as Marvel villains Loki, Green Goblin, and Ronan.

Classic Disney characters haven't been ignored, either, with the addition of Aladdin and Jasmine...

...and Stitch and Tinker Bell.

Oh, and this guy, too.

The Disney Infinity Preview was, as last year, a really fun addition to SDCC, enabling people to escape the heat and rehydrate while getting some hands-on game time with the updated Disney Infinity universe. SDCC tickets were not required, making it accessible to anyone who could brave the traffic and the parking down there.

August 1, 2014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy



"Guardians of the Galaxy," the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU,) introduces us to the space-faring scoundrel Peter Quill and the rag-tag band that unites around him in his attempt to save the galaxy.


*************** THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***************

After an initial sequence more reminiscent of the four-minute montage in "Up" than with the film's slapstick-y trailers, the movie settles in to tell the story of Quill's efforts to obtain, and then regain, a mysterious and powerful orb. In the process of doing so, he is thrown together with four other miscreants: Gamora, an assassin with a heart of gold; Drax, a warrior consumed with regret and vengeance; Rocket, a genetically/cybernetically enhanced raccoon and bounty hunter; and Groot, a powerful sentient tree-creature.


While the group is initially bound by mutual need and dislike, grudging respect eventually turns to affection and the group evolves from a bunch of isolated beings only out for themselves, into a team willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the galaxy.


To do so, they end up opposing any number of forces, including the military forces of Xandar; Gamora's assassin sister without a heart of gold, Nebula; Quill's surrogate father, Yondu the bandit; and the story's "Big Bad," Ronan.


Based on a relatively obscure team of comic book characters dating back to 1969, "Guardians" allows the MCU to both expand their canonically known universe, and simultaneously tell a story completely new to most of their audience. Combining both broad comedy and the grandeur of a traditional space epic, director James Gunn succeeds in dishing up a satisfying adventure that often seems like the love child of Indiana Jones and Captain EO.


Chris Pratt, as Peter Quill, does a fine job of depicting the lone human of the film as a cocky survivor, still deeply wounded by his loss of both his mother and his planet. Although the ship-full of bandits who raised him may have taught him that only suckers care about others, the experience he gets working with a team shows him the value of family and brings him to the realization that it's never too late to do the right thing. While it might have been expected that Pratt would have the comedic chops from his work on "Parks and Recreation," the heart with which he imbues Quill is surprisingly effective.


My personal favorite of the movie however, is Groot--who, despite being limited to vocalizing one sentence ("I am Groot") manages to be as expressive as any of the others. Ironically, of all of them, it's Groot who comes with the least amount of growing to do, as his taciturn compassion contrasts and balances Rocket's aggressive tendencies beautifully.


Ultimately, what I find unique about "Guardians" as opposed to the other MCU films is how the characters struggle to achieve heroism. Rather than most superheroes who either spring out with fully-formed noble intentions from the beginning, or who surmount some life tragedy from a fairly privileged position, these guys are depicted as competent criminals, but vaguely penny-ante, and pretty jerky from the beginning. It's their journey to discover the potential in themselves and the strength they derive from each other that makes them both compelling and relatable (even the raccoon and the tree.)


At one point in the movie, John C. Reilly's Corpsman Dey of the Nova Corps is relaying a warning from Quill (an escaped criminal) to Glenn Close's Nova Prime, in which he says "I may be an A-hole, but I'm not 100% d---." Nova Prime asks Dey, "do you believe him?" Dey responds "well, I don't think anyone's 100% d---..." Which is probably as good an overall message as any.


“Guardians of the Galaxy” is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by James Gunn and produced by Kevin Feige. Screenplay by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. The Executive Producers are Louis D'Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Nik Korda, and Stan Lee.

The film enters general release on August 1, 2014, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

*At the screening I saw, the last moments after the credits were suspiciously blank. This is a MCU film however, and chances are that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably got an post-credit sequence.

July 19, 2014

Happy 59th Anniversary, Disneyland!


On July 17, 2014, Disneyland celebrated its 59th Anniversary.


Starting off with some numbers by the Dapper Dans ranging from "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room," to "Miracles from Molecules," the Celebration Moment continued as the quartet was quickly joined by a plethora of characters and cast members.



The host of the affair, the Mayor of Disneyland, announced that the Diamond Celebration of Disneyland's 60th Anniversary would begin in the Spring of 2015, and would kick off with a photo contest, rules here: (Entries must be received by 8/27/14)

Ultimately the new logo for the upcoming 60th Anniversary was unveiled with the typical Disney panache.



Afterwards, a reception was held in the Opera House for some lucky Disney Parks Blog readers which included commemorative cupcakes and multiple meet and greet and photo opportunities:


Mickey and Minnie...


The new logo...


Anna and Elsa (minus the four hour wait)...


And even Social Media Director and America's Sweetheart, Erin Glover!


Diamonds were certainly the motif of the day, from the decor, down to the giveaways.


Reception guests were gifted with several amenities, including a D60 diamond paperweight keepsake, and fastpasses in the form of the old-style ticket books.



While we wait for news of what to expect for next year's 60th Anniversary, it's probably worth noting that 59 years is nothing to sneeze at either. Happy Birthday Disneyland!


July 14, 2014

DisneyanaMania Convention: Coming Up and Looking Back.


This week, the Disneyana Fan Club will once again be holding its annual DisneyanaMania Convention.


Always a good choice for the Disney fan interested in learning more about the history and doings of the various facets of the company without the stress of some of the bigger conventions, DisneyanaMania is traditionally held over the weekend of Disneyland's anniversary, and includes two days of talks, various Disney celebrity-studded meals, and the Disneyana Collectible Expo.

Last year's convention covered a wide range of topics: Artist Dave Avenzino started it off with a presentation on how he develops and executes his popular line of dimensional, custom-made paper art.



Next up, Disney Legend Marty Sklar gave a talk similar to a few others he gave last year on the creation of his recent book "Dream it! Do it!" and the lessons he learned from his years with the Disney Company.


The traditional "Disneyana Fan Club Luncheon with a Disney Legend" is always a highlight each year for the sheer density of Disney luminaries that attend.




The award ceremonies began with a recognition of Tony Baxter's 47 years with Disney, "Making Magic."


The two present inductees into the Disneyana Legends roster for 2013 were Howard E. Green, VP of Communications for Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Bruce Reitherman, accepting for both himself and his father Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman.


Howard E. Green has been involved with publicizing Disney projects for 36 years, and has helped launch EPCOT Center, coordinated Mickey Mouse's 50th Birthday cross-country tour, and written decades-worth of press releases and related copy for Walt Disney Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.


Bruce Reitherman has been an actor, cinematographer, director, writer, and producer for various documentaries, but is famously known in Disney circles as having been the voice of both Mowgli in "The Jungle Book," and Christopher Robin in "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree."


His father, Wolfgang Reitherman, was one of Walt's famous Nine Old Men of animation, working on most of the classic animated features (giving life to action sequences such as the fight between Prince Philip and Maleficent in "Sleeping Beauty,") and directing "The Sword in the Stone," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," and "Robin Hood."


After lunch, Chris Ellis, an Orlando Cast Member with one of the largest vintage pin collections around, showed attendees a variety of historical pins and detailed some of his research in obtaining, categorizing, and evaluating them.


The final panel for the day was made up of Dusty Sage and Jeff Heimbuch from MiceChat, and Mousetalgia podcasters Dave, Kristen, and Jeff. They spoke on the state of present-day Disney fandom, and how their groups have interacted and worked with the Disney Company.


The next day was supposed to include a presentation with "Dog with a Blog," but there was a last-minute substitution with past Head Archivist Dave Smith who took questions from the audience.


Jeff Heimbuch returned for his talk on "The Five-Legged Goat," which is a term he's coined for various features with hidden back-stories that inhabit the various Disney parks and resorts.


Don Ballard, author of two books on the Disneyland Hotel, then spoke on some additional archival material he had recently found in one of Jack Wrather's (original owner of the Disneyland Hotel) storage vaults.


He showed a large variety of old photos and home film footage documenting the early history of the Disneyland Hotel and its famous and not-so-famous guests.


Eventually, of course, the need for capacity and the changing environment caused the gradual metamorphosis of the small but sophisticated structure into the larger buildings we have today.

Author Sam Gennawey spoke on the ill-fated "Mineral King" project that Walt had planned for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and detailed the history of opposition to it that led to its ultimate cancellation.


Finally, the convention's last panel ended on a highlight as Disney Legend and past Imagineer Rolly Crump reminisced about his time with the company and his interactions with Walt Disney.


He showed a good deal of his early artwork, and told anecdotes about his contributions to such famous and classic attractions as the Tiki Room and The Haunted Mansion.


Arguably his most famous creation was the Tower of the Four Winds he designed for the it's a small world pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair. Ironically, he wasn't particularly impressed with it after it was constructed, feeling it appeared less delicate in reality than it did in his concept.


That evening saw the Disneyana Celebration Banquet which was commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the film Peter Pan and had as its special guest, Margaret Kerry, the original model for Tinker Bell.


This year's DisneyanaMania Convention will take place July 16-July 20 at the Wyndham Anaheim Hotel in Garden Grove, and promises to be just as history-filled and exuberant in its celebration of Disney fandom as last year. If you are in the area and have an interest in learning more about Disney and the art and fandom it inspires (or even just in shopping the large group sale on the last day,) I encourage you to check it out. Tickets will be available at the door, and this year's schedule is available at

July 11, 2014

The Pacific NorthWest Mouse Meet: Disney Time in the Emerald City



Now in its sixth year, the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet (PNW,) was held on June 28th, 2014.


Led by Planning Committee Chairman Don Morin, PNW seeks to give regional (and a few not-so-local) fans an event to gather, learn, and celebrate their common Disney interests.


One of the highlights of PNW is the wide roster of Disney luminaries they get to come and give talks and sign items each year.


This year, PNW featured three great speakers: Glenn Barker, Don Hahn, and Tony Baxter.


Glenn Barker was the Manager of the Audio/Video Department of WED throughout the 80's, eventually becoming a Principal Media Designer--his current position. He has created the soundtracks for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland, and was responsible for recording many of the orchestral soundtracks for the different EPCOT pavilions.

Soundworks Collection: Walt Disney Imagineers from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

He gave a great talk on his history with the company, and demonstrated some of the component sounds that contribute to the depth of a given auditory environment. He also showed ride videos which showed off how the soundtrack matches and enhances the ride experience.

The next speaker was Producer/Director/Author Don Hahn, who notably produced "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King," directed the documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty," and authored, most recently, "Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self."


His talk centered around the concept of creativity, how it can be fostered, and how it often starts from the simple declarations "I am here, I am a unique voice, this is my world, let me show it to you."

The last speaker of the day was Disney Legend and past Imagineer Tony Baxter.


His talk was very similar to the "Undiscovered Disneyland" presentation he gave at Expo 2013, but with different video showing Disneyland of the past. As always, it was a fascinating look at how the topography, the cast members, and the guests at Disneyland have changed over the decades.

Outside of the talks, there was still more for guests to enjoy: The day started off with a small orchestra playing Disney tunes for the masses of people waiting to "rope drop" the event.


Over at the charity raffle, where guests could try to win prizes such as a private Imagineer-led tour of Disneyland or hand-drawn art by Uncle Scrooge artist Don Rosa, incentives to purchase tickets included a poster from the recent film "Maleficent," signed by producer Don Hahn.


The charities for this year were Ryman Arts and Seattle Children's Hospital. Between the raffle, an extra Tony Baxter talk on Sunday, and donations from MEI & Mouse Fan Travel, $9,000 was raised for them.


There were also a number of "Picture Spot" locations around the convention center, representing all the different lands of the park.




Should your interests run towards old-school Disney video gaming, 62-bit Gaming had you covered.


There were also several tables of merchandise dealers, authors, vendors, podcasters, and even a snack booth, should you get hungry.


The party continued on at the official hotel as well, with a window-decorating contest that produced some fairly impressive entries, complete with sound and moving parts.


New for this year, was an additional talk given by Tony Baxter and Glenn Barker at the hotel the next day--"History of EPCOT and the Journey Into Imagination Attraction." This was on the process they went through, conceptualizing and realizing the original Imagination pavilion.


Starting with his aborted concepts for both the Sea and the Land pavilions, Baxter traced the evolution of the Imagination pavilion through development, sponsorship, casting, and construction.


The talk culminated in a viewing of the ride-through video reconstruction showing the final product.


As a special treat, we were also shown a video in which Tony Baxter and a few other Imagineers participated in the old Image Works attraction "Dreamfinder's School of Drama." Afterwards, some lucky audience members won copies of the new Marvel comic book "Figment," which Tony Baxter signed.


So all in all, PNW continues its run as an exceptionally well-organized convention. If it seemed a little more subdued this year, it made up for it with the additional talk on Sunday, which went a long way towards my only issue--its length. For people not in the area, the costs of a plane ticket, rental car, and hotel do add up when balanced against the (typically) one day of content. Personally, however, having been to around three or four of these by now, I would say that I have never finished the weekend thinking it had not been worth my time or money. If you have the opportunity to attend PNW next year (and book fast when those tickets come out, because they sell out in a matter of days,) I encourage you to put it on your Disney fan calendar--it's well worth the trip.


Information about PNW can be found at their website,

June 25, 2014

E3 2014: Bring on the Games (Part 2)


The second game Disney Interactive was showcasing at this year's E3 was "Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved."


This game was also presented at last year's E3 (, but a final release date has been announced for October 21, 2014. A musical motion game, it has the player making directed movements in conjunction with a varied playlist of music to generate and store energy/magic. The player can then invest that magic in different landscapes to bring new color and life to them.

Since last year, new additions to the gameplay include a multiplayer mode and a new environment called "The Neighborhood."



Another new introduction is your guide through the game, Scout--one of Yen Sid's old apprentices.


The track listing contains a wide range of music from Vivaldi to Depeche Mode. While there are none of the traditional Disney tunes you might expect, both "The Nutcracker Medley" and "Night on Bald Mountain" from its namesake "Fantasia" are included.

"Fantasia: Music Evolved" will be available for the XBox One and Kinect for the XBox 360. Rated ESRB E10+.

Another game in the works is "Planes: Fire & Rescue," which will be set after the events of the upcoming film of the same name.


Although still in development, the basic gameplay is taking control of various vehicles from the movie, including Dusty, and utilizing their special talents to put out fires and run various other rescue missions. The game will be available on the Nintendo Wii, DS, and 3DS this Fall, from game publisher Little Orbit.

For fans of the long-running series Kingdom Hearts, publisher Square Enix is coming out with "Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix." "Kingdom Hearts 3" was teased as being under development as well.


This is the second of the Kingdom Hearts game collections, the first one being "Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix." The collections include copies of earlier games in the series which have been remastered and enhanced. 2.5 will bundle "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix," "Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix," and "Kingdom Hearts Re:coded."

"Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix" will be available exclusively for the Playstation 3 on Dec 2, 2014.

And as with last year, EA didn't give much more than a teaser trailer for Star Wars Battlefront.

Rumored to be coming out late next year, it was announced that Endor and Hoth will be areas represented in the game.

June 22, 2014

E3 2014: Bring on the Games (Part 1)


So E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) 2014 has come and gone, leaving in its wake initial impressions of everything new and upcoming in the world of video games.


All the major console companies had their usual gigantic booths displaying the latest in hardware and software...




...and of course, no shortage of avid gamers enjoying the various demos.


This year, Disney Interactive had its typically ebullient presence promoting the next generation of Disney Infinity: Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 edition.)


Many updates and changes have been packed into this updated version, with the most obvious being the addition of some of the most popular Marvel characters from the Avengers and Spider-Man franchises.


In the Play Set mode, each character will come with their own storylines, written by Marvel comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, just as in the original game. Unlike the Disney characters however, who all exist in their separate and distinct realities, the Marvel superheroes all largely inhabit the same one (often even the same city--New York,) so under certain circumstances the characters can cross over to interact with each other within their respective stories.


I had a chance to play a bit with a few of the new characters and the gameplay does seem to be much more interesting as all the actions for each hero are specifically characterized to them. In version 1.0, each character generally had differences in their modes of combat and gait as well, but the new ones have wildly distinct movements and methods of transportation. Whether web-swinging (to what do the webs attach, when you see the tops of buildings underneath you?) or flying via repulsor rays, the variety is much more engaging than before.

The Toy Box mode has also gotten several updates that make it far more enjoyable for a wider audience. While the older version provided players with enormous freedom to create anything they could imagine, the amount of time and effort required to meticulously build large, complicated structures made it somewhat frustrating for the impatient (me) or the construction-challenged (also me.) In this brave new world, players are still able to build things manually, as before, but also have the option of either calling up "builders," who can be assigned to create various structures while the player goes off to other adventures, or using a new Creator tool which can produce a randomly generated construct based on given parameters.


Another new aspect of the Toy Box is the ability to create building interiors, as well as exteriors. Tardis-like, the interiors are not limited by the dimensions of the outsides, and portal doorways can connect rooms together that are not linked geographically.


There will also be the option for more structured play in the Toy Box, as new pyramid-shaped discs will give players different missions that can be accomplished with any of the Disney Infinity characters.


In addition to new power discs capable of changing the Marvel characters' environment, outfits, and vehicles, they can also summon "Team Up" heroes to assist in a given situation, such as the Winter Soldier and the Iron Patriot.


On the Disney side, more figures are also in the works; the newest ones will be Maleficent (Angelina Jolie version,) and Merida.


New power discs for the traditional Disney characters include environments from "Wreck-it Ralph," a float from the Main Street Electrical Parade, Darkwing Duck's grappling gun, and the USS Swinetrek.


Should you need accessories, something to carry all your new Marvel gear around with you, perhaps, there will be no shortage of options in the stores on that count.


Even your headsets can be made Marvel thanks to the wide assortment of speaker plates available to personalize your Turtle Beach cans.


Disney Infinity Edition 2.0 is set to release this Fall on PlayStation 3 and 4, XBox 360 and One, Wii U, PC, and iOS. All Edition 1.0 figures, toys, and power discs will be forward compatible with the new software.

June 10, 2014

Round Up Rodeo!


Today I am arbitrarily starting a new periodic feature in which I briefly "round up" some of the miscellaneous Disney-ish happenings I've recently come across but didn't blog about earlier. Because sharing is caring.

In the beginning of May, I, along with around 80 others, boarded the Disney Fantasy for the AllEars group cruise. Were you there?

If you weren't, you missed a ton of fun, but can read all about it on Deb's Digest

As is the case with all the AllEars cruises, the ship was lovely and the company was fabulous. New for me on this cruise were the ports of the Cayman Islands and Falmouth, Jamaica. On these islands we were able to go to Hell...


...Get up close and personal with turtles...


...and have tea in an old Plantation House where they BURIED A GIRL IN THE BASEMENT.


...So, something for everybody.

After disembarking, I was able to catch a glimpse of the first weekend of Star Wars Weekend featuring some familiar faces...


...And some new fireworks.


On the whole, I think the Disney acquisition of Star Wars has really given a shot in the arm to this event which, as entertaining as it has been for the last few years, was beginning to show signs of stagnation.


After I returned from all that merriment, Disneyland hosted it's third 24hr event "Rock Your Disney Side."


Although I wasn't able to attend for the whole time, as I have in the past, I did make it from around 8pm to 6am, which seemed sufficient. This time around crowds seemed pretty consistent and didn't drop off as much in the early hours as last year.


One impressive display I was able to visit recently was the Castle Peak and Thunder Railroad


In his backyard in Anaheim, past Disneyland canoe guide David Sheegog has created an elaborate backyard railroad themed around some familiar and iconic Disney structures.


All the Disney animated features are also represented in various displays around the yard, and all five of the Disneyland Railroad engines have been replicated from scratch.


Sheegog plans further expansions for the railroad, including Rainbow Ridge, Rainbow Caverns, and Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland.


Open houses for viewing are held several times throughout the year--the dates can be found on the website. If you're in the area, I encourage you to check out this charming display!

Also in the area, the historic Anaheim Packing House saw its grand opening on May 31st.


As part of the Anaheim Packing District, it joins the Packard Building and the Farmer's Park in revitalizing Downtown Anaheim and providing a public market/food hall as well as a communal gathering space.


Although at least half of it is still under construction, there are already some strong food establishment offerings open, running the gamut from fish and chips, to ramen, to poutine, to hand-made popsicles.


With an emphasis on fresh food in a unique setting (and free wifi,) the Packing House seems sure to become a busy social hub for the community. The close proximity to Disneyland makes it a good choice for off-property dining as well.


Anaheim Packing House website

Then on June 7th, the Pasadena Symphony and POPS started their summer concert series at the LA Arboretum. Led by Principle Conductor Michael Feinstein, their first entry of the season, "Feinstein's Favorites" included a number of guest performers, one of which was Richard White--the voice of Gaston, from "Beauty and the Beast."

The series will be ongoing throughout the summer, and information can be found at The next concert, "Broadway's Leading Ladies," will be held on June 28th, and will feature (among many other talents,) Susan Egan, who is the voice of Meg in "Hercules," and who originated the role of Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway.

Also on June 7th, the artist SHAG, who has previously done work for Disney commemorating Disneyland's 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary, the Disney Cruise Line, and more, had a signing at the WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney. The Gallery debuted his latest piece, "Morning in the Magic Kingdom."


Customers were allowed to have two items signed that had to be purchased at the event. Vouchers were handed out at time of purchase with a number to hold your space in line.


Finally, this week brings us to E3--Electronic Entertainment Expo--which should herald all the latest news as far as Disney's video games. The expectation is that we'll be treated to demos of Disney Infinity's new Marvel additions, as well as updates on Disney Fantasia and hopefully the announcement of upcoming games in the Star Wars universe.


One of the events taking place during the expo open to all comers is "Video Games Live"--a concert of video game music performed live. While they do shows worldwide, this one, on June 11th, will be premiering music from Disney Fantasia as well as a multitude of other properties. Ticket information can be found here.

So! That's what's been happening around here. Until next time!

May 9, 2014

Wonderful, Wonderful WonderCon.


In the summer, a young (or less-young) nerd's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of cons. This year's convention season kicked off with WonderCon, once again held in Anaheim.


Disney was well represented by many of its myriad branches in panels, merchandise, and, of course, cosplay.


For aspiring TV writers, the panel, "Disney|ABC The Art of the Pitch: The Writer. The Director. The Story," showcased various mentors and current participants of the Disney/ABC talent development program describing the application process. At the end of the session, they took pitches from people in the audience and critiqued their presentations.


One of the most popular panels I was able to get into was "Frozen: The Art of Story."


Made up of a number of artists who worked on various aspects of "Frozen" (Jeff Ranjo, Fawn Veerasunthorn, Nicole Mitchell, and Normand Lemay,) the group discussed different ways the film's story developed and showed storyboards of alternate versions of some of the scenes. One hilarious segment (unfortunately we weren't allowed to record or take photos) involved Veerasunthorn pitching a slightly different version of the Elsa-Anna ballroom confrontation scene:

"Elsa: You can't marry a man you just met!"
"Anna: You can if it's true love!"
"Elsa: What do you know about true love?"
"Anna: I could ask you the same thing!"
[Audience: "oooooh."]
"Elsa: I'm sorry, I do not give you my blessing. Now if you'll excuse me..."
"Hans: Your Majesty, if I may..."
"Elsa: No, you may not. This is between me and my sister."
"Anna: Ha! There's nothing between you and me, thanks to you! And you know what? I don't need your blessing! You're not my mother!"
[Audience: "OOOOH!"]
"Elsa: I may not be your mother, but I am your Queen."
[Audience: "OH SNAP."]
"Elsa: ...And as your Queen, I forbid it."
"Anna: ...WHAT..."
[Audience dies.]


She also spoke on how initially Hans wasn't present in this scene, but that it made Anna look like maybe she was just imagining the whole relationship in the first place. Putting him in gave the scene both an emotional and a physical representation of the break between the sisters.

"The Making of The Star Wars" had artist Mike Mayhew show how he developed the art style he used to help create "The Star Wars"--a series put out by Dark Horse Comics officially adapting George Lucas' original screenplay for Star Wars.



The popular ABC show "Once Upon A Time" was also represented with co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, along with Josh Dallas (Prince Charming,) and Rebecca Mader (Wicked Witch of the West,) presenting the next week's episode and answering questions.

