Thursday, October 28, 2010

Visiting the Pixar Studios: the Best Part of Disney

Living in Northern California, it often feels like you're in the ugly step-child part of the state. Southern California has everything, from Hollywood, to beaches that aren't freezing cold, to Disneyland the the Disney Studios in Burbank.

Me with Luxo Jr. at the Pixar Studios. It was cheesy, but I wore
my Woody backpack and Disney family museum t-shirt. I had
to get into the spirit. 
Though the southern part of the state may have be flashier, the north doesn't lack in substance. We've got Apple's headquarters, the Disney Family Museum, and the best part of Disney's movie division, Pixar Studios in Emeryville, CA, just outside of Oakland. Step-child: maybe. Ugly: definitely not.

I was lucky enough this past August, through a friend of a friend who's now my friend, to get a tour of the parts of the Pixar studios that aren't off limits (AKA, everything that's not carpeted).

They were constructing a new building when I visited, so I didn't get to go through the glamourous front gates, but instead through the back. The first thing I saw when I got on the lot was a Tesla charging up. Pretty fancy.

I got my name tag, found a parking spot and made my way to the front doors of the studios. It was here I met my host, who pointed out to me the window of John Lasseter's office. I was window-star-struck, probably for the first time.

I was then taken into the building, which had a huge wide open hardwood-floored area. On the left and the right were the wings of the building where the people at Pixar got down to business, and where I was not allowed. I then went up the stairs to the second level, where concept art, models and various other things used to bring the ideas of Pixar's genius to the silver screen. It was striking to see the beautiful art, intricate models and complicated storyboards, most of them from the most recent release, Toy Story 3. I also caught a glimpse of Peter Sohn, the man who's face was Russel in Up's inspiration. The resemblance was glaringly apparent.

I was then shown the screening theater, where I have never seen a more vibrant picture and heard better sound, and I was only in there for a few minutes. It was then on to the hall of fame, where all the famous actors who have worked on the Pixar movies left their signature. Larry the Cable guy signs every time he visits.

After this, it was lunch time, where I had many delicious options to choose from. Pixar is known for its amazing chefs, and if that's not your thing, there's an always-open cereal bar. It's a big hit with the employees. Speaking of employees, all the interns were dressed up like 80's glam rock stars, adding to uniqueness of the experience.

Time for the gift shop, a small room filled with great, very affordable merchandise. I'm used to the high prices of Disneyland where the shirts are all $20, and that's a bargain. Here, I got 6 shirts, a couple of stickers and a handful of only-available-at-Pixar posters, all for around $60. The woman running the store and I struck up a quick friendship, as the atmosphere at the studios seems to breed friendliness.

My tour was over, and I had one last thing to do. Take a picture with the Luxo Jr. Statue.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Different Lands and What Makes Them Magic

Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World each are one central park, but within those parks, the different lands enable you to go from turn-of-the century America, take a couple of steps, and enter the future.

Fantasyland Popcorn, brought to you by the Abominable Snowman 
I'm talking about going from Main Street U.S.A. into Tomorrowland, of course. The most blatant signs of entering the new lands are of course the signs and drastic changes in architecture, but Disney does so much more to ensure those couple of steps transport you into a different world, or land, technically.

My personal favorite, something that I've loved since a child, are the different characters that are turning the popcorn machines at the popcorn stands, by the Matterhorn it's the Abominable Snowman.

The Cast Member's costumes change, from classic American styles down Main Street, to jungle wear in Adventureland, to futuristic garb in Tomorrowland. One thing that doesn't change is the food, for the most part. In certain parts of the park there are specialized food vendors, like the Dole Pineapple spears for sale at the Tiki Room entrance, or the Mint julep and Fritters offered in New Orleans Square. You can always find a good Turkey Leg or Mickey Mouse shaped dipped ice cream. It's the vendors that always match the style of the land.

The Haunted Mansion popcorn ghoul
A recent blog post by Chip and Company points out the change in music from land to land. This is even more apparent from attraction to attraction, like Space Mountain's futuristic score to the classic Yodeler's theme at the Matterhorn. A frequent visitor to the park can close their eyes and let their ears tell them where they are. Sometimes when I'm missing the park, I listen to A Musical History of Disneyland, it always puts me right there in the parks, not matter where I am. It also reinforces the idea that music makes the lands.
Sometimes I look to my nose to tell me where I am. On Main Street, the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor always smells of waffle cones. From what I hear, they pump out an artificial smell. It doesn't matter to me, as the smell always tastes better than the cone. In New Orleans squares, it's the fritters, by Splash Mountain in Critter country, it's the chlorine from the log flume, near the train stations it's the smell of the train's smoke.

