Thursday, January 31, 2013

Random WDW Picture

Had the luck of catching the red monorail when it passed over a lot of red flowers during a Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Disney responds to congressman about MyMagic+

Disney responded to congressman Markey's concerns about the MyMagic+ program (see the 1/26/13 post)  This article in Dis News shows the response which could definitely be called irate. 
"We are offended by the ludicrous and utterly ill-informed assertion in your letter dated January 24, 2013, that we would in any way haphazardly or recklessly introduce a program that manipulates children, or wantonly puts their safety at risk.

It is truly unfortunate and extremely disappointing that you chose to publicly attack us before taking the time to review our policies and/or contact us for information, which would have obviated the need for your letter. Had you or your staff made the slightest effort, you would have found most of the answers to your questions already existed and were publicly available online..."
It's obvious that Disney is not about to let assertions such as that made by the congressman go by without a fight.  Right now the MyMagic+ program is very new and there are many details that people should know about before opting in.  I suspect that Disney is in for more flak, ill-informed or otherwise, about this program.  Whether it is just because it is new and different, or because there could be hidden problems, remains to be seen.  I personally think the real issue is whether Disney has thought about, and blocked, all the ways a system like this could be exploited by the bad guys, i.e unintended consequences.  And maybe the issue isn't what happens inside the parks, but what happens when people take their scannable wrist bands outside the parks.

Illuminations 25th Anniversary

Illuminations began on January 30, 1988 at EPCOT, making this the 25th anniversary.  Disney Parks blog posted this story about the show.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mystery box

Disney Parks blog posted this story about a mysterious box of items found in the Imagineering archives.  The box apparently will be used in some way in a new movie starring George Clooney.  The article mentions that the movie was going to be titled "1952" but will now be titled "Tomorrowland".  From this and other posts, we know that the creator of "Lost", Damon Lindelof, will be involved in the new movie.  Since not much is known about the movie, making this a good time for rampant speculation, maybe George Clooney will play Walt or Roy.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Random WDW Picture

In case you've never seen one of these before, this is a WDW survey marker that you can find on the ground at various locations at each theme park.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Congressman questions MyMagic+

DIS News reports in this story that a Massachusetts congressman, Ed Markey,  is questioning the privacy of the new MyMagic+ program.  The congressman sent a let to Disney CEO Bob Iger asking for details on what information will be put on the new wrist bands and how Disney will use this information.  The bands, or bracelets as some are calling them, will contain some personal information and a way to charge credit cards. Another use of the wrist band is to enable characters to greet guests with personal information. Sounds like the characters will be carrying RFID scanners or something similar. But the fab 5 characters don't talk, so how will this work?  Disney is being asked to explain how they plan on using this information.
According to Markey, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus, "the bracelets could potentially have a harmful impact on our children." He wants Iger to address how how guests' privacy will be secured, particularly that of children. His letter continues, "Widespread use of the MagicBand bracelets by park guests could dramatically increase the personal data Disney can collect about its guests. Although kids should have the chance to meet Mickey Mouse, this memorable meeting should not be manipulated through surreptitious use of a child's personal information."
Disney's response, according to the article, included this quote...
... "MyMagic+ is a completely optional program. Disney's privacy policies and practices are fully transparent and guests can choose whether or not to participate in MyMagic+. In addition, guests control whether their personal information is used for promotional purposes and no data collected is ever used to market to children. MyMagic+ is designed to make a visit to Walt Disney World more personalized, seamless and customized than ever before."
  Well that's certainly a relief.  All we have to do is read and understand Disney's privacy policy, and all the little loopholes that may be lurking in the legalese.  The above quote implies that personal information will be used to market stuff to adults.  And exactly what personal information will the wrist bands contain?  Oh well, let's not worry about that or who might be able to scan the wrist band once you leave WDW.  There's a good chance we'll be hearing more about this new program, one way or another.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Escape from Tomorrow

