Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Lasseter Interview - The Mouse That Roared

John Lasseter is getting interviewed a lot lately, especially over the pond in the UK. We had a rather in-depth piece by the Financial Times recently. Here's another one that paints (probably accurately) a more manic and hyperactive Lasseter.

Meanwhile, his people are hopping from foot to foot, barging in whenever he pauses for breath, which isn't often. We're in a central London hotel, it's rush hour, and Lasseter has to catch the Eurostar to Paris to promote Disney's latest film, Bolt. He should have left half an hour ago. Still, he keeps talking. Finally, even I'm trying to get a word in to tell him we should wrap it up. But of course Road Runner's legs never slow down, even when he races over the cliff edge.

I guess this is all occurring while he's in Europe promoting Bolt and getting all the publicity for it.


It’s a Small World’ Song Gets usical Makeover at DisneylandM

With "It's A Small World" about to reopen at Disneyland, and all the controversy surrounding it, here's an article on the musical makeover of the stick-in-your-head tune.

The biggest musical change involves the addition of five new instrumental counterpoint melodies derived from classic Disney films, including one in the Asian scene, one in the South American scene and three in the European scene.

We already have clues on a few of the Disney characters that will be incorporated into the attraction. I can't wait for the first reaction from Disney fans on what they think after it reopens.


'Kung Fu Panda' Cleans Up at Annies

Could this be an indication of what will happen for the Best Animation award at the Oscars?

Kung Fu Panda swept the major awards at the Annies, which is the animation equivalent of the Oscars. It includes the award for best animation movie, beating out Wall-E.

Winning the top prize over such other nominees as the critical favorites "WALL-E" and "Waltz With Bashir," "Panda" swept the feature film categories as it picked up 10 trophies, bettering Pixar's "Ratatouille" run last year when it earned nine Annies, including best feature.
Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences set up its best animated feature category in 2001, the Annie winner has gone on to score the animation Oscar every year except for two years ago when the Annies opted for "Cars" but the Academy chose "Happy Feet."

We'll have to see if lightning strikes again.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Backpack For Disney Theme Parks

I already made my tripod recommendation earlier. So here's my backpack recommendation.

Almost everyone who visits Disney theme parks carries a bag of some kind. Some of us try to carry as little as possible, possibly a waist pouch, while others carry almost everything but the kitchen sink, especially if you have a child (or more) with you. But for the "typical" Disney park guests, they tend to carry just one bag.

Now, if you haven't figured out that the best type of bag for you to carry is a backpack (or some variation of it), then you need to have your head examined. It is my personal opinion that this is the most convenient type of bag for one to bring to a Disney theme park. Not only are you able to have both hands free while carrying the bag, but it also puts less stress on your back and shoulder as you stand for long periods of time in various attraction lines.

However, not all backpacks are created equal. There are some that are more suitable than others for the sole purpose of going to a Disney theme park. Here, I will outline what I think is the requirement for a good backpack for one to carry along while enjoying a wonderful Disney theme park.

1. Good padding on the strap and on the back. This goes without saying. You'll be carrying it for a long time and comfort on your back and on your shoulders is important.

2. Durability. A backpack during a Disney vacation (or any vacation for that matter) will undergo various rugged and harsh treatment. It might get stuffed under the seat at Soarin', Gets dumped on the ground when you're about to get your picture with Mickey, or get crushed while you sat and wait for the parade. And if you use it as a carry-on on the plane, it will have to survive being stowed away on the plane. So it better be made of good fabric good stitching and not start to tear apart after a few uses.

3. Minimum number of compartments. "WHAT?", you exclaimed. One would think that lots of compartments and pockets would be better, but think about it. You have go through bag check every time you enter a Disney theme park! The more compartments and pockets you have in your backpack, the slower you will get through. If you don't believe me, next time you go through the bag check line, look at the people in front of you and see how slow it takes when someone has a lot of compartments in his/her bag. In my opinion, the best backpack is when it has only two compartment - the main, large compartment, and a smaller compartment out front to keep the smaller items. That way, you only have to compartments to unzip when you reach the bag check table and the security officer only has two sections to look into.

4. An external pocket to hold a water bottle. To me, this is almost a must since I often to go WDW during the hot summer months. Being able to reach for a bottle of water without having to open the bag and while still carrying it on my back is a convenience I do not want to be without.

That's it. Those are my minimum basic requirement for a backpack for a Disney theme park use. There are of course, other nice things to have with such a bag, such as a headphone cord port, an inside pocket to hold a cell phone, etc. But those are optional stuff. These 4 basic items are my requirement for choosing a suitable bag for a Disney vacation.

So, do I have a bag that satisfies all of those 4 requirement and more? Why yes, I do! I don't work for these guys so don't get any commission for recommending this (darn it!). The backpack that I use is Columbia's "Hood River Classic Pack". You can find it almost everywhere, and online (Amazon carries them). I use it when I travel elsewhere too, so it certainly has been put through a lot and it still hasn't shown any wear and tear. It has the added advantage of having reflector strips on the shoulder strap and on the front of the bag itself, so if you happen to be walking at night wearing it, a vehicle can see you better no matter if they come from the front or back. It has a small pocket inside the main compartment where I can slip my cellphone in while going through airport security, and it also has a key clip that I can hook my key chain to so that I always know where to find it.

The best part of it is that, this backpack is relatively inexpensive! The retail price is around $40, but you can get it for about $30 at Amazon, or even less than that if you buy it after school starts. I bought mine right around that time and got it for $14.99! Honest! If I had known how good the bag was, I would have bought 2 more, because I don't think I will ever need to go looking for another backpack.

So that is my backpack recommendation.


Disneyland Resort Implements Programs to Reduce Emissions

Press release from Disneyland:

ANAHEIM, Calif., Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of its ongoing commitment to the environment, Disneyland Resort announced two innovative environmental initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The Resort has begun using compressed natural gas to fuel its guest trams and recycled cooking oil to power its Disneyland Railroad steam trains and Mark Twain riverboat.

"These initiatives demonstrate Disneyland Resort's ongoing commitment to balancing environmental stewardship throughout our operations," said Michael O'Grattan, senior vice president of resort operations. "These are just a few steps in our ongoing journey to reduce Disneyland Resort's environmental footprint."

Used Cooking Oil Fuels Disneyland Railroad

Beginning this week, the Disneyland Railroad is being fueled by a special biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil used throughout the Resort. "We have been recycling our used kitchen grease for years, but this innovation takes recycling to another level," said Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland Resort's director of environmental affairs and conservation. "Now the oil used to cook French Fries and other foods is processed to power our Disneyland Railroad and our Mark Twain Riverboat. This move allows the Resort to save approximately 200,000 gallons of petroleum diesel per year."

The Disneyland Railroad's five trains have been using a soy-based biodiesel since April 2007. The B99.9 used cooking oil-based biodiesel will continue to reduce emissions by up to 80 percent. Disneyland Resort's Mark Twain Riverboat also will begin using the new biodiesel within the next few weeks.

Trams Fueled by Clean-Burning Compressed Natural Gas

As of December 2008, all 16 Disneyland Resort trams, which transport guests between the two theme parks and parking facilities, are fueled by clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG). The switch to CNG from a hybrid engine was made possible through a $1.17 million grant from the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program, which paid for nearly half the conversion costs. Using CNG will eliminate the need for approximately 50,000 gallons of diesel per year. For the 10 years prior to the conversion, diesel/hybrid engines powered Disneyland trams.

The Carl Moyer grant was created by the California state legislature in 1998 to encourage the use of alternative fuel vehicles. Each year, the California Air Resources Board disburses money to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which administers Carl Moyer funds in Southern California to help grant recipients purchase new or convert existing engines or vehicles.

"We at Disneyland Resort are proud of our commitment to exploring and implementing new technologies for a cleaner environment and furthering the environmental legacy left by Walt Disney," O'Grattan added.

About the Disneyland Resort

Located on approximately 500 acres in Anaheim, Calif., the Disneyland Resort features two spectacular theme parks - Disneyland (the original Disney theme park) and Disney's California Adventure park - plus the Downtown Disney District composed of unique dining, entertainment and shopping experiences. The Resort's three hotels are the luxurious 745-room Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, the magical 988-room Disneyland Hotel and the "day-at-the-beach" fun of the 489-room Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. With 20,000 employees, the Disneyland Resort is Orange County's largest employer and a $3.7 billion annual contributor to the local economy. The Resort has welcomed more than 550 million Guests since opening on July 17, 1955. For detailed information about the Disneyland Resort, please visit

Now, I really like that part on the trams using natural gas. I wish the ones in WDW also use that. Anyone who has ever sat right behind the engine of one of these trams at WDW can testify to the nasty fumes that comes out of one of these things. It is downright uncomfortable, and darn noise. It can get so noisy that one cannot hear the instructions and announcement made by the cast member while the tram is running.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random WDW Picture

This picture would have been PERFECT if it weren't for this guy who suddenly came in in the middle of show and blocked my view.

It brings us to the issue of etiquette. I know that many people try to get into the best position during one of these things. That's perfectly understandable. However, people need pay a bit more attention to their surroundings. There are many people who stake their position long before a show starts. If you decide to go to a spot after the show has started, look around and see if you're blocking someone's view or someone's camera/video shot! I know this is often forgotten, especially when one is distracted by the amazing fireworks going off right in front of one's view. But keep this in mind when you find that you're are the one doing this.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who Is This Guy?

This is something I just found out, and I thought it might be nice to torture all of you and see if you know anything about this (ain't I such a nice guy?).

So who is this person and what is his connection to Disney? Look at his picture carefully and see if you recognize him. Now, I know it is tempting to google him, but try it first and see if you can get the answer from just his picture.



Spaceship Earth Tops Cinderella Castle

Oh, this looks like a lot of fun!

It appears that a winner of Year of a Million Dreams prize from Disneyland (yes, you read that right, Disneyland, in Anaheim) got as a prize, a tethered hot air balloon ride on a balloon that looks like Spaceship Earth (with the wand and all!).

Now, I wonder if that's one of the balloons that will be part of the hot air balloon ride at Downtown Disney? If it is, I'm on it already!


16 Ways to Celebrate from the 2009 Walt Disney World Moms Panel

Here are the recommendations by the Disney Moms Panel (including one Dad) on what to celebrate at WDW.

I would go to WDW to celebrate a leaf falling onto the ground! I don't need such excuses! :)


Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade

With the new "What Will You Celebrate" promotion kicking off this year, Disney has "re-themed" the 3 o'clock parade at The Magic Kingdom as the Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. It looks like it is essentially the same parade, but with a slight re-themeing.

Laughing Place has a complete video of the new parade.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dick Van Dyke Tells 'Mary Poppins' Stories

This is a fun interview with Dick Van Dyke on "Mary Poppins", especially on his take on why Walt Disney wanted him for the movie.

"He had heard me in an interview talking about what was happening to family entertainment," says Van Dyke in a phone interview, still amused by the memory. "I was decrying the fact that it seemed like no holds were barred anymore in entertainment. ... That's why he called me in, because I said something he agreed with."

There are a lot of gems like that in the interview.


John Lasseter to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award At Venice

John Lasseter will received the Venice Lion, which symbolizes the Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming Venice Film Festival.

Lasseter, who is chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, will travel to the Lido accompanied by colleagues Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich and Andrew Stanton, directors, respectively — and at times collectively — of toon tentpoles such as "Ratatouille," "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E."

Venice artistic topper Marco Mueller praised Lasseter for always being "on the lookout for that point at which the avant-garde (whether artistic, technological or formal) meets the blockbuster."

Well-deserved, I might add.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Disney Is ‘Optimistic’ Over Shanghai Theme Park Negotiations

The negotiations over the planned Disney theme park in Shanghai continues, but Disney seems to be optimistic over it.

An application to build the park was submitted to the relevant government bodies after the Burbank, California-based company had completed a feasibility study, Disney Managing Director for Asia Bill Ernest said today in an interview.

“We are optimistic both parties will have an ongoing dialogue,” said Ernest after the launch of Hong Kong Disneyland’s Lunar New Year celebrations. “Yet today even with the application project report, we don’t have a deal yet, and we don’t have anything agreed to yet. We are still waiting.”

But what is more fascinating in that news report is the indication that Hong Kong Disneyland is recovering and is starting to attract more visitors.

Opened in September 2005, Hong Kong Disneyland had attracted 14.5 million visitors in its first three years, and showed an 8 percent year-on-year gain in the 12 months ended September 2008, said the resort’s managing director, Andrew Kam. Now more than 15 million have visited the park, he said, adding that he expected the growth trend to continue even as the global crisis deepened.

That's good news and hopefully, the learning curve is now less steep than when it first opened. Let's hope that Disney has learned quite a bit from this when they open Shanghai Disneyland.


Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary

We originally did planned on attending this Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary event at Disneyland this coming Sept. But last minute work scheduling forced me to cancel. Still, I was keeping an eye out on the registration process that started on 20th and 21st of Jan. It turned out that it was almost a disaster from what I've read and have been told.

The registration webpage crashed, and many of the packages got sold out within a couple of minutes. Since each person had to do their own registration, there are stores of couples who only had one of them with a confirmed registration while the other either got on a waiting list, or simply flat out could not register.

Ignoring the fact that Disney definitely limits the number of people who can attend one of these things, the crashing of a webpage is simply inexcusable anymore these days, especially for an event like this (we're not talking about tickets to the superbowl here, folks!). Did Disney underestimated the pent-up demand for such Haunted Mansion events, considering that they haven't done any Happy Haunts events since before 2005? Hello? I could have told them that! If I were going, I would have had two different webpages opened for registering both of us, ready to go do the process right at the very tick of the clock when it opened! And I bet you, there were thousands of people who were doing what I had planned. I already guessed that when the event registration process was announced. If I can anticipate this, why can't Disney?

And speaking of webpages, is there a more annoying and slow webpage than C'mon now. Why is it so slow? And what's with the Passholder page being neglected like that? One would think that these are the group of people that Disney wants to "cultivate" and keep happy. I myself have stopped going there regularly unless I'm looking for a passholder event or special deals. There's simply no reason to.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

DVC Points Adjustments for 2010

The big and surprising news for DVC members is the recent announcement in the DVC news (on the DVC webpage) of the adjustments to the points per night at all DVC resorts in 2010. It is big and surprising because they don't do this at all ever since we became members (2005), and supposedly, the number of points per night should not change throughout the years - only the cost of buying each point that will change. So this is highly unexpected.

Here is the DVC announcement:

To help address a growing Member interest in weekend stays and to better manage inventory of available rooms at Disney Vacation Club Resorts, Disney Vacation Club has adjusted 2010 Vacation Points charts, primarily reducing Vacation Point requirements for most Friday and Saturday nights.

In addition to better reflecting the changes in Members' vacationing patterns, the adjusted charts make accommodations more affordable during many popular Walt Disney World® events, such as Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and ESPN The Weekend.

To make this change possible, Vacation Point requirements for most instances of Sunday-Thursday stays are now higher. However, a full week's stay will essentially cost the same amount of Vacation Points as before.

The points charts for 2010 shows that the number of points for a "weekly" stay either remains the same, or changes by up to a total of 4 points, which isn't that much. However, I decided to do a comparison with the way we normally use our points and our travel pattern, and to compare the points during two different travel season that we normally travel to WDW. Here is what we normally do:

We have two patterns: (i) stay from middle of the week to the next middle of the week, i.e. Tue to the Wed the following week, or (ii) Sat to Sun of the following week. Right off the bat, if they are raising the Sun-Thu points while lowering the Fri-Sat points, I can already guess that Option (i) is going to cost us more points than 2009. We also tend to go to WDW over two travel periods, the "Adventure Season", which is the cheapest rate, and the "Magic Season", which is their second to the most expensive rate. So what I did was to compare our two travel patterns over the two travel season to see how much this will change in 2010.


2009 : Sept. 12-20 (Sat-Sun). Total points = 115
2010 : Sept. 11-19 (Sat-Sun). Total points = 114

2009 : Sept. 8-16 (Tue-Wed). Total points = 106
2010 : Sept. 8-16 (Wed-Thu). Total points = 108


2009 : Jun. 20-28 (Sat-Sun). Total points = 152
2010 : Jun. 19-27 (Sat-Sun). Total points = 147

2009 : Jun. 23-Jul. 1 (Tue-Wed). Total points = 136
2010 : Jun. 23-Jul. 1 (Wed-Thu). Total points = 138

Conclusion: my initial hunch is correct. Staying weekend to weekend in 2010 will be cheaper than the same stay in 2009, while staying mid-week to mid-week will be cost most points. The point swing can be as much as 5 points, as evidenced by the Magic Season weekend to weekend stay. The mid-week to mid-week stay is still cheaper when compared to weekend to weekend stay in both 2009 and 2010, but the difference will be narrower in 2010.

I haven't quite figured out yet if this is better, or worse, for us. I also don't know if this is going to stay like this for a long time before they decide on another points "revolution".


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sanaa Restaurant To Start Taking Reservations

The newest restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge in the Kidani Village will being to take reservations for dining after May 1st starting on Feb. 16 for DVC members, and Feb. 23 for other guests.

From the DVC News:

Named for the Swahili word for "artwork," Sanaa celebrates African-inspired cuisine with an Indian touch. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant will serve familiar foods prepared in tandoor ovens, along with slow-cooked specialties showcasing the flavorful spices of Africa. Chefs have drawn inspiration from the many cultures and cuisines along the historical spice route of the 1400s, through Africa, India, China and Europe.

Other highlights will include handcrafted d├ęcor inspired by an East African spice market, a savanna view and beverage offerings ranging from trendy cocktails to South African and world wines.

Looks like there will be another terrific place to eat there IF they don't water it down for the "tourist" pallete. AKL already have 2 of my most favorite restaurant, Jiko and Boma. This could be the third.


Disney Pin Trading Is Coming To Disney Stores in the UK

Now, our friends across the pond will have the opportunity to not only buy pins, but also do pin trading. Yes Sir, pin trading is coming to the UK Disney Stores!

Thanks to christopherscob on WDWMagic for the link.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wall-E and Bolt Nominated

Both Wall-E and Bolt were nominated for Best Animated Feature Oscar. Wall-E also was nominated for .... er .... Best Original Screenplay?! Did I read this right? More than half of the movie has no dialog, and it was the better part of the movie as well!

Some time, things with the Academy Award defy explanation.


Disney Studios Report Card : B

The LA Times Entertainment section has given its report card for the Walt Disney Studios. Verdict: B.

You can read more about what went right and what went wrong. I'd say that there's less of a huge fluctuation with the Disney Studios then there are with others. The years with the Pirates franchise were more of an anomaly. But without that, they seems to be able to have a more even, steady stream of hits (and also misses), but always dependable. There are of course exceptions, but often do you get those wild fluctuations, both in box office receipts and quality, especially now that John Lasseter has control over the animation production.


Disney Offers Buyouts to 600 Executives

OK, so this isn't a layoff, but certainly a downsizing. Disney has offered its executives a voluntary buyouts package to cut costs.

Directors, vice presidents and other senior executives who work in Disney's two theme park locations in Anaheim and Orlando, Fla.; on its two cruise ships; at Disney's corporate headquarters in Burbank; and at Walt Disney Imagineering have until Feb. 6 to decide whether to take the voluntary separations. The company said that if it did not get enough volunteers it would implement involuntary layoffs with "a lesser severance package."

They haven't said anything about the union employees and whether a similar type of offer will be given.

As a personal pitch, I hope my favorite Disney Executive, Jim McPhee, will NOT leave. The vice president of Epcot became the darling of Disney fans after he involved himself with our Celebration 25 group to celebrate Epcot's 25th Anniversary, and some of us also suspect that he had a hand in forcing the theme park management to have some sort of a fan event to mark the occasion. And when he sent a box of complimentary ice cream while we waited for the burnoff after Illuminations, all of us were ready to eat out of the palm of his hand.

Here are a few pictures of Jim McPhee when he graciously met up with our group.

This was on Aug. 31, a day before Epcot's Anniversary, and the first day of Celebration 25 activities. He dropped by just to welcome us and to say hello.

He also came back to give us a preview of the program and the special anniversary Epcot's park map that will be distributed on the Anniversary Day. Needless to say, the next day, many of us hogged the park maps!

This is on Epcot's Anniversary after the re-dedication ceremony. I'm guessing that these are some of the Epcot's management team.

He came back to check up on us after Illuminations and while we were waiting for the burn off. Thanks for the ice cream!

So Mr. McPhee, if you're reading this, I hope Disney knows what a tremendous person they have. So don't leave!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Follow-Up On Disney Characters in Disneyland's "It's A Small World"

More follow-up on the Disney charcters appearing in Disneyland's "It's A Small World". OK, I've had the chance to go look at the Disney Pins website to check the Disney character pins that have been designed for the re-opening of Disneyland's "It's A Small World". The information that came with each pin said that...

This Limited Edition pin collection features the Disney characters as they will appear in the "it's a small world" Attraction at Disneyland® Park.

So it definitely looks like these are what they will look like when we seen them on the attraction. There's a total of 8 pins representing 8 characters (plus secondary characters).

Aladdin and Jasmin

Ariel and Flounder





Lilo and Stitch, which one can get as the completer pin in the collectors set or in the framed set

Peter Pan, which one can get as the completer pin only in the framed set.

The framed pin set.

So now we know at least who will be in it. Not sure if this is the complete set of characters.


Disney Inadvertently Reveals New Small World Characters

The rumors swirling around the changes to Disneyland's "It's A Small World" attraction are certainly right as far as the addition of Disney's characters. Disney somehow inadvertently release images of them. This all happened at, of all places, the Disney pin website when they released upcoming Disney pin release.

Disney inadvertently let the secret slip by releasing a limited-edition pin collection featuring 14 of the approximately two-dozen Disney characters “as they will appear” when the Small World attraction reopens to annual pass-holders on Feb. 5 and the general public on Feb. 6.

I can already hear the scream of complaints from Disney purists.


Disney vs. Universal: Who Has the Best Way to Eliminate Long waits?

OK, so we had a Disneyland versus Walt Disney World battle. Now comes a closer look at WDW versus Universal Studios as far as effort to go around those long lines at various attractions. This news report examines Disney's Fastpass system versus Universal Studio's Universal Express.

Unfortunately, while the headline of the article asks the question on who has the best way, the article itself never draws any conclusion and never answers its own question.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Disneyland Versus Walt Disney World

Disney fans (or fanatics) are usually united in many issues about Disney. However, the one thing that Disney fans really fight among themselves is the question of which is "better", Disneyland or Walt Disney World.

To me, this is pointless. One might as well argue about a favorite color. Each park has its own strength and weaknesses. My preference for WDW does not whatsoever reflects anything negative about Disneyland. I would rather be at any Disney theme park on any given day, even DCA! In any case, I went on a "mini-grand tour" a couple of years ago when I flew to California and did Disneyland Resort, and then flew to Orlando to finish off our vacation at WDW. In case you missed it, my full trip report can be found here.

What brought this question about is the "trip report" by a reporter that compares DL with WDW. On the whole, she got it right, except for the fact that she thinks that the castle at DL is "Cinderella Castle".

Cinderella's castle is much bigger and more impressive. We were actually surprised when we saw Cinderella's castle at Disneyland; it looked like they shrunk it. (And this wasn't our first time at Disneyland; it was our family's fifth visit. My husband worked here in college, and he swore the castle was smaller than he remembers. Are we crazy?)

While it is true that the castle at DL is considerably smaller than the one at the Magic Kingdom, the castle at DL is "Sleeping Beauty castle".


Music During Obama's Inauguration on ABC

I missed the inauguration (had to do work) today. Melody from WCPT mentioned that the telecast on ABC used music from "Illuminations - Reflections of Earth" during some part of the inauguration telecast. Did anyone else caught it?


Why Disney Pulled Out of 'Narnia'

Oooh.. this is such a juicy news report.

We all have heard on Disney's decision to pull out of the Narnia franchise. Most of us thought it was just a matter of the cost not justifying the box office receipts. But noooooo.... There's a lot more going on behind the scenes that we first heard, which cumulatively might be the main reason why Disney drops Narnia.

But what really derailed Disney's involvement with "Narnia" was a nasty feud between the studio and Anschutz, the real-estate baron and supporter of Christian conservative causes who seems to own half of America. Anschutz has a stake in or outright ownership of Regal Entertainment Group (the nation's biggest movie theater chain), Staples Center, the Kodak Theatre, the Los Angeles Galaxy, the L.A. Kings, London's Millennium Dome, a string of U.S. newspapers (including the San Francisco Examiner) and Walden Media, which has produced such films as "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Nim's Island" and "Because of Winn-Dixie."

According to multiple sources, the once-close relationship between Disney and Walden began to unravel when, after the first "Narnia" film cleaned up at the box office, Anschutz essentially put a gun to Disney's head and demanded that the studio renegotiate its deal with Walden. Anschutz insisted that Disney either give back a sizable chunk of the studio's lucrative distribution fee or Anschutz would distribute the "Narnia" series on his own. Believing the franchise was too good to give up, Disney reluctantly changed the terms of its Walden deal, but the renegotiation poisoned relations between the two behemoths. When the second film faltered, there was so little goodwill left over that Disney had far fewer qualms about cutting its ties with the franchise.

Can I admit that I've never seen any of the Narnia movies? Honest! I have no good reason why. Just never got around to it, and never even bought any of the DVDs.


Disney's Iger Skips SOME Bonus Payments

I guess it is common news on the bonus payment for Bob Iger by the Disney Board. This news report indicates that Iger is forgoing some of the bonus payment.

Iger received a $2 million salary and a $13.9 million bonus for fiscal year 2008, ended in September, according to the entertainment giant's proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

His salary remained unchanged, while his bonus was up only slightly as Iger decided to forgo $2.4 million in additional bonus money as a gesture of goodwill.

How "goodwill" is this gesture?

To me, a lot of the drop in Disney stocks is definitely not anything he can control. Certainly, the Disney company is doing almost everything it can to shore up its products, and aggressively promoting its theme parks. And when compared to other media company, Disney is certainly doing a lot better than them.

Still, Disney stocks has tanked lately. And there's talk of a layoff. For me, as soon as there is a layoff at any company, then the company should seriously consider if the CEO and other executives deserves a bonus, especially such outrageously high bonus, that can easily be used, in turn, for the salary of dozens of people. I haven't heard of a massive layoffs at Disney, even though they are slowing down in hiring.

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2009.


Random WDW Picture

Here's another random WDW picture.

This is Animation Academy at DHS, where you get to sit down and learn to draw a Disney character. Many people do not know that this exist, and it is one of the most enjoyable activity one can do at DHS. I've done this multiple times, and have learned to draw Mickey straight on, Mickey in profile, Donald (happy and angry), Tigger (difficult!), and Eeeyore. I even had Mickey signed one of my Mickey drawing after the class, since there are usually characters in the Meet and Greet area right next to the animation class.

It's highly recommended, even if you don't know how to draw. And during the summer months, it is a wonderful cooling down time.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Pin Trading Fever at WDW

Looks like the Theme Park Ranger is finally getting into pin trading, or at least, his kids are.

After they saw a friend's excitement at trading, they declared they were ready to try, too. So, for the day, we approached most of the cast members we saw and asked to view their pins. It was interesting to see how each child approached the process differently. My daughter jumped in wholeheartedly, as she does most things, willing to give away anything if the cast member had a pin that caught her eye. My son hung back shyly, waiting for his sister to finish her transaction, while he studied the possibilities. Then, with some encouragement, he made his offer with a specific trade in mind.

I will offer you my advice on this matter as a Disney pin collector and trader myself.

If you intend to get into Disney pin collecting/trading, DON'T!


But, if you still decide that you want to do it after you read that, then there are several things that you MUST know first before getting into it:

1. Read the etiquette and FAQ of pin trading

2. PICK A THEME that you want to collect, and STICK TO IT, no matter how gorgeous that Eeyore pin looks and you don't collect Winnie the Pooh and Friends. You WILL go bankrupt if you buy everything that you like.

3. Buy cheap "throw-away" pins, such as those suggested by the Theme Park Ranger at the Disney outlet stores, for your pin-trading with cast members.

4. Don't buy for "investment". Most Disney pins do not appreciate in value over the years. Besides, no one can predict how valuable or collectible a pin will be.

5. However, having said that, if you seriously intend to get into pin trading with other pin traders, then you do need to do a little bit of homework, unless you really don't care the value of the pin you are going to trade away. You can get a sense of the value of a pin by going on ebay and see how much a pin is going for. However, this is not going to be easy since there are thousands of pin listed on ebay. So this could be a time-consuming activity. Frankly, I don't bother, but then, I have friends who can advice me on the value of such-and-such a pin. Most people do not have that luxury.

6. If you do intend to seriously trade with other pin traders, then you need to pay attention to buying Limited Edition pins that other traders may want. The general rule here is that the lower the edition number, the more sought-after the pin would be, especially after it is gone from the racks. However, plenty of other things determine the value or collectibility {is this even a word?) of a pin. The characters in the pin, the design, the size, etc. can also determine if a pin is going to be highly sought-after. So if you do intend to get serious, you have to end up buying multiple copies of a single pin that you think will be good traders. This is purely a judgment call (or even guesswork), because one can never predict which pin will be highly tradable.

7. Attend one of the pin events. The biggest yearly pin event is the annual Pin Celebration at Epcot's World Showplace. This is a hard-ticket event that gives you access to 3 days of pin madness, pin games, pin trading, and gifts/surprises galore. There are also pin trading night as mentioned in the news article, and various other smaller pin events held in WDW and Disneyland. Go to the Disney pin trading website for news and details. This website is also a good place to look at new Disney pins, upcoming Disney pins, and other info related to pins and pin events.

8. Join and This is where info about pins, pin traders, etc. can be found.

9. Have fun! If you are not having fun, then pin trading and collecting will not be enjoyable. More than anything else, pin trading is about interacting with people, and specifically, other people who share the same love as you do. Many of them are also some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I can personally testify of making lifelong, wonderful friends through pin trading activities. That in itself is worth all the money that I've poured into this hobby.

If I have time later on, I'll expand this some more to include the necessary "tools" that you might need to be a serious pin trader and collector.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lunch With John Lasseter

The Financial Times has a rather in-depth interview with John Lasseter.

We are due to have lunch in his office – his assistants tell me he doesn’t have time to meet in a restaurant. I have also been warned that he will have already eaten something and won’t be having much because he wants to devote his time to answering questions rather than eating, which might make this encounter an unusual take on Lunch with the FT.

Interesting start....

I know that there have been several articles on Lasseter, but I find that there's always something new to learn about this man who currently controls the artistic quality of Disney animation. So this certainly was an informative article.


Free Gift Cards for Stays at Disneyland Resort Hotels

Looks like they are trying to do some of the same type of promotion at Disneyland as what they are doing at WDW. Here's the latest press release:

ANAHEIM, Calif., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Disneyland Resort guests can enhance the fun and value of their magical vacation with a special bonus: a free Disney Gift Card to use for food and merchandise purchases during their experience - just by staying at a Disneyland Resort on-site hotel.

Guests who stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels - Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa - receive a Disney Gift Card -- $50 for a two-night stay, $100 for a three- night stay, or $150 for a four-night stay. The gift cards are provided upon check-in and available for use at any of the Disney-owned restaurants and stores located inside Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure theme parks, Disneyland Resort hotels and Downtown Disney. Travel must be completed by April 30.

Whether it's discovering whimsical Disney art at the Disneyland Hotel, stepping back in time to the golden days of California beachfronts at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel or indulging the senses at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, staying at any of the Resort hotels provides the Disney magic from check-in to check-out. Guests are steps away from two of the world's most famous theme parks and a vibrant dining and entertainment district.

Hotel guests also receive special benefits including "Magic Mornings," an exclusive early entry program for hotel guests into Fantasyland and Tomorrowland to enjoy popular attractions such as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Peter Pan's Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and King Arthur Carrousel. In addition, guests are treated to up close and personal character greetings in the Disneyland Hotel lobby and can start each morning with an entertaining Disney Character breakfast at either property.

Hotel guests can also add a little character to their stay by reserving "Character Quarters" at the Disneyland Hotel. The new Character Quarters are connecting kids' rooms which feature two twin beds, flat screen televisions, vibrant furnishings, flooring and amenities created with Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess themes. By reserving a regular guest room with an attached Character Quarters room, guests are guaranteed connecting rooms, a popular request from families traveling with young children.

To add even more magic to their Disneyland Resort stay, adult guests can play like a kid with the "Everyone Plays for the Kid's Price" ticket program. The special winter and spring program features three-day or longer Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Tickets, good for admission to both theme parks.

For more information and to book a Disneyland Resort hotel room, guests can contact their local travel agent, visit or call 1-866-60-DISNEY.

With the economy the way it is, they have to try something. The only issue is on how much Disneyland will be affected by all this since they depend more on the locals rather than tourists. So how much of an effect can a promotion that rewards the tourists will have on the attendance?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dole Whip Pin Update 1

If you missed it, I wrote about the reason why I am collecting the cast lanyard Chip 'N Dale Dole Whip pin. If the Pin God has given me the signal to have this pin, then it will be my life's mission to collect as many of this pin as I can!


So here's the update on my main purpose in life. I had just came back from our monthly WCPT (Windy City Pin Traders) Pin Meet, and thanks to Leeann and Pat, added 10 more Dole Whip pins to my collection. I now have 22. Here they are!

My mission continues...... :)


Friday, January 16, 2009

Rope Drop at WDW Theme Parks

Here's an article of an often-overlooked aspect of WDW theme parks - the rope drop ceremony to open the theme parks.

This event is known as the rope drop ceremony because when you first enter, you are only allowed to go partway into the park. For example, at Epcot, you are held up just before you would could turn off to the right or left to go towards Soarin' or Test Track. In the Magic Kingdom, you'll go through the tunnel under the train but you won't get much farther. At Disney Hollywood Hollywood Studio, you'll be stopped at the end of the street before you can turn right to head towards the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rockin' Roller Coaster. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, they'll stop you at the bridge before you reach the Tree of Life.

I think the report is a little bit outdated. Nowadays, after the rope drop at DHS, the majority of the guests head towards Toy Story Mania and not Tower of Terror/Rock 'n Rollercoaster. And the cast members try to direct you to Pixarland via the LONG route that avoids the steps/stairs to minimize people tripping or falling down.

As a morning person, I tend to go to the theme parks early in the morning, and even more so if they have an early Magic Hour. So I've seen probably all 4 rope drop ceremony (though I don't quite remember the one at AK). I think the one at The Magic Kingdom is the most elaborate and enjoyable, since it involves the train. This video is the rope drop ceremony that we videotaped just this past May, 2008. It has Scoop Sanderson as the MC.

So, have you seen any or all of the rope-drop ceremony? Or are you just not fun to be around with that early in the morning and avoid all crowds? :)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Steve Jobs' Medical Leave And The Walt Disney Company

By now, everyone would have heard about Steve Jobs' announcement that he will be on an extended leave from the day-to-day running of Apple to deal with his medical issues. A related question from that decision is his role on board of the Walt Disney Co.

This article discusses what responsibility, if any, of the Walt Disney Company in reporting of Steve Jobs' health. It boils down to the fact that, unlike Apple, his duties are more in the advisory function and not in the daily running and decision making for the Disney Company.

Disney most likely holds no responsibility or close to no responsibility here for the "reporting of the health of Steve Jobs." Apple does, and Apple is already under fire for how it handled this issue or how it allowed Steve Jobs to handle this issue. Unfortunately, a star-CEO has a fiduciary duty to shareholders to disclose relevant information. That includes personal health matters as well. He is a director at Disney. He is involved, and he is the largest Disney shareholder. But he is not the CEO there.

I don't think this is an issue at all.


Random WDW Picture

Haven't had this in a while, so here's another one.

This time, I turned the tables on those Photopass people and took THEIR picture instead! :)


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zagat Survey Released First Ever Disneyland Resort Guide

As they had done for Walt Disney World a couple of year ago (of which I participated in for the survey), Zagat has released its first ever survey of the Disneyland Resort.

Thrilled to Perfection: The top thrill in the Disneyland Resort, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, has earned itself a perfect 30 rating from surveyors - a rare honor in Zagat's history. Following close behind are Space Mountain and California Screamin', which both earned "extraordinary" thrill ratings of 29. With the Indiana Jones Adventure and Splash Mountain rounding out the top 5, it's clear that these parks pack a punch for any thrill-seeking Disney-goer.

Top Rides: This year, 65% of surveyors report spending almost all their time in the parks visiting rides or attractions. Surveyors' favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean, the swash-buckling pirate adventure. Space Mountain and Soarin' Over California came in #2 and 3 respectively. The Tower of Terror earned a 29 for Adult Appeal, while the dazzling "Remember ... Dreams Come True" fireworks won top Child Appeal.

The sad thing is that Tower of Terror at DCA could have been A LOT better. It is a cheapened version of the terrific ride at DHS in WDW. The missing portion where the elevator moves out and travel to another elevator well usually astounds most first-time riders. Tower of Terror at DHS is still my #1 most favorite attraction anywhere. Not only is it a thrilling ride, but it is perfectly, perfectly themed!


Wall-E Earned Top Banana From Rotten Tomatoes

Wall-E earned the Top Banana award from Rotten Tomatoes as the best reviewed movie of 2008.

Nothing surprising here because heading into the new year, this was well-known and why Disney was pushing it to be nominated in the Best Picture category. Still, I think it is an uphill climb since award voters put very little emphasis on animation.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jim Hill on Disney Recession Worries

In case you didn't catch it, you might want to read the Jim Hill's take on WDW's recession worries, and that there's a possibility that things aren't as bad as they could have been.

The one thing that still annoys me is the removal of character dining at Liberty Tree Tavern. I know that WDW is claiming that the drop in business is predominantly due to the economy. However, from THIS particular regular guest of WDW and the Liberty Tree Tavern, my ONLY reason for NOT dining at Liberty Tree Tavern lately is due to the ABSENCE of the old character dining, and NOT the economy. So take THAT against your "statistics"!

They'd better not mess up with Crystal Palace or I'll never dine at the Magic Kingdom ever again.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Steve Jobs Takes His Annual $1 Salary From Apple

Whether you worship him or despise him, unlike other greedy CEOs, Steve Jobs has been quite generous with not squeezing any more money out of Apple. This report details what he gets yearly for being Apple's CEO - $1/year.

What is interesting and relevant here (this is, after all, a Disney blog) is what he makes as being on the board of The Walt Disney Company.

Most of Jobs' wealth comes not from Apple but from the 138 million shares he owns of The Walt Disney Co., a 7.3 percent stake that makes him Disney's largest individual shareholder. Jobs scored the Disney stake through a brilliant deal in which he sold Pixar Animation Studios, a company he bought from George Lucas for $10 million in 1986, to Disney in a multibillion-dollar stock trade 20 years later.

Jobs' Disney holdings are now worth $3.2 billion, more than $1 billion less than the stock was worth last year.

Jobs has a similar relationship with Disney, where he serves on the board, as he does with Apple when it comes to pay. He doesn't take a salary for his work as a Disney director.

I mean, we know he's wealthy, and he knows it too. Unlike the other CEOs that simply can't get enough, he at least shows us that he really doesn't need to squeeze everything that he could get. No one would complain if he makes, say, $500,000 annual salary from Apple, even though it is a drop in the bucket for him. That's why he doesn't.

I'm indifferent towards Steve Jobs (I've heard some horror stories about him). But even I have to tip my hat towards him for this.


Beginnings of Balloon Lift at Downtown Disney

In an article on the closing of Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney, there was a mention of a new attraction being planned there, which is a tethered hot air balloon ride. Once again, the Theme Park Ranger has managed to snag a few pictures of a possible site for where such attraction, now called "Character in Flight" will be built.

Also, for whatever reason, I was imagining it going up elsewhere. In my mind, it was going to be near those trolley car admission booths of PI -- or near where the spotlights used to be. Nope. It's directly behind the information booth in the transitional area between West End and the bridges of Pleasure Island.

Not bad! I actually have walked around that area and snapped a few pictures. Maybe this will give me an excuse to actually walk back there again and to the West Side.

This attraction might fly after all. It sounds like fun!


More on Celebrating Your Birthday at Disney World

The Theme Park Ranger has quite a bit of additional useful information on celebrating your birthday at WDW. In particular, he has listed all the options that are available to you depending on what you already have (such as an annual pass, etc.). You certainly should read on it if you do intend on taking up on Disney's offer to celebrate your birthday there. It certainly will alleviate any possible confusion by the time you get to the counter to redeem your birthday offer.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wall-E Won Golden Globe

Wall-E Won the Golden Globe award for Best Animated Film.

Wonder if this is what the Academy Awards will look like....


Disney Missing In World Of Art

This is a rather extensive article in the Washington Post on the omission of Walt Disney from Art museums. This is something I haven't thought about, and upon further consideration, it IS a serious omission that Walt and his work aren't considered as fine art and aren't displayed in art museums.

The writer certainly made 6 compelling reasons why Walt's work should be in museums. One would hope that someone would listen.


Goodbye, Disney Tree! See You Next Year!

This weekend, I'm packing all the Holiday decorations all over the place, and this includes putting away the ornaments and decorations on the Disney tree. As I was about to do that, I realize that, unlike last year, I forgot to put pictures of the Disney tree this year.

So before I take it down, this is one last look at our Disney tree this year. It may not be obvious, but it has a lot more Disney ornaments on it this year than last year. Soon, we will need a taller tree.

I had many people over during this past holidays, since I like to host a lot of dinner parties. During each party, we played a game. In the Disney tree, I hid two "hidden Tweety (which, of course, isn't a Disney character)". The first person to find each of the hidden Tweety wins a prize. The game went very well. It's fun to see adults jostling each other trying to get to the tree and find the hidden Tweety just to win a prize (and these are not throw-away prizes either, mind you).

We did this similar game last year with just one hidden Tweety, and since it went so well, we added another hidden Tweety to the tree this year so that two different people can win it. And the Tweety wasn't that hidden either. They were actually easy to spot, but people always thought it would be in the most difficult and inaccessible places. So you see adults contorting their bodies looking at the bottom of the tree or the very top, when the Tweety were almost in their line of sight! :)

Ah, such fond memories of Holidays past...... :)


Disney to Install Defibrillators

Disney will start installing defibrillators at various attractions in WDW.

The company plans to install automated external defibrillators at nearly two dozen attractions across its four theme parks, including high-speed rides such as Expedition Everest, Mission: Space and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

I was concerned that even with the defibrillators, one would still need someone trained to be able to use it. But it seems that the technology has advanced well enough that anyone could use the one made for the public.

But as the devices became easier to use -- some newer models audibly instruct users and sense whether the victim is suffering from a problem that requires a shock before actually delivering one -- Disney began to deploy them in more public areas. State lawmakers have also given businesses that install defibrillators protections from lawsuits.

I suppose that last part is another reason to have these devices. I hope that Disney will include in their park maps the locations of the defibrillators.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Little Mermaid Celebrates Its One Year Anniversary On Broadway

The Little Mermaid musical celebrates its one-year anniversary on Broadway today. It officially opened last year on January 10.

THE LITTLE MERMAID was the #1 selling new Broadway musical of 2008, grossing over $60 million to date. Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal raved, "I expect it to run from here to eternity and back again. I'd see it again in a heartbeat." The Philadelphia Inquirer declared the show "a triumph of stagecraft." The Chicago Tribune hailed THE LITTLE MERMAID a "tidal wave of stellar performances!"

Still, it got not-so-glowing to awful review from many other theater critics. It remains to be seen how well it stacks up with the other Disney musicals, especially The Lion King.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Disney Plans for Theme Park in Shanghai

Under the worst-kept secret ever, we finally have confirmation that Disney is pursuing to build its next theme park in Shanghai. Rumors on this has been swirling around for months. Even the Shanghai government has leaked such discussion way back then, while Disney continues to deny the rumors.

Under the proposal signed this week, Burbank, Calif.-based Disney would take a 43% equity stake in Shanghai Disneyland while a joint-venture holding company owned by the local government would own 57%, according to a person familiar with the terms. The first phase, about 1.5 square kilometers, would include a theme park, plus a hotel and shopping development, at a cost of up to 24.48 billion yuan, or $3.59 billion, built over six years. A mostly rural site near Shanghai's Pudong International Airport has been designated for the project.

There's a lot of hurdles here to jump over. And it remains to be seen if they have learned from the debacle at Hong Kong Disneyland.


Starting January 12, 2009, Pre-Travel Authorization Required for Foreigners to Enter U.S. Under Visa-Waiver Program

Yes, this is still the Disney blog. You haven't found some US Immigration website.

I'm highlighting this because Disney gets a lot of visitors from Europe, and especially the UK, not to mention, a huge contingent coming in from Canada (this new regulation doesn't apply to them). So in case that there are visitors planning on visiting WDW or Disneyland after January 12, this new regulation will apply to them. Hopefully, it doesn't create too much of a hassle.

The Department of Homeland Security has finalized a rule requiring all foreign nationals who wish to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to obtain permission from the Department's Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before embarking on their travel. The rule takes effect January 12, 2009.

The VWP allows citizens of certain countries to visit the United States for business or pleasure for up to 90 days without first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. The countries currently enrolled in the VWP are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lichtenstein, Luxemburg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. It requires the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers currently fill out immediately prior to their entry to the United States. ESTA was created as part of the Implementing the Recommendations of the 9/11 Act of 2007.

ESTA applications can be completed at The website is already operational. Travel authorization is valid for two years or until the applicant's passport expires, whichever comes first. A visitor may make multiple entries to the United States during an authorized period. There is no fee for the ESTA application.

ESTA approval does not guarantee admission to the United States. In all cases, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer will still question the traveler upon entry to make a determination as to admissibility. If an individual is denied authorization under ESTA, he or she will be required to apply for a visa at a U.S. consular post abroad.

Canadians may enter the United States for business or pleasure purposes without a visa but are not part of VWP. This new requirement does not apply to them.


Disney Focuses on Boys

In the effort of cornering all the possible market, Disney is now targeting its most difficult segment of the population: tween boys. They will launch a series of new shows and capabilities on the Disney website and the Disney Toon channel.

"We looked at the landscape and feel that girls are being served -- if not super-served, and preschoolers are also well served, but boys really haven't been," says Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide. "If boys have been served, it's been mostly in animation, which [is] only a narrow portion of what boys are interested in."

Using both television and a new Web portal, Disney hopes to introduce boys to a host of new live-action and animated shows, original movies, new music acts and games. And Disney executives also hope to leverage boys' love of sports, using the company's ESPN brand, which will likely collaborate on original programming and other sports-themed topics for Disney XD. (Disney says the letters don't refer to anything.)

On Feb. 13, Disney will rebrand its existing animation channel, Toon Disney, as Disney XD and will launch the new action-adventure show "Aaron Stone," that it hopes will become the channel's centerpiece. The show melds aspects of what the company says boys are interested in: action, adventure and videogames. Another new show, "Zeke & Luther" will be a comedy filmed in quasidocumentary style about two best friends trying to become world-famous skateboarders.

Those tween boys don't stand a chance! They won't know what hit them. Resistance Is Futile!



Thursday, January 08, 2009

Disney's Space Mountain to Close for Renovations

Wow. This must really be a big news if Yahoo Business section also reports it.

Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom will be closed some time this Spring for a renovation.

Disney said Wednesday the ride in Orlando, Florida, will close April 19 so the 34-year-old attraction can be refurbished. Park officials expect the ride to reopen later in the year, but no date has been set.

Workers will replace the track, but the track layout won't change. A new enclosure will be added to the ride's waiting area, along with a new ceiling inside its prominent, white dome.

I hope they "plus" the attraction, because it is truly showing its age. But then, if you change it too much, you'll get complaints from other Disney fans.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Hanes Opens Retail Store at Disney

This is a news article about the opening of the Hanes Design-A-Tee store in Downtown Disney.

In case you missed it, I visited the store while I was at WDW last December, and gave a not-so-good review of the quality of the merchandise. I really hope they improve on the quality of the print, because I won't be buying a t-shirt there anymore until that happens.


Ed Catmull to Receive the Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will award Ed Catmull, the President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, with the Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar for his lifetime contributions to the technical aspect and the leadership in movie animation.

The award, an Oscar statuette, will be presented to Catmull at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentations on Saturday, February 7, 2009, at the Beverly Wilshire.

"Ed is one of the rare individuals who can bridge the space between science and art," said Academy President Sid Ganis. "His vision, ingenuity and groundbreaking designs have made the impossible possible -- for filmmakers and movie audiences around the world."

Too bad this won't be televised as with the main award. I hope this is recorded somewhere and we get to see it on YouTube or some place. I also wonder if John Lasseter gets to present the award to him.


Cinderella Castle Suite - Follow-Up and More Pictures

I obviously did not realize how popular the pictures on the Cinderella Castle Suite that I posted earlier would be. Thanks for the many wonderful comments, personal e-mail, and everyone who linked to it. Obviously, I can't take full credit for the pictures. I merely posted them on here to share with everyone.

Many of you have e-mailed me asking of there are more pictures. The answer is YES. There are a few blurry ones, and a few that didn't turn out that well. But there are a few others that I thought might be interesting to add to the existing ones that I've posted. So, due to popular requests, here are more pictures from the inside of Cindy's Castle Suite.

The family participated in the parade (I've obviously "mutilated" their faces - they look much nicer than this. :)).

More interior shots

Nice fireplace. I wonder if it really works? :)

I've also seen videos that they captured while they were staying here. This is one example where the pictures really do not do justice to how things really look and work. Even the video looked more impressive than the pictures, especially on how the TV screen above the fireplace opens up, etc. It truly is a Magical place to stay.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Architect Designed Disney Resorts

More often than not, we don't know the names of the people behind the scenes who were responsible for many things we are in awe of with Disney. The resorts and the design of the resorts are examples.

The architect responsible for the design of the Wilderness Lodge, and whose company was also responsible for the design of Animal Kingdom Lodge (my most favorite Disney resort) and Grand Californian, died recently. Peter H. Dominick Jr. was responsible for some of the best resort designs for Disney.

For decades, Dominick designed hotels, office buildings, homes and interiors throughout the country. For Disney, Dominick's firm also designed the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Central Florida and the Grand California Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Disney Parks Celebrate U.S. Military With Free, Multi-day Admission to Theme Parks in 2009

Disney announces in a press release today that current and retired members of the US military, including reserves and Coast Guards, will receive a free multi-day pass for admission into WDW and Disneyland theme parks.

With the "Disney's Armed Forces Salute" offer, active and retired U.S. military personnel, including active and retired members of the United States Coast Guard and activated members of the National Guard or Reservists, can enjoy complimentary, multi-day admission into Disney's U.S. theme parks, great rates at select Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort hotels, and additional special ticket offers for family members and friends.

It's another reason to celebrate.


Bob Iger Rocks Disney

We have had many articles on Bob Iger and the Disney Company. This is another look by Fortune magazine at how Iger has transformed Disney.

This is why when the Disney stocks took a tumble during the massive sell-off late in 2008, that we bought even more Disney stocks. I think that with Iger still at the helm, the Disney Company is still a solid corporation with a lot going for it in many different directions. And with Pixar still maintaining the unbelievable high quality of the movies they produce, that is just simply the icing on the cake.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Segway Tours at Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground

This is a short review of the Segway tour at the Ft. Wilderness Campgrounds. Many of us have seen/heard/done the Segway tour at World Showcase, but not many (including me) have done this at Ft. Wilderness Campgrounds. I certainly have plans to do this soon, especially since they give you a pin at the end, much like the World Showcase tour. That's enough of an incentive for me. :)


Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Look Back At Year Of A Million Dreams And Cinderella Castle Suite

With the end of 2008, it marked the ends also of the Year of a Million Dreams. While I think the general public who are not Disney fans did not really either realize the promotion, or were rather indifferent about it, the rest of us who are Disney fans certain were acutely aware of the promotion and always were looking to get picked to receive something, the ultimate prize being a night's stay in Cinderella Castle Suite. For a promotion that was originally slated to run for a year, it ran for 2 whole years and continue to award a lot of guests with various prizes.

As a Disney junkie, I know that I always wanted to be picked (who doesn't?) for one of these things. We were lucky once when we got the Dream Fastpasses at Disney-MGM Studios (it was called that when we won it). But I've always wanted the Dream Ears hat and never was awarded one. Still, after I helped arrange a WDW trip to a friend and his family, wouldn't you know it that they got picked to win the hat! The two parents graciously gave me the two hats when they got back (the two kids kept theirs, of course). So I ended up with 2 Dream Ears hat nonetheless. Still, I would have preferred to win it, and this past December's trip was our last chance. Alas, we didn't even come close, so that was the end of our chance.

I thought winning the ears was a more realistic "dream" than dreaming about winning a stay at Cinderella Castle Suite. That's why I wanted those damn ears in the first place! :) Still, it's always a nice thing to read in the news when a family got picked for that ultimate award. I wasn't even envious because it was such a small chance of being selected that it might as well not be there.

But in the category of 6 degree of separation, a friend of a friend actually got lucky enough to be picked to win such a stay at Cindy's Castle! So I finally got some in-depth account, rather than just superficial news reports, on what it was like, and how the inside of the suite really looked like, more than what news reports and press releases described. And the good thing was that these people were also Disney fans. So not only did they truly appreciate the enormity of what they had just won, they also were rabid enough to snap tons of photos (and grabbed everything that wasn't nailed down, but that's another story :)).

They have graciously shared the pictures they took with their friends, and I'm a beneficiary of some of those pictures. I've omitted pictures that identify them, and have scrambled pictures that they scanned that had their full names, mainly to protect their privacy as one can imagine, but other than those, these are some of the pictures they took. The detail of the Castle Suite is simply jaw-dropping.

So thanks to the Wolfe family for sharing the photos. And thanks to Ralph and Patti for sharing them with me.

I think these pictures show them being escorted into the suite by a Guest Relations cast member after they were picked.

The following set of pictures are all the interior shots of the suite, some of which we have seen before in earlier released pictures.

Of course, the bathroom was quite elaborate, especially the tub.

The toilet is truly, literally, a throne! :)

Ceiling and floor tiles.


If you think that chocolate mint they leave for you on your bed was fancy, wait till you see what they got served. I was told the white vessel that contains the chocolate-dipped strawberries was made of white chocolate. That's insane!

Various other interior shots.

Cindy has a lot of stuff in those display cabinets.

She shouldn't leave her glass slippers lying around like that. :)

.. not her crown.

Cindy also had time to read. She obviously loves biographies. :)

The lucky guests obviously get chauffeured around in a specially-marked vehicle.

And have their own parking space.

The Suite has a guest book that all the selected lucky guests get to sign. So you can read who else have won the Castle stay. I've scrambled the writing and names on the page.

The Wolfe family also scanned the mundane stuff that they either got, or were in the suite. This is just exactly the thing that *I* would have done, and I would think, any big Disney fan would have done. So BRAVO and thank you! We love seeing these kinds of details!

They got special key card for the castle.

Nice "certificates" signifying their win.

Privacy notice that one hangs on the door? Now who would barge in to the suite to disturb them? If Cindy's home, I would think that she's more than welcome to drop for a visit.

Nice to know they can still watch all the Disney channels while staying there.

They also took the postcard and the notepad (YES!).

These are obviously notes left on the bed.

Ah, how nice. While I never won such a thing, I can certainly live vicariously through such photos.

Edit: there are more pictures of Cinderella Castle here.