Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Disney Flash Drives

First of all, I don't need another flash drive. I have enough as it is already. However, I can easily see myself gobbling up these Disney flash drives, especially the Steamboat Mickey and the Pooh. They are adorable!

And the author of that piece is correct. Adults will be gobbling it up as well. There's only 5000 of them too.


Zagat Survey Followup

Hey, did you participated in the Zagat survey that I mentioned a while back? If you did, then you would have received a follow up to that survey in an e-mail. They now want you to write your experience at the WDW theme parks, including what you like, dislike, and recommend. This looks like it might be good, since you can write, instead of having multiple choices, of what your experience is like.

.. and boy, do I have PLENTY to write about! :)


La Nouba Performer Fell 30 ft.

This is where word of mouth travelled faster and got reported much earlier than the print news media.

On Jan 26, it was reported on WDWMagic that a performer (the "Bird") in Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba fell off her perch. It appears to be a rather serious accident. Yet, strangely enough, no print media had a report on this till yesterday, Jan 30. A short blurb appeared in the Orlando Sentinel finally. That's 4 days after it first appeared on a Disney fan forum! Unbelievable!

Usually accidents like this get publicized like wild fire in the media. Wonder why this didn't catch on?

Oh, for those who don't know the connection to Disney with this story, Cirque Du Soleil's La Nouba has a permanent residence in Downtown Disney at WDW. It's a wonderful show, not to be missed, even if you've seen it on TV.


Is Walt Disney World Affordable?

Don't know if they run similar advertisement in the UK or Canada (the two biggest market for Disney), but here in the US, Disney has been running this commercial about how a family of 4 can spend a week at WDW (with park tickets and value resort accommodations) for $1600 (it used to be $1500, so that has gone up by $100). The people at Motley Fool have been debating if $1600 is really affordable, or whether it is worthwhile to skimp on off-Disney accommodations and food for a cheaper vacation.

Considering that I'm a DVC member and an annual passholder, I think my opinion on this is rather obvious.



Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Crossing the Berm: The Disney Theme Park as Sacralized Space

Now this is rather amusing.

I am not surprised that Disney, and Disney's theme park, could become a subject of intense study, maybe even a Ph.D dessertation. Still, it is always a minor surprise when I do come across one of these things. What makes this even MORE an item of curiosity is that it is a Ph.D dessertation in the Dept. of [b]Religion[/b] at Florida State University.

Abstract: This dissertation proposes that the Disney theme park be approached as an agent of ritualization in the creation and experience of sacralized space: an ordered, organized space for the thoughtful, selective construction of social meaning and the mutual exercise of symbolic power, initiated in the creation of environment and experienced through ritualized activities and spatial movement, resulting in the recovery of the past and the possibility of a transformed future. This thesis will be pursued in four stages: first, an examination of the definitional parameters of sacralized space and ritualization, emphasizing the mutual construction of meaning and the interwoven power relationships inherent in the creation and experience of such a space; second, the application of these parameters and emphases to the Disney theme parks in terms of the creative process of park participants; third, the application of these parameters and emphases to the Disney theme parks in terms of the experiential process of park participants; and fourth, the resultant exercise of power and construction of meaning by park participants within sacralized space. Such an examination of Disney theme parks hopefully will provide a broad ground on which to place in dialogue the other interpretive proposals within contemporary Disney thought, a basis for the thoughtful discussion of these sites within Religious Studies, as well as a more flexible and coherent method of newly considering the complexity of the parks and their pervading influence, for good or for ill, on the global cultural stage.

You could get the ENTIRE dessertation at the link above if you wish to read it. I suppose a devotion to Disney could be construed as a form of "religion", I suppose. At least it is a "happy and magical" religion where we all make our pilgrimage to the Happiest Place on Earth. There are worse things to believe in in this day and age.

Possible Rehab of Spaceship Earth?

John Frost at The Disney Blog has a summary of the rumors surrounding the possible rehab of Spaceship Earth. Although the rehab of the exhibt area after one exist the ride is well-known, the rehab of the attraction itself is still a swirling rumor (folk lore?).

I personally would love to see it being rehabbed and upgraded. Better lighting would help too. However, I don't quite get the controversy surrounding the wand. I know many Disney loyalists who completely and utterly hate that wand attached to Spaceship Earth. Is it because it is "defacing" the spherical shape? Or is it because it is just something "different" than the original? I don't know. I don't find it "offensive" at all and don't mind it either way.


Nightly Fireworks May Harm Neighbors?

A Clarkson University professor has concluded that the nightly fireworks show at Hong Kong Disneyland may in fact be harmful to its neighbors.

Unfortunately, this news report didn't elaborate any further, especially on whether this professor has published his findings anywhere other than reporting it to the Hong Kong administration. So it is hard to judge the validity of such technical reports.

I'm sure it isn't pleasent to be downwind from any fireworks show. Unfortunately, this is the same issue that one has to content with when one CHOOSE to live near an airport. The economic properity that is due to the airport, or in this case, the theme park, is what made living in that area so much in demand in the first place. Anaheim would certainly be quite different than what it is now if it weren't for Disneyland. Would it have evolved into a better neighborhood without it? We can only speculate. Of course, the issue here isn't similar to Hong Kong, since the "neighborhood" was already there when Hong Kong Disneyland moved in, even though it is quite a distance away.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Studying Giraffe Poop at Animal Kingdom

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

A university of Central Florida graduate student is studying giraffe poop at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Some time, you gotta do what you gotta do. For those of us who do experimental work for our graduate studies, often it is a physical, dirty job.

