Tuesday, November 29, 2011

D23 Members Save on Tickets to The Muppets at the El Capitan Theatre

See The Muppets at the historic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for $11 (an adult general admission ticket, $6.00 savings). 

Valid for any Monday through Thursday show date and time during the run of The Muppets (December 23, 2011 through January 8, 2012). Limited to four tickets per D23 Membership Card. Guest must show valid D23 Membership Card to receive the special-rate tickets.

“It’s funny, upbeat, and full of laughs for everyone… frogs, pigs, bears… even people,” says Kermit. “For new fans, it’s a chance to see the Muppets in action on the big screen. And for old fans it’s a chance to get together with old friends… and get a little crazy together.”

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter—the world’s biggest Muppet fan—his brother Gary (Jason Segel), and Gary’s girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), from Smalltown, U.S.A., discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze Muppet Studios and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the studio, Walter, Mary, and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making of Magic Kingdom Park Tilt-Shift Video

posted at the official Disney Parks blog on October 8th, 2009 by Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks

When we posted last week’s Magic Kingdom tilt-shift video, the hope was that a few of you would enjoy the experiment. But oh my…were we surprised. Response was overwhelming.

Some Disney Parks Blog commenters said they were moved to tears. Others cheered and described it as a mini vacation. And yes, we heard those of you who asked for more. So, we immediately found the creative “eye” and champion of the project — David Roark, manager of creative photography for Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group. David sat down with us and shared how he did it.

Tilt-Shift Still Frame

Thomas Smith: This type of project has never been attempted at Disney Parks. How’d you make it work?
David Roark: It was a lot of trial and error. My first two or three trips out of the box I was like, ‘This is not going to work.’ It’s a combination of your height on the scene and in the Magic Kingdom Park there’s just not a lot of fixed platforms where you can lock a camera off for five minutes without it moving. But there’s also lightning and consistency of exposure. We started this in the middle of summer and if you start a sequence and a little cloud comes by, you need to start it over again because the clouds darken the scene so much. So, it was very trial and error. This was on the job training for me.

TS: Was it difficult to find the perfect shots?
DR: In the case of this one, nobody really knew what we were doing. (I said) “just trust me and work with me here, this will all make sense.”

Making of Tilt-Shift

 TS: What lenses did you use?
DR: Nikon makes three tilt-shift lenses, they’re basically architectural lenses and we’re using them in a diametrically opposed application than what they’re built for. They’re built to actually allow you to increase the focal plane in a scene and make everything in focus. For tilt-shift, we turn them the opposite way and back tilt the focal plane so that hardly anything is in focus. And that creates that miniaturation effect.

TS: What was on your mind while putting this together?
DR: For me, it became as much a transportation story – the story of getting to the park and all the things that happen because that activity of parking your car and coming through the toll plaza. I had to think about what scenes have that kind of repetitive motion. It was a lot of fun and it’s different. For me it became a little bit of an escape.

TS: Did you notice Guests wanted to see Wishes Nighttime Spectacular?
DR: Everyone wants Wishes, but Wishes is so bright and because we shoot one frame a second, there were just too many flash frames in it. But, Epcot and Illuminations, I’ll make work. We’ll get the fireworks.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How the ambient sound at Walt Disney World works

Noah sez, "An interview with the man who designed the ambient sound at Disney World, ensuring a constant experience rather than one that ends with the end of the ride. It was initially a little uneven, with sound changing volumes depending on where you stood, so they used algorithms to position 15,000 speakers around the park so that the levels would never change.

"I like the way there's often running water or waterfalls between different soundscapes to act as a white-noise buffer. It's subtle but incredibly effective. You almost never hear two contrasting soundscapes at once. In the mid 1990's, the park started researching the problem. It would eventually find no existing solution, so the engineers had to design and construct, on their own, one of the most complex and advanced audio systems ever built.

The work paid off: today, as you walk through Disney World, the volume of the ambient music does not change. Ever. More than 15,000 speakers have been positioned using complex algorithms to ensure that the sound plays within a range of just a couple decibels throughout the entire park. It is quite a technical feat acoustically, electrically, and mathematically. As we land, I ask Mr Q what he considers the highlight of his career. He describes how he wrote some software for "manufacturing emotion" with the thousands of new speakers in the park.

