Archive for September, 2009

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September 26, 2009

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Disney Talk – Movie Mania and Muppet Mayhem

September 19, 2009


Image © Disney.


Even more exciting news from the D23 Expo, this time concerning Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and the Muppets.

By Blake

Originally posted September 19, 2009.

Argh, me hearties! Avast! Me hope ye be enjoyin’ yer September!

What? You didn’t know it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Oh, well. I’ll continue in non-pirate-talk, then.

After hearing about all of the utterly fantastic news and events that took place at last week’s first-ever D23 Expo (like the exciting announcements of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Walt Disney World’s upcoming Fantasyland expansion, Disney Cruise Line heading to Alaska, Star Tours 2 coming to both California and Florida, and so much more), one would think that to squeeze in anything else into the Expo would be impossible. Think again!

On Sunday, September 13 – the last day of the Expo – there was even more magic to be found and plenty more awesome news for Disney fans.

From the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios presentation came news of upcoming films like Rapunzel (coming to theaters holiday 2010), a new Winnie the Pooh movie (spring 2011), Cars 2 (summer 2011), and more. You can read some fascinating recaps of the Pooh and Cars 2 information over at StitchKingdom.com, as well as a summary of the rest of the presentation at D23’s website. A presentation had been held the day before for The Princess and the Frog, while a panel for Toy Story 3 was held later.

Cars 2 is coming to theaters in summer 2011. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Also on Sunday, a very special Muppets presentation took place with so much Muppety goodness that I thought I was about to explode just reading about all of it. The biggies include a new movie (titled The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made), a refurbishment of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s California Adventure (yes!!!), new DVDs, a 2010 Halloween special (!), and much more. MuppetNewsflash.com does an excellent job of summarizing all of the new projects in detail.

Some of the other presentations held on Sunday included those for Toy Story Midway Mania!, Pixar in the Disney Parks, and Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place.

I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing all of the wonderful plans Disney has in store for the future by reading others’ reports from the D23 Expo, and to be able to look back and see that they were all announced in a single four-day event is simply incredible.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 19, 2009. Muppet image © Disney. Cars 2 image © Disney/Pixar.

Theme Park Headlines – New Frontiers

September 13, 2009

Image © Disney.

Disney Cruise Line is heading to Alaska, Star Tours is getting a sequel, and WDW’s Fantasyland is being majorly expanded.

By Blake

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

I officially and truly appreciate Twitter.

I was skeptical to the idea of it at first, but then as I started to use it to post Disney news and view more Disney information from others, I began to “get it.” However, it wasn’t until this weekend that I absolutely, positively was VERY glad that I was a Twitter user.

If not for Twitter, I would have never experienced the jittery excitement I have felt as I excitedly click “refresh” repeatedly to view the live tweets from Disney fans as they report from the D23 Expo.

There was another significant announcement yesterday (Friday, September 11, 2009) at the Disney Cruise Line presentation. Disney previously posted some online videos of Donald Duck and Goofy trying to find out where the Disney Cruise Line was headed to next. Disney answered this highly-anticipated question yesterday, revealing that in summer 2011, Disney Cruise Line is going to . . . Alaska! The breathtaking scenery of Alaska is sure to be a wonderful pairing with a Disney cruise vacation. You can view details at DisneyCruise.com/2011.

Disney Cruise Line is heading to Alaska in summer 2011. Image © Disney.

In other Disney Cruise Line news, on August 31, Disney announced some changes coming to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island that most Disney cruises make a stop at. Changes include a larger family beach, a new lunch spot, and new water play areas, to be finished in summer 2010. On top of that, two additional Disney cruise ships are currently being built – the Disney Dream (setting sail in 2011) and the Disney Fantasy (coming in 2012).

This morning (Saturday, September 12, 2009) Disney fans (both present at the Expo and those that would read the reports later), were in for some huge surprises from the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation.

Many topics were discussed, including an expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland that will include several new lands (including Toy Story Land); some details about World of Color, a nighttime water show debuting at Disney’s California Adventure in spring 2010; and the new Cars Land, opening at Disney’s California Adventure in 2012.

Then, the first major shocker was revealed – Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland is going to get a massive expansion, growing twice as large as it currently is. It’s going to be amazing.

