Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Weather And My Disney Trip

OK, so Gustav, which I was worrying about last week, will certainly miss Central Florida. They may get a bit of the rain and wind, but not the full brunt of the hurricane, which unfortunately will hit the area devastated by Katrina.

But now, let's talk about Hanna. What an unpredictable path! It is predicted to make more turns and unexpected twist than a drunken sailor! So far, it looks like it will probably hit central Florida, and probably after we are there. So I'm bringing a bit more clothes in case I have to stay longer. But then again, one good thing about staying at a DVC resort is that there are laundry facilities. But what I'm more worried about is that it may ruin our Mickey Not So Scary Halloween Party on Sept. 5th. I'm hoping it won't be a washout. While we have attended MNSSHP last year, we would like to see it again (and videotape it again). With the outer edges of Gustav and Hanna crawling towards central Florida, they may make for a very wet trip this time.

This will be an interesting trip......


Avoidance of Disney World Comes to a Happy Ending

It's always fun to read other people's trip report or experience when they visited a Disney theme park. This is even better because the person didn't even care about going to WDW in the first place until he had to for his parents' anniversary.

Of course, this couldn't last. When my folks announced they were gathering the whole family together for their 50th anniversary and that Disney World was the place, I knew my snobbish disdain of "It's a Small, Small World" would have to come to an end.

And after four very fun days, Mousketeers, I'm happy to admit it: I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So now, it appears that we have another convert into the ways of the Mouse. Resistance Is Futile!

However, the author did make a very important point at the end which I definitely share:

Finally, even though I liked Disney World quite a lot, I left the park feeling a little sad for Mickey Mouse. He's all over, from signs to coffee mugs, and he's one of the most recognizable icons in the world. But have you seen him on the big or small screen lately? Oddly, Disney has gradually de-emphasized Mickey's place in its entertainment offerings, with only a smattering of mostly insignificant appearances for the little guy since the 1970s. It's a shame, but from a pure marketing standpoint, I wonder why Disney wouldn't want to keep refreshing its biggest character for new generations to learn and respond to.

Mickey hasn't appeared on the big screen since..... oh.... "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Even then, it was simply a "cameo" appearance. Even on the smaller screen, you only get him on the Disney channel. Why is that? I don't know why Disney isn't thinking of putting a true Disney animation with Mickey and all the Fab Five, very much like what it used to way in the beginning of the Disney Company. After all, it is what started the Disney empire.

Warner Bros., on the other hand, had tried to produce major motion picture of their characters. Now granted, the movie wasn't THAT good, but it was still entertaining, and it was fun to get to see those beloved Loony Tunes characters. I think Disney needs to start thinking of producing a good Mickey Mouse movie, and not just confine him and the rest of the Fab Five to a life of existence only at the parks and on DVD.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Choosing a Walt Disney World Resort has a rather handy summary in choosing a Walt Disney World resort that might be suitable for you. This guide might be useful to someone either visiting WDW for the first time, or unfamiliar with various other resorts that WDW offers. While the WDW webpage does offer a description of each of the resorts, it is always nice to get another perspective from an independent source.


Michael Phelps at WDW

This is the video from the parade yesterday at the Magic Kingdom. Wish I could have been there. Missed it by just 5 days. :(


Friday, August 29, 2008

Michael Phelps Is Going To Disney World

That's one of the perks you get when you win 8 gold medals at the Olympics, no? :)

Michael Phelps will be appearing today at Walt Disney World in a special edition of "America's Homecoming Parade" at the Magic Kingdom.

On Friday, Phelps, 23, will receive a hero's welcome at Walt Disney World during a special "America's Homecoming Parade," which a theme-park spokesperson describes as "a star-spangled salute amidst confetti and thousands of flag-waving fans."

No word yet on whether Splash Mountain will be re-named for him.

Very funny..... If he changes his name to "Brer Mike", then maybe.....

It's too bad they couldn't get hold of him during the olympics and get him to tape his "I'm going to Disney World" spot. But I suppose NBC would have something to say about that, or maybe they didn't have anything arranged to do that while he was winning all those golds.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nightmare Before Christmas Shopping Bags!

This is probably in time for Halloween and to coincide with the release of the collectors edition of Nightmare Before Christmas, but have you seen the Nightmare reusable shopping bags being sold at the Disney Stores? They're wonderful!

They are way better than the reusable shopping bags that they were selling at WDW, and these Nightmare bags are sturdier and cost only $2.50 each!

We're bringing a few with us on our trip next week, and to use it for the candy bags during MNSSHP! :)


Here Comes Hanna!

Oh no! Another tropical storm possibly heading towards Florida!

While it is still too early to see what it will do and where it will go, the projection shows that it will hit central Florida from the east. That's the bad news. The "good" news is that we will already be there when it hits. If I have to get stuck with a hurricane when it hits, I can't think of a better place to be in other than a Disney resort.


Wall-E To Be Released On Nov. 18

Wall-E will come on DVD (and presumably, Blu-Ray) on Nov. 18, just in time for the holiday season. Looks like there are two different sets, and will include the DisneyFile version for uploading to iTunes or one's PC.


Hong Kong Disneyland 'Sees Jump in Visitor Numbers'

Could this signal a turn-around in both the image and operation of Hong Kong Disneyland? We can only hope so. At least the attendance number is going up, rather than going the wrong way.

Visitor numbers were expected to hit 5.6 million when the park reaches the end of its third year of operation next month, up from 4.2 million the previous year, the South China Morning Post said, citing unnamed sources.

I think any Disney theme parks that open outside of North America should expect several years of growing-pains problem, no matter how much they think they have covered themselves. So Shanghai, be forewarned!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Er... no, this is not a new mark of the devil, but it could be devilishly exciting.

I was chatting with a couple of friends last night during dinner over a bowl of Vietnamese pho noodle soup when one of them pointed out to me something fascinating. Next year, on Sept. 9, 2009, one actually has something close to having "999". Thus, correlating that to 999 Happy Haunts and voila! You have the best excuse to have a special event on that day with Haunted Mansion theme.

So, can there be rumors of something being planned, possibly at Disneyland, related to the Haunted Mansion? Perhaps a special Haunted Mansion pin event? Are you making your final arrangements? Are they going to allow only 999 participants?

Still, if this actually happens, it would be interesting to see how they are going to handle a possible conflict. Since Labor Day next year will be on Sept. 7. Traditionally, the Pin Celebration event at Epcot starts the following Friday after Labor Day, which in 2007, will be on Sept. 11 (a rather unfortunately date). So if there is a pin event at Disneyland on Sept. 9, that will will make way too close to the Epcot Pin Celebration. What if the rumored Haunted Mansion event goes for 2 days? Not many (other than the pin fanatics) will do both, especially when they are on opposite coast. Maybe that's a good thing since it will spread out many pin collectors over the two events.

But then again, I could just be imagining all of this in my head.... Either way, I'm sure they're dying to have us.


Nightmare Before Christmas Collectors Edition - Follow-Up

Did you go out and bought the Nightmare Before Christmas Collectors Edition DVD/Blu-Ray? I don't know if Target simply didn't get enough or if they are really, really, popular, but the 2 Target stores that we went to to get the DVD/Blu-Ray were running very short on Blu-Ray disks! One store had none, and the other store only had the last 2 remaining Blu-Ray disks! They had plenty of DVDs, but I can't believe that they would already be out of Blu-Rays on the day of release. Did they underestimated how many would be sold?

In any case, we bought the DVD at the first store (the one that had ran out of the Blu-Rays) and bought the Blu-Ray at the second store. The box and packaging for the DVD set was way nicer than the Blu-Ray. I'll see if I can play with the disks this evening, and try to download the DisneyFile thingy to my iTunes and iPod. This DisneyFile thing is such a great idea.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Random WDW Picture

This, of course, is a very familiar scene, looking down at Main Street, USA at the Magic Kingdom. The statue is of Roy Disney and Minnie.


Gustav May Be Moving Away

No, this hasn't turned into a weather blog. But since this storm could potentially disrupt our trip to WDW next week, I'm keeping a very close eye on it. So far, things are looking better than it did 24 hours ago. The National Hurricane Center has a 5-day projection that seems to point it moving further into west into the gulf, and thus, avoiding central Florida. It is also projected to be moving faster as it gets into the gulf, which is good because it'll be out of the way by Wednesday next week.

In any case, as a sign of how I am so looking forward to this upcoming trip, I am already staging some of the stuff I will be bringing. Since this will be for the pin celebration event at Epcot, I have to figure out what pins to bring (I'm definitely not hauling the whole pin trading collection with me) that would be highly tradeable, and also the pins I need for playing the pin games.

We will also be attending the Mickey No So Scary Halloween Party on Sept. 5th at the Magic Kingdom. This time, I have a costume that should be a bit better than I had last year. I'll tell you all about it later, but I'm quite excited about it. It is difficult to select a costume to wear for MNSSHP because it has to be small enough to be able to pack in a luggage, and it can't be too heavy or thick, because the weather is still warm and humid. So hopefully the one I've chosen works! :)

Barely a week left, and I can't wait already.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Nightmare Before Christmas Collectors Edition

Don't forget that the Collectors Edition of Nightmare Before Christmas will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow.

Just in time with that, a reader of this blog has pointed out to a couple of webpages that he managed that you might find fascinating. It has info and a few behind-the-scenes pictures of Nightmare. Take a look!

Never Before Seen Nightmare Before Christmas Images
Tim Burton Gets Collector's Edition


Don't Look Now, But Here Comes Gustav!

Holy Hurricane, Batman! Here's comes Gustav!

This one, if it turns into a hurricane, could potentially affect our upcoming trip to WDW. We are scheduled to fly in to Orlando a week from this Wednesday morning. So if the prediction is correct and the storm moves at the current speed, the storm will be affecting central Florida by then. Yuck!


Review of Disney's Yacht Club Resort

We have had a few reviews of Disney's Yacht Club resort before, but here's another one. It's quite good since it does go into the details that others may have missed. I never knew they had someone give you apples when you check in. Is this the standard practice there? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to have an old hag give out those apples? But then again, who would take an apple from an old hag?