No matter where you are, there's always one sense besides sight that will tell you where you are in the park.

What's your favorite part about your favorite land?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Walt Disney Family Museum: Bringing Disney Magic to the Bay

I'm a huge Disneyland fan, but grew up in a conflict of space. My quaint little hometown of Auburn, California, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, is 443 miles away from the original Disney park. Now I know that for many, that's close. But when I was young, that 8 hour drive seemed like an eternity, especially going through the heart (more like lower intestines) of California on the 5.
Walt's academy awards for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, one
of the few things at the museum I could take a picture of

So a couple of years ago, when I heard that, on Oct. 1, 2009, the Walt Disney Family Museum would be opening in San Francisco, only a mere 2 hours from my home, I was ecstatic. Then I realized that I would be at college in Arizona when it opened, but that's another story. In short, for the Disney die-hards that are a little disgruntled about the left-field-location of the museum, now you know how it feels.

I took my first trip to the museum, located in a renovated building in the Presidio, during my winter break in 2009-2010. Boy was I impressed.

Having just finished Neal Gabler's Walt Disney bio (Fresh AirInterview on the book)the previous summer, I was ready to see a visual representation of everything I had just read. From the beginning, listening to old tapes of Walt talking about his past, to his first go at animation with the Alice series, to the animation process and his entire life post-fame, the museum gave me everything I expected.

Old posters from the park at the Museum

There's so much to Walt's extremely complex life, and the museum, owned by the Walt Disney Family Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Disney's heirs (including Diane Marie Disney, co-founder of the Museum), does an amazing job at giving the real story of Walt's life. With such an abbundance of false information about the man floating around out there, it's comforting to know there is a museum  that exists to tell his story.

My personal favorite part: the model of "Walt's Disneyland," a fascinating display of the Disneyland of Walt's mind, depicting different aspects of the park that that never existed  togetherat one certain time. On my second trip, I spent almost an hour examining and reexamining it.

With it's wide array of events, a trip back home will always include a trip to the museum.    

If you've been to the museum, what was your favorite part?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tron: Legacy: Anything but "Cheesy"

A remake of "Tron," the 1982 film that only made $33 million, is not something people saw coming. From the perspective of most young people, the only way they know of Tron is from the viral videos of Tron Guy.

The new Daft Punk/Tron Legacy poster
But Disney has done a great job reintroducing the movie to a new generation. Its upcoming sequel "Tron: Legacy," looks like one of those franchise reboots that gets people excited. Its initial trailer that ran before "Toy Story 3" this summer was very well done, with the recent ones only heightening the excitement.

 I have never even scene the original "Tron," and I feel like for most people who will see the upcoming "Tron: Legacy," their situation is similar.

Disney knows this, and has pulled out all the stops to make it a non-issue. They've instituted the new ElecTRONinca nightly dance parties at Disney's California Adventure park and have also made a replica of Flynn's arcade. Over at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot at Walt Disney World, the area will be made to mimic the interactive, digital world of Tron.

To get people who may look at "Tron" and go "that's just a cheesy kids movie" to take a closer look, they hired Daft Punk to write the score, and from what I can tell from the first trailer, the French duo have don an excellent job.

Disney got Jeff Bridges to come back, who, back when he made the original film was an up-and-comer, is now an Oscar wining actor. Olivia Wilde, former star of "The O.C" and currently featured on "House" will attract the teen audience, and also makes it more difficult to label the film as "cheesy."

The tone of the film seems to be dark and ominous, which translates to me as epic. It looks to have a triple threat: action, great special effects, and a gripping storyline.

Usually, I'm none too pleased with the film part of the Walt Disney Company (Tangled looks average, Pirates of the Carribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl's style and epic-ness seems similar to what this new "Tron" film will provide, but then they gilded the lilly with the second two) unless it's got a Pixar credit to it. But with this new Tron film, I'm excited.

