Archive for March, 2009

Channel Flippin’ – Kids’ Choice Awards 2009

March 29, 2009

Miley Cyrus gets shocked and the Jonas Brothers get slimed.

By Blake

Originally posted March 29, 2009.

Last night was Nickelodeon’s annual mega-party of celebrities, slime, and plenty of screaming kids. The Kids’ Choice Awards 2009 aired with a hoopla of excitement.

Much like last year, before the Awards began an orange carpet pre-show aired on Nickelodeon, while a similarly different pre-show with iCarly’s Jennette McCurdy and Nathan Kress was broadcast on Nick.com.

Disney-related happenings throughout the show included Dylan Sprouse from The Suite Life of Zach & Cody winning Favorite TV Actor, Selena Gomez from Wizards of Waverly Place winning Favorite TV Actress, High School Musical 3: Senior Year winning Favorite Movie (with Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and Corbin Bleu present to accept the award), Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical 3: Senior Year winning Favorite Movie Actress, Jesse McCartney (who is signed with the Disney-owned Hollywood Records) winning Favorite Male Singer, and the Jonas Brothers winning Favorite Music Group.

Another Disney-related award came as a surprise to its winner. Kids voted online as to what they wanted to see host Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson do: sing opera, knit leggings, or dress like Miley Cyrus. The latter won and as Johnson came onstage in a red dress and brown wig, Miley Cyrus was asked to join him to approve his look. Next, Johnson said, “You voted for this, so I give you that. But, I have something to give Miley. I have a very special surprise for you, Miley.”

“What?” Cyrus dryly asked.

“The kids have voted you as their favorite female singer!”

“Shut up! Shut up right now!” She then proceeded to shed tears at her win. “I don’t why I’m crying, but I really thought I was going to lose.”

Her acceptance speech included, as she was still crying, “I really thought I was going to lose, so thank you guys. I’m so excited. I know this isn’t like the Oscars, but it’s still amazing because unlike any other awards show, it’s all because of you guys. So thank you guys so much.”

She was up against Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna, so I think it was very nice of whoever thought up that little surprise way to unveil her win for her, especially since Nickelodeon isn’t even her network.

This year, the “Wanna Be” award was dropped in favor of the new “Big Green Help” award, given to a contributor to environmental help and support for the Earth. The recipient this year was Leonardo DiCaprio.

Another favorite award, the Burp award (which this year was only nominated to animated characters) was given to Rico from The Penguins of Madagascar, a new animated series based on the DreamWorks Madagascar movies, which premiered just following the Kids’ Choice Awards.


Other awards included American Idol winning Favorite Reality Show (which Paula Abdul and David Archuleta were there to accept), iCarly winning Favorite TV Show, and Spongebob Squarepants winning Favorite Cartoon for the sixth time.

Before the night was over, the secret celebrity slime had to take place. Last year Orlando Bloom was the one to get slimed, and this year it was none other than the Jonas Brothers. Which was quite a sight.

Overall it was another fun show, and one which I’m glad I got to see.

By Blake; posted March 29, 2009. Kids’ Choice Awards 2009 logo image and Nickeloeon logo image (C) Nickelodeon. The Penguins of Madagascar image (C) Nickelodeon/DreamWorks Animation.
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Theme Park Headlines – Spring Is In Full Swing at Epcot

March 28, 2009

Epcot’s acclaimed Flower and Garden Festival returns for 2009.

By Blake

Originally posted March 28, 2009.

Every year for 75 days, Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida comes alive with a beautiful display of breathtaking flowers, enchanting topiaries, and an all-around magical Disney experience when the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival blooms throughout the park.

One of Walt Disney World’s most popular special events, the Festival takes place each year at Epcot from around mid-March through May and includes exhibits, demonstrations, concerts, and plenty of eye candy. The entire park is filled with magnificent flowers, each display designed uniquely with that extra Disney touch. The shocker? The event comes free with park admission, a rarity for many activities these days, especially when Disney is involved.

This year’s Festival officially kicked off on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, with an opening ceremony following on Saturday, March 21. The ceremony featured Epcot Vice President Dan Cockerell, as well as the director of the new fall 2009 movie Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure Klay Hall, producer of Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure Sean Lurie, and the Disney Fairies – Tinker Bell, Silvermist, Fawn, Rosetta, and Iridessa. The group opened a new-for-2009 area of the Festival, a Pixie Hollow-themed playground called the Fairy Garden. The area features topiaries of the Disney Fairies and is located near the Mouse Gear shop and Innoventions, just behind Spaceship Earth.