Good luck to Jennifer!


Make-A-Wish to Send Boy, 6, to Disney World

Another wonderful story of a kid having his dream fulfilled. Hope you have lots of fun seeing Mickey and the gang, Bradley!


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Disney is Dreaming Big

A news report that basically summarizes the recent activity at Disney. It covers the Annie Libovitz photos, the first family that was selected to spend the night at Cinderealla's Castle suite, and the opening of Toy Story Mania at Disney-MGM Studios.

None of the reports so far have addressed on question for those who are spending the night in the castle suite. Are these people, once they're in the suite, restricted in their ability to walk out of the suite after the Magic Kingdom is closed? I mean, it would be rather unmagical if they walk out at 3:00 am in the morning while the overnight cast members are working and preparing for the next day. It might also be a bit dangerous considering all the activities going on.

That would be interesting to find out...


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Disney Offers Chance at 5 Park Dream "Jobs"

Here's your chance to try and win one of the dream jobs at a Disney theme park for a day. I would say that it might be cool to do the Jungle Cruise skipper for a day. A number of famous people have done it during their "struggling" year, such as Robin Williams (I would PAY MONEY to be on that jungle cruise). I wouldn't want to do this every day though, because I would imagine it would get old very quickly. That's why I have all the admiration in the world to the cast members that do this and still make it sound fresh and funny.


More Pictures of Cinderella's Castle Suite

Laughing Place has newer pictures and videos of the interior of Cinderella's Castle suite. It looks absolutely fabulous. I especially like the pumpkins in the display case.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Annie Leibovitz Makes Disney Dreams

Fame photographer Annie Leibovitz was recruited by Disney to promote the Year of a Million Dreams. She, in turn, recruited several of her high-profile friends such as David Beckham, Scarlett Johansson, and Beyoncé Knowles to appear in various scenes. Several of these pictures are starting to appear. The ones being shown in this news report are dazzling! They look like works of art!


More Research Using Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund

I previously pointed out one example of a scholarly research that was done using the Disney Wildlife Foundation Fund. I have found another one, and in fact, you could even check it out yourself if you have any interest in such topic.

Associations between Organochlorine Contaminant Concentrations and Clinical Health Parameters in Loggerhead Sea Turtles from North Carolina, USA, J.M. Keller et al., Environ Health Perspect. v.112, p.1074 (2004).

It is an OPEN ACCESS journal, so you can read the paper for free here.

In their acknowledgment, they listed these institutions as their funding sources:

Funding was provided by the Morris Animal Foundation, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, the Oak Foundation, and the Duke University Marine Biomedical Center.

So there! More evidence that your money is going to important studies in wildlife conservation.


GMA Footage of the First Guests to Stay in Cinderella's Castle Suite

Thanks to Donsullivan at WDWMagic for pointing this out. This is the Good Morning America footage of the first family to stay at Cinderella's Castle suite last night. It certainly look like they received the Royal treatement, literally.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

How Bob Iger Unchained Disney

Business Week online has a very detailed look at Disney CEO Bob Iger and his management style. A constant theme from this article is how much he is the antithesis of Michael Eisner, which is what the Walt Disney Company probably needs at this time.


The First People To Spend The Night At Cinderella's Castle Selected!

A family from Michigan made history today as the first people to spend the night at Cinderella's Castle suite. Good for them! I hope they take tons of pictures and post them online somewhere.


Cinderella's Castle Suite Occupancy Begins Today!

Get your glass slippers ready! Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the Cinderella's Castle Suite will start receiving guests beginning today!

The only question right now is, which Disney fan sites will be the first one to get an excluse report from one of its members on such a stay.


EuroDisney First Quarter Revenue Up

EuroDisney has announced that its first quarter revenue is up 5.8%. We can only hope that they can keep this up and stop the financial bleeding.


Finding Nemo - The Musical Officially Opens

Yesterday, Jan 24, Finding Nemo - The Musical officially opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This is a very highly acclaimed live show that is getting rave reviews from critics and fans like.

Laughing Place has pictures and videos of the opening ceremony.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Walt Disney World Wins 2006 Florida Energy Achievement Award

Walt Disney World has won the second annual Florida Energy Achievement Award.

I have no doubt that they deserve this, but I also find it a bit ironic because if anyone has ever gone to WDW during the height of the summer heat, you would have noticed that many of their stores have the doors OPENED, with the cool air blowing out into the hot pavement. I've always guessed that this is one way to entice passers by to come in and cool off, and possibly get them to make an impulsive purchase.

But then again, I'm an eternal skeptic.....



Blu-Ray Releases Set for Pirates and Cars

Looks like Disney is diving deeper in the high definition DVD format wars. High-Def Digest is reporting that Disney will be releasing both Pirates blockbuster movies, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" on Blu-Ray DVD on May 22nd. This will be followed by "Cars" on June 5th.

This could potentially influence the Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD battle. So far, as far as I can tell, the public has been adopting a wait-and-see attitude towards this debacle. However, if the Consumer Electronics Show this past January is any indication, this whole battle might be moot. For the first time, a company called LG introduced a combo Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player! I want one!

Word has it that it is starting to appear at various electronics store around the country, but I personally haven't seen one yet. The price is still quite steep. I'll wait till it comes down a bit in price and see how it goes....