Does "Tron: Legacy" and its tie-ins to the parks excite you, or is it just another overdone integrated marketing campaign from Disney?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disneyland Shanghai construction to start soon. Yay?

After all the eminent domain disputes (or whatever they call it in China), and the general complications that come with building an American park in inland China, unidentified sources have revealed that construction on Disneyland Shanghai may begin as soon as November.

If you're like me, you look at this skyline and go "That could really
use a Disneyland."
As of now, no construction can happen until the conclusion of the World Expo on October 31. Though an official spokeswoman for the Disney Company made it seem as if the unidentified source was just spreading rumors and here say.
According to, her statement was "Final discussions between Disney and the Shanghai government are not yet complete, and detailed negotiations to produce a final deal will continue for a number of months."

Whenever the construction starts, the 286 acre park will not be completed until 2014 at the earliest, with a more likely estimate being 2015-2016.

Not that it even matters. I've never been to a foreign Disney park (though Florida seems a little foreign to a kid from California), but I've read enough about them. After being to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and experiencing what a lousy interpretation of Walt's original Disneyland it was, I can only imagine how bad a post-Walt-built-only-for-profit-park-that's-not-even-operated-by-Disney could be. 

Let's look back at the history of international Disney parks. The most notable: Euro Disney, which has since changed its name to Disneyland Paris. Why did it change its name? Because the thing was a bigger flop than a whale being dropped out of a helicopter. It has only recently become profitable, which isn't something that I personally care about, but considering it was built purely for profit and not for anything else (Other countries don't build replicas of their famous attractions and tourist destinations in the US– unless it's part of a Las Vegas Hotel), it was a failure in the greedy eyes of Michael Eisner. At least Disney still maintains full ownership. 

Then there's Hong Kong Disneyland, owned by Hong Kong International Theme Parks. Walt would have loved that. And Tokyo Disneyland, the one that made Disney parks an international operation back in 1983, is run by the Oriental Land Company. Ca-ching!

Come the end of the decade, Shanghai Disneyland will be up and running, making money, and doing what the modern Disney company does so well: stretch the Disney name just a bit to thin.

Are  you excited of dismayed that planet Earth will get to see yet another Disney theme park? 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Taking your experience to the next level: Disney Park Tours

So you've been to the park dozens, maybe hundreds of times. You can describe the scenes from the Haunted Mansion down to the finite details. You pose for every on-ride-photo. Sometimes, you put a blindfold on and see how far you can get in the park with just your memory as navigation. You're running out of things to do.

A tour guide enlightens her audience on
"Disney's Keys to the Kingdom tour
What's next? Time to book a tour with the plaid patterned Disney tour guides. What tour is best for you? Depends on how much time you want to spend. For beginners, there's the "Welcome to Disneyland Tour." It's 2.5 hours and goes through the two parks and Downtown Disney. 

But you know that stuff. You could probably give the tour yourself. You actually did that one time, and you really convinced those people you were the real thing. Good job with the plaid skirt, by the way, that was authentic. So now what?

I personally haven't done it yet, but for the pros, there's the Backstage Magic tour.  You get to see the behind the scenes operations at all four the Walt Disney World parks. At 6-8 hours and $250 a person, it's for the truly dedicated.

If that's not for you, there's around 20 other tours available to you at the Walt Disney World resort, each with their own specific focus.
The classic tour guide look

I have a confession: I've only been on one tour. I'm 19, I've only had so much time. This coming Spring/Summer when I will be participating in the Disney College Program at The World, I hope to get as many of them under my belt as possible.

The one I have taken was the "Walk In Walt's Footsteps" tour. We got to see up close a flower from the Tiki room, took a peak of Club 33's lobby, were enlightened about half-basketball court in the Matterhorn and overall had a great time. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and exciting. If this tour was an indicator of the caliber of quality the other tours exhibit, I hope to experience every one of them.

Have you been on a Disney Parks tour? Which tours do you hope to go on?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

R2D2 Mickey Mouse ear hats? Yes Please!

Star Wars is a big part of my life that often crosses over into the Disney part of my life. Every time I go to Disneyland, "Star Tours" is always one of my first stops (Except this next trip, because it's closed in prep for Star Tours II. We'll see how that goes).