The theme for 2009’s Flower and Garden Festival is “Celebrate Springtime,” to coincide with Disney Parks’ “What Will You Celebrate?” 2009 promotion. This theme is abundant at the entrance to the park, where a vast display of Disney Princess topiaries celebrate Cinderella’s coronation as princess. The display is called “Cinderellabration,” which is also the name of the stage show that performed at the Magic Kingdom during the Happiest Celebration on Earth in 2005 and 2006. The “Celebrate Springtime” theme is also apparent in a new Lion King-themed series of topiaries in Showcase Plaza. Also new for this year is the Pirates Adventure Zone, a Peter Pan-themed playground featuring topiaries of Captain Hook and Tick-Tock Crocodile. Other returning favorites include Minnie’s Magnificent Butterfly Garden and the Future World “quilt” of flowers.


This year’s Festival center is again inside the Wonders of Life pavilion, which is located in-between the Universe of Energy and Mission Space. Although the attractions inside the Wonders of Life have been closed for some time now, the pavilion is still used as the center for the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, as well as for Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival in the fall. Inside, guests can hear speeches, see demonstrations, and purchase Festival-exclusive merchandise.

The sponsor of the Flower and Garden Festival this year is Disney Nature, which is releasing its first movie, Earth, on April 22 (Earth Day). A sand sculpture themed around Disney Nature has been built near Mouse Gear.

Lastly, the Flower Power Concerts have returned this year. All throughout the Festival, music groups will be performing in the American Gardens Theater during the weekends. Performers include Davy Jones, Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, Jose Feliciano, and more.

Filled with beautiful flowers, magnificent displays, and much more, Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is a must-see for anyone visiting Walt Disney World from now through May 31.

By Blake; posted March 28, 2009. All images belong to Blake’s family.

Coverage of the 16th Epcot Flower and Garden Festival opening ceremony can be seen at:
· AllEars.net
· LaughingPlace.com
· AttractionsMagazine.com

Pictures of the many displays at the 16th Epcot Flower and Garden Festival can be seen at:
· AllEars.net
· LaughingPlace.com
· AttractionsMagazine.com

Disney Detours – Budgeting Disney, Part One: Finding Promotions

March 27, 2009

The first of a special series dealing with planning a budgeted Disney vacation.

By Blake

Originally posted March 26, 2009. Updated April 3, 2009 and July 28, 2009.

Welcome to the first edition of a new BlakeOnline series with a look into helping readers plan a well-budgeted, value Disney vacation.

This particular installment won’t be too lengthy, because honestly there’s not much to say. The first step in planning any vacation is searching for values. Whether it’s a Disney-related trip or not, the first thing to mark off a vacation-planning checklist is scouting around and seeing what deals you can find.

Disney is currently offering several exciting and very reasonable promotions, one of which expires this weekend. Here’s a quick run-down:

· Buy 4 nights, get 3 more free at Walt Disney World in Florida. The package includes accommodations and theme park tickets. You must book (but not necessarily pay for) the trip by Sunday, March 29, 2009. Your vacation dates coincide sometime between: 4/27 – 5/18, 5/23 – 6/6, or 6/26 – 8/15/09.

· Buy 3, nights, get 2 more free at Disneyland in California. The package includes accommodations and theme park tickets. You must book (but not necessarily pay for) the trip by Tuesday, August 11, 2009. Your vacation dates must be between now and September 26, 2009.

· Free Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World in Florida. This means that each member of your family gets one counter-service meal, one table-service meal, and one snack for free each day of your vacation.* Right now this deal is being offered August 16 – October 3, 2009. Originally this package was only being offered to Disney Visa Cardholders. However, as of April 3, 2009, anyone can book this plan, even if they don’t have a Disney Visa Card.

· Update from July 28, 2009: Disney is now having ANOTHER great dining deal. Guests that book a 5 day/5 night stay at Walt Disney World that are visiting from October 2 through November 24, 2009, or November 29 through December 17, 2009, get select dining free if they book their trip by September 26, 2009. (Note: You may have heard that this deal was only for guests with a Disney Rewards Visa card, though that is not the case anymore!)

· Lastly, you can get in any American Disney park (meaning any park at either Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida) on your actual birthday for free. Only the member of your party whose actual birthday it is can enter for free. The birthday boy/girl must have some form of ID to confirm their birthday.


*Specific meal arrangements and combinations depend on the specific restaurants. For instance, “signature” restaurants (like Cinderella’s Royal Table, for example) take up two table-service credits. Specific Disney Dining Plan details can be found here.

Stay tuned for more money-saving tips on how to plan a well-budgeted Disney vacation! Next time we’ll look at the best time of the year to visit the Disney parks.

By Blake; posted March 26, 2009; updated April 3, 2009 and July 28, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

DVD Review – "Pinocchio" 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition

March 24, 2009
For the first time in ten years, Walt Disney’s second full-length animated film is released on DVD, and its already wonderful story grouped with its excellent new restoration and bonus material make the magical set well worth the wait.