Some of the outstandingly exciting changes to Fantasyland include two identical Dumbo rides to speed up the wait (complete with an interactive queue) and a new area based on Pixie Hollow from the Disney Fairies movies. Additionally, there seems to be a large emphasis on the princesses, especially in new, unique ways that guests are going to be able to meet them. It seems that each princess character greeting specific to each princess’ personality. For instance, guests will be able to dance with Cinderella, celebrate a party with Aurora, and experience storytelling with Belle. (I’m guessing this is the already-open Storytime with Belle, just relocated?) I think it’s a very creative idea to try out different character greeting formats other than traditional meet & greets.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant is getting an interactive queue in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

There are also going to be several expansive new attractions added to Fantasyland. A new ride based on The Little Mermaid is going to be built called Ariel’s Adventure, and will be similar in style to other Fantasyland attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It will take guests into Ariel’s world to tell her story, and is going to be like another Little Mermaid ride coming soon to Disney’s California Adventure.

Ariel’s Adventure will be a new ride based on The Little Mermaid, and will open in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

Additionally, the Imagineers are building two new restaurants based on Beauty and the Beast – Gaston’s Tavern and Be Our Guest Restaurant. Be Our Guest will be located inside the Beast’s castle, a new area where guests will be able to eat in several themed settings directly from the movie. This place seems like it’s going to be awesome!

However, a down side of the Fantasyland expansion is the unfortunate closure of Mickey’s Toontown Fair. One of my favorite areas in the Magic Kingdom, Toontown opened as a temporary land to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 60th birthday in 1988, and was later decided to be a more-than-temporary addition to the park. Some of the attractions in Toontown are Mickey’s Country House, Minnie’s Country House, Donald’s Boat, and The Barnstormer. Some good news is that The Barnstormer might be staying despite the Fantasyland changes. It will certainly be sad to see Toontown leave. It’s one of the most cleverly themed and detailed sections of the Magic Kingdom and it will definitely be missed.

The first phase of the Fantasyland expansion (including the princess elements) will open in 2012, while the Pixie Hollow section will open in 2013.

Lastly, there was one more significant announcement at the Parks and Resorts presentation, but it was delivered with the help of Darth Vader and 50 storm troopers. Coming in 2011 to both Disney’s Hollywood Studios (in Walt Disney World) and Disneyland is Star Tours 2, which is sure to delight many Star Wars fans. The attraction will replace the currently-existing Star Tours simulator ride, and will be a new 3-D experience.

I don’t think there have been many events that have been so jam-packed with exciting Disney news like the D23 Expo. I’ve had such joy reading reports that others have posted about the fun happenings that have occurred so far. The Disney Cruise Line Alaskan voyages, Fantasyland’s expansion, and the new Star Tours 2 are all sure to be guest-pleasing experiences. Those Imagineers know how to dream.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 12, 2009. All images © Disney.

Disney Talk – Expo Excitement

September 13, 2009

Image © Disney.

Everyone from Kermit the Frog to Miley Cyrus to Captain Jack Sparrow made appearances during the Walt Disney Studios presentation at the D23 Expo.

By Blake

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

What is Disney magic? Is it endearing music? Classic characters? Famous celebrities? The promise of enchanting things to come in the future?

Whatever it is that you personally pinpoint as the source of Disney magic, there’s no denying that it’s being put to use in full force at the outstanding D23 Expo, currently taking place in Anaheim, CA. While I’m not there, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading reports from the various events taking place. Disney magic is being used so much that ALL of the above examples have already been implemented, and the convention isn’t even over yet. The Expo’s Walt Disney Studios presentation was certainly no exception.

The presentation took place yesterday, September 11, 2009, and was hosted by Dick Cook, Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios.

Among the highlights of the presentation were a 20-minute medley of classic Disney songs performed by a live orchestra, a performance by Miley Cyrus of “The Climb,” and sneak peeks of upcoming Disney films. On hand to promote upcoming titles were Robert Zemeckis, director of Disney’s A Christmas Carol; John Travolta with family members Kelly Preston and Ella Bleu from Old Dogs; Tim Burton, director of Alice in Wonderland; Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Sorcerer’s Apprentice; and actor Nicholas Cage from Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Also during the presentation, Disney announced a new film label called “Disney Double Dare You.” The movies under the label will be scary family films. I’m thinking something along the lines of the film version of The Haunted Mansion? Maybe. Several new Disneynature titles were also announced.

More Disneynature films are on the way. Image © Disney.