The new and highly coveted R2D2 ear hat
Last time I was in Anaheim, I got a Yoda backpack, a plush E-wok and Yam Solo. This christmas my mom got me a Yoda flash drive. Back when I was young and nieve, I was Jar-Jar Binks for Halloween (Admittedly, I still don't hate the guy like everyone else did/does). More so than even the plots and story lines of the movies, the characters that inhabit the Star Wars universe fascinate me. 

So earlier today, when I read about the new R2D2 Mickey Mouse ears hats, I was pumped. Apparently, yesterday when they went on sale, everyone at the parks were just as pumped as I was, because they sold out almost immediately

I found the design to be a great blend of Vinylmation ingenuity and Star Wars originality while still capturing the classic essence of the ear-hats

I've always thought that the Disney parks and Stars Wars were a match made in space heaven. I will miss the old Star Tours, but am excited for the new one. Plus, with the new opening, Disney will no doubt be putting out a steady stream of new Stars Wars inspired merchandise, like the new R2D2 ear hat.

I can't wait until next summer, when I'll be in Orlando for the Disney College Program during the next Stars Wars Weekends. 

Will you be picking up a new R2D2 ear hat on your next stop to any of the Disney parks, and are you excited or on the fence about Star Tours 2? 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Disney Cruise line voted #1 By Readers of Traveler Magazine

I would like to start off by saying Duh. Of course the Disney Cruise line won. It's the best, and I'm not saying this because I'm obviously biased towards anything that's Disney. I'm actually more critical of anything with the Disney name on it than anything else, quite like an older brother who holds his younger sibling to higher standards because he loves him more than anyone else.

I've been on two cruises in my lifetime: a weeklong Carnival cruise I took when I was fourteen, the other a three day Disney cruise when I was 12. Obviously, my 12-year-old perspective differs from my 14-year-old perspective which differs even further from the 19-year-old perspective that I'm writing from now. That doesn't seem to matter much, as even now I look back on my Disney cruise experience with a much higher regard than my Carnival one.

The Disney cruise was much more focused on entertaining the family. It had many more activities that could either be done by the whole family or ones that were designated for just adults, just children or just teens. The ports we stopped at were much more exciting (the Carnival cruise was in Mexico, the Disney in the Bahamas), due for the most part because of the stop at Castaway Cay.

Like everything, Disney had great attention to detail when it came the the nuances. With their new cruise ship, they will have virtual portal holes. Expensive: probably. Worth the money? Definitely.

The thing that separated the two ships the most was the Disney Cruise Line's lack of a casino. What a waste of space dedicated to only one faction of the audience. Carnival felt like it was a ship designated for adults that served as a floating babysitter for the kiddies. Boo. Plus the water slide wasn't even working. Double Boo.

I know that Carnival isn't the only competition for the Disney Cruise Line, but I'm going to go ahead and say that it is a fair representation of what the Disney Cruise Lines have got that the others don't.

So am I psyched for the new Disney Dream? You bet.

What are your favorite nuances of the Disney Cruise Line's ships, new and old?

Disneyland, the Cliché

A few months ago, I signed up on Google to get daily "Disneyland" and "Walt Disney World" news updates. I figured it'd be an easy way to keep up with the daily happenings of the two resorts. In a way it was, but it revealed quite a bit more than just current Disney parks info.

Walt giving his opening day speech at Disneyland
It turns out publications across the country have a love affair with comparing things to Disneyland. "It's the adult version of Disneyland" or "It's the Disneyland of [fill in the blank]" blah blah blah.

I guess people just aren't that creative when it comes to comparisons. Instead of getting a daily e-mail about Disneyland, I get one about cliches. I've learned a lot more about how journalists and bloggers across the country all use one comparison when they want to get it across that whatever they're talking about is some entertainment mecca, or more specialized and fun than everything else out there.  Just like if the Winkelvoss's had invented Faceboook, they'd have invented Facebook, if "it" was the "Disneyland" of its whatever, it'd be Disneyland.

It's not just that it's overused, it's misused. Disneyland, according to Walt's vision, is for everyone. That's why the park has events ranging from "Bat Day" where people who dress in what is labeled the goth style congregate at the park to the MLB All Star Parade down Main Street U.S.A. There is no demographic that any of the parks target specifically.

