Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 1 at WDW

Greetings from the Most Magical Place on Earth!

We are at the DVC villas at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. And if you have a chance at staying here, I would highly recommend getting one of the savanna view rooms. It is spectacular! Even the wood furnishing is gorgeous (notice the "hidden Mickey" towel on the bed).

I've been told that the upcoming DVC Kadani village will be even more spectacular since that will be built from scratch as a DVC complex.

But when you have amazing views for your balcony looking like this, who would care about what's inside your room?

The only drawback to having something like this is that you tend to not want to leave your room! :)


Thursday, February 28, 2008

We're Packed and Ready to Go

I'm up at 3:00 am, earlier than I wanted to, but who can sleep when you're about to go see Mickey?

Did I mention that we will also attend the Pirates and Princess Party? Yup. That's one of the surprises that's in store for our birthday girl. So don't breath a word of it to her! :)

Adios! The next transmission will be from the Most Magical Place On Earth!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We Leave For WDW Tomrrow!

We're off to WDW tomorrow for a short, 4-day trip. This will be the first time we're back at our favorite place since the memorable Oct. 2007 trip to celebrate Epcot's 25th Anniversary with Celebration 25.

For this trip, we're bring one of our closest friend and her husband for an all-expense paid trip to WDW to celebrate her 60th birthday. We will be staying at the DVC villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with savanna view rooms. This will be the first time we will be staying at AKL, so we are also equally excited.

While the birthday girl knows where we will be having dinner during the first 2 evenings of our stay, she doesn't know where her birthday dinner on March 1st will be at. There's a couple more surprises that she and her husband do not know that will reveal on that day. I'll keep that for now and report later.

Will try to write my trip report while we're there whenever I get the chance. As for now, I will have to make sure I sleep tonight since we have to be up around 3:30 am to get ready to head out to the airport.


Disney, Siemens, and Spaceship Earth

This is a rather nice article that details the relationship between Disney and Siemens, especially in the latter's sponsorship of the revamped Spaceship Earth.

Though the company makes almost nothing that the average Disney World visitor might want to buy, Siemens' $100 million, 12-year agreement with Disney World in 2005 gives it naming sponsorship of Epcot's most iconic structure and ride, along with various other business arrangements. Under a new sign reading, "Spaceship Earth Presented by Siemens," the ride and its post-show gauntlet of games have been rolled out one a time, in soft openings during the past few weeks. Grand-opening festivities for everything are set for next Tuesday.

There's also another Siemens-sponsored event at WDW that the article missed - Illuminations.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Walt Disney World Feels Minor Power Outages

The massive power outage in southern and central Florida today had minor impact on Walt Disney World.

......some Walt Disney World resort hotels and a few backstage areas lost power for 20-30 minutes. None of the theme parks was affected.

The could survive hurricanes. So this should not be a big deal.


DisneyQuest Delights

Here's another attraction at WDW that doesn't get covered often - the DisneyQuest at the West Side of Downtown Disney. Luckily, we have a "trip report" of this attraction. It sounds like a lot of fun, and it's nice to know all those small tips.

We still don't know if it is closing, or if Disney is keeping it. The rumor of ESPN Zone being built there is still hanging around. If Disney is keeping, it, they certainly need to rethink of the concept and the promotion for it.


Coming to Disney World: "The Kingdom Tower"

This has got to be one of the worst-kept secrets coming out of Disney.

It is now reported that, based on filings by Disney with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the tower being built next to the A-frame Contemporary Resort will be a DVC resort. It will be known as the "Kingdom Tower".

Already something came across my mind immediately. While the Animal Kingdom Lodge has "Savannah View" rooms, I wonder if the new Kingdom Tower will have "Wishes View" rooms? :)

I certainly won't be surprised if they add a restaurant to the top floor of the tower. It only makes sense. It'll be another restaurant there beyond just the California Grill that will have a spectacular view of Wishes. Considering how popular CG with people making reservations during that time, another restaurant will be popular as well almost automatically.


Disneyland At Your Dentist?

You could have that if you go to a dentist in Covina, CA.

Chung, who owns a dental practice in Covina, has turned his three examination rooms into the various lands found within the Disneyland theme park.

It appears that this dentist moonlights as a cast member at Disneyland over the weekend. That explains how he managed to get all those merchandise.

I can certainly understand what he has done, since I do the same thing with my office at work. Most people like it a lot since it breaks the monotonous look of a typical office. Besides, it makes people happy. What could be so bad about that? :)


Little Mermaid CD Arrives Feb. 26; Cast Performs at World of Disney

If you are in NY City today (Feb 26, 2008) and will be anywhere near the World of Disney Store between 4 and 6 PM, you might get a treat from Sierra Boggess (Ariel) and Tituss Burgess (Sebastian) from the Broadway musical "The Little Mermaid. They will be at the store celebrating the release of The Little Mermaid cast album, and will be performing there before signing autographs for fans.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Disney Stands Out For Stability, Discipline

That's what Barron's evaluation of the Walt Disney Company says.