They also had an autograph session, which, if you could figure out where to line up in the morning and won the lottery, scored you the chance to get all their signatures on a mini-poster.


Past ABC/Disney Fellow and present "Once Upon A Time" writer/producer Jane Espenson was present on several panels during the weekend, including "TV Guide Magazine's Fan Favorites Showrunners" with Chris Carter (X-Files,) and "Husbands: Breaking Through."



On the Marvel front, while the studios were conspicuously absent, editor Sana Amanat and writers Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel), James Robinson (Fantastic Four), and Mark Waid (Daredevil) spoke on the "All-New Marvel NOW!" panel about the many changes coming to the fictional and publishing world of Marvel following the events of the "Avengers vs. X-Men" storyline.


Finally, almost every con these days has a masquerade contest, and WonderCon is no exception.


From Avatar to the winning entry from Frozen, there was a plethora of contenders.


Hosting was Star Wars Weekend regular Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano.)


This is, of course, only a smattering of all the different talks and games and videos that were available throughout the show. Of course the exhibitor's floor was the usual huge draw that it always is for eager shoppers and purveyors of art.





Did I mention the cosplay?





...WonderCon never bothered him anyway...

May 3, 2014

Disney Infinity 2.0: Here Come the Avengers!


This week Disney Infinity held an event introducing their next generation of the popular Disney Infinity video game, Disney Infinity 2.0, and some of the new characters, notably Marvel Cinematic Universe's The Avengers.


During the presentation, hosted by Marvel's Agents of SHIELD star Clark Gregg, various details of "Phase Two," were shown and described. Among them were:

--All figures, power discs, and toy boxes from both versions will be compatible with Disney Infinity 2.0.
--The new starter pack includes one Marvel Avengers playset, three heroes, and two new interactive game pieces providing structured games for the toy box mode.
--Future plans include additional Disney content as well as Marvel.
--Supported platforms will include WiiU, PS3, XBox 360, iOS, PC, PS4, and XBox One.
--The new environment, Marvel Manhattan, will be four times larger than the largest of the previous playsets.
--Combat will be specialized to exploit each Avenger's traditional fighting strengths.
--Construction in the toy box mode has been streamlined, with the additional option of "builders" that can be used to automatically build things for you.
--Interiors will be accessible, with the player able to decorate their "home."
--"Tower Defense" and "Dungeon Crawler" games are provided for the toy box mode. Each will take approximately three to four hours each to complete.
--Agent Coulson's "Lola" will be represented as a mode of transportation.
--They have hired (and plan to hire more) a gamer as a Disney Infinity builder on the basis of his community-shared, user-generated content.
--In the latest trailer, future characters can be recognized, such as MODOK, Loki, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spiderman.

April 25, 2014

A Look Back at the 2014 TEA Summit


The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is an international nonprofit group of people who work in all fields to create themed entertainment. This encompasses a wide range of projects, from shows to theme parks to museums to gardens--anything that provides an enhanced/compelling guest experience. While it provides a large number of networking opportunities throughout the year for its members, one of its main annual affairs is the Thea Awards Gala, which honors excellence in the field (A copy of the program is online here: Check it out--I found the article on the Tiki Room particularly well-written, hint, hint.) Preceding the gala is the two day TEA Summit: One day of executive-only meetings, and one day of case study presentations from that year's award recipients.

This year's Thea Case Studies Day took place April 4th, at the Disneyland Resort, and included awardees from all parts of the globe and entertainment spectrum. The day led off with Disney Legend and Thea lifetime honoree Bob Gurr introducing the 2014 recipient of the Buzz Price Lifetime Achievement award, Garner Holt.


Garner Holt then spoke on the history of his career, from creating haunted houses and novelties in his garage as a 15-year-old, to his latest projects, like Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor.


His company, Garner Holt Productions, is now the world's largest producer of animatronics, having created nearly 5,000 in the last 36 years. Over 400 were created for Disney parks, and almost 100 for Universal. At this time, virtually all of Disney's audio-animatronic projects are outsourced to Holt's company.



In addition to animatronics, Holt also produces other special effects and props for a variety of businesses, such as the enormous globe seen in Tokyo DisneySea's "Magellan's" restaurant, and over 500 Chuck E. Cheese animated show installations.


Garner Holt Productions website:

Next was a series of presentations by all eleven Thea Award recipients:

Polynesian Cultural Center: Attraction Revitalization

President and CEO P. Alfred Grace, along with Michael Lee and Pat Scanlon from Michael Lee Design, described the various improvements they've recently made to their buffet dining facilities, as well as the repurposing of a theater into the venue for a new 4-D film, "Hawaiian Journeys."


They also touched briefly on the challenges of attracting repeat visitors, as well as the necessary balance between curating versus celebrating the Hawaiian culture.


Polynesian Cultural Center website:

Dutch Railway Museum, De Vuurproef, Het Spoonwegnuseum
: 4-D Simulator, Limited Budget

From Utrecht, Netherlands, Museum Director Paul Van Vlijmen and Exhibition Coordinator Evelien Pieterse described their new 4-D simulator attraction "The Acid Test."


In this combination film/dark ride, guests are each assigned a task to perform during the simulation (Mission: Space, style) and are subsequently ushered into a steampunk-esque locomotive for a high-speed ride through space and time.

(Aside: Recognize one of the narrators? Rutger Hauer, of "Blade Runner" fame!)

The hilarious Vlijmen noted that they have a 60% return rate for the attraction. When asked how successful they were marketing to women and girls, he responded that they advertised in women's magazines and such, but that while women might not be considered to be interested in trains, they felt that most Dutch weren't interested in trains.

Het Spoonwegnuseum website:

The Song of an Angel--Universal Studios Japan: Live Show, Limited Budget

Mike Davis, Executive Producer, Universal Studios Japan, whose history includes producing Fantasmic! and the Lion King Parade at Disneyland, talked about his live Holiday show "Song of an Angel," and the challenges of creating a Christmas show for a largely non-Christian population.


Utilizing the park's New York street facades, the show's cast of almost 50 performers portray a marriage proposal, wedding, and subsequent celebration against changing projection mapping backdrops.


Also involved in the show is an enormous Christmas tree (Guinness Award winner for most lights,) pyrotechnics, and electric candles that they hand out (free!) to guests for each show, and retrieve with only a 1% loss rate.


Universal Studios Japan website:

Michael Jackson ONE™ by Cirque du Soleil®: Event Spectacular

Director of Creation Welby Altidor spoke on his Las Vegas Cirque show, based around the music and performance essence of the titular performer.


The show includes not only the acrobatics that Cirque du Soleil is known for, but projection mapping around the stage and theater walls, and an appearance of Michael Jackson courtesy of Pepper's Ghost.

Altidor also discussed some of the principles he uses in the development process, including factoring in the likelihood of failure, and not fearing dumb questions.

Michael Jackson ONE™ website:{creative}:tks:skg&keyword={keyword}

Oceaneering - Revolution™ Tru-Trackless™ Ride System
: Breakthrough Technology

Bill Bunting, Manager of Business Development, and Dave Mauck, VP and General Manager, introduced their new trackless show viewing system. Battery-operated and free-traveling, these vehicles can be programmed with a number of different variables including ride path, speed, orientation, and loading/unloading process.


This flexibility allows reprogramming and autonomy that increases re-ridability and efficiency, as one vehicle with passenger/mechanical issues no longer has to cause the shut down of the entire ride.


Oceaneering- Revolution™ website:

Carousel des Mondes Marins: Les Machines de L'ile: Unique Art Installation

Director Pierre Orefice and Artistic Director François Delarozière presented the Marine Worlds Carousel--a huge, three-tiered contraption that combines a wildly imaginative aesthetic with steampunk mechanical workings.


Each level corresponds to a different depth of the sea, with appropriate creatures and vehicles. Whether riding a giant squid, descending and ascending in a bathysphere, or working the fins of an enormous fish from the inside, riders can interact with their element of choice adding to the kinetic nature of this mobile piece of art.


Les Machines de Lile website:

Titanic Belfast: Visitor Center

Tim Husbands, CEO, and Conal Harvey of Harcourt Developments/Titanic Quarter displayed Titanic Belfast--the World's Largest Titanic Visitor Experience.


Starting from first sight of the building, which is the same height as the superstructure of the actual Titanic, visitors are engaged in the story of the building, sailing, and sinking of the famous ship. Nine galleries utilize a dark ride and multimedia elements to tell Titanic's tale from the viewpoint of the town that built her.


The Center has succeeded in not only enriching guests' understanding of the history behind Titanic, but in rejuvenating Belfast's tourism and sense of civic pride.

Titanic Belfast website:

The Mind Museum: Science Museum

Philippine's first World Class science museum was presented by its curator, Maria Isabel Garcia.


The museum is largely made up of five major galleries that tell individual stories of different facets of science, from atoms to the Universe, and how they come together to represent our collective wondering and understanding. The essential links between all things are represented in the gallery connections called "Nature's Webways."


Garcia also shared with us some of the lessons and principles she evolved during the long process of creating the museum, and how they can be applied to any creative endeavor.

The Mind Museum website:

Gardens by the Bay: Botanical Garden

Next up was the amusingly wry Dr. Kiat Tan, CEO of Gardens by the Bay, who presented Singapore's amazingly otherworldly botanical experience.


With its two enormous conservatories--Cloud Forest and Flower Dome--and its 18 160 foot tall Supertrees, the garden can be seen throughout Central Singapore.


Visitors to the gardens can enjoy didactic exhibits, projection galleries, and elevated skypaths to gain a different perspective on the carefully designed works of nature. The Cloud Forest boasts a 35 meter tall mountain, with the world's tallest indoor waterfall.


Educational and recreational, from the reclaimed land it inhabits, to the photovoltaic cells on the canopies of the Supertrees, the goals of the Gardens are to showcase multiple levels of conservation, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.


Gardens by the Bay website:

Enchanted Tales with Belle: Participatory Character Greeting

[For the Disney presentations, we were asked not to record or take photos.]


Enchanted Tales with Belle was presented by Chris Beatty, Executive Creative Director, and Jon Georges, Executive Producer, from Walt Disney Imagineering. They spoke on how the combination of straightforward storytelling and character interaction was fortified by state of the art animatronics and special effects to give more impact to what could have been a simple meet-and-greet.

Mystic Manor: Attraction


The last award of the day, Mark Schirmer, Director, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, Hong Kong, spoke about Hong Kong Disneyland's latest attraction, Mystic Manor. In this ride, many elements celebrated in the other awardees come together to create a truly world-class experience: state-of-the art effects and Garner Holt animatronics; trackless ride system similar to Oceaneering; projection mapping; and a charming story.

Finally, the summit was closed out with a talk by Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering and Lifetime Thea Award honoree, Joe Rohde.


Rohde showed photos and talked about his recent trip to Mongolia, where he painted and used the paintings to benefit snow leopard conservation efforts. It was clearly an amazing journey, which joined what seemed like entire communities together to assist him in his process. He summed up by examining how the smallest act of involvement is a huge step towards an individual claiming their own sense of agency in the world.

The TEA Summit is a fascinating conference for fans of the themed entertainment industry. If you're in the business, or hoping to get into the business, I think it's a no-brainer to attend it, just as if you're trying to get into the animation business you should head to the CTN Animation Expo, for the networking benefits alone. Alternately, if you're more in the interested-spectator camp, I think it affords you an amazing opportunity to see what fabulous projects are being created around the globe--some of which may be small enough that you might not have heard of them otherwise, but which possess dazzling elements.

Whether the exposure encourages you to dust off your passport and book a flight to Japan or Singapore or the Netherlands, or just opens your mind to what ride and show possibilities exist beyond the parks on your doorstep, the TEA Summit presentations can only help deepen your understanding and appreciation for this creative industry. As Joe Rohde might tell us, that incremental change in viewpoint is certainly better than nothing.

April 11, 2014

Happy (Early) 50th Anniversary, "it's a small world!"



On April 10th, Disney Parks celebrated (a few days early,) the 50th anniversary of "it's a small world's" debut at the 1964 New York's World Fair. As a part of the event, Richard Sherman, who with his brother Robert Sherman composed the song "It's A Small World," led a sing-along cavalcade of it down Main Street USA.


[Fun fact: With all the parks world-wide, the Sun never sets on "It's A Small World"--the tune is always playing in one of the rides around the clock.]

Imagineer Kim Irvine, Art Director for Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Imagineering, was also on hand for the festivities. She oversaw the 2008 refurbishment of the ride at Disneyland that saw the addition of established character dolls and the North American room.


Some quotes from Disney Cast Members past and present concerning "it's a small world:"

Kim Irvine: "I think that when adults enter Disneyland, they feel like kids again...Everyone is happy together. Strangers smile at one another. And that is what 'it's a small world' represents. It makes us feel good."


Alice Davis, Disney Legend and Imagineering Costume Designer for "it's a small world:" "I asked Walt how much I could spend and he looked at me and cocked his eyebrow, like he did sometimes, and said, 'We don't think like that here. I want you to do whatever it takes to make these look like dolls every woman in the world would want to have.'"


Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering: "'it's a small world' is an attraction about global harmony, celebrating the beauty of people coming together. Its enduring song is literally the soundtrack to the ideals of peace, unity and friendship, while the colorful cast of international dolls captures the essence of childlike wonder and optimism."


Richard Sherman: "When Robert and I sat down to write this song, we were given very explicit instructions: A simple song that would convey the message that we have a very small world to live on, we all have the same problems, the same joys, the same sorrows--we share these things. Let's learn how to live together, respect each other and give each other room to just get along. Those were our instructions; Walt gave them to us directly, and so we were very, very moved by those thoughts."


Good Morning America celebrated with this video segment on the history of the attraction, including a big, world-wide sing-a-long of the famous song.

Disney Parks has also posted the video of the Google+ Hangout Richard Sherman did that day, which took place in front of iasw. It's on the long side, but Richard Sherman is always worth it.

Of course, while we acknowledge the 50th anniversary of it's a small world, we also commemorate the other attractions that also debuted at the World's Fair on April 22, 1964: "Progressland," aka "Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress;" "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln;" and the Primeval World diorama from "Ford Magic Skyway."




Here's to 50 more turns around the sun with all these wonderful attractions!


Check out our Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Celebration Blog!

More information about the anniversary events can be found at

April 4, 2014

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier



"Captain America: Winter Soldier" is the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Taking place two years after the events of "Avengers," it follows Steve Rogers (Captain America) as he tries to adjust to a world some 70 years advanced from the one he knew.


Unlike others of his fellow Avengers, Cap has no Malibu mansion or Asgardian castle to return to after the end of their last venture. We find him leading a somewhat solitary existence in Washington DC, taking on stealth missions for SHIELD and doing a lot of jogging. As time has gone by, he's made a friend of fellow jogger/ex-military paratrooper Sam Wilson (Falcon) and developed nagging suspicions about his boss, Director Nick Fury, his partner, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow,) and the entire SHIELD organization.


His initial misgivings prove to be all too well-founded, when attacks are made on key SHIELD personnel, encrypted files are passed off, and the only advice Rogers has to guide him is "trust no one."


As the story progresses, Captain America will need to untangle a wide-reaching conspiracy in an effort to stop the deaths of innocents, fighting both old friends, new foes, and the mysterious Winter Soldier.


The bulk of the film is a call-back to the spy thrillers of the 1970's, so the choice of Robert Redford as guest star this time around is particularly appropriate. Having aged gracefully out of his naive-hero turn from "Three Days of the Condor," Redford here smoothly and skillfully assumes the Cliff Robertson role of the film--the man in power, bent on protecting the public's best interests regardless of the cost. The only downside of this casting is that a star of his magnitude is hard to see as anyone else--if you come out of the film remembering what his character's name was (Alexander Pierce) versus referring to him as "Robert Redford," you're doing better than I did.


Despite being the title character, Sebastian Stan's Winter Soldier probably has fewer lines than any of the others. His origin--not much of a spoiler by this time--gives him a built-in relationship to Rogers that saves his screen time for the film's huge fight scenes. The battles themselves are well staged and choreographed with good specificity to each character's fighting styles, and my only wish would be that they were filmed with longer shots so we could get a better look at all the work that went into them.


Like all the rest of the recent Marvel films, "Winter Soldier" has a polish and wit about it that clearly elevates it above the vast majority of the other superhero sagas. Although the plot might be as lightweight and gimmick-dependent as others of its ilk, what gives the Captain America movies their strong appeal is their respect for their protagonist. Steve Rogers is clearly a Boy Scout of the highest order, a man of principle who refuses to compromise his belief in truth and freedom and honor. It would be easy, so easy, as we have seen with DC's treatment of Superman, to treat this as some outmoded, naive delusion that needs to be updated for today's more cynical time. Instead, although we do see Cap struggle to reconcile this grittier, nastier reality with his more gracious past (and Chris Evans does a fabulous job portraying Rogers as a man outside of his time,) we are confident that his faith in Humanity and its intrinsic worth will always win out. More than his ten-times-normal strength or agility, it is Captain America's conviction in the good in people and his trust in the possibility of a better tomorrow that makes him a hero.


Small flaws or not, "Winter Soldier" looks to be another smash hit for Marvel Studios, an entity whose box office clout is proving as powerful as any of the superheroes in its stable.


“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie, with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

*Always stay to the end of the credits.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and produced by Kevin Feige. Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. The Executive Producers are Louis D'Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee.

The film enters general release on April 4, 2014, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

**Hail Hydra.

March 27, 2014

CTN animation eXpo: An In-Depth Look at the Art and Business of Animation


For those with a deep interest in the field of Animation, either as entertainment or as a profession, one event that should be on your radar is the CTN (Creative Talent Network) Animation Expo held annually in Burbank.


For those like myself, with a recreational interest in animation, the eXpo offers a variety of panels and discussions with some of the top animators working today. At last year's convention, I was able to see, among other things, a presentation on the making of Frozen; a group interview of veteran Disney animators Mark Henn, Bert Klein, Tony DeRosa; and an interview/Q&A with past Disney animator Andreas Deja.



There was also a showing of the Ted Thomas documentary "Growing Up With the Nine Old Men," that was included in the recent Diamond edition re-release of Peter Pan, along with a Q&A (moderated by Andreas Deja) and dvd signing afterwards.


This was, of course, only a tiny amount of what's available to be seen at the eXpo--at any given time there are not only the larger presentations, but smaller live demonstrations and workshops.



A large area is also designated for exhibitors, selling anything from art supplies, to art itself.


The main focus of the eXpo is on up-and-coming animators however, so to that end there was a myriad of studio booths recruiting animators and affording them opportunities to network and make professional connections.

While there was certainly more activity presented than any one person could take in, it was at times a little logistically difficult to navigate secondary to the large numbers of attendants. The hotel parking was pretty limited, requiring the overflow to drive around looking for street parking or park in the airport lot across the street. Most of the demos and drawing models were placed around the lobby corridors making it difficult to pass through to the next area.

The main difficulty I found was just trying to get into the panels as the lines were fairly formidable for the larger talks, and the rooms relatively small. You can circumvent the lines by way of either purchasing a VIP ticket for the weekend or picking up a "fastpass" which are available for select presentations in limited quantities.

While a lot of the weekend's content may seem a little technical for the average animation enthusiast, there is probably not another meeting that puts such a focus on animation talent or provides potential animators with as many career opportunities. If you already harbor a vested interest in this field, I strongly encourage you to check out this year's eXpo.

Information on the 2014 CTN animation eXpo can be found at It will be held at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center, from November 21-23. Early Bird registration is now open.

February 24, 2014

Jiro Dreams of Planes: Hayao Miyazaki's "The Wind Rises"


“Le vent se lève, il faut tenter de vivre”
--Paul Valéry


Miyazaki's new (and reportedly last) film "The Wind Rises," loosely based on the lives of engineer Jiro Horikoshi and author Tatsuo Hori, is a gorgeous and bittersweet look at prewar Japan and the consequences of pursuing a dream.


Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt,) a smart, kind, brave boy whose only flaw seems to be myopia, dreams of building planes from childhood. He is encouraged by famed Italian aeronautical designer Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci) who he meets regularly throughout his life in dreams.

The film spans thirty years of Jiro's life, from the 1910's to the 1940's. Throughout that time, Jiro grows up, studies, and eventually makes a career for himself as a genius aeronautic engineer. Along the way he finds love and romance in the form of Nahoko (voiced by Emily Blunt,) but is never swayed from his life's passion to design a plane of surpassing beauty and elegance.


The star of the film however, is the surrounding world of Japan which transitions in the course of the story from the Taisho Era (1912-1926) to the early Showa period (1926"1989.) Dreamy rural countrysides eventually make way for urbanization in the form of larger cities, and the jumble of infrastructure that accompanies new development. As with all Miyazaki's work, each frame shows careful attention to and affection for every detail--even the trains Jiro takes to different parts of the country and throughout Europe modernize with the times.


While set in other times, other places, this might be a heartwarming Horatio Alger story about a boy realizing his lifelong dreams, there is an inescapable undercurrent of tension and sadness throughout. Destruction and devastation is rampant after the Great Kanto Earthquake, and the Great Depression results in general poverty and pervasive illness. Jiro and his fellow engineer pal Honjo (John Krasinski) work constantly to improve their airplane designs but are hampered by what they see as Japan's backwards state of technology, and are overjoyed when they are finally able to travel to Germany to learn more modern techniques.


Through it all, each momentous incident in Jiro's or Japan's history is marked by a sudden gust of the titular wind foretelling profound change. We know how this story will end from the start, and what will happen to Jiro's Mitsubishi A6M1s (later to become the Zero Fighters) and the men who fly them. The characters understand too, but like most of us, are helpless to concentrate on anything but their own personal struggles and dreams. Larger issues of politics and war are acknowledged, but like earthquakes, only as functions of larger forces beyond any individual control.


But the wind keeps rising, and the world keeps changing. We are frequently told that "if we can dream it, then we can do it"...but what then? Ultimately we may discover, along with Jiro, that some thought needs to be given to the consequences, once the dreaming and the doing are done.

"The Wind Rises" is currently in limited release in North American theaters, with general theatrical release scheduled for February 28 under the Touchstone Pictures banner.

February 6, 2014

Earl of Sandwich: New Menu Items--Limited Time!

"I mean it's crazy..."
"We finish each other's..."
--"Love is an Open Door," Frozen


Recently, Downtown Disney's Earl of Sandwich updated its menu for the winter with two new sandwiches, a side dish, and a dessert.

BBQ Chicken...


Philly Cheesesteak...


Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese...


And Brownie Bark.


These items join an already diverse and varied line up of healthy options such as salads and wraps...


P1110182.JPG well as a wide alternative selection for people entirely uninterested in healthy options.


But let's be real here: There's a reason this isn't called "Earl of Salad." The sandwiches are the star here, made to order and baked through a special oven, with all meats and cheeses prepared fresh daily.


As part of their regular clientele, I've had the opportunity to try a number of different sandwiches there, and they've all been great in both taste and value. Disney food being what it is, it's nice to be able to find a reliable meal that won't hurt your credit rating at the end.


Of course the main difficulty is prying yourself away from your regular favorites to try the new ones--but don't wait too long...


...Because Love may be an Open Door, but this one is shutting in a couple of months. Also, a Princess may rank an Earl, but at least an Earl gets to finish his own delicious sandwich.

Earl of Sandwich is located in Downtown Disney, 1565 S. Disneyland Drive, #102, Anaheim, CA 92802. More information can be located at

January 5, 2014

Three Kings Day Celebration at Disney California Adventure


This weekend, January 3-6, 2014, Disney California Adventure will finish off its popular "Disney ¡Viva Navidad!" event with a festive Three kings Day Finale. Here to tell us more about it, is Mirna Bran-Hughes, Disneyland Guest Relations Cast Member and Training Specialist.

Although most of the festivities, including the fabulous, high-energy "Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party" have been ongoing throughout the holidays, guests may also enjoy taking photos with sculptures of the Three Kings over at Paradise Garden...


See a display of various cultural icons, including some shoes left out for the Wise Men to fill with presents...


Or enjoy some of the holiday Mexican food options such as pozole, champurrado, and buñuelos. Special for this weekend is the traditional Rosca de Reyes bread. Typically eaten on January 6th to celebrate the Epiphany, there is often a small baby figurine (or an almond, to minimize choking hazards) baked into it to symbolize the Baby Jesus hiding from King Herod. The person who finds the baby is blessed and also has to throw the next Three Kings Day party.


