Archive for June, 2007

Theme Park Headlines – Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage Opens

June 23, 2007

Walt Disney Imagineering Combines Forces with Pixar to Create the Next Disneyland ‘E-Ticket’ Excursion, Based on the Hit Film ‘Finding Nemo’.

By Blake

Originally posted June 23, 2007.

Disneyland’s newest attraction, ‘Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage’, opened June 11, 2007 in the former spot of the classic ride ‘Submarine Voyage’ based on Disney’s film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This timeless ride opened in 1959 four years after the release of the film that inspired the ride. During its 39-year run, the subs voyaged countless guests on an expedition to the depths of the ocean to endure new and exciting discoveries. The classic attraction abruptly closed on September 9, 1998, much to fans’ disappointment.

Now, let’s backtrack to look at the history of Walt Disney World’s attraction ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage’. Due to construction issues, the ride opened October 14, 1971, two weeks after the park initially debuted. It was basically a duplicate of the Disneyland attraction, save a few minor details, and was just as popular as its predecessor version. However, on September 5, 1995, Walt Disney World “temporarily” closed the attraction, assuring fans that it would reopen in the near future. Unfortunately, that never happened, therefore September 4, 1995 was the last day the attraction would ever take guests on its exciting journey. For the next 8 years, the large space the lagoon occupied in the park’s Fantasyland area was wasted. The abandoned subs’ queue line was, for quite some time, known as the ‘Fantasyland Character Festival’ and offered character appearances several times a day with random Disney characters. Meanwhile, the lagoon was left untouched, water still occupying its space.

Around 2003 the Imagineers had wound up throwing away two dearly beloved classic Disney ‘E-Ticket’ attractions that had been adored for years by countless guests. Instead they had two submarine lagoons wasting huge chunks of space in their two most popular theme parks. Then, as if on cue, on May 30, 2003 Walt Disney Pictures released the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’ across theater screens worldwide. The film received immense success and went on to become the #1 animated film of all time (replacing the record previously held by Disney’s 1994 classic ‘The Lion King’) and the #1 best-selling DVD in history. The #1 animated film spot was yet again replaced by ‘Shrek 2’ in 2004.

Usually this kind of success for a Disney film calls for multiple direct-to-DVD sequels—but not in Nemo’s case. To their advantage, the Imagineers could use the popularity of ‘Nemo’ to create both small and gigantic theme park attractions. They started with a small experiment called ‘Turtle Talk with Crush.” It was, at the time, a small and overlooked attraction used to test out a new technology involving Living Character Initiative (LCI), a new technique to bring Disney characters alive and make them seem more real. In this case, guests would have the ability to talk to Crush, the sea turtle from ‘Nemo’ through the glass of his aquarium home at Epcot’s Living Seas pavilion. This was such a huge success that it later followed with a duplicate attraction at Disneyland. Since then, Imagineers have worked Nemo and friends into a Broadway-style musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a roller coaster at Disneyland Paris, and several other attractions. But those weren’t the only ways Nemo was implemented into the Disney parks.

This brings us back to the subs. The Imagineers desperately needed to come up with a new way to use the subs or abandon them altogether and create a new ride to take its spot. Obviously, the former prevailed, and in July 2005 at Disneyland, construction walls were hoisted around the sub lagoon advertising an all-new attraction that was to debut Summer 2007—Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Soon, the entire sub lagoon was drained, demolished, rebuilt, enhanced, filled with water, drained, filled again, and added a new show building and a new fleet of submarines that guests would travel in. On June 10, 2007 a heap of celebrities walked a blue carpet through the California park to preview the new attraction. The very next day, a crowd gathered to view the official grand opening ceremony of the ride and at 12:00pm, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage officially opened to the general public—with a line stretching its way through the park.

So, what happened to the Walt Disney World subs, you ask?

Well, about two years before Disneyland demolished their lagoon, Walt Disney World (in Florida) drained and demolished its sub lagoon. But instead of rebuilding a new and improved waterway, Imagineers instead opened ‘Pooh’s Playful Spot’ on September 1, 2005. When it comes down to it, it’s a playground.

But, before we leave this article . . . I’d like to mention one last bit of trivia to you. The Imagineers didn’t completely abandon the subs while building ‘Pooh’s Playful Spot’ at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. If a small child were paying detailed attention to the play sets he was journeying through (which he probably wouldn’t), he’d notice a small carving above the entrance of the door to Pooh’s tree. What is the carving’s shape?

A submarine.

By Blake; originally posted June 23, 2007. All images (C) Disney/Pixar.

Silver Screen Review – Pirates: At World’s End

June 2, 2007

The latest (and possibly last) installment of Jack Sparrow’s adventures exceed the high expectations fans anticipated, though also provides headaches and full bladders by the time its end credits roll.

By Blake

Originally posted June 23, 2007.

“Ah, we’re good and lost now.”
Although this could be viewed as a quote from Captain Barbossa of the latest Walt Disney Pictures release, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, it’s also how the audience feels throughout the nearly 3-hour-long movie—lost.