Ever Wonder Where Your Donations to Disney Wildlife Fund Went?

Having contributed a few times to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund whenever I am at Animal Kingdom (and getting those buttons), I've often wonder where exactly that money goes to.

Well, here's where part of it went:

"Status and Trends of Amphibian Declines and Extinctions Worldwide", S.N. Stuart et al., Science, v.306, p.1783 (2004).

Abstract: The first global assessment of amphibians provides new context for the well-publicized phenomenon of amphibian declines. Amphibians are more threatened and are declining more rapidly than either birds or mammals. Although many declines are due to habitat loss and overutilization, other, unidentified processes threaten 48% of rapidly declining species and are driving species most quickly to extinction. Declines are nonrandom in terms of species' ecological preferences, geographic ranges, and taxonomic associations and are most prevalent among Neotropical montane, stream-associated species. The lack of conservation remedies for these poorly understood declines means that hundreds of amphibian species now face extinction.

In their acknowledgment, we see this:

We thank the Moore Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Conservation International, the MAVA Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, the Regina Bauer Frankenberg Foundation for Animal Welfare, NSF (grants DEB-0130273 and INT-0322375), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, George Meyer, Ben Hammett, and the Disney Foundation for financial support of the IUCN GAA. We are grateful to the more than 500 herpetologists who generously gave of their time and knowledge to compile the GAA data. R. Akçakaya, T. Brooks, D. Church, M. Denil, D. Frost, C. Gascon, G. da Fonseca, M. Foster, C. Hilton-Taylor, M. Hoffmann, T. Lacher, P. Langhammer, G. Mace, L. Manler, L. Master, A. Mitchell, R. Mittermeier, D. Wake, and F. Xie provided extensive help and advice on the implementation of the GAA. The majority of the distribution maps used for U.S. species were adapted from the United States Amphibian Atlas Database, which was assembled at Ball State University by P. Nanjappa, L. Blackburn, and M. Lannoo, and which was supported in part by grants and/or matching funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund.

So rest assured that your money is well-spent for what it was intended, at least with this kind of study. Maybe I missed it, but it would be nice for the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund to list all the places and research activities that they have supported.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ray Tracing for the Movie "Cars"

Hum... this could possibly be an interesting talk to sit in. It was presented at the 2006 IEEE Symposium on Interactive Ray Tracing by P. Christensen of Pixar.

Abstract: In this talk I will describe how we extended Pixar Animation Studios' RenderMan renderer with ray tracing abilities. In order to ray trace highly complex scenes we use multiresolution geometry and texture caches, and use ray differentials to determine the appropriate resolution. With this method we are able to efficiently ray trace scenes with much more geometry and texture data than there is main memory. Movie-quality rendering of scenes of such complexity had only previously been possible with pure scanline rendering algorithms. Adding ray tracing to the renderer enables many additional effects such as accurate reflections, detailed shadows, and ambient occlusion. The ray tracing functionality has been used in many recent movies, including Disney-Pixar's latest movie "Cars". In this talk I will also describes some of the practical ray tracing issues from the production of "Cars".


Research Done at Epcot's The Living Seas

The two most prestigious (and difficult) journals to publish in in the scientific field are Nature and Science. Papers published in these two journals are almost certain to get plenty of attention and, in many cases, a career landmark.

So it is a wonderful surprise to see that there is at least one work done at Walt Disney World that had actually appeared in one of these journals:

Title: Bottlenose dolphins perceive object features through echolocation

Authors: Heidi E. Harley[1,2], Erika A. Putman[2] and Herbert L. Roitblat[3]
1. New College of Florida, Division of Social Sciences, 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida 34243, USA
2. Animal Programs, Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot's The Living Seas, EC TRL W-251, P.O. Box 10,000, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830, USA
3. DolphinSearch, Inc., 474 E. Main Street, Ventura, California 93001, USA

Nature, v.424, p.667 (2003).

Abstract: How organisms (including people) recognize distant objects is a fundamental question1. The correspondence between object characteristics (distal stimuli), like visual shape, and sensory characteristics (proximal stimuli), like retinal projection, is ambiguous. The view that sensory systems are 'designed' to 'pick up' ecologically useful information is vague about how such mechanisms might work2. In echolocating dolphins, which are studied as models for object recognition sonar systems, the correspondence between echo characteristics and object characteristics is less clear3. Many cognitive scientists assume that object characteristics are extracted from proximal stimuli, but evidence for this remains ambiguous. For example, a dolphin may store 'sound templates' in its brain and identify whole objects by listening for a particular sound. Alternatively, a dolphin's brain may contain algorithms, derived through natural endowments or experience or both, which allow it to identify object characteristics based on sounds. The standard method used to address this question in many species4, 5, 6, 7 is indirect and has led to equivocal results with dolphins8, 9, 10. Here we outline an appropriate method and test it to show that dolphins extract object characteristics directly from echoes.

What was amusing was that they showed a picture of three of the items used in this experiment as the "stimulus" objects. One was a wine bottle opener, another was an object shaped like an apple, and the last one was this plastic thingy in the shape of Mickey Mouse head! Only in Disney!!



Disney Animation-Pixar Storage Device

If you're into the technical aspect of the servers use in creating those digital animation at Disney/Pixar, then this article is right up your alley.

For those of us lousy amateurs who edit our own movies and see how long it can take to render a single title, we can only drool at all the hardware they have here.