Of course the highlight of the event throughout the season has been the Street Party, with the Three Caballeros, Mexican folklorico dancers, samba dancers, and giant "Mojiganga" puppets.





January 6th will be the last day to enjoy all these special holiday features, so come out and enjoy them and the spirit of the season while you can!

[Three Kings Day was also celebrated last year as part of the 2013 Limited Time Magic Campaign, as we detailed here: ]

December 11, 2013

"Saving Mr. Banks:" Press Conference with the Cast


One of the most anticipated movies for fans of Disney history is rapidly coming up on release: "Saving Mr. Banks," a fictionalized account of the machinations and negotiations that went on behind the development and creation of the classic film "Mary Poppins."


Featuring a star-studded cast, the film marks the first time Walt Disney has been portrayed in feature-length drama. Academy award winners Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson take the lead roles of Walt and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, while Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak play the Sherman Brothers, who did the music and lyrics and book adaptation for the film. Colin Farrell plays P.L. Traver's father in flashbacks, while Bradley Whitford depicts screenwriter Don DaGradi. Last month the cast, along with Director John Lee Hancock, Writer Kelly Marcel, and Producer Alison Owen all gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a press conference.


Here are some excerpts from the good-humored cast's press conference. Among the things we learned:
---Both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson did extensive research into their characters to try to make them authentic to life.
---Emma Thompson can put on P.L. Traver's voice at the drop of a hat
---Tom Hank's granddaughter is maybe not a fan of Pooh
---BJ Novak had never seen Mary Poppins prior to working on "Saving Mr. Banks."
---There will probably not be a third "Nanny McPhee" movie.

"Saving Mr. Banks" will be out in limited release December 13, 2013; and in general release December 20, 2013.

November 23, 2013

Holidaytime at the Disneyland Resort


So now that Halloween is over, the Winter Holidays have taken over the Disneyland Resort with a vengeance.


Some season offerings have continued on from the last holiday...

Haunted Mansion Holiday


...Some have returned from last season...

"it's a small world" Holiday


A Christmas Fantasy parade


...and some are brand new for this year.


Jingle Cruise is a new seasonal overlay for the Jungle Cruise attraction, in which the skippers bring a little holiday cheer to their tropical post. Consisting of new decorations in the queue and and some topical additions to the spiel, it's a nice change-up that refreshes the ride without completely altering its nature.


Over in Fantasyland, the Tangled meet and greet has been changed over to Frozen, with Princess Anna and Queen Elsa holding court in a cottage decorated with an animatronic Olaf the Snowman perched on the roof.

Most of the brand new celebratory additions are over in Disney California Adventure, where Disney ¡Viva Navidad! is taking place for the first time at the Paradise Garden area of Paradise Pier. Celebrating the spirit of the Latino culture, it features meet and greets with the Three Caballeros; crafts and face painting; traditional music and menu items; and the high energy "Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party," which takes place several times a day.



To best show the wide variety of holiday happenings around the resort, here's some video provided by Disney highlighting some of what's available:

With all the new things to see and do at the Disneyland Resort this season, it will surely be a cinch to turn any Scrooge to the holiday spirit! Be sure to catch all the festivities while they're here!


November 22, 2013

Grand Opening of The New Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.


On November 15, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company officially opened to replace the recently-departed Disney's Soda Fountain & Studio Store, to become the new Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.


Despite some overcast weather, spirits were bright as host Andrea Feczko introduced the Hollywood High band and a few familiar faces.


She was followed by a number of officials, each of which spoke on the benefits this merging of Ghirardelli, Disney, and Hollywood will bring.


Marty Thompson, President and CEO of Ghirardelli's Chocolate Company...


Dave Hollis, Executive Vice President of Theatrical Exhibition, Sales and Distribution...


Tom LaBonge, Council District 4, Councilman...


...and Central Area Representative from Mayor Garcetti's office, Kimberly Rodriguez.

In a blast of confetti, the ribbon was cut and the shop was open for business.


Inside, there's been some re-arrangement of the retail and dining space, which Ghirardelli shares with Disney's Studio Store Hollywood.


Ice cream orders are taken at the registers, and then brought to tables with a matching order number.


While the film vault motif that earlier decorated the walls is gone, the ties to Tinseltown remain.


Merchandise is now available both from Ghirardelli...


And Disney, including the traditional pin releases and the items tying in with the currently-playing movie.



Despite the fact that they no longer routinely offer regular meal service, they will continue the character breakfasts and signature sundaes themed to the current film releases.


Just as the combination of chocolate and Disney seems a natural, an afternoon spent with a movie at El Capitan and ice cream at Ghirardelli's can only be considered a winning combination.


Ghirardelli's Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop is located at 6834 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028. Hours are Sunday " Thursday: 9 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Friday - Saturday: 9 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.


November 21, 2013

"Frozen" Walks the White Carpet


On November 19, 2013, Walt Disney Animation Studio's "Frozen" had its world premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. A snowy-white carpet stood in for the typical red, as celebrity attendants were treated to hot chocolate from Ghirardelli and an actual mountain of snow with ice carvings.


Present for the opening of the film were cast members Kristen Bell, Santino Fontana, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Edie McClurg, Spencer Ganus, Tyree Brown, and Eva Bella, as well as Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Producer Peter Del Vecho, Executive Producer John Lasseter. Other luminaries attending included Bailee Madison, Dave Foley, and Kevin Sorbo.

"Frozen" will be opening in general theaters on November 27, 2013, but will have a special early engagement at the El Capitan Theatre from November 22, 2013, to January 5, 2014.

World of Color, "Winter Dreams" Debuts!


The big event of the Disneyland Resort's holiday season is the all-new holiday version of World of Color, "Winter Dreams."


Hosted by Olaf, the Snowman from the upcoming film "Frozen," it's an extravaganza of light, and music and water. Starting off with a virtual choir made up of hundreds of guests who recorded themselves singing "Glow" with their webcams, it includes scenes from "Bambi," "Secret of the Wings," and a production of "Nutcracker," starring the Toy Story gang.


The production also spotlights two numbers from "Frozen," including Elsa's song "Let it Go," and Olaf's song "In Summer."


Not only programmed with new content, the technical side of the show has been updated as well, with ultra high-definition projectors expected to be four times sharper than the original World of Color projectors, and the addition of over 700 high-power LED lights lining California Screamin'.


Here's a video of just some of the highlights featured in the new show:

At the premiere, Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf, was there to introduce the new show and answer a few questions afterwards.

November 6, 2013

Thor: The Dark World



"If you betray him, I'll kill you."
"It seems there'll be a line."

"Thor: The Dark World," the sequel to "Thor," is a return to our favorite Asgardians as they once again face down a threat to all things everywhere. This time around, the megalomanics are the thought-to-be-extinct Dark Elves of Svartalfheim, led by the appropriately evil Malekith. They seek the Aether, which is some sort of diffuse power that will enable them to turn light into darkness across the Nine Realms at the time of Convergence. See, the Nine Realms are the nine worlds supported by Yggdrasil, a mighty Ash Tree, and...

At this point, I'm reminded of the time I tried to explain M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water" to someone, and by the time I got to the invincible monkeys, they didn't want to hear it anymore. While you could spend a lot of time examining the complicated Norse mythology or the even more complicated technobabble Astrophysicist Jane Foster constantly spouts, it all boils down to a pretty clearly defined battle of good and evil woven around the alternate storyline of Thor's maturation and growth as a person. Director Alan Taylor has explained his concept of "Dark World" does not merely refer to the desolate world of Svartalfheim, but to the state of adulthood Thor must enter, dealing with difficult choices and losses along the way.


The key joy of this movie, as with the last "Thor," is Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Always riding an edge of unpredictability, Hiddleston keeps us constantly guessing as to how much of Loki is a tortured, self-loathing soul unable to come to grips with his adoptive past, and how much is just evil SOB. His interactions with the stolid, almost stodgy Thor are particularly good, and mirror their individual fighting styles--one quick and subtle as a poniard, the other blunt and direct as a hammer. A brief cameo by Chris Evans comes as a fun surprise as well.


Where the film bogs for me, is anytime we cut back to Jane Foster. I wasn't a fan of this character in the first movie, and she hasn't grown on me in this one either. Whether she's obsessing with her research to the extent of being a jerk to the people around her or spending the last two years sobbing in her pajamas over a guy she met for...what, two days in the last movie?--Foster seems to hit most of the unpleasant female characteristics of the typical Lois-Lane-analogue. Natalie Portman is a fine actress, but she doesn't seem as though she has much more to go on here, than she did as Padmé, back on Tatooine.


On the whole, however, the film is a fun romp with enough terrain-shattering battles to suit anyone likely to be interested in superhero movies. If it sometimes goes overboard with the exposition and the more-mundane Earthling interactions, it more than makes up for it with the grandeur of Asgard and Loki's mocking banter.


At the end of the day, reviews hardly matter anymore for the Marvel films--as they become progressively more intertwined it will become a matter of course that anyone wanting to keep up with one branch of the franchise will likely feel the need to see all the others in order to grasp the whole picture. If you, along with the bulk of Humanity, liked "Avengers," you're probably going to see "Thor: The Dark World," and like it, too.


"Thor: The Dark World" will be in general theatrical release November 8, 2013.

November 3, 2013

A Window for Disney Legend Tony Baxter


"I'm not subtle."
--Tony Baxter

On November 1st, Disneyland bestowed its highest honor on Disney Legend/Imagineer Tony Baxter--a window on Main St., USA.

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Baxter has enjoyed a long and illustrious career with Walt Disney Imagineering since the age of 17, and maintains active in mentoring the current crop of Imagineers despite stepping down his involvement with the Disney company earlier this year (Thanks for the Memories, Tony Baxter!)

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

The dedication took place on Main St., in front of the Magic Shop, prior to park opening. Disneyland Resort President Michael Colglazier, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs, and Chief Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering Bruce Vaughn took turns celebrating the many contributions Baxter has made to the company in general and Disneyland in specific.

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Finally the window was unveiled with the help of Mickey Mouse and a gust of confetti.

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

After the unveiling, Baxter said a few words about his gratitude towards all the people who mentored him in the past, the satisfaction he's taken in mentoring others in turn, and his appreciation of the honor the window represents.

As is customary, Baxter was also given a replica of the window to keep.

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

The large audience of well-wishers included not only regular park guests, but a cavalcade of fellow Imagineers and Disney Legends. Some of the notables in the photos below include: Tony Anselmo, Jeff Kurtii, Marty Sklar, Jack Lindquist, Leonard Maltin, Howard Green, Stacia Martin, Bob Gurr, Eddie Sotto, and Stacia Martin.

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Afterwords, Baxter took some time for questions, and had this to say about the sort of projects he's currently developing:

While the ceremony was certainly respectful and the honors it came with well-deserved, the one striking thing about it was its somewhat matter-of-fact nature. The tributes were gracious, but compared to the rowdy pirates present at Alice Davis' window dedication or the Carousel of Progress couple at the Sherman Brother's, seemed similar to what you might hear at a corporate gathering, rather than the Main Street of the Happiest Place on Earth. I'm not sure whether this might have been Baxter's expressed preference, but one was left thinking it might have been a little lacking in showmanship--something certainly never said about the rest of Tony Baxter's career.

Tony Baxter Window on Main Street Ceremony Disneyland

Congratulations Tony Baxter!

October 28, 2013

A Look Ahead: "Get A Horse," and "Frozen" Part II.


Surely by now, you must have heard of "Frozen," the upcoming film from Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS.) In case you haven't, here's one of their latest trailers:

To better appreciate the work that went into this film, WDAS invited us to hear from some of the artisans that collaborated to produce it.


In the first panel, "The Artistry of Arendelle," Assistant Art Director Lisa Keene, Art Director Michael Giaimo, and Visual Development Artist Brittney Lee showed us some of the research the art department conducted to construct the fictional kingdom of Arendelle.


With the blessings of John Lasseter, the art direction team went on a research trip to Norway, from which they took away three major design components: Fjords...


Stave churches...


And the idea of Rosemaling, the folk art decorations that adorn both the architecture and the characters in the film.


All three combine to give an appearance to the castle complex of Arendelle unlike any of the other Disney films, with the "rustically elegant" castle nestled beside a lake, surrounded by the massive vertical faces of the fjords.


On the subject of snow and ice, they described the conceptual difficulty of lighting and coloring something that, on the surface, is completely monotone. As they continued to examine the subject, however, they found a wide variety in the quality of light that filters through icicles or reflects off crystals, and additionally added in coloration through Elsa's magic.


To research this, they visited ice hotels in Quebec and studied the ice structures lit from within.


Ultimately, the jewel-like palette of the film reflects both the physically realistic quality of light found in nature, and the more magical elements introduced by Elsa and her emotions.


They finished by talking about how each character incorporates rosemaling distinctive to their personas into their costuming--Anna being carefree and light, has floral motifs, while Elsa's dress is initially reserved, and then subsequently snowflake-based after her power is set free.



Elsa's snowflake theme is shown even in the ice castle she creates for herself, a six-sided structure that grows by mimicking the growth patterns of crystals.


Next up was "Meet the Directors and Producer of “Frozen," in which Producer Peter Del Vecho and Co-Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck spoke on a number of different topics touching the development of the story and the process of putting the various pieces together to make a movie.


Some of the items discussed:
--When the story was initially conceived, the girls were not sisters. This relationship was added later, to give them an additional emotional bond.


--The ending (which we were not shown,) is original and distinctive enough that it never changed from inception. Their main concern through script development was to ensure that the story earned the ending.


--Robert Lopez (The Book of Morman, Avenue Q) became involved as songwriter from a past project he had done with Del Vecho.


--Challenges included being asked to move up the finishing date, which required them to start production while they were still developing the story.


--While Elsa is seen as the antagonist in the trailers, she and Anna are created to both have issues and arcs that need to be resolved. The true villains of the piece are those that exploit fear for their own personal gain.


In "Acting Through Animation," Head of Animation Lino DiSalvo and Animation Supervisors Wayne Unten and Becky Bresee recounted all the different measures they took to breathe life into the cast of "Frozen."


To this purpose, they brought in actors and acting coaches to show them techniques for building an authentic internal life for each of the characters. Even details such as how Idina Menzel's muscles move when taking breaths during a song were carefully incorporated.


They also went over how they construct a scene, often recording themselves acting out the performance and then taking notes on key, strong poses on which to base the animation.


They had brought in a reindeer to take notes on its behavior, however they were disappointed to find that reindeer are only slightly less smart than cows, and that their behavior lacked animation in general. They eventually used a hybrid of dogs as a model for Sven.


(Subsequent to this event, a minor firestorm broke out around the internet over a comment that DiSalvo made, to the effect that women were difficult to animate, because you have to show them emoting, but also keep them pretty and distinguishable from each other. Many used this as an example of what they perceive to be Disney's reinforcement of a monotonous and unrealistic standard of attractiveness. While such a debate is clearly beyond the scope of this article, as someone completely biased pro-Disney, I can only observe that it seems like a lot to hang on one off-handed comment, particularly directed towards two characters who are sisters and who could reasonably be expected to look somewhat alike.)


In the "Rigging Lab," Effects Supervisor Marlon West, Principal Software Engineer Andy Selle, Animation Technology Manager Evan Goldberg and Effects Supervisor Dale Mayeda demonstrated the Character of Snow, and some of the devices used to pan around a previously-mapped virtual world.


In an effort to make the snow in the film believable, the team worked with a CalTech Professor to recreate the branching and plating growth of crystals in order to generate snowflakes and Elsa's castle.


Later, they demonstrated the camera rig used to naturally shoot different angles and viewpoints on a virtual landscape with the same physical movements used for a real one.


While we were not shown the entire film, it's clear that "Frozen" has the same technical excellence and gorgeous artistry one could reasonably expect from a studio with such a pedigree. The story, far from the "wacky hijinks" air of the earlier trailers or the chauvinistic bent anticipated by some, is one of surprising gravity--the tale of two sisters who start off at an impasse between freedom and responsibility, and who ultimately must make an emotional and literal journey to reconnect in the middle. Like "Sense and Sensibility," except with magic and a singing snowman.


The movie is currently being promoted as the biggest film event to come out of WDAS since "Lion King;" only time will tell whether "Frozen" can live up to such illustrious company, but from what I've seen, it has the potential to be a very good movie, indeed.

Also? I am totally Team Elsa.


"Frozen" will open in theaters in 3D on November 27, 2013. For more information, you can see their website at

Disclaimer: As invited media, AllEars was granted access to the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Production Team.

October 7, 2013

A Look Ahead: "Get A Horse," and "Frozen" Part I.


Recently, Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) hosted a sneak peek at their upcoming productions "Get A Horse," and "Frozen," over at their Burbank offices.



"Get A Horse," the latest short to come out of WDAS and the first to be directed by a woman, combines 1928 artistry with 2013 technology to produce a rollicking interlude starring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and their old nemesis Peg-Leg Pete.


Director Lauren MacMullan and her co-heads of animation Disney Legend Eric Goldberg (2D) and CG artist Adam Green (3D) collaborated to create footage incredibly authentic to the first Mickey shorts, even down to combing all the originals for voice clips from role originators Walt Disney, Marcellite Garner, and Billy Bletcher.


Although a huge amount of effort went into making the animation identical to the loose, rubber-limbed animation of the 1920's, every line of the short is new and created specifically for this short.



MacMullan and Producer Dorothy McKim presented the short, along with a short talk on the various challenges they had giving it an authentic period feel. Animated as a theatrical short shown on a cinema stage, the action begins with black-and-white footage of our characters enjoying a musical hayride, until Peg-Leg Pete comes upon them and tries to intrude on their fun. Numerous fast-paced episodes of conflict lead up to a grand chase sequence in which the characters constantly pop in and out of the flat black-and-white screen to emerge colored and in 3-D across the screen's stage.


Care was taken to make sure the 3-D versions were consistent with the time--rather than have real world textures, the characters have a "fondant" appearance, with the colors taken from old company Christmas Cards (the only color representations from then.) The 2-D footage was also aged appropriately, as if subject to the same errors and skips inherent in early hand-drawn animation.


I thought this short was an amazing example of what the combination of CG and hand-drawn animation can produce and certainly puts the lie to the "one or the other" mentality. The care and detailing involved in making it is evident in every frame and will hopefully spark a revival of interest in revisiting this style of animation, which is sometimes unfairly disregarded by people who equate "old" with "unsophisticated."

The short was premiered for the first time in the US at the D23 Expo and will be shown in front of "Frozen" on November 27, 2013.

Disclaimer: As invited media, AllEars was granted access to the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Production Team.

September 18, 2013

Disneyland Unleashes the Villains - 9/13/13


One of this year's Limited Time Magic offerings has been on the calendar for a long time - the September Friday the 13th Unleash the Villains event. Though until the week before there weren't any details on what was going to be included.

Out here on the west coast the event was held at Disneyland, where it coincided with the opening of the yearly Halloween Time celebration. Jason and I have more on Halloween Time in a previous blog - this one will be on the Villains event, with photos and comments from Jason, Jeanine, and me.

Most of the Villains event took place from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., so there wasn't a lot going on during the day, except for watching some of the preparations. The event descriptions from the Times Guide:

Party Like a Villain - Take to the floor and dance beneath the stars with the Disney Villains - who have come out to celebrate Friday the 13th as only they can! Our DJ spins an amazing mix of music, and special meet and greet locations are available to pose for photos with your favorite Villains!
Main Street USA - Town Square 8:00 pm to 1:00 am

Unleash the Villains Dance Party - The "creepiest creeps" come out to play at our special New Orleans dance club - the Train Station in New Orleans Square! Each hour, a variety of the vilest Disney Villains make an ominous arrival into the party!
New Orleans Square Train Station 9:45 pm to 1:00 am

I was disappointed that there wasn't anything happening during the day, since I couldn't stay for the evening events.

There were some special menu items available for the day, in addition to extra menu items that have been added for Halloween Time. The French Market had these Fiery Meatloaf Sliders - Meatloaf with Tomato Jam and Apple Slaw served with Handmade Cajun Chips and Grapes. $12.49

There were also Spooky Kooky Gingerbread Cookies (gingerbread zombies) available at Harbour Galley, Royal Street Verandah and Mint Julep Bar (though I think these will be around for the Halloween season). I tried one, and it was very tasty.

There are other seasonal offerings, like pumpkin beignets, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin lattes, but I covered those in the Halloween Time blog.

In preparation for the evening events, the Disneyland Railroad closed at 5:00 p.m., since the Villains Dance Party was being held at the New Orleans Square Train Station. It was nice to see the Lilly Belle at the station.

At Town Square, the street was closed in front of the train station, so the second performance of the Soundsational Parade was re-routed and went straight up Main Street rather than around Town Square. We saw the parade of techs bringing out the dance floor, though. :-)

There was a queue for entry to the dance floor set up inside the turnstiles - no one in it at 5:00, though.

There was a special Villains Unleashed t-shirt for the event. Another Limited Time Magic offering is Villains headbands for Maleficent, the Queen of Hearts, Ursula and the Evil Queen (pictured below). (Thank you to Gary and Debbie for allowing me to model their purchases).

I wonder when Disney is ever going to learn...the t-shirt didn't go on sale until 6:00 pm and was only available in two locations: the Royal Courtyard at the exit to Pirates, and the Tower Gift Store in Disney California Adventure.

The line in Disneyland was huge, and stretched all the way back to Indiana Jones in Adventureland.

The line in DCA wasn't bad - it was contained within the gift shop, and there were also more registers available there so it moved faster.

But if you don't mind waiting for it, the t-shirts are available on-line for a limited time:
Disneyland T-shirt

Walt Disney World T-shirt

By 7:00, traffic in the area was getting to the gridlock state. :-( I left at 7:45 - the lines at the turnstiles to get into Disneyland were long, and from the parking garage all I could see were red taillights on all of the roads and ramps approaching the area.

Jason went back into Disneyland to experience some of the evening events, so I'm going to turn this over to him now.



I returned to Disneyland around 7:15 or so. Town Square had a lot of guests. Some waiting for the dance floor, some for the character meet and greet, and some just lost or trying to get into or out of the park.

The dance floor ready to go.

The backdrop for the meet and greet.

Time for the Party Like a Villain dance party.

A video clip of the opening.

The dance floor was filled quickly by the waiting queue of guests.

There were dancers on hand too.

Looking behind me.. a good number of guests filled Town Square to see what was going on. But once they realized the characters were not dancing many left.

A video 360 of the scene.

A projection on the trees

A video from near the Mad Hatter

The mass of guests on Main Street.

The New Orleans Train Station was set up for the Unleash the Villains Dance Party that was to begin at 9:45pm It was about 9:15 when I walked by and they were still doing final setup.

They had another train pulled up to the other side. So you had an engine on one side and the Lilly Belle (tail end of a train) on the other.

At this point I decided to head for Main Street to watch Remember then head for home. I had an early wake up call on Saturday and planned to leave the parks by 10pm. On the way out the esplanade was packed. The lines to enter Disneyland stretched to the center where the compass is.

A little hard to see in this picture but Disneyland Drive was jammed on the left in this picture.



Jeanine made it back to the Unleash the Villains Dance Party and shares a few photos.

The dance party was very crowded - there was a huge line to get onto the dance floor which had been placed on top of the train tracks.

At the front they had two stages for characters with Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters on one side and Frollo, Hades, and the Red Queen on the other.

By then the special food was sold out and it was too crowded to ride any of the attractions in the area.

On the whole, it seemed like a nice effort on their part, but if I started seeing tweets from people saying it was traffic-y next time, I don't know that I would go unless they were offering up something more in the way of special entertainment.

August 19, 2013

D23 Expo 2013: Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends



So the other week, Disney had its third biennial Expo. Perhaps you've heard of it by now? Oh...


Well I had a great time anyway. The first day I started off checking out the various pavilions on the Exhibitor's Floor. The big hit for this year, as for all the other years, was the Disney Parks and Resorts pavilion.


To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Imagineering, the booth was made up to suggest the actual building that houses Imagineering Headquarters in Glendale.


Inside, the pavilion was separated into various "cubicles," each of which spotlighted a specific area of Imagineering and housed Imagineers ready to discuss their work...mostly. There were displays up front representing work being done on both the Avatar and Star Wars franchises, but no news was particularly forthcoming about either.


Some of the most amazing sights were not available for photographs, particularly the Art Library section which housed the original Herb Ryman sketch of Disneyland, and the Peter Ellenshaw painting of Disneyland, publicly shown under black light for the first time.