In many ways, the Yacht Club Resort is not unlike other high-end hotels; it boasts four restaurants, numerous pools, a health club (appropriately named the Ship Shape Health Club), arcade, beach, laundry services, both wireless and high-speed Internet ($9.95 per day), incredibly high long-distance rates and mediocre coffee.

It's that Nestle coffee that they keep serving!


Disney Is Making Improvements To Fort Wilderness Campgrounds

Looks like Fort Wilderness Campgrounds will be getting its first improvements in 2 decades.

Disney is quietly undertaking its broadest campground-improvements program in two decades, adding extra-extra-large camper pads for recreational vehicles, cable-TV and Internet service throughout, Segway scooter tours, a mini-water park, a dog park, and an improved electric-cart rental operation.

The program also is taking aim at invasive plant species such as potato vines, replacing such vegetation with fresh native plantings.

I've only been to the campgrounds only once, and that was for the Hoop Dee Doo Review show. I can see why a lot of people like the place, especially if you are driving an RV. Even the cabins there look like they could be a great place to stay in the "wilderness".

Still, if I'm staying at a Disney resort, I want the Disney atmosphere. If I want wilderness, I'll go somewhere else, which isn't very often. :)


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another Lucky Family Wins A Stay At Cinderella Castle

I'm envious, but still, it is always nice to read about more families winning a nights stay at Cinderella Castle. This time, of all things, it's a girl touching a particular object at a particular time in a certain location! Holy Cow! How random can you get!

On Aug. 2, Jessica Schel passed by a water fountain at Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando. She absently brushed it with her hand and was immediately approached by members of Disney's "Dream Squad."

Because she touched a certain object at a certain time, Jessica and her family won a dream-come-true night in the Cinderella Castle Suite.

That's it. I'll never win it.



Saturday, August 23, 2008

Disney’s Luigi Ride a Beloved Retread

LA Times has a great review of all the info we have on the Luigi’s Roamin’ Tires attraction being constructed at DCA's Cars Land.

As part of Disney’s $1.1-billion makeover of California Adventure, the levitating bumper cars will return as Luigi’s Roamin’ Tires in the new 12-acre Cars Land set to open in summer 2012. Luigi's Roamin' Tires. Luigi, as you may recall, was the excitable 1959 Fiat 500 who ran the tire shop in the animated movie “Cars.”

This DCA's makeover may work out very well, from all reports. There are many things to look forward to once this is all done.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Lion King Plays Its 4500th Performance

The Lion King will play its 4500th performance on Broadway this coming August 24th.

It is one of those events where you remember how old you were and what frame of mind you were in when you saw it. And if you saw it more than once, you'll have to remember all of them! :) It is unlike any other Broadway musical, in a good way.


Random WDW Picture

This is Music, Magic, and Mayhem fireworks show from the Pirate and Princess party at the Magic Kingdom.


Disney's Rights To Young Mickey Mouse

This is a very lengthy article that examines Disney's continuing copyright claim to the early incarnation of Mickey Mouse character that was in Steamboat Willie.

For the record, any knock-offs would have to make clear that they did not come from Disney, or else risk violating the separate laws that protect trademarks. And the potentially free Mickey is not the most current or familiar version of the famous mouse.

Copyright questions apply to an older incarnation, a rendition of Mickey still recognizable but slightly different. Original Mickey, the star of the first synchronized sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie," and other early classics, had longer arms, smaller ears and a more pointy nose.

I'm sure Disney and its lawyers will continue to fight to keep their ownership of the Mickey likeness. As for me, I think I would not consider it genuine if a Mickey merchandise does not come from Disney or with Disney's blessings. So I probably would not buy any things simply because it had a Mickey Mouse picture on it. But I know many people who don't care about such thing.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Historic House Unveiled as Location for Tim Burton's Alice Film

Looks like Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" will be using a house that is listed under the UK's National Trust property.

Historic Antony House has been chosen as one of the filming locations for a blockbuster movie by Disney.

The Herald has learned the National Trust property, near Torpoint, will be closed to the public from September 1 until October 14 to allow filming to take place.

Filming on the Tim Burton-directed movie, Alice in Wonderland, will be staged over two weeks in September.

The 18th century house, its garden and the Woodland Garden, are likely to be used for filming.

I wonder why it is still a "rumor" that Johnny Depp is playing the Mad Hatter? Why isn't this announced yet? Are they still negotiating? I would think it would be great publicity if this is confirmed. I think we all would be dying to see how Depp interpret this role. I'm guessing that Disney would allow him a bit more freedom to use his creativity, unlike the first time he did Capt. Jack.


Disney's Wonder Diverted From Port Canaveral

While tropical storm Fay didn't do much disruption on WDW theme park operations, it is certainly affecting the Disney Cruise Line. Disney's Wonder is being diverted to Ft. Lauderdale due to the stubborn Fay still lingering over the east coast of Florida, causing Port Canaveral to remain closed.

Fay, Fay, Go Away!


Man Finds Mickey Mouse Shaped Potato in Garden

Oh brother! :)

So a man found this potato that has a shape like Mickey Mouse head.

So yeah, I can see the resemblance. But it still amazes me what gets onto the news nowadays. I can see this being on blogs and online forums, but news? And from an NBC affiliate no less! I guess this must be in one of their more "lightweight" news columns, or a "water-cooler" conversation.