By Blake

Originally posted March 24, 2009.

When thinking of top-notch, best-of-the-best Disney animated classics, Pinocchio is certainly near the top of the list. Its compelling story, touching lessons, breathtaking animation, superb character development, and impactful music all play key roles in culminating together a wonderful film experience.

The last time the movie was released was on a single-disc edition as part of Disney’s Gold Collection in 1999 and the movie’s only theme park experience is the Pinocchio’s Daring Journey ride at three Disney parks worldwide. So, it’s been a while since Pinocchio has had its time in the spotlight.

Fortunately, with the arrival of the new two-disc 70th (that’s right, 70th) Anniversary Platinum Edition the film has been given, an entire new generation can experience Pinocchio in a stellar set that has plenty to celebrate about.

Featuring many great new bonuses that include an audio commentary, a making-of featurette, and much more, the set is definitely worth its modest value.

Disc One
Total Approx. Running Time: About 289 minutes (about 4 hours and 49 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: Pinocchio feature film
Highlight Runner-Up: Audio Commentary

The movie itself (about 88 minutes) looks stellar. Its digital restoration has dignified outlines and pleasing colors without overdoing its enhancements. The movie tells of an elderly toymaker named Gepetto who lives with his cat, Figaro, and his goldfish, Cleo. When Gepetto wishes upon a star for his newest toy, a wooden puppet named Pinocchio, to become alive, the Blue Fairy grants him his wish. However, for Pinocchio to become a real boy, he must demonstrate bravery and honesty. To aid him through his temptations, Jiminy Cricket is named Pinocchio’s conscience. Although there are plenty of diversions that try to get in the way of Pinocchio’s goal of becoming a real boy, through these distractions he learns life lessons and in the end Disney magic shines through and the power of dreams stands true.


I hadn’t seen the film in a while, and I suppose I had never noticed until now just how dark it is. Yes, it’s a Disney film, but it certainly has its frightening moments. About the first third of film is just one sequence, while the rest of the film progresses at a faster pace with scenes that have to be some of Disney’s scariest. Just when you think Pinocchio would have learned his lesson to not make foolish mistakes any longer, a new temptation is given in to and a new eerie situation with its own set of villainous characters is introduced. The count of villains almost reaches the amount of good guys.

The film is also not very socially appropriate in terms of today, either. Pinocchio and other characters are shown smoking and drinking. A notice is shown before the film warning viewers that they should not take the same actions that the characters do, as both smoking and drinking can cause serious illnesses and side effects.

Those are really the only negative comments I have to contribute about the movie, though. The film is brimming with dazzling animation, superb for its time and featuring amazing special effects, particularly in the infamous Monstro sequence. Additionally, the film’s music earned it two Academy Awards for best score and best song, earned by “When You Wish Upon a Star,” somewhat of a theme song for the Walt Disney Company today.

After the movie itself comes the first of its bonus features.

Under “Music & More” is the music video for “When You Wish Upon a Star” (about 3 minutes) performed by Meaghan Jette Martin from the Disney Channel movie Camp Rock. The music video is a current remixed version of the classic song, and features Martin gazing upon stars with other teens.

Also under “Music & More” is Disney’s Song Selection (about 11 minutes), which allows the viewer to see the movie’s five songs consecutively with the lyrics on screen. In this case, Pinocchio’s songs are enjoyable and the Song Selection feature was a nice inclusion.

Next is “Backstage Disney,” where we’re treated to an audio commentary (about 88 minutes) of the movie with film historian (and host of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD’s) Leonard Maltin, current Walt Disney Studios animator Eric Goldberg, and film historian J.B. Kaufman. Each of the three contributors provides a very entertaining commentary, filling us in on many tidbits of trivia throughout the course of the film. In addition to Maltin, Goldberg, and Kaufman, throughout the commentary we hear clips of audio from some of the late animators that worked on Pinocchio, including Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Ken Anderson, and Wolfgang Reitherman.

The one inclusion under disc one’s “Games & Activities” is Pinocchio’s Matter Of Facts, a version of the movie where pop-up trivia facts appear on the screen as you watch the film. They mostly feature some background about the movie’s location, animal counterparts, props, and animation. Appearing about once a minute, the orange-font facts are sometimes difficult to see. The facts are overall geared for families, and those wanting a more insightful look at the making of the film should watch the audio commentary.

Concluding disc one are sneak peeks (about 11 minutes). The set includes previews for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Platinum Edition DVD & Blu-ray (the first look at this upcoming title), Up, Disney Blu-ray, Disney Movie Rewards, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure DVD & Blu-ray, My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too DVD, Schoolhouse Rock! Earth DVD, Disney Parks, and Bolt DVD & Blu-ray.