Disneyland is the Disneyland of Disneyland.
A quick trip to the Disney Store this past weekend left me with some new water bottles, a pre-ordered copy of “Toy Story 3,” and Buzz Lightyear t-shirt my girlfriend picked up (in a child’s large, they don’t make them for people my age, the original Toy Story fans).

The label showing just how organic
the Disney Store t-shirt really is
We were satisfied with our purchases to say the least, but when we got back to our dorm, my girlfriend made a discovery. Accompanying the size on the printed on tag was a label, certifying the shirt 100% organic cotton, with two paragraphs of explanation below it. Normally, t-shirts only go so far as labeling the material. This shirt took a whole different approach.

The two paragraphs of explanation told us the specifics of the organic nature of the cotton, and directed us to a website:

I checked out the website, and it was gorgeous. It had some great animations, and a space where I could put in the unique number the Buzz shirt came with. It had different areas I could explore, each being a part of the process that brought my shirt from a cotton field to my hands. Though, I do feel each explanation was a tad bit too general.

The idea is a great one, and the fact that it’s not highly publicized makes it even better. Obviously, it is very trendy these days to be environmentally friendly and green, and many companies use it as a marketing strategy.
The website the label directed to

Apparently Disney decided not to take this route, even though their idea is better than everyone else’s and their website more enchanting. It’s good looking, informative, and entertaining. The site looks like they put a lot of work into it, even though it’s a website that takes a little digging to get to.

This is just another factor of the Disney company that makes it one of the most innovative, influential companies in the world.

Do you feel that it’ a great, yet subtle marketing camping, or a green gimmick?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Is Epic Mickey Good for Disney's Image?

The Disney company is taking a huge risk with their upcoming video game "Epic Mickey," where they reinvent the most iconic cartoon character, giving him a darker edge.

I was definitely skeptical when I heard that the mouse that started it all would go from a bright pastel color palette to a darker, more goth one.

Now that I've read up on the game, the last thing I am thinking about is the image change. It goes so far beyond that, into a world of old cartoons, attractions and Disney lore.

According to, Mickey is "stuck in ‘Wasteland’, a world ruled by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (Mickey’s Predecessor). Wasteland is a grim version of Disneyland, and it’s filled with forgotten characters and attractions." Depending on the actions taken in the game, Mickey can either come out as a purveyor of good or doer of evil.

The world's creator is Yen Sid (based on good ol' Walt), and is based on the theme parks. It takes a huge amount of inspiration from the older work that Walt worked on and labored over. It's full of Disney history and will no doubt reintroduce a new generation to the classic characters that made the Disney company into what it is now.

The Christian Science Monitor posed these questions in a recent article: "Will Disney turn off potential gamers who prefer the Mickey of old? Will the game be dark and intriguing enough to appeal to "core" gaming audiences? And, perhaps most importantly, given flagging interest in the mouse, does Disney have a choice?"

I will answer those questions in order:

1. After enlightening myself on what the game was really about, I do not think the game will turn off "potential gamers who prefer the Mickey of old" as this new Mickey is dark for a purpose, not just for shock value. I'm not even a gamer, and I want to get my hands on this.

2. The game seems to have the right mix of great story telling and intriguing gameplay that it will satisfy experienced gamers.

3. Disney did have a choice, and I think they made the right one. This dark version of Mickey isn't replacing the new one, he's complimenting it.

A recent trip to the Disney store proved this to me. The new bags feature retro Mickeys and Minnies, along with a wide array of new merchandise. Disney knows that the new Mickey makes some Disney enthusiasts uncomfortable, and they are counterbalancing by bringing back the classic Mickey everyone looks fondly upon, and I applaud them for it.

Are you excited by Mickey's new image and accompanying videogame, or is it a step in the wrong direction for one of America's most iconic characters?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The new Retro Mickey/Minnie bags at the Disney Store at
Fashion Square Mall in Scottsdale
Disney On Ice! When it came through Phoenix in April
Vinylmation in a window display on Central and Camelback in Phoenix

A Tobacco Indian, like the ones on Main Street and in Frontierland
in downtown Scottsdale
Sparky, who, as legend has it, was created in Walt's
image, and, fact has it, was created by a former Disney

MAC Villain makeup at the MAC store at Scottsdale Fashion Square

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy 55th anniversary, Disneyland Hotel!

Today, one of the most storied hotels in the history of lodging turns the ripe old age of 55.

