Monday, May 30, 2011

Downtown Disney, Across The Lagoon, At Night

We stayed at Saratoga Springs on this last trip. So one evening, we went out and took photos of Downtown Disney from across the lagoon.

This is the view, at night, from the balcony of our room.

A view towards Marketplace.

View of the West Side and the hot-air balloon.

A view of House of Blues and Cirque Du Soleil building.

A lovely place for an evening stroll.

At 9 pm, you can even see part of Illuminations from Epcot, if you know where to look.


Friday, May 27, 2011

History And Fiction Coincide

Just as "Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides" was released last week, and featuring Blackbeard and the ship Queen Anne's Revenge, along comes news that an anchor believed to be from that particular ship has been recovered.

An anchor from what's believed to be the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard's flagship has been raised from the ocean floor off the North Carolina coast.

Archaeologists believe the anchor recovered Friday is from the Queen Anne's Revenge, which sank in 1718. That was five months before Blackbeard was killed in a battle.

So, did they recover any chalice? :)


Disney's Let The Memories Begin Tour Comes to Chicago

Guest reporter Patti S. stopped by their booth today:

I was walking through the Michigan Avenue Nordstrom's mall this afternoon at lunchtime and was stopped in my tracks by scenery from the Disney Jungle Cruise attraction!

Turns out it's a summertime promotion for Disney Theme Parks that is travelling across the country.

You could have a commemorative Disney Parks photo taken at the exhibit and printed immediately on the spot. You are also given a Mickey & Minnie magnetic photo frame for your photo. There's a video promoting Disney parks and vacations playing on the side of the exhibit. You can also enter a sweepstakes to win a free Disney Parks vacation at their website:

Yesterday's photo backdrop was of the castle. Today's backdrop was the Jungle Cruise attraction. They also have an interactive photo booth where you can select your own choice of 4 different backdrops, and they will be showcasing that booth at Water Tower Place mall next week. The employees told me they are in the Chicago area until this Tuesday.

You can catch the Let the Memories Begin Tour at the following locations:

Orland Park Mall: Saturday, May 28th, noon - 6 pm
Water Tower Place Mall: Monday & Tuesday, May 30th & 31st, noon - 6 pm
Navy Pier: Monday, May 30th, noon - 6 pm

Disney Has Such Cool Toys!

On our last morning at SSR during this last trip, I was sitting on the balcony of our room having breakfast when I saw this grounds personnel mowing the grass between the walkway and the lagoon facing Downtown Disney. Normally, this isn't an activity that fascinates most people, but this morning, it was different. He was using this remote contraption to mow the law!

The yellow unit goes back and forth, operated remotely by him. It was such a cool toy! I want one! It was fascinating enough that a few people/guests either stopped by to take a quick look, or other guests at the resort were sitting on their balconies, just like me, and ogling after this neat machine.

Here are some pictures of that.

Just think. With one of these things, you can mow your law while lounging on your couch or patio chairs!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Disney Withdraws Trademark Application to "SEAL Team 6"

It is a wise decision on a very bad move.

Disney withdrew its application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to use the "SEAL Team 6" name.

I also don't quite buy the "explanation" give for the initial move to trademark the phrase:

Disney's intentions were misunderstood, according to a person familiar with the entertainment company's plans. Disney, which owns the ABC television network, is considering a TV show about the elite squad, similar to other fictional dramas about real-life arms of the military, such as "NCIS" and "JAG."

I don't buy it because of the timing. It JUST happened that they want to trademark it after the Bin Laden killing? Really? What an amazing coincidence!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Similar, But Not The Same

During our last trip, we were walking around Downtown Disney through Pleasure Island when we saw this group of musicians performing in front of Fulton's.

They were good, but I thought they sounded "familiar". In fact, to me, they were "trying" to sound like the group Rondo Veneziano. If you're not familiar with this group, they take classical, natural instruments, and while they do play classical-type musics, they inject a bit of pop into it. They have performed at Epcot before, so they certainly are not strangers to Disney.

I tried to see if I could figure out the name of the group. Maybe they were Rondo Veneziano Lite since Rondo is a rather large group, while there were only 3 musicians that I could see performing that evening. But since there were quite a crowd, I decided to continue with my stroll that evening.