Disc Two

Total Approx. Running Time: About 101 minutes (about 1 hour and 41 minutes)
Highlight of Disc: No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio
Highlight Runner-Up: Deleted Scenes

The only feature under disc two’s “Games & Activities” is Pinocchio’s Puzzle Game (time varies). In the game, the player is trying to complete a series of six puzzles to finish a new music box Gepetto has been working on. Once all six puzzles are completed, the music box is finished. Each puzzle has about ten pieces, and often I was filling in the pieces based on their shape and not the visual on the piece, since they were a bit too small to actually see the picture on them. Jiminy Cricket is the narrator of the game, and encourages the player on throughout the puzzles. The game does get a bit repetitive by the time the player reaches the sixth puzzle, but the game will most likely entertain the elementary-aged set for a while.

Next, a hoopla of bonuses await under disc two’s “Backstage Disney” section. First is “No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio (about 56 minutes), which covers just about every aspect that went into creating the film. Everything including initial concepts for the movie, animation, special effects, voice acting, and music are all featured. Interviews include animation historians Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck, the late animators Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston, and even the voice of Pinocchio, Dickie Jones. The making-of is very delightful and is one of the highlights of the DVD set.


Next are three deleted scenes (about 10 minutes). Excellently presented (especially considering their age), each scene is brought to the viewer through storyboard drawings from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library. A narrator provides a background for each scene, tells where it was to have been used in the film, and shares when it was created. The first scene is “The Story of the Grandfather Tree” and involves Gepetto telling Pinocchio a bedtime story about Pinocchio’s grandfather, who was supposedly a kind tree. The next scene is “Starving In the Belly Of the Whale” and has Gepetto, Figaro, and Cleo very hungry inside Monstro and having dreams of food. Gepetto goes a bit crazy for a minute, and I can see why this scene was removed. The last scene is an alternate ending which has Pinocchio changing into a real boy on the beach just after the climactic battle instead of back at Gepetto’s workshop.

The Sweatbox (about 6 minutes) is a fascinating look at how Walt Disney and his animation staff innovated filmmaking by reviewing rough drafts of films in a room called the “sweatbox” (earning its name from lack of air conditioning). The process is still used today when creating movies. The featurette includes interviews with modern Disney animators recalling the process, as well a re-enactment of sorts of Walt and his animators in the sweatbox.

Gepettos Then and Now (about 11 minutes) starts out as a quaint look into modern-day toymakers who, like Gepetto, fascinate children’s imaginations with their toys. About halfway through the featurette, though, the pace changes and turns into a commercial for current toys such as Ultimate Wall-E, I-Sobot, and Emotiv System. One of the modern-day Gepettos that was included in this feature, Cyril Hobbins, was also featured in an article of the premiere issue of Disney twenty-three magazine and was also interviewed on the D23 website.

Live-Action Reference (about 10 minutes) is a narrated peak at some of the live-action footage that the Disney Studio taped to give the animators an idea of how the film should be presented. Actors were hired to perform in temporary “sets,” and the animators would study that footage as they created the work for the film. This featurette does get a bit lengthy, but its content is fascinating and to see that footage so old is still preserved today (when it was just used for the animators’ reference) is remarkable.

Pinocchio Art Galleries have a hoopla of art pieces categorized into several groups. The organization of the art is helpful to choose what kind of piece you’d like to view, but (like most DVD art galleries), viewing all of the art in any given category at one time requires some going back-and-forth between menus. Nevertheless, the art galleries offer a wonderful look into the development of the film, particularly in the “Character Design” and “Background & Layout” areas of the gallery.

Publicity (about 5 minutes) includes three theatrical trailers for Pinocchio – one for its original 1940 release and others for its 1984 and 1992 re-releases.

Lastly, there’s a deleted song called “Honest John” (about 3 minutes). Sung by a group of males (I’m not sure which characters would have sang it in the movie, though), the song mostly describes the mischievous personality of Honest John, also known as Foul Fellow.

Although most of the bonus features were excellent, I was surprised that none of them talked about the inclusion of Figaro in the Pluto cartoons of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Indeed the same Figaro from Pinocchio, I’ve always been puzzled about how Figaro went from being Gepetto’s cat to Minnie Mouse’s cat in some of the later Disney cartoon shorts, an issue that I don’t think has been cleared up by Disney. Figaro even had three of his own shorts after playing a supporting role in Pluto cartoons.