Another exceptional feature was the handful of original concept models for attractions that were never built. Attractions such as the fabled Western River Expedition for WDW's Magic Kingdom...


...and the abandoned original Land pavilion from when it was still to have been sponsored by a lumber company.


There was one booth playtesting an interactive adventure called "Adventure Trading Company."


The idea was that you would complete various quests/adventures ($5 each,) and on completion would receive a "juju." The first one was free, and involved you having to make up a name for yourself and tell your story to the Adventurer in the booth.


Subsequently, some days after the Expo, I received a survey asking a lot of questions about the playtest, so presumably they are actually considering implementing this in the parks.

In one office labeled "Dimensional Design," you might have found items as old as the Carrara marble Snow White and Seven Dwarves statues from Disneyland's wishing well...


...and then turned around outside of it to find something as new as one of Disney's latest additions to its costumed fold.


Over in Show Animation, they had an impressively gesticulating Hatbox Ghost, along with a variety of other retired animatronics, such as the smoldering Iago and Tiki Goddess Uh-Oah, from Under New Management.


Set Decoration had an abundance of decor samples from Hong Kong Disneyland's new Mystic Manor attraction...


...and there were a jillion more areas with fascinating tidbits everywhere, if you didn't want to see anything else at the Expo. "Had we but world enough, and time..." Ah well.

Just outside the pavilion Mickey's of Glendale had their shop set up with enormous lines, just like every time I've visited the actual Mickey's of Glendale! The truth is in the details.


Speaking of shopping, the one booth that I was never able to get into because of the long lines, was, oddly enough, the Disney Store booth.


Disney Interactive was out in force, promoting the newly release Disney Infinity with many of the same photo-ops and giveaway machines they featured at E3.


Disney Consumer Products had a large number of displays showing off all the different branches of merchandise they develop. Some new friends...



...And some old ones.


Walking/working the floor were a number of Disney notables, such as Chief Archivist Becky Cline...


...Head of D23, Steven Clark...


...And Bob Iger, Disney Chairman and CEO.

(Side note: I was trying to be all cool and unobtrusive taking this photo, and one of the security guys basically laughed at me. I would make a bad spy.)

Again, there were a boatload of other pavilions, both by Disney and by outside vendors, but there just wasn't time enough to see everything in the detail you'd like as well as see the talks and panels. Each booth also usually had schedules of celebrity/artist/writer signings and giveaways if you didn't already have enough events to coordinate for the weekend.


By the way, does this booth look familiar to you? It should if you were following The Optimist--a alternate reality game Disney implemented in the weeks leading up to Expo ( It was very fun and well implemented, with an elaborate climax over in Disneyland.


But on to the panels! The first day, I spent the bulk of the day in the entertaining but very long Art and Imagination: Animation at the Walt Disney Studios. Here, they went over most of the new movies in production from Pixar, Disneytoon, and Walt Disney Animation. While a lot of familiar players were featured here, such as Finding Dory and Planes, a standout surprise for me was Big Hero 6--a story of a robotics prodigy who, with his robot pal, joins forces with other crime-fighters to combat a threat to their town of San Fransokyo.


Their powerhouse however, was Frozen--they showed several clips from it, including a song from Olaf the snowman, and ended the presentation with Idina Menzel singing the movie's showstopper "Let It Go." Sadly, no photos or video were allowed.

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Hosted by John Lasseter, it was an amusing presentation but it ran over by almost two hours, insuring that anyone staying to the end missed Tony Baxter's Undiscovered Disneyland talk (Gah!) in which it was announced that he would be awarded his own window on Main Street this Fall. Congratulations Mr. Baxter!

The next talk I made it to was Disney Imagineering Legend Marty Sklar Presents...Dream it! Do it!


Honestly? I've heard Sklar speak on a number of occasions, and this, quite frankly, wasn't his best. He started off saying that they had asked him to speak and he had responded that everything was in his new book. It seemed like a joke at the time, but the rest of his talk was such an amalgamation of material from talks he's given before, that perhaps it wasn't. The bulk of his presentation was video clips that either have been presented multiple times in the past, or are readily available on DVD, and a retelling of Walt's Four C's, and Mickey's Ten Commandments. It seemed like a talk more suited for company training programs than Disney enthusiasts.

The last event I saw for the first day was Broadway & Beyond...Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway.


Hosted by Thomas Schumacher, President/Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, this was a rousing romp through the musical catalogs of all the many productions Disney has had on Broadway. The cast was made up of Heidi Blickenstaff (The Little Mermaid,) Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast,) Merle Dandridge (Tarzan and Aida,) Josh Strickland (Tarzan,) and Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King.)


This was a great concert, with really strong performers doing both lesser-known songs, and songs they themselves performed in the shows. Josh Strickland in particular showed off his versatility, singing parts as varied as Tarzan, Quasimodo, and one of Ariel's sisters.


And that was only the first day! Phew!

The second day started off for me with Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios. Again, no cameras were allowed.


Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn hosted the session that went over the lengthy docket of films currently in production. As expected, no big news on Star Wars VII was released, but then Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, got the party started with his presentations including clips and star appearances from Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.


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President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production Sean Bailey then introduced footage and stars (both in person and by remote,) of a variety of films such as Muppets Most Wanted, Into the Woods, Cinderella, and Maleficent.


He finished with the two films that have arguably been getting the most attention in the fan circuits the last few months: Tomorrowland, and Saving Mr. Banks. For Tomorrowland, filmmakers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof came out and displayed the enigmatic "dusty old box" they brought in lieu of the film's star George Clooney, and showed some curious animation they claimed to have discovered, promoting the mysterious organization hinted at in The Optimist (remember when I spoke of that game earlier? CALL BACK, friends.)


They also announced that a booth dedicated to the mysteries of the box would be unveiled out on the Exhibitor's floor later that day, and that limited edition Tomorrowland t-shirts (worn by Brad Bird in the photo) would be on sale at the Dream Store.


Saving Mr. Banks showed us additional footage which added a few minutes onto the trailers already online, and brought out Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak who play Richard and Robert Sherman in the film.


The whole thing ended in a grand finale as Richard Sherman came out and sang "Let's Go Fly A Kite" with them, while confetti and kites whirled about the audience.

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After that was over, I sprinted upstairs to catch ABC's Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale panel with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Laura already wrote about that in a much more timelier fashion than I, so I'll just say while the footage from Wonderland didn't impress me quite as much as Once Upon A Time, I'll certainly be watching as well.


After that, it was a mad sprint back to the Arena, where the Disney Legends Awards Ceremony was already in progress. Fortunately I got there in time to see the first award recipient, Tony Baxter.


All the acceptance speeches were very nice, particularly Glen Keane who looked back fondly on his start at Disney Animation, where he was met with the creative incense of "pencil shavings, cigarettes, and scotch."


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After that, it was a pretty short walk out the door of the Arena to the line to get back in again, a mere 2 1/2 hours in advance of the big Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook concert. In case you want to know how I spent that time, I'll just leave this here:


Anyway, it was a great concert, although not exactly as they had represented it in the phone interview (transcribed, in part, by me here: While it was supposed to be 1/3 Sherman, 1/3 Menken, and 1/3 both of them, they each played the bulk of the individual concerts they've given in the past, causing the show to run overtime.

(As a surprise to Richard Sherman, Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak returned to the stage to sing a number with him.)

Consequently, the part where they were together was whittled down to one song from each of them while they were both on stage as a curtain call. Ah well--more for next time.

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Finally, we arrived at the third and final day, which was largely going to be taken up by a series of panels celebrating Imagineering's 60th anniversary.


The first discussion, called WDI 60th: Working With Walt, celebrated the early days of Imagineering, with Marty Sklar, X Atencio, Alice Davis, and Bob Gurr.

Subsequently, I saw WDW 60th: Craft of Creativity with Chris Montan, Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Jacobson, Daniel Jue, Joe Lanzisero, Kathy Mangum, and Joe Rohde. This was an interesting discussion that largely revolved around how they all became Imagineers, and how what they do compares to the popular conceptions of Imagineering.


Next up was WDI 60th: Leading a Legacy, with WDI Chief Creative Executive Bruce Vaughn, and former WDI Executive Marty Sklar.


The two spoke on and answered questions about the challenges and satisfactions inherent in leading a team of creatives.

Finally, the last panel of the weekend for me was WDI 60th: Leave 'em Laughing. This was a discussion on humor in the parks with Imagineers Dave Fisher, Joe Lanzisero, Kevin Rafferty, Jason Surrell, and George Scribner.


It was a nice way to wrap up the weekend, with some good humor to soften the post-Expo dejection.

In between the panels I finally got around to seeing the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives--an exhibit I totally missed last Expo, not knowing that it closes early on the last day.


The objects on display were all impressive and attractive, although I would have liked to see more historical items in lieu of the artifacts from Disney's more contemporary franchises. Loved the Once Upon A Time stuff, nonetheless.


Perhaps in expectation of Saving Mr. Banks coming out soon, there was a heavy emphasis on Mary Poppins in the form of costumes, storyboards, art and props.


In the last hour or so, I was able to take one more turn around the Exhibitor's floor to see anything I might have missed before, such as the pirate ship from Once Upon A Time that was last seen at Comic-Con.


Finally, I was also able to check out the Tomorrowland booth which had an enormous line, complete with FastPass. As it turned out, the line was to borrow an iPad for the audio tour so I was able to skip it as I had already downloaded the app to my own.


Although they prohibited any photography in the booth, most of the papers and arcane items on display from the "mystery box" can be seen with descriptions in the Tomorrowland app from iTunes. It was a very professionally put-together exhibit that alluded to mysterious activities and futuristic discoveries made by a secret society whose members included Jules Verne, Nicholas Testa, and perhaps...Walt Disney? We'll have to wait for the movie to find out.

SO, that was the D23 2013 Expo. My thoughts, in summary:

The Good: I felt the content this year was really stepped up from last year. Year One Expo still feels like it had the most material of the three, but as that was prior to the start of the Destination D series, probably understandable. The increase in room size was a huge improvement over all past years--I had initially had no expectations of getting into even 50% of the Imagineering panels on Sunday, and yet I don't think anyone was turned away from any of them. The Parks and Resorts booth was remarkable in all the detail and gawk-worthy items and the concerts both nights were exceptional experiences that would be worth a trip even as stand-alone events.


The Legends ceremony and the panels with the original Imagineers were really the main reasons to attend this Expo, however--with the emphasis on looking back over the history of the company, the opportunity to see and hear from the people instrumental in building and continuing the Disney Legacy is something you can't get from many other venues.

The Bad: While the lines have improved, they continue to be something of an issue, primarily in the morning. I heard frequent complaints that there were insufficient people available to scan badges and that morning talks were going half-full because people couldn't get inside the hall fast enough to get to them. Lines for shopping were much longer than I remembered from past years, despite the fairly limited amount of Expo-specific merchandise that I saw.


I also think the topics of some of the talks could be beefed up. The speakers were great, but sometimes they either spoke really generally, or reiterated already widely-known anecdotes. Speaking just for me, I'm not so much interested in the streamlining of business communication, but in the specific history of Walt Disney and his company. I don't want to hear that you shouldn't crush your co-workers ideas, as much as I want to know, say, about the time you had lunch in the commissary the day before Disneyland opened. What did everyone say? What did they feel? Were they funny? Did they have nerves? What did they think were going to happen? These are things only the people who were there will know, and everything they don't tell us will be lost to time.

My main complaint would be one of time. The first Expo was four days and I think going back to that would really help alleviate some of the hysteria involved in trying to crush seeing everything in between overlapping panels. Unfortunately, the response to feedback like this usually tends to involve cutting the amount of presented material--NO. Less content is NOT desirable. Too much is better than too little, but more time to see everything would be best.

The Hmm...: The highlighted issue of this year seemed to be the "no new announcements" one. Prior to Expo, it was generally announced that there would be nothing new/exciting announced for the parks this year. During Expo, it became clear that there would, in fact, be no new announcements. Subsequent to Expo, there was loud hue and cry from some areas that the whole thing was a waste of time, because there were no new announcements.


Putting aside the question of why you would enter into an event expecting something you had explicitly been told not to expect, it's hard for me to imagine a Disney fan that couldn't find something of interest here. If you like the contemporary stuff, Disney Channel and Disney Interactive, along with ABC and the Studios all exhibited current projects and programs. Stars? Billy Crystal, Angelina Jolie, Chris Evans, Anthony Hopkins and more were in attendance. If you're a fan of the history of the company, Tony Baxter, Alice Davis and a plethora of other Legends had you covered. If you just like the music, there were concerts and panels by Randy Thornton and Stacia Martin. If you primarily follow the parks, there were exhibits and Imagineers available to answer questions on almost every facet of attraction development. If your entire interest in the Disney company boils down to only caring about new developments for the parks and resorts...well, that is some impressive specialization, and no, this probably wasn't for you.


Having said that, I guess the next question would be, "well, why aren't they announcing anything?" The pat answer would be that they simply didn't have anything to announce, however we've seen in the past that that is often not the case. The company has had huge releases in the past, sometimes in the next few weeks after the Expo, and it just seems as though they might be able to schedule it a little better. Just this last weekend saw Disney Infinity appear in stores and online for purchase--doesn't it seem as though making this available during Expo would have generated some sales? Obviously there must be creative and legal reasons for why a given thing might not be ready for announcement but on the other hand, you do have two years to make your arrangements. While I certainly don't think the presence or absence of startling news at each Expo is a make-or-break issue, the times when it looks like the news is passing the Expo by, makes it look like more of an after-thought to the company when it really should be a vital way for it to celebrate its past and display its vision for the future.

Quibbles aside, I thought this was a fantastic event, particularly for fans of the history of the Disney Company, that was a vast improvement over the last Expo--I look forward with expectations of an even better one in 2015!

August 8, 2013

Menken and Sherman Q & A: Together Again for the First Time


On August 6th, D23 hosted a conference call with two of Disney's preeminent songwriters, Alan Menken and Richard Sherman. During the course of the call, they answered a variety of questions concerning their music, their mutual admiration, and their upcoming joint concert "Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook" taking place on Saturday, day 2 of the D23 Expo. Here are some samples of the topics discussed.


The first third of the call was Alan Menken, answering questions by himself.

Question: What is it about Disney music that touches people?

Menken: "For me, it's because they're tied to specific movies...they're not just songs that are slotted in randomly. (In) the Disney Songbook, each song encapsulates the experience of a different movie, a different era, a different character, and a different time in the listener's life, so I think there's something really special about them. Also, there's no cynicism in the Disney Songbook. It really is a very heartfelt, genuine storytelling that's in these songs, and I think people love that about them."

Question: What's it like to perform before rabid fans?

Menken: "It's fun, it really is fun. It's a really powerful shared experience. I'd be lying if I didn't say it wasn't part of a pleasant ego trip because everything I'm doing they're reacting to so exuberantly to. It's kind of great! It's great fun, really."

Question: Any fanboy nervousness, performing with Richard Sherman?

Menken: "No, not really. Dick is such a nice man. He's been an extraordinary supportive presence in my life since I first came over to Disney. It's a relationship that he could have felt insecure, competitive but he didn't. He just was welcoming and generous and warm so I consider Richard Sherman to be a dear friend and I (am) really looking forward to the two of us entertaining people, and then we're going to sit down together and get interviewed together...I have no idea what it will be like, but I presume we're going to have a lot of fun."

In the second third of the call, Richard Sherman joined in and answered questions with Menken.

Question: Was it difficult to pinpoint songs for the concert? What will you be doing?

Sherman: "Do you want to take that first, Alan?"

Menken: "It's always a challenge to pick out just the right material for an audience, and we did have some requests from our hosts (at least I did,) and the way the structure...made it somewhat easy to decide on songs. Maybe the biggest challenge was which of the unknown songs or cut songs do I want to put in, and how do I want to contextualize so it becomes interesting for the audience."

Sherman: "Well the same thing for me, I think. You know, we have so many to choose from, you try to select and we try to do a potpourri, not a complete run-down of every single thing from a film, but just sort of a sampling of various things over the years that I did. So it was kind of a fun thing like looking at all my children and seeing which one I'll take on an outing."

Menken: "Exactly. I could not agree more...We're just going to be at the piano playing and turning and talking to the audience and just..."

Sherman: "We'll be our own accompaniment, so to speak. I'll take a turn, and Alan will take a turn, and then we're going to do a kind of special thing, we're going to get together and compare a little bit of our histories, and favorite pieces, our most endearing pieces to us personally, and it'll be kind of a fun thing, you know."

Menken: "And a little peek at some of our non-Disney things too."

Sherman: "Exactly. We'll touch on a couple of things that put us in the position to work at Disney."

Question: What is your favorite song of each others?

Sherman: "Oh, that's interesting. Alan has written so many gorgeous, gorgeous songs...He's a great melody writer, a wonderful harmony...there's so many..."

Menken: "There's so many. I mean, you have Jungle Book coming up and there are some songs in there that are just amazing. Let me think..."

Sherman: "I don't want to pick just one. There's so many..."

Menken: "You know, you look at Supercalifragilistic, and that's so known--so well known, but that's really...there couldn't be an Under the Sea without.Supercalifragilistic. And it's the combination of the exuberance, the rhythm, the cleverness of the lyric, and the catchyness of it...It just gets into your system."

Sherman: "An explosion of emotion."

Menken: "And it set the standard, it set the bar for what Howard and I did."

Sherman: "Thank you so much. I mean, you and Howard particularly wrote so many incredibly gorgeous songs...But one of the songs gets to me more than...I like so many, but I fell in love with Suddenly Seymour, which you wrote for a show way way back before I knew you and everything. It's such a passionate song, a wonderful explosion of emotion. And then I think Part of Your World--gets to me. It really just does. I just love that song. So there's really so many that he's written, if you try to pick one, it's impossible."

Menken: "It's a 'pick one out of a hat' kind of thing."

Sherman: "You know something? We're both fans of each other and it makes it kind of fun."

Menken: "Yeah, as songwriters, we're fans of the fact that we each have a...Richard has a unique voice that's in common with his work, and he comes through in his work, and I think I come through in my work, and I think that really--each song is just a manifestation of that voice."

Sherman: "Yeah, the feel we have about life, about people, and about music and about what we're trying to say with our gifts. Because you don't take too many big deep bows for a gift. You're just gifted with that, and it's what you do with it, that's important."

Menken: "Absolutely."


The third and last segment of the call was Richard Sherman by himself.

Question: How do you do that, over and over, making songs that can stick in people's heads?

Sherman: "Well you know, it's a funny thing, but I come from a musical family and my father was a very successful songwriter back in the 30's and 20's and 40's. His name was Al Sherman, and my Dad wrote very catchy tunes. And I used to listen to all his songs--I loved the way he wrote melodies, that they really grabbed hold of you and they were very definitely something you could take with you. And that was one of the things that I...Fortunately I had musical talent, so I could pick that up, and so I always tried to write something that's fresh and original, and yet very catchy and something that's easily accessible. And so basically, I'm not trying to be 'look how brilliant I am,' I'm trying to be 'look how much fun I am.' There's a difference. And I write fun songs that are kind of as original as they can possibly be, with catchphrases and little stuff. And the lyrics are very much a part of the song...If you have a very catchy idea. And so Bob and I both worked very hard to get the right lyric and the right words, so the melodies can soar."

Question: I applaud your longevity...

Sherman: "There's not much of an alternative, you know."

Question: What's your secret?

Sherman: "I have a good time. I never feel like I'm working...I was blessed...From early on, when I could finally say I made a living as a songwriter, I was always blessed with doing my hobby! My hobby was writing songs! I mean, I would have been happy to do it without getting any money for it...I love writing songs, and I love the challenge of writing different kinds of things, so it was always kind of a fun thing for me, and I guess I owe it to the fact that I have a good time at it. I mean, if I didn't, I would have retired years ago. But people want my stuff and want my opinions, and my feelings about how something's going to happen, and occasionally they want a song from me, so I'm happy to do it! Sure! And it keeps me going, I'm 85 years old, but I don't feel it--I have my health, Thank God, and I have my enthusiasm. I've always been that way."

Question: What is the main message you would like to get across to Disney fans, through this D23 Expo concert?

Sherman: "Well I think the message the Disney fans already know, but I'll just say it. There's a wonderful thing called being positive in your life, as opposed to being negative, let's say 'the upside of the coin.' Both Alan and myself have been blessed with the chore of writing things for very upbeat ideas--they're not depressing, they're not cynical--they're positive, there are strong feelings of goodwill in them. We were both blessed with that, and I think that makes a big difference. I think all the Disney fans will recognize that immediately. There's nothing cynical about our work--none of us.

"Somebody once asked me what was my biggest feeling, and the biggest, most wonderful gratification I get, is the fact that people get joy out of my work. And if that's the case, that's great. They feel good about it, they have a good time and they feel happy about it, and that is...truly my reward."

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken will be performing the Disney Songbook together on Saturday, August 10, 2013 at the D23 Expo. For more information:

August 7, 2013

Disney's Planes: The World of Cars Takes Flight


"Disney's Planes" is a new 3-D animated feature from Disneytoon Studios set in the same world as Pixar's "Cars."


Early in the film, Dusty the cropduster wistfully exclaims that he wants to prove that he "can do more than what he was built for." His journey towards that goal, more than his race around the world, makes up the heart of this latest Disney feature.


In this third of the in-production (rumored) Planes Trilogy, our protagonist Dusty yearns to leave his cropdusting life behind for the glamorous, fast-paced life of a racing plane. Despite warnings from his personal mechanic Dottie that he is simply not built for that kind of metal fatigue, he manages to scrape his way into the prestigious "Wings Around the Globe" race. As it progresses, Dusty is faced with danger, romance, betrayal, and heartache, and is forced to prove his mettle in more ways than he could ever have dreamt.



Going into this film, you might expect it to have a lot in common with its Cars progenitors, and you'd be right. There's the small town/old crusty coach with a secret/dim-witted truck BFF/cute car pittys from Cars 1, and the international race/serious car deaths from Cars 2. What you might not expect is the wild tonal shifts the picture makes as it swings from gentle Pixar-ish character-based humor, to Dreamworks-ish topical/sometimes-crass humor, to realistic shots of Dusty taking on damage, to a oddly long and violent "Saving Private Ryan"-ish segment in a military flashback.


The main quibble I have with the picture is its main character, Dusty. He starts off the movie as a nice, determined, wisecracking dude, and ends it pretty much the same. There's no character arc, because there aren't any really distinguishing features about him--he helps others with their problems and works hard at racing, but doesn't really have any personal issues beyond his fear of heights to overcome. The acrophobia seems a little tacked on as well, and when he surmounts it, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason for why he does, except that...he does. This featurelessness more than anything else brands this as more of a children's movie for me, as often children's protagonists seem deliberately uncomplicated so that a kid can identify/replace himself with them. Then again, I thought the same thing about Harry Potter, and he proved pretty popular regardless.


It is probably not overstating matters to say that many people enjoyed Cars 1 and 2. It is probably also not overstating matters to say that many people had difficulties with the logistics of their world, as it was presented. Where were the people? How do the cars exist as completely independent entities? Cars have a Pope? I think it's a safe bet to say that if you couldn't get over cars not having opposable thumbs in those movies, Planes is not for you. On the other hand, if you enjoyed the Cars franchise before, but were maybe put off by the complicated plotting of Cars 2, you will likely enjoy Planes. If it occasionally shows its direct-to-video roots, it's still a pretty film to look at, with a lot of arresting action thrown in and an inspiring message of overcoming your physical limitations...which ends up working out better for Dusty than Mike Wazowski.


Subsequent to the media screening, AllEars was able to attend the Red Carpet opening of Disney's Planes' World Premiere, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Attending were the majority of the film's voice talent, along with Director Klay Hall, Producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn, p.g.a, Executive Producer John Lasseter, and a slew of other cinema notables.

Screenwriter Jeffrey M. Howard was kind enough to talk to us for a minute about working in the universe of Cars, and plans for the future movies.

Disney's Planes will open August 9, 2013. Director: Klay Hall; Voice of Dusty: Dane Cook. This is the first picture of the Cars franchise to get a PG rating.

AllEars was invited to the preview showing of Planes and the Red Carpet event.

July 29, 2013

San Diego Comic-Con 2013: Sleep and Food Are For The Weak


Comic-Con time again, and you know what that means--the traditional escalator shot of the sign.