However, to me, the real high points of reading the reports from this very special presentation were two major announcements.

Disney has been implementing a slowly-but-surely Muppet comeback for a while now. Some of this return has already begun, given the success of the Muppets’ viral YouTube videos, their Studio DC specials on Disney Channel, and last year’s Christmas special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa on NBC. There’s been lots of talk floating around about the Muppets returning to the big screen in a huge way, and yesterday Disney finally officially announced the title of this upcoming adventure in a stellar way.

How stellar? How about a cast of Muppets appearing live on a scaled-down Mark Twain riverboat?!? Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, and many more of their friends appeared to perform several songs, as well as announce their film’s title. The movie will be called The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made, which is quite curious considering that Jim Henson himself had batted around an identical title. I love the Muppets and am very excited to see what this new film has in store for them.

The Muppets appeared on a riverboat at the D23 Expo to announce their upcoming film, The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made. Image © Disney.

The last surprise of the presentation was a quite a doozey. You might even call it swashbuckling. I would have loved to see the shocked faces of attendees as Johnny Depp appeared on stage as Captain Jack Sparrow! Depp was in-character and also was there to confirm that he would appear in The Lone Ranger as Tonto, and reprise Captain Jack in a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean installment. A new bit of information was announced as the film’s title was revealed – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, coming summer 2011. I personally can’t wait.

With many exciting movies to look forward to, a new film label getting started, a new Muppet film to get pumped about, and some more news about Pirates, it was quite wonderful as a Disney fan to read all of the reports from the spectacular Walt Disney Studios’ D23 Expo presentation. “Bring me that horizon.”

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 12, 2009. All images © Disney.

Disney Talk – The First-Ever D23 Expo Is Here!

September 11, 2009

Image © Disney.

One of the biggest events in Disney history has arrived, and Disney fan sites provide abundant coverage.

By Blake

Originally posted September 10, 2009.

The D23 Expo began this morning (Thursday, September 10, 2009) and is now well underway, featuring a plethora of exciting behind-the-scenes looks and sneak peeks for upcoming Disney projects. The Expo is the first-ever convention for D23, the official fan club for Disney fans that began last March.

The Expo comes off the heels of D23 announcing their fan events for the fall earlier this week. These include a special night for the touring musical of The Lion King in Anchorage, AK and Spokane, WA; a similar event for the Mary Poppins musical tour in Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA; an encore of the free tour of the Walt Disney Studios and Archives; a special event during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival; an opening-day screening of The Princess and the Frog with special appearances by all nine Disney Princesses; a viewing of Disney’s A Christmas Carol; and a “Magic and Merriment” holiday event in Walt Disney World in December. You can check out more information about these upcoming events at D23’s website.

But before any of those activities take place, the D23 Expo has to run its course! The Expo is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA (the city that Disneyland is located in) from today through Sunday, September 13.

The Expo is already off to a fantastic start. Just today, Bob Iger held a presentation (which included a screening of the first 30 minutes of The Princess and the Frog), the Disney Legends 2009 ceremony took place, several scenes were screened from Beauty and the Beast’s 3-D enhancement (which is coming to select theaters in February, 2010), ABC had a sneak preview of their fall lineup, Imagineering held a panel discussion, and many more exciting happenings took place. There were also special appearances by Lucky the Dinosaur and Wall-E.

The first 30 minutes of the Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog was shown at Bob Iger’s presentation during the D23 Expo. Image © Disney.

Disney has a special area at the Expo so that fan organizations can set up booths and mingle with other fans.

Although BlakeOnline isn’t at the Expo, there are several other Disney fan personalities that are continuously updating their Twitter accounts with reports from the event. These include StitchKingdom.com, Orlando Attractions Magazine, DisneyShawn, Lou Mongello of the WDW Radio Show, and Deb Wills of AllEars.net. AllEars also has special posts on its “Deb’s Digest” blog that recap all of the site’s tweets from each day of the Expo into one convenient journal. Additionally, D23 itself has also been updating fans of the Expo’s activities via its Twitter page and on the official D23 website. One of the fascinating articles posted today over there recaps the Bob Iger presentation very nicely.

And this is just the first day! Still yet to come are exciting presentations from many areas of the Walt Disney Company, including Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Channel, VoluntEARS, The Muppets, and more.