Monday, January 22, 2007

A Very Busy Theatrical Season for Disney

As reported earlier, Beauty and the Beast on Broadway will close this summer to be replaced by a new Disney musical, The Little Mermaid. However, the theatrical arms of Disney extends far beyond the boundary of Broadway theater district. With new productions all over the US and shows all over the world, this promises to be a very busy year for that branch of the company.


Disney and Labor Unions Begin Negotiations

I predict a long and rocky road ahead, and not an ice cream in sight. Disney and its labor unions representing a large portion of its employees have begun their negotiation for a new contract. Already, there are major stumbling block, especially in Disney's decision to outsource some of the jobs being done at the parks.

As I've said before, I can understand when a corporation does this when they're in financial trouble. But how does Disney justify doing such a thing now? To increase the profit margin even MORE? Oy vey!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Where in Walt Disney World?

We haven't had this in a while. This should be an easy one. Where in Walt Disney World can you find this?

Image Hosted by


Friday, January 19, 2007

Midway Madness Update

I reported in November last year about the new dark ride that was rumored to be going into the building that used to house Who Wants To Be A Millionaire at Disney-MGM Studios. There have been many rumors leaking out since then, and supposedly, an announcement will be made some time next week. It could possibly be a Toy Story-themed attraction, the exact name of which is still up in the air.


New Character Heads

The whole Disney fan forums are buzzing right now! Why you may ask? Is it a new Disney-Pixar movie? A 3rd Gate at Disneyland? A new attraction being built? Nope! It is the new character heads that made their debut during the Dream Along With Mickey show at the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. These new character heads have articulated facial expressions, eyes that blink, and mouths that move. This is different than previous character heads in which the facial expressions do not change or move.

Supposedly, as of now, only this show is using these new articulated heads. No plans have been announced to use them for the character Meet and Greet.


Building a massively multiplayer game for the million: Disney's Toontown Online

This is a scholarly paper that describes the building of Disney's Toontown Online game. It was written by Mark R. Mine Joe Shochet, and Roger Hughston, all of the Walt Disney Internet Group, VR Studio

Journal: Computers in Entertainment (CIE)
Volume 1 , Article 1 (2003)

Abstract:This paper presents an overview of the lessons learned building Disney's Toontown Online, a 3D massively multiplayer online game (MMP) for children ages seven and older. The paper is divided into three main parts. The first presents design highlights of Toontown Online and focuses on the challenge of building an MMP for kids. In particular, we discuss ways of incorporating kid-friendly socialization into an MMP. The second part of the paper presents an overview of Panda-3D, the VR Studio's open source 3D graphics engine. We focus on the aspects of Panda-3D that helped to facilitate the development of Toontown. In particular, Panda's expressive, platform-agnostic scene graph architecture, and flexible scripting language tools for distributed storytelling. We finish with an overview of Toontown's server architecture and present our nothing-but-net strategy for downloading a full-featured 3D online game.


Disney's Destino to Premier 60 Years Later

Whoa, talk about a long post-production!

A movie collaboration between Walt Disney and Savador Dali called Destino is finally going to be premiered 60 years later! It is a 6-minute animated move set, of course, in Dali's surreal world.

This looks too weired that it might be interesting.


Orlando International Wants Smoother International Arrivals

Well it's about freaking time!

Orlando International Airport is considering ways to make international arrivals less tedious. It is considering renovating an existing area, and a long term solution of building a separate international terminal.

Why question is, why is it taking THIS long for someone to come up with a plan? It has been a sore thumb of OIA for such a long time already! It is too bad too because, in general, OIA is a very well-laid-out airport when compared to many in the US.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Peek at the New

The Disney Insider has an advance peek at the new It certainly looks very impressive, but I'm reserving my judgment for now. I want to see if they have enough stuff there to interest the adults and not just kids. And since I'm also a big pin collector, I want to see if they are also revamping the Disney pins webpage.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Little Mermaid Coming to Broadway

Disney will be closing Beauty and the Beast on Broadway this summer, and replacing it with The Little Mermaid musical, at Lunt-Fontanne theater. It will look strange to not have Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. It feels as if it has been there forever, and it is still one of the more popular shows.


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

You could probably see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs like this only at one event at the Magic Kingdom. Can you name this "event"?


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Top 10 Luxury Attractions at Disney World

Want to do Walt Disney World in style? Don't want to wait in line to get on Expedition Everest? This article tells you how to do all that - for a handsome fee, of course! This is still Disney, remember?


Food Crop at The Land Greenhouses

Here's another paper that I found that debunk my impression that The Land is only for show and no real research:

English Title: Food crop culture in The Land greenhouses at Epcot�.
Personal Authors: Fan, Y. Q., Bell, E., Etzel, R., Hammer, B., Frey, L., Harmon, T., Blank, T., Meeusen, C., Burn, B., Schon, M., Huang, Y., Petitt, F.
Author Affiliation: Epcot Science, Walt Disney World Co., P. O. Box 10000, 2013 N Avenue of the States, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830, USA.
Document Title: Acta Horticulturae, 2004 (No. 659(1)) 161-169


The Land, a 24-ha pavilion, is a demonstration, production, research and entertainment facility that represents agriculture and the environment at Epcot in the Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, USA. Every year, millions of guests experience the greenhouse-portion of this attraction through a facilitated boat ride called "Living with The Land" and/or a guided walking tour called "Behind the Seeds." The protected culture is ~0.4 ha of intensive growing area. Crops grown at The Land include those commonly grown hydroponically, like cucumber, tomato, lettuce, and pepper; those of world importance, like rice, maize, sweet potato, and beans; exotic crops, like jackfruit, fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis), wax gourd (Benincasa hispida), and snake gourd (Trichosanthes cucumerina); and other unique plants such as 'Cinderella' and 'Atlantic Giant' pumpkins (Cucurbita spp.), cocoa, extra long handled dipper gourd (Lagenaria spp.), and Mickey Mouse-shaped fruits. A wide variety of hydroponic techniques, irrigation methods, and biological control-based integrated pest management (IPM) strategies are used in the greenhouse operation.