The system he built can slowly change the style of the music across a distance without the visitor noticing. As a person walks from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, for example, each of the hundreds of speakers slowly fades in different melodies at different frequencies so that at any point you can stop and enjoy a fully accurate piece of music, but by the time you walk 400 feet, the entire song has changed and no one has noticed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mission: SPACE from the Disney Newsreel, October 17, 2003

04.02.11 - It took more than 650 Walt Disney Imagineers more than 350,000 hours (that equals about 40 years of time) to develop Mission: SPACE. And there were just as many decisions — some big, some bigger — to be made.

Imagineers mocked up nearly 100 shades of red before deciding on the color of the red planet that dominates the attraction's dramatic facade.
All systems are go. Mission: SPACE presented by HP officially blasted off October 9 at Epcot... and with the thundering roar of rockets and the gravity-defying exhilaration of liftoff, Walt Disney World guests are launching into an out-of-this-world adventure.

Decades "in the dreaming" and some five years "in the making," the new attraction, uses a first-of-its-kind, custom-designed ride system based on actual NASA astronaut training techniques to engage guests in a one-of-a-kind astronaut experience. So believable is the deep-space mission to Mars that some Epcot guests ponder whether they have left the building during the adventure. "Walt Disney Imagineers have combined our tradition of storytelling with the latest in technology to create an experience that our guests can get nowhere else in the world," says Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World Resort. "As a technology company, HP is the perfect partner to present this attraction, and Epcot is the perfect setting, continuing the park's dedication to the explorer in all of us." The new attraction is, in fact, the most technologically advanced ever created by Disney. It also marks a continuation of the collaboration with HP that began with the sale of a specially modified version of Bill Hewlett's first invention to help fine tune theater acoustics for the motion picture Fantasia.

The International Space Training Center, several decades into the future, provides the setting for Mission: SPACE. As the crew selected for this ultimate space mission, guests head to the dispatch area and then move to the Ready Room, where they receive a history of astronaut training and are given the role they will assume during the mission. Invariably, post-mission guest chatter includes "wows" for the launch and the visual representations of space. Mission: SPACE taps existing principles of centrifuge technology to generate the true-to-life sensation of launching vertically. The integration of pitch and roll movement adds, by all accounts, an incredible realism. As for the visuals, the challenge of creating a believable "view out the window" resulted in Imagineers' development of a unique virtual imaging system that includes a state-of-the-art video flat screen using components not yet available in the marketplace.

"[It's] a good combination of reality and looking ahead to what things might be like," says former Shuttle astronaut Rhea Seddon. "I knew intellectually it was a centrifuge and that's how they were generating the feeling, but it doesn't feel like a centrifuge." And that's the point: It feels like the real thing. 

From the Disney Newsreel, October 17, 2003

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Create Your Own Disney Halloween Pumpkins

Angry Donald Disney Halloween Pumpkin Dracula Mickey Disney Halloween Pumpkin Minnie Disney Halloween Pumpkin Scared Mickey Disney Halloween Pumpkin

These are the steps to successfully carving your Halloween pumpkin using the Disney character templates:

These instructions work for both artificial and real pumpkins.
  • Chose your Disney character template.
  • Enlarge or shrink your template to fit the size of your pumpkin.
  • Cut around the template, reducing the paper size to include only the features to be sculpted.
  • Tape or pin the template on to your pumpkin.
  • Draw over the template with a pencil, pen or store bought template tool.
  • Remove template from pumpkin.
  • You should see indentation lines on your pumpkin highlighting the features to be sculpted.
  • Using a safe pumpkin sculpting tool, slowly begin to sculpt your Disney character face.
  • As you sculpt, stop and look often to ensure eyes, nose and mouth are in proportion.
  • Remember to sculpt a hole under your pumpkin to insert a LED candle.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Haunted Mansion - Holidays, Wallpaper, Gingerbread House and More

  1. Celebrating Ten Years of Haunted Mansion Holidays at Disneyland Park – As this year marks the tenth anniversary of Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland park, see how every year some very different teams from across Disneyland Resort gather for a very special project: the Haunted Mansion Holiday gingerbread house.