Not that it has very much time to celebrate, seeing is it's currently going through an enormous renovation.

The Disneyland Hotel of the 1980's
The hotel has always been a great place to take a break from Disneyland, offering free entertainment to those who don't go through Disneyland's gates.

It's been a staple of my visits to Disneyland for as long as I can remember. Having dinner at one of its restaurants before Downtown Disney offered so many options, navigating one of the remote control boats in its mini harbor and enjoying The Fantasy Waters show, the predecessor in a small way to "World of Color" at DCA.

Or maybe taking a walk behind water at the hotel's waterfall feature, or watching in wonder the hundres of beautiful koi swim around in their giant koi pond. My family never missed a character breakfast at the Monorail cafe.

In fact, the last time I took a trip to Anaheim we staid in the hotel. We had the good luck to be upgraded to a suite right over the waterfalls, with a great view of the koi. I'm glad we did, as the alluring fish were one of the first old features to go during the renovation. (See the pictures I took from the room here)

Right now, the park is under heavy construction, putting in new suites such as the Mickey and Pirates of the Caribbean suites.

I can't forget how I used to salivate over the Disneyland hotel pool when I was younger. The plans for the new pool almost made me salivate to the point of dehydration.

There have been many Disney hotels built since, from the Grand Californian that went up with DCA, to the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World, but nothing will ever compare to the original, in every from it has taken over the years.

What are you most excited about concerning the renovations and what will you miss most at the Disneyland Hotel?

In a genius promotion, MAC Cosmetics has teamed up with Disney to create the Venomous Villains collection of makeup inspired by three classic Disney villains, and the bad guy from "Princess and the Frog."

On a recent trip to Scottsdale Fashion Square mall, I passed by the MAC store (not the Apple Store) and noticed some Disney villains staring back at me. I had remembered reading about it, so I decided to go and check it out.

Despite my overwhelming masculinity, the lady behind the counter and I struck up a conversation. She told me that, to prepare for the promotion, Mac sent their trainers to Disneyland to envelop themselves in the Disney magic.

In the near future, she told me, Disney will also be having a promo party at a local hotel where guests can dress up as their favorite Disney villains.

It was great getting a taste of Disney here in AZ, and even though there's was a Disney store nearby, I still enjoyed the dose of Disney magic.

As one of the pictures in the slideshow depicts, some of the makeup has already sold out, even though it's only been on the shelves since last Thursday, the 30.

As a man, I can't indulge in this new promotion, at least not in public. Do you see your makeup drawer getting a tad bit more villainous in the near future?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Disney Mountains: Splash Mountain

Today marks the 18th birthday of Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, the second of three Splash Mountains to have been built at the Disney Parks.

Splash Mountain at Disney World during refurbishment 
The ride, based on the now banned-in-the-U.S. "Song of the South," was built at the original Disneyland in 1989 to muster more foot traffic in the often empty Critter Country area of the park, and to incorporate audio-animatronics from the lightly attended America Sings.

Ever since, the ride has enjoyed great popularity and often long-waits, especially in the heat of summer.

Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
For many, "Song of the South" is a movie they know little to nothing about, but that doesn't matter, as the dark ride portion of the attraction tells the story. The music also provides some fine entertainment, making you forget that the only way to get off the ride is to be dropped into the briar patch.

Br'er rabbit's escape from the claws of Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear is always a fascinating story to watch develop, even if you know nothing of Uncle Remus and his stories.

While the finale, with all the different critters singing "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" on the steam boat always puts a smile on my face. Almost as good is watching them sing it while on the Disneyland/Magic Kingdom Railroad. You don't have to get wet or wait what through what is often a 60 minute line.

To me, it doesn't matter that the movie is not a story I'm super familiar with or that parts of the ride seem a tad bit out of place. The complaint could be put out there that it's a very basic log flume ride, but I feel that the great songs and characters that take you through the flume make up for the ride's lack of uniqueness.

How do you feel about the fact that the rides based of a little-known movie or that it's a generic log flume?

Internet and gaming division to the Internet division and Gaming Division

The New York Times reported today that "the Walt Disney Company shook up its underperforming Internet and gaming division on Sunday, effectively splitting the unit in two and tapping two outsiders to lead the businesses."

Big deal, right? We care about the parks not about Disney's bottom line.
Disney's website getting a makeover?