This year, my con experience started off with Disney Infinity's preview event. Here, con-goers could take a turn playing the big upcoming Disney Infinity video game, enjoy snacks, and even get character sketches drawn by Disney artists.


D23 members were given special access on Thursday, the first day of the con.




Later in the con, Dan Povenmire and Jeff ‘Swampy' Marsh, creators and executive producers of ‘Phineas and Ferb' stopped by the Disney Infinity space to announce that Phineas and Agent P would be part of the 2nd wave of figures developed for Disney Infinity, and give out a handful of hand-painted figures.

Out on the Exhibitor's Floor, ABC's Once Upon A Time (OUAT) was represented with a pirate ship complete with tiny screening area inside, and huge lines outside.


The people managing the lines were, however, fairly familiar to viewers of the show.



Inside the ship, a short trailer showing scenes from the last season was played, after which we were given some small gifts extracted out of one of the Evil Queen's heart-vault-drawers.


I believe there were four different pins given out altogether, and if you managed to collect all four, you could get a VIP pass to the OUAT panel later that weekend. Given the length of time required to navigate the line however, it was a daunting task.


From the sounds of it, this may be the same pirate ship OUAT will be bringing to D23's Expo in a few weeks.


As two of the latest Disney acquisitions, Star Wars and Marvel were out in as much force as you'd imagine.


Want to get your car wrapped with stormtroopers? You can get that!


Want sunglasses with light-up lightsaber earpieces? You can get that too!


Over at the Her Universe booth, Star Wars Weekend veteran Ashley Eckstein was working hard moving merchandise...


...but hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for an Imagineer in your booth, such as Jason Surrell.


Meanwhile over at the Marvel booth, displays rotated in and out constantly to promote their huge slate of upcoming films.



Of the many panels Marvel offered this year, one I enjoyed (of the few I was able to get into,) was on the Avengers TV spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


All the major cast plus several of the writers and creator Joss Whedon were there to answer questions and set up a surprise showing of the complete pilot episode.


Full of action and Joss Whedon's trademark humor, if the Comic-Con audience was any judge, it should be a huge success. [It is probably also true that if the Comic-Con audience was any judge, Firefly would still be on the air. Caveat Emptor.]

And of course the cosplay. So. Much. Cosplay.



The main difficulty is getting a good look at all the amazing costumes people concoct for themselves amidst all the constantly moving crowds.



So it was one more year of one of the largest, most hectic fan gathering in the world. As fun as it is, however, after a weekend of existing off of no sleep and one carefully rationed bag of M&Ms I grabbed at a screening, it's usually a comfort to get back to normal life, away from all the fantastical, chaotic elements that have no basis in reality...



July 28, 2013

Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story



A new upcoming online video series from Disney Interactive Video will be debuting at the D23 Expo next month: Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story. Here to explain a little about it is Matt Wyatt, Director of Creative / Producer at Disney Online Originals.

On my visit to the studios, Matt and the rest of the Creative Team showed us some of the planning and storyboard materials in use during the making of this stop-motion animated story, and exhibited some of the different sets being filmed. Displaying the careful detail they've built into the world mythology of the Vinylmation existence, the whole physical Vinylmation plane is constructed to superimpose exactly on a map of Disneyland.


In another room, we were shown the process of developing a shot from the storyboards...


...To the set construction...


...To the scene direction and cinematography.


The dialogue-free story involves vinylmations of all sizes, from the giants to the miniatures who distill the vinylmation paint from the flowers.


Even some of the Park Starz get cameos.


The fairly new branch of the Disney company works on something of a limited budget. Margie Gilmore, VP of Disney Online Originals, described their daily challenge as one of producing Disney quality with a shoestring budget. Some of the sets were built with materials scavenged off of the outside of the studio building.


Gilmore observed that the film was being created using "passion, hard work, and dumpster diving."


To make the look consistent with the Vinylmation world, Regino Roy, Co-Director / Co-Creator / Production Designer for the series showed us how even the trains were designed to mimic the vinylmation monorails

Here then, is the newly-released trailer.

Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story - Teaser on Disney Video

So knowing relatively little about the whole project (or even Vinylmation as a whole,) I think I was expecting something along the lines of a series of Vinylmation commercials. What you get instead with Blank, is a gentle, sometimes poignant tale of self-actualization, similar in some ways to Wall-E, in which characters strive to make connections and reconcile the differences between what they are and what their society requires them to be. The fact that the main characters have no facial features or voices would seem to render them completely without expression, and yet their point of views are always very clear. The art design and soundtrack are impressively attractive and imply a much higher production budget than what the studio says it enjoys.

Even if you're not much of a Vinylmation fan, I think Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story is worth a viewing. If you are a fan, it's a no-brainer. The first three episodes will be shown at the D23 Expo this year, with another nine three-minute episodes to follow.


June 30, 2013

DisneyanaMania Convention: A Look Back


Summertime's here, and we are fast approaching the onset of convention season, where big cavalcades of fannish delight such as San Diego Comic-Con and Disney's own Expo come piling on, one after the other, until by September it all threatens to become a blur of massed crowds, waiting in line, and overpriced concession food.

When making your plans as to what to attend this season, one smaller event traditionally well worth your time is the DisneyanaMania (previously NFFC/Disneyana) Annual Convention. To give you an example of what to expect, here are some of the highlights from last year:



The first day started with "Historic Anaheim," starring long-time Disney artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily.


Kevin spoke on their work with the Anaheim Historical Society to preserve and restore Anaheim's heritage, starting with Anaheim's old Disney-provided mascot, Andy Anaheim.


Next up was Disney Legend Marty Sklar and his presentation on "Epcot--How it Changed the World."


This talk was similar to the ones given at the EPCOT 30 event later in the year, showing a lot of early photos of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and touching on many of the early plans and goals the Imagineers had for EPCOT.


At the midday break, they held their traditional "Luncheon With A Disney Legend," at which Glen Keane, Roger Broggie, and Roger Broggie Jr. were made Disneyana Disney Legends. (Roger Broggie Jr. accepted for both himself and his father, before tragically passing away later that year.)


One hilarious panel came after lunch with Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, creators of Phineas and Ferb. They spoke about their initial concepts for the show, the challenges of having written over 300 shows (at the time,) and how affected they were by the show's popularity. "We saw the show (Phineas and Ferb's Rockin' Rollin' Dance Party) and cried. Then we hoped people didn't see us and think we were sad, middle-aged men, so into Phineas and Ferb."


Joanna Miller then shared some photos and memories of her grandfather, Walt Disney, in "A Chat with Walt's Granddaughter."


The end of the first day came with Lisa Girolami, Senior Show Producer on the renovation of Disney's California Adventure, who gave a presentation on "WDI: Buena Vista Street."


The next day started with "Selling Disney--The Art (and Fun) of Movie Promotions." Here, Robert Tieman showed us a lot of ads and promotional materials companies used to synergistically market their products along with the Disney films.


In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film Aladdin, there was an ASIFA (Association Internationale du Film D' Animation) panel made up of several of the key animators. Tom Sito moderated, with Scott Weinger, Andreas Deja, Duncan Majoribanks, Rick Farmiloe, and Mark Henn in attendance.


After lunch a panel of distinguished authors convened to talk about their various books. Prior to that, they had all been available for greeting and book signings:


Sam Gennaway, Urban Planner;


Jack Linquist, first President of Disneyland;


Dave Smith, former Chief Archivist;


...and Legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr. Also in attendance were Margaret Kerry, Tinker Bell, and Carolyn Carroll, widow to Eddie Carroll, voice of Jiminy Cricket.



"Around the Campfire with Marty" was another great talk, featuring David Stollery--Marty of the Spin and Marty series. He told anecdotes about the filming of their Mickey Mouse Club series, his later career in design (his company is the only designer of life guard towers in the world!) and his ongoing friendship with Tim Considine (Spin.)


Rounding out the weekend of seminars was Kevin Rafferty, talking about the development of Cars Land from its inception as "Carland," some two years before the movie "Cars" came out.


Their closing banquet this year was themed around a joyously rowdy Pirates of the Caribbean panel made up of Alice Davis, Roger Broggie Jr., and Bob Gurr.

The next day was their traditional All Disneyana Show and Sale, where several rooms of people selling virtually anything Disney-related you might wish for happily plied their trade...famous and non-famous.

What makes the Disneyana Convention stand out is its relatively small size--there's no call for hours of queuing, and plenty of available seating for each presentation. The audience is small enough where most speakers are able to take the time to briefly greet anyone interested. While the price is higher than a few of the other conventions ($270 for two days of seminars, not including the special ticketed dining events,) it could easily be argued that the ability to attend relatively stress-free is worth the difference.

This year, DisneyanaMania 2013 is being held July 11 through 14 at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Anaheim. Registrations are still being taken at where you can also find a schedule of events and more information. Scheduled speakers for this year include Marty Sklar, Rolly Crump, and many more.

June 26, 2013

E3: The Wrap Up


So as far as the Disney video games besides Disney Infinity and Ducktales Remastered, there were several others represented at E3.

Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff is a platformer game in which you can play as either Phineas and Ferb, hunting for artifacts to populate their Museum of Cool, or you can play as Agent P, out to foil the evil plans of Dr. Doofenshmirtz. [Multiple platforms]

Kingdom Hearts III was announced in development by Square Enix. Despite the name, this will be the eighth installment of the Kingdom Hearts series--an action role-playing game which combines characters from the worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy to wield keyblades and battle the Heartless. [Playstation 4, XBox One]

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a side-scrolling platformer which will be remade for release later this year. Although the 3-D graphics will certainly be an update from the original 16-bit version, presumably the storyline of Mickey entering the Castle of Illusion to save Minnie will not. [Playstation 3, XBox 360, PC]

Possibly the game with the most confusing trailer was announced shortly before E3--Fantasia: Music Evolved. Billed as a successor to the movie Fantasia, it is a motion-controlled music rhythm game in which the player follows gesture prompts to gain points/energy that are subsequently used to open up and give life to different virtual environments. Oddly enough, there has so far been no indication that any Disney music or characters will be used--the Fantasia tie-in seems to be the manner in which the player conducts "molecular magic" like Sorcerer Mickey. My favorite part? Jazz clams! [XBox One, XBox 360]

...and, oh yes...

June 17, 2013 Now, more than ever.



Today, June 17, D23 is launching a completely re-worked version of its website, complete with around 98% new archival content, specifically for D23 members.


On accessing the home page, it is readily evident what content is available only for registered members, by the gold Mickey key in the corner of the article's banner.


Once the member has logged in, the background of the page turns to gold, and all the material is unlocked for perusal.


One exciting new feature is an updated electronic version of Dave Smith's Disney encyclopedia
"Disney A to Z," which is going live with 7,034 pages on launch. Another is "D'scovered," in which the Disney Archives will share photos and images often never before seen by the public. Recently, some canisters of film from Walt's desk were developed, yielding personal photos not even seen by his daughter, Diane Disney Miller--for the first 23 days, the website will display a different one each day.


Other reference materials will include a digitized version of "The Quotable Walt Disney," and a section on character profiles. If you still can't find the answer to your question, you can submit it to "Ask a Legend," in which various Disney Legends (starting off with Marty Sklar,) will do video interviews in response to fan questions.


To balance all the historical content, there will be articles on more contemporary subjects as well--audio interviews with Ginnifer Goodwin, Snow White from the ABC show Once Upon A Time, and Dr. Heinz Doofenschmirtz, Evil Mastermind from Phineas and Ferb. The "First Look" department will also focus on the new and upcoming projects from different branches of the company.


While membership is required to see the bulk of the new website content, D23 is also adding a new, free, tier of membership. Members at this level will receive, in addition to website access, opportunities to buy exclusive D23 merchandise, and discounted tickets to the D23 Expo 2013. Silver members will still receive all their usual discounts and event opportunities, and Gold members will now be the exclusive recipients of the Disney twenty-three magazine. Memberships take 24hrs to process, so count on that amount of lag time between signing up and logging in.


At the same time, D23 will also be launching three sister websites: The Walt Disney Archives, D23 Expo, and Disney Legends. Registration will not be required to access these sites.

If you have any interest in the past, present, or future of the Disney company, or if you ever find yourself in need of reference material for anything Disney, signing up for the free D23 membership versus depending on the sometimes-sketchy information on Wikipedia seems like a no-brainer. Registration can be accomplished at or

June 10, 2013

E3: Disney Infinity


In a media event associated with the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) this week, Disney Interactive released new footage of their upcoming release Disney Infinity: A video game in which real toy figures encode virtual Disney characters for play in both pre-set and user-designed environments.


The starter pack comes with three figures--Mr. Incredible, Sully, and Captain Jack Sparrow.


Each figure comes with their own appropriate environment and story-driven game, which, when finished, allows the player to unlock various assets for use in the "toy box" mode. In this mode, the players can build their own worlds, using characters, buildings, vehicles, etc., from any of the available franchises, interweaving them as they please.


Figures can be purchased in three-packs, or individually. In addition, there are discs that you can layer on to add different powers to a given character, or new environmental assets.


While the game can be played singly, it seems clear that a great part of the game is the interaction players can have with each other, particularly in either fighting or competing in different games and races they can personally design.


The newest figures capitalize on the upcoming Disney film The Lone Ranger. This, along with the utilization of the Monsters University environment, shows the versatility of the platform as far as being able to keep up to date with future Disney properties.


The starter pack is currently available for pre-order online, with release scheduled for August 18, 2013.

June 8, 2013

E3: iam8bit's Art Show and Scrooge's Money Pit


As we enter into the beginning of summer, we once again approach E3--the annual trade show for the computer/video game industry. This year looks to be one of significant Disney presence, given the upcoming launch of their new Disney Infinity franchise, and the nostalgic DuckTales Remastered.

One of the kickoff events was the opening of the videogame-themed art show iam8bit Entertainment System at the iam8bit gallery in Los Angeles.


The show displays a multitude of art pieces celebrating all things gamer, with a nod to various and sundry other areas of geekery.


The main attraction for the Disneyphile, however, would definitely be Scrooge's Money Bin, in which you can burrow around and take photos. Here's the artist's rendering...


...And here's the actuality.


In addition to the pit itself, they had various props people could pose with, including crowns, jewels, and, in a nod to fans of the original DuckTales game, the Green Cheese of Longevity.


Trailers for the Capcom-Disney property were recently released, showing footage from the Amazon and Transylvania areas of DuckTales Remastered, respectively:

iam8bit Entertainment System is located at iam8bit Gallery, 2147 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026 and is set to run from June 7 to June 30, 2013. The gallery is open only certain days and hours of the week, so check for specifics. Street parking available.

June 5, 2013

On the Move: Aulani Disney Resort


So it happened to come about that I traveled around a bit back in April. I started off with a one-way ticket to Hawaii that I had to use before it expired, and then somehow the whole thing expanded to include the Tokyo Disney Resort, Walt Disney World, and the Disney Fantasy.

Because various members of the hard-working/good-looking AllEars Blog team have already written extensive blogs about all those places, I figured the most efficient way to share some of the highlights of my trip might be to hit some highlights and show some photos.

First stop: The Aulani Disney Resort at Ko Olina, Oahu. This was of necessity a brief visit of a few hours, as I only had a couple of days total in Hawaii and was not staying there.


Top Ten Things I Noted at Aulani:

1. It takes about 20-30 minutes to drive from Waikiki to Aulani during low traffic.
2. Parking is 35 bucks a day. $35! And they only validate at the big restaurants or at the spa, and only for spa services--not for retail purchases.
3. The lobby is nice and airy, and reminds me a great deal of the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
4. The big restaurants close between lunch and dinner, so if you go there between 2pm and 5pm, you may not be experiencing them that day.
5. You can currently tour the DVC model rooms which are beautiful and seem to have a layout a little like what I remember of the Bay Lake Towers rooms at the Contemporary.
6. The friendly CMs there have a general sense of expecting future resort expansion down the beach, but no one would cop to knowing anything specific.
7. There is a developing shopping/eating complex across the road from Aulani which should provide more choices for retail consumption.
8. The lagoon in back of Aulani is very pretty, however it was closed while I was there, secondary to some environmental spillage in the area.
9. The menehune are terribly cute and appear to figure in an interactive discovery game, similar to the Agent P Adventure at EPCOT, available to resort guests.
10. DVC members get two free parking spaces per room, so try to be one of those.

May 28, 2013

Mickey and the Magical Map


On May 25th, Fantasyland Theatre (née Videopolis) debuted a new live show, "Mickey and the Magical Map." At a preview for the media, Disneyland President Michael Colglazier made an appearance to introduce it.


Mickey, apparently in the middle of his preparations to go onstage as the show's star, joined him in welcoming everyone.


The background for all the numbers is made up of an innovative LED screen which features nearly 1 million pixels and 35,000 square inches. It moves in sections, on wagons that weigh more than 9,000 lbs each.


Without giving too much away...The story begins with the Sorcerer Yen Sid (perhaps familiar from the Epic Mickey games) directing his Mapmakers to paint a map able to transport dreamers to all the places they imagine.


Video of the entire show:

[SPOILERS follow for those concerned about such things.]

The ensemble proceeds to carry out his wishes, to the tune of the original song, "Journey of the Imagination."


To his dismay, Mickey is apparently unqualified to help out with this project, having not yet finished his apprenticeship and gotten his degree in mapmaking.


Left to his own devices, however, he manages to find an unfinished spot on the map, and decides painting it in would be a good proof of his abilities. Unfortunately the spot has other ideas and he finds the process a little more involved than it initially appeared. In pursuit of Spot he ends up entering the map and getting carried away to different worlds of classic Disney films.


The first stop is The Jungle Book, where King Louie performs "I Wan'na Be Like you," with the ensemble cast.


Next, a highlight of the show presents three Princesses in sequence: Pocahontas, singing "Just Around the Riverbend..."


...Mulan, performing "Reflection..."


...And Rapunzel singing "I See the Light," with Flynn Rider.


They end up all singing their different songs together. The map plays a nice role in differentiating the numbers as each section morphs in turn, into a background suitable for each respective princess.


The spot isn't finished with Mickey yet, by a long shot, and the next stop is "Under the Sea," with Sebastian and guys in bubbles.


In retrospect, I'm not really sure why the bubble guys aren't asphyxiating, since you have to figure their heads are completely covered in latex.


Eventually Mickey comes to the realization that not only are all who wander not lost, but not all who are not painted really want to be painted. Happily accepting the status quo, Mickey and Spot scoot off for one more adventure with "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride," from Lilo and Stitch.


Sorcerer Yen Sid returns to congratulate his apprentice on learning the lesson that just as there are no bounds to our imagination, the map can never be finished as long as there are new dreams left in the world.


Mickey graduates from his apprenticeship and is given his choice of anywhere the magic will take him. He chooses...New Orleans? Well, that's as magical as any, I guess. Princess Tiana and her showboat make an appearance to the tune of "Dig a Little Deeper."


To end the show, Mickey appears back out of the map and closes with a reprise of "Journey of the Imagination," with the usual blast of confetti streamers.


Afterwards, we were treated to a brief Q&A with Kevin Eld, Head of WDI Creative Entertainment, and Michael Jung, Theatrical Development Executive, WDI Creative Entertainment.


For the most part, they spoke of how glad they were to be able to utilize the theater to tell more stories, now that the Princesses have relocated to the new Fantasy Faire area. The process of choosing musical numbers was multifactorial, including the criteria that the songs well articulate the heart of the story--that imagination can take you anywhere. Songs were mostly kept upbeat, to better deal with the open-air theater's ambient audio.

Although the nature of the show seems to lend itself to changing different numbers, possibly to support new films ("Frozen?") and remain relevant, the team assured us that the current incarnation would likely stay around for awhile.


Laura also interviewed Executive Producer Doug McIntyre:

The show is certainly entertaining, with a plethora of energetic singing and dancing. The screens are used inventively with Mickey's transition from outside to inside the map handled particularly well, although the subsequent interstitial bits combining animated Mickey with live-action Mickey seem a little rough to me.

As a whole, the show reminded me a great deal of some of the newer shows Disney has recently unveiled on the cruise ships. "Wishes" in particular has the same heavy use of the video screens as background, and also includes "I Wan'na Be Like You," "Reflection," and "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride," as well as different songs from the movies "Tangled" and "The Little Mermaid." The production values look good and the songs are mostly your classic Disney whether or not you find the saga of Mickey and the Unpainted Spot compelling, the musical numbers are pretty solid entertainment.

"Mickey and the Magical Map," runs 22 minutes long, and is scheduled to run five times a day throughout the summer.

May 26, 2013

How I Spent My Monstrous Summer Day

How I Spent My Monstrous Summer Day
by Jason, Jeanine, and Laura

We thought we would collect up some of the photos we took and tweets we sent out during Disneyland's Monstrous Summer All-Nighter and share them here.

(We must give credit where credit is due, and tell you that Jeanine is the only one who made it through all 24 hours of the event. She should get something for that...a good night's sleep at the very least!)

Our day began well before 6:00 a.m., as we all made our way to the Esplanade to await park opening.

Early arrivals received these "monstrous" glasses.

We were (pleasantly) surprised that there weren't too many people, and it really wasn't crazy at all. Both Disneyland and DCA were going to be open for 24 hours, so people were lining up at the gates on both sides.

Mike and Sulley made a couple of announcements and then did a countdown - there were bursts of fireworks over both park entrances.

Inside Disneyland there was a gauntlet of characters and cast members waiting to greet guests as they entered the park.

Everyone received a button when they went through the turnstiles.

@disneygeekcom: A look at the Time Guide for today's Monstrous Summer All-Nighter page 1

There was special event merchandise (of course). We saw lots of people wearing the shirts.

Special mouse ears.

Hour 1: We went over to DCA. The news boys were handing out Buena Vista Bugles.

Each park had a photo-op sign with a clock on it.

Radiator Springs Racers wasn't open yet, but they were running cars on the track.

Hour 2: There's a Monsters University meet and greet in Hollywood Land - themed like a college dorm.

Hour 3: Cast members at the entrance to Cars Land had bags of the "Cars" buttons they distribute there, and were entertaining guests as they asked trivia questions (though everyone eventually was given a button whether they answered correctly or not).

@disneygeekcom:There was a free screening of Monsters University this morning at AMC in Downtown Disney

@Just Jeanine: Just saw Monsters University! Two thumbs way up!

While Jeanine and Jason were at the screening Laura wandered around the two parks.

Hour 5: Back at Paradise Gardens they are preparing for the OPA! celebration of Greece this weekend (most of the events will take place over in Disneyland).

There are new "monster-sized" 32 oz drink mugs ($7.79).

Many dining locations had special food items for the day. Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta featured this Mac&Cheese flatbread pizza.

There were also various treats at locations like Trolley Treats, the Candy Palace, and Pooh Corner.

The Monsters sign in Disneyland's Town Square at 11:40.

Hour 6: Disneyland was still not crowded - very short line for a meet and greet with Jessie.

Hour 7: Disneyland wait times. Kind of quiet for a Friday afternoon.

Hour 8: We all met up again to go to the Annual Passholder Preview of Mickey and the Magical Map - there were three that afternoon.

‏@disneygeekcom: Waiting for Mickey and the Magical Map annual passholder preview

Hour 9: At Plaza Inn the special food offering was Fried Chicken and Waffles - Mickey waffles!

Back over at DCA we used our Radiator Springs Racers fastpasses.

‏@disneygeekcom: Sulley out for pictures by his dorm

Hour 10: Lucky Fortune Cookery's Monstrous All-Nighter special was chicken and vegetable potstickers.

Hour 11: Time for the Pixar Play Parade. It now leads off with a Monsters University pep rally.

Sulley with the Fear Tech mascot - Archie the Scare Pig.

@JustJeanine: Hour 13 of #disney24 Genie: "Take your time Al--the park's open 24hrs."

Hour 14: @disneygeekcom: Main Street is nice and crowded now

‏@disneygeekcom: One last look at the #Disneyland wait board before heading out.

@JustJeanine: Hour 15 of #disney24 Crowded, but nothing a mint julep and Fantasmic! can't ameliorate.…

JustJeanine: Hour 17 of #disney24 Swing is back in style at the Carnation Garden Plaza.

@JustJeanine: Hour 19 of #disney24 Cartoons in Toontown! #justgothappier @ Mickey's Toontown

@JustJeanine: Hour #21 of #disney24 I'm not dead yet.

@JustJeanine: Hour 22 of #Disney24 Have the whole boat to myself.