Walt Disney Co stands out for its management stability and financial discipline, and long-term investors should be happy, business weekly Barron's said in its latest report.

I think that as an investor, there's plenty to like about the company, even if the short term look of the US economy isn't that rosey. The company looks solid, and Bob Iger has certainly directed it well. I especially like how they are really trying to create new markets and new franchise (that rumored Shanghai park notwithstanding), but also really expanding (exploiting?) the lines that they already have. The Hannah Montana craze is one prime example. Whether that madness can be sustained is another matter, but at the moment, that franchise is a major cash cow for the company, I would think.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Ratatouille" Wins!

"Ratatouille" wins Best Animated Movie Oscar!

Congratulations to all involved with the movie. It is well-deserved.


Our Disney Pins 3 - Theme Parks

{Previous entries: Our Disney Pins 1, Our Disney Pins 2}

I like theme park icons. This means that I try to get pins of Cindy Castle, Epcot's Spaceship Earth, DHS's Sorcerer's Hat, and AK's Tree of Life, plus the park icons from other Disney theme parks outside of WDW. This is still a small collection, but growing quite fast.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Disney Composer Has 3 Chances to Win

Heading into tomorrow's Academy Awards, Alan Menken has 3 chances to win the Oscar for Best Song. But will each one of them cancel the other out? That didn't occur when the same thing happened for Beauty and the Beast. I'm hoping it will not happen with this either.

My personal favorite is "That's How You Know?", mainly because it has such a catchy tune, and the musical production in the movie was over the top, making it such a fun tune. So I am pulling for that one.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Beach Boys' "Kokomo" Video

I haven't seen VH1's "Pop-Up Video" in YEARS! I was bored today and couldn't find anything to watch (you'd think with more than 200 channels, I'd find something to watch, no?), and decided to watch Pop-Up Video just for the heck of it.

So they started showing Beach Boys' "Kokomo", which is a pleasent-enough tune. But one of the pop-up mentioned that the music video was shot at Walt Disney World! So I paid a bit more attention to the location, and I believe it was shot at The Grand Floridian, based on what I can see of the shape of the building. This is something I didn't know about, mainly because I don't remember ever watching the video.

You can check for yourself.


Walt Disney Pictures Sets '09/'10 Release Dates

Now that the writers strike is over, Disney has set the release dates for a number of movies in the next couple of years. ComingSoon has a list of them.

I don't tend to pay that much attention to movie titles, but really, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua"?



Disney Theme Park for Shanghai Likely to Move Ahead Soon?

Say it isn't so!

While this is still a rumor, and being denied by the Walt Disney Company, reports coming out of China seem to indicate that this is for real.

A long-anticipated plan to build a Disney theme park in Shanghai is likely to move ahead soon, a state-run newspaper said Friday, though the company denied the report.

The Shanghai Securities Journal, citing an unnamed official, said the park is due to be built in the southern outskirts of Shanghai's Pudong district and has already received needed government approvals.

"In the past it was all speculation, this time it's for real!" the paper said.

Did they already learned from the mistakes they made in Hong Kong? If another Disney park opens near Shanghai, what will happen to Hong Kong Disneyland since they could be competing for the same pool of guests from China? Is Hong Kong going to be relegated simply as a "smallish" theme park serving mainly the rest of South East Asia?

I certainly hope that this is a false rumor. I don't see this as being a wise move at all if it is true.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tokyo Disneyland Aims At Seniors

I guess this is why Tokyo Disneyland doesn't suffer with the same problems as Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. Whoever is running it seems to be aware of the "pulse" of the people that come visit it.

Tokyo Disneyland will start giving discounts for annual passes to seniors. With the Japanese having fewer children and the population getting older, they decided to focus on the older generation.

Smart move.


Disney Does Not Have to Allow Disabled Visitors to Use Segways at its Theme Parks

Another unnecessary lawsuit gets tossed out of court. A judge has thrown out the lawsuit brought by 3 disabled guests who insisted that they'd be allowed to use Segways at Disney's theme parks.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

African Elephant Vocal Communication

This is a rather fascinating website about the vocal communication of the African elephants at Disney's Animal Kingdom. There is also a scholarly paper written on this.