I am definitely very convinced that they do real science there at Disney World. Now, I haven't seen any scientific papers coming out of anyone at Disneyland, CA! :)


Lasseter Ignores Disney in Acceptance Speech

Hum... the day after the Golden Globes awards, something is being made about Lasserter speech upon accepting the Golden Globes for Cars in winning best animated movie. He tanked everyone at Pixar, and mentioned Pixar by name, but never once on Disney or his new boss Bob Iger.

I don't think this is such a big deal. First of all, Cars were done entirely while Pixar was a separate entity from Disney. Secondly, during the heat of an acceptance speech, people forget things! We've seen actors forgetting to thank their spouses, etc. So it is not as if this is anything unusual.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Research Work at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Y'know, I don't know about you, but every time I go through Living with the Land attraction, and walking through various "educational" stuff at Animal Kingdom, I always have this skepticism at all the so-called "research" work that they claim to be going on at various Disney sites. This is probably because, frankly, I haven't seen or heard about any scientific work that actually came out of such places. It doesn't help that my line of study probably has very little in common, or overlap, that I would come across such work in the journals that I read.

Well, here are a few things that have eliminated my skepticism. I found two abstracts of a contributed talk at a recent conference:

Measuring emotional arousal in the voiced sounds of two mammals, the rhesus monkey and African elephant. Joseph Soltis, Christina Wesolek, Anne Savage (Education and Sci., Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL), Kirsten Leong (Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY), and John Newman (NICHD, Poolesville, MD)

Emotional arousal is expressed in the voiced sounds of primates and other mammals, but there are no consistent acoustic measures used and few comparative analyses. We apply a representative suite of source and filter measurements to rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta coo calls onCayo Santiago, Puerto Rico, and African elephant Loxodonta africana rumble calls at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Florida, U.S.A. Based on social
context, calls were classified into high and low arousal categories. In both species, MANOVA showed that the 15 measures taken together separated calls across arousal categories. In rhesus macaques, high arousal was associated with increased and more variable fundamental frequencies, increased amplitudes in the lower frequencies, and a shift in formant locations. In African elephants, increased arousal was associated with a shift of energy from lower to higher frequencies. In addition, low ranking females expressed a greater magnitude of acoustic change compared to high ranking females. The suite of acoustic features used here may successfully characterize arousal state in a variety of mammals, but the specific acoustic features that reflect arousal and the specific pattern of acoustic response may vary by species and individual. Work supported by Grant Nos. NIH CM-5-P40RR003640-13 and NSF-IIS-0326395

Antiphonal exchanges in female African elephants. Katherine Leighty, Joseph Soltis, Anne Savage (Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL), and Kirsten Leong (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY)

Female African elephants Loxodonta africana engage in antiphonal exchanges of rumble vocalizations. In this study, female African elephants (N7) housed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom were outfitted with audiorecording collars and videotaped during 50 1-hour observation sessions conducted in 2002. We found that production of the antiphonal response rumble reflected changes in herd affiliation that had taken place since our
previous study 2000. Second, we examined response latency and found that females responded more quickly to the rumbles of affiliated partners than to those of a nonaffiliated female. Since affiliated partners spend more time in close proximity by definition, they may engage in higher rates of temporally associated calling simply because nearby stimuli impact them simultaneously or due to a social facilitation effect, not because they are true vocal exchanges. Therefore, we examined antiphonal rumble responses when female pairs were more than 25 m apart. We found that at these distances, affiliated females still exchanged rumbles more frequently, and responded at a decreased latency, than nonaffiliated pairs. Our results provide support for functional hypotheses of African elephant rumble vocalizations that require instances of temporally associated calling in order to be true communicative events. Work supported by Grant No. NSF-IIS- 0326395.

So yes, they DO perform scholarly work, for people like me who were skeptical!


Epcot as a Science Center

This research article[1] studies the function and effectiveness of "Science Centers" around the country in providing science education to the public. One of the location that it studied was Epcot. This is what it had to say:

At EPCOT, Florida, the Walt Disney Corporation say they mix 5 percent of learning with 95 percent of fun. Visitors have a lot of fun at EPCOT and a lot of people go there: does this 5 percent make EPCOT a science center? Arguably so! But EPCOT is so exceptional that it is out on a very long limb from the body of the science center movement—placed there by its commercial imperative. Experiences happen to the visitor under Disney’s control—this assures high visitor throughput. If visitors want to go back and look more closely they can’t; they’re on the ride and have no choice. Even the interactive exhibits in Wonders of Life and Imagination are either automatically guided or short, single-outcome interactions. Many exhibit concepts have been drawn unacknowledged from science centers, but the balance of the EPCOT experience is tipped by the need for the visitor to get a quick pay-off and move on.