@JustJeanine: Hour 23 of #disney24 Almost there... #justgothappier @ Peter Pan's Flight

@JustJeanine: Hour 24 of #disney24 All Good Things Must End... @ Sleeping Beauty Castle

@JustJeanine: Now's the time to say goodbye... #disney24 #justgothappier @ Disneyland Railroad, Main St. Station

And that's how we spent our Monstrous Summer Day.

The End.

May 6, 2013

Welcome to WonderCon!


Earlier this year, the Anaheim Convention Center played host to WonderCon--a smaller sibling to the gargantuan San Diego Comic Con.


While there wasn't a huge Disney presence in either the Exhibitor's Hall or the panel presentations, there was the usual abundance of costumes and cosplayers out and about.


Guillermo del Toro, still said to be connected to a future Haunted Mansion film for Disney, was there presenting a newly-cut trailer for his newest film, Pacific Rim.


Although it's tough not to get behind giant robots battling alien dinosaurs, I might be the only one wanting to see it just to hear the voice of GLaDOS from the Portal video games.

Even in the Trek Nation panel, it was possible to find hints of Disney, if you knew where to look.


Of course, Disney's grandest new acquisition was well-represented in costumes and booths and build-your-own construction projects and pretty much anything else you could imagine.




Some familiar Disney creators were also out in force, such as The Avengers' Joss Whedon, promoting his new independent film Much Ado About Nothing.


Also in attendance was Once Upon A Time writer Jane Espenson, on panels for both Buffy Season Nine and her internet series Husbands.


If finding characters for photo opportunities was too hard at Disneyland, guests had only to walk down the block to find a plethora of costumed folk from properties as recent as Wreck-it Ralph...


...and its Academy-award winning accompanying short, Paperman.


While WonderCon is historically held in San Francisco, recent renovations being done to their convention center have necessitated its move down south for last year and this year. It is unknown as to whether it will stay in Anaheim next year, or return to San Francisco.

March 7, 2013

Fantasy Faire: Here Come the Girls!


On March 12th, Disneyland's latest addition will open to the public: Fantasy Faire.


Taking the place of the former Carnation Plaza Gardens on the West side of the Hub, Fantasy Faire represents a small village attached to the castle. As a tribute to the structure it replaced, a crest with the plaza initials is found on one of the buildings.


The main structures awaiting the visiting guest are a stage venue, the Royal Theatre, and an area for princess encounters, the Royal Hall.


At the Royal Hall, a bevy of royals awaits you.




The princesses in situ will change periodically, with Belle and Snow White joining the lineup as space and time allow.


Over across the square, the Royal Theatre presents two different shows a day: Beauty and the Beast, and Tangled.


The shows are actually much more extensively produced than you'd expect if you've seen the recent Magic Kingdom attraction Enchanted Tales with Belle--even including a live pianist, Sir Samuel.


Far from being just a rote retelling of the familiar stories, they have more of a minstrel show quality about them with virtually all roles portrayed by the two main performers Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones.


Done in a style similar to that of The Reduced Shakespeare Company, the two actors are joined by the heroine (and sometimes the hero) of the piece and combine their knowledge of theatrical representation with her knowledge of her own story to tell the tale.



Fast-paced, with pop culture references to everything from Wizard of Oz to the Twilight Zone to the 1960's Batman series, the shows are entertaining and appropriate for all ages.


(Spoiler alert: Everyone deserving of it lives Happily Ever After.)



Here is some more inexpertly shot video by me, of some of the musical numbers from Tangled.

Out in the square, the architecture is intended to mirror the quasi-European Hodge-podge of the 1980's Fantasyland, with a few focal features:

An animated Figaro, from Pinocchio;


A crank music box inspired by Hunchback of Notre Dame;


And a "Tangled" maypole in the center, which will show Rapunzel's hair magically lighting up at night.


Should your visit with royalty inspire a desire for a new wardrobe, there is always the gift shop to peruse.


Within, you'll find everything a young girl needs to be a princess, assuming she provides her own stout heart and quick wit.


For people less enthused about cosplay, they can always take up the challenge to make the association between all the props on display and the movies they each reference (hint: As far as I know, the winged lion is just a winged lion.)


The cuckoo clock inside is stopped at a very particular time: 3:12, which is, of course, Fantasy Faire's opening date.


Hungry? Belle's Dad Maurice has you covered with a wagon that sells sweet and savory twisted (tangled?) pastries and the regulation specialty drink Boysen Apple Freeze.


I myself had the cheddar garlic bagel twist. By and large, I think if you enjoy the cheddar pretzels you might get at Wetzel's Pretzels, there's no reason to think you wouldn't enjoy this. The freeze was perfectly fine as well, although pretty sweet from my standpoint.


To give us even more insight into the making of Fantasy Faire, here are some thoughts from some of the creative folks that brought it into being:

In short, this is a carefully constructed area designed to provide people with increased access to some of the Disney princesses. Clearly a lot of care has been put into a lot of details which many will no doubt find delightful. There is, of course, a distinct population that was very attached to Carnation Gardens and the swing dancing that used to occur there--for them, the floor of the Royal Theatre looks to be unchanged from before, with removable benches and carpets laid down for each show. Consequently, the option does exist for them to reinstate the swing dancing/concerts there should the management decide to do so, but for now, the plans remain to keep it in Downtown Disney while Fantasy Faire establishes itself.


Annual Passholder previews take place this week, March 7-9, and Fantasy Faire opens to the general public March 12.

March 2, 2013

D23′s Disney Fanniversary Celebration 2013--Coming to a Town Near You!


March 1st marked the kick-off for D23's second annual Fanniversary Celebration at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.


Disney Geek host Billy Stanek and Walt Disney Archives' Justin Arthur were the hosts for the evening, which was once again a fun commemoration of various important milestones for the Disney Company.


Among the anniversarys being celebrated were the Walt Disney Company's formation 90 years ago; Mickey and Minnie Mouse's 85th birthday; Saludos Amigos' 70th; Peter Pan's 60th; Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room's 50th; Tokyo Disneyland, Disney Channel, New Fantasyland at Disneyland, and Horizon's 30th; Who Framed Roger Rabbit's 25th; Nightmare Before Christmas' 20th; and Animal Kingdom's 15th.


Photographs and video recording were prohibited during the presentation, which included never-or-rarely seen photos of concept art, video interviews, and documentary footage. Each location will also get an opportunity to get up and personal with an item from the Archive's treasures--at our night, we were able to examine a gaucho doll made to resemble Walt Disney during the making of Saludos Amigos (securely held by Justin Arthur.)


In addition to their trademark button, D23 members were also given full-color Academy promotional brochures on Disney's latest Oscar nominees, Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frankenweenie.


For fans in cities not located conveniently near Los Angeles, where D23 holds the lion's share of their events, the Fanniversary is a great opportunity to get a Cliff's Notes version of the sort of material they typically cover at their larger affairs. When asked what he thought would draw in people new to D23, Billy Stanek said he felt they would enjoy seeing some of the never-before-seen video, particularly some of the scratch footage done for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which can currently only be viewed at this traveling show. If you enjoy learning about the history of all facets of the Disney Company--from parks to the Disney Channel to feature films--be sure to catch this entertaining show when it rolls into town.


D23′s Disney Fanniversary Celebration 2013 is visiting 9 other cities throughout March and April: Boston, Chicago, San Diego, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC. Tickets are available (for non-sold out cities) at

February 5, 2013

Thanks for the Memories, Tony Baxter!


One of the very first events I covered for AllEars on my own was the return of Captain EO to Disneyland's Tomorrowland. I figured I was just going to take a few photos, see the movie, and listen to presentations--instead it turned out to be pretty much solely interview opportunities, which I found paralyzingly intimidating. To compound the situation, the interviews included one with Tony Baxter--TONY BAXTER! The Senior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering Tony Baxter! The guy who did Big Thunder! Splash Mountain! Star Tours! Indiana Jones! The 1983 redo of Fantasyland! Disneyland Paris, for gosh sakes!


It all turned out happily, thank goodness, in spite of me. Mr. Baxter was as gracious as anyone could wish, and probably more so than I merited.

Last week, Tony Baxter, Senior Vice President, Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, announced his departure from his full-time position at WDI with this letter: As is consistent with the rest of his career, it is marked with intelligence, insight, and affection both for his work in the parks and the people who helped him create so many amazing attractions.


While it's beyond my capabilities to give his work with WDI the overview and historical context it deserves, I can say that having started early enough to benefit from working with some of Walt's original Imagineers and having stayed late enough to mentor today's up-and-coming Imagineers, he served as a valuable bridging point. He was able to incorporate the integrity of the older ideals and values as regards Disney's entertainment aspirations with newer technology and methodology to create projects that had both depth and breadth of appeal. Even in times when it seemed others in the company had abandoned all other concerns for the quickest way to cash out, he represented a force that pushed for quality and the Disney Difference which, in the end, is really why I'm here writing (and presumably you're here reading) about Disneyland and not Six Flags.


One of the events where he featured prominently was at last year's 20th Anniversary celebration at Disneyland Paris, where he gave talks to both the NFFC group specifically, and to the park in general.


Even more recently, at the last Destination D, he was part of a presentation on some of the original WDI members who worked on the parks, as well as a group interview afterwards, addressing some of the modern-day frustrations today's designers face.

While I certainly don't know him personally, I did have the chance to meet and interview him again a few times more over the years, and he never ceased to be as kind and thoughtful to even the hundredth person looking for a signature as he was back at Captain EO.


How Disney will adapt to his absence remains to be seen--I can only hope that they take his espoused philosophies to heart and use them to continue to create the type of attractions that are as meaningful and relevant to future generations as the ones Mr. Baxter gave us. For Mr. Baxter himself, it seems hardly necessary to wish someone luck who has the talent and passion he's always displayed with WDI. Perhaps instead we can simply say "have fun, and come back soon."


Over at the always informative/entertaining blog Progress City USA, D23's Michael Crawford has his own tribute to Tony Baxter, in which he says he will pass on any comments to Tony Baxter. If you have any well-wishes to express to him, I encourage you to check out and leave them there.

January 15, 2013

Peter Pan: Now Playing at the El Capitan Theatre


January 11, The El Capitan Theatre opened their limited engagement of the Disney classic Peter Pan.


To mark the occasion, they had a live panel of folks involved with the making of the film, moderated by noted film critic Leonard Maltin.


Making up the panel were Ted Thomas, son of legendary animator Frank Thomas; Margaret Kerry, live reference model for Tinker Bell; and Kathryn Beaumont, voice actress for Wendy.


Each panelist subsequently told a number of anecdotes about their recollections of the film-making process. Beaumont remembered how accessible Walt Disney was--how she would see him walking the hallway or waiting in line at the cafeteria, just like all the other team members. At the time, they were still recording the voices with the actors together, which she remembered being much more conducive to dynamic reads. She was particularly excited to find herself recording with Hans Conried, the voice of Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, as she was a big fan of his from his radio work.


The always-irrepressible Kerry discussed the persistence of the (false) rumor that Marilyn Monroe was actually the physical model for Tinker Bell, and the joy she found in doing the voice (as well as the body) of the red-headed mermaid--which led her to pursue other voice work in her career.


Thomas recollected his father at the time of the making of the film, and how he was assigned to animate mostly villains after the war, leading to him designing Captain Hook. Between performing all night each night with the Firehouse Five Plus Two at the Mocambo in Hollywood and an eight-week bout with pneumonia, he eventually hit on the combination of menace-with-elevated-self-image that embodies the Captain Hook we have today.


To finish the panel, we were then treated to a teaser trailer of Thomas' new documentary "Growing Up With the Nine Old Men," in which he catches up with the other animators' children and they discuss their shared experiences. It looks fascinating, and will be included on the upcoming DVD release.

The next part in the program was a short pre-show with Jake, from Jake and the Neverland Pirates, which was then followed by a never-before-seen episode from the show.



So then the feature presentation played, and wow, but it looks great. Between the fantastic line drawing and the Mary-Blair inspired backgrounds, there is absolutely no surprise that it is such a classic. The animation is meticulous to the point that each character--even secondary ones like Mrs. Darling--are so well developed that there isn't a frame they're on screen, when you cannot look at their faces and tell instantly what they are thinking, and what their point of view is. If you haven't seen Peter Pan in its entirety before (full admission: I had not. Don't ask.) you owe it to yourself to see it on the big screen because it is a masterwork of a type of animation that simply isn't done anymore.


Once the movie is over, your experience continues with photo-ops in the lobby.


Next door in the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store, there is a variety of food-related experiences to partake in--a character breakfast with Jake and a specialty sundae--that tie in with the movie. There is also a plethora of merchandise to purchase, enabling you to take the magic home.



Peter Pan runs multiple times a day at the El Capitan Theatre until February 7, 2013. For more information, please see

January 12, 2013

The Golden Horseshoe: Magically Back for a Limited Time


Disneyland's Year of Limited Time Magic continues this week with the start of "A Salute to the Golden Horseshoe Revue."


While the show plays gratis throughout the day, the last show of the evening at 6:30pm currently plays only to Annual Passholders who have purchased a ticket in advance. The price is $35, and includes a box dinner, mint juleps, a souvenir mug, a CD, and the chance to not have to make a mad Pamplona bull run rush over to the podium for tickets in the morning.


Seating is at shared tables--if you're not there with a party of four or more, you should probably be prepared to make new friends. Possibly close ones, if you end up at one of the packed-in tables in the center of the bottom floor.


Last night being the opening evening, even Disneyland President/soon-to-be WDW President George Kalogridis was in attendance.


The food was actually better than it had initially sounded to me--roast beef and ham sliders, with sides of potato salad, carrot salad, and berries, in trays similar to the ones used for the World of Color picnics. The sandwiches were pretty filling with condiments of honey mustard and horseradish sauce (packed in fairly tricky-to-open containers--I saw at least one commit suicide from the balcony in front of me) and the various salads gave a nice variety of flavors.


But let's be real: The main reason you're going is for the souvenir boot mug filled with Fritos. Oh, they may tell you those are generic "corn chips," but you and I both know the Frito Kid had Klondike mine those Fritos just for us, as in the days of Frontierland yore:

The show's MC is Miss Lily, taking over from Slue-Foot Sue, and it's basically twenty minutes of fairly rambunctious song and dance, along with a lengthy segment where Miss Lily roams the floor searching for a fella. If you are the sort of audience member that prefers to watch without participation, maybe don't sit in the front or on the aisles.


I think the only quibble anyone had about the show was wanting it to be longer--the original show, which can be found on YouTube, seemed more like 45 minutes. All of the Wally Boag material was cut, which seems like a missed opportunity, given that we were able to see one of Boag's successors in the show do a bit last year at the True Legends of the Golden Horseshoe tribute (I blogged about it here: )

Here, in an inexpertly shot video by me, are some of the highlights of this charming show:

As the show ended, they handed out small cakes with a photo of Walt and Lillian's 30th Anniversary party at the Golden Horseshoe printed on the top.


Then, for an extra surprise, they also gave out CD copies of the old LP "Slue-Foot Sue's Golden Horseshoe Review," printed complete with original album art.


The show itself (understandably, given it was the first day for it) seemed a little technically rough--some of the audio seemed occasionally hard to make out from where I was sitting and some of the performers were placed so as to block some of the stage view from the sides--but nothing that probably won't be ironed out after the first week. While initially, I had thought that $35 seemed a little pricey for a sandwich, I really thought that this particular AP event had enough special touches that it was very worthwhile.

With the recent high increases in the costs of the Disneyland annual passes, and the frankly underwhelming recent local discount offer, bringing back a nostalgic favorite like the Golden Horseshoe really goes a long way towards combating the creeping feeling that money, more than magic, is the main concern of the park.


Walking out of the park after closing, with a mint julep in one hand, and a bootful of Fritos in the other? Well, perhaps you still can find some happiness in this harsh world...and magic, too--even if it's only for a limited time.


The twenty minute show plays multiple times throughout the park's operating hours, and same-day reservations can be made in person, at the Saloon.

January 4, 2013

Dia de los Reyes Magos at the Disneyland Resort


From January 4-6, 2013, Disneyland Resort will be celebrating the Latin American holiday "Dia de los Reyes Magos", or Three Kings day.


In case you lack familiarity with the holiday, Disney describes it thusly:
"Dia de Reyes, also known as Three Kings Day, is a festive holiday celebrated on January 6. From generation to generation, the people of Spain, Mexico, Central America, and Puerto Rico have enjoyed a rich cultural tradition of celebrating this popular holiday. Iconic symbols, time-honored traditions, scenic displays and children's activities play an important part in this festive occasion within the Hispanic cultures."


"According to tradition, the Three Kings or los Reyes Magos (Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar) traveled by camel to follow the star of Bethlehem, bringing precious gifts with them. In many Latin American countries, children leave their shoes outside and fill them with hay for the animals, hoping to find surprises and gifts the next day from the Three Kings. Rosca de Reyes (Kings Cake) is a crown-shaped, lightly sweetened bread decorated with jewel-like candied fruit and is a traditional Three Kings Day holiday treat."


Children's activities will be ongoing, with bilingual hosts participating in face-painting, coloring, and crown decorating, all taking place in the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree.


Live entertainment will be presented, including the Mariachi Divas and a variety of local folklorico ballet troupes and musicians.


Opportunities will be presented for guests to meet and greet Mickey and Minnie in "Fiesta" costumes, as well as The Three Caballeros, Donald Duck, Jose Carioca, and Panchito.


AllEars' own Laura Gilbreath was on hand to chat with Claudia Erdogan and Andrae Gill from Global Marketing about a variety of topics, including the Three Kings celebration and the year-long Limited Time Magic campaign.


She also spoke with Chef Martha who made one of the Buñuelo desserts that will be served at Rancho del Zocalo, and spoke about the other special holiday food offerings. (Laura tried it afterward and said it was delicious.)


So if you're interested in celebrating this holiday with the Three Kings and the Three Caballeros, come on down to the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree in Frontierland this weekend--Limited Time Magic only!

Related Links:

-- Disneyland Announces Three Kings Weekend Celebration

-- Why Walt Disney World Should Adapt Disneyland's Three Kings Celebration

-- Los Tres Reyes Mexican Storytellers in Epcot at Walt Disney World


December 30, 2012

"Destination: Cars Land" Makes Its Way to Pasadena



After a several-year absence from the famous New Year's Day Rose Parade in Pasadena, Disneyland Resort returns with a spectacular float celebrating its new Cars Land expansion.


Measuring in at over 125 feet long, the float is constructed in two parts. The first half leads with a floral depiction of the big Cars Land sign, and then goes on to show ride vehicles from Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Flying Tires.




Bradley Kaye, Senior Designer with Disney Creative Entertainment, spoke on how all the designs were carefully scrutinized to be as true and detailed as possible to the actual structures, given the limitations inherent in floral construction.


As an example, while the Flo's V8 Cafe sign is actually teal-colored, that shade fails to appear in Nature. The resulting green compromise was signed-off on by Pixar who worked in conjunction with Disney to make the float a good representation of the land.


Up top, Lightning McQueen and Sally will be racing through Radiator Springs. McQueen is covered with the components of some 2,000 carnations.


Meanwhile in the back half, platforms will be present for entertainers to perform amidst a recreation of the Radiator Springs mountain range complete with iconic rockwork.


Actual cacti from Cars Land will be placed on the float, and every surface will be decorated, including the myriad of hubcaps.


Up top, Guido and Luigi cheer on miniature cars racing around the Radiator Springs Racers track.


On hand to help out was René Torrico, 2012 Disneyland Ambassador


...and Social Media and Print Manager, Erin Glover.


Finally, Randy Wojcik, Senior Show Director of Disney Creative Entertainment, was kind enough to say a few words for us on his experience developing the float.

This year's Rose Parade is scheduled to run at 8AM, January 1, 2013 in Pasadena. The theme is "Oh, The Places You'll Go," and clearly one of those places for the next year should be Cars Land.


Happy New Year everyone!

December 24, 2012

A Star-Studded Christmas


Happy Holidays!


If you haven't had a chance to take a look at it already, AllEars put a slideshow out last week showcasing many of the beautiful seasonal sights around DCA.

For my Christmas offering this year, I'm presenting a handful of video clips of some of my favorite celebrities I've seen performing in the parks this season.


First up is Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Dr. Horrible, Harold & Kumar,) doing the introduction to the Candlelight Processional, as it is performed in EPCOT.

The next clip is a little bit of a departure, as it actually comes from Universal Studios Hollywood. As part of their "Grinchmas" celebration, they had different celebrities each day for their Grinchmas Tree lighting.


The narrator here is Raphael Sbarge, who currently plays Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket on the Disney-owned hit series, Once Upon A Time.

Finally, we'll close with John Stamos (Full House, ER,) concluding his evening performance at Candlelight Processional, this time at Disneyland.


As we cross the finish line this week into Christmas, I'll join my holiday wishes to Stamos'. From the West Coast to the East Coast, and all points within and without, the Merriest of Seasons, everyone.


November 15, 2012

The Holidays come to Disneyland!


Now that Halloween's out of the way, the Disneyland Resort has begun its full swing into the Christmas Holidays.


This week, David Caranci, Manager of Resort Enhancement at the Disneyland Resort, gave us a quick walking tour of the all the new holiday decorations abounding in Buena Vista Street (BVS) and Cars Land.


The main goals they had when designing the decorations for BVS (a process that started some eighteen months ago,) were to be accurate to the time period and to hide the existing infrastructure. Because the era overlaps with the Great Depression, they reasoned people would be decorating with a degree of restraint dictated by the economy.


The garlands on the buildings are brand-new cedar garlands they had made for them, with a seven year life expectancy.


Pretty much all their ornamentation was custom made for DCA--the Mission Bells and even the wrapping paper. A distinct effort was made to make the decor here stand out from anything that would be found at the other Disney parks, and Disneyland in particular, to avoid having guests feel that they had already seen it all on the other side of the Esplanade.


One particularly cute display series shows Silly Symphony scenes in a pop-up book fashion.




The tree decorations were similarly custom designed, the ideas from which came in large part from everyone on the team polling their grandmothers about their trees. The tinsel garlands have apparently never been done before at Disneyland.


Around the bottom of the tree are many Walt references, including a replica of the train Walt took to Los Angeles, and the Carolwood Barn, along with re-manufactured toys from the 30's.

Meanwhile, over in Elias and Co, a genuine department store Santa holds court.


Surrounding the tops of the displays inside the store are storybook depictions of "A Night Before Christmas," which continue outside on the storefront windows, as well.


Inside Carthay Circle, a miniature Seven Dwarves gingerbread cottage sits inconspicuously in the lounge area.


As far as the holiday musical loops, Caranci said they worked closely with both WDI and Pixar who each had approval over the music in BVS and Cars Land, respectively.


Speaking of Cars Land, Caranci talked about the process they went through to come up with holiday concepts that Pixar (and John Lasseter in particular) would sign off on. The first pass they made was rejected on the basis that it looked like what humans would do to decorate Route 66--Pixar wanted it to look as it would if the cars themselves were in charge of the decorating.


While they had many different iterations of Snowy the Snow Car, the final one seems to be a success, as people line up to take photos with it day and night.

Each car's area has a different tree, suited to their distinct personalities. Fillmore has the only car angel, fitting his hobby of making lawn art.


Sarge has "Fourth of July times ten," with thousands of lights hidden under a scrim during the daylight--a huge improvement over the construction-zone look of the Streets of America under the Osborne Lights wiring each year.


Over at the Cozy Cones, Sally has a whole gingerbread replica of the Cozy Cones Motel inside the lobby...


...While Flo decorates the stacks of oil cans she stocks for hungry cars.


Stanley got a carefully-sculpted santa hat and sack for the season, while the tree next to him was inspired by one Lasseter saw and liked out on Route 66.



While that certainly only represents a small fraction of the holiday touches adorning DCA, it was then time for us to regroup down at "it's a small world," where Marine Corps. Staff Sergeant Mark Plummer and family were to flip the switch and officially start "it's a small world" Holiday for the season. Disneyland Ambassador Jolie Hales was on hand to officiate.

Of course, if you want to see really good photos of the holidays at Disneyland, I advise everyone to check out Jason's photo blogs both here and at his site,

I'm sure we'll have more to share from the parks as the season progresses, but Disneyland and DCA look to be off to a jubilant start to the Holidays.


October 9, 2012

Disneyland's 2013 Ambassadors


On October 8, 2012, Disneyland once again chose a new Ambassador Team for the 2013-2014 years.

Disneyland Ambassadors

In a brief ceremony in the Sleeping Beauty Castle Forecourt, current Disneyland Ambassadors Jolie Hales and René Torrico recounted some highlights of their past two years and prepared to hand off their positions.

Disneyland Ambassadors

After a short character-filled musical number, George Kalogridis, president of the Disneyland Resort, commended the present Ambassadorial team, and the Cast Member finalists were presented.

Disneyland Ambassadors

After each finalist had an opportunity to recount one of their special memories of Disneyland, Kalogridis announced Sachiko White and Megan Navarette as the new Disneyland Resort Ambassadors in a blast of confetti.

Disneyland Ambassadors

Having been picked from a pool of nearly 80 applicants, the two women from the Entertainment Division will spend the next two years as representatives and spokespeople for the resort, meeting dignitaries and VIPs, along with participating in various community outreach activities.

Disneyland Ambassadors

After photos, the two took their traditional fire truck drive down Main St.

Disneyland Ambassadors

The new team clearly has an exciting couple of years ahead for them. We congratulate White and Navarette, and look forward to seeing more of them throughout the next two years!

Disneyland Ambassadors

August 17, 2012

D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features: A Look Back.


Day One
Day Two

So now that we're (sadly) finished with one more Destination D, it's time for a look back on some of the outstanding moments in my memory.


I have to confess, when they had all the dancers/fans rush out in flash mob fashion to dance around to traditional music mixed with that oddly synthetic hip hop beat overlay they like to use for all the shows nowadays, I had PTSD flashbacks to the Disney Dance Crew moments from the 2010 Destination D (“Drink up me gangstas, yo ho!”) This is not to take anything away from the performers, who were as exuberant as anyone could wish, but one of my pet peeves is the attempt to modernize tunes that were already really pretty good as they were. I am OK hearing music the way the Sherman Brothers wrote it, without having someone with a synthesizer go to town on it, and I would wonder how many people interested in 75 year old animated films might feel the same.

Fortunately, the first panel fulfilled all our yearnings for nostalgia by giving us insight into each of the "Nine Old Men" from guys who were actually there, working with them.


One interesting note Joe Hale gave us, was that the Nine Old Men originally resented the title a little, as they weren't really that old when it was given to them...but they grew into it.

A few of the panels, while still fascinating, didn't really yield entirely new information. If you saw, for example, Waking Sleeping Beauty, you already had a large amount of context for the talk on the second golden age of Disney animation. Similarly, if you had attended Comic-Con, you had already heard a lot of what they had to say about Wreck-it Ralph.


Paperman, however, presented by Producer Christina Reed and Supervising Animator Patrick Osborne, was entirely new and really a beautiful piece of work. Their new hybrid technique of animating faces in CG, removing parts and then redoing it in hand-drawn animation yielded a very clean-looking style that perfectly complimented the simple but oh-so affecting story. They said they would like to try a longer project with the same process, but still need to work out different aspects such as color, etc. Even if you weren't going to go see Wreck-it Ralph (which you should, because it looks great also,) Paperman is worth a trip to the cinema.


One of my absolute favorite panels brought three of the Imagineers responsible for Disneyland Paris (among other projects too numerous to mention) together to share stories and reminisce about their mentors in the company.


Tony Baxter spoke at length on his appreciation for Claude Coats' openness to the ideas of others, and his unflappable attitude towards the constantly changing nature of his projects--his faith that a given creation would ultimately be fine, although probably different from what he originally envisioned. His specialty was creating environments which were real, and which made good park rides.


Eddie Sotto gave a presentation on Herb Ryman--emphasizing his genius in placemaking and his insistence on research as an essential tool in grounding fantasy with elements of authenticity.


One part I found fascinating was when Sotto pointed out a pair of nuns Ryman drew for a movie storyboard...


...That seem to turn up in quite a variety of places...


It could be speculated that either Ryman was periodically placing them in the background of various renderings as an inside joke, or those two nuns wound up perpetually traveling the globe in their jeep.

The only negative about the panel was the time constraints--although the audience would happily have sat through a talk twice as long, it was clear that Tom Morris could have spoken longer about the two legends he knew personally, Marc Davis and John Hench.


Hopefully they'll have these guys back again soon...maybe for a Disneyland Paris event?

Of course the first concert of the weekend, Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix, was wonderful. There isn't much to be said about Dick Van Dyke, except to hope that he keeps performing forever...which from the looks of him, seems entirely possible.


Among the many exciting panels of the next day, watching Andreas Deja effortlessly sketch out a number of his trademark characters was a definite highlight. Also: If you're the person who found this sketch under your seat? I hate you.


Any time you get a chance to hear from the Disney voice artists, it's always a good time--from the genial jocularity of Bill Farmer (Goofy,) to the gentle mannered tones of Lisa Davis (Anita,) to the...sounds...of Chris Sanders (Stitch.)


Davis recalled her casting as developing from a movie she did (Queen of Outer Space) with Zsa Zsa Gabor, who apparently proved to be a touch difficult, which led Davis to developing a satirical impression of her. Disney heard of this and thought it might be an interesting take on Cruella, and had her come in to read lines, while he read Anita. Quickly perceiving that she was much more Anita than Cruella, she suggested a switch and subsequently had a wonderful time preparing for the role by playing with puppies they brought in for her, in the Hyperion Bungalow.

An absolutely astounding moment was when Marge Champion was presented, as the original live-action reference model for Snow White.


Looking at her, there is no way you are going to think this woman is 93 years old. Clearly her years of activity as a dancer has stood her in good stead.

And then there was the grand finale, as Alan Menken brought it all home with a phenomenal concert. The raised seating in the back of the room was just lousy with Disney Legends, all out for a marvelous night.


(While sitting in the row in front of luminaries like Tony Baxter and Richard Sherman was good for photos, it became slightly terrifying as waves of adoring fans came racing over to greet them, clearly completely unconcerned if they had to stomp on your head to get to them, a la Gene Kelly's death in "What a Way to Go!")

Menken gave a great performance. I found that through the years, I've heard some of his songs from Mermaid or Beauty so frequently, that I actually ceased to pay attention to them anymore--they had just become part of the audio wallpaper of the parks. To really listen to them again was to remember just how good they are, and why they are played so frequently, even today.


In sum, it was a really fun weekend. The presentations that revolved mostly around video clips were a little problematic, because in this day of YouTube, it's hard to find footage to show that everyone doesn't have readily available to them...but it's always fun to see Back to Neverland or Song of the South on a big screen again.

Sunday was definitely lighter in programming than Saturday, and here's another pet peeve of mine: All throughout the show, they kept hammering at us that they listen to what everyone says, and scheduled fewer talks because people complained that they wanted more free time to socialize and use the facilities. Really? People want to pay that much for an event, and then more than anything, want to have free time? Even if they did, why wouldn't they just skip the panels in which they weren't interested? I would think that for a person who doesn't attend a presentation, there's no difference whether the content is scheduled or not--asking them not to schedule it only means no one else gets to see it. Why is it I can't see more stuff, just because you want three hours for dinner?

If the thought of waiting in lines forever at Expo gives you the vapors, but you still want to experience presentations on Disney past, present, and future, the Destination D series is a great option. You're guaranteed a seat, although people still line up for hours to jockey for location, so the stress level involved is much lower. The emphasis is on historical content however, so if you come expecting new and ground-breaking announcements about future projects, you're likely to be disappointed. For people who want to see and hear about the Legends--the creators who were there at the beginning of the Disney company, when animation was new, and theme parks were only a fool's dream--it's a treasure. A gift of lore and anecdotes from people whose pride in their work and their association with the company shines through even 20, 40...80 years later.

Don't take too long pondering over whether to attend the next one, however, because many people and their stories are gone already, and unfortunately none of us are getting any younger...with the possible exception of Dick Van Dyke and Marge Champion.


August 13, 2012

D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features: Day Two


Day One

OK, a handful of hours later, and we're back for more, at day 2 of D23's Destination D!


The day started off with animation historian Jerry Beck and animator Eric Goldberg's presentation on Wacky and Wild Disney Animation. Many of the more surreal segments of animation (such as Pink Elephants on Parade) and some of the earlier Mickey Mouse cartoons, in which he was depicted as doing comically uncomfortable things to Minnie and barnyard animals.


Next up was animator Andreas Deja, who, in Drawing with Personality, showed examples of many famous animators' drawings and pointed out how their drawing styles evolved and what their strong points of design were. He then drew several drawings which were later given away by the time-old "taped under the seat" method, and asked the audience to draw Jafar as a child.


After a short break, we came back to Tinker Bell: The Evolution of a Disney Character. In this panel, animation historian Mindy Johnson introduced us to the creation and maturation of the Tinker Bell character, revealing her new discovery of Tinker Bell's facial model, former ink and paint girl Ginni Mack. They were joined by Tinker Bell's body model Margaret Kerry, and the voice actress and director of Tinker Bell's new movies, Mae Whitman and Peggy Holmes.



Following lunch, a star-studded panel awaited in Hearing Voices: A Salute to Disney Voice Artists--Kathryn Beaumont, voice of Alice and Wendy; Lisa Davis, voice of Anita in 101 Dalmatians; David Frankham, Sgt. Tibbs from 101 Dalmatians; Bruce Reitherman, Mowgli and Christopher Robin; Bill Farmer, Goofy; and Christ Sanders, voice of Stitch.


The last presentation of the day was Snow White: Still the Fairest of Them All. In celebrating the first animated feature that made all the rest possible, Tim O'Day presented Marge Champion, live-action model for Snow White, Alex Rannie, animated musical historian, and Gabriella Calicchio, recent CEO of The Walt Disney Family Museum .


But wait! It wasn't over yet! To top off all that had gone before, the weekend culminated in an amazing concert: An Evening With Alan Menken. Playing parts of various songs he wrote for Disney and non-Disney productions throughout his career, the songwriter and Disney Legend played piano and sang for over 100 minutes to a completely rapt audience. If you weren't there, man, I feel for you, because it was fabulous.


Next time: The event in overview.

August 12, 2012

D23′s Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features: Day One



Another year has rolled around, bringing us once again to D23's Destination D weekend. This time out, the theme is celebrating 75 years of animated features with a plethora of panels discussing Disney animation of the Past, Present, and Future.

To welcome us in, Steven Clark, head of D23 gave a short address, which was then followed by a dancing flash mob.


When they finally concluded, a taped message from John Lasseter was played, pumping up the excitement for the upcoming weekend.


The first panel started off with memories of Walt and the First Golden Age of Disney Animation, with people who were actually there: Animator and Disney Legend Burny Mattinson, animator and producer Joe Hale, and documentary director/son of Disney Legend Frank Thomas, Ted Thomas.


Subsequently, came three panels during which all photography or recording were forbidden. The first was Roy E. Disney and the Second Golden Age of Disney Animation, in which Roy Patrick Disney, son of Roy E. Disney and former Imagineer; producer Don Hahn; animation producers John Musker and Ron Clements; and creative director/head of special projects Dave Bossert, discuss how Roy E. ultimately saved Disney Animation, and by extension, the company.



Upcoming animation projects were presented in the panel Inside Walt Disney Animation Studios Today.

One of the movies discussed was Wreck-It Ralph, the movie about a character's existential crisis, as experienced by a character in a video game.

Another was the work-in-progress Frozen, a contemporary musical film, loosely based on the Snow Queen. We were treated to a performance of one of the songs "Let it Go," which will be sung by Idina Menzel, from Wicked.

We were also given the first public screening of paperman, the new short film that will play before Wreck-it Ralph. It displays a new melding of CG and hand-drawn animation, in which the hand-drawn features are layered on top of CG renderings.


The next presentation, The Greatest Disney Animation You Never Saw, played videos that have been relatively scarce for some time. The preshow to the old Art of Animation attraction in then-MGM Studios, Back to Neverland, with Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite was one, along with footage from Song of the South.

Animating the Disney Parks was a terrific talk with the ever-entertaining Imagineering senior vice president Tony Baxter, talking about his mentor, legend Claude Coats; former Imagineer Eddie Sotto talking about his mentor, legend Herb Ryman; and Imagineering vice president of creative development Tom Morris discussing likewise legend Marc Davis and John Hench.


The evening closed out with a concert and screening: An Evening with Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix, and a screening of the director's cut of Walt & El Grupo.


Dick Van Dyke is still amazingly spry for his 86 years, and if he occasionally has a senior moment during the performance (the song list of which was pretty similar to their performance at the Expo last year,) it detracts nothing from the enjoyment of the singing or his not-inconsiderable charm.

The documentary of Walt's goodwill trip to South America with his band of artistic talent is the product of Ted Thomas and producer Kuniko Okubo, and is a great look at all these famous Disney film makers when they were in their prime, and at the height of their talents.


Day Two coming up!

August 8, 2012

Lights...Camera...Magic!: Hooray for Hollywood! Adventures by Disney


Recently Adventures by Disney invited AllEars to experience their newly-launched day tour, "Lights...Camera...Magic!" This trip takes guests from the Disneyland Resort, up through many sightseeing attractions in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and ends with an exclusive tour of the Walt Disney Studios.

After an early-morning welcome in the lobby of the Grand Californian, our cheerful guides Hanneke and Natalia led us onto the bus, gave us bottles of water, and introduced us to our coach driver, Don Tate.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

The guides are well-versed in the Disney Way, as they also work as VIP guides at Disneyland's Guest Services, and lead the week-long Backstage Magic tour as well.

As the bus started the long (often painfully slow) drive to Hollywood, we were entertained by cartoons playing on the overhead monitors, broken up with the guides occasionally pointing out different landmarks and discussing a variety of Hollywood triva.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

After about 1 1/4 hr, we arrived in Hollywood. Welcome to the Dream Factory!

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

We disembarked at the Hollywood and Highland Center (belongings could be left on the bus) and walked through to get a good view of the famed Hollywood sign. In preparation for heading out onto Hollywood Blvd, we were told a little about the Walk of Fame (costs a mere $30k to get your star!) and cautioned about the people selling CDs and photos with off-brand characters.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

One of the decorative elements of the Hollywood and Highland Center is the pair of large elephants referencing the DW Griffith film "Intolerance," and whose slightly smaller siblings used to be seen in DCA.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

[At various points in the tour, we were treated to some special moments/gifts from the guides that were not mentioned in the official itinerary. In the interests of "keeping the magic" (and not raising expectations in case these change from tour to tour,) I'm glossing over those. Suffice to say, you are likely to take home some special souvenirs of your time in Tinseltown.]

Although we were right across the street from the Disney theater El Capitan, we were not taken over there. I thought this was an unusual choice--on the one hand, it seems likely that people who are at Disneyland and taking a Disney tour might have an interest in going there, and on the other hand, I was somewhat relieved that they were going for a more authentically-grounded tour and not just trying to detour tourists to their own properties.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

We had an 11:00 appointment to tour the Dolby Theater (where the Academy Awards are held each year,) so that left us about 10 minutes to walk the half a block down to the Chinese Theater and take a few photos.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Depending on the date, there may be some event happening at the Dolby, in which case I believe they would substitute a tour of Grauman's Chinese Theater instead.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Inside the Dolby Theater, there were no photos or recording allowed. Our tour guide there, Gary, was really good at pointing out interesting design elements of the theater, and regaling us with anecdotes of the stars. I desperately wanted to ask him to say "...this is the perfect job for me, because I LOVE THE MOVIES!" but didn't have the nerve.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

We walked through the lobby, saw the VIP lounge where the Dolby Oscar is kept on display, and got to sit in the members' area of the theater (currently being used for Cirque du Solei's show "Iris.") Later, we were shown some of the concept art for the fabulous Governor's Balls that are thrown each year, every time having a different theme.

After that was concluded, we reboarded the bus and Don took us on a narrated tour of Hollywood as we drove down the Sunset Strip to Beverly Hills, pointing out such landmarks as the Chateau Marmont, Whisky a Go-Go, and the Laugh Factory.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

We eventually arrived at Beverly Hills. Can you smell the money?

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Driving down Rodeo Drive, he pointed out many of the fine shopping establishments available, where a suit might set you back a mere $5k.


Turning down Wilshire, we arrived at the Original Farmer's Market at around 1pm, and were given a $15 gift certificate and 90 minutes to eat lunch. Depending on what sort of food you were looking for, this might easily cover the cost of your food, or be somewhat insufficient, given the wide variety of choices there.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Although the Farmer's Market is attached to the Grove shopping center, the gift certificates were only good at the Farmer's Market side. If you had time, you could of course wander over there, where Extra films each day, to try to catch a glimpse of a star.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

The Farmer's Market is, of course, represented with facsimiles in both DCA and DHS.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

At about 2:30pm, we met back at the bus and Don then drove us over to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. The drive took about an hour, during which we watched the Leonard Maltin tour of the Studios, as seen on the "Walt Disney Treasures - Behind the Scenes at the Walt Disney Studio" DVD.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Once there, we were given some historical background on the studios, and then shown around the exteriors of a lot of the main buildings.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

We were also brought in to see the hallways of the Animation building, and the underground passageway featured in TV's "Alias."

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

A few minutes were allotted for us to shop in the Studios' store, where they have some merchandise exclusive to this location...

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

...after which we were able to take a quick look around the interior of Soundstage 2, where they are currently filming "Body of Proof." Note: If they are actually working there, the tour will not be able to go inside. In either case, photos inside are not permitted.

We then zipped inside the Frank Wells building for a quick look at the exterior displays around the Archives.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Following that, we headed over to the Legends Plaza, where there was time to take photos with the beautiful Blaine Gibson statues and have some refreshments.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Adult beverages along with some custom-made cupcakes and hors d'"uvres were served as we perused all the handprints of the many extraordinary individuals that combined their efforts and talents to produce all the Disney creations we enjoy.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Finally, about 6pm, it was time for us to regretfully clamber back onto the bus, where Don braved the rush hour traffic to deliver us safely back at the Grand Californian.

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

Is the tour worth it? Always a subjective judgement, however there's a lot to like about this tour. I hate driving in the Hollywood traffic more than just about anything except paying for parking, so to have someone else deal with that is worth quite a bit. Every time you get on the bus, they have cold bottled water available for you, and virtually every time you get off, they have a restroom stop located nearby. It's not a cheap tour, and is definitely targeted towards the luxury travel market, however they do a great job of making the whole sightseeing affair hassle-free.

There is a fair amount of walking on the tour, particularly up and down staircases in the theater tour and throughout Hollywood and Highland--not strenuous by most people's standards, but considerable if walking is typically a chore for you. There's also a considerable amount of time on the bus, between driving to and from Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Burbank--probably around five hours in total. When the tour started, they included dinner at Gladstone's in Malibu in lieu of the reception in the Legends Plaza, but switched it out because it added probably another couple of hours of driving onto the day.

Another useful aspect to the tour is that, for families considering longer ABD tours, this can be your gateway trip, to see if traveling with Disney is for you. Chances are however, for the Disney lover, the answer will be an expensive "yes."

Lights...Camera...Magic! Adventures by Disney

The pricing on the tours is $199/$189 for Adults and Children, with a $10 AP discount. The tours started this year, in January, and are given three times a week, currently Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

July 28, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con 2012: Now With Even More People, Part 2.


So another panel I attended was on TRON: Uprising--the new animated series based on the popular Tron universe.


Taking place temporally between the original TRON film and the recent TRON: Legacy, the show promises to fill in the events that led up to the changed situation Sam finds on the Grid, and the metamorphosis of Tron himself.


The panel was moderated by Variety Film Editor Josh Dickey, and included Creator Charlie Bean, Producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, voice actors Elijah Wood (Beck), Bruce Boxleitner (Tron), Tricia Helfer (The Grid), Art Designer Alberto Nielgo and Lead Character Designer Rob Valley.


They answered some brief questions about how they liked the TRON movies and came up with the new voices for the series, and then showed clips from an upcoming episode hinting at the eventual corruption of Tron. When asked if Wood's new character would be added to the film series, they could only say that a sequel to TRON: Legacy is currently in the works.

Subsequently, they raffled off some signed light discs, which Boxleitner threatened to send methods.


TRON: Uprising plays on the Disney XD channel.

Finally, the last big Disney property I saw being represented was the highly anticipated "Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two" video game.


[I actually already covered some of the game information/mechanics as was displayed at the E3 Conference earlier this year: My E3 Blog.]

Representing Disney and Junction Point (the game development company headed by Warren Spector and now part of Disney Interactive Studios,) were DC and Marvel comic book writer Marv Wolfman, game designer Warren Spector, Director of the Walt Disney Archives Becky Cline, and veteran comic book writer Peter David.


As the panel began, all the members were presented with their very own embroidered Oswald ears, which they wore with varying degrees of pride and chagrin.


They started off by showing their opening video, setting up the game and showing off some of its immediate differences from Epic Mickey 1. (ALL TALKING! ALL SINGING!)

Some of the introduced themes: Does everyone (the Mad Doctor) have the possibility of redemption? Or is some evil too profound to be redeemed?

Choices in the game also have a bigger impact as changes you make to the game environment, constructive (paint) or destructive (thinner,) have persistence and long-ranging consequences for the course of your story. They estimate the game may take something like 10-15 hours to complete (or half a year, if you're as bad at platforming as I am,) but that you have to play it three times to see everything.

Cline went over the story of Walt Disney losing Oswald to his distributor, Charles Muntz, as depicted online in Prominent Oswaldologist Morgan Ditta's video "Oswald's Story."

There was, of course, a happy ending 80 years later, in real life, as Bob Iger traded sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC for the rights to Oswald. Peter David: "So you're saying we almost sat here wearing Al Michaels ears?!"


Wolfman spoke briefly about how amazing he found it, being the person to write Oswald's first spoken dialogue in 80 years. "...I don't know how a mouse and a rabbit are brothers..." Spector interjected "...and he has a cat girlfriend!" "...but you accept it, because they also wear pants."

David then described the graphic novel he's writing which tells a number of tales about the Wasteland and Oswald, and which should be out around the same time as the game (November 18.)


There will also be a Nintendo 3DS version of the game with an entirely different narrative, and numerous 16-bit gaming tributes, including references to "Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse"

They ended by emphasizing that they've tried to follow John Lasseter's advice to them, to make games for everyone, as Pixar strives to make movies for everyone. Spector also remarked that virtually everything in the game is inspired or references something real from Disney history, and that he's waiting for a fan to make a definitive list for them, because they don't have one.

July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!


This is my country! Land of my birth!
This is my country! Grandest on earth!

It is amazing to think that over half of the year has passed by, and we've already seen the launching of a new cruise ship, the opening of a new resort, the 20th anniversary of one Disney park, and the rebirth of another.

What difference if I hail from North or South
Or from the East or West?

With so much more to come for the rest of the year, it's fitting, perhaps, to take a day to reflect on exactly how fortunate so many of us are, to be able to be at this place, in this time; in a country that, although it certainly has its plethora of problems, was founded on principles of freedom and equality--principles I feel sure were intended to be extended to all, regardless of wealth, or color, or location, or inclination.

Tomorrow, we can continue to fight and argue about all the socioeconomic tragedies that are as much a part of America as its victories. For today? Happy Independence Day.

This is my country! Land of my choice!
This is my country! Hear my proud voice!
I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,
For this is my country! To have and to hold.

[This, and many more great Disneyland videos by Fantasmiceddie24 can be found on YouTube.]

July 2, 2012

D23 Presents: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.



Jeanine Yamanaka and Jason team up for this tour of the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Contributing photographer Jason of sends us these photos from his trip to the Reagan Library on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

Jeanine here--I also attended, and will be putting in my oar occasionally, between Jason's great photos.

This afternoon we had a great opportunity to preview the upcoming D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives at the Reagan Library.

For those that do not know, the Reagan Library is located in Simi Valley which is about 45 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles.

Jason got the easy drive this time--anyone coming from the Disneyland area probably has a minimum of a two hour trip each way, assuming you don't hit a lot of traffic.

Once the group had assembled we made our way through the museum entrance and then cut over to the Disney exhibit.

Time to head in. We had just under 2 hours to walk and photograph the exhibit. Which may sound like a lot but in reality it was not. The exhibit covers over 12,000 square feet featuring over 500 items.

Before having free roam a brief introduction. In the center of this picture (sorry for the darkness no flash allowed in this first room) is John Heubusch the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

Photography and video were permitted throughout the exhibit, with a restriction on flash photography in the first gallery.

Steven Clark the Head of D23 was also on hand to welcome us.