Joseph Soltis et al., Animal Behaviour, v.70, p.589 (2005)

Abstract: The most common vocalization of the African elephant, Loxodonta africana, is the rumble, but there is no consensus as to how many rumble subtypes exist. From the standpoint of social function, many types of rumble have been proposed. From a structural standpoint, however, few studies have examined detailed acoustic measurements of a large number of calls. We analysed 270 rumbles from six adult female African elephants housed at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Lake Buena Vista, Florida, U.S.A.). Subjects wore collars outfitted with microphones and radiotransmitters that allowed recording of vocalizations from identified individuals. Rumble vocalizations were digitized and both source and filter features were measured for each call. Behavioural and endocrine data were collected so that acoustical data could be placed into the context of ongoing social behaviour and reproductive state. Multidimensional scaling analysis revealed that, from a structural standpoint, rumbles from this captive setting could not be divided into distinct subtypes, but there was extensive acoustic variation across rumbles. Discriminant function analysis and MANOVA were employed to further explore this variation. First, acoustic characteristics varied according to the individual identity of the caller. Second, rumbles varied as a function of negative emotional arousal. When associating with dominant animals, subordinate females produced rumbles with lower cepstral coefficients, suggesting low tonality and unstable pitch in the voice, compared to rumbles produced outside of the presence of dominant animals. Rumbles as a whole did not cluster into distinct acoustic types, but structural variation in rumbles reflected the individual identity and emotional state of callers.

There aren't that many "theme parks" that would invest in this kind of education and scientific research.


Roger Clemens Bows Out of Disney's ESPN Weekend

We saw this coming from 10 miles away, didn't we?

Roger Clemens was scheduled to appear at the upcoming ESPN Weekend prior to the release of the Mitchell Report that implicated him using human growth hormone. Well, not surprisingly, he has now cancelled.

"I had been looking forward to ESPN The Weekend. Given some strong feelings in some circles today, I believe my current participation could be a distraction," Clemens said in the statement. "The event should be an occasion for fun by all and I want that to be the case for everyone involved. So I will not be coming at this point in time but I look forward to participating in some future event."

I don't think he'll come next year either, but that's just a haunch.


Walt Disney Treasures Wave VIII

A slew of classic treasures are scheduled to be released in November of this year.

Walt Disney Home Entertainment is proud to release some of the most extraordinary treasures from the Disney vault on DVD November 11, 2008 in a limited supply. All three new two-disc sets of "Destino," "Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow" and "Chronological Donald, Volume 4" will make up the eighth installment of the popular series Walt Disney Treasures, which features rarely seen footage presented with updated color and sound.

Of course, the one we're looking forward to is the Chronological Donald.

Disney fans will delight in "Chronological Donald, Volume 4," which includes 31 classic shorts starring Donald Duck. Each of these meticulously animated adventures was created between 1951 and 1961 and has rarely been seen. All of Donald's CinemaScope shorts will be presented in their original widescreen aspect ratio for the first time on video.

Can't wait already!

Wall Street Journal Spilled Toy Story 3 Storyline

Was this widely known? I certainly didn't (which doesn't say much). But Wall Street Journal, in its coverage of Disney-Pixar's effort to develop in-house the videogame for Toy Story 3, spilled the storyline for that movie.

In Pixar's coming movie "Toy Story 3," Woody the cowboy and his toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, leaves for college.

Does this mean that the toys will be adopted by a new owner? Will they all stay together or be adopted by different owners? Will this be the end of Toy Story line?


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Goat Missing?

Several blogs and online discussions are reporting that the dynamite-chewing goat at Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain attraction has been missing since November 2007. It's amazing what die-hard Disney fans will remember and what they miss. Still, considering that Disney prides itself with attention to details, they should expect no less that their fans would also pay attention and remember the details.

In any case, the goat is expected to be back at its usual place in the next few weeks. It better, or the fans will revolt! :)

Here's the picture of the goat that I took during our last trip to Disneyland in 2006.


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique To Have Hannah Montana Makeover

God help us!


Downtown Disney's Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique will start offering young girls a Hannah Montana makeover, in addition to all the princess makeover.

The Hannah Montana look, from the hugely-popular Disney Channel TV show, will come with a blonde wig and microphone headset, a Hannah Montana guitar purse and other items. The girls get to hold guitars that look like Hannah's and pose for a complimentary picture.

The cost of the basic package will be $109.95 plus tax.

Holy cow! If you are a parent with little girls who are heavily into this, you have my utmost sympathy!



New Samantha Brown Disney Special In April

Thanks to Nibbleandbits at WDWMagic for bringing my attention to this. It seems that Samantha Brown has filmed new footage at WDW for her upcoming special for the Travel Channel that is rumored to be aired in April (April 5 or 6?). She announced it in her interview on WDWRadio with Lou Mongello.

BTW, in the same radio broadcast, Lou covers the rumor surrounding the Treehouse Villas and the rumor that Nestle may drop its sponsorship of The Land pavilion. Not sure if Nestle is cutting off all of its ties. But maybe that may not be so bad after all, because we may actually get some decent coffee being served at WDW, rather than Nestle's coffee!

And a Happy 1 Year Anniversary to Lou Mongello and WDWRadio!


Disney-Pixar Merger Revisited

The Deal has an excellent article on the state of the Disney-Pixar merger, and especially on the nay-sayers now that this partnership has become an unqualified success. It's a long article, with a lot of inside details.