As a bonus, those who can’t be in attendance at the Expo have the opportunity to view some of the Disney Cruise Line presentation on Friday, September 11, at 12pm Eastern Time and 9am Pacific Time at DisneyCruiseLine.com/2011. At that time, it will be announced where the Disney Cruise Line is headed in 2011. Disney has already posted two YouTube videos showing Donald Duck and Goofy going “undercover” trying to find out the news.

A special Disney Cruise Line announcement will take place September 11, 2009, at the D23 Expo, and will also be streamed live on DisneyCruiseLine.com/2011. Image © Disney.

The D23 Expo 2009 has gotten off to a very exciting start, and if that much Disney magic has been presented in just one day, I can’t wait to hear what the rest of the weekend has in store! You can read more details about the Expo and purchase tickets here.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 10, 2009. All images © Disney.

The BlakeOnline Buzz, Fall 2009

September 7, 2009

Image belongs to Blake’s family. Text in image is “Action Jackson” font.

Volume 1, Issue 2

By Blake

Originally posted September 7, 2009.

Dear BlakeOnline readers,

Happy Labor Day! It’s hard to believe that another summer has come and gone. There were several big-screen blockbusters and major announcements, making summer 2009 quite a memorable season for the entertainment industry.

In late May, Pixar released their tenth film, Up, with tremendous success. So much success, in fact, that it is currently the #5 highest-grossing animated film of all time. Characters from the film continue to make appearances at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World in Florida.

Up was another hit for Pixar. Image © Disney/Pixar.

In July, Warner Bros. released the outstanding Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment in the groundbreaking film series. Its current worldwide gross is $897,184,000, which is quite an impressive number.

Disney Channel has also had success over the summer, with three major broadcasts: Princess Protection Program in June, the mash-up Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana in July, and Wizards of Waverly Place The Movie in last week.

Disney Parks and Resorts opened several new Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World recently – Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in May, the Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa in June, and Bay Lake Tower (a new building at Disney’s Contemporary Resort) in August.

Just last Monday, August 31, 2009, Disney announced that they would buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. When you consider that Disney purchased Pixar for $7 billion in 2006, Disney certainly is taking this buy very seriously. Hopefully exciting projects are on the way as the future of this new partnership unfolds. You can read more about the deal over at MouseExtra.com.

Here at BlakeOnline, the summer has held several points of interest, including the continuation of the Budgeting Disney series. This special group of articles analyzes how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation when you’re watching your money. After already discussing looking for promotions and deciding when to visit, over the summer the articles delved into picking a resort, purchasing tickets, and choosing where to dine. There is going to be at least one more volume in the series, so keep a lookout for it soon!

As the world transitions into fall, there are several exciting highlights in store for Disney fans. The D23 Expo will take place in Anaheim, California from September 10 through 13. Although unfortunately no one from BlakeOnline will be attending the event, many other Disney fan sites are sure to provide detailed coverage of the weekend.

The first D23 Expo kicks off in Anaheim this Thursday, September 10, 2009. Image © Disney.

Halloween festivities are already starting to begin at Walt Disney World as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes place at the Magic Kingdom select nights now through November 1. Disneyland will join in on the fun with their annual Halloween Time from September 25 through November 1. Halloween Time includes favorites like Haunted Mansion Holiday through Christmastime at Disneyland Park and Mickey’s Trick-Or-Treat Party during select nights in October at Disney’s California Adventure. New for Halloween Time in 2009 are a new fireworks show and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, a special version of the classic thrill ride. Other special events in the Disney parks this fall include Night of Joy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios during September 11-12, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival from September 25 through November 8, and Festival of the Masters at Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney November 13-15. Additionally, Christmas festivities will begin in mid-November.

Halloween is just around the corner, and Disney has already begun to celebrate. Image © Disney.

Disney often has several fascinating book releases in autumn, and this year is no exception. The 2010 Birnbaum Guides will be released on September 29. They include guides to Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World For Kids, Walt Disney World Without Kids, Walt Disney World Dining, Disneyland, and Disney Cruise Line, as well as the Walt Disney World Pocket Parks Guide.

Other exciting book and movie releases can be found on BlakeOnline’s Upcoming Disney Projects page. The major highlights include the 3D double feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (October 2); the re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Blu-ray (October 6) and DVD (November 25); the new book Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (October 13); the new Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure film on Blu-ray and DVD (October 27); Up on Blu-ray and DVD (November 10); and the theatrical releases of Disney’s A Christmas Carol (November 6), Old Dogs (November 25), and the highly anticipated hand-drawn feature film The Princess and the Frog (November 25 in New York and Los Angeles, December 11 nationwide).

Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are returning to select theaters for a 3-D double feature on October 2. Image © Disney/Pixar.

It’s been a jam-packed, fun-filled summer, and hopefully there’s a celebratory, inviting autumn on the way! After all, there’s a great, big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day.

-Blake
September 7, 2009

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 7, 2009. Buzz Lightyear image belongs to Blake’s family. Text in Buzz Lightyear image is “Action Jackson” font. Up and Toy Story/Toy Story 2 Double Feature images © Disney/Pixar. D23 Expo and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party images © Disney. “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” music and lyrics by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, © 1963 Wonderland Music Company, Inc.

Theme Park Headlines – Mickey’s Ready for Fall

September 5, 2009

Image © Disney.

Walt Disney World kicks off its annual Halloween celebrations and prepares for its Christmas festivities.

By Blake

Originally posted September 5, 2009.

While some students may not even have headed back to school yet and the Labor Day holiday is just arriving, Walt Disney World isn’t wasting any time in saying goodbye to summer and heading right into their impressive, crowd-pleasing fall agenda as their Halloween and Christmas special events begin to get underway.

Throughout the summer, Disney began making preparations for The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The buildings in the Streets of America section of the park are being adorned with thousands of sparkling lights. The popular decorations will make their official debut as they light up the park November 10, 2009 – January 4, 2010. You can check out pictures of the event’s recent progress at StudiosCentral.com.

As early as mid-August, the Christmas Dream Lights began their installation on the spires of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. A fairly new holiday tradition that began in 2007, the Dream Lights spectacularly transform the Castle into an amazing wintry sight (even though it’s already pretty amazing without them). The lights magically turn on thanks to the help of Cinderella and friends in a brief ceremony entitled Cinderella’s Holiday Wish. The Dream Lights will be ready at least by November 10, which is the first night of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but could appear before then. Pictures of the lights’ installation can be seen at LaughingPlace.com.

Mickey and friends are busy perparing for the holiday season, which includes Disney favorites like The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and more. Image © Disney.

However, while those and other Walt Disney World Christmas events are over two months away from making their 2009 premiere, Halloween is already in full swing over at the Magic Kingdom. Special Halloween decorations were set up throughout Town Square and along Main Street, U.S.A. a little over a week ago (as shown in a blog on DISUnplugged.com), and the first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party of the season took place last night, September 4.

The highlights of each party include Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, the HalloWishes fireworks, the Villains Mix and Mingle stage show, special character appearances (by several rare friends, as well as some familiar characters in Halloween attire), and candy stations. Many of the Magic Kingdom rides and attractions are open, too.

Minnie, Mickey, and other Disney friends can be found throughout the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Image © Disney.

Although the party is mostly the same as in years past, there are a few minor changes this year. There are still two dance parties, but they contain a few differences. The Fantasyland dance party still takes place at Ariel’s Grotto, but the characters present there are now Minnie and Daisy. Additionally, the Tomorrowland dance party has changed locations: it’s not in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café anymore, it’s now at the stage formerly used for Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration (near Carousel of Progress). Characters appearing at the Tomorrowland dance party are Stitch, Goofy, and Pluto. Outside of dance parties, there appears to be a small new float in the parade featuring Madame Leota’s tombstone from Haunted Mansion. (It’s worth noting that although the villains float was dropped from Magic Kingdom’s regular afternoon parade last spring, it still remains a part of the Halloween parade.)

There may also be a few other small changes, but since the party just took place last night, other information has not yet been spread. However, this article will be updated to include any other reported changes that have occurred at this year’s MNSSHP.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party requires a separate ticket (different from regular park admission) to attend. On nights when the party takes place, it lasts from 7pm through midnight. However, if you enter at or after 4pm, you will not need a regular park ticket to enter, so my advice would be to not visit a park on the day you attend the party, so that you can rest up as well as save some money.

For pictures of the Halloween decorations throughout the Magic Kingdom, check out LaughingPlace.com, and for a recap of the September 4 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, visit DISUnplugged.com and AllEars.net. The party will continue on select nights through November 1. Whether you’re attending or not, have a not-so-scary Halloween!

By Blake; posted September 5, 2009. All images © Disney.