Gepetto’s cat, Figaro, was featured as Minnie Mouse’s cat after Pinocchio, and that mystery is not covered on the new Pinocchio DVD set.
Additionally, Jiminy Cricket being featured as somewhat of a Disney symbol is also not covered. Aside from a mention in the audio commentary of Jiminy narrating the 1947 Disney film Fun and Fancy Free, nothing is gone into detail about the character’s further involvement in Disney works. Some of these include his roles in Wishes and SpectroMagic at Walt Disney World, appearing on The Mickey Mouse Club, hosting the I’m No Fool educational short series, playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and hosting several volumes of Disney’s Sing-Along Songs video tapes.

Jiminy Cricket is another Pinocchio character that went on to be featured in other Disney productions.

Menus

Disc one’s menus are themed to Gepetto’s workshop, which is presented in CGI animation on the main menu. Disc two is themed to the village where Gepetto and Pinocchio live, featuring the village streets and the theater. The viewer’s selection on the screen (on both discs) is indicated by two light blue squiggle brackets, which are sometimes difficult to see if the background is light, but most of the time are easy to identify.

Wrapping It Up

Although it’s definitely not the most smile-filled Disney movie, since its debut 70 years ago, Pinocchio has enchanted audiences with its likable characters, amazing animation, wonderful music, and meaningful lessons. As a follow-up to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (being the first Disney film to be made after it), Pinocchio had plenty of pressure on its shoulders when it was first released. That being said, it proved to the world that the hardworking staff and animators at the Walt Disney Studios were there to stay, able to produce multiple lasting and enduring films.


The new 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition of Pinocchio is up to par with past Platinum releases, featuring plenty of bonuses to please Disney fans. The audio commentary, making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and re-enactment of Walt Disney’s “sweatbox” routine are all the high points of the set and each offer a unique view into the creation of the film. After a ten year absence from stores, the excellent new Pinocchio set is a welcome addition for those who have anticipated its arrival.

How do I rank Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD? (Bolded is my choice.)

Very good movie + Brilliant bonus features =
· Aaaah!
· Blech
· Not good
· Good
· Very good
· Brilliant

Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD will most likely please: Disney Fans – Kids (ages 5-7) – Older Kids (ages 8-10)

By Blake; posted March 24, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Talk – "Are You 23?"

March 15, 2009

Disney’s most mysterious marketing campaign in history has finally been revealed as D23 – the official community for Disney fans.

By Blake

Originally posted March 15, 2009.

“Are you 23?”

That’s the question Disney had been asking web-goers since January 2009, on various teaser posters and on a preview website for a then-unannounced Disney event. All the website contained was the written-out question “Are you 23?” followed by “Find out March 10.” and an appearance of Tinker Bell, flying in to sparkle up a countdown clock to March 10. No other hints or indications were given of what in the world this was – or even what platform of the company it would pertain to (movies, theme parks, etc.).

Unofficial Disney discussion boards were abundant with fans chiming in their thoughts on what all the hoopla was really about, some being just about correct, but others – including myself – thinking the complete opposite. Some thought it would relate to Pixar, which was founded 23 years ago. Others thought a collection of 23 Disney classics would be released in an ultimate Blu-ray boxed set. (Personally, I think if Disney ever decided to do that, it would be a very bad idea. Not only would the set be outrageously expensive – which would cause people to not buy it – but each movie in the supposed set wouldn’t get as much publicity as it would if the titles were released separately, each gaining their own release buzz.) I thought the marketing campaign might have something to do with Adventures by Disney, which, with its new itineraries, has 23 vacation locations.

The real mystery of “Are you 23?” actually turns out to be something far greater and full of much more Disney magic than any of the aforementioned speculations. Please watch the video below – which is copyrighted by Disney, uploaded to YouTube by user thedisneyblog, and which I take no credit for – that truly encompasses the heart of what the Walt Disney Company is all about, and also contains the very special “Are you 23?” reveal from the President and C.E.O. of Disney, Robert Iger.

If that video doesn’t get you feeling nostalgic, then I don’t know what will!

So, the “Are you 23?” mystery has been leading up to D23, the official community for Disney fans. In reality, you’d think there would already be an official club for Disney fans before now. Yes, the Mickey Mouse Club was an official community, but hit its height in the 1930’s and was certainly aimed at a children’s audience. And yes, the Disney Vacation Club is an official Disney organization, but that’s not so much a club as it is ongoing vacation packages.

What does a membership to D23 include?

D23 – signifying 1923, the year that the Walt Disney Company was founded – will involve all areas of the company for an unprecedented gathering of news, special events, merchandise, and even a new Disney publication. Here’s a rundown of what a year’s membership to D23 includes:
First is a subscription to Disney twenty-three, a new quarterly magazine that features just about everything that a Disney fan would dream to be in a Disney publication. I picked up the premiere issue of the magazine the other day at Barnes & Noble, and it is indeed quite a treat. The quality of the magazine is amazing, and the stories it covers are phenomenal. What’s really great is that the magazine doesn’t center all its attention on a particular area of the company, but instead includes articles dealing with many different Disney components, including animation, theme parks, history, shows, news, and much more. It also is very current – one page even includes coverage of an event that happened just two weeks before the magazine was published. Many Disney fans were devastated when Disney Magazine stopped publication in 2005, and if Disney twenty-three had to have a 4-year pause for its gears to get flowing, then I gratefully forgive the lack of an official Disney magazine for those 4 years. It’s that good.

