Archive for the ‘BlakeOnline Special Report’ Category

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.

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BlakeOnline Special – “American Idol” Pre-Concert Report 2009

August 5, 2009

Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Season eight’s contestants greet fans with enthusiasm and infectious joy.

By Blake

Originally posted August 5, 2009.

I love American Idol. I just think it’s so cool how one television show can have a little bit for everyone, being just as entertaining for elementary-age kids as it is for their grandparents. And there’s almost no worrying about hiding anyone’s eyes or ears for inappropriate content.

As I finished up writing this article and was doing some proofreading before I posted it, I heard the big American Idol news that was just announced last night, August 4, 2009: Paula Abdul – one of the show’s judges that had been a part of the series since its beginning – will not be making the return for the show’s ninth season. The new season begins filming auditions in front of judges soon, and will premiere on Fox in January, 2010. I’m not going to go into detail about the announcement, but I must say that I think I’ll miss Paula on the judge’s panel.

Moving on to the reason I’m writing this article in the first place, when the chance came to possibly meet some of this year’s American Idol top ten contestants as they rolled through their nationwide tour, it was an opportunity that I’m very glad I got to experience. While we didn’t go to the actual concert, a few family members and I decided to head to the concert’s venue early to see if we could get a few autographs and pictures.

While generally the concert doesn’t start until 7pm, the tour’s buses usually get there anytime between 11am and 2pm. Sometime around then, contestants can come out and greet fans. They’re not obligated to, so if they don’t feel like it on any given day, they don’t HAVE to come out at all. However, if you show up around 11 to get a spot with other fans outside, you’ll have a pretty good chance to at least meet a few of the contestants. The experience is also free, which is a great bonus.

We arrived around 11:20 to find a small crowd waiting behind barriers outside of the arena. The amount of people gathering gradually grew larger as time passed, with people covering the entire barrier’s length by around 1:30.

Thankfully, the weather was very nice while we were waiting. It was overcast, but not raining, and only after a while did the sun come out. It was warm, but I didn’t think it was too hot (though it can get a little sweltering after being in it for a long time). If you plan on going early, be sure to pack a lunch and plenty of water. The amount of time it takes for the contestants to come outside varies with each city they visit, but expect to be standing out there for about three to four hours total (including the time spent meeting contestants).

The contestants came out at around 1:45, and the crowd went wild! Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud, Anoop Desai, Scott MacIntyre (with his brother, Todd, to assist him), Megan Joy, and Michael Sarver all came out to mingle with fans. Adam Lambert, Allison Iraheta, and Lil Rounds ended up not making it out. Contestants came out about two at a time, not all at once.

Megan Joy meets with fans. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Scott MacIntyre (right) with his brother, Todd. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Anoop Desai greets fans. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Some contestants may only have time to go down the line very quickly to sign autographs, while others may take their time to pose for pictures and talk. Kris, Danny, Matt, and Michael were the slowest making their way down the line, each stopping to talk with fans and take pictures. Many of them would run down the line and give hi-fives before signing autographs, creating an energetic mood over the crowd. All of the contestants seemed very appreciative that people had taken time to come see them, and their positive attitudes seemed to perk up the crowd, causing everyone to wait patiently for their turn.

Kris Allen gets ready to greet fans. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Danny Gokey meets with fans. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Most of them were happy to stop and take pictures with fans, and would even give shout-outs to your camera or phone if you wanted them to. Michael was striking up conversations with many folks, and Matt remarked a few questions at us (“You’re not too hot out here, are you? Not too hot?”). Did we really look THAT sweaty? Just kidding.

Matt Giraud talks with fans. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

Michael Sarver socializes with fans. Image belongs to Blake’s family.

I advise to bring something with you for the contestants to sign. There were concert programs and portraits available for sale right there outside, but overall I thought the prices were pretty expensive. Making a poster would be much more cost-efficient, and also makes for a great homemade souvenir.

Seeing the contestants’ personalities unfold throughout the course of the season on television gave me a better appreciation for their work ethic, and for them coming out to say “Hi” to their fans. American Idol is a very special part of my life, and being able to see some of the people that make the show so memorable on a one-on-one level was an amazing experience.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted August 5, 2009. All images belong to Blake’s family.

BlakeOnline Special – Imagineering “Blue Sky” Session 2009

June 26, 2009
Image © Disney.

It’s that time of year for batting around ideas for the Disney parks!

By Blake

Originally posted June 26, 2009.

Most Disney fans probably have at least a few creative ideas or thoughts for how they would tweak the Disney parks if they were given the opportunity to do so. If they were an Imagineer – a member of the part of the Walt Disney Company responsible for creating the Disney park attractions – they might have several rides or shows dreamed up and ready to put into action.

It’s always fun to pretend, and so for the sole purpose of just having fun, I welcome you to the 2nd annual Imagineering “Blue Sky” Session here on BlakeOnline. “Blue Sky” is a term used by Imagineers at the very beginning stages of creating new attractions. During Blue Sky, ideas are batted around and introduced for the first time, and concepts and stories are just getting started.