Still, what I got out of this was the same thing that I got out of the previous reports when it was all happening - Bob Iger had the vision and the intelligence to see what was going on. The "franchise" that Disney had at that time all came out of animated characters that they didn't create directly. They would have lost one of their lifelines had Pixar separated from them.

It also didn't hurt that for some reason, Iger and Steve Jobs seem to get along well with each other, and that they both could envisioned various ways that both Disney and Apple could compliment each other via iTunes.

Now, you can't imagine Disney doing anything differently.


Toshiba Quits HD-DVD

It is now official. Toshiba abandons the HD-DVD format that it has been pushing form.

This means that Sony's Blu-Ray that is backed by, among other studios, Disney, will emerge at the format of choice for high definition DVD.

Now, if they can only release the Profile 2 Blu-Ray players already!


Walt Disney World to Rebuild Treehouse Villas

Looks like Disney intends to make "better" use of the Treehouse Villas area.

Having stayed at both Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West, and have taken the the boat ride to Downtown Disney, I've seen the Treehouse Villas a few times. During our last trip, we were told that(and I won't name by who) eventually, the land will be occupied by the expanding Saratoga Springs resort. This would make SSR unbelievably huge, and would butt up against Old Key West (other than a waterway).

Anyway, it's a great article with the history of the Treehouse Villas for anyone curious enough to want to know.


Monday, February 18, 2008

NIU Shooter Had Mickey Ears Hat

I was watching CNN this morning, and they had an interview with the girlfriend of the NIU shooter, Steven Kazmierczak. They kept showing this picture of the two of them together wearing Mickey Ears hat. He had the Pirates hat with the red bandanna while she had the rainbow hat.

I'm sure this doesn't mean much to people, but it is still sad to associate such tragedy with Disney. It seems that the couple had spent some of their vacations down at Walt Disney World, so that would explain the hats. I just wish they had used another picture.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where In Walt Disney World?

OK, here's another picture for you to identify. Where in Walt Disney World can you see this?


Disney Dream Chief Magic Official Finalists Begin to Emerge

20 finalists have been chosen to be in line for the first Disney's CMO position.

So, did anyone reading my blog made it to this round? If you are one of the finalist, you are WELCOMED to advertise your video here. I am also curious to hear more about you and the effort you went through to produce your video. Think of it as some behind-the-scenes commentary of your video. I love hearing stories like that if you have any.

Good luck to all the finalists. May be best CMO video wins!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Disney Pins 3 - Passholder, DVC, and Disney Visa pins

Having a "trifecta" of being a Passholder, DVC member, and a Disney Visa cardholder, it is only natural that we also collected pins that are sold only to those Disney guests. Of course, there are plenty that we missed, especially during special events. We also have friends who are passholders at Disneyland that would buy us pins now and then whenever there are Disneyland passholder pins being released. So in this collection, you'll not only see pins from WDW, but also from Disneyland.

Zz. Breaks Its All-Time Traffic and Site Registration Records

Looks like January 2008 was a very good month for They broke their previous record in terms of traffic and site registration., the longstanding No. 1 destination on the Internet for families and kids, broke its all-time traffic and registration records in January 2008. According to recently released comScore Media Metrix data, the Disney Online network of sites last month received 27.5 million unique visitors beating all previous traffic records. The traffic high represents an increase of more than 10 percent compared to the same period last year, and led to a record number of registrations to the site.

Considering that I go to the Disney pin webpage almost every day, and the DVC/Passholder page once a week, I'd say that I contributed to that record!



Thursday, February 14, 2008

Using Disney's Philosophy in Hospitals

Why not? After all, people from various industries (even airports) come to Disney to learn Disney's philosophy.

This author used to be a Disney Cast member, and writes about how to run a hospital using the Disney philosophy.

Fred Lee: "If I was to paraphrase Walt Disney's mission statement, it was how to help a family meet their emotional needs to have fun together. What if our mission statement was how to help a family meet their emotional needs when they're going through a tragedy together."

It will be interesting to see if the planned new Disney health care facility for cast members follows such Disney philosophy that this author has described. :)


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunday's Animal Kingdom Truck Fire "Scarier" Than Reported

We have a bit more in-detail account of the recent fire to one of the safari vehicle at the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom.

The fire erupted early in the ride, and lasted perhaps 15 minutes, Russell wrote. "I saw smoke out of the right side of the truck, then a huge flame went up between the driver and the first row of seats. That is where the woman got her face and hair singed."

It certainly sounds a lot more harrowing than we first heard. I wonder where exactly along the ride it happened. All the report said that they were not "in an animal area" at that time. I'm guessing that means that they were not at the African savanna area. That leaves a large part of the ride left.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Our Disney Pins 2 - The Cast Lanyard Collection

[Previous entry: Our Disney Pins 1]

Whenever we are at WDW, we try to get a few cast lanyard pins. These are pins that you can't buy off the rack. You can only get them by doing pin tradings with cast members that are wearing them either on their lanyards, or on pin boards that they have certain locations. Disney announces periodically various cast lanyard series, and most ardent pin collectors would try to get whole sets of several of these series.