The boundaries between leisure attraction and science center are blurring as the leisure market adds “edutainment” to its offerings, yet the distinction remains clear—to professionals if not to first-time visitors. In a leisure attraction, the interactive experiences offer visitors far fewer degrees of freedom; there are no seats to encourage contemplation, for the next experience beckons just round the corner; the level of staffing is lower than in a science center—throughout, the emphasis is on commercial operation rather than informal education.

I think Epcot is in a tough situation. It is catering to visitors on vacation. The last thing they probably want to do is learn something. Yet, if it tries to stick to Walt's original vision of what Epcot is supposed to be, it has to have some degree of "education", at least as far as envisioning the world of the future. So it ends up not pleasing everyone. The casual Disney fans want it to have more rides and more entertainment, while the Disney fanatics want it to stick to Walt's vision.


[1] J.G. Beetlestone et al., Public Understand. Sci. v.7, p.5 (1998).

Tigger For Parent of the Year

Here is a newspaper columnist (at least, I think it's a newspaper) that would like to declare Tigger as Parent of the Year. I think he's right. The dad and expecially that kid are the ones coming out looking ugly in this whole debacle.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

More Disney and von Braun

As a follow-up to the Scientist and the Cinema, in an earlier book, Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science by M.G. Lord, there is a similar account of how Walt Disney possibly made von Braun a household name. The review of Lord's book has this comment:

For example, the selling of rocket science to politicians and the public caught a wave of excitement with the introduction of Walt Disney to rocket science and the commercial and popular success of Disneyland. Disney raised von Braun to iconic status—every story needs a hero. The whole country was glued to the television set to see spaceflight portrayed in short films such as "Man in Space" and "Man and the Moon" created by the artful Disney cartoonists. Lord leaves us wondering just how much those fanciful previews influenced the decision to go to the moon.

It looks like both authors came to the same conclusion.


The Scientist and the Cinema

Sometime, I get to combine both of my "passion" into one. I did that a while back when I found an article linking Enrico Fermi with his love of Winnie the Pooh.

This is a rather old review (from Dec. 2005), but it is still an interesting book. It is a review of Christopher Frayling's book Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema. But what was fascinating is the example of such an influence on Walt Disney by the famous rocket scientist Wernher von Braun during the early 1950's:

In the early 1950s Oberth’s most celebrated student - the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun - wrote a series of articles promoting the idea of human space travel for Collier’s magazine. Hollywood set artist Chesley Bonestell illustrated von Braun’s vision with stunning paintings of giant, spinning space stations and nuclear-powered vessels bound for Mars. The articles were hugely popular, and the showmanship that von Braun demonstrated in selling his rocket dreams to the American public attracted the attention of an even more successful showman - Walt Disney.

Disney was producing a TV series called The Wonderful World of Disney to promote his new theme park, Disneyland, which included a province called Tomorrowland. In 1955 von Braun was featured in three episodes of the series touting the wonders of Tomorrowland, and helped design the "trip to the Moon" ride located there. As we all know, the Soviet Union caught up with science fiction in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik. Frayling suggests that if it had not been for the Cold War and Hollywood, humans would not as yet have walked on the Moon. I suspect he is right.



Splurging on Mickey

This is a very amusing article and I had fun reading it. The author was trying to find people who are looking for "bargains" while vacationing in Walt Disney World. She didn't have much luck!

The one possible inaccuracy that she wrote might have been this:

Then all of a sudden I meet three girls from Chicago near Downtown Disney. The college students are trying to sneak onto a free bus to the Magic Kingdom.

As far as I can remember, you cannot go to any of the parks on a Disney bus from Downtown Disney. I think they don't want people to park in Downtown Disney for free (and using up the parking spaces) and avoid paying for parking that they would have to had they drive in there themselves.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Holiday Lights at Epcot

Just because the holiday season is over, doesn't mean we still can't have holiday lights and decorations. If you have been to Epcot during the holiday season, you would have noticed this. This is the gateway leading towards the World Showcase. The lights are synchronized to the music being played in the background.

A very festive display indeed.

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Disney Ran Out of Water During Marathon?

I read this report about a marathon stop running out of water during the late stages of the recent Disney Marathon, and it sounds rather unbelievable considering how well Disney normally runs its operations. It is not as if this is the first time they're doing this event, even with record number of participants.

[Note to Mike Bianchi: that Tigger comment is stupid, especially when many who viewed the video seriously doubt the version given by the kid and his parents. You could have at least waited till the legal process is completed.]


Friday, January 12, 2007

It's Good to be a Disney CEO

.... especially right now when the company is doing so well. Bob Iger received $25 million from the Walt Disney Company last year, including bonus and stock options. I suppose he deserves the compensation for how he has guided the company after Eisner departure. For mere mortals like me, we simply cannot fathom that kind of money.


Pictures Inside Cinderella's Castle Suite

Thanks to a friend who provided these pictures taken from inside the sought-after suite in Cinderella's Castle. It certainly is an accommodation fit for a queen, king, prince, and princesses.

This is the living area:

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The fireplace. I love that mirror!

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This is the bedroom. The canopy is tastefully done, but I want the bedding!

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The bathroom vanity counter.

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And finally, the bathtub.

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Oh yeah, I'll stay there anytime! :)

[Thanks for the pictures, Paul!]


