Friday, August 31, 2007

Mouse of Blues

This NY Post commentary doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about the stage production of The Little Mermaid, or even for that matter, Tarzan and Mary Poppins. This was based on Variety's scathing review of the preview of The Little Mermaid that is currently playing in Denver. It sounds like, if the rumors are true, there's a lot of turmoil for that production, with barely a couple of months left before its scheduled Broadway opening, where the theater critics are even more vicious.


Richard Petty Driving Experience Bringing Safe Driving Program To Walt Disney World Speedway

Wow! There is some use after all for the Richard Petty Driving Experience facility!


OK, so I was being stupid there, but I think of all the attractions at WDW, this is the one that I have the least bit of interest in doing. Still, it appears that this facility is perfect for teaching safe driving skills, especially to teens/young drivers.


Ebert's Review of Ratatouille

Because of his brush with some nasty medical condition, Roger Ebert only recently got to write a complete review of Ratatouille. It is safe to say that saying he gave it 4 stars isn't adequate.

Brad Bird and his executive producer, John Lasseter, clearly have taken over the leadership in the animation field right now. Yes, Bird made "The Incredibles," but the one that got away was his wonderful "The Iron Giant," in which a towering robot was as subtle, gentle and touching as Remy. His eye for detail is remarkable. Every prop and utensil and spice and ingredient in the kitchen is almost tangible, and I for one would never turn off the Food Channel if Remy hosted a program named "Any Rat Can Cook."

This is clearly one of the best of the year's films. Every time an animated film is successful, you have to read all over again about how animation isn't "just for children" but "for the whole family," and "even for adults going on their own." No kidding!

Get get any more of a glowing review than this, folks.


Cruizin' Disney's California Adventure

I mentioned earlier about the new Segway tour at DCA. Mouse Planet now has a report of that tour. It certainly sounds like something I would like to do, since it will give a better highlight of the much-maligned DCA park.

Still, considering that DCA is being considered for a major overhaul and re-theming, one may have to this again in a few year if things have changed significantly.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Richard Kraft, Finding Kraftland

OK, this is such a fun interview, you just have got to read it. Wish I have the money that he has to buy all those stuff. :)

I also wish I could see his home movie. Why can't he put it on YouTube or Google video? :)


Disney Involved in 2 GardenWalk Hotels

Oooh.. more juicy rumors!

The LA Times is reporting that Disney is planning to operate 2 hotels on the proposed GardenWalk mall just outside of California Adventure, and leading to a land that could possibly be Disneyland Resort 3rd Gate (depending if that housing project goes through or not).

Al Lutz of the fan website reported Tuesday that two of the four new hotels Disney plans in the Anaheim Resort District would be in GardenWalk. He wrote that one would be a moderately priced "family hotel" with rooms having themes including Disney or Pixar characters. The other would be smaller and more luxurious, similar to a "big city W Hotel," Lutz wrote. The hotels would have a total of 866 rooms.

Disney would provide the licensed use of its name and characters and hire employees to operate and manage the facilities, according to the website. Lutz said the arrangement would be unique because Disney would not own the property.

It still amazes me that now, mainstream newspapers are relying on blogs and fan sites to get some of their info. :)

Anyway, if this is true, then it would certainly add more resort capacity for Disney, even if they don't own the hotels outright.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where In Walt Disney World?

OK, here comes another challenge. Where in WDW can you find this? Try to be as specific as you can.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Little Mermaid Has Problems

OK, this is not good. The early review of the Little Mermaid stage musical, on preview in Denver, doesn't sound good. What should have been a slam-dunk may now appears to need major retooling before it opens on Broadway.

Then there are Tsypin's bizarrely alienating Plexiglass stage-scapes, overhung by giant disks that look like Christmas decorations but serve as the sun, the moon, a chandelier that could be an alien spacecraft and some unidentifiable marine orb. All this visual incoherence, plus some not always useful elaboration of a simple, disarming storyline, make what should have been a slam-dunk for stage presentation a waterlogged misstep.

It seems that they may have tried to make the musical to be too sophisticated visually and choreographically, to appeal to the adults while forgetting about the kids.

I definitely hope that they can make the significant changes required, or it might have the same lukewarm reception as Tarzan. But then again, Tarzan didn't have as memorable of a music as Mermaid, so that might be its saving grace.


Disney to Show File of Rosa Parks Arrest

Not only can you have fun and learn at Epcot this coming month, but you can also get to see a significant piece of American history. Disney will show, among other things, Rosa Parks' fingerprint and booking record from the arrest after her refusal to give up her seat. These historical items will be on display at Epcot (no longer Epcot Center, thankyouverymuch!).

I believe I will be lucky enough to be there when these are on display, so that will be exciting to see.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Disney to Honor Astronauts

Looks like Disney will have a number of ceremony to honor the crew of the just-returned STS 118 on Sept. 10, 2007.

Highlights include astronaut Barbara Morgan unveiling a new addition to the Mission: SPACE attraction; interview opportunities with the STS-118 crew; and the astronauts serving as honorary grand marshals in the Magic Kingdom's afternoon parade down Main Street, U.S.A.

Anyone will be there to send me some pictures? :) This thing will be in between my two trips there in Sept.


Epcot's "Fountainview Cafe" Changes To Ice Cream Parlor

Mickey News has a new report on the transformation of Fountainview Cafe into an ice cream parlor.

I never went into the old bakery/cafe before. Since most of my visit to WDW are during the warmer part of the year, having a hot coffee and pastries are not exactly something I do, especially when I've already had my fill of these things during breakfast earlier in the day. Now an ice cream parlor, that will work very well. Grabbing a cone of ice cream and then walking towards the World Showcase trying to lick it as fast as I can before it melts too much, that's something I would enjoy doing!



Ratatouille on DVD and Blu-Ray November 6, 2007

Ratatouille will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 6. Just check out all the details of the DVD and Blu-Ray disks from this Disney press release.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ratatouille Hits 3 Billion Yen at Japanese Boxoffice

Not bad for a movie that many Wall Street Suits are claiming to be a "failure". Ratatouille has surpassed 3 billion yen in Japan.

This movie is a hit from whatever different angles one views it. And if the receipts from Europe is any indication, it is still going strong.


Keep Oceans Clean

I reported earlier the news that US Dept. of Energy will be joining with Disney to use Disney-Pixar characters to promote wise energy use. Well, I'm not sure if this is one of their efforts (it doesn't seem to involve the DOE), but I recently noticed this promotion using Disney characters from The Little Mermaid to keep our oceans clean. You can even click parts of the screen to play a simple game.

So we are certainly starting to see this type of ads out on the internet.


Keep Oceans

Where In Walt Disney World?

We have had many people being able to guess almost right away the locations of these pictures from WDW. So here's another one. Where in Walt Disney World is this? Bonus points of you can be as specific as possible.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Disney's Lobbyists Win Visa Victory

It looks like a Disney-pushed measure to include more countries in the visa-waiver program might be signed into law.