  2. Want an Early Halloween Treat from Disney Parks? Download Our Haunted Mansion Wallpaper – Earlier this month, we introduced the Haunted Mansion-inspired desktop wallpaper.

  3. First Look at the Freaky Gingerbread House in Haunted Mansion Holiday – Check out a shot of the fabulous gingerbread confection that’s the centerpiece of the table in the ballroom in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland park. It may look fancy, but there’s a dark side to all that sweetness and 500 pounds of gingerbread.

  4. Things You Might Not Know About Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland Park – As we were preparing to open Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland Park, we shared a few fun facts with our readers.

  5. More Room For Haunted Mansion Event at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – This Fall marks the 40th anniversary of the attraction at Walt Disney World Resort, and to celebrate, we held a Haunted Mansion-inspired merchandise event called “Room for 1 More.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My First Disneyland Resort Experience by Jennifer Fickley-Baker

Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. The trip was a great deal of fun – I heard updates on New Fantasyland, saw an amazing rendering of Shanghai Disneyland’s Enchanted Storybook Castle, and oh yeah, visited Disneyland park for the first time.

I grew up vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resort and have been lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris twice, but I’d never been to the Disneyland Resort, so I jumped at the chance to attend this year’s D23 Expo.

I promised my team I’d share some of my first-trip highlights with all of you, so as we like to say at Disney Parks, “Let the Memories Begin!”

Jen in Front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park
  1. Visiting Disneyland Park – Each Disney park is uniquely wonderful in its own way, but in this case, there’s just something about being at the first park, the one that Walt Disney himself introduced to the world and forever changed the way many of us vacation, imagine and dream. I had the best time just strolling through the park, enjoying the attractions Walt would’ve seen, and trying to pick out buildings that looked familiar from park’s opening-day broadcast.
Jen on the Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction at Disneyland Park
  1. Experiencing the original Pirates of the Caribbean – I was lucky enough to try out several of the park’s classic attractions on this trip, including The Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, “it’s a small world” and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but I just fell in love with this version of Pirates. It starts out a bit differently, with a gentle coast through the Blue Bayou, then a drop underground through caverns brimming with pirate treasure. A second plunge brings you to the scenes that Magic Kingdom Park fans would recognize – pirate ships, blasting canons, the bride auction, and of course, Captain Jack.
Jen in Club 33 at Disneyland Park
  1. Hosting a live-chat from Club 33 – Last Thursday night, my fellow authors, Thomas Smith, Jim Ames, Erin Glover and I were very fortunate to do a live tweet from Disneyland park’s Club 33. While I was amazed with every aspect of this unforgettable dining experience, I was equally pleased to see our messages get retweeted in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. (I think the photo above was the only time my hands weren’t on a computer).
'World of Color' at Disney California Adventure Park
  1. Attending “World of Color” – On the last night of our trip, Thomas and I were able to break away from the D23 Expo for a viewing of “World of Color” at Disney California Adventure park. As you can see from the photo above, it was simply amazing! And Mickey’s Fun Wheel makes one heck of a background to the show.
Dessert at Napa Rose in the Disneyland Resort
  1. Gaining at least five pounds – I have to admit I’m a quite a foodie, so when Disney Parks Blog Food Author Pam Brandon sent me a list of must-try restaurants for my first trip, I was up for the challenge – to hit all of them! Pam sent me on a true tour through culinary destinations big and small that ranged from Corndog Castle (best crispy corndogs ever, according to Pam), to Napa Rose (best wine selection), Blue Bayou (best New Orleans-style chow), and beyond.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Walt Disney at Café Orleans and Plaza Inn [1966]

Shortly after New Orleans Square opened in 1966, Walt posed for this photo with Cast Members at the Creole Café. Later renamed Café Orleans, you can still find delicious desserts, and of course, espresso there.

Walt with Cast Members at the Creole Café

Nowadays, you can go to Café Orleans to see the very same espresso machine pictured with Walt after all these years.

Espresso Machine

These little connections to Walt Disney are always a special treat to discover at Disneyland park. Do you have a favorite place or item in the parks that especially reminds you of Walt?

Coffee With Walt

And we have one more picture! This one was taken at the Plaza Inn, in 1966, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share a cup of coffee with.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Have a Soundsational Summer with New Disneyland Resort Special Offers

Have a Soundsational Summer with New Disneyland Resort Special Offers

posted at the official Disney Parks Blog on July 26th, 2011 by Erin Glover, Manager, Social Media and Print

Have a Soundsational Summer with New Disneyland Resort Special Offers

With Disney Soundsational Summer underway here at the Disneyland Resort, it’s the perfect time to come check out some of our great new attractions and entertainment. And new special offers are coming that will make your trip planning even easier.

Beginning tomorrow and through September 24, you could book can enjoy these great offers for Disneyland Resort hotel stays:
  • Save up to 30% for most Sunday – Thursday nights at a Disneyland Resort Hotel (for hotel stays from 8/14 – 10/01)*, or
  • Save up to $450 on a 4-night/3-day Disneyland Resort Vacation Package and receive one free Character Dining meal for each person in your party (for hotel stays from 8/14 – 9/28).*
See all of the details on these offers here.
*Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room at the same hotel. The $450 savings based on a 4-night stay for a family of four (3 adults and 1 child [age 3-9]) at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Subject to availability as the number of rooms allocated for this offer is restricted. Offers, including Character meals, are subject to restrictions and change without notice.

New 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Merchandise Coming to Disney Parks

New 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Merchandise Coming to Disney Parks

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Vinylmation Coming Soon to Disney Parks

I can vividly recall sitting inside the Nautilus during my first visit to Walt Disney World in July 1983. I remember hearing the echoes of Captain Nemo’s voice yelling, “Dive, dive!” as I embarked upon my journey through liquid space. The attraction quickly became one of my favorites; I even drew a picture for a book my mom and I made after that first trip. I’m happy to share that new Vinylmation and Disney pins celebrating this classic attraction are coming soon to Disney Parks. I spoke with Disney Design Group artist Caley Hicks about her work on the new Vinylmation figure set pictured above. During our conversation, I discovered she also had fond childhood memories of the attraction.

“When I was younger, I visited the Magic Kingdom each month with my dad,” explained Caley. “I loved the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, particularly the mermaids. I was eager to design something for Vinylmation to pay tribute to the attraction.”

Caley, whom you may recall from Vinylmation – Flags fame, chose the iconic squid attack for the nine-inch figure. She explained the difficulty in capturing the details of the squid on the Vinylmation form.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Merchandise Coming Soon to Disney Parks

“I learned that getting the squid to wrap around the Mickey Mouse shaped form was more difficult than I first thought,” continued Caley. “I used countless sheets of tracing paper to get the image correct. The finished figure looks wonderful, so it was worth the effort.”

Caley shared the artwork for the deconstructed nine-inch figure. Wow! I wouldn’t even know where to begin as I can’t draw a straight line. This limited edition 1,000 set also has a 3-inch figure designed by Disney Artist Jason Zucker that resembles a diver. Look for it to be released via the Disney Parks Online Store only on Aug. 12, 2011.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Merchandise Coming Soon to Disney Parks

Since the introduction of Disney Pin Trading in 1999, the Disney Pin Team has featured 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on a variety of pins. One of my favorites was released in January 2005, and featured a piece of an actual porthole from the attraction ride vehicle. It was the first in a long line of the “Piece of Disney History” pins, and is still one of the most sought-after pins today.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Pins Coming Soon to Disney Parks

There are new pins on the horizon including two pins that will be released at The Florida Project in September. I think my favorite from the upcoming event is the cast member costume replica pin designed by Chris Chapman. It will be part of a boxed set of icon pins inspired by Fantasyland. The Classic “D” pin featuring the squid attack scene will be released on Oct. 27, at the Walt Disney World Resort.

By the way, I took the photograph above of the submarines as seen from the Skyway in 1983! I never imagined back then I’d be sharing it with you today. I would love to hear your memories from that great undersea voyage.

Mickey’s ‘Spooktacular’ In-Room Celebration Returns to the Walt Disney World Resort

Mickey’s ‘Spooktacular’ In-Room Celebration Returns to the Walt Disney World Resort

Last fall, guests at the Walt Disney World Resort chose Mickey’s “Spooktacular” In-Room Celebration as one of their favorite offerings from Disney Floral & Gifts. This experience begins when guests return to their resort room to find that Mickey Mouse has surprised them by placing a sash with Halloween accents and cobwebs on their room’s door. Once inside, they find a not-so-scary personalized Halloween celebration waiting for them. 

Mickeys’ ‘Spooktacular’ In-Room Celebration Returns to the Walt Disney World Resort

This over-the-top celebration was so popular last year that it sold out before Halloween. Many guests said they enjoyed it because there was something in the experience that appealed to family members of all ages. They also felt like Mickey and Minnie had come to their room for a personalized “spooktacular” surprise just for them.

Mickeys’ ‘Spooktacular’ In-Room Celebration Returns to the Walt Disney World Resort

If you’re coming to Walt Disney World this fall, now’s the time to book this exclusive experience. It costs $375 and can be set up in any Walt Disney World resort room. You can book your Mickey’s Spooktacular Celebration here or call a Dream Maker at 407-WDW-GIFT.

Hop on Board! Changes Are Underway at Disney California Adventure Park

Hop on Board! Changes Are Underway at Disney California Adventure Park

I’m sure most of you know by now either from reading the Disney Parks Blog or visiting the Disneyland Resort, that the new entrance to Disney California Adventure park debuted just a few weeks ago. And I have to say it looks spectacular! A new entrance also means new stores… so I want to make sure that you have the latest and greatest information as we prepare for changes in the world of Disney Theme Park Merchandise.

Engine-Ears Toys at Disney California Adventure Park

Hop on board at Engine-Ears Toys before July 31. That’s right, in a little less than a week this “Engine-Ear” will leave its station and hit the tracks as we pave the way for an entire new set of stores set to debut in Summer 2012. So for those of you who love to create your own Mr. Potato Head, you better keep an “eye” out and a “nose” to the ground so you don’t miss out. But I’ll be around to lend you a “hand” and tell you where you can find them.

That’s not all… on August 28, we will also bid a fond farewell to our friendly store location, Greetings From California. While we are sad to see it go, I assure you that the stores taking its place, set to debut next year, will be the hit of the street and the talk of the town. But you’ll have to wait a few more months to find out more.

While I know it seems like there are a lot of changes underway, I promise you that we have many great things “in store” in the coming year. I look forward to sharing these great offerings with all of you in the coming months.

Interview with a Keeper from Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

From private balconies and public viewing areas (even from the pool), Guests at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge can observe 20-plus species of African animals. Keeper Kerry Kennedy has been at the lodge since before it opened in April 2001. She talked to us about the best parts of her job (early-morning savanna runs) and the worst (Well, no one really enjoys picking up poop).

Disney Magazine: I was in my room for about two hours before coming down to talk with you, and I think I checked off every animal on the field guide. Is that possible?
Kennedy: Well, we have three savannas and we stagger the animals through them starting mid-morning. So if you time it right, sure.

DM:Where do the animals go at night?
K:They stay out all night. We call them in to a barn around midday so they can eat and we can get a look at them. They're all back out by mid-afternoon.

DM: What are the absolute best places and times to see the most animals at once?
K: Arusha Rock, right when the sun starts to set. The animals walk right toward the viewing area where the guests are standing. Also, any of the viewing places are good early in the morning, just as it's getting light, which is when we go to put out enrichment.

DM: What is enrichment?
K: Anything that enriches the environment for the animals and the guests. Often it gets animals to mimic their behavior in the wild. We hang browse in the trees, for instance.

DM: Browse?
K: Stuff to browse on. The horticulture staff grows a variety of things: acacia, mulberry vine, banana leaves.

DM: The stuff in the trees must work for the giraffes, but what about the no-necks?
K: We have all kinds of camouflaged feeders. Near the pool, there's one for browse that looks like a fallen tree. The bongo (a kind of antelope) love it, and it brings them really close to the guests in the viewing area.

DM: Do you have a favorite species?
K: I love the giraffes. They're more intelligent than people give them credit for. They come running as soon as we give them their audio cue.

DM: What's an audio cue?
K: Each savanna has a different sound [to call in the animals]. It's any sound the animal is trained to respond to.

DM: What advice do you have for Guests who want to see the animals behaving wildly?
K: The Guests here are really guests of the animals. This is their space. If you're quiet, just sitting back observing, you're gonna see the best animal behavior.

DM: You must see some pretty wild human behavior, too -- I mean watching the humans watching the animals?
K:Oh, yes. You should know that we can see you when you're standing on your balcony in your underwear!

DM:Any other advice for Guests?
K:Talk to the savanna guides, all of whom come from different parts of Africa. They have great stories from home, and a few have even worked for safari outfits in their country. 

From Disney Insider 2002

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Behind the Scenes with a Disneyland VIP

A Cast Member gives Guests a tour of Disneyland. 

What's another name for "Guest jockey," mind reader, event planner, storyteller, and camp counselor? A VIP Tour Guide! Dean Baladad, Senior Tour Guide at Disneyland, is the latest in a long line of VIP Guides that began with Walt Disney in 1951. That's right! Walt was the very first Tour Guide, and personally led heads of state, business leaders, and celebrity Guests throughout the Park while it was being built.

Sixty years later, Disney's VIP Tour Guides continue to deliver magical moments to Disneyland visitors. We sat down with Dean and asked him to share some of his most memorable experiences.

After five years working in the Parade department as a Cast Member dancer and then as a Disney store clerk, Dean recognized an opportunity to join the department. "I wanted to share with others how special Disneyland is – the fun, magic, history, and heritage ... and especially remembering Walt Disney."

For 15 years Dean has been making VIPs' every wish come true – his enthusiasm for the job is evident when describing a VIP Guide's role. "The most important job is to make the VIP's visit as normal as possible. Disneyland is the show – we don't want to detract from that. If we're with a celebrity and can get on the attraction and out of there with no one noticing, then we've done our job."

One of the most important aspects of the job is to keep the VIPs' identity a secret. Since many of his Guests attend the Park incognito and anonymity is part of the attraction, we ask Dean if he can drop any names. "The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Cindy Crawford, Kristi Yamaguchi," he fondly reveals, "and Art Linkletter, who hosted the opening of Disneyland in 1951, returned for the Park's 50th anniversary." Heads of state, government officials, corporate executives, royal families, and first-time foreign visitors are also frequent VIP Tour Guests.

But his most memorable tours are with families who return year after year and personally request him. Dean recalls one family in particular. "The child was three and now he's ten. It's so neat watching them grow up – you get to know them and they get to know you."

When asked if any one event stands out, Dean quickly answers, "I was chosen to be part of a small group of five VIP guides from the U.S. (from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World) that supported our task force team during the Grand Opening of Hong Kong Disneyland. I was so excited and honored to be selected – I couldn't believe it! It was such a privilege sharing Disney history, traditions, and training practices with our new team of Hong Kong Disneyland VIP guides. For most, it was their first exposure to a Disney Theme Park experience. We worked alongside each other hosting executives and Chinese celebrity entertainers. It was also a very surreal experience working in the Hong Kong Disneyland City Hall. It looked and felt like a familiar place since it was an exact replica of the original in Disneyland ... except that I was halfway around the world and our Guests and Cast Members were speaking Cantonese or Mandarin!"

Celebrities, gold medal-winning Olympians, politicians – it's all part of a magical day's work for Dean. "Our job is so unique," he says. "We create lasting impressions – it's more than 'Hello, how are you?' It's hard work. I meet so many wonderful people ... that's what keeps me here."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Princess of Mars

Keeping It Real on the Red Planet

Disney's "John Carter" 
A Civil War veteran seeks his fortune in the California gold rush – and ends up on a strange planet, surrounded by four-armed green warriors, savage monsters, and fetching princesses. It's the plot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' early science-fiction pulp classic "A Princess of Mars," which was penned nearly 100 years ago – and it's the basis for next year's hotly anticipated film adaptation "John Carter." Eventually stretching to 11 books, Burroughs' Barsoom series (Barsoom being the Martian name for Mars) captivated readers with nonstop adventure and thrills, and set the stage for the epic science-fiction of the 20th Century. The books have been wildly popular since their first publication but have never been filmed – until now.

Director Andrew Stanton co-adapted the book to film and directed as well. The director of "Finding Nemo" and "WALL●E," Andrew gave us a tempting peek at world and peoples of Barsoom, and talked about making Carter's mind-boggling voyage to Mars a story we could believe.

Right off the bat, Andrew wants to get one thing straight – "Nobody's a bigger fan of the books than I am!" He first discovered John Carter at around age 10 through a short-lived Marvel comic-book adaptation, and went on to devour the novels. And he wasn't alone – when the time came to begin work on the script for John Carter, Andrew and his co-adapters, Mark Andrews and Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon, found that each of them had loved Burroughs' John Carter books. In fact, each had been so obsessed as a boy that he had drawn fan art inspired by the books ... and could bring in the drawings to prove it!

That said, they all realized that bringing the story to the big screen would involve a lot of adaptation to make a satisfying epic film. "I've always treated [the creative process] like an archaeological dig – stories are out there, and you just have to uncover them," says Andrew. "You don't have a say about when you find a bone, or which bones you're going to find. You have to face the music that you dug up a different dinosaur than you thought, and are you going to have the intestinal fortitude to admit that, instead of forcing it to be what you want. I knew the book so well, and so did Mark and Michael, that we just looked at it in a story analysis. This is the character's arc, and this is where they have to go, so how do you make that work? I didn't let myself look at the book, because I wanted to go 'What's best for this story, this theme, this character line?' But I was shocked that when the script was finished, I'd look back at the book and go 'I thought we came up with that!' All the elements were there."

Asked whether his 12-year-old self, the one who loved the books and drew the pictures, would like the film, he laughs, "The 12-year-old is so easy to please! It's the nearly 50-year-old that has now seen way too many movies and read way too many books – can I appease that person? I'm always thinking, how can I not exclude anyone? How can I make this satisfying on as many levels as possible?" And the key to that satisfaction? Depth and realism, in both the characters and the world of Barsoom.

To begin with, a few plot holes have been plugged. While in the books Carter's mysterious journeys to Mars are never fully explained, Andrew assures us that in the film there's a compelling reason why the hero is drawn there – and no, he won't spill beans about what it is!

Also making Carter's adventure feel real is Stanton's insistence that the actors playing the Tharks, the towering four-armed green-skinned denizens of Barsoom, be present on-camera as their scenes were filmed, rather than shooting their motion-reference work separately and splicing the characters in later. (Since stars Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton have only two arms apiece and no tusks, their characters will be computer-generated based on the actor's facial and body movements). To give his Tharks the appropriate height and capture the nuances of their expressions, the actors were placed on towering stilts on location in the remote deserts of Utah and Arizona, with small cameras projecting in front of their faces. Although it required real troupers to achieve, the result is that the actors are directly reacting to each other's performances ... and the human-sized cast always knew exactly where to look and how to interact. Similarly, actors riding the mightly Thoats – the beasts of burden and transport on Barsoom – were set on electrical carts atop saddles programmed to move with the animals' own body motion, creating a highly believable effect.

Finally, the world and artifacts of Barsoom were designed with an eye toward the plausible. The great ruined Martian cities were not simply matte paintings or computer models – the crew filmed actual natural rock formations and layered the columns, pillars, and crumbling balconies of Barsoom over them. The result is a solidity and realism that makes it easily to believe we are seeing another world. The weapons, airships, ornaments, and artifacts of the various Martian cultures were meticulously designed to suggest a complexity that goes beyond the adventure in the film – that these beings built complex cultures with long histories, and we are being given a peek into simply one moment on Mars. As Andrew explains, "It's like a period film from a period we just don't know about!"

With the film still nearly a year away from release, much remains to be done and there are many hurdles to cross before the finish line. But Andrew is thrilled with film so far, and eager to take audiences to Barsoom. "We only had one mantra: "Just keep it good." Everything else will come. Really all you have control over is quality," he explains. It's a hallmark of Disney's house style, and a valuable lesson to take anywhere – including to the far reaches of Mars.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Marcio Disney Network

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Everyday, Disney fans send dozens of questions for Disney Chief Archivist Dave Smith. Here you can find Dave's answers to these questions and a lot of extra info about the theme from Marcio Disney. Check back always for a new post with a new Disney Secrete revealed.

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Since March 11, 2011

Our Newest blog! Everythin non-Disney Orlando has to offer!

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