The 168-minute third installment to the ‘Pirates’ series, At World’s End, certainly had high hopes when it opened late May. In 2003 (Nemo and Pirates . . . wow, what a summer that was!), The Curse of the Black Pearl dominated box offices worldwide and became the #1 Disney movie of all time with a record-breaking 600+ million dollars. Of course, this being Disney, sequels were planned for such a success as this. In 2006, Dead Man’s Chest not only replaced its predecessor as the #1 Disney movie of all time, but also went on to become the #3 highest-grossing film in history—not Disney history, but history, period—earning over $1.1 billion worldwide.

At World’s End has already set some film records within its first few weeks of release. It had the highest Memorial Day weekend opening ever (topping 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope), the fastest film ever to reach the $400 million mark (topping the very recent Spider-Man 3), and will probably go on to meet, if not dominate, Dead Man’s Chest’s gross.

During the 168 minutes we have during the third installment in the record-breaking film series, we’re showcased to stunning visual effects, several different plot lines, intertwining characters’ missions, and, by the end of the movie, slight headaches. Many audience members viewed it as confusing and hard to follow . . . which, in turn, could lead them to be hungry for second helpings to clear things up. After viewing the movie two times in the first 36 hours of its release, I can personally say seeing the movie twice surely clears the foggy perspective of the storyline, and also gives audiences a chance to view the film not as confusing, but as master storytelling at its best.

So, what’s the mind-boggling plot? Well, all the characters’ missions from the second movie remain the same, but now even more layers of problems are mixed into matters. Jack Sparrow’s crew, led by the thought-to-be-dead Hector Barbossa, are traveling to the end of the earth to fetch back Jack from Davy Jones’ locker, where the notorious pirate was sent after Davy Jones’ pet Kraken devoured him (along with his ship, the Black Pearl).

Why do they need Jack? Well, for money-making purposes, the movie’s creators couldn’t just toss their lead (and clearly audiences’ favorite) character out the window forever. For storytelling purposes, Lord Cutler Beckett, an exec of the East India Trading Company, now holds the heart of Davy Jones, and whoever has the heart controls Jones. In turn, Jones rules the entire seas. So now, Beckett is attempting to wipe out piracy forever. Pirates are disappearing off the map left and right, with only one chance left to win against Beckett—The Brethren Court. It’s up to Jack and Barbossa to round up the members of the Brethren Court to fight against piracy once and for all.

Several plot twists and turns make their way into the movie as well, making for some serious surprises that I would just be foolish to reveal here. 😉

As far as comparison to its predecessors, At World’s End definitely earns its PG-13 rating, for “intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images.” I’ll say! Nearly every scene is jam-packed with action, this time more serious-toned than the playful-toned scenes of the other films. The third installment also delivers more graphic visuals that viewers may want to look away from the screen for. This film is also more dark than the other films, as the overall mood of the film is more dark-toned than the others.

But, of course, there are MANY more positives than negatives when it comes to this action-packed, layered-storytelling Pirates series. Knowing that audiences will be bawling, the film’s developers certainly threw in many more comedic sequences, making this the absolute funniest Pirates yet. Walt Disney once said “For every tear there should be a laugh, and for every laugh there should be a tear”. I honestly have never seen a movie that paralleled this thought as much as this one. I also didn’t realize how emotionally attached I was to the film’s key characters.

“Jack” the monkey is certainly the crowd favorite, and the film’s creators seen to knew it, as they throw the character into a more noticeable role than they did in the second movie. The monkey appears more, and now he has a little rivalry going on with Cotton’s parrot . . . hilarious.

Also providing comic relief are the ever-funny Pintel and Ragetti (a.k.a. the goofy pirate and his one-eyed chum). But, this time, they not only provide laughs, but are also a vital part of the film’s plot.

And, boy, it sure is nice to have Barbossa back. Not necessarily a funny character, but just the way he deals with things (such as donning a wide grin and laughing when he appears to be in serious danger) granted a few chuckles out of me.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the film contains possibly the most creative and hilarious single movie sequence I’ve ever seen!

Parental Notice: As I stated previously, At World’s End definitely earns its PG-13 label. If your kids survived the other two movies, they’ll be ready for this. If you continually remind your child that “it’s just a movie”, they might be fine. However, if your child is strictly used to Barney and Blue’s Clues all day, you’ll most certainly want to hire a baby-sitter for this round. It really just depends on what your child can and can’t handle.

One question that I’ve been asked a lot during the past few weeks is: Which is my favorite Pirates of the Caribbean film?
Well, right now it’s hard to say. I really liked the original’s charm, innocence (well, at least kinda innocence), and its ride-influenced themes and gags. I like the second and third films for their master layered-storytelling and unique visual effects, as well as the development of the characters. I admired the third film not only for its clever way of “wrapping it all up”, though it ultimately wasn’t the strongest installment of the three. So, I have to say (being a Disney fanatic), the first is my favorite.*

Jam-packed with magnificent storytelling, stunning visual effects, and just plain “piratey” fun, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Word’s End is surely “what you’ll want most” this summer.

(Note: When you see ‘At World’s End’, you’ll also be treated to the premiere trailer for the newest Disney Princess movie, ‘Enchanted’!!!)

*However, over time, I’ve grown to like the third movie more. It’s my favorite as of 2008! 🙂

By Blake; originally posted June 23, 2007. All images (C) Disney.