Disney Gave More Than $22 Million in 2006

The House of Mouse did a lot of good this past year. The Walt Disney World Resort, along with its cast members, gave more the $22 million in 2006, along with 200,000 volunteer hours to various worthwhile causes in Central Florida. This is one of the things that they do that shouldn't be overlooked.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Walt Disney and Weed

No, not THAT kind of "weed", but made you look, didn't I?


This is such a "legendary" tale that I just had to pass it along here. This came from this month's Vacation Magic newsletter for DVC members. While it is a "minor" incident, it truly reflects who Walt is, I believe.

Q: Did Walt really tell the gardeners during Disneyland construction to put Latin names on weeds?

Jim Korkis's answer: In the 1980s, I interviewed Bill Evans, who was in charge of Disneyland landscaping, and he told me the following: "I had to tell Walt by the time I got around to the back berm that we had run out of money for more plants and were scraping the bottom of the barrel. Walt said, "I notice you have some head-high weeds out there. Why don't you put some jaw-breaking Latin names on them?" So we did as he suggested. The weeds were growing almost as high as trees, so we put some fancy names on them. Walt got such a kick out of it that he recounted that story at the Cast celebration for the Park's 10th anniversary, and the story became legendary."

I love it! :)


Disney Making Musical Magic

Billboard looks at the recent string of success of Walt Disney Records. It has been an amazing year for that branch of the House of Mouse that reflects the success of the Disney Channel.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Disney Takes Back Brochures

Wow. This is highly unexpected and certainly came out of nowhere.

Disney removed all of its brochures from all hotels except those in the Orlando and surrounding area. The reason given here was that

....the brochures that were in the hotels were not the reason for people to come to Disney.

...which is rather odd. I'm guessing that they got this from some sort of a survey, something that I've participated in at least 3 or 4 times.

I can understand the need to cut cost, but consider the following:

1. How much, really, do these brochures really cost in the scheme of things? I'd say that the cost of printing ALL of the brochures at one particular hotel is more than paid for even if you get just one or two guests from that hotel to visit WDW.

2. The Walt Disney Company is far from hurting financially, especially after their record profits and outsourcing a bunch of jobs. Just how much more money do they intend to accumulate here?

This is a very puzzling move.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Disney Welcomes Baby White Rhino

A baby white rhino was the first baby born in 2007 at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Named Tom, it is the 6th white rhino born at Animal Kingdom.


A Surprise Disney Wedding.

I LOVE happy Disney stories, and this one certainly qualifies as one.

A member of described his plan to have his wedding at WDW, but kept it as a surprise to all the guests that they have invited. He and his bride disguised it as his 40th birthday. We were all excited to hear the rest of the story. His wedding took place on Dec. 16, and he has now back online describing what has transpired!

You will need to read the whole thread to find out what happened. The front desks cast members almost gave it away by being too friendly and asking if the guests are part of the wedding party. The groom had to go to all the resorts that the wedding guests are staying to let them know of the situation. Phew! It could have ruined the surprise! So keep that in mind if you are planning your own wedding surprise. :)

Anyway, the whole wedding sounded just plain MAGICAL! I'm such a sucker for stories like this. Presumably, there will be more details and pictures to follow. I can't wait!

If you have other stories that you found, or something you did yourself, I'd love to hear it!


Monday, January 08, 2007

Disney to Unveil New Website Today

This could be a major milestone for the Disney Co. Bob Iger will be giving the Keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show today, and unveil the new website. This will be the biggest overhaul of the Disney website and a lot of people are highly anticipating it, not the least of which is me.

While I do know that they will focus a lot on children, I hope they also think of us adults who frequently visit the various Disney sites, especially the pin trading sites (I don't know of any child who regularly goes there).


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tigger in Trouble Again!

What is it with this frisky Tigger? First he got accused of molestation (and got acquited). Now, it's physical assault!

Well, by nature, he has to be frisky. But in all the years we have taken pictures with him, his playful nature didn't extent to mock punching. So this is a highly unusual gesture for Tigger, meaning he can't use the excuse of a "set behavior" that is expected for that character.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Not-So-Good-News for Disney

These are the not-so-good news related to Disney from this past week.

1. A 13-year old girl accused a man of sexually assaulting her on a Disney cruise ship. My question in things like this is that, if this really happened (we still have to give this person the benefit of the doubt till he has his day in court), what in the world made him think he can get away with it? I mean, it's not as if he could just run away!

2. ABC network forced the ISP of a blogger to take down his website due to excerpts of noxious comments made on an ABC radio talk show. I really doubt that this came down from the Disney corporate offices, but someone from ABC has turned this into a publicity nightmare instead of it being extremely non-consequential. Of course, the whole Walt Disney Corporation also got mud slinged in its direction because of this just because ABC is owned by the company. Corporate lawyers should be forced to use this as a case study where non-doing something would have been a lot more preferable. This whole incident is just plain dumb.

3. Disney reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of a woman from Spain who died a couple of months later after riding the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland. I don't know what to make of this, because Disney seldom back down on lawsuits. I have been on this attraction this past June, and it is a FUN ride, very much like the Dinosour ride at Animal Kingdom. However, while it is intense, it is all similar to a simulated ride. So it's not as if you're on a roller coaster or anything like that.

But other than that, it's just business as usual!



WDW Marathon

The Walt Disney World marathon is this weekend. The half marathon is today (Sat), while the full marathon is on Sunday.