Still, wouldn't it be funny if this potato gets eaten by the pig that has the Mickey Mouse head birth mark? :)

Fluff... we want more fluff! :)


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Was That Really Bugs Bunny At Disneyland?

Almost a year ago, I posted this rather "amusing" but serious study on memory recall. The researcher tried to suggest to the participants that on their visit to Disneyland, they actually saw and shook hands with Bugs Bunny, something that would not have occurred since Bugs is a Warner Brothers character (although not impossible since Bugs did appear on Disney's Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"). The study showed that in a percentage of the participants, they could implant such false memory simply via suggesting the event.

I have to say that not everyone is convinced of this study. I found this webpage that was from 2003 that produced a number of questions regarding the study. In particular, this author questions how the study was done, and whether there are other explanation, beyond just implanted memory, on why there are participants who thought they saw Bugs Bunny at Disneyland. One possible explanation was that these participants actually saw a rabbit character, but didn't actually know if it was Bugs Bunny or not and just assumed it was. She argued that most people can't actually tell one character from another, especially on a non-main character such as a rabbit.

I'm guessing there's some truth to that. For those of us who are big Disney fans, we tend to remember and know who the characters are, and it would be difficult to think that such fans would mistakenly recall meeting Bugs Bunny at Disneyland. If that really occurred, it would have been BIG news and would have been all over the fans website already. So only those who are not really big Disney fans would make that kind of a mistake, and that would make them even more likely to not recognize one character over another. After all, how many times have I heard someone referred to "Chip 'N Dale" as Alvin and the Chipmunks?

Still, this makes for an amusing reading involving Disney theme parks at the center of a psychology research.


A Day At A Theme Park With Fay

We now have reports on how the guests fared yesterday while tropical storm Fay was moving across central Florida.

At the Magic Kingdom, Tuesday's crowds were far thinner than on a normal mid-August day in Orlando's busiest theme park. But many tourists who went ahead with their visit said they had never considered changing plans.

"We just figured Disney would keep us safe," said Michelle Gifford, 54, of Oshawa, Ontario, as she towed around a family that included a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old child. "And we got up this morning and said, 'A few raindrops aren't going to stop us.'"

That's my sentiment as well whenever I'm down there. Rain, schmain. I can deal with that easily!

Hopefully, those who stayed and went on with their plans at the theme parks, had a wonderful time with the smaller crowd. I know I did when we visited WDW several years ago in between 2 hurricanes. It felt like we had the parks all to ourselves!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay Is Projected To Go Over Central Florida

This can't be good, even though it is still a tropical storm. As of now, the National Hurricane Center is predicting that Tropical Storm Fay will go across central Florida, close enough to Orlando.

Here's hoping that this will only be a nuisance and not anything major.


Disney's Hurricane FAQ

With tropical storm Fay making its way to Florida's west coast and possibly passing through near WDW, it is good to know about Disney's policy regarding cancellations or adjustments to reservations when a hurricane is threatening.

WDW theme parks will be opening early today (8:00 am) to let guests enjoy the parks in case it had to be closed due to Fay later in the day. Unless Fay becomes a hurricane when it passes near WDW, I don't expect there will be too much disruption in the parks operating hours.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Swan And Dolphin Resorts Give Gas Rebate Opportunity for Drive-In Florida Guests

In the effort to encourage more in-state tourists who might be less inclined to visit WDW due to the higher gas prices, both the Swan and Dolphin resorts at WDW are giving an opportunity for a guest to get generous gas rebates, among other perks.

Each week through Labor Day, the resort will randomly select a guest who drove to the resort for their stay and send them a rebate check for the mileage incurred traveling to the resort -- offering $1 for every mile driven -- roundtrip. This special rebate offer almost doubles the IRS mileage reimbursement of 58.5 cents! Additionally, guests who bring their hybrid vehicles will get free valet parking, coupled with a little extra TLC for the car.

Considering the size of the state of Florida, guests will have a chance to win big and save money on their vacation. For example, a guest driving to the resort from South Florida can potentially pocket up to $800; similarly, a driver from Northwest Florida can be reimbursed almost $900.

A nice incentive. Wish they could do a bit more for the other FL guests that didn't get picked.


Our DVC Experience - So Far

This coming Sept. marks the 3rd anniversary of our membership into the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). It will also mark the last of our payment into buying our first DVC timeshare (we bought a smaller number of points last year when the DVC preview center - Disney's Doorway to Dreams store - opened at the Woodfield Mall near Chicago). So other than the yearly maintenance fee, we will be done with paying our "mortgage" for our first DVC home.

I've always looked back on the point where we decided to seriously looked carefully at buying into the DVC. I think it was starting in 2003 when we started going to WDW more than once a year. We first decided that we should start getting an annual pass, especially when, at that time, it was cheaper than getting two 5-day park hopper. That then led to us making 2 to 3 trips a year to WDW, and that's when getting into the DVC started to look rather attractive. Still, we didn't rush immediately into it. It took almost a year of seriously looking into it, researching online, and asking people on various online forums (especially at on their experience, how much it would cost, etc.

By early Sept. 2005, after getting as much information that we can get, we were almost sure that we wanted to buy into it. I still remember the morning that we were at Midway airport here in Chicago waiting to board our Southwest plane to Orlando to start another week of vacation at WDW (and also attending our first ever Pin Celebration event which kicked into high gear our Disney pin addiction, but that's another story). There were many people who obviously were Disney fans as well, but a few of them had DVC bags and bag tags with them. So as we were waiting in line (or rather, sitting on the floor in line while we wait for our boarding group to be called), I asked a lady next to me if she was a DVC member. She said yes and so were a lot of others there since most of them were on their way to Orlando to get on a special DVC member cruise. Of course, I took the opportunity to ask her some more questions about DVC. The one that I wanted more clarification was on the banking of points, and how often and how long of a stay would one consider such investment to be "financially justifiable". She told me that if we go to WDW at least 2 weeks a year, then it would be a good buy. She explained a bit about the banking of points, which kinda jived with what I had been told already. When I told her that we were both seriously thinking of buying into it, she gave me her business card and told us to give DVC her name as a reference so that we could get something if we decided to buy into it. We said that we will do that!

After spending a few days at WDW, we finally decided to approach a DVC booth (we went to the one at Epcot right after the breezeway on the way to Mission Space/Test Track) to ask a few more questions and to make an appointment for a tour. I think by then, the only thing we weren't quite sure of was how many points we would need, and how much it will cost in terms of the total cost, and the monthly payments. We got picked up at Epcot and was brought over to the DVC preview center at Saratoga Springs. I must say that I was quite impressed right off the bat with the accommodations. The 3-bedroom villa was a jaw-dropper.

When we finally got to sit down with the DVC sales rep., we asked him every single thing that we have found out already, just to confirm that we understood those correctly. After a few minutes of discussion, we ended up thinking that 230 points might be suitable for us to buy in. What was nice was that our sales rep. left us to ourselves to play around with the cost calculator that they had set up on the computer in that room. We could change the number of points and see how much it would cost, and how much we would be paying each month. This let us figure out how many points we would be comfortable in paying.

Needless to say, we bought into it that very day. Our sales rep. told us that it is not usual for someone to buy into the DVC on their first ever DVC tour, but he also told us that we have done a lot more research into it and knew more about it than most people walking in the first time, so he wasn't surprised by our decision. And oh, we did give the woman we talked to at the airport the reference. I hope she got something out of it. :)

As far as the DVC experience goes, it has been one of the best thing we bought into. I don't think we save that much money in terms of accommodations. But DVC resorts and rooms are really not your standard rooms, and having a small kitchenette with a refrigerator is a major plus. I can bring back leftovers from the places I had dinner at, and I can buy food items and drinks to keep cool in the refrigerator. The DVC resorts themselves are rather nice. We would have never stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge if it weren't for the DVC villas. And of course, the bonus with DVC memberships are all the discounts, special events, and pins that we have access to.

One of these days, we will do the DVC members cruise. That would be a hoot, I would think. There's still so many things left to do......


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rumor of Sequel To Nightmare Before Christmas Talked About 7 Years Ago

Whoa! This certainly came out of nowhere.

Nightmare's Director Henry Selick revealed during a virtual press conference that talks on a possible sequel to Nightmare Before Christmas happened 7 years ago.

"There has been discussions over the years about a possible sequel," he says. "When those discussions came up about 7 years ago it was unsettling that it was suggested this time it would have to be done in CG. I'm glad that did not happen. But as far as coming up [for] ideas for a sequel, you have to admit there are a lot of other great holidays for Jack Skellington to take over.

I think it would have been horrible if they did this in CG. The whole charm of the movie was the stop-motion look. I'm glad they didn't do it that way.

Maybe this movie will end up like Tron, where it'll take them years and years before someone comes up with something that results in a sequel.


Disney Forces Spike Lee to End Clint Eastwood Feud

If this is true, then these "Disney executives" have made a very adult decision on their part, because the spat and flame wars between Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood sounded to me to be rather juvenile'ish. No movie, ever, will be able to depict an accurate view of historical events - that's why it is a movie and NOT a documentary. But Clint Eastwood, in a rare display of losing his cool, should have simply said that it was his version of it, not a definitive historical account (regardless of whether there were or weren't any African-American involved in the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima), and left it at that. You just don't tell one of the more outspoken directors in the movie business to "shut your face".

But then again, it is easy for me to just sit back and tell these people what to do after the fact..... Still, I'm glad that Disney executives stepped in and stop this silliness.


Disney Relaxes Restrictions on Workers' Guns

Not sure how this will change the pending lawsuit against Disney brought on by one of its former security officers, but Disney has allowed for weapons in locked vehicles at a few of its facilities. This despite the Florida State Attorney's decision that Disney is one of the institution exempted in the law allowing employees to bring to work concealed weapons in their locked vehicles.


Disney World: A Destination For All Ages

I love reading trip reports, even short ones. So it was fun reading this trip report, even if it was short on details, and didn't present anything news. Still, the last comment in the article is definitely true.

As the McKays of Calgary told us, "We never brought our four kids here as children, but we can now see that child in them. People are so goofy and so happy here. You just want to click your heels together."

This brings up another interesting issue that Motley Fool brought up recently regarding owning Disney stocks. They claim that there aren't that many company that you can buy stocks in where the "customers" have that kind of an emotional connection to the company.

It's amazing to think that one brand could house so many memories and mean so much to people, young and old. Disney's feat appears unparalleled. I decided to see how the company's name fared among Interbrand's 2007 ranking of global brands:
Amazingly, I could only find a handful of companies on the global brands list with the chops to both invoke childhood memories and maintain lifelong relevance with their customers. However recognizable these monster brands may be, few possess the beauty of an emotional moat.

Imagine how long a Disney memory lasts, and the subsequent lifetime value of a delighted customer. With life expectancies hovering around 78 years, a person may have 70 years or more to be enchanted by Disney; first as an awestruck child, then as a parent seeking to relive the experience, and finally as a grandparent, looking to simply spoil their grandchildren rotten.
So don't just wish upon your stocks. Make sure you take into account the company's emotional moat, and whether its products will continue to elicit fond memories 70 years from now. Because when you invest in unforgettable stocks, your financial dreams really do come true.

I guess that's why we decided to invest in the company. Besides the fact that we are big consumers of Disney products and services, the emotional attachment (or moat) that we have with the company is certainly beyond what one would normally have with another business establishment.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Cinderella, Others Arrested in Disneyland Labor Protest

Whether you agree or disagree with this protest, the scene of cast members, especially those wearing various Disney costumes, can't be good for Disney's image no matter how you cut it.

The protest by various workers at Disneyland yesterday against Disney's proposal to start charging for health benefits disrupted temporarily the "Happiest" image.

I've always sympathized with Disney's cast members. For the group of people that is the one most responsible for creating the magic to the guests, they certainly do not get the pay that is commensurate with their impact. For many, they can certainly tolerate the lower pay simply to get the generous health care that Disney gives out. It would be sad if new Disney employees are not getting the same benefits. Considering that Disney had a tough time these past few years attracting high-quality people to work at both Disneyland and WDW, they may want to consider if this road they are trying to pursue might simply worsen this situation. I'm sure they can simply lower the standards and hire anyone they can get. Then they'll have to face the consequences of how such people will interact with their guests. Is it worthwhile to get a bad word-of-mouth about a Disney service, especially when guests put Disney at a much higher standard than other theme parks? Look at the mileage (no pun intended) the story on the misplaced keys of a guest's SUV at The Grand Floridian is getting.

This is what Disney is faced with as they lower they outsource even more of the services, and as they lower the quality of the people that they hire.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Disney 'Dive In' Underpants Cause Uproar

This is rather unfortunate and I'm surprised someone didn't see this coming.

It seems that there are Disney girls underpants marketed in the United Kingdom with an inappropriate message written across it. These High School Musical-theme underpants have the words "Dive In" written across it, which of course, has a rather suggestive meaning.

I suppose things like this do slip out once in a while. But still, a little bit of quality control and common sense could have prevented this. I wonder if this is also marketed here in the US....


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dinosaur Invades Downtown Disney

Report and pictures of a rather large dinosaur being installed at the T-Rex restaurant still under construction at Downtown Disney. One wonders why they didn't build this at Dinoland at AKL.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 Pin Celebration RSPs Are In!

Received the result of my Random Selection Process for purchasing pins from the 2008 Pin Celebration this coming Sept. I didn't do that badly! My #1 choice, the Scoop Mickey jumbo pin, I managed to secure one. So I'm happy about that. Last year, a similar Scoop Mickey jumbo pin became the most sought-after item at the event. In my first RSP, I didn't get only one pin that I wanted, and that was the Mad Hatter pin. I got everything else on that list. So that isn't bad at all!

The 2nd and 3rd RSP all had a few pins that I didn't get, but that's not a big deal since I tend to get extras for trading. I didn't go for any of the pin sets, Figment sculpt, or even the framed sets. I'd love to have a few of those, but I am seriously running out of storage space and display space for all my pins! So I'm trying to cut back a lot of getting large pin sets and framed sets.


More Detailed Info on Disney's R&D Funding

You know that if it is covered in Nature's News, then it is quite a major news in the science circle.

We have a bit more info on the nature of the funding by Disney to both CMU and ETH, as published in Nature News (link available for free only for a limited time).

ETH computational scientist Markus Gross, who is the designated director of Disney Research in Zurich, adds that there is currently no comparable collaboration in Europe. The Zurich centre will focus on three-dimensional computer simulation and special effects, and hopes to expand its research into artificial intelligence and robotics.
Disney Research in Zurich will open its doors in October 2008 with a total staff of 20 people. Three senior researchers have already been recruited. “Disney is paying every single employee, while ETH Zurich provides the premises in return for a moderate rent,” explains Gross. The development initiative is set to run for five years, with ambitions to extend the project if it is successful.

It definitely sounds like they are quite serious in this project.


Disney Funds R&D Labs

Disney is putting its money into things that it can use.

The entertainment company said Monday that it is underwriting research and development labs at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.

The R&D labs will conduct work in computer animation, computational cinematography, autonomous interactive characters, robotics and user interfaces that can then be used at Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Disney's Parks & Resorts division, Disney Media Networks, ESPN, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Disney Interactive Media Group.

But this is not new, is it? They already fund quite a bit into wildlife research, a few of which I've highlighted on here. Still, this is an interesting development. I know CMU is quite big in this area, but I did not realize that FIT Zurich is also in this area.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Random WDW Pictures

Someone suggested to me that since I have TONS of Disney pictures (mainly WDW), why not just post one of them periodically on here? And so I said to myself "What a great idea!" I already have many of them uploaded to various online photo servers. So finding one now and then won't be difficult at all.

So here is the first one!


Concept Art for Princess and the Frog

OK, so we've seen how visually gorgeous the hand-drawn Princess and the Frog is based on the first trailer that was released a few weeks ago. We now have concept art based on the movie that has been released. It is even more spectacular!

The world that the visual development team created is that of 1920's New Orleans. A lush, vibrant environment, with rich backgrounds and breathtaking scenery. The fresh, engaging look of the characters bring humor and warmth to this classic fairytale.

If the storyline is as spectacular as the visual part of it, things will bode very well for hand-drawn animation.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Did Mickey Take Her SUV for a Spin?

This is a rather ..... er ..... I can't think of what to call this .... "interesting" incident (?), and it happened at, of all places, the Grand Floridian, where guests definitely expect top-notched service. A guest first could not get her vehicle because the valet service simply couldn't find the keys. Then when she finally got the keys, she noticed that several things have been changed in her vehicle.

When I asked how they found our keys, I was told that someone had filled out the envelope incorrectly -- using my first name instead of my last. When I pressed further, an attendant admitted that my keys weren't in the original envelope and that no one knew why my keys were ever removed from it.

At this point, I became suspicious. When they pulled the vehicle around, I noticed that my son's car seat had been unlatched. I was sure someone else had used my SUV. We also discovered that the movie my son had been watching on the way to Disney World had been moved.

Based on this report, Disney has outsourced the valet service, so it is not be operated Disney cast members. But see, a guest does not know that, and frankly, they shouldn't care. If anything goes wrong, it is "Disney" that screwed up, not an outsourcing company.

In any case, there's something I don't quite understand here. I have stayed at GF before, and unless things have changed, they give you a ticket when you valet your car. So where does the "name on an envelope" comes into all of this? All they do is look for the ticket number, no?

One doesn't expect everything to go well 100% of the time. That's impossible for any kind of service industry, especially for Disney that has to deal with that many guests. Still, one wonders what actually happened here. It's nice that Disney is giving the family some compensation, but only after being contacted by the ombudsman.


Olympics Pin Trading

Oh look, there are also "fanatics" in Olympics pin trading. How unusual! :)

I don't quite know when the Olympics started having pins (I'm sure it was way before Disney got into it big time). But I'm guessing that the quantity might now be as many and as frequent as Disney pins. :)

Speaking of which, it is barely 25 more days before the big Pin Celebration at Epcot. All we're doing now is waiting for our RSP to come through.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

Pixar Looks To Lift Us Up

I haven't heard much about "Up", the next Pixar movie. So it is interesting to get some tidbits on the storyline here.

Up tells the story of Carl, an elderly widower who attaches balloons to his house and floats away to have the grand adventure he never got to share with his wife, and to escape being sent to a nursing home. I'm sure Carl will have plenty of important life lessons to share with Russell, his young stowaway, but I'm looking forward to the humor of watching this old grouch outsmart the nursing home goons. Who doesn't love an old guy with spunk?

Without knowing anything else, I'm already fascinated by the storyline. So yes, no doubt that unless something unforeseen happens, Up will certainly continue Pixar's string of hits.


Disney Moving NYC World Of Disney

It appears that the rent for the World of Disney store on Fifth Avenue in New York City is too high even for Disney. They won't be renewing the lease on that space when it expires in 2010. But they won't be moving out of the city. It seems that they are shopping around for a new location, and it seems that a place in Times Square might be the top candidate right now.

Wow. The rent of Fifth Ave. must really be high for them to think that moving onto a space at Times Square is cheaper. I have a better idea. Why not move it all the way out here to Chicago? We could use a World of Disney store! After all, they built the first off-Disney property DVC preview center here in the Chicago area. Think of how those two can work off each other!


Mickey and Minnie in Downtown Chicago

Mickey and Minnie are in downtown Chicago today and this weekend. They are the Grand Marshall of the 79th annual Bud Billiken parade tomorrow. This is the largest annual parade in Chicago, and supposedly, the 2nd largest parade in the country (probably 2nd to the St. Patrick's Day parade in NY City).

Disney seems to have a lot of involvement with various festivities here in Chicago. Besides this parade, they are also have a large presence in the yearly Christmas holiday parade on Michigan Avenue, where the Disney float with Mickey and other Disney characters "lights" up the holiday decorations as it passes by. Disney, I would think, is a major sponsor of this parade.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Club 33 Merchandise

Well, not all of it, but a few "souvenirs", shall we say. :)

A couple of friends went to Disneyland last month, and they were the envy of me when they had dinner at Club 33 not once, but twice! Still, they were nice enough to bring back a few trinkets from there. The first one is a pair of Club 33 Mickey Ears hat. Love those! The second one were some paper napkins and cocktail swivels with Club 33 emblem on them. Just enough to wet my appetite to really want to be able to have dinner there one of these days.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

United Vacations Offering Up To 4 Free Disney Character Breakfast

Before you think this is a "spam" to advertise for United Airlines vacation package, read on.

This report indicates that if you book a vacation package with United Vacations to Disneyland Resort, you will get up to 4 free Disney Character Breakfast.

During the month of August, United Vacations is including up to four free Disney Character Breakfasts with vacations booked to the Disneyland(R) Resort in Anaheim, California.

But really, think about it. Right now, United charges, what... $25 for the first checked luggage? A family of 4 staying for "4 nights or more" will definitely need to check luggage, at least 2. That's at least $50 already. It isn't really that big of a deal, really.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Disney Plots Box-Office Turnaround

First of all, I did not realize, nor was I aware, that Disney movie division is in a "slump", or as this article puts it "... in the worst slumps at the box office in years.." Wall-E doesn't count?

It is hard to compare with the previous year with an anomaly such as "At World's End". Most studios do not have such kind of success every year. So it is understandable that Disney cannot replicate that. Still, considering what they have in store for the next couple of years (can we say "TR2N"?), I'd say that have a very exciting slate of movies in store, especially with Toy Stories 3 and The Princess and the Frog.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Adventures by Disney Announces Eight New Itineraries for 2009

OK, this Adventures by Disney is getting ridiculously very tempting each year. They have just added new itinerary for 2009.

The eight new itineraries for 2009 are:
* Alpine Magic -- Italy and Switzerland: Stresa, Zermatt and Lake Lucerne
* Beantown & The Big Apple -- Boston, Newport, New York City
* Bella Italia -- Central Italy: Sorrento and Florence
* Gateway to the Galapagos -- Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
* Golden Path to Yosemite -- Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco
* Rocky Trails and Mountie Tales -- Montana and Alberta, Canada: Glacier National Park and Banff National Park
* Safari to South Africa -- South Africa: Capetown, The Garden Route and Kapama Game Reserve
* Taming the Last Frontier -- Alaska: Fairbanks, Denali National Park and Kenai Peninsula

I will definitely do one of these thing, as soon as I do the cruise first! :)


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Celebrations Magazine

Do you miss the Disney Magazine? I do! Somehow, being given the Family Fun magazine when Disney Magazine closed down just doesn't cut it. I am hoping that Disney will revisit this and reconsiders publishing the magazine again.

In the meantime, there might just be something to fill the void. Lou Mongello, who brilliantly run the WDW Radio, is behind a magazine called Celebrations. It is scheduled to release its premier issue this September. In fact, you can listen to the announcement of this magazine in one of his radio broadcast. If you subscribe now, you'll save money over the published rate.

I'm hoping it will be as fascinating as the description. I already had my subscription in.


How St. Louis, MO, Lost A Disney Park

This obviously continues to be a folklore reported in at least a couple of books. It is how the city of St. Louis may have lost a Disney theme park due to one careless remark from August Busch.

At a cocktail party the night before signing the deal, however, a local business leader made a rather loud pronouncement: "Any man who thinks he can design an attraction that is going to be a success in this city and not serve beer or liquor ought to have his head examined."

Disney flew out of town the next morning without ever signing the papers that would make the attraction a reality.

"August (Gussie) Busch Jr.'s insulting remark had killed the deal - Disney World would not be in St. Louis," Richard Foglesong wrote in "Married to the Mouse."

Now, whether this is true, or whether Walt was simply making it a distraction away from central Florida, is still up for debate. But it makes for a great reading and idle speculation. :)


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Disney Ventures Far From the Parks

There's been a lot written about Adventures by Disney on here, and here's another one. This time, it is covered in the Travel section of the New York Times. And from all indication, it is doing quite well.

The strong response to Adventures by Disney has caught the company by surprise because it has relied mainly on word-of-mouth marketing. The company dipped its toe in the business in 2005 with two itineraries. In 2008, it booked 17 itineraries in 13 countries, with a total of 370 scheduled tours of up to 40 people each. For 2009, Disney will add eight tours, including one to Africa. Age requirements vary, but most tours accept travelers age 4 to 94.

I'm also guessing that the recent coverage on the Travel Channel as part of their "Season of Disney" didn't hurt either. So I fully expect that this Adventure by Disney to take off even more - assuming of course that the economic slowdown doesn't start to eat away at potential customers.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Disneyland Prepares to Open Sleeping Beauty Castle

.. and just in time for Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary!

Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland will open its interiors during the holiday season this year.

When the attraction is unveiled later this year, the “show” will differ from the dioramas of the 1980s and ‘90s, returning to the unique style of the original 1957 show and motion picture. Enhanced with new scenes and special effects magic, the re-Imagineered attraction will employ technology not available in the 1950s to represent scenes from the story of Sleeping Beauty, including the magic of good fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, and the more sinister spells of the evil Maleficent.

Maybe this is a good impetus for us to go back and visit Disneyland next year - as if I need a good excuse.