Here we go!

I’ve talked a lot about the changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, but even more colossal than that park’s various changes are the ones being put into effect at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland. The changes began in the Paradise Pier section of the park in June 2008 with the opening of Toy Story Midway Mania! Additionally, the Games of the Boardwalk recently re-opened featuring classic Disney characters, and the nearby Sun Wheel was re-themed to Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

The surrounding area of Paradise Pier will continue to be the first section of the park that will largely be changed as part of the multi-year DCA expansion. Other nearby attractions are being re-imagined to be themed to classic Disney shorts of the 1930’s and 1940’s, which I think is just wonderful. From the looks of the concept art and attraction descriptions, the area is going to become somewhat of a simpler, more classic-feeling Toontown. Goofy’s Sky School (a re-themed mad-mouse roller coaster) will be based on the Goofy “How-To” shorts, this time with Goofy “teaching” guests how to fly, with a few unplanned diversions (similar to the storyline of The Barnstormer at the Magic Kingdom ). Additionally, the Silly Symphony Swings will be themed to the 1935 classic Mickey Mouse short The Band Concert, complete with dazzling new special effects.

Silly Symphony Swings at Disney’s California Adventure are expected to be themed to the 1935 Mickey Mouse cartoon The Band Concert. Image © Disney.

Coming to Paradise Pier in spring 2010 is World of Color, a new water show featuring a hoopla of classic Disney characters in a spectacle that supposedly will knock the socks of its viewers. In 2011, Paradise Pier will become the home of The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, a new dark ride that ironically was supposed to be built years ago at Disneyland.

The California Adventure expansion is expected to continue in 2012 with new theming to its entrance, which will depict Hollywood in the 1920’s, when Walt Disney was first arriving to the city. Additionally, an entire new area of the park will open in 2012 – Cars Land, themed to the 2006 Pixar film Cars. The area will include multiple new attractions that sound very exciting, and the atmosphere will make guests feel like they’re walking through Radiator Springs.

Cars Land, themed to the Pixar film Cars, is scheduled to open in Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland in 2012. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Although I’ve never visited California Adventure, all of these upcoming additions sound very appealing, and hopefully they’ll be introduced to other Disney parks soon!

As we “keep moving forward” and press on to Walt Disney World in Florida, as of right now, no massive upcoming projects have been officially announced. There are plenty of wild rumors going around, but nothing’s been confirmed just yet.

There are a few smaller attractions scheduled, though. On June 29, the Pirates League will open in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland as a place where pirate fans can come to get pirate makeovers, similar to the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique having princess makeovers. The Hall of Presidents is indeed expected to be re-opening with its newest member, Barack Obama, sometime within the coming weeks, and Space Mountain is supposed to be re-opening after a rather lengthy refurbishment in November, but other than those nothing very big is planned.

Space Mountain is expected to re-open in November at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

However, that’s not to say that I don’t have a few ideas.

At the Magic Kingdom, I like how Disney is continuing the Pirates of the Caribbean craze in Adventureland with the Pirates League opening. Although I certainly don’t think that the entire land should be re-themed to Pirates, I admire that Disney isn’t just letting the franchise sit there waiting for the next movie to be released.

As for character greetings, I think a Captain Jack Sparrow meet & greet would be extremely popular given how well his appearances at the now-defunct Pirate & Princess Parties went. Additionally, even though they attract very long lines, the Princesses and the Fairies would probably fit into Fantasyland better than they do at their current location in Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

Also at the Magic Kingdom is the show Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration over in Tomorrowland. The show opened in early May, 2009, and will have its final performance on Saturday, June 27, 2009. It wasn’t meant to be a seasonal attraction, it just altogether wasn’t pleasing guests and Disney decided to do away with the show completely. Which, in essence, I don’t think is quite giving the show a proper chance. If Disney were to focus more on Stitch and less on the dancers, put the show into the Galaxy Palace Theater (which was recently closed), and perhaps involved Mickey and Minnie into the plot (maybe something like the Castle shows?), I think Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration would be a better experience. Or if they were to focus on just the Stitch aspect of the show, which involved a computer-animated Stitch interacting and talking with park guests (like Stitch Live at Disneyland Paris), maybe that would be a better solution.

Over at Epcot, the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure – somewhat of a scavenger hunt themed to the now-concluded Disney Channel show Kim Possible throughout select World Showcase pavilions – has been wow’ing guests since it opened in February, and Remy from Ratatouille has been enchanting guests with his appearances at the Le Chefs de France restaurant.

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is a new experience at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida. Image © Disney.

Some changes I might make to Epcot would include perhaps re-theming Test Track to incorporate characters from Cars. It would be a great opportunity to freshen up a classic ride. Though some purists might not like the idea, I think the concept of Lightning McQueen teaching guests what sort of tests racecars go through before they head to the track would be an engaging storyline.