So these are our cast lanyard pin collection.... so far. We hope to add to this in the next few weeks.

That last picture contains, I think, my most favorite set of cast lanyard pins. It's on the lower right side. These are the pins of the 3 hitchhiking ghosts from The Haunted Mansion. I actually have 2 complete sets of these pins. One set of course is on this frame, while the other I some time wear them. They make a terrific conversation piece at work!



Rat Research on Display to Disney Park Visitors

I have highlighted many scholarly research work done at various Disney theme parks, especially at Epcot and Animal Kingdom, and by various Disney-affiliated personnels. This is another example. The research on Key Largo woodrat is being done at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and guests can actually observe some of the efforts being done to save the animal from extinction.

Much of the work at Disney, and much of what is being learned about the once-little-known rodent, is displayed on a bank of computer and video monitors next to a lab window on Animal Kingdom's Rafiki's Planet Watch tour. Visitors who take the train to the tour's biology station get overviews of a variety of conservation efforts. Those who stop at the woodrat window can watch the monitors and talk to researchers and other program staff who take shifts answering questions.

This is why Disney theme parks are not like any other theme parks. Now, if only they could also conduct a research to see if any of these rats have the ability to cook....


{Oh c'mon! You knew that was comin'!}


Monday, February 11, 2008

Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels

This is a rather concise review that includes several resorts in the Downtown Disney Resort Area. Again, it definitely appears that "Downtown Disney Resort Area" means the resorts on the Hotel Plaza Blvd., which settles the issue even more.


"Ratatouille", "Pirates" Win At VFX Awards

Both "Ratatouille" and "Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End" won multiple awards at this years Visual Effects Society Awards. Pirates didn't do as well as expected, with "Transformers" snagging many of the major awards.

Though many expected it to do better, the third Pirates installment didn’t go out to sea empty-handed. The pic’s Maelstrom sequence took Outstanding Created Environment, while the fully digital Davy Jones was voted Outstanding Animated character in a Live-Action Motion Picture. The team of Hal Hickle, Marc Chu, Jakub Pistecky and Maria Kayer shared in that particular achievement.

What was impressive was the awards hauled in by "Ratatouille", even though it isn't technically big on traditional special visual effects.

Speaking of animated characters, Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille did quite well for what few would consider a traditional vfx film. Director Brad Bird was on hand as a presenter and got to see his movie snatch up three big awards. The CG comedy took Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture, while the various food items shown earned it Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Motion Picture. In addition, the character Colette, voiced by Janeane Garofalo, was named Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture. Jamie Landes, Sonoko Konishi and Paul Aichele accepted the award. Comedian and actor Patton Oswaldt, who lent his voice to lead rat Remy in the film, put in a rousing appearance as a presenter.

This is, of course, in addition to the award "Ratatouille" got from the Producers Guild Award as the best produced animated feature.

There are simply a lot of indications that "Ratatouille" will go down as one of the best movies of all time.


Roger Clemens: "I'm Going To Disney World!"

"Roger Clemens, you've just testified in front of a Congressional committee defending yourself against alleged steroids use. What are you going to do now?"

"I'm going to Disney World!"

Well OK, he didn't actually say that. But he is scheduled to appear at WDW during the ESPN Weekend that was planned way before the Mitchell Report was released and implicated him.

Clemens was scheduled to serve as a top draw at "ESPN The Weekend" before the Mitchell Report was released in December that alleged he had used steroids multiple times--and the network began running an on-air spot promoting it. But the day the report came out, ESPN pulled the humorous ad, citing Clemens' role in a controversial news story.

Let's hope he will at least appear has he promised, unlike some Superbowl quarterback that we all know of. It certainly will attract more than the usual attention to this event. How Disney will include him in all the festivities is still unclear. I don't think having him ride on a float that looks like a giant syringe would be appropriate, let's put it at that!



Fire Closes Disney's Animal Kingdom Ride

Whoa! I certainly didn't see this coming.

One of the safari vehicle at the Kilamanjaro Safari attraction caught fire yesterday.

I thought the ride vehicles work on batteries?


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Studio Chiefs Act as Peacemakers

This is an informative article on how two CEOs came to the rescue and negotiated what a bunch of lawyers couldn't do for several months - getting an agreement with the Writers Guild Association. News Corp.'s Chernin and Disney's Iger took only roughly 2 weeks to get an agreement with the union representatives of the WGA, where the whole union is expected to vote on the agreement by Tuesday.

Like I said before, there is A LOT to like about the way Bob Iger works.


Previews of Toy Story Mania, Block Party Bash at Disney's Hollywood Studios

For those of us salivating for Toy Story Mania to open, this is more tantalizing hints of what to expect from this attraction. They had a media day at Disney's Hollywood Studios to hype the upcoming Toy Story Mania and the Block Party Bash that's being imported from DCA.

I don't know about you, but this thing is sounding neater by the day.


Expect More Brazilians at WDW

With the Brazilian economy going ballistic (and certainly doing better than the US), expect more Brazilians visitors to WDW.

So many apartment buildings are going up that cement sales are expected to rise 11 percent over last year's record-setting total. Flights to Disney World are packed, as upper-middle-class Brazilians take advantage of their nation's strong currency to make trips abroad. The Brazilian real, one of the planet's fastest-rising currencies, last year gained 17 percent against the dollar and 7 percent against the euro.

Humm... I wonder if this means more Brazilian high school kids at WDW over the summer? :)

This is where the theme park business for Disney could weathered the economic problems in the US. With the Dollar weakening against most other major currencies, visitors from Europe, Asia, and now Brazil, will make up for any possible reduction in US visitors. I wouldn't be surprised if Disney suddenly decided to accept the Euro the way many stores in New York City have done.


Disney World Resort Revamps

This is a news article on the Contemporary Resort at WDW and the current changes to it to update its look.

There is one thing I didn't know, or am not sure if this is true.

Business travelers or laptop junkies aren't forgotten. A roomy work area provides good lighting, a pullout table for added space, a comfortable desk chair, two data ports and free Internet access.

Do you really get free internet access at the Contemporary? We always had to pay for our internet access when we're there at various WDW resorts, including DVC resorts. I certainly did not know that there are WDW resorts that provide free internet access. So can anyone either confirm or dispute this?


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Healthy Choices Hard To Find At Disney World?

Just after I wrote about food quality at WDW restaurants, along came an article questioning on whether one can seek healthy food at WDW. It appears that this writer found a very limited choice if one wants to go healthy, especially in terms of kids meal.

Read the article, I think that the quantity isn't an issue here (one doesn't have to eat everything off a plate). It is more of whether one can find a wide variety of healthy choice for snacks and counter service meals. One can find a larger variety of healthy meals with table service.

Interestingly, the responses to this article actually provide suggestions on how one can, in fact, get healthy options. And to Disney's credit, they are trying to provide that option more and more, considering that such a move was started only recently.

I just wish that they don't use iceberg lettuce as the main ingredient in most of their salads, especially for quick service meals. If I am having a salad, I'd prefer to get as much nutritional value out of it as I can. Iceberg lettuce is nutritionally deficient, not to mention, tasteless (I did warn you earlier that I'm a food snob, didn't I?). :)


Will Disney Keep Us Amused?

Wow. This is a rather in-depth article from the New York Times. It started off as an article about California Adventure and its upcoming renovations. Then it goes into the description of the Toy Story Mania attraction and all the new technology surrounding it. After that, it analyzes the instant-gratification and technology-savvy crowd that demands entertainment that Toy Story Mania could provide. The article then discusses why Disney needs to have a healthy theme park business and touched upon the Disney theme parks outside of the US. Then it goes back to and in-depth development and history of the Toy Story Mania attraction (are you still following me?), including a discussion on the Mr. Potato Head that will greet and entertain the guests standing in line.


Like I said, this is definitely a very detailed article on this one attraction that included a part of Disney "history" involving Pixar and the Toy Story franchise.

Restaurants at Walt Disney World

I don't mind admitting that I can be a food snob some time. But it's not what you think. By being a "snob", I don't mean I only care for high-class, expensive, foo-foo restaurants serving haute cuisine food. In fact, I would say I tend to go the opposite way, more ma-and-pa restaurants serving authentic, good food. And that's the problem. I want the food to be authentic, not "Americanized". While I do like what passes as "Chinese food" here in the US, I still think it would have been nice to have Chinese restaurants serving authentic Chinese food that what you would get in China/Hong Kong/Taiwan/etc. In fact, I tend to go for authentic, ethnic food more than anything else.

And that's the problem with dining at WDW. In my reading of the reviews of the new Yak and Yeti restaurant at Animal Kingdom, there seems to be an impression that it is nothing more than a typical "Chinese" restaurant. And that's disappointing to me, because I had such high hopes that it will be exotic. This reflects the dilemma that I have when dining at WDW. On one hand, I want something that I can't get anywhere, or certainly, not in Chicago. When I dine at a restaurant in a World Showcase pavilion, I want something authentic from that country, not something that has been toned down, or Americanized. I don't want to find only familiar things in the Japanese restaurant at the Japan Pavilion that I can find at my local Japanese restaurant around the corner. This is why I don't eat at the Rainforest Cafe. I mean, what's the point when I can get it almost anywhere?

But on the other hand, I can certainly put myself in Disney's shoes. If you get too authentic, it could limit the appeal of such offerings. Let's face it, the typical tourists are not going to go for the highly exotic food. Authenticity is not going to fill the tables. At some point, having authentic food to cater for a small group of people (like me) is not going to pay the bills.

Still, I can't imagine there's no way to cater to both types of crowds. Keep interesting menu items in these ethnic restaurants, while including other, more "safer" options to those who are less inclined to experiment. If not, those of us who want to be challenged by such food will go elsewhere. I'd rather just spend less money eating at Sunshine Season, or Flame Tree BBQ, rather than sit in a Chinese restaurant serving the same thing I can get elsewhere. They also better not tone down the menu items at Marrakesh, because I would not be happy. They've already compromised with their mint tea (which should be served sweet).

I guess that's why my most favorite place to eat in all of WDW is Boma. I like tasting unusual flavors, and this place continues to offer not just good food, but also exotic combinations and flavors. It gives one a reason to not go for pizza or hamburgers.

Disney should pay as meticulous attention to the food they serve as they do with theming the parks. I'm surprised why the Imagineers do not also consider this as part of the whole picture.


Ratatouille Wins 10 Annie Awards

Another fully-expected honors for the best reviewed movie of the year. Ratatouille won 10 Annie Awards honoring the best in animation.

"Ratatouille" went into the ceremony at UCLA's Royce Hall with a leading 13 nominations.

Among it awards were best writing and directing for Brad Bird, best voice acting for Ian Holm, best character animation, music, storyboarding, production design and best animated video game.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Our Disney Pins 1 - The Donald/Ducks Collection

So, anyone who has read my blog for any considerable length of time would have known that we are Disney pin collectors. We try to attend Disney pin events at WDW, and also our monthly Windy City Pin Traders here in the Chicagoland area. I've also posted pictures on how we're displaying our pin collection, so that we get to see them regularly, rather than having them in storage or in a book where they can't be appreciated.

So we have them in frames..... A LOT of frames! And one of the drawbacks of having this many pins is that you tend to forget what pins you already have! So while we were framing them, we decided to also take pictures of each frames so that we have a record of the pins that we have. This is the pictures of the first set of pins. We collect Donald Duck and, to a lesser extent, other Disney ducks pins. Donald pins certainly represent the largest single-themed collection that we have. So in these pictures are all the Donald/Ducks pins that we have.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hannah Montana Release: Savvy or Sneaky?

Did Disney really planned on showing the Hannah Montana movie for a week, or was it simply a marketing ploy? This AP article examines whether Disney is simply market savvy.

The company says it planned all along for a one-week run for the "Hannah Montana" film, envisioning it as an extension of the wildly popular concert tour that played to sold-out arenas across the country last year.
The studio extended the "Hannah Montana" run on Saturday, giving theater operators the option to show the film for as long as they like. Disney said it responded to "astounding" demand on the opening weekend.

But I think what is amazing about the Disney business as a whole right now is what Bob Iger mentioned in the piece:

Robert Iger, Disney's president and chief executive, credited the company's focus on developing brands and producing content across its various media and theme park properties.

"Five years ago we could count upon only two major franchises, and today we have 10 vibrant, creative properties," Iger said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

I think this is what most analyst have not realized, or have failed to take into account when looking at Disney. And they continue to produce these franchises and nurture them.


Doing Disney On The Cheap

We get many of these travel hints to Disney, and ways to make it as least expensive as possible. This is AAA's Home & Away Magazine's version of doing Disney cheaply.

I just wish they didn't simply label Epcot as "World’s Fair fare". That misses half of the park!


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pirates of the Caribbean 4?

If there ever is such a thing as a "definite rumor", this certainly qualify as one.

IGN is report (it said from Jim Hill Media), that there are rumors floating around about a possible 4th movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Considering the ending of "At World's End", and how much money the whole franchise has made, it isn't a complete surprise that they would go back to the well one more time.

The interesting part is the story line. It appears that it will pursue a more of a "buddy" movie with Jack Sparrow and Barbossa. The story will also ditch both Will and Elizabeth.

Hum... this could be interesting...


How To Build A Disney Franchise

Forbes looks at how Disney turns a hit TV show or a movie into a franchise. In fact, no other than Disney CEO Bob Iger gave the details on how Disney does it.

Once a TV show or cinematic release scores strong ratings or box office returns, the company gauges "whether we believe that success is leverageable across all of our businesses and in multiple territories and then to what extent we really believe [that] by in investing in that franchise, it can continue to create value over a long period of time," Iger said.

The ones that the company is most excited about? That's easy: Hannah Montana, High School Musical, Pirates Of The Caribbean and Baby Einstein.

But what could be surprising to many was what he said next.

But the recent Disney franchise that Iger believes has the greatest long-term viability may come as a bit of a surprise: the 2006 movie Cars. The film did well at the box office but was widely viewed as a creative step down from previous Pixar features like Toy Story and The Incredibles.