Disney's website will no doubt be experiencing a makeover in the coming months
Well, kind of.

Like it or not, the decisions of top executives at Disney have a trickle down effect on the parks, unless they make a decision directly dealing with them. In that case, it's more a super-soaker kill shot at the castles.

Plus, if you're doing research about the parks or just want to be

reminded of their wonder, a visit to any of Disney's websites always offers a pinch of magic. They hope to turn that pinch into a dash, maybe even a tablespoon. Can they do it?

Not if they keep on making ridiculous acquisitions like Club Penguin or Tapulous. Sure, they are cool websites, but were they started with the Disney spirit in mind? No, they were not, and they weren't bought because of the the spirit, either.

Disney is one of the most powerful brands in the world, and it has been since the earliest Mickey Cartoons came out. Creating things like "World of Cars" and changing the image of Mickey Mouse to fit in with the new videogame ""Epic Mickey" do one thing: dilute the brand.

At one time, the company had a specific thing that it was known for: being innovative, taking risks, and overall putting out an unparalleled product. Not anymore. Check out the Metascore of "You Again."

If Disney can create groundbreaking websites and game changing video games then I will welcome in the new products with open arms.

But they won't.

They will make more acquisitions with the intent to appease stockholders by increasing their monthly dividends (Well, not all of them: I have a couple hundred Disney shares, and I'm writing this).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

You favorite Disney Parks attraction, now a major motion picture

Ever since "Pirates of the Caribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" made upwards of $100 million at the box office, Disney has been pumping out movies based on Disney Parks attractions. "The Haunted Mansion," starring Eddie Murphy, which I think we can all agree was a terrible movie is now being remade with director Guillermo Del Torro at the helm. I think we can all agree that it will be a much better film, but that's not the point.

From the "Country Bear's" adaptation, to the upcoming Jungle Cruise movie to the fictional Matterhorn on HBO's "Entourage," the idea has been that if it's a popular ride at the basis of a plot, a popular movie can be produced. Well, now there may be a movie based on an entire park. Good idea, right? One popular ride makes a popular movie, but what about a park full of popular rides as a plot-point? Move over "Avatar," your B.O. records are about to be obliterated.

According to, "Ronald Moore ("Battlestar Galactica") has written a draft of the script but the studio is looking to develop it further with a new writer before moving forward."

The film's plot will be Disney's take on their newly acquired Marvel's "The Avengers," with all the popular Disney characters making an appearance. Sounds interesting enough, and Ronald Moore does not seem like the kind of cheap talent that Disney usually picks to pen their studio-system movies.

Is this a great idea for a movie, or a great idea from the marketing department to promote the Disney Parks?

Disney and the Dark Ride

Dark rides are classic Disney park establishments. From Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Sorry, WDW) to Pinocchio's Daring Journey to everyone's favorite, Peter Pan's Flight, dark rides make the Disney Parks what they are.

Concept art for The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure 
Part of the charm of the dark rides is that they take riders back to the day the park was open, as most of the  Fantasyland dark rides in Disneyland have been there since day one. The rides not only take us through the scenes of the movie, they take us through the world that Walt saw. All the classic dark rides are of movies Walt was there to produce, direct or have some hand in.

Concept art from The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure
Which leads us to the modern dark rides. In a day and age where Disney parks have roller coasters that go from 0-55 in three seconds, can drop you in countless different schemes, or give you a unique experience with dinosaurs or Dr. Jones every ride, taking a trip through black-light painted wooden scenes can be less than thrilling.

Modern dark rides, such as Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and of course, the newest and yet to be opened The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure.

Monsters, Inc. and Winnie the Pooh are space fillers and nothing more. They're great for the kids and due to the success of the two movies the rides are based on, will always find an audience. But they're one-and-done attractions.

From the information that has come out about the new Little Mermaid dark ride, the vehicles are supposed to be a omnimover (doom buggy style) take on the overhead track Peter Pan ships. If they can pull this off right, it should provide a unique experience that modern dark rides are not known for. We'll just have to see how the imaginears lay the scenes out.

Are you excited to see one the most revered modern Disney animated films be brought to life via dark ride, or do you feel it's just going to be another space filler? Will they keep you coming back like Peter Pan's flight or are they a one-and-done ride like Pinocchio's Daring Journey?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Great Castle Debate

Over the years, Disney castles have become some of the most photographed structures in the world. From the real-life castle at Disneyland Paris, to the blue-spires of Cinderella's castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, to the original Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, the castles have become symbols of dreams and wonder. But not all castles are created equal.

Cinderella's castle in Orlando is easily twice as large as the original Sleeping Beauty's castle in Anaheim, with the structure of the castle in Tokyo being identical. Then there's Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant in Paris which is made of real brick and stone in an attempt to keep its own with the real castles of France. Who knows what we will see in Shanghai.
Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Everyone has a favorite castle, and I would bet that it's the one they witnessed first. For me, It's Sleeping Beauty's pearl-pink fiberglass masterpiece that Walt planned himself. For most east coasters, it's probably Cinderella's towering fortress.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland 

I have not been to any foreign park, but I can say without doubt that the Parisian castle would leave a deep and lasting impression on me.
Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland
I'm what I refer to as a "Disney originalist" which means I  favor things that were created by Walt himself. Basically, I hold everything to the standard of Disneyland, since that was the only park Walt got to see the completion of.

Recently, I have been distraught every time I see a new Disney movie. It hasn't been because everything that isn't Pixar or "The Princess and the Frog" has been terrible but because of the new opening sequence that features Cinderella's castle is some type of marsh/lagoon landscape.

The modern opening I am not a big fan of.

I find it showy and unnecessary.  The opening I grew up with, with the silhouette of Sleeping Beauty's castle and a shooting star arcing over it was magical in its simplicity. (The original 3D one with the original "Toy Story" is by far my favorite.) The new one is only interesting before 3D movies, and besides the castle, I wonder what any part of the sequence has to do with the Disney company.

The opening I grew up with.

The fact that they ditched Walt's castle and replaced it with the one he never saw seems emblematic of how far the company has strayed from Walt's vision, and it sadden's me.

What's your favorite castle?

How do you feel about the new Walt Disney Studio's opening sequence?

What removing the Maliboomer means for Disney's California Adventure

The Maliboomer being deconstructed, piece
by piece

Today, the dismantling of the Maliboomer begun. An iconic ride at Disney's California Adventure, the towering structure will no longer be a part of the Anaheim skyline.

But what was it iconic of? The park itself? Thrills? Fun? Paradise Pier?

Wrong wrong wrong and wrong. That's a 0/4. You just failed the rhetorical question test.

To me, and many "Disney originalists," the Maliboomer was a sky-scraping monument to how DCA was not something Walt would have approved of.

As I posted on MSM's facebook page ("like" us, please), Walt dreamt up Disneyland as a sort of anti-amusement park, a clean haven for adults and children alike.

Basically, to have a park for people who weren't big on rides like the Maliboomer.

Up until the current renovation (video), and even still a little bit today, Paradise Pier is the antithesis for his parks. And the Maliboomer, with it's not frills, barebones drop-zone ride format was the epitome of everything Walt rebelled against.

With the new, 1923 throwback style, Paradise Pier may have enough charm to overshadow the fact that it doesn't belong in anything with the Disney label on it.

Apparently it's not only me who feels this way about the 'boomer. It's replacement: a glorified patch of grass.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2011 D23 Expo to put on official Ultimate Disney Trivia Tournament

Having an official Disney fan club has been a great thing for us Disney fanatics, and now one of us will be able to have validation of our supreme domination of Disney knowledge.

According to The O.C. Register, "D23 officials made the announcement at its DestinationD: Disneyland ‘55 event."

There will be a lightning qualifying round on Aug. 18 and the finals will be held on Aug. 19.

The O.C. Register further reported that "Fans will be tested on all aspects of Disney — from park parades and T.V. shows to Walt Disney’s family history and company merchandise. Potential participants can practice with questions, which will be posted on the D23 website."

I'm going to be frank: I could win this. Not to brag, but I am the reigning Disney Trivia champion from the 2002 Disney Cruise I took, along with my mother. We still have the gold medals to prove it.

I've always been a competitive person, and some official validation of my Disney knowledge who be a great stroke to my ego. I think it's a fantastic idea that Disney is doing this, and it will be a great addition to the D23 expo.

How do you think you would do in the challenge? In other words, would you come in second or third place to me?