However, on the way back, the crowd has dispersed since the performance was over. But there were still people associated with the group that were packing up. So I walked over to a table where they had the group's name and a few of their CDs. I found out that the name of the group was Nova Era. The person by the table proceeded to introduce me to the group and the nature of their music. I then told them that they sounded like Rondo Veneziano. She then replied that they were "better" than Rondo Veneziano. Another person nearby mentioned that two of the members of the group were, in fact, former members of Rondo (that kinda explains why they sounded similar).

I decided to purchase one of their CDs on the spot. It's titled "Millennio". I'm sorry to say that I'm not impressed. It sounds "processed", and could possibly pass as Muzak. Rondo Veneziano sound fuller and richer, and certainly has a lot more melodies that one can actually remember. Try listening to the Rondo's album "Papagena", for example. In fact, I used one of their tunes as the soundtrack to this video that I edited:

So whole Nova Era may have styles that are similar to Rondo Veneziano, they do not have the memorable melodies of Rondo, and they certainly sound more "artificial" than Rondo.


Disney Opening New Research Lab In Cambridge, MA

Interesting news about a new Disney research lab to open in Cambridge, MA.

The lab is currently hiring researchers in social and behavioral sciences, data analytics and data mining, media, and transportation. There are also openings for software engineers with Web and mobile experience.

But what I found to be more interesting was the recap on the old Disney lab that has been closed.

The old Disney lab, overseen by Bran Ferren and Danny Hillis, was extremely low-profile. A former employee tells me — anonymously — that it worked on "high performance electric robotics," or a new generation of Audio-Animatronic technology, including robotic characters that could roam free-range around the theme parks and interact with guests. The original Disney lab in Cambridge also worked on a $50 plush toy sold in the company’s theme parks called “Pal Mickey.” Electronics hidden inside the toy would respond to infrared transmitters placed around the parks, and the toy would speak information about parade times or costumed characters that might be mingling with tourists nearby. Disney was also a sponsor of a research initiative at MIT's Media Lab called "Toys of Tomorrow," which sought to develop smarter and more interactive toys.

Hum... could Lucky the Dinosaur and the roving/talking trash be also the products of this research lab?


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

George Lucas and Bob Iger Interview on Star Tours II

You get a brief interview with George Lucas and Bob Iger on Star Tours II - The Adventures Continue. You also get to see them about to experience the attraction.


Monday, May 23, 2011

More Info On "World's Largest Hidden Mickey"

I posted this a while back (in 2007, in fact) of what could possibly be the world's largest hidden Mickey. After I posted it, more info was found regarding who did it.

Now, 4 years later, there's even more info on it in this video.

One of these days, I'll find this when I'm flying in or out of Orlando.


Woman Unconscious After Space Mountain Ride

Unfortunately, another medical situation occurred on a Disney attraction, this time, on MK's Space Mountain.

Walt Disney World shut down its popular Space Mountain attraction for inspections Saturday after a woman was found unconscious at the end of the ride.
According to Assistant Chief Bo Jones, the woman was unconscious but had a pulse and was breathing on her own when transported.

Hopefully, it was just from too much "excitement" and nothing serious or due to an established medical conditions.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fireworks For Star Tours Galactic Party

Tremendous fireworks show at DHS for the Star Tours media party.


Sights From 2011 Flower and Garden Festival

We arrived during the last few days of this year's Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, so we didn't get to see the full festival. Still, here are a few sights from it.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mr. Toad At The Magic Kingdom

Oh no. I'm not starting a rumor about the Mr. Toad ride coming back to the Magic Kingdom. Not in the least bit.

I saw this a while back, but never had a good picture to show, till now. On your way out from the Haunted Mansion attraction at MK, look to your left at the pet cemetary before you walk out of the gates. At the far left side, you'll see Mr. Toad statue. I suppose this is fitting since it is a long-departed attraction.


Opening Ceremony of Star Tours at DHS

George Lucas and Bob Iger launched Star Tours II - The Adventures Continue at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Looks like it was quite an opening. Still, Iger and Lucas can't act! They certainly don't know what to do with the light sabers! :)


Friday, May 20, 2011

Hidden Mickey Found On This Last WDW Trip

So I was determined to find Hidden Mickeys that I haven't found before while I was on this last WDW trip. And I found more than a few! Here they are:

This first one is in the miniature village next to the German pavilion at Epcot. The flower bed on the ground is the classic Mickey head.

This next one is not that easy to spot. There are two groups of clouds, one on top of the other, to the right of the Brown Derby sign. Look at the cloud on the bottom. Along the top of the cloud, there's a classic Mickey head slightly tilted to the right.