I thought it was appropriate to start at the beginning. Here is Walt's birth certificate.

Skipping ahead to Walt's Laugh O Gram Business.

A look at Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

A couple of telegrams about Oswald.

So here's one of mine, showing the end of the telegraph and Walt's reply. What I love about this exchange is that a) you can totally see what a jerk Mintz is, and the foreshadowing of his grab for Walt's business, and b) how reasonable Walt is trying to be, up to the end, where he clearly can't take any more of Mintz's lame suggestions, and just says "forget the monocle."


The next case had the animation script for Steamboat Willie.

Drawings by Ub Iwerks, typing by Walt Disney.

As well as some Brave Little Tailor sketches.

The next room featured an animators desk.


How is this for a collection of books.. these are the restored handmade books from the opening shots of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

Across the way a wall featuring the famous drawing of Disneyland.


So I can't even tell you how much I love this map. It is unbelievably detailed and huge and gorgeous, and you can't even imagine that Herb Ryman drew this thing in a weekend. If you look closely at it, you can see tiny ducklings wandering around in the Jungle Cruise, and boys rolling hoops down Main Street.


I'm not saying contemporary concept art is bad, but as the farmer said to the chickens, when he showed them the ostrich egg, "you can see what kind of work is being done elsewhere."

Walt's Formal Office has been recreated. This time to the exact dimensions and arrangements (unlike the version we saw at Disneyland for years).

Here's a link to a panorama I took as well.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The original Model T from the Absent Minded Professor.

One of my favorite galleries was right after this--the "Magic Room." It had an abundance of props and memorabilia from The Shaggy Dog and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, including a prop portrait thought to be done by Herb Ryman, and Tommy Kirk's magical ring of the Borgias!


Might there be a hidden but familiar item in Emelius Browne's display? You'll have to go to find out.


Babes in Toyland

After this first set of rooms upstairs you head down stairs and into an expanded area that was constructed just for this exhibit. They actually cut a whole in the wall of the library to build this extension that sits in a tent structure.

In this axillary area, are most of the larger set pieces, from mostly contemporary properties.

To the right, 101 Dalmatians costumes and props.


Next a series of cases with the costumes worn in the Annie Leibovitz pictures.

This Tinkerbell worn by Tina Fey.

And Peter Pan by Mikhail Baryshnikov

A large gallery includes a number of costumes from a variety of recent movie/TV/theater productions.

The other side had some Enchanted costumes, and one from the Fairy Godmother in the 1997 ABC TV movie worn by Whitney Houston.



Moving on some Marquettes used for Alice in Wonderland.

Around the corner props and costumes from the film.

Next up Tron.. this is from Tron Legacy.

Thought this was interesting... not from the film but from DCA...

Both the lightcycle and the big lit "FLYNN" sign are from the lately departed ElecTRONica event there.

Some of the original Tron costumes from the 1982 film.

Next up the Avengers.

These would probably have held more significance for us, except that Jason and I are probably the last two people in America who have not yet seen the Avengers...

The next area has some Theme Park items..


This was apparently the start of the area themed to "things from the Island of Downsized Attractions."


Thought this was an interesting corner.. the dragon head from Fantasmic, Mickey from the Mickey Mouse Revue and in the background a Country Bears poster.

From the original Golden Horseshoe show and the Country Bears at Disneyland.

One of Slue Foot Sue's original costumes.

Next up a Haunted Mansion display featuring mostly items from Walt Disney World.

The tombstones chosen for display are the ones for Yale Gracey, X. Atencio, and Marc Davis.

The center area was for Pirates.. starting where it all began with the attraction.

Then moving quickly into the film.

This rounds out the lower level.. time to head back upstairs.

The next room was basically a small tribute to the second Golden Age of Animation for the Disney Company, focusing on the Ashman/Menken films and Pixar.

Next up a room with National Treasure items.

The National Treasure room, with its faux-Presidential connections, then leads us into...

This takes us to the last display room of the exhibit. On the left hand side busts of all the presidents from the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World (first time all have been on display together)

Amazing to think that Blaine Gibson sculpted everyone one of these, except that of President Obama, who came along after he retired.

The other side of the room features mostly items from the Reagan Library collections.

The walls had letters from presidents to Disney and photographs of presidents at Disneyland/WDW and other Disney interactions.

The ear hat has "Mr. President" embroidered on the back, and was a gift to Reagan from Disney. Replicas are sold in the gift store.

A particularly adorable letter from Amy Carter on her favorite character. I suspect she got her picture.

The one piece of EPCOT memorabilia present. We have to assume the rest of it's getting boxed up to go for EPCOT 30.

Moving on to the last room.
It featured this display of the Team Disney Building (the Eisner building) in Burbank and featured another video that I did not have time to watch.

I made an extremely quick pass through the gift shop. Some pins for all you collectors. The gift shop had a decent crowd and we did not have time to browse/photograph items.

I actually found the shop before our exhibit time started, so I got a few photos then.


Mainly Archive items, with mostly pins, shirts, and a catalog specific to the exhibit.


They also had a plethora of copies of Dave Smith's new book Disney Trivia from the Vault, and Bob Gurr's Design: Just for Fun on hand, for the D23 signing later that evening.


Our time in the Disney exhibit was up, it was 4:30 and time for the D23 Members event, so we exited.

On my way out, I ran into Steven Clark and Becky Cline, whose hard work with D23 and the Archives has made this impressive exhibit a reality.


Did a quick tour of Air Force One before 5:00pm and closing. For more pictures of the museum and Air Force One visit my site..

One last picture on the way out. Here you can sort of make out the tent structure that was added and the stairs leading to it for the Disney exhibit.

So ultimately, should you go? Granted, the drive from the Disneyland area is long and occasionally painful, it's a great exhibit filled with many items never seen before. Having said that, a lot of it did seem somewhat familiar--the first room, detailing Walt's early life and career was very similar to galleries you could find in the Walt Disney Family Museum. Some of the Oswald-specific items were recently displayed at the E3 convention. A few of the costumes and props have been shown at the D23 Expos and on the Disney Studios Tours.

If, however, you didn't/don't have a lot of time and opportunity to attend all these different events, then this is definitely your best bet to see a comprehensive collection of artifacts spanning the length of the Walt Disney Company's existence. I think if you were determined to read everything and watch all the videos, it would probably take you a good 3-4 hours to do it all. There is also an audio tour available as well, although no one I spoke with had listened to it, or knew how long it went (estimates were for 45 minutes.) Although I didn't have an opportunity to check out the rest of the Reagan Museum, it seems as though that could easily take up another few hours to fill out a day trip there.


Frankly, I think Disney is missing out if they do not produce some sort of a shuttle between Disneyland and the exhibit at least for the Destination D weekend--I'm sure this would be of interest to a great many attendants who might not have the means or the motor to get there.


The exhibit D23 Presents: Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives will open to the public July 6, 2012, at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93065. Tickets, which include regular admission to the rest of the Reagan Library can be purchased online at or at the box office. General admission is $21, with discounts for seniors, youth/children, and military. The exhibit will run there until April 2013.

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, Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.

June 25, 2012

Brave: Now Playing at the El Capitan Theatre


June 22, Disney-Pixar's new movie Brave opened at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.


For Brave, the El Capitan experience comes complete with a live stage show--this brand new one involves many of the classic Disney/Pixar characters in a musical salute to Hollywood's 125th anniversary.


The small cast performs standards including "Be A Clown," "Cheek to Cheek," and "Another Opening, Another Show."



As a finale, they head to Scotland to lead into your feature presentation...


Culminating in the presentation of the girl of the hour.


Following the show, the short La Luna, and the feature film Brave are presented in Disney Digital 3D, and Dolby® Atmos™ for excellent video and audio clarity. For a review of this visually stunning film, I direct you to Deb's recent blog

After the movie, patrons are invited to head next door to Disney's Soda Fountain and Studio Store, where a plethora of merchandise is available for purchase.


At the Soda Fountain, you can partake in the "Brave" sundae, with shortbread, strawberry cheesecake ice cream, strawberry syrup, marshmallow, and whipped cream. Alternatively, if you want a little more time with Merida than the show provided, you can enjoy breakfast with Merida in a package that includes a ticket to the movie for afterwards.


All in all, El Capitan once again provides a terrific evening of entertainment in an elegant setting. Anyone looking to see Brave during its run there (June 22-August 12,) should certainly consider it for a first-class time.


El Capitan Official Website

June 11, 2012

Cars Land and Buena Vista Street: A Preview.


Just in case you've been living under a vow of hermitry, and recently finished, Disney California Adventure Park is re-opening this week, with a new direction, entryway, and showcase land, Cars Land. It's been in previews since this weekend, and already the internet is abuzz with photos and video from the spandy-new areas, with more to come as the media previews continue through this week, leading up to the grand unveiling on June 15th.


I had an opportunity to attend one of the AP previews this last weekend. For $75, we were allowed into Buena Vista Street (BVS) and Cars Land from 6pm-11pm. In a word, the new areas are spectacular.


Throughout BVS, there is an incredible attention to detail that really catapults you back to 1920's, when Walt Disney turned up in Los Angeles with little more than a suitcase of ambition.


As you walk further down the street, you seem to move a bit through time, until you get to the Carthay Circle where Snow White premiered in 1937.


Towards the end of the street, is the elegant Elias and Co. department store, which is not a little reminiscent of the departed Bullocks Wilshire.


Walking through some of these stores, it seems incredible that only a short while ago, their theming could best be described as "tacky," and now...


Across the way, there's a charming cafe where Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream used to be.


Inside, the walls are decorated with photos and posters of the singing trio for which the cafe is named.

P1060036.JPG might want to take the stairs that night...


Cars Land is no less impressive. There are three ways to enter--through a bug's land, opposite the Vinery, or through Pacific Wharf. We were let in through the latter, and if you were going for the first time, it definitely packs the biggest visual impact.


It's hard to convey what a awe-striking vista awaits you. In a way, I'm almost sorry that the walls around the land will come down, because walking through that tiny door into that huge landscape was remarkable.


The impression of vastness is so great that for a moment, it hardly seems believable that you're still in a theme park. And for that matter, only in a part of what used to be the parking lot for a theme park.


The main drag of Radiator Springs is charming by day, but gorgeous at night.


There are three rides in Cars Land: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi's Flying Tires, and Radiator Springs Racers.


Junkyard Jamboree is a spinning ride with an interchanging turntable mechanism similar to Cars Quatre Roues Rallye in the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, but with the addition of a swinging variable, as the riders sit in a...thing that a tractor pulls.


It's a pretty fun, somewhat low-key ride. The main detriment is likely to be the wait time, as it didn't look to have a huge capacity and like Dumbo, you have to wait through each cycle of riders before advancing in line.


Luigi's however, is a little problematic. Based on the old Flying Saucers ride, you board a huge inflatable tire that is puffed up on jets of air. You steer it by leaning in one direction, although they're quick to tell you that if you lean too much, it will act as a brake and you'll stop. What they don't tell you is that it's not just a matter of steering--if you don't/can't imbalance your weight enough, that tire is not going anywhere. I think the caution on leaning too much is probably for two riders, where there's more weight to throw around--with one person, you actually need to slide over to one end or the other of the bench to make it tilt enough to go. Unfortunately, it seems to take more than one ride to really get the hang of this, and until you do, the ride has all the fun of waiting for Dumbo, without actually getting to fly anywhere.


Talking with a CM, it appears that they almost expect guests to not enjoy it that much the first time, but figure that with practice, it will grow on them. I would be concerned that the wait time--likely to be even worse than Jamboree, because of the greater complexity of mounting and dismounting the giant inner tubes--would put people off trying it again, once they sat there motionless the first go-through. The beach balls are there apparently in the hopes that people will try to reach for them, shift their weight by accident, and start moving. In the initial designs, the tires had a joystick that also enabled the guests to spin, but which were removed because the guest assumed that they were there for steering and got frustrated. I would suggest replacing them--at least then, if someone is too light or otherwise unable to get their tire moving, at least they could spin in place, which would be something.


Anyway, on to the new "E-Ticket" attraction, Radiator Springs Racers. What surprised me about this ride, was the vague impression I had held that it was primarily a thrill ride. It is primarily, from my viewpoint, a dark ride, similar to the ones in Fantasyland.


In theory, it resembles Test Track quite a bit, with the indoor part having quite a few call-backs to various moments from that ride, and then a brisk outdoor segment. In reality, the experience is so much better, you can only think that Test Track looks like kind of a gyp next to it.


Without totally spoiling the whole thing for you, there are a number of variables throughout the ride that combine to make it highly repeatable. Again, the amount of detail that has gone into this is amazing--from almost all the cars inside being animatronic, to leaves rustling when characters you can't see are supposed to be moving beside you, to an entire mini-recreation of Radiator Springs. The outdoor environment is beautiful, and just as impressive.


If you time it right, you might even see the Disneyland fireworks from the ride.


So altogether, thumbs up on Jamboree, huge high-five on Racers, and "needs improvement" on Tires. Admittedly however, I did manage to ride Tires again as the last ride of the night, and it was actually much better. I'd encourage more than one ride-through on that, if the lines aren't prohibitive.

Finally, there's the food.


The main eatery is Flo's V8 Café--a counter service with carving-station style entrees and small wheel-shaped pies.


I found the roast beef surprisingly good--not nearly the tough, dried out specimens you so often get with quick service food. The mud pie was more reminiscent of a flourless chocolate cake than a pie, but was tasty, if rich. The main problem here, as was with all the eating facilities in Cars Land, was the wait--the line stretched along the outside of the cafe almost to the main road. After a CM takes your order and marks it down on an order form, you then get to wait in line inside for a register. Then, after paying, you get to wait yet again at the counter for your food. The difficulty here is that if you happen to get behind someone ordering for a party of 90, you may end up sitting there forever while they get all the things for that order complete, while further away on the counter, you can see what is likely your order waiting haplessly for its turn.


One thing you can say for Flo's however, is that the views are admirable. This may ultimately work against it, as people will likely be tempted to rest here indefinitely throughout the day, taking up what are already a fairly small number of tables.


The other main eating facility is the Cozy Cone Motel.


This is an adorable-looking place that ends up to be something of a functional nightmare. Each cone sells approximately one thing--popcorn, churros, pretzels, ice cream, or cone-centric entrees--requiring families (or individuals for that matter,) to stand in multiple lines if they want more than one thing. Each cone has one window, so the processing time is, to say the least, lengthy. Unfortunately, behind the the decorative-only lobby of the Motel is the main seating area, whose handful of tables takes up at least half of the room between the building and the cones. Between the snaking lines that overlap to the point of needing tape on the ground to separate them, the tables, and the occasional strolling vendors hawking popcorn and soda to the people starving to death in line, the area back there becomes almost impassible at peak times. I have no idea how good the food is, because not even for Kathy Mangum's famous "Chili Cone Carne" was I going to wait in those lines.


So in total, I would have to term both new areas of Disney California Adventure big successes. Not for some time has Imagineering been given the scope and budget to create environments this immersive and attractive. Coming from the old DCA where the overwhelming theme seemed to be "made for profit," these are huge improvements likely to draw the big crowds DCA has always wanted.

The crowding is likely to be the worst part of it, however--a lot of these areas have very limited capacity in an almost Potteresque manner, so forewarned is probably forearmed. My best advice: Use the single rider line in Racers; head for cycle loaders like Tires and Jamboree first; consider skipping Tires if you don't have time to ride it more than once; try to eat somewhere else entirely unless you can tag-team the food lines; look at everything, because details are everywhere; and enjoy this golden moment of redemption in DCA's history.


Disney at E3: It's an Oswald World After All.


For people not familiar, E3 (or the Electronic Entertainment Expo,) is an annual video game conference that takes place at the Los Angeles Convention center that showcases games, gaming platforms, and gaming accessories that will be coming out to market in the next year.

This time around, Disney had a fairly large presence, largely showcasing their big game for the year, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.


Whereas the last game had the player taking the role of Mickey, sometimes opposed to the bitter and vaguely antagonistic Oswald, this game has the two working together with synergistic abilities, giving the player the ability to swap between them during gameplay.


Game designer Warren Spector gave a few talks during the course of the show about some of the changes players can expect from the first game: No longer a Wii exclusive, it will be coming out (on November 18, no less,) on the XBox 360 and the PS3 as well. Changes made to the environment will no longer be reset on revisiting the same area later in the game--decisions made are permanent, and irrevocably affect the course of the game. The camera movement, a large source of complaints in the first game, has been retooled. Most interesting for those of us not big-time gamers--everyone talks this time!


David Garabaldi and George Anzaldo also gave performances, painting and dancing simultaneously together to illustrate "The Power of Two."



There was also a large display of Disney memorabilia (much of it provided by the Disney Archives) as it pertained to the properties featured in the games: Oswald, gremlins, and Mickey.


In case you doubted Spector's devotion to the property, a good portion was also from his private collection.


Oh...and there were the ears.


As a promotional giveaway, the booth gave out free personalized Oswald ear hats. This rapidly became the hit of the show, and the line to order them grew to almost completely encircle the booth. They gave you a time to come back and pick them up and finally...


They showcased a number of other games as well, of course, including their companion to the upcoming movie of the same name, "Wreck-it Ralph."


In a Tron-esque move, the movie was based on an old video game "Fix-it Felix Jr.," and now the movie has inspired a completely new game that has been designed to be the old game from the movie.


They also had a bar giving out Vitamin water to promote their terribly successful mobile game "Where's My Water," which will be coming out with new levels, and a spin-off "Where's My Perry," from the series Phineas and Ferb.


In the back, hidden, oddly enough by an abundance of foliage that attracted the attention of a swarm of gnats by the end of the show, was a display of their other upcoming movie tie-in game, "Brave: The Video Game."


A platformer that will be available on most gaming systems, it does have spoilers in the cutscenes, so it may be advisable to see the movie first.

So it looks like a good year ahead for Disney if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have to finally go finish Epic Mickey 1...


June 6, 2012

Disneyland Paris: Special Events with the Disneyana Fan Club.


Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

Part of my trip to Disneyland Paris was under the auspices of the Disneyana Fan Club ( who put together a multi-day group program, centering around the 20th Anniversary festivities. The last time I traveled with them was for Tokyo Disneyland's 25th Anniversary some years ago, which was also a terrific trip.

The first full day of events took place on April 11, the day before the anniversary. It started off with lunch at Inventions--a fabulous buffet in the Disneyland Hotel.



After lunch, we convened in the Founder's Club--an executive lounge in the hotel--to see presentations by Tracy Eck, Art Director of Lighting Design for WDI Paris, and Disney Legend Tony Baxter, who served as Executive Producer for the creation of Disneyland Paris.


Both presentations were wonderful--Eck gave several details about all the work the park had recently undergone to get ready for the celebrations, particularly the large fiberoptic Tinker Bell sign on the train station entrance, the recreation of the previously-eroded pirate ship, and the creation of a few newly themed meet-and-greet locations.


Baxter spoke of the many trials and tribulations that beset the Imagineers when they were creating the park, and some of the cultural adaptations they made to better suit the park to the surrounding populace. Realizing people residing in France were likely to be all too familiar with the real castles which serve as inspirations for the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom castles, they styled the castle to better reflect that of a fairy tale aesthetic.


He also recounted some of the hidden in-jokes and homages they put in. He remembered that when the Imagineers were remodeling the Fantasyland in Disneyland Anaheim, the doorway out of Village Haus Restaurant had a beam going down the middle that forced them to place the Exit sign off to the side (which he thought looked terrible.) To try to cover it, he painted an image of Figaro with a rope tied to the sign, trying to pull it to the center. In Paris, the equivalent restaurant, Au Chalet de la Marionnette, had no such problem, so as a nod to the original, Baxter had another Figaro placed giving a thumbs-up to the onlooker, as if to say "we got it right this time!"

He noted that it would be a difficult reference for anyone to get, because you'd have to have seen them at each park. Only I, your strange little Disney friend, have traveled across two continents to bring you this trivia.



Afterwards, we were surprised with a presentation of all the Disney Parks Ambassadors from around the world, gathered together for the first time in anyone's memory to celebrate the occasion.


And if that weren't enough, a couple of other guys who happened to be traveling through popped by:


...Frequent Disney Artists, Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily!

The next day, after the anniversary excitement of the morning, the group arranged lunch for us at the beautiful Walt's, on Main Street.


The decor inside is magnificent--each room is decorated in the style of one of the separate lands. We happened to eat in Adventureland.


Joining us for lunch was Chief Operating Officer of Disneyland Paris, Joe Schott, who graciously said he was happy to spend part of such a momentous day with people who had traveled so far to experience it.


He seemed very invested in finding ways to constantly improve the park experience for his guests and spoke briefly on the difficulties of putting together the various components of the new anniversary attractions in the short ~two years since he had been appointed his position.

For our final special event, on Friday the 13th, no less, they arranged for us to enter the park before opening to have breakfast in front of the Phantom Manor.


Unfortunately, the weather that day, as most of the other days, was freezing cold, so the decision was made to move it indoors. Fortunately, it was moved into the Lucky Nugget Saloon which proved to be a gorgeous venue on its own.


The food, alas, was identical to the somewhat limited fare the hotel served for its breakfast buffet each day, but a few familiar faces turned up to enliven the event.


After a photo in front of the Phantom Manor, that concluded the exclusive part of the trip. There were a number of other meets to watch various parades and shows as a group, but these were the activities they arranged that were special to the club.


While the Disneyana trips aren't cheap, they do provide some experiences that would be difficult or impossible for you to arrange on your own, and they also offer the chance for people new to travel or the area to enjoy the support system of a group. I have enjoyed both trips I've taken with them, and would encourage anyone interested in their events to check out their webpage.

Next: The Big Day Arrives.

May 11, 2012

A Window for Disney Legend Alice Davis


On May 10, the Disneyland Resort honored Disney Legend Alice Davis with her own window on Main Street, USA--one of the most important acknowledgements the company gives to individuals who have made significant contributions to the park.

Davis worked in costuming and was originally brought into Disney to create a Briar Rose costume for the live-action reference model Helene Stanley, during the making of Sleeping Beauty. She later went on to research and design costumes for many of Disneyland's seminal attractions such as It's A Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean, about which she occasionally quips "I went from dressing sweet children to dirty old men."


Davis' window was placed next to that of the late Marc Davis, one of the original "nine old men" of Disney animation, and Alice's husband of 44 years.


The ceremony started off with the Dapper Dans performing several numbers as the audience arrived.


Beneath the concealed window were several displays of Davis' work.


What is evident at a close-up view, is how detailed all the costumes are, and all the work that went into making them look perfect from every angle.


Davis has related that she asked Walt what her budget was for all the Small World costumes--he responded that they didn't think about things like that--that she was just to dress the dolls so that every girl from 10 to 100 years old would want to play with them. Coming from a background where toys were sparse when she was young, she counted this as one of her favorite professional projects.


As the program started, both Disneyland Resort president George Kalogridis and Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs said a few words honoring Davis and sharing some of her remarkable accomplishments.



Staggs' talk was quickly derailed however, when a marauding band of pirates broke onto the scene looking for Davis. After having spent half a century in the same clothes, they were looking to see if she could whip them up something "a little more fashionable."


Not getting a favorable response, they settled on serenading her with "Alice Davis, She Put the Pants on Me," sung to the tune of "Yo ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me."


Staggs eventually wrested control back from the pirates, who took a last shot at him by remarking on his suit, to which he responded, "Alice didn't dress me!" "We can tell," they retorted.

Mickey Mouse then came out and they finally uncovered her window with a blast of streamers.


...And Alice and Marc were once again reunited on Main Street.


Finally, Davis herself took the podium and said a few words of thanks. She said she would always walk down Main Street, look up at Marc's window, see the blank one next to it, and hope that someday it would be hers. "I was wishing for it, and wishing for it, and today, the Day has Come."


She further noted that she was most proud of all the many friends that she had made and which were present in the audience as they represented real wealth to her. "For years, both Marc and I have had the great pleasure of bringing great fun and joy to people, and that was the Jewelry of our Heart and it will always be."


Kalogridis then presented her with a minature version of the window for her own, and the Dapper Dans returned to sing "When You Wish Upon A Star" to close out the ceremony.


It was a lovely ceremony, and a well-deserved and long-awaited honor to a fabulously accomplished Imagineer. Congratulations Alice!

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About Jeanine Yamanaka

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Jeanine Yamanaka category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Jason Dz is the previous category.

Laura Gilbreath is the next category.

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