Pixar’s newest film, Up, has dazzled audiences since it was released in May, and due to its success I can definitely see it being a candidate for future theme park presence. But where would the film fit? Although it might work out in Hollywood Studios’ Pixar Place or in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, overall the movie would probably feel most at home in Epcot for several reasons. Firstly, flight is a component that’s important in Up, and it’s also an experience that would fit in Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction, though I’m not sure how Up’s characters or story would work into that ride. A more appropriate addition would be some sort of South America pavilion in World Showcase, featuring a version of Paradise Falls (a setting from the film), as well as some sort of dark ride themed to the movie.

The lush setting of Paradise Falls in Up would be wonderful for a South America pavilion in Epcot. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Enchanted would be wonderful if it was put on stage, and this park is an excellent choice to put such as show. The park’s Premiere Theater (which is currently used for special events) would be wise for the show’s location, as it’s right in the New York section of the park, and Enchanted takes place primarily in New York. Additionally, a Pixar Place expansion would be fascinating – re-theming the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure to an area based on a bug’s life would be appropriate, and a nearby thrill ride based on the Monsters, Inc. door sequence would be brilliant. Some sort of Bolt attraction would also fit into Hollywood Studios, though not necessarily in the Pixar Place area.

Another idea would be to refurbish Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D. Now would be a fitting time to do this, especially since Disney is currently in the process of re-launching the Muppet franchise. I don’t think the 3-D film itself should be changed, but some re-mastering and sprucing up of the footage would be nice. Additionally, perhaps some new pre-show or post-show elements could be added that would feature Muppet characters that weren’t around when Muppet*Vision initially opened (like Pepe the King Prawn). Some atmosphere around Muppet*Vision could also be enhanced to further involve guests in a Muppety area, such as bringing back the Muppet Mobile Lab (which had brief appearances in Disney’s California Adventure and Epcot) or adding some Muppet character greetings.

A refurbishment of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be great timing with Disney’s current re-launch of the Muppet franchise. Image © Disney.

Lastly, trekking over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I think the only area that needs a little work is the Dino-Rama! section of DinoLand U.S.A. The atmosphere’s storyline doesn’t come across very straightforward to guests, though the rides in the area (including the fun TriceraTop Spin and the exciting Primeval Whirl) are certainly keepers.

That concludes this year’s Imagineering Blue Sky Session! Feel free to create some ideas of your own. Get those creative gears flowing – who knows, you might just dream up the next Disney park classic.

By Blake; posted June 26, 2009. All images © Disney. Cars and Up images © Disney/Pixar.

BlakeOnline Special – BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards 2009 Winners

June 24, 2009

Image © Disney/Pixar.

The winners for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards.

By Blake

Originally posted June 24, 2009.

This year, BlakeOnline is the home of the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! A “Bullseye” has been given to a variety of Disney-related (and some non-Disney-related) productions that I think deserve some extra attention. I chose the “Bullseye” name to keep with the Toy Story theme that began with the new “Buzz” quarterly updates. Hopefully, this will become an annual BlakeOnline event. The Bullseye nominees were announced on June 8, 2009, and the winners are in! How were the winners determined among the nominees? Well, I just chose them. Although it would make sense for Disney fans to choose what they think should win, at this point it was simpler for me to choose the results based on what I’ve observed around the Disney community.

In the future, I plan to give nominations to projects that were released within a one-year time frame (from mid-May to mid-May), but since this is the first year of the Bullseye Awards, I’m gone with an 18-month time frame, from mid-November 2007 through mid-May 2009.

Here are the winners (and runner-ups) for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards!! A * indicates a category that includes (but is not limited to) non-Disney nominees.

Best Movie – Enchanted

This movie has the workings of a true modern Disney classic. Many of the components that have made up previous Disney masterpieces were present, including endearing characters, superb music (provided by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who earned three Academy-Award nominations), and a subtle focus on animation, even though most of the movie was in a live-action format. The film consisted of an animated heroine named Giselle (played by Amy Adams) being thrust from her home in Andalasia and into the real world. Giselle’s groom-to-be Prince Edward (James Marsden) journeys after her in an effort to return her home, while Giselle is taken in by a flustered man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Ultimately the movie’s highest points come as Giselle takes New York by storm as she enchants the city with her charming antics, including breaking out into song and communicating with “woodland” creatures. The film also has a strong emphasis on many Disney references, sure to keep Disney fans paying close attention to detail.

Enchanted wins Best Movie. Image © Disney.

Best Movie Runner-Up – Bolt

Bolt had the feel of a classic Disney animated film. It certainly had taken great care to create its main characters, especially Rhino, the hilarious hamster. Its plot consisted of a dog named Bolt headlining his own TV series, thinking all of his powers from the show are real. This proves to be a problem when he accidentally finds himself in New York, having to trek back home to Hollywood with a sly cat named Mittens and an obsessive fan named Rhino the hamster in tow. Overall I think Bolt was culminated together rather nicely, and hopefully it’s a hint at what’s yet to come from Walt Disney Animation Studios in the coming years.