The cover of the premiere issue of Disney twenty-three magazine, an all-new quarterly Disney publication.
A year’s membership to D23 also includes a certificate of membership with the member’s name on it, as well as a border of Disney animated characters surrounding the name. Additionally, a “surprise gift” will be delivered to the member. Members are also e-mailed a newsletter twice a week, updating them on current Disney news. Although there are other amenities involved with a D23 membership, those involve an extra cost that is in addition to the initial joining fee. Included in the start-up fee is Disney twenty-three magazine, the membership certificate, the surprise gift, and the e-newsletter. Everything else after that requires an additional cost.
The certificate that D23 members receive.
So, how much money does a D23 membership cost? I was actually very surprised when I read that members must pay $75 to join. And that’s paid up front. Which is, obviously, a major setback. Reading the exciting details of D23 had me all set to join, but when I took a look at the rather large price, I quickly decided that I needed to seriously think through whether I wanted to join or not. Paying that much amount of money at one time without knowing the full details of what a D23 membership would result in is something I had to definitely consider.
So, for now, I think I’m going to hold off on becoming a D23 member. I’ll get the scoop from reports of members as to what the members-only specifics include and how they’re implemented before I make my decision. The Disney twenty-three magazine was the big draw for me, anyway, and I when I realized that I could pick that up anyway at Barnes & Noble for $16, it eased my decision even more. Additionally, anyone – including non-D23 members – can view the excellent new website Disney has launched for the club, www.disney.com/23. The website is given daily updates, which include current Disney news, interviews, photos, articles, a “This Day in Disney History” feature, and even a daily Disney comic strip. I’m satisfied with the superb magazine and fantastic D23 website. The total cost for a year’s worth (4 issues) of Disney twenty-three magazine will end up being about $65 – which is $10 less than a D23 membership – and I won’t be paying the cost all at once, but quarterly instead. If you’re a Disney fan and are not sure what to make of D23 right now, I suggest you do the same.

A glimpse of the outstanding D23 website, which offers an extravagaza of Disney news and information.
So, what are the extra benefits in addition to aforementioned magazine, certificate, surprise gift, and e-newsletter that D23 members can participate in (but each cost an extra price)? Well, the big event is the D23 Expo, an event taking place nearby Disneyland in September 2009. Reading the details of the Expo over at the D23 website had me wanting to go, as it seems like it will be a very exciting event that will include sneak previews at upcoming Disney events, guest speaker sessions (which include Robert Iger, John Lasseter, and more), pin trading opportunities, special exhibits from the Disney Archives, and much more. However, even if I was a D23 member, I most likely wouldn’t be able to make it to the event anyway. Keep that in mind as you make your decision to become a member or not.
Another extra-cost benefit to D23 members are advanced screenings for Disney movies. The only one of these that is currently planned right now is the Pixar film Up, which is being released on May 29. The details of the advanced screening event for Up have not been announced yet, but my main concern involving these advanced screenings are how many people the D23 members can bring with them, and what locations these screenings are taking place at. The D23 website currently not yet offering theses specifics was another reason I decided to not join D23 quite yet.
Additionally, “Boutique 23” offers D23 members special club-related merchandise, which include tee shirts, polo shirts, jewelry, and more.
Ultimately, when it comes down to deciding whether to join D23 or not, it all depends on what amount of money your budget allows you to spend and how often you think you’ll be able to attend the member-exclusive events, whether they be advanced screenings, meets in the Disney parks, or the Expo in September. I highly recommend the Disney twenty-three magazine to any Disney fans regardless of whether you’re joining D23. One year (4 issues) of the magazine does come with a D23 yearly membership, though individual issues are sold in Barnes & Noble as they’re released.
A Disney-fied Week
D23 was among the many significant Disney-related events that happened this week. D23 was officially announced on Tuesday at the Walt Disney Company Shareholders Meeting by Robert Iger. Other major announcements of the meeting included the move of the release date for the upcoming hand-drawn Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog (which features the first-ever African-American Disney Princess) from Christmas Day to December 11 (to avoid competition with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel), which I think is a very clever move. Also announced at the meeting were the names of the two upcoming Disney Cruise Line ships. The two new ships will be called the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy.
Robert Iger also appeared on The View on Wednesday to further talk about D23. The View was broadcast all week long from the Disney Legends Plaza at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. Disney characters escorted the hosts out each day, and special segments were featured on each episode that highlighted the history of a different character. On Wednesday, Whoopi Goldberg took a peek into the Walt Disney Archives, which served as a very entertaining segment and also a fascinating look into Disney history. Also on Wednesday’s The View, John Lasseter appeared with a large handful of balloons to talk about Up and also share a clip from the film.

Pixar’s John Lasseter appeared on The View – which was broadcast from the Walt Disney Studios last week – on Wednesday, March 11, to promote the upcoming Pixar film Up, in theaters May 29.

Another component that played into this week being a big one for Disney was the introduction of Remy from Ratatouille at Epcot, where the tiny rat interacts with guests at Le Chefs de France restaurant in an entirely new way as part of Disney’s Living Characters Initiative program. Tuesday saw the release of Pinocchio on a 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray, which includes many exciting bonus features. Lastly, on Friday, Race to Witch Mountain (which is a re-make of the 1975 Disney movie Escape to Witch Mountain) was released in theaters.

Pinocchio was released on Blu-ray & 2-disc DVD on Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

All of these events made me very proud to be a Disney fan this week. I saw Disney in the public spotlight probably more than I ever had before, and that was definitely a great feeling. To see D23 in the news and the general public already getting excited for Up – which is nearly two-and-a-half months away – is fantastic. I knew I wasn’t the only one that loved Disney, but I guess I didn’t see how many people actually appreciate the Disney magic on a daily basis. And D23 – whether I’m joining or not – is definitely a true example of phenomenal modern Disney magic at its best.
By Blake; posted March 15, 2009. All images and video (C) Disney.

Disney Talk – High School Wasn’t Meant to Last Forever

March 8, 2009

Just when we thought it was all over, the “High School Musical” mania is back for fourths.

By Blake

Originally posted March 8, 2009.

***SPOILER WARNING***
This article reveals plot details/spoilers/endings about High School Musical 3: Senior Year.

Well, here I am on the day that I was supposed to be writing a High School Musical farewell article, highlighting the franchise’s impact on the entertainment industry and giving the series a much-deserved meaningful goodbye. No joke, I had this article planned out for about two weeks.

However, something occurred this past Wednesday, March 4, 2009, that altered what I would be writing about. A very important announcement was made by the Walt Disney Company. An announcement that I’m not too sure I agree with. An announcement that will – once again – take over families’ television sets with an entirely new round of HSM-related mania.

What’s the big news? High School Musical 4 is coming.

Disney announced on Wednesday that High School Musical 4 will debut on Disney Channel (not in theaters) in 2010 and will feature a “love triangle” between students at the familiar East High and the unfamiliar West High.

Since Troy (Zac Efron), Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), and the rest of the Wildcats from the first three films graduated in High School Musical 3: Senior Year and the plot that Disney released doesn’t involve anything about Troyella in college, it’s safe to say that the well-known characters from the first three films will not be returning in High School Musical 4. That’s not to say that they won’t appear in a few cameos (they might, but they might not), they certainly won’t be the main characters this time around. The end of the third film did reveal that Sharpay would be returning to East High to help work in the drama department, though it is unknown at this time if Ashley Tisdale will be appearing in the fourth film.

So, if the already-established Wildcats are off in college, who’s this fourth film going to be about? Well, there were three new sophomore characters that were introduced in Senior Year – Jimmie “The Rocket” Zara played by Matt Prokop, Tiara Gold played by Jemma McKenzie-Brown, and Donnie Dion played by Justin Martin – and they’re likely to reprise their roles in High School Musical 4. However, a United Kingdom article reported that as of February 17, McKenzie-Brown’s father hadn’t yet been approached by Disney concerning his daughter returning in the fourth film, and that was just a week before the announcement for the fourth movie was made. Does Disney have plans for an entirely different cast, with no returning student characters at all? I suppose that the East High teachers – such as Mrs. Darbus the drama teacher and Coach Bolton (the basketball coach and Troy’s dad) – will return, but you never know.

From left: Jemma McKenzie-Brown as Tiara Gold, Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans, and Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans in High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
I really don’t know how to respond to this burst of news. In the back of my head I did think Disney would probably want to make another High School Musical film eventually, but I guess I just didn’t think they would really do it. But they are. And it’s not that I’m totally 100% opposed to that – I’m all for a good, old-fashioned Disney musical. It’s not the actual idea of a new HSM movie that I dislike, but it’s the continuation of a brilliant story that capped off in stellar fashion back in October that has me concerned. High School Musical 3: Senior Year was what every series finale should be aiming for, as it wrapped up its entire series’ story by culminating together the characters, music, and essence of its spirit with such an incredible theme that not only nicely concluded its trilogy but also spoke on an emotional level that to continue it might reduce the efforts of the entire film. It was all about saying goodbye; about departing from those you love. Now does none of that even matter?