Under the new law, more countries could qualify to send tourists to the United States without visas for up to 90 days. Only 27 nations can do that now, but tourism officials hope others will be added if required security improvements are made.

"The easier we make it to travel to Orlando, the better," said Danielle Courtenay, who does global publicity for the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The group has targeted Brazil and Argentina as two countries where it wants to expand tourism.

Oh great! We're going to have more Brazilian high school kids at the park!


This certainly is quite a change in policy, considering that just a year ago, there was talk of reducing or even eliminating the visa-waiver program after several UK citizens were involved in highly-publicized terrorist acts. Signing this into law would certainly open up a large portion of the world that could potentially be more inclined to visit Orlando/WDW.


Friday, August 24, 2007

The Port Disney Project

Some time it is fun and depressing at the same time to read what could have been. Jim Hill Media has a rather interesting description of what would have been the Port Disney theme park at Long Beach, which later on got reincarnated as the Disney Sea in Tokyo. I'm not actually surprised this doesn't get built, because the environmental impact to that area could have been substantial. Still, with the port harbor nearby and all the already-built development, it's not as if Disney was moving into pristine nature preserve land. In fact, I would think that Disney would have been a better steward of preserving the coastal area in the theme park that most municipalities.

Oh well, just another lost opportunity.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

News of Baby Einstein Video Controversy Made It Into Nature

Nature, one of the most prestigious science journals, has a news report on the fight between the University of Washington and The Walt Disney Company based on Bob Iger's letter to the university demanding a retraction of its press release. This issue is covered in this week's edition of Nature (23 August, 2007, p. 848). There's nothing in here that we haven't known already from the various newspaper articles. However, there's one interesting aspect that I didn't know of till now:

Deborah Linebarger, an expert in child development and television at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, was asked by Disney to defend Baby Einstein to the FTC. Although believing such products can be useful, she declined. "I have concerns that anything called Baby Einstein, Genius, etcetera, is exploitive of a vulnerable population," she says.

Despite having "some methodological issues" with the paper, she says: "There are some valid conclusions in it that warrant additional research. I'm cautious, but it makes sense."

That doesn't sound very good for Disney.

While I can understand the Disney company's demand for the retraction of the UW press release (I think they tried to oversell it, as in most other press releases), I think the Disney company took the wrong tactic. As with any scholarly publication, and especially in this area of study where a lot of it depends on "stamp-collecting", i.e. doing survey and collecting data, the most effective means of countering the result is to either write a rebuttal to the journal, or to commission another study to verify the result, especially if the methodology is in question, as it appears to be in this case. Disney's letter has the effect of giving the impression that it wanted a retraction of the paper itself, even though it clearly stated that that isn't what it wanted. But with the public reading it, and with the media reporting it, this message is often lost.

While it may not be the most efficient and timely path to take, science cannot be done in the media. If the Walt Disney Company has issues with the accuracy of the work, then it should counter it in the scientific arena, not in the media, and certainly not by writing such letter, even if it is only demanding a retraction of the press release. The university can easily claim, as it is doing now, that it is based on the research work, and had the endorsement of the authors as being an accurate reflection of the published work. So now what?

The letter has generated more negative publicity for the Baby Einstein product than if the Disney company had just kept quiet and seek new research data to counter the paper. I hope they didn't simply consulted their attorneys and not their scientists (if they have any) on the ways to deal with this.


HSM2 Soundtrack Hits #1

As if the phenomenal success of High School Musical 2 on the Disney Channel isn't enough, the soundtrack to the show had just hit #1 on the Billboard Album charts, racking up sales for the week that is the 2nd highest of the year so far. The impact of the show is quite impressive:

Most impressively, "High School Musical 2" outsold the rest of the top 10, which collectively mustered sales of only 514,000. Digitally, 326,000 individual tracks were sold in the week ended Sunday, and 20,000 ringtones were sold as well.

The TV tuner's "You Are the Music in Me" is at No. 9 on the single chart, having sold 60,000 downloads, the leader among the tuner's six top-40 tracks. A separate track, "What Time Is It," sold 25,000 physical singles in addition to its digital sales.

Arrival of the sequel sent the original on a 37% sales spike. The "HSM" soundtrack sold 30,000 copies, rising 12 slots to No. 16. The original, which was the biggest-selling album of 2006, now has a cume of 4.1 million.

That's why I said earlier that while the Disney Channel itself has no advertisers and thus, the ratings actually do not translate directly into advertising dollars, the indirect impact in terms of merchandising and brand name is enormous. This is something other hit TV shows do not have.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Future of Housing Near Disneyland Goes To The Voters

.. and hopefully, this will settle it once and for all (although I doubt it).

The Anaheim City council (y'know, those clowns) has set June 3 (I assume 2008) for the residents of Anaheim to decide if that small parcel of land within the originally-designated resort district can be rezoned for housing.

I don't foresee a clean campaigning from either side. This battle should continue till the very end.


Disney Channel Crushes Rival In Weekly TV Ratings

As if there's any doubt of the outcome, The Disney Channel obliterated all rivals, even major broadcast network, in the ratings last week. Propelled by the record-breaking premier of High School Musical 2, and the weekly showing of Hannah Montana, the channel racked up number that any network executive would be envious of.

While the ratings would make a broadcast network executive stand up and sing even on a regular-season night, "Musical 2" was extraordinary for cable. It was the most-watched basic cable telecast of all time, the biggest TV program ever among ages 6-11 and drew the best primetime audience for anything on cable or broadcast during the summer other than sports telecasts and the Olympics since September 5, 1997.

"Hannah Montana," which followed "Musical 2" on Friday, averaged 10.7 million viewers, the top telecast for a series in cable history.

Network TV's most-watched program for the week ending Sunday, NBC's "America's Got Talent," barely cleared "Hannah" and couldn't come close to "Musical 2." "Talent" averaged 10.8 million viewers and a 3.1 rating/10 share in the adults 18-49 demographic for Tuesday's telecast, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday.

While Disney does not make any direct profit from such TV ratings since the Disney Channel has no advertisers, the impact in terms of merchandising and brand recognition is enormous and can be sustained for years to come. This is something more TV shows do not have. Unless they make a misstep, they can milk this cash cow for a long time.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Disney To Launch HD Channel

OK, now we're into some good news that I'm actually interested in! :)

Direct TV has announced that Disney will be launching a high-definition channel exclusively on its satellite network early next year. Hooray! And yes, that implies that I also have Direct TV. Not only that, but Direct TV is scheduled to broadcast the monster hit High School Musical 2 on Aug. 24 in high-def, with 5.1 digital audio.

Nope, I'm still not watching it, even in high-def!



Mickey Has Two Mommies??!!

OK, so this is a rather amusing, but still cheap, minor publicity stunt by Science, of all journals (access to the link available without subscription only for a limited time). Just because the work was done on mice, doesn't mean they have to associate it with Mickey.

Still, it made me look, so I guess the stunt worked!



Live Interative Characters Debut at Epcot

A few months ago, there was a report on the Live Character Initiative at Disney's California Adventure. Animatronics characters of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his nervous assistant Beaker made their appearance among the guests at DCA and interacting with them.

It seems that they have made the journey over to the east coast. They made their appearance at Epcot. This is exciting because I will be there in about 3 weeks. I hope they will still be around by then.

Edit: Orlando Sentinel has a report with a video of the characters in action. Check it out!


Could Price Cuts Worsen China's Toy Quality?

With all the issues surrounding products made in China, there is also a sense that the competition for very cheap products might also contribute to poor working conditions for various Chinese laborers. This also includes products made for Disney.

Walt Disney Co. and Sanrio Co. are among companies whose demands for lower prices from Chinese toy suppliers contribute to low product quality, according to New York-based advocacy group China Labor Watch.
Pearl Tower Garments & Toys Co. in Shenzhen, which makes Mickey Mouse dolls for Disney, doesn't provide pension, unemployment or maternal insurance for many of its 1,000 workers, violating its employee contracts, the report said.

Disney, of course, has a stringent policy against such labor exploitation. But to what extent can they verify such compliance all the time?

As a substantial Disney consumer, I am also indirectly responsible for this to occur. In fact, as a pin collector, the problems come in two different ways. The first is that practically all of the Disney pins are made in China. So whether I like it or not, I am a part of the consumer that buy all of these products and probably demand cheap prices (although I wouldn't call these pins cheap by any stretch of the imagination). Am I contributing to Disney's greed of increasing its profit margin by finding cheaper sources to produce all of these pins?

But the second problem impacts both Disney and the pin collectors/traders. It is my "evidence" that Disney cannot always monitor and control what and how things are done in China. One of the big problems in Disney pin collecting is fake/counterfeit/bogus/unauthorized Disney pins. Strangely enough, for serious pin collectors, the bogus pins are often easy to spot, and there are various fan websites that actually have a running list of such pins as they are discovered. What is more difficult is the unauthorized pins, or what some called "scrappers". These are pins that are never sold through Disney. They probably came from the same manufacturing process, and even probably in the same batch as authorized pins. But a manufacturer can easily produce more than required, and ship only the quantity that has been ordered. The extras are then sold to various "agents" and eventually, get to unsuspecting (or even suspecting) individuals. These eventually get into circulation via pin trading or other means. We certainly have been on the unsuspecting receiving end of this and have learned the hard way on how to spot such a thing. So it certainly has affected us and our pin collecting. However, it also affects Disney because these pins are sold by the bulk (on ebay) and then make it into circulation at their theme parks. It isn't easy to spot these scrappers and also other counterfeit pins unless you have a photographic memory of all the known fakes/scrapers and know what characteristics of the pin to look for. This doesn't consider those that are not known yet.

I had a huge shock one time when I bought the 2006 New Year Mickey Ears hat and found out that it was made in the good old USA! That was a first since I don't recall ever buying a Disney product made here. So it can be done! But I don't expect to see such a thing very often.


Disney Park an Urban Legend

A Disney park in South Texas? Say it isn't so! :)

OK, this has almost no validity to this rumor, but it is a rather interesting article on how Disney is such a huge name, and that even the slightest hint of anything can suddenly blow up into "Disney is building a park here!"

But contrary to popular belief, Walt Disney's plans for a theme park in South Texas are nothing more than an urban legend. It is a myth that has grown with an amazing virulence.

"Disney will build a theme park on the moon before they build one in San Antonio," said Dennis Speigel, president of Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Services Inc.

Whoa! Don't say that! The moon people will now start their own rumors of "Disney is building a park on the moon!"

But how did one of these urban legend started anyway?

"If somebody comes to town wearing a Disney T-shirt, that's enough to start a rumor," said Paul Serff, president of the Texas Travel Industry Association and former general manager of Fiesta Texas (pre-Six Flags).

Oh no! This could easily be MY FAULT! I go around many places wearing Disney T-shirts, both in and out of the country. Could I have inadvertently been the one who actually is the cause all of these rumors?

Oh my!



Disney Hit Is No Victory For Right-Wing

Some time, people read way too much into things.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Suntimes (and also of Ebert and Roeper), wrote an interesting article about the hit High School Musical 2. While many conservative groups are applauding it as "proof" that "wholesome, family entertainment" can become a hit and "Hollywood" is missing the boat, Roeper has a different take on it.

Some right-wingers wasted no time in jumping on the "Disney's High School Musical 2" express on Monday, claiming the record ratings as a victory for family values -- and a blow to all those smut-peddlers in Hollywood.


From MRC president Brent Bozell III: "Hollywood likes to tell us there isn't a market for family-friendly television shows. Those smut and violence peddlers don't have a clue. The phenomenal, record-breaking success of 'High School Musical 2' proves it, in spades."

Adds Robert Knight of the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute: "Millions tuned in Friday to watch a show without violence, sex or bad language. . . . Not everyone wants to drown in a sea of sexual innuendo and violence."

Note to Bozell and Knight: "Disney's High School Musical 2" is a product of, wait for it, DISNEY -- as mainstream Hollywood as it gets. Given the billions the company has made off wholesome fare, they might not be totally clueless about the family-friendly market.

With movies, stage adaptations, sing-along versions, dolls, books, a video game, a documentary, etc., etc., this is a mega-franchise. "High School Musical" is pure Disney, pure Hollywood.

And let's not forget either that Disney has been the target of numerous boycott calls from various conservative groups. It is on the boycott list of one conservative group opposed to Planned Parenthood. And until a few years ago, the Southern Baptists boycotted Disney for its tolerance of the non-Disney Gay Days festivities. So I find all this to be rather ironic, to say the least.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Disney's Imagineers Examine Enchanted Forest's Newest Ride

Ah, could this be a hint on the next generation of indoor ride vehicles?

It appears that a team of Disney's Imagineers went to Oregon to study (possibly also ride?) the newest ride at the Enchanted Forest park. What they were examining is a new indoor ride vehicles that is trackless and works using a barcode system.

Barcode technology guides The Challenge of Mondor's cars. That allows the cars to have a greater range of movement than vehicles hooked to a track.

The trackless ride system was built by ETF of the Netherlands. It is the only trackless ride system built by ETF in the United States, Enchanted Forest officials said.

Now just think how the Buzz Lightyear ride would be with that?!!


Disney's High End Merchandise

This article looks at the Disney Consumer Products expansion into the luxury market. While I haven't had any inclination to obtain any of these (and certainly not the wedding gowns), I actually wouldn't mind getting those "... triple-milled soap sets inspired by Alice in Wonderland..".

Just hope, as the article has indicated, that they don't exploit it too much and cheapens the brand.


Move Over Mickey: A New Franchise at Disney

The New York Times makes a closer examination of the new franchise phenomenon that is the High School Musical. After the last record breaking debut of High School Musical 2, there's no reason why Disney can't sustain this franchise for... er ... forever! After all, people are going to continue to have kids. So the supply of tweens is never-ending!

Just as long as I'm not subjected to the TV show or the music, we can co-exist peacefully.



Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ratatouille Continues To Do Well Internationally

It may not be a monster hit here in the US, but Ratatouille continues to do exceptionally well overseas.

Disney's "Ratatouille" cooked up $15.4 million at 3,483 in 30 markets, led by a tasty $7.1 million in France in a third frame in which it declined just 19%. The Paris-set toon dominated French biz as it outgrossed the next three pics and moved its territorial total to $34.7 million.

"Ratatouille" declined only 27% in holdover markets, and its $1 million Portuguese launch was the second best after that of "Shrek the Third." The comedy's performing in line with previous Pixar pics, already cuming nearly $150 million with half the major markets still to launch.

That's astounding, especially when it is still yet to open in many major markets. I just hope those in power at Disney realizes that this movie is no where near to be even considered a failure, certainly not with that kind of reviews.


High School Musical 2 Shatters The Record Books

High School Musical 2, which premiered last Friday, is now officially the most watched cable TV show in history.

Friday night’s debut of “HSM 2” on The Disney Channel drew an astounding 17.2 million viewers, making the program the most-watched basic cable telecast in history.

The ratings show kids and teens of all ages were tuned in to Friday’s premiere, earning “HSM 2” the record for the most-watched telecast of all time for kids in the 6-11 age group, and the 9-14 demographic.

Looks like at this rate, there'll be HSM 3 some time soon.


The Trip In Between 2 Hurricanes.

With the hurricane season at full blast and Hurricane Dean plowing through the Caribbean, everyone planning on going to WDW are understandably getting anxious. I have a trip in 2 weeks, so naturally I am paying close attention to any weather patterns forming in the Atlantic.

Still, if one lives there, or goes to WDW often enough, one is bound to encounter such weather problems. I'm no exception. In 2004, we were making our usual plan on going to WDW during the Labor Day week. Unfortunately, just around the time we were supposed to fly out, Hurricane Frances was pounding Central Florida and moving so freakingly slow! We had to postponed our flight and our hotel reservations because all flights in and out of Orlando were canceled. We were pay attention to the news literally every hour because we wanted to know when we could fly in, and if the theme parks would be open. On top of that, there was another hurricane (Hurricane Ivan) forming in the atlantic that was predicted to hit Florida around Sunday of that week, the day we were scheduled to fly out of Orlando to go back. We didn't care. We still wanted to go.

Finally, 4 days later than we planned, we flew in to Orlando for our shortened vacation. As we drove from the airport to WDW, and while driving around WDW itself, we could see some of the damage from all of the hurricanes that had struck the area that year alone. It was amazing to know that by Wednesday, WDW was operating as usual. And you know what? That vacation was one of the best times we've ever had at WDW. Due to the hurricane, and the thread of another one possibly coming later in the week, the theme parks were almost empty! We could do even the most popular rides multiple times (and we did!). We could walk in and buy tickets to La Nouba easily, and practically do things that we couldn't do because they were too busy or sold out.

So what started out to be a horrendous event turns out to be quite enjoyable, at least for us. Here are some pictures that we took during that trip.

These are some of the down trees that we see around WDW as we drove around.

The theme parks were practically empty. These are a few snap shots from Epcot.

This is the Magic Kingdom, close to Noon time.

And this is from Disney-MGM Studios.

Downtown Disney was also close to empty. We took the opportunity to walk in and get tickets to see La Nouba that very evening.

As with other things, there's always a silver lining when something like this happens.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is Tinker Bell's Look Too Risqué?

Participate in the Orlando Sentinel's poll on the Tinker Bell's Look. Do you think she is too risque?


My Birthday At WDW

Hey, The Disney Blog is running a birthday contest where someone could win that Year of a Million Dreams Mickey Ears hat. And if you've been following my blog, you know how much I want that hat! :) So here's my "contest entry". It is on my birthday at WDW.

My birthday is on Jan 2nd. So in 2006, we decided to do this at WDW. We got there on Jan 1st, and were there till the 7th. There were just three of us, but it was one of the best times I had at WDW.

The highlight of the day was my birthday dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern. They sprinkled our table with glittery ears and party streamers. Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Chip 'N Dale were there to help me celebrate my birthday. Chip 'N Dale came over to our table quite a few times. In fact, Dale was quite mischievous that evening. More on that later.

So here's my cake that was specially ordered. It was HUGE for just the 3 of us, so we took the rest back with us. Of course, when they brought out the cake and lighted the candle, they announced it to the rest of the guests in our part of the restaurant, and the cast members there sang something (it wasn't "Happy Birthday") to me.

After I blew the candles, Dale came over, saw the cake, and tried to "steal" it.

Needless to say, the cake was delicious (it was chocolate). The whole dinner was just wonderful. But it wasn't over yet. We stayed for Spectromagic and Wishes. When I got back to our room at SSR, I saw this card on the table at the end of a couple of balloons. It said "Happy Birthday, from your Pal, Mickey". I almost cried! :)

It was a terrific end to a wonderful day. I hope to do my birthday again there some time soon.


Friday, August 17, 2007

George Lucas Land?

Oooh.. I love a juicy gossip even when it doesn't come true.

There are rumors flying around (why do they always fly around? Why can't they walk like the rest of us?) that with the renaming and the expansion of the Star Wars/Indiana Jones theme at Disny-MGM Studios, that George Lucas may get a "land" at the theme park devoted to his beloved movies.

That may not be that bad of an idea since the Star Wars franchise isn't that well exploited (yet). They could build on the newly-renovated Star Tours and expand the Star Wars theme. The Indiana Jones part may require some work. What about (horrors) bringing the Indiana Jones ride from Disneyland? That would fit well along with the stunt show, no?


Disney's Blu-Ray Release Wave in 2008

This is looking a bit ahead, but the big news here is that Disney is going release Finding Nemo and Sleeping Beauty in Blu-Ray format in 2008.

At this rate, the way Disney has been very aggressive in supporting the format, if HD-DVD doesn't do something similar, they'll lag behind even more.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

University of Washington Turns Down Disney Request For Retraction

The University of Washington has turned down The Walt Disney Company's request for retraction of the press release that was damaging to the baby videos (in particular, the Baby Einstein's videos).

It looks like Disney will have to either get their own scientists to publish a rebuttal to the paper, and/or file a lawsuit against the press release for a misrepresentation of the paper's results.


Attendance Woes at Hong Kong Disneyland Continues

It looks like Hong Kong Disneyland is still struggling. Unconfirmed news reports are predicting that it will have an attendance in its second year even lower than last year, and missing the projected attendance by quite a lot.

As with DCA, Hong Kong Disneyland needs an infusion/tranfusion/witch doctor/etc. real soon.


Art of Disney Stamps

Don't forget, the US Post Office's latest set of Art of Disney stamps are scheduled to be released today (if it hasn't already), accompanied by a ceremony today at Epcot.


Ratatouille Wows The French

This is a terrific article from the Washington Post on the success and the reason why Ratatouille is a big hit with the French.

But Darroze said it wasn't the 3-D rows of worn copper pots and gargantuan stoves -- or even her own cheese plate -- that captivated her heart when she watched the film.

"It is a movie about passion," she said. "We as cooks understand that, in the kitchen, everyone can live this passion, even if you're a rat."

"What makes the difference is that it's a declaration of love to France, Paris -- and good food," said Guillemette Odicino-Olivier, film critic for Télérama, a weekly magazine that publishes some of the most feared film critiques in the French press. "People like it so much because Paris is depicted the way we would like it to be -- with kitsch references mixed with elements that are more contemporary."

Like I said, no matter what happens with the movie here in the US, it is a genuine masterpiece. If Disney intended to go back to quality rather than cheap quantity, they are definitely on the right track with this movie. However, that Underdog movie might have made this cause to go back a few steps.


Disney's Mouse Is Ratings Big Cheese

On the eve of the premier of High School Musical 2, the Disney Channel is raking up its 5th consecutive victory as the top rated cable channel. Not only that, but...

According to Nielsen Media Research data fro the week ended August 12, the Mouse continued its two-year streak in the kids 6-11 and ‘tweens 9-14 demo, averaging 1.29 million and 1.07 million viewers respectively.

They are firing on all cylinders now, and chances are good that they'll get blockbuster numbers next week after the premier of this ratings monster known as High School Musical.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Disney Bibs Have High Lead Content

It appears that there are still bibs being sold on store shelfs that have high lead content. This includes Disney's Winnie The Pooh bibs on sale at Toys 'R Us.

Tests conducted on the bibs for the public interest group Center for Environmental Health (CEH) as well as tests conducted separately by the New York Times showed lead as high as three times the level allowed in paint in the bibs.

The CEH said Wednesday that it purchased the Vinyl bibs from Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores, including a bib with Disney's (Charts, Fortune 500) "Winnie the Pooh" characters and store brand bibs marketed as "Koala Baby" and "Especially for Baby" bibs.

I expect more of these in the next few months as the industry, watchdog organizations, the govt., and the public sort itself out on what we are willing to pay for when we buy things.


Disney Acquires Rights to Pet Robots

Pet Robots? What are they?

It appears that Disney has acquired the motion picture rights to these "Pet Robots".

“It’s a dream come true,” said Sava, writer of Pet Robots and owner of Blue Dream Studios. “Not only will I get to work with the great guys at Benderspink, who’ve been producing some stellar work in bringing graphic novels to life on the big screen, but Disney? I grew up on Disney characters. My kids are growing up on Disney characters. I’m honored to have Pet Robots and Jake, Chris, Tammy, Tommy, Rock, Wind, Aqua, and Skye be a part of Disney’s rich tradition.”

Er.. OK. I still don't know what they are. Characters in books?


Measure to Control Disney Zoning is Nearer to Ballot

That fight in Anaheim is getting uglier and more ridiculous by the minute.

I still can't believe why I haven't heard ANYONE explain to me why they can't build affordable housing in the rest of the 95% of Anaheim. I've read many news reports and many "blogs", and especially those who are advocating such housing, there has been almost no mention of why they need to build such housing within the already-restricted resort district. Why there? Why not elsewhere in Anaheim? What's wrong with this picture?


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mattel Recalls the "Sarge" Toy from Cars

Just announced a few minutes ago, Mattel is recalling several million toys due to possible hazard to children. It includes the Sarge die cast toys from Disney-Pixar's "Cars".

Also recalled was the list are the "Sarge" die cast toys from the Pixar Cars movie assortment will be recalled because of hazardous lead paint.

The recalled Sarge Cars were sold individually and in assortment packs in retail stores nationwide from May 2007 to August 2007. The Sarge character is a small die cast car measuring about 3 inches in length.

The car is an Army green color and features a white star on the hood. Surface paint on affected products contains lead in excess of permissible levels.


A New Mystery Is Coming To Disney Pins

This was just announced on the Disney Pin Trading website.

A new mystery is coming to Disney pins at the Walt Disney World® Resort later this summer. Announced on July 19, 2007 as part of the fifth anniversary celebration of Disney's Pin Traders, this new mystery will be introduced to Disney's Pin Traders at the Downtown Disney® Marketplace and other select location at the Walt Disney World® Resort.

I love a mystery, being a Disney pin collector, this is just a giddy-double-coupon! But wait, there's more! (I'm practicing my infomercial announcer voice). It gets even more mysterious.

Julie Young, product developer for Open Edition pins and accessories, provided some additional information.

"I was inspired following a trip to Asia," said Julie. "This mystery will provide a new twist to a familiar way of collecting Disney pins."

I can't stand it!

They'd better do something truly amazing with all this hype! :)


Walt Disney Company Demands Retraction from University of Washington

The big news since yesterday is the pointed letter from Bob Iger to the University of Washington regarding their press release that publicized the paper written by their faculty members on the effectiveness of "baby videos" such as Disney's "Baby Einstein".

I've always said that science should never be done via press releases. This paper was only recently published and requires the scrutiny of various scientists in that field of study. Press releases have the tendency to "over sell" things (re: Fleishmann and Pon's "cold fusion" press release by the University of Utah).

I also hope that people who read Iger's letter would realize that it isn't an objection towards the publication of the paper. I'm sure their own researcher and others as well will write their own rebuttals or even other separate papers to counter the results of this publication. What they objected to was the press release that made conclusions beyond what the paper itself has said. After reading the letter, I am inclined to agree with it.

Still, I'm in the process of trying to get hold the original paper and see what exactly was written.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Remembering Disney World's Captain EO

Magical Mountain has a nostalgic look at the now-long-gone Captain EO, that starred Michael Jackson and produced by George Lucas.

I never saw this movie (it was before I became a Disney fanatic). So this brief description is certainly informative.


Another Cinderella Castle Guest

Oh, so you can win a dream night at Cinderella Castle suite by having your name drawn at a writer's conference at WDW. This writer certainly did as she described in her report.

In my case, my name was plucked from a silver bowl, fairy godmother-style, at a writers' conference at Disney World. Suddenly, everyone at the meeting was my new best friend, hoping for the royal nod to join me.

Given that my guests and I were all women of a certain age (and girth), our castle sleepover – probably every little girl's fantasy – was more like a fractured fairy tale starring "The Cinderella Six.

Good for her. And it looks like all of them made full use of all the amenities they were given.

Amid the rich wood paneling and brocades, we enjoyed the perk of free calls to family and friends on the suite's marble phones and toasted our luck – and the genius of Disney – with blue crystal flutes. Each souvenir glass was etched with a single rose and the date of our stay.

From buckets of ice and late-night caramel corn to a breakfast of coffee, iced cinnamon buns and scones, our concierge good-naturedly catered to our whims, insisting that they were not nearly as challenging as the fried chicken and greens a previous guest had him rustle up at 2 a.m.

Whoa! I didn't know about the souvenir glasses!

I'll never win one of this... :(


Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Awards More Than $1.5 Million

In case you're wondering where the money you donated to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Funds goes to, here is more news on it.

The DWCF funds - which are awarded to non-profit environmental groups and universities - will go toward 97 programs in 41 countries that are focused on saving animals and habitats. Recipients were chosen from more than 260 applications reviewed by Disney scientists, veterinarians and other animal experts.

This is in addition to the few scholarly works that I have highlighted previously (here and here) that was funded out of the DWCF. So if you have contributed to this (and we have, several times), I'd say that you have made a wonderful difference.


Block Party Bash Parade

One of the new elements that will be introduced after the renaming of Disney-MGM Studios into Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS) is the Block Party Bash parade replacing Stars and Motor Cars and Parade. The Block Party Bash parade is currently running at Disney's California Adventure park. In its present form, it is filled with characters from Pixar movies, which in itself can be quite exciting.

This Orlando Sentinel blog item describes that nature of that parade. If they adapt this parade faithfully for DHS, it might be fun. Still, I wish they add something original to it and not just make a carbon copy. Note that I said "add", not "replace" or "take away".


Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Magical Performance

This is a salute to Michael Morgan, a cast member in the Finding Nemo musical at Animal Kingdom. He is leaving the show to join the national touring company of The Lion King.

If you haven't seen the Nemo show, don't miss it next time you are there!


Friday, August 10, 2007

Disney World Offers Attractions for the Less-Daring

I didn't come up with that title. This news report did. It talks about the fact that WDW has plenty of other gentler attractions for the less-daring.

I find it rather strange to have to emphasize that because if you mention a Disney theme park to the uninformed, what's the first impression that they have? "Oh, that is just a kiddie park!" You don't think of roller-coasters and stomach-churning rides. You go to Bush Gardens, Six Flags, Ceder Point, etc. for that! So a guide on the tame rides at WDW? Ooookaaaayyyy!

So, if you are not up to the thrilling excitement of ToT or EE, I guess this guide will be useful to you. But then again, even without it, I don't think you'll have a difficult time finding something to ride once you get to the park.


Can 'High School Musical' Do It Again?

I can't believe there's a countdown to High School Musical 2!

Anyway, unless you've been living in a cave somewhere on Pluto (get it?), you would have heard about the phenomenon known as High School Musical. Well brace yourself. The sequel is about a week away from its premier on The Disney Channel. This news article examine the amazing success and whether Disney could recapture the lightning in a bottle with the sequel.

I will freely admit that I have never seen it (I've never seen Hannah Montana or the Cheetah Girls either). Just not my cup of tea. But I am certainly aware of how the Disney Channel is riding high on these major hits. I will probably not be glued to the TV when High School Musical 2 premiers... well, maybe I will, but watching some other TV shows.



Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shuttle Launch Over Mission Space

This is such an appropriate and cool picture from Laughing Place. This is a picture of the shuttle launch yesterday taken right over Mission Space.


Disney-MGM Studios To Be Renamed

It's official. Disney-MGM Studios will be renamed as Disney's Hollywood Studios starting this January. All those rumors about the renaming appear to be true.

I wonder how long will people still refer to it as "MGM"? I mean, after all, I still refer to the Reagan Airport near Washington DC as "National".



Upcoming Disney Trips

We have two upcoming WDW trips within a month of each other. Both of the trips required several "registrations" of some sort due to our participations in a couple of events.

The first one which I've already mentioned earlier is the trip to attend the Pin Celebration event at Epcot. We will be arriving on Sept. 6 and leaving on Sept. 9. So it will be a rather short trip (we normally stay for a week over the Labor Day week). We completed our Random Selection Process forms to be able to purchase several limited edition pins and pin sets. We will know which pins/pin sets we get to buy around Aug. 25th. I think for this event, there aren't that many pins that we personally would like to collect. There are a few good ones that we definitely want, but want to buy a few others because we know they will be highly collectible for others. So we can use those for trading.

Anyway, now that we know more pin traders around our area due to our involvement in the Windy City Pin Trading club, it will be a fun Pin event this time around, even more so than before.

Our second trip will be in late Sept. into October. We will be leaving on Sept. 29 and come back on Oct. 6. We have already bought the tickets to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party for Oct. 4. So looking forward to that one very much. In addition, we also registered ourselves with the fan-initiated celebration of Epcot's 25th anniversary on Oct. 1st. We have registered for that AND the Illuminations dessert reception on that day. So we hope to be participants in all the activities surrounding this celebration. This fan-based effort has certainly mushroomed into quite an event, and is now recognized by Disney. So I'm definitely hoping for something special for us on that day.

Definitely looking forward to these next 2 trips. Still, beyond that, we're planning on a short trip in late February 2008. It'll be a 3 night/4day trip to celebrate a friend's birthday (we're picking up all the expenses). So that will require even more planning (birthday dinner, cake, etc..). But those things are rather fun to do, so I don't mind.



Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Changes to the 2008 Disney Dining Plan

The big brouhaha around the various Disney fans websites is the changes to next year's Disney Dining Plan. The wildly popular program that provides guests with a table service meal, a counter service meal, and a snack for a flat rate of around $39/day for every night stay at a Disney resort will get an overhaul.

First, there are now two Disney Dining Plans - the regular plan which we will call the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), and the plan associated with a deluxe package, which we will call the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan (DDDP). Kevin Yee at MiceAge has used this notation.

The DDP is closest to the existing DDP, but with two major differences: (i) no more appetizer for the table service and (ii) gratuities are no longer included. The cost for the new DDP has been reduced by $1, which frankly, isn't anything significant.

This is what is listed on the Disney webpage for the DDP:
Disney Dining Plan
For each night of your package, each Guest in your party enjoys:

* 1 table-service meal
1 adult table-service meal includes 1 entrée and 1 dessert (lunch or dinner only), 1 juice (breakfast only) and 1 single serving non-alcoholic beverage, or 1 full buffet.

1 child table-service meal includes 1 appetizer, 1 entrée, 1 dessert (lunch or dinner only) and 1 single serving non-alcoholic beverage, or 1 full buffet. Children ages 3-9 are limited to the Children's Menu (if one is available) at table-service restaurants.
* 1 quick-service meal
1 quick-service meal includes 1 entrée or 1 complete Combo Meal, 1 dessert (lunch or dinner only) or 1 juice (breakfast only) and 1 single serving non-alcoholic beverage. Children ages 3-9 are limited to the Children's Menu (if one is available) at quick-service restaurants.
* 1 snack
1 snack includes one of the following: frozen ice cream novelty, popsicle, fruit bar, popcorn scoop (single serving box), single serving grab bag of chips, single piece of whole fruit, 20-oz. bottle of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or Dasani water, medium fountain soft drink or juice, 12-oz. coffee, hot chocolate or hot tea.

The DDDP costs around $70.00. However, this is the DDP on steroids. You get 3 meals per day, which can be either table service or quick service. So technically, you could have 3 table service per day if you wish (can you eat that much?). The table service now includes an appetizer. Gratuities are still NOT included. You also get 2 snacks per day.

This is the info from the Disney website on the DDDP:
Disney Dining Plan
For each night of your package, each Guest in your party enjoys:

* 3 meals
Choose from select Walt Disney World Resort table-service and quick-service restaurants for all 3 of your meals.

1 adult table-service meal includes 1 appetizer, 1 entrée and 1 dessert (lunch or dinner only), 1 juice (breakfast only) and 1 single serving non-alcoholic beverage, or 1 full buffet.

1 child table-service meal includes 1 appetizer, 1 entrée, 1 dessert (lunch or dinner only) and 1 single serving non-alcoholic beverage, or 1 full buffet.

1 quick-service meal includes 1 entrée or 1 complete Combo Meal, 1 dessert (lunch or dinner only) or 1 juice (breakfast only) and 1 single serving non-alcoholic beverage.

Children ages 3-9 are limited to the Children's Menu (if one is available).

* 2 snacks
A snack includes one of the following: frozen ice cream novelty, popsicle, fruit bar, popcorn scoop (single serving box), single serving grab bag of chips, single piece of whole fruit, 20-oz. bottle of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or Dasani water, medium fountain soft drink or juice, 12-oz. coffee, hot chocolate or hot tea.

All I can say is YOWZAH!

I know for sure that I am not getting the DDDP. There's just way too much food and way too much planning involved to get able to do more than 1 table service per day. I suppose one can try to use two of them for one of the premier dining. But when you pay that much per day, you tend to want to use it in the best possible way to get your money's worth, and that would mean as many table service as possible. That is just not practical and tends to get in the way since one has to make the planning and reservations way ahead in advance. The restaurants are already filled as it is during the peak hours of the day for dinner. The regular DDP, while still attractive, now no longer look to be as good of a deal as it used to be. It is too bad that they tinker with this and took away something from it.

So at this point, I haven't decided yet if we'll continue to get the DDP next year. There's a good chance that we won't.


Passengers Can Cruise Without Toll

OK, this is so un-Disney, and they should know better than to do this.

Under pressure from angry customers, Disney Cruise Line abandoned plans Tuesday to make passengers pay a new, $100-a-person toll on a pair of cruises that will pass through the Panama Canal next year.

Disney will instead pay the tolls on the two sold-out trips -- as much as $500,000 in all.

You just simply don't charge your customers an added charge that you didn't anticipate before, and certainly not with that amount, after they've made and paid for the trip already. This is not the kind of publicity any business wants, and certainly not something we expect from Disney.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Captain Jack Sparrow Sues Disney

Well, ok, it's not Capt. Jack himself, but rather his stunt double. TMZ is reporting that Anthony Angelotti, Johnny Depp's stunt double during the filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, claims to have had several injuries due to poorly supervise stunts and is suing Disney.

Just hope he doesn't get sucked into a vortex...


Year of a Million Dreams to Continue Till End of 2008

Disney has announced that the Year of a Million Dreams will continue till the end of 2008. That gives all of us plenty more chances to win a night stay at Cinderella Castle (yeah, right!).

All I care about right now is to win the damn Mickey Ears hat! :)


No Deal Reached in Talks of Disney, Developer

Looks like the battle for Anaheim resort district will go to the voters.

After weeks of talks aimed at resolving a yearlong zoning spat over a large housing project in the Anaheim Resort District, Walt Disney Co. officials and a developer have concluded discussions without a settlement, a park spokesman said Monday.

In all of this, no matter what happens, it is the people who need housing that will lose. They are fighting for 5% of Anaheim (as if the rest of the 95% doesn't exist) that is creating all of these jobs and economic resources. Not one of them has ever argued on why they need to create that housing THERE rather than elsewhere in Anaheim. Who told them that they have the right to live a few blocks from where they work? What kind of twisted entitlement is this?

Again, I work 31 miles from where I live. I have almost zero sympathy for people insisting that they should work where they live.


Translating Jungle Cruise Spiel Into Chinese

This is an excellent article on something that isn't covered often. When Disney opens theme parks outside of North America, there are several attractions that potentially could be "lost in translation". Jungle Cruise is one such example. While it is a leisurely ride through a (cover your eyes) fake jungle, what is the main attraction here is the stream of (bad) jokes and puns delivered by the ride operator.

Jungle Cruise might be one of the most relaxing rides in any Disney park -- it's a lazy-river boat ride -- but the rainforest backdrop, faux ruins and robotic characters aren't what draw successive generations back to make the journey. The ride has remained popular since the first one opened at Disneyland in 1955 largely because of the ride operator's comic monologue. For the ride to work, you have to understand the jokes.

And we all know that comedy often doesn't translate very well. The article didn't describe how Disney solved this problem for the Jungle Cruise attraction in Tokyo and Hong Kong. It would be nice to know how the chinese jokes translate into English. :)

It also raises another question. WDW has a lot of international visitors. I would bet that most of them look at the rest of us in puzzlement as we giggle and laugh our way through the ride. Or what about when most of the guests spontaneously echo "The Backside of Water"? I'm sure if I don't get what's going on, I would look at these people as being totally nuts! :)


WDW Update

The Disney Blog has some interesting latest pictures from WDW. The best one is on the new ride vehicles for Spaceship Earth that is under rehab right now. The new vehicles will have video monitors that allow for guests to have some interactions with the exhibits. This sounds fascinating.

There are also other pictures on the progress in removing the wand outside of Spaceship Earth.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Where In Walt Disney World?

OK, the last one was pretty easy that someone gave the right answer in just minutes. This one might be tougher, so consider it as a challenge.

Where exactly in Walt Disney World can you see this?


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Another Family Won Cindy Castle Stay

This Alabama family because another lucky group of people selected to spend the evening at Cinderella Castle as part of the Year of a Million Dreams celebration.

The odds of us getting this is so small, I'm not even thinking about it. All I want is for the Mickey Ears hat! Is that too much to ask? :)

We won the Dream Fastpasses last time, so I am hoping we get lucky with the hat on our upcoming 2 trips. I'm keeping all fingers and toes crossed.


Behind Disney World's Magic

OK, first of all, the warning.



Still with me? OK, let's continue.

This report went on the WDW Backstage Magic tour and reports in a bunch of behind-the-scenes info. Most Disney fanatics have taken some form of backstage tour, I'm sure. We have taken Keys to the Magic Kingdom and got to tour a little bit of the underground utilidors and other backstage areas. And yes, our tour guide at that time was also a woman and she had been Mickey Mouse many times as well, just like what was described in the article. We intend to go on that Backstage magic tour one of these days, but I think, I like this reporter, we won't be able to take any pictures.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ratatouille Opens Big In France

Ratatouille continues to do well in Europe and opened big in France. This is in the wake of glowing reviews in France and other parts of Europe.

People who simply pay attention to the bottom line will point to the fact that it is struggling to break $200 million in the US. To me, this movie is FAR from a disappointment. The quality of this movie is unquestioned, and it is getting universal acclaim all over the world. Disney and Pixar should be truly proud of this baby.


Underdog Is Not Wagging Its Tail

Disney's latest movie, Underdog, may be just that - a dog!

The movie isn't getting any positive review. But worse than that, a common theme in all the reviews seem to be the lack of creativity, or as the Boston Globe calls it, "....this creatively challenged family entertainment.." Ouch! That is bad for a Disney flick! The Toronto Star even came out and said that ".. it's strictly second-rate Disney.. "

Could this be Disney's first big flop of the year?


Friday, August 03, 2007

Walt Disney World Raising Ticket Price to $71

Er... explain this to me. Disney just announced for the 2nd quarter rising profits. The theme parks are doing exceptionally well, certainly the ones in the US. Then why are they raising the ticket prices?

Disney on Friday announced a whole range of new ticket prices that take effect Sunday. The price changes also affect the discount packages that still can push the per-day cost below $23 for adults who want to commit to as much as a 10-day run at Disney's four theme parks.

But almost all the prices are going up. And for the second year in a row, Disney is raising its prices in August rather than in December or January, when theme parks historically announced price increases.

It doesn't affect us that much, since we buy annual passes AND we get the DVC renewal discounts (although I would imagine that they would raise that as well). Still, what would be the rational reason for doing such a thing especially when the theme parks are doing very well?

[scratching head]


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Disney Doorway To Dreams DVC Member Preview - Gifts and Prizes

OK, here are the stuff in the goody bag that they were giving all the DVC members who came to the preview of the new store.

The first picture contains the brochure and program about the opening day on Saturday. There were also 2 pins, one of them has blinking lights, a refrigerator magnet clip, and something that looks like you hang on your doorknob. We also got buttons.

This second picture has the shopping bag that all the goodies came in, a Mickey Ears hat with the store logo, and the bag that I won when I answered a trivia question correctly. The bag actually unzips to open into a larger bag.

Not sure what they're giving away for the opening day, but we're pretty happy with what we got.


Disney Profit Rises 4.7 Percent

Disney continues to perform exceptionally well for the 2nd quarter, beating analysts expectations.

Net income rose to $1.18 billion, or 57 cents a share, from $1.13 billion, or 53 cents, a year earlier, Burbank, California- based Disney said today in a statement. Sales rose 6.7 percent to $9.05 billion. Disney also said today it acquired Club Penguin, a children's Web site, for $350 million and may pay another $350 million if the founders meet financial goals

I would say that if you are a stockholder in Disney, there's nothing here that would cause you undue worry, especially with the way other parts of the stock market have been performing lately (can we say "housing"?).


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Disney Doorway To Dreams DVC Member Preview

Today was the first day of the DVC Member preview of the Disney Doorway To Dreams store that just opened at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, a suburb outside of Chicago. We had a rather fun time with, of course, lots of free gifts.

We were told to check in at the Improve theater. As you can see from the marquee, they were expecting us.

The signs were everywhere to advertise the official opening day for the public, which will be this coming Saturday.

They placed us right in the Improve theater itself for the presentation. They were giving us quite a special offer to add on more points to our DVC membership. It was very, very tempting because not only do we get a $10 discount per point at SSR and AKL, but we also get no closing cost, and they'll also give us complimentary points equal or more than what we bought for to be used within the next 12 months! If you buy 110 points, they'll give you a complimentary 110 points on top of that to be used within the next 12 months. If you buy 200 points, they'll give you 400 complimentary points! Etc... etc... Like I said, very, very tempting.

Of course, our good friends were there. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Chip 'n' Dale were there for us to take pictures with, and encouraging everyone to buy more DVC points! :)

We were then escorted to the actual Disney Doorway to Dream store that has the model rooms at the new Animal Kingdom Lodge villas. It is right next to Nordstrom on the top level of the mall.

It was a fun evening. We got lots of free gifts. I even won a prize for answering a trivia question correctly. I will take pictures of all of them tomorrow and post them here.

And oh, about those DVC points, we did get more to add to our existing points. We now have an additional 110 points at SSR, our home, plus an additional 110 points to burn by August next year. I think we will be looking to use that at the new AKL villas, maybe a 2 bedroom when we invite our friends to come along.


Disney Nabs July Ratings Victory

The Disney channel can do no wrong right now. It capped a 3-week ratings victory with a resounding ratings win for the month of July among all basic cable channel. In fact, it had the best month ever.

However, since it is not ad-supported, I don't quite understand how that will directly translate into profits other than being a vehicle for promoting its shows and eventually merchandise/video sales.


Britney Spears Wants To Celebrate Divorce At Disney, With K-Fed, Kids

OK, this is just PURE celebrity gossip with no redeeming quality whatsoever. Still, I can't help it because you just want to say "Yeah, whatever!" Besides, what self-respecting blog would not have a single entry on Britney Spears? :)

So Britney is planning on celebrating the finalizing of her divorce from Kevin Federline by dragging the ex-husband and the kids to Disney World.


I'll give you 5 seconds to think about that one and to let it sink in.

I was tempted to remind her to wear underwear (especially when she's getting out of Splash Mountain), but that's way too easy.



Disney and Oklahoma - Follow-Up

As suspected, it was the last scenario that came true in the earlier report on this. The state of Oklahoma will be the first US State to have its own marketplace experience during the upcoming Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.

Oklahoma will be the first state to have its own experience marketplace. Native American cuisine will be provided by Kurt Fleischfresser, chef of Oklahoma City’s Coach House restaurant, while Bill Newsome will provide authentic chuck wagon fare, said state Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley. The selection process is still under way to choose a chef to provide Route 66 diner foods.

Gov. Brad Henry, joined by Shirley and Epcot Vice President Jim MacPhee, discussed the partnership at the state Capitol on Tuesday. Henry said the process began more than a year ago, when Disney “imagineers” visited Oklahoma and were impressed with the state’s history and culture.

Congratulations to the state. I look forward to seeing this "marketplace experience", since we will be there during this festival.