If I remember it from last year, traffic was a nightmare during the marathon, especially in the morning. Luckily, being a bit familiar with the layout around WDW, we managed to get to the parks via alternative routes. If not, if we simply follow the signs, we would have been stuck with the rest of the tourists going nowhere.

So good luck to people driving around WDW this weekend.


Another Child Heading to WDW

Make A Wish foundation is sending another child to the Walt Disney World. It is amazing what this kid has had to go through since the very beginning of his life. I hope the Disney trip is as much fun as he imagined it.


Friday, January 05, 2007

A New Way to Fly?

JetBlue has finally arrived in Chicago! Hooray!

JetBlue started its service out of O'Hare yesterday, Jan 4th. I've always wanted to fly JetBlue, but never had any chance even when I was in NY, because of their limited service. Of course, until now, they didn't have any service in Chicago.

We usually fly to Orlando for our WDW trip by flying Southwest - it's our favorite airline. But I've seen JetBlue flying into Orlando International, so I'm hoping that this might be another alternative to try. For now, JetBlue has a limited route out of O'Hare, flying only into New York and LA. I'm hoping they'll add the Orlando service very soon, because I've already enrolled in their frequent flyer program already!



Walt Disney Parks and Resort Press Release

More on what to expect in 2007 at various Disney theme parks and resorts throughout the world. Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo highlights all the upcoming openings throughout the Disney empire.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

NYC Subway Hero Offered A Trip to WDW

The hero who saved a man at a NY subway station gets a trip for him and his family to the Walt Disney World. Well deserved, I would say. We toss around the word "hero" so easily, especially to movie sports stars. But it is in incident like this that we truly know what it means to be a "hero".

A hero at Walt Disney World will truly be a Magical event.


Disney New Offerings

A list of new offerings, attractions, and services from Disney theme park worldwide.


Disney Having Difficulties Marketing Ratatouille?

Most of us can't tell the difference between a mouse and a rat (some of us flee way too fast before we can make a proper identification). So one would think that a Mouse would be the last creature to have 2nd thoughts about marketing a picture about rats, wouldn't you?

Well, if we are go to by several of the news reports, Disney is getting rather apprehensive in finding a marketing strategy for the upcoming CG movie Ratatouille.

This is strange, because there has an earlier report that the trailers for Ratatouille have been oustanding, and that it is the next animated feature Meet the Robinsons that has produced a rather flat trailer and unimaginative marketing.

This is going to be an interesting year....


Pin Trading Nights Coming Back To WDW

Hooray! Pin Trading Nights are coming back to Walt Disney World!

It was very puzzling that this monthly event suddenly went away last year. That, coupled with a more tone-down Pin Celebration event at Epcot and the absence of holiday pin events were thought to be a bad omen for pin collectors that Disney is withdrawing support for organized pin trading and events at WDW. Certainly, the pin trading nights continued at Disneyland Resort. So it was certainly puzzling considering that pin trading is huge at WDW.

So this revival of pin trading nights back at where it started is certainly good news. I'm hoping that one of my trips this year will coincide with one of these pin trading nights.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Disney to Launch Myspace Knockoff?

I reported here earlier about the upcoming unveiling of the new makeover. We now know a bit more in detail of the extent of the new features that will be incorporated into this new look. It appears that Bob Iger will reveal on Jan 8 that the new will also have a social networking feature that would be "friendly" to kids and teens (or tweens) who are responsible for the surprise hits on the Disney Channel.

All I can say is that don't forget us adults! We're the one with the money!


More on Il Etait Une Fois Walt Disney

I reported here earlier about the exhibition in Paris on the art of Disney titled "Walt Disney - Once Upon a Time". Ben Simon at Animated Views made an exclusive tour of this exhibition in Paris and wrote a very informative report on it, with tons of terrific pictures.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Year Ago Today

A year ago on this day, I was celebrating my birthday at the Walt Disney World. It was one of the most wonderful time I've ever had. We started off at Animal Kingdom, got my "It's My Birthday" button from Guest Relations, and had a wonderful time. Then in late afternoon, we made our way to the Magic Kingdom, where I had my birthday dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. I had a HUGE chocolate cake as you can see from the picture. In fact, it was so yummy-looking, that Dale tried to steal the cake!

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We stayed on for Wishes and then head back to our "home" at Saratoga Springs. But when I walked in to our room, there were these balloons and a card attached to it. It was a picture of Mickey. When I opened it, it said "Happy Birthday, from your Pal, Mickey Mouse". I almost cried!!


It was a magical time. Compare to that, this year will be a quiet one spent mainly at home. It didn't help that George Bush declared today a day of mourning! :)

I hope to do my birthday again at WDW soon.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Age Limit of 21 for 5 Pleasure Island Clubs

Starting today, Jan 1st, 2007, five Pleasure Island venues in Downtown Disney will be strictly for guest of age 21 and over. This makes the age restriction to these clubs uniform, instead of having one being at 18 while the other at 21.

So kids, sorry. You can't go in. Mommy and Daddy will come pick you up later.



A Dictator with a Love for Disney?

This is either an amusing, or sad news. It appears that during happier times, Saddam Hussein and his clan were Disney fans! They found 8 ft plastic models of Mickey and Donald at their former home.

Zz. to be Revamped, the main Disney website, will have a sleek makeover. It will be introduced by CEO Bob Iger at the upcoming CES.

As someone who visits this website often, I would say that it can be a bit confusing to find things, although not for shopping. So it would be interesting to see if the revamped version is any better not just in terms of apppearence.