Though, I digress. I’ll certainly be tuning into High School Musical 4 with my family come 2010, and Disney probably will produce another great show-stopping extravaganza, but the idea of changing gears and engaging the story around an entirely different cast makes me a little nervous. It will probably turn out to be a good movie, but I guess the human fear of change has me unsettled about the news. Needless to say, we’re going to be going through another round of HSM hoopla all over again. And I’m OK with that. I think that in the way Disney sees things, it doesn’t completely matter if a sequel lives up to or attains the same positive reviews as its original. Or at least that’s not the only thing that matters. Of course the story plays a major part into creating a film, but I think Disney’s primary goal throughout their long history has been to entertain families. And whether critics like it or not, the High School Musical phenomenon does just that.

I’ve never really taken the subject of why Disney makes so many sequels into consideration until now, but now I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter if hard-core reviewers or audience members that claim these films to be their own disapprove of Disney’s many sequels. Disney’s made so many of them by now that the public has taken a liking to make fun of them excessively. But the truth of the matter is, these sequels, no matter how redundant or unneeded they may seem, attain the level of entertainment – for their target audience, not necessarily reviewers – that Disney is known for, keeps old characters fresh in the sight of new generations, and make sure some of these classic stories don’t fade away.

At first I was completely opposed to the thought of another High School Musical film. I still don’t think a fourth installment is necessarily needed, nor do I think it will progress the theme of saying goodbye that the second and third films did such a great job of conveying. But it will keep the musical genre alive for a little bit longer (hey, all you Jonas Brothers fans) and will keep millions of families entertained. And that’s what it’s all about.

And as for that nostalgic look back at the first three High School Musical productions? Stay tuned . . .

By Blake; posted March 8, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Update – Bolt Your Way to BlakeOnline This Spring

March 8, 2009

A sneak preview of what’s in store of BlakeOnline this spring.

By Blake

Originally posted March 8, 2009.

Hi everyone, I hope everyone has had a happy, healthy, and great start to 2009. I just wanted to check in to give everyone a status report on what you can expect to find here on BlakeOnline in the coming months, and what different happenings will be going on around the website.

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support of BlakeOnline. Thank you very much for your positive feedback! Here are just some of the nice compliments sent in:

“wow!”
-Reader HG

“Your website update is so thorough and well written. I’m glad they [Disney] have (finally) figured out what works for them. I think you give a very accurate review of their ups and downs and where they are headed. Great job Blake. Keep it up!”
-Reader Jeff

“Blake! Dude! I love the new look of your web-site! Thanks for all the special updates. When I was little I LIVED for these things, especially Charlie Brown. Quite frankly, it isn’t ‘Christmas’ until I see “CBCS” and the Grinch. I think Shrek the Halls is a pretty good new addition.”
-Reader Amy

The good news is, due to the positive response from readers who benefitted from the “What’s On Tonight” feature that was posted in December, that feature will probably be returning to BlakeOnline this Christmas, as well.

“This is a great report! I left a comment regarding American Idol, but I checked to make sure it would show up when you looked, and it is not there. What should I do after I write my comment in the box?”
-Reader Pat

Here are some instructions for anyone else that is having trouble posting a comment directly to BlakeOnline: After you type your comment, you scroll down and click either “Name/URL” if you’d like to put your name (I wouldn’t put your full one, though, for Internet safety reasons), or you can click anonymous. Then click “publish comment” and you should be all set!

Additionally, by going back and reading through past messages I’ve received concerning the website, it seems that I get the most feedback from my “battle” articles, featuring smack-downs between different characters. Since I haven’t posted any of those in a while, you can expect at least a few battles to be posted soon.

This spring, as I prepare with my family to plan a trip to Walt Disney World, a special focus series will be posted that will center on planning a Disney vacation during these tough economic times. I’ll walk you through every step of making the most of your money by scaling down your budget but still having a magical vacation.

Stay tuned to BlakeOnline.com as it bolts its way into a very exciting spring!

By Blake; posted March 8, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Update – December 2007 Articles Now Available

March 7, 2009


Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that BlakeOnline articles that were originally posted in December 2007 are now available in the archives! These include a review of Shrek the Halls, a DVD review of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, a DVD review of Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and a review of National Treasure: Book of Secrets. You can check out these and other articles in the BlakeOnline archives.

Remember that these articles were originally posted in December 2007, but when BlakeOnline switched formats in October 2008, I had to begin re-posting all of the previously-posted articles, which is still taking a while. More archived articles will be posted again soon!

-Blake
March 7, 2009