So why does Disney think Cars has staying power?

"We're selling more merchandise now than in the year that the film was released,'' Iger said."We've clearly struck a nerve."

Y'know something, I actually can see that happening. During my monthly Windy City Pin Traders meet here in the Chicago area, I continually see people bringing/trading/selling/etc Cars merchandise. Every time there is a new release of Cars toy vehicles at Walmart or some where, there's a major brouhaha over them. I've even heard of certain Cars item selling for top money on eBay. So yes, I can definitely verify what Iger had said. Cars has major staying power, for some reason.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Toy Story 3" To Be Released In 2010

Bob Iger, no less, announced that Toy Story 3 will be released in 2010. It has been announced earlier that Toy Story 3 is being produced in 3D, and the first two Toy Story movies are also being remastered in 3D and will be released in the next couple of years leading up to Toy Story 3.


Disney First-Quarter Profit Beats Analysts' Estimates

What did I tell ya?

Disney's first quarter profit was better than analysts' prediction.

Net income was $1.25 billion, or 63 cents a share, compared with $1.7 billion, or 79 cents, a year earlier, Burbank, California-based Disney said today in a statement. That beat the 52-cent average estimate of 19 analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 9.1 percent to $10.45 billion, surpassing the $10.1 billion average estimate.

These are very strong numbers posted by The Walt Disney Company, considering that economic climate in the US. Of course, this is very good news for the company. Unfortunately, its stock price went up after this news, which means that I won't be buying any more Disney stocks anytime soon.


Who's That Dude in Epcot's Spaceship Earth?

So, who is that geek in the newly-revamped Spaceship Earth that is building that computer? Steve Jobs? Steve Wozniak?

We now have an "official" answer.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex

This is an article on something that isn't discussed very often, the Wide World of Sports complex at WDW. I certainly didn't realize that the fans affectionately call the stadium as the "Cracker Jack Stadium". That's funny! :)

The only times I've been to WWS were to get pins when they used to have pin pursuits, and one time to attend a cast member pin party. Other than that, it has never been some place that I planned on going.


Disney To Extend Run Of Hannah Montana Movie

This truly is a no-brainer. After scoring the #1 box office take over the weekend with $29 million at just over 600 theaters, Disney is extending the limited run of the Hannah Montana movie "until it runs its course".

Hey, milk it while you can. Usually most things like this do not last for very long (can we say "Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire?").

Still, Disney, especially the Disney Channel, seems to be on a roll lately with one big hit after another. This could be the start of a trend where hits on the Disney Channel become movies in later incarnations. Look at what is happening to High School Musical. We already have various Disney park attractions becoming movies. Why not Disney Channel programs? So when are we going to have "Mickey Mouse Club- The Movie", in 3D?



Saturday, February 02, 2008

Organizer Nixes Initiative Against Disney

The group trying to get enough signatures for a ballot to get citizen's approval of any development on Disney's property is dropping its effort.

Diane Singer, chair of the Committee to Defend and Protect Anaheim, pulled papers in November to start the process for a ballot measure, which would have given voters say over a Disney venue on the company's 52.9-acre property.

But she now says the group lacks the money and expected backing from developer SunCal and others to gather signatures.

All I can say is, another one bites the dust.


Adults Afloat

It was only a few days ago that I pointed out an article on Disney Cruise advice. This must be a busy time for booking cruises, because Disney itself has come up with an article on cruising on the Disney Cruise line. This time, it is focusing on adults, or more specifically people who either don't have a child traveling with them, or looking for adult activities while the little kiddies are busily occupied with their own fun.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Disney Signs Iger To New 5-Year Contract

They'd better!

This is a no-brainer. The Walt Disney Company signs CEO Bob Iger to a new 5-year contract.

The new contract, which ends Jan. 31, 2013, raises the CEO's minimum bonus to $10 million from $7.25 million and grants him an option on 3 million shares, according to a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The value of Mr. Iger's long-term incentive award target was raised to $9 million from $8 million, according to the filing.

As a fan (and also a minor stockholder), I am very pleased with how Bob Iger has run the company. What more can you ask for?


The Classic Caballeros Collection on DVD April 29

Since we are big Donald Duck fans, this is certainly exciting news for us. Disney had announced the releases of what it calls "The Classic Caballeros Collection" on DVD on April 29, 2008. For the first time ever, both "Saludos Amigos" and "Three Caballeros" will be on one DVD, along with a few extras. Strangely enough, I don't recall ever seeing "Saludos Amigos". So I'm definitely looking forward to that.

Definitely a DVD to keep.


Plans For "National Treasure" 3 and 4?

Looks like there's an inkling for the possibility of Disney producing the second and third sequels to "National Treasures". It appears that Disney has registered the domain names "" and "".

After the box office success of the first two, this really is a no-brainer. But let's hope that the quality of the movie gets better, and the storyline is internally consistent.