Randy Moore, an independent filmmaker, has shot a B&W movie portraying WDW as a dark and terrifying place.  The film recently opened at the Sundance Film Festival.  This article in the New Yorker gives a pretty good description of the movie and the possible legal issues.  Seems that the film was secretly shot inside WDW and, according to some reports, the crew's activities were almost discovered by Disney Security.  The film crew apparently freely violated the terms of use of the park tickets.  But, to begin with, here's a quick plot summary...
A typical American family is on vacation at Disney World, when the father, Jim, finds out that he has been fired. Jim begins to act strangely, and his perception of their day at the park becomes twisted and scary. Aided by the use of black-and-white film, the familiar Magic Kingdom is transformed into something abjectly terrifying, as friendly icons morph into monstrous forms.
The lead character(Jim) begins to lose his sanity in the It's a Small, Small World attraction ( perfectly understandable, but most of us recover), and things really get bizarre on Spaceship Earth.

Aside from charging the film crew with trespassing, Disney may or may not have much of a case in regards to the movie itself...
...But the underlying assumption of that question—that Disney has a good trademark or copyright case—is wrong. Though the filmmakers may have committed trespass when they broke Disney World’s rules and if it violated the terms of entry on their tickets, the film itself is a different matter. As commentary on the social ideals of Disney World, it seems to clearly fall within a well-recognized category of fair use, and therefore probably will not be stopped by a court using copyright or trademark laws.
 This is not a case about counterfeit Mickey Mouse watches or bootlegged “Toy Story” DVDs. Disney is free to stop that sort of thing all it likes. But a judge has to think about the First Amendment when asked to ban art work.
We will undoubtedly be hearing more about this film and the possible legal developments.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rare Characters During Limited Time Magic Week

Attractions Magazine has a video of some of the characters that we don't usually see for meet and greet coming out to do just that during the Limited Time Magic week.

I really don't understand why they don't have these characters do a meet and greet more often.

For us, the rarest character that we encountered at the parks for a meet and greet was Rabbit.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Movie release dates

The Orlando Sentinel has this story about the planned released dates for several Disney movies. The movies include "Muppets 2", "1952", "Maleficent", and "Pirates of the Caribbean 5".  "Maleficent" is an updated version of "Sleeping Beauty", which will star Angelina Jolie in a story told from the villain's viewpoint.  Another misunderstood villain no doubt - hmm, sounds a little like "Wicked".  As Kermit has eloquently mentioned, it isn't easy being green. Malificent may have some other issue.
The news was part of an omnibus announcement, as Disney also announced "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" will open July 10, 2015. The next "Pirates" will star Johnny Depp with a script by Jeff Nathanson, but no director has been attached.
The 2011 "Muppets" reboot earned a sequel after grossing $158 million at the worldwide box office, giving producers Todd Liberman and David Hoberman a second crack at the iconic characters. James Bobin, who directed that movie, is directing the sequel from a script he wrote with Nick Stoller. Stoller wrote the first film with Jason Segel, who will not reprise his role in this film.
The plot of the movie "1952" isn't publically known yet but, as the article mentions, the script was written by the co-creator of "Lost".

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reedy Creek firefighters

Here's a behind the scenes story that was posted in the Orlando Sentinel Daily Disney.  The Reedy Creek Improvement District provides governmental services to WDW and Bay Lake (yes, there is a town of Bay Lake).  The firefighters have been in contract talks with RCID for over two years, and the most recent development is that the district board took the side of management in an insurance plan.
Without any substantive debate, the five-member board of supervisors opted for a management-proposed insurance plan over a more generous option sought by the Disney resort firefighters.
Disney controls the election of board supervisors and the firefighters feel they have no real say in the situation.  So, we'll see if this ultimately leads to picketing over the dispute.

Donald's Great Adventure - Another Cruise On The Disney Dream

Hello Friends,

This is your lovable Donald Duck again reporting on my latest visit to the Sunshine State and my 5-day cruise on the Disney Dream.

I spent a couple of days at Cocoa Beach just to chill out and dry out my feathers. Ah, the sun, the ocean, the breeze. I could retire here.

I made new friends while I was there. This was one of them. He looked rather strange to me, don't you think? But then again, my fans come in all shapes and sizes.
Soon it was time for me to get on board the Disney Dream. Here I was trying to decide if I want to take the wine package. It was very tempting.

I may be the Admiral of the Disney Dream, but it doesn't stop me from being treated like a King. I get to sit on my throne whenever I feel like it.
Here I was waiting patiently for them to seat me for dinner. Why were they making me wait? Don't they know who I was?

Ah, Castaway Cay! My favorite place! I got to swim around and flap my wings here as much as I wanted.
Back on the ship, it has been quite a cruise. I needed some zzz's and found this comfy lounge area where I could just sit back and had my nap.
Ah, I think this sculpture looks better with me in it!

On the final afternoon on the Disney Dream, nothing better than just kicking my feet up on the large porthole and watch the ocean.
I had a wonderful cruise. Can't wait to go back.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

To Infinity (and beyond?)

Check out this story on Yahoo news about a new gaming platform called "Infinity" that Disney is about to launch - sometime in June to coincide with Monsters U. 
"Infinity" will blend real-life toy figures depicting various Disney personalities with a sprawling virtual world where those same characters can do stuff like race cars, play games and construct buildings together, as well as go on adventures in their own realms.
"We wanted to make it so that we could have lots of characters from lots of stories we create at Pixar and Disney come together in one place," Disney-Pixar animation chief John Lasseter said at the Tuesday unveiling of "Infinity" at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre.
The new game system will run on devices such as Xbox 360 and Wii, and even on pads and phones.  The story notes that the characters in the game are not the actual characters, but rather the toy figures brought to life. The game can be compared to Skylanders, but with enhanced options.
The game is essentially divided into two modes: "play sets," featuring structured adventures where gamers can collect vehicles, scenery, gadgets and more; and the "toy box," an unstructured open world where users' imaginations can run wild, much like the games "Minecraft" and "LittleBigPlanet." Both modes allow for gamers to play cooperatively or online together.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Celebrate the Magic (With Holiday Tag)

This is the video we took last December, 2012, of the new Castle light show at the Magic Kingdom. This this was at the height of the holiday season, the show has a holiday tag at the end of it.

This show replaces and earlier one called The Magic, the Music, and You. I have a version of it (also with the holiday tag) that we recorded in December 2011. I'm linking it below so you can compare the two.

While the new show is definitely more complex and sophisticated, it feels rather disjointed and chopped up. The new music accompanying the show is also not memorable. The holiday tag appears to be an afterthought. It is just attached to the end of the regular show and the ending just tapers off. The old show feels a lot smoother and flows better.

I hope they make changes to this show soon.


Friday, January 11, 2013

MyMagic+ what is it?

DIS News posted this story about the new MyMagic+ system that Disney is installing.
At its simplest, MyMagic+ (and its sibling app titled "My Disney Experience") will attempt to allow guests to better customize their vacations while at Walt Disney World. The smartphone app will allow visitors to make plans both before and during their stays, whether it be for dining reservations or FastPasses (the latter can be done through the FastPass+ technology).
 As for the bracelets of which pictures have been floating around the Internet for months, they will officially be called MagicBands. These wristbands will "serve as a guest's room key, theme park ticket, access to FastPass+ selections, PhotoPass card and optional payment account all rolled into one."
We noticed new pin-pads were being installed at various checkout counters  in December, and a few entry gates at the parks were using RFID scanners.  The article doesn't talk about how annual passes might be handled with the "MagicBands".  This might be a good time to recall the wise words of the robot from Lost in Space (you know what he said).  A bracelet with your account information on it, able to be scanned by RFID without your knowledge - think about it.

The article also refers to the official terms and conditions for this system, and talks about the new Fastpass+ system...
The above cited terms and conditions clarify that FastPass+ reservations are only allowed for one park per day, a limitation not involved in the current system. In addition, the document states that "Magic Your Way ticketholders may make FastPass+ selections beginning 60 days prior to day of use .
 As Bob Dylan pointed out...
It'll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls 
For the times they are a-changin'

Resort online check-in 60 days in advance

DIS News posted this article about resort online check-in now available 60 days in advance instead of the previous 10 days.  This is part of a new system Disney calls MyMagic+ which includes, among other things, a payment system requiring a pin.
Some resorts are now using a payment system that requires you to select a pin number for room charging privileges.  You will be asked to do this during online check-in.
This payment system was just being installed at WDW in December, and some resorts were not yet participating.   New pin-pads were being installed at checkout counters. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Illuminations Dec 2012 With Holiday Tag

I'm slowly getting the chance to download and edit the videos that we took during our last December 2012 trip on the Disney Dream and WDW. Here's the first one. This is Illuminations with the Holiday Tag. It was videotaped in front of the German pavilion.


2013 Oscar Nominations

The 2013 Academy Awards nominations were announced this morning, and Disney did well in the Animated Movies category, earning 3 nominations for Frankenweenie, Wreck It Ralph, and Brave.

Of course, Lincoln got a boatload of nominations, including Best Picture. They showed this on the Disney Dream when we were on it this past December, but we just didn't have a chance to see it (a couple of our friends on the cruise did).



Monday, January 07, 2013

Avatar Land not happening?

The Theme Park Insider blog posted this article speculating that the new Avatar Land might not be built.  The project seems to be behind schedule and there are reports that James Cameron doesn't work well with the Imagineers.
Movie blogs this week have been reporting delays on production of director James Cameron's new Avatar movies, including word that a fourth Avatar might not be in the works at all. The initial report, from IndieWire on Monday, included speculation that the Avatar project for Disney's Animal Kingdom is running behind schedule, too.
We do know this: Avatar was slated to go into the space in Animal Kingdom now occupied by Festival of the Lion King. If that show doesn't close in January to make room for Avatar, as is now planned, we will know for sure that the Avatar project is in trouble. And if Lights, Motors, Action closes instead early next year, we'll know that Cars Land East likely will happen, too. Keep your eyes open. 
Several other blogs are reporting that Avatar Land won't happen, but they may be just repeating rumors. It seems that Universal is kicking things up a notch with plans to open a Transformers attraction, so Disney may be looking for ways to keep WDW competitive.  Since plans for Avatar Land became known, many people (me included) felt that this didn't make much sense for Disney.  Too far away from Disney theming.  While Harry Potter is firmly embedded in popular culture, Avatar could fade away into the background. So, we'll see.

Festival of the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom

The Disney Blog reports that the Festival of the Lion King show at Camp Minnie Mickey may be moving or closing due to the new Avatar Land. 
The Festival Of The Lion King show has been the subject of relocation rumors practically since it opened in Camp Minnie Mickey instead of Africa, where it would seem to make more thematic sense. Elevation balloons were recently spotted over that section of the park. And while no ground has been broken, it was confirmed those balloons were some early planning for Avatar-land. With Avatar-land inching closer to reality, it looks like Camp Minnie Mickey is the likely candidate for Avatar.
 The report goes on to say that it isn't known if the show is moving to another location or closing.  There's no evidence of a new theater being built elsewhere in the park.  The current theater might be relocated, or the show might be changed or shut down.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Disney's motives for new Fantasyland

This article in the Orlando Sentinel talks about the new Fantasyland at WDW and the motives behind the project.  Apparently Disney began to get the message that overcrowding at Fantasyland is not a pleasant experience for many people.  The article refers to a survey in Oprah's magazine where two-thirds of respondents said WDW was the "toughest place to be" in the summer.  The new Fantasyland is viewed as a "routine capital investment", rather than a major project.
...the Fantasyland work is chiefly a defensive investment, designed to ensure that the Magic Kingdom — already the busiest theme park in the world, with 17 million annual visitors — does not choke on its own crowds.
By easing congestion and reducing wait times, Disney hopes to create a more pleasant experience inside its busiest theme park — and ensure that visitors will want to return for future visits. Ensuring a positive experience in the Magic Kingdom, the cornerstone of Disney's vacation empire, also makes it more likely that travelers will then visit the company's other parks, sail on its cruise ships and book its guided tours.
Interestingly, the article says that attendance at WDW has been slipping lately, although spending is up due to increased prices. 

WDW rehab and closing schedule

DIS News posted this article listing the various WDW rehab projects and closed attractions going into 2013. Some of the projects include converting the Main Street Bakery at MK, Fountain View at EPCOT, and the Boardwalk Bakery to Starbucks.  Based on a Disney "clarification" a couple months ago, these locations will not be Starbucks storefronts, but will serve Starbucks products. Having a Starbucks storefront in the parks would certainly mess up the theming - but maybe not a problem on the Boardwalk. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Hong Kong Disneyland Store at Hong Kong Airport

I had 2 brief stopovers (if you can call 4 and 5-hour stops as "brief") at the Hong Kong airport while on my trip this past December. Of course, I had to make a beeline to the Hong Kong Disneyland stores. The largest one is in Terminal 1 inside the restricted area (you need a ticket and go through immigration). The second one is accessible to everyone in Terminal 2, but it is also smaller.

Since I landed at Terminal 1 the first time around, I didn't have to go through anything to get to the larger HK Disneyland store.
Now, I would have shopped till I dropped, but unfortunately, I had to restrain myself because I will have to bring whatever I bought as a carry-on. My checked luggage is being sent through to my final destination in Singapore. So I couldn't buy everything I wanted, but it was enough that I ended up with a shopping bag. Luckily, since my other carry-on is a backpack, I did not exceed the airline's limit on the stuff I could bring on board.

In any case, I spent my money on pins (of course), t-shirts, and a few souvenir items. I also had, in the back of my mind, the idea that I will be passing through this place again on the way back, and will have a chance to shop some more. That turned out to be true and more. On the way back, I actually went through immigration, got out of Terminal 1, and went to Terminal 2 to look at the other Disney store. It was smaller, with less amount of merchandise. I did see a t-shirt that I didn't notice at the other store, but other than that, I didn't see that much of a difference.

After having dim sum for breakfast, I went through immigration again and got back into Terminal 1. I went back to the first HK Disneyland store and shopped some more before I had to make my way back to the gate to board the plane for home.

So here are some of the stuff I bought. As you can see, they are predominantly pins, since I was also buying for my Disney pin collector friends.

This is a nice pin with vibrant colors. The picture does not do it justice.
I originally intended to break up this pin set and keep only the Donald pin, but now I've changed my mind and will keep the set intact.
This is another neat pin set.
I bought this for someone who collects Nightmare's stuff. If he doesn't want it, I'll keep it.
The one non-pin merchandise that I bought was these "dolls". They are Mickey and Minnie in traditional Chinese outfits.
But they are not really dolls. If you turn them around, there's a zipper running along their backs.
If you open the zipper, you'll find a bag of candy stuffed inside the dolls.
What is even cuter is that each of the candy is shaped like a Mickey head.
I wish I could have bought a few more pairs of these. A lot of people here want them.

HK airport his HUGE. In fact, many of the new Asian airports such as HK, Singapore, Korea, etc. put most American airports to shame. I haven't seen the new Bradley international airport at LAX, but certainly O'Hare's international airport looks like a slum when compared to these slick, modern airports.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Disneyworld in decline? posted this article titled "A Great Big Broken Down Tomorrow" by Jeff Heimbuch about the decline in WDW's state of repair. Jeff talks about specific problems with many attractions, and Disney's current mindset that is losing touch with the "magic".
I get that there are a lot of things to do and fix at Walt Disney World. I also get that it costs money to repair these things. It even affects crowd control when attractions are down for refurbishment. But things that are in such a noticeable state of disrepair as some of the attractions above are in is simply unacceptable. It’s not only “bad show,” but it also seems like those little details that Disney used to care so much about before are now not even on their radar.

Happy New Year!

So I'm a day late!

Still, hope you had a terrific New Year's Eve/Day, and wishing you a wonderful year ahead. Lots of Disney stuff to look forward to.