Best TV Show* – American Idol Season 7

2008’s American Idol contestants possibly revolutionized the competition by adding their own distinctive styles to their performances. With contestants being allowed to use instruments on stage for the first time, the show dramatically changed from looking for the best singer to looking for the best artist – someone who could add their personality into their performances and change up arrangements to better suit them. David Cook achieved this excellently throughout the season, and ended up winning. Cook’s debut self-titled rock album was released in November, and he’s now on tour. In second place was David Archuleta, who has since also released a self-titled album, made appearances on Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, and is now touring with Demi Lovato.

American Idol Season 7 wins Best TV Show. Image © Fox.

Best TV Show Runner-Up* – American Idol Season 8

Again, contestants had to step it up to change their performances and define themselves as artists in another unforgettable season. Kris Allen eventually won.

Best TV Special/Movie* – A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa

I can’t express how ecstatic I was when I found out that the Muppets would be returning to TV for a one-hour Christmas special. Part of an ongoing effort to bring the Muppets back (which is expected to continue with more upcoming projects), A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa debuted on NBC in December, 2008, and delivered a wholeheartedly quality Muppet production filled with heart, hilarity, and even a few delightful new songs (which were written by Paul Williams). The special had Kermit and friends delivering several lost letters to Santa Claus. In true Muppet fashion, everything doesn’t go exactly as planned.

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa wins Best TV Special/Movie. Image © Disney.

Best TV Special/Movie Runner-Up* – American Idol Season 8 Finale

A real showstopper, this finale had many surprise appearances and amazing performances. Keith Urban, Kiss, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz, David Cook, Queen, and more were among the highlights. Additionally, the season’s top thirteen contestants were all brought back to perform, and the night ended with Kris Allen being named 2009’s American Idol winner.

Best Acting – Amy Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted
The naïve, curious, and awed Giselle was played wonderfully by Amy Adams in Enchanted. In the live-action scenes, the movement and rhythm of Adams’ actions conveyed Giselle’s character excellently. In the animated sequences, the deliverance of Giselle’s diction and speech again brought the character to the screen marvelously.

Amy Adams wins Best Acting for her performance as Giselle in Enchanted. Image © Disney.

Best Acting Runner-Up – Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay in High School Musical 3: Senior Year


Already proving from the first two High School Musical movies that she could diversify her roles to become both the kind Maddie in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody as well as the devious Sharpay in HSM, Ashley Tisdale stepped up her game for the third HSM installment to bring an excellent performance. Devious, attention-getting, and clever all describe Sharpay and all were performed superbly by Tisdale, who once again delivered a solid performance.

Best Song – “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted
Written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz

Enchanted’s lavish production number, “That’s How You Know” had Giselle (played by Amy Adams) gallivanting around Central Park in an effort to bring cheer and happiness to citizens, as well as teach them how they should treat their loved ones. The song is one of the best new Disney tunes in years, and was released on the DisneyMania 6 CD in May, 2008, sung by Demi Lovato.

“That’s How You Know” written by Alan Meken and Stephen Schwartz wins Best Song. Image © Disney.

Best Song Runner-Up – “I Want It All” from High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Written by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil

Describing the personality of Sharpay Evans (played by Ashley Tisdale) to a tee in one single song, “I Want It All” consists of pretty selfish lyrics when just reading the words, but when watching it performed on screen in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, it does its job quite well to convey the personalities of two of the movie’s main characters and to deliver an important plot point. The lyrics creatively spin dialogue into melodies and suit the Sharpay and Ryan characters wonderfully. The songwriting here is just right.

Best DVD – Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition

Definitely one of my favorite Disney movies ever, Mary Poppins came to DVD again in January, 2009, with most of the wonderful bonus features that were included on 2004’s 40th Anniversary Edition of the film, as well as new supplements going behind the scenes of the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. The movie’s DVD would be magnificent if it contained nothing but the film itself, but the addition of the many DVD bonuses makes it a very satisfying set.

Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition wins Best DVD. Image © Disney.

Best DVD Runner-Up – Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic

This DVD was released as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series in December, 2007, and includes a truly great new documentary tracing the history of Disneyland and what went into initially creating the park. Bonuses include an entertaining Disney trivia game, a very fascinating presentation (and commentary) of People and Places: Disneyland, U.S.A., several episodes of The Wonderful World of Color, a pleasant art gallery, and more.

Best Internet Video Series* – Disney Park Characters


These are a range of hilarious videos recorded by various Disneyland and Walt Disney World park guests focusing on the happenings of the Mad Hatter, Alice, Peter Pan, the Tremaines, and other characters throughout the parks. What’s so great about these is that – unlike the other candidates for this Bullseye category – most of them are of real events throughout the Disney parks that weren’t scripted, showing the true enchantment that exists in Disney’s characters and Cast Members. Links: Users Briberry, Disleanne, SkeletonStockings, MadHattress330, forevermeg4u.

Best Internet Video Series Runner-Up* – Muppets.com

Began in February, 2008, this is a collection of official Muppet videos featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Pepe, Rizzo, and even some of the lesser-known characters like Bobo the Bear and Beauregard. The videos have been continuously added to the website since the site’s initial launch, and now contain enough material to provide quite a while of hilarious entertainment. They’re definitely worth checking out.

That wraps up this year’s BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! Congratulations to all of the winners!

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted June 24, 2009. All images © Disney EXCEPT: Bullseye image © Disney/Pixar; American Idol image © Fox.

BlakeOnline Special – BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards 2009 Nominees

June 9, 2009
Image © Disney/Pixar.

The nominees for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards.

By Blake

Originally posted June 8, 2009.

It seems that Disney fans often get a little perplexed when prestigious award shows such as the Oscars and the Grammys announce their nominees (and winners, for that matter) and some productions that seemed to have swept the Disney community off their feet are nowhere to be seen on the list. I sometimes think Disney should have their own set of official awards, to be given only to Disney projects. However, that might seem a bit too self-centered and commercial to be accepted well.

However, since BlakeOnline is in no way associated with the Walt Disney Company, it won’t seem commercial at all as I announce that the website is the home of the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! A “Bullseye” will be given to a variety of Disney-related (and some non-Disney-related) productions that I think deserve some extra attention. I chose the Bullseye name to keep with the Toy Story theme that began with the new “Buzz” quarterly updates. Hopefully, this will become an annual BlakeOnline event.

In the future, I plan to give nominations to projects that were released within a one-year time frame (from mid-May to mid-May), but since this is the first year of the Bullseye Awards, I’m going to go with an 18-month time frame, from mid-November 2007 through mid-May 2009.

How will the winners be determined among the nominees? Well, I’m just going to choose them. Although it would make sense for Disney fans to choose what they think should win, at this point it’s going to be simpler for me to choose the results based on what I’ve observed around the Disney community.

Here are the nominees for the BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards 2009! A * indicates a category that includes (but is not limited to) non-Disney nominees.

Best Movie
Enchanted

A classic Disney heroine, wonderful music, a return to animation (if only for a while), and great Disney references.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Another suspenseful and quality Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Wall-E

Pixar’s breathtaking and eye-opening story of a robot that falls in love.

Bolt

The best non-Pixar Disney animated film since Lilo & Stitch, about a heroic dog trekking his way to Hollywood.

Wall-E. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Best TV Show*

American Idol Season 7

The season where David Cook won.

Survivor: Micronesia – Fans vs. Favorites

Plenty of shockers and blindsides.

The Office Season 5

Hilarious.

iCarly Season 2 – A Nickelodeon sitcom created by Dan Schneider, who also created The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, and Zoey 101.

American Idol Season 8

The season where Kris Allen won.

Best TV Special/Movie*

Shrek the Halls

A brief, charming return to the Shrek characters. Gingy was hilarious.

American Idol Season 7 Finale

ZZ Top, One Republic, the Jonas Brothers, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, and more were among the highlights.

Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh

Drake Bell and Josh Peck returned to Nickelodeon for a satisfying Christmas movie.

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa

One of the best Muppet productions in years.

Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade 2008

Miley Cyrus had a great opening number and the Broadway cast of Mary Poppins had a sensational performance. The parade also had a large focus on characters and the parade itself.

American Idol Season 8 Finale

A real showstopper; Keith Urban, Kiss, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz, David Cook, Queen, and more were among the highlights.

Kermit the Frog in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. Image © Disney.

Best Acting

This category won’t be divided into “actor/actress,” “supporting actor/actress,” or “voice actor/actress” like some awards are, but rather all of those categories will be combined into one award, given to a performer who brought an extra something special to their character.

Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted

The naïve, curious, and awed Giselle was played wonderfully by Adams in both the live-action scenes and animated sequences.

Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay in High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Already proving from the first two High School Musical movies that she could diversify her roles to become both the kind Maddie in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody as well as the devious Sharpay in HSM, Ashley Tisdale stepped up her game for the third HSM installment to bring an excellent performance.

Mark Walton as Rhino in Bolt

As one of the funniest Disney characters in a while, Rhino tagged along on Bolt’s nationwide voyage, and his energetic voice was a large part of his personality.

Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted. Image © Disney.

Best Song

“Happy Working Song” from Enchanted

Written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
A pleasant tune that heralded back to classic Disney favorites like “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and “The Work Song” from Cinderella.

“That’s How You Know” from Enchanted

Written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
A lavish production number channeling “Under the Sea” and “Be Our Guest.”

“I Want It All” from High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Written by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil
One of HSM3’s biggest numbers and the one that was written wonderfully for the characters that sang it (Sharpay and Ryan).

“Delivering Christmas” from A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa

Written by Paul Williams
The opening number of the Muppets’ new Christmas special that has a classic Muppet feel and welcomes in the Christmas season with simple yet elegant joy.

“The Climb” from Hannah Montana: The Movie

Written by Jessi Alexander and Jon Mabe
An inspirational hit that reached platinum status and encompasses a blend of reflective emotions wonderfully.

Left to right: Jemma McKenzie-Brown as Tiara Gold, Manly (director Kenny Ortega’s dog) as Boi, Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans, and Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans in High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Image © Disney.

An amazing movie with great bonuses.

Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic

One of the best Walt Disney Treasures sets yet; an excellent new documentary complemented by exceptional bonus features.

Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald Volume 4

The fourth collection of classic Donald Duck shorts, including some of the wonderful cartoons created for the 1999 – 2000 TV series Mickey Mouse Works.

Wall-E Special Edition

A stellar Pixar film with fascinating behind-the-scenes featurettes, plus a new short.

Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition

A magnificent Disney classic with a spectacular DVD set containing hours of fun that seem as endless as Mary Poppins’ carpet bag.

Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition

Disney’s 2nd animated film with several intriguing making-of bonuses.

Geoffrey Rush (left) as Barbossa and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Image © Disney.

Best Internet Video Series*

Muppets.com

A collection of official Muppet videos featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Pepe, Rizzo, and even some of the lesser-known characters like Bobo the Bear and Beauregard. The website has been continuously updated since February 2008 with new videos.

Fred Figglehorn

A comedy short series about a high-pitched 6-year-old facing troubles of everyday life that landed “Fred” actor Lucas Cruikshank an appearance on iCarly and made him YouTube’s #1 most-subscribed user of all time.

Virmup (Muppet Virals)

A series of short, official Muppet videos (that were apparently uploaded to YouTube by the Muppets themselves on their own individual character pages) that diversified the Muppets’ internet platform.

Disney Park Characters

A range of hilarious videos recorded by various Disneyland and Walt Disney World park guests focusing on the happenings of the Mad Hatter, Alice, Peter Pan, the Tremaines, and other characters throughout the parks. Links: Users Briberry, Disleanne, SkeletonStockings, MadHattress330, forevermeg4u.

Stay tuned for the results of the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards!

By Blake; posted June 8, 2009. All images © Disney. Bullseye and Wall-E images © Disney/Pixar.

The BlakeOnline Buzz, Summer 2009

June 4, 2009

Volume 1, Issue 1

By Blake

Originally posted June 4, 2009.

Dear BlakeOnline readers,

Welcome to the premiere issue of the BlakeOnline Buzz, a post that will (hopefully) become a quarterly addition to BlakeOnline. In the Buzz, an overview of new features to the site will be addressed, as well as reader mail (depending on if there is any) and a preview of what’s yet to come.

I would first off like to thank all of BlakeOnline’s readers for making spring 2009 one of the website’s biggest seasons ever. There was a significant (unintentional) focus on theme parks throughout the season, including the beginning of the Budgeting Disney series, a special multi-part look at planning a Walt Disney World vacation on a budget. So far I’ve delved into looking for deals and deciding when to visit. There are more volumes of Budgeting Disney on the way, so stay tuned! Additionally, there were also several articles posted throughout the spring celebrating Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which had its 20th anniversary on May 1, 2009. BlakeOnline joined in the festivities by posting a recap of the park’s birthday events, a history of the park, and a countdown of my personal favorite Hollywood Studios attractions.

On March 10, Disney announced the kickoff of D23, a new official Disney fan club. With the new club also came Disney twenty-three magazine, an all-new official Disney publication that’s just plain awesome. D23 has been the talk of the town all over the Disney community and around unofficial, fan-based Disney websites, including BlakeOnline. When D23 was first announced, I posted my thoughts concerning all of the hubbub, and in May the question of joining was revisited.

Disney answered the “Are you 23?” mystery on March 10 with the kickoff of D23.

With the transition into springtime also came the conclusion of another amazing American Idol season. Kris Allen, age 23, is the new winner and celebrated his win at Walt Disney World on May 29.

Kris Allen was named the winner of 2009’s American Idol season. Here he is with is wife, Katy Allen, minutes after his win was announced.

Just yesterday, BlakeOnline joined the Twitter community! You can follow BlakeOnline here to receive updates about when new articles are posted, as well as other occasional points of interest.

I’m slowly but surely adding the “missing” BlakeOnline articles into the archives. When the site was changed to its current format in October 2008, all of the pre-existing articles had to be posted again, and it’s taking a while. So far, you can check out articles from June 2006 – December 2007, and from November 2008 – present. The in-between articles from most of 2008 have still yet to be posted, but hopefully throughout the summer the gap of articles will grow thinner.

Although it may be subtle hints here and there, BlakeOnline is beginning to be recognized by some real-deal authors and speakers. Back in February, I posted a positive review of The Complete Walt Disney World 2009 by Julie and Mike Neal. To my very pleasant surprise, the BlakeOnline review of the book has been posted by Julie Neal herself on the author’s Amazon.com blog! I was elated when I saw this! A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious thank-you goes out to Julie Neal for taking the time to recognize BlakeOnline and for giving the site an appreciated link on Amazon.

Lastly, the Easter letter I posted in April took a little break from BlakeOnline’s usual subject of Disney to address what it means to be a Christian. The Easter post soon became one of BlakeOnline’s most impactful messages ever, generating 13 comments – a record for the site. It may be a small amount for some, but that’s a big number here. 🙂 Additionally, Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker Amy Carroll kindly used the Easter post in an event of hers to much success. I’d like to give big thank-you to Amy Carroll for not only spreading BlakeOnline, but also for spreading the Word of God.

It’s been an eventful spring for BlakeOnline, and I can’t wait to gear up for a great summer. Be sure to check back to the site often, because there are plenty of surprises headed your way. Stay tuned!

-Blake
June 4, 2009

By Blake; posted June 4, 2009. Image of Buzz Lightyear belongs to Blake’s family; text in Buzz Lightyear image courtesy of photobucket.com; “Are you 23?” D23 image © Disney; American Idol image of Kris and Katy Allen © Fox; The Complete Walt Disney World image © Coconut Press.

BlakeOnline Special – Keep Moving Forward in 2009

February 2, 2009

Disney fans have a lot to celebrate about in 2009, including exciting movie releases, deluxe DVD sets, and new theme park entertainment.


By Blake

Originally posted February 1, 2009.

2008 served Mickey Mouse quite well. Although some might say that because of the recessing economy, Disney is plummeting downhill with the rest of the country (which is not true, but we’ll get to that later), it’s actually been quite the opposite in 2008 for the Walt Disney Company. It seems that they’re finally right where they should be in all areas of their company, knowing who to market what to and realizing what works for them and what doesn’t. And now that they know this, we can be assured that plenty more magic will be sprinkled up in 2009.

Movies
2008 was filled with numerous in-theater, live-action family Disney movies that had everyone singing, laughing, crying, and, at one point, had an entire theater full of tween girls having a jam session. In February, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert hit select theaters for limited showings that proved just how far a simple Disney Channel sitcom had come since becoming a full-blown, beyond-TV franchise. In March, Raven-Symone appeared in her second in-theater Disney movie, College Road Trip, alongside Martin Lawrence and Donny Osmond. It was a delightful comedy that had kids laughing and parents tearing up. In May, the second film in the Narnia series was released, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Just as action-packed and magical as the first, Prince Caspian was quite a treat. In October, Beverly Hills Chihuahua was released. Although I didn’t see it, the film’s initial teaser trailer grabbed the attention of many, and whether or not people liked it, it granted the film a large amount of publicity. Also in October, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, and the rest of the Wildcats made the transition from television sets to the silver screen as the epic High School Musical phenomenon capped off a three-year span of Wildcat mania with the release of High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Proving itself to be much more than an average musical, the film had a broad appeal and contained real Disney magic placed all throughout it. Finally, the Christmas Day release of Bedtime Stories told of Adam Sandler’s nightly tales to his nephews coming to life in the real world.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year was released in theaters last October, concluding the ongoing Wildcat mania.

2009 looks to be another promising year for Walt Disney Pictures, with several very exciting releases coming up. On February 27, the Jonas Brothers move from “special guests” in last year’s Hannah Montana concert movie to being in the center spotlight in Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Like the Hannah Montana concert movie, the film will be released in select theaters and will take audiences behind the scenes to not only show viewers a Jonas Brothers concert, but also what goes on to put on the show. It will feature guest appearances by the Jonas Brothers’ Camp Rock co-star Demi Lovato, as well as country singer Taylor Swift. On March 13, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of The Game Plan) will appear alongside Carla Gugino (the Spy Kids’ mother), AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia), and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) in Race to Witch Mountain, a remake of the 1975 Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain. On April 10, Hannah Montana will follow in the footsteps of Lizzie McGuire to become the second Disney Channel original series to have its own theatrical film when Hannah Montana: The Movie hits the silver screen. An actual movie as opposed to a concert, the film will have Miley stranded in a small town in Tennessee with her family, where she’ll have to permanently choose which side of her double life to officially pursue. The film’s teaser trailer makes it seem epic and on a slightly larger scale than the television series and, if done right, it could end up being something very special for all of those tiny Hannah fans. On April 22 (Earth Day), Disney will somewhat revive its classic True-Life Adventure nature documentary series as it launches its new Disney Nature franchise with the release of the new film Earth. The film will be narrated by James Earl Jones and will tell of three animal families. On July 24, we’ll get to see what happens when Beverly Hills Chihuahua meets Spy Kids when G-Force is released. The movie, which is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, will feature guinea pigs (some of which are voiced by Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz) saving the world. Pirates of the Caribbean’s Bill Nighy (Davy Jones) is also in the film.

The Jonas Brothers come to the big screen for their concert movie, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, coming to theaters February 27.

Animation
Not only did live-action Disney films hit the silver screen in 2008, but two excellent animated Disney movies were also released, both of which scored “Brilliant” in their BlakeOnline reviews. In June, Pixar’s Wall-E heralded back to the days of silent films with having barely any dialogue and told the heartwarming story of a lonely and abandoned robot, Wall-E, who seized the chance to fall in love when he unknowingly boarded a spaceship. Once again, Pixar performed well with both critics and audiences. In November, Bolt surprised everyone as being possibly the best non-Pixar Disney animated film in years. Its Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature (alongside Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda) only proves that theory even more. (The last non-Pixar Disney animated movie to receive an Oscar nomination was Brother Bear, released in 2003.) Full of richly developed characters and a superlative story, Bolt is a real treasure, and when paired with Wall-E, the two unlikely title heroes perform a vast supply of Pixie Dust to please young and old alike.

In June, Wall-E delighted audiences of all ages with its amazing story and likeable characters.

On the horizon for Disney animation in 2009 are two more new theatrical features a revisit of a classic. On May 29, Pixar takes an elderly man up in the sky as he attaches oodles of balloons to his house in Up, directed by Pete Docter (the same director as Monsters, Inc.). In October, Toy Story will be re-released in select theaters in 3D to promote the forthcoming 2010 new film Toy Story 3. On Christmas Day, Walt Disney Animation Studios will at last return to traditional hand-drawn animation in The Princess and the Frog, a retelling of the classic fairy tale. Set in New Orleans, the movie will feature the voice of Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana, the first new Disney Princess since 1998 and the first ever African-American Disney Princess. The movie will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who together also directed The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet. The Princess and the Frog will feature original songs and score by Randy Newman. It looks to be a very exciting film indeed. I can’t wait to see the final results come next Christmas.

Tiana, voiced by Anika Noni Rose, is the heroine of the new Disney movie The Princess and the Frog, being released in theaters Christmas Day 2009.

Revitalizing Franchises
2008 also saw the continuation of two major Disney franchises and an expansion in online entertainment. In October, Cars Toons premiered as a series of new short cartoons starring Mater from Cars. The first three shorts debuted on television and continue to air on Disney Channel regularly. A fourth short premiered alongside Bolt a few weeks after Bolt had been released, to entice audiences to see the film again. Cars Toons is the first of many new ways we’ll be seeing the charming characters of Radiator Springs in the next few years. This summer, a new internet game called The World of Cars Online will debut on Disney.com. Following in the footsteps of other Disney games such as Toontown Online, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Pixie Hollow, and the now-closed Virtual Magic Kingdom, the new Cars game will allow players to create their own character, in this case a car, and communicate with other players in races, games, and activities and also talk to other players in real-time. That’s just the beginning of the forthcoming Cars mania. In summer 2011, Cars 2 will premiere on the silver screen, sure to create plenty of hilarious Disney magic as audiences re-acquaint themselves with Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the Radiator Springs crew. Additionally, in 2012, Cars Land will open at Disney’s California Adventure in as part of a park-wide expansion.

Lightning McQueen and the rest of the Cars characters will return for the World of Cars Online game, Cars 2 in theaters, and Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.

Another franchise that was revisited in 2008 centered around Jim Henson’s lovable bunch of furry critters, the Muppets. In February of 2008, a Muppets channel was launched as part of the recently-revamped Disney.com and featured hilarious new videos and games, collectively featuring hours of new footage. The idea was to get the Muppets slowly back in the spotlight again in preparation for an upcoming feature film in 2010, and the plan seems to be working out great. In addition to the main Muppets channel on Disney.com, there are also separate pages devoted to Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the great Gonzo, and Pepe the king prawn. An upcoming page will belong to Animal.

The new Muppets channel on Disney.com provides plenty of hilarious new Muppet videos.

TV
Also part of the epic plan to spotlight the Muppets, a new set of TV specials aired in August and October of 2008 called Studio DC: Almost Live! that featured the Muppets and Disney Channel actors and actresses performing musical numbers and comedy routines. Featuring performers like Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, the Cheetah Girls, David Henrie, and more, Studio DC’s main purpose was to introduce the Muppets to a younger audience through people that the viewers already knew well through other Disney Channel shows. Additionally, a new hour-long Christmas special called A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa aired on NBC in December and marked the Muppets’ return to their classic flair and unforgettable wacky style.

Ashley Tisdale was among the Disney Channel performers who appeared with the Muppets in Studio DC: Almost Live!, a series of two new TV specials.

But the Muppets weren’t the only ones that Disney featured on their television networks in 2008. Disney Channel continued to crank out successful movies and shows. Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana continued to entertain kids and tweens with new seasons. The Emperor’s New School and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody both had their series finales, with the latter also beginning a new spinoff, The Suite Life on Deck. In the new show, Zack, Cody, London, and Mr. Moseby embark on the S.S. Tipton, a new cruise ship that offers a high school at sea and also introduces audiences to Bailey, a new character played by Debby Ryan. Another new Disney Channel original series that was introduced in 2008 was Phineas and Ferb, an animated show that features two tween boys spending their summer break thinking up inventive new activities to do while their pet platypus Perry secretly sneaks off as a spy. Additionally, several new Disney Channel original movies debuted in 2008, including Minutemen featuring Cory in the House’s Jason Dolley, Camp Rock featuring the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, and The Cheetah Girls One World featuring the returning actresses Kiely Williams, Sabrina Bryan, and Adrienne Bailon and the titular group of girls.

The Suite Life on Deck debuted as a spin-off of the Disney Channel show The Suite of Zack and Cody. Pictured here is the cast (from left): Phill Lewis as Mr. Moseby, Dylan Sprouse as Zack, