Sunday, July 29, 2012

It All Started With a Pin of a Mouse

Pinterest is old news, which is why I am writing this blog post about it. I simply enjoy wasting people's time.

I started a personal Pinterest way back when it was a semi-challenge to get an invite. I pinned some stuff, gave it a chance, and then, like so many other one-trick social networks, I stopped giving it any attention.

Then I realized that a majority of the things that I was either posting or sharing on Main St. Monitor's facebook fan page (which you should like!) were photos. People love photos, I love photos, and Disney has so many amazing photos floating around the internet, just waiting to be appreciated. Facebook was a good place to share them, but not the best place.

So I sent an invitation to myself and made a Pinterest for Mr. MainSt Monitor. Unlike my first go at the mostly-female populated photo/idea sharing site, everything finally clicked.

There's such a vast archive of Disney images out there, from classic photos of the parks, to iconic posters, to early-stage sketches for animated features, that populating my pin boards these inaugural days of the MSM Pinterest have been a blast.

What I've also noticed is there seem to be hundreds of Disney blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages and Twitter account out there, but only a few boards and, besides Disney's official Pinterests, just about zero accounts dedicated solely to Disney (If I'm wrong, comment with the ones you've found, I'd love to follow and re-pin their stuff). So a lot of the things I've been posting have been my own original pins. Though the things I do re-pin are always fascinating.

It has also led to to further explore what hidden Disney gems the internet has to offer. Up until now, I've mostly been following current events, reading about Disney's rich history via old media, like paper books (Yes, they still exist).

People seem to be more receptive to what i share on Pinterest than anywhere else. A couple people like the things I put on the MSM Facebook Page, or click on the links I share on Twitter, and the interaction is a little uneven. From the moment I posted my first pin, people started repining and sharing my content. I haven't had a heavy flow of followers, but people on Pinterest seem to share more freely than on any other social media platform. I'm sure this is old news to anyone who's a casual to heavy user, but it's fascinating to me. No wonder businesses got on board as soon as possible.

Starting the Pinterest account has been a blast, but the best thing that's come out of it is the digging I do to populate the board. There's so many spectacular Disney visuals out there, and pinning them is my new mission.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Less Magic Hour

In publishing early 2013 operational calendars, The Walt Disney World resort quietly announced that it will be reducing Extra Magic Hours, special hours, either before park opening or after park closing, where select parks are only open to guests staying in Disney hotels and resorts.
The Magic Kingdom, probably during Extra Magic Hours

Many are decrying this move, accusing Disney of being motivated by financial reasons to save on operational costs. Those people are right. 

As an "intern" in the Disney college program, I worked many an Extra Magic Hour (or Extra Tragic Hour, as we called them) at the Magic Kingdom, which often lasted until 3 AM. For the most part, I did very little work, the hardest thing was staying awake. I often asked myself "What is the point of me being here? No one else is." 

I even attempted to attend the Magic Kingdom's Extra Magic Hours when my girlfriend visited, and only stayed until 1 AM, a third of the allotted time. We didn't need much more as we were tired out from what was already a long, productive day. 

I did Extra Magic Hours at Epcot one night, and it saved me absolutely no time. The lines were still gigantic an hour in to Extra Magic Hours. 

From my limited experience with Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, and my extensive experience with them at the Magic Kingdom, I feel evening Extra Magic Hours are not worth it. People will be better off with one less hour. 

The opportunity to stay three hours after park closing is a hard one to give up when you spend thousands of dollars on a vacation. The extra time you're getting in the park with no lines gives you a sense that you're getting your dollar's worth. But what about the sleep you're losing that night, the fatigue you'll have the next day and likely the rest of the vacation? 

The way to really get you're value is to take advantage of the morning Extra Magic Hours. You're walking into an empty park, unlike in the evening, where you're staying in a park that's already populated, where lines have to die down, and you have to stay up extra late for them to die down. Yes, the AM Extra Magic Hours are only an hour long, but guests generally don't show up until a couple of hours after the park opens to the general population anyways, so in a way, they are equal to the evening Extra Magic Hours. The lines are much shorter, and you're just starting your day out, instead of elongating an already tiring day. 

It all depends on if you're a morning person or night owl, but I've seen what the Magic Kingdom, the most popular park at Walt Disney World, looks like at 2:30 AM, and you weren't there. Neither was anyone else, really. And the people who were there either looked miserable themselves, or were dragging around powerless, miserable children.     

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The First Ten, The Best Ten

Everything good must come to an end.

For Pixar, that fact of life seemed not to apply to its first 10 films. Then they were bought by Disney, John Lasseter took around 30 other jobs on top of his main gig as chief creative officer at the animation studios, and the main vision and values that made the first ten films fantastic was lost in dollar signs and work schedules that wouldn't fit into a 10-day week.

I've written about "Cars 2," and how it ruined the studio's perfect record.  Those with taste can agree that the movie abandoned all of the things that make a Pixar film great (intelligence, wit, originality, lack of pandering). It proved that, maybe after the "Toy Story" franchise, Pixar should avoid sequels (we'll see if they get away with the technicality of making a prequel with "Monster's University").

Originality is where Pixar thrives (and another things "Cars 2" lacked), and I hoped that with the original story of "Brave," the studio would return to to it's pre "Cars 2" back-to-back original hits, "WALL-E" and "Up" (Toy Story 3, though a sequel, was also extremely original).

I was let down.

"Brave" was great, but as many reviewers wrote, held to Pixar standars, it was average to below average. It has a 69/100 score on MetaCritic, meaning the majority of its review are positive. "Toy Story" has a 92. The only Pixar film to have scored lower than "Brave" is, you guessed it, "Cars 2."

The same things that made "Cars 2" a failure also made "Brave" below average. All the hype about "Brave" centered around the fact that it is Pixar's first film with a woman in the lead role. You couldn't escape the comparison's to "The Hunger Game's" Katniss Everdeen . Disney princesses have always taken heat for being damsels in distress who need men to complete them (by people who have too much time to analyze entertainment. To blame a lack of feminine power on Disney is lazy and insulting to women. Independent thought it not exclusively a male trait.) so it started to feel like the story was engineered to create PR buzz. 

When you get down to brass tacks, every Pixar film has the exact same story line. Things are good, a conflict is presented, the characters must go on an adventure, there's a chase scene,  the good guys just barely win, and things end up hunky-dory (The three "Toy Story" films have literally the exact same plot). It's the nuances in both the characters and stories that make the films great, and "Brave" lacked those just as "Cars 2" did before it.

"Cars 2" was made because young boys everywhere eat up "Cars" merchandise like it's free candy laced with nicotine. Then Disney has Pixar make a film with a female princess that can sell merchandise to the other half of the adolescent world? Seems suspicious. And most of all, it seems more like a reaction to criticism than pure innovation that's unaffected by what studio heads feel is popular.

I will now turn to the upcoming (hopefully) original films Pixar will be releasing in the near future: The Good Dinosaur and The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind, along with the 2015 Lee Unkrich film inspired by Die de los Muertos. If they are made without pandering and without consideration of how merchadise will sell, they will be great. If not, they'll still be good, but they won't be truly be Pixar.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Disney: Mall Edition

The Disney Store has gone through many changes between its creation in 1987, to their sale to Hoop retail, owners of The Children's Place stores, in 2004, to Disney's buyback in 2008, to the 2009 announcement that the stores would be completely rebranded. 

Lucky for me, I live in an area that has one of the few Disney stores with the "Magical New Store Design," in the Chandler Fashion Center.

I've always been a huge fan of the Disney Store, just like I've been a fan of Disney. When I was young, I always looked forward to trips to the Arden Faire mall, where I could visit the long-gone model train display and the Disney Store. Sure, it was just another retail store, but it felt as close to Disneyland as I could get while staying close to home.

As I got older, the just-for-retail factor became apparent. If you weren't going to buy anything, the only thing the store had to offer was a large screen with promos for the newest Disney productions projected onto it. 

Not anymore. Yes, the retail aspect is still there, as it is everywhere Disney magic exists, but now the stores have their own magic, and even more attention to detail, that really take you beyond shopping and create a true experience (That Disney hopes will ultimately get you to spend more). 

For the girls, there's a thorough princess section, with a castle, dresses, tiaras, and everything you could want to look like your favorite leading lady. Wave a specific princess's wand in front of the vanity, and that princess magically appears, narrating her story while scenes from her movie play. 

For the boys, there's an extensive Marvel and Cars section, and for everyone else there's a screening area that puts the kids in control via the touch screen. The plush toy section is interactive, with gears to spin and a tunnel to crawl through. All stuff I would have loved when I was small enough to participate. Those AT&T kids commercials have it right, kids these days. 

Then there's 2D trees lining the aisles, with scenes from the newest Disney films projected onto them. The trees are opaque, so the image is visible on both sides.

On the walls, a boarder runs around the top with characters and icons from the most famous Disney properties. And every once in a while, a character, like Rapunzel or EVE pops up to make a small surprise cameo. It's something you have to look for, but when you see it, it's really special, just like all the hidden details at the Disney parks. 

It's still just a store, but it's a store with things to do, even if you don't buy something. It really feels like a little piece of Disney now, not just something hoping you hand over money for your own little piece of Disney in the form of plush.   

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Let's Hear it for Licensing Headaches

Disney recently announced that it would include characters from its Marvel comics division for the first time alongside characters created within Disney. It will all take place in the special episode "Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel."

That little tidbit of info doesn't really justify this post's headline. Read on:

Pre-2009, pulling something like this off would have been a licensing nightmare, to get these two huge companies and play nice and figure out how to share their money and intelectual property. It's not now, because they're all one company, but that doesn't mean Disney hasn't done a couple things similar to that.

The most recent example, "Wreck It Ralph," see its antagonist Ralph escape his fictitious videogame Fix-It Felix Jr., where he is unhappy with his role as the game's villain to explore a world made up by many video games, some of them familiar, like Pac Man, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros., some of them made up, like Hero's Duty and Sugar Rush. 

The only character from Super Mario Bros. that's included is the second-tier character Bowser, because Disney didn't want to pay the royalty fees requested by Nintendo. Not surprising, since out of the three games mentioned, Super Mario Bros. is the only game that managed to stay current (excluding iOS apps). 

I was born a few of years after the most daring feat of cross-branding animation feature "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was released, and grew up watching what turned out to be the kickstart of the Disney Renaissance. As a young child, seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse in the same movie makes sense. They're both animated, why wouldn't they exist in the same world?

As seen through the eyes of any person of any age, it still makes sense. That's why these cross-branding licensing nightmares are dreams come true for audiences. If Wreck it Ralph escaped Fix-It Felix Jr. to explore the internal world of video games, it would only make sense that he ran into Sonic and Bowser. Anything else would seem like cheap pandering. And if Donald Duck was a real, living being, when he got off work, it's completely plausible that he could be neighbors with Daffy Duck.

As adults, it is also known what a legal feat it is to get these huge companies together to do something like this, adding to the wonder of it all. 

It only works in films though: in the physical world, I like to keep my Animal Kingdom and my "Avatar" separate.   


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Disney's Comic Con

Friday, July 6, 2012

Yay for DCA!

Disney California Adventure has FINALLY found its audience with the opening of Cars Land. Imagineers have given the park that magical Disney touch that it had been missing since Michael Eisner built it on the cheap back in 2001.

It's been open for around 20 days now, and I don't think a negative word has been written about it. People love it, and honestly, it's killing me that I haven't been yet, so all you boastful visitors, I've probably blocked you on Facebook at this point as a measure of self preservation. Yeah, I'm a little jealous.

I haven't been to the California parks since 2010, before I did the College Program in lovely Florida. Visiting DCA at that point, the re-imagining of Paradise Pier had been completed and World of Color was up and running. They'd already rid of the Eisner-ick that made the park so, well, boring.

Not so with Condor Flats and the Grizzly River Recreation Area, Those areas remain almost completely in tact, as they were from the dreadful Day One.

I've always thought that ripping out Grizzly River Run would do wonders for the park. A river rapid ride is so not Disney. Every Six Flags park has one. It's not unique, fun, or worth the five acres it takes up in the middle of the park.

It was, when the park opened, the icon of Disney California Adventure, the weenie, as Walt would have called it. But, much like the Fantasia hat over at DCA's sister park, Hollywood Studios (which covers up Grauman's, the original, and still superior, weenie), there is something that could be a much better icon. In DCA's case, it's the new Carthay Circle Theater, which stands higher than Sleeping Beauty's Castle across the concourse. With the need for something to print on merchandise to distinguish the park filled, there's no need for the uncreative, unimaginative mountain.

As techskip points out on's web forum, Condor Flats is a land designed to represent the desert portions of California. And so is Cars Land. And Cars Land does it better, so why two lands representing basically the same California climate? Surely the imagineers have noticed the redundancy, and are planing on doing something about it.

The west side of the park can't be ignored now that the east side has gotten the brunt of the updates. The newly named "Hollywood Land" where "Who Want To Be A Millionaire" and the "Monsters Inc." dark ride (which should also be replaced by something that, at the very least, begs for multiple rides) is currently, also needs some attention.

But, when you look at the money Disney has been spending (A billion in California, a billion in Florida, a couple billion on cruise ships, a billion probably on Avatar land [Still have saying that]) you come to the conlcusion that they've spend a lot lately. They've come to that conclusion, too, and aren't going to make it a trend.

From the Orlando Sentinel: "We should be coming down substantially — substantially — in domestic spending," Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said during a recent presentation to stock analysts.

So, while all this would be fantastic, reports have come out that Disney may be putting some money into Disneyland's Tomorrowland. This news, with the news of the reduction in capital spending, all means that Disney California Adventure will probably look pretty similar to how it does today 10 years from now.

Or maybe, just maybe, Disney will realize what Walt always knew: being cheap puts you on the level of everybody else, and reinvesting money back into the parks, well, that gets you Cars Land.