This next one is easy to spot. It is in Artiste Palette, and it is on the gate/railing along the walkway from Artist Palette to the Turf Club restaurant.

This one is easy to spot because there's a lot of it. It is one of the paving bricks on the ground outside of the entrance to The Magic Kingdom. The clapper for the bell has the classic Mickey head.

This one was a chore to find. It is on the mural at the Contemporary on the Concourse level, and on the side that faces AWAY from the monorail, i.e. the side that faces Bay Lake. A classic Mickey head can be found on the markings on the owl.

This next one we happened to notice without even looking for it. I'm not sure if it has been there all along, but considering that we rode the ferry many times, I'm surprised we haven't noticed it till now. This is what you can see if you ride the ferry back to the TTC from MK, and you're on the top level. As the ferry is pulling into the dock at TTC, look on the left side. You'll see a coil of rope in the shape of a classic Mickey head.

This last one is something I've already spotted, but I forget if I've shown it on here. So for completeness sake, I'll show it since I took a picture of it. It is in Mickey's Philharmagic, and the French horn has a classic Mickey head.

We also found the Hidden Mickey in Sci-Fi Dine-In theater restaurant, but it was too difficult to snap a picture in the lighting that was there.


Star Tours II - The Adventures Continue Opens Tomorrow

EW has a good coverage of the upcoming opening of Star Tours - The Adventures Continue at Disney's Hollywood Studios, including a video report.

As I reported earlier having sat through a preview of the attraction, it was a lot of fun, but I wish it wasn't all that chopped up. There was a sense that they were trying to rush as many special effects as possible, so much so that I got left behind with the story.

Oh well, probably a good excuse to go back and see it again, probably a different version.


"Pirates 4" Off To A Rocky Sail

Ugh! It appears that the new "Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides" is off to a bad start. Opening today in the US, the movie has been getting weak to poor reviews so far. See here, here, and here.

I'll get to see it for myself on Sunday, in IMAX 3D no less. But I certainly was hoping that Rob Marshall could turn the franchise around.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Back in Reality

We got back late last night. It was a cool, 50-degree Chicago weather. It wasn't bad (I like cooler temperatures). Still, we left a perfect day in Orlando.

It was a wonderful vacation. I still have plenty of pictures to upload, especially from the Destination D: Florida Project event. And of course, Donald also has a few more of his adventures to report.

The pleasant surprise bonus was our chance at preview Star Tours II. I knew that when I saw cast members manning the entrance, and with a bunch of guests, who had the look of knowing what's going on, already crowding the entrance, that something good was going to happen. And it did. Star Tours II looks amazing, and certainly smoother than Star Tours I. The storyline is a bit choppy. Now I know that there are several different storylines, so one could have different ones on each ride. The one I had had the pod race and the race into Death Star. It just appeared as if these things were put together randomly. The scenes just jumped from one location to another for no apparent reason.

In any case, I'm glad we got to at least preview this since we won't be able to go to the opening tomorrow. I heard that George Lucas and Anthony Daniels (C3PO) will be on hand at the opening ceremony. If you plan on attending, may the force be with you. The crowd will be huge.

Anyway, I'll need a day or two to catch up, and then I'll post more pictures and reports from this trip.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Leaving Studios for the airport. Our WDW vacation is over. :(

Waiting to draw a character at the Animation Academy.

Going on Great Movie Ride. It is a gorgeous day here with nice temp and low humidity.
Having lunch at Sci Fi.
We just had a preview of Star Tours II. The force and luck were with us.

We are in a line hoping for an unannounced preview of Star Tours.

In queue line for Midway Mania. 30 min standby time.

Spending the morning at Studios.

It's Almost Over Already?

It feels just like yesterday when we arrived. But today is our final day at WDW. We fly back to Chicago late in the afternoon.

We packed last night after getting back from Epcot. Man, did we buy a lot of cra.... er ... stuff! A lot of pins, a lot of T-shirts (as if we need more), and other merchandise. Needless to say, our luggage are certainly heavier than when we came in. We have a 3rd bag that we can use, if needed (we LOVE Southwest!).

We'll be spending the early part of the morning at Studios, and then maybe hop over to Epcot for lunch (we hate the quick service food selection at Studios) and spend the early after noon there before heading to the airport. Our vacation is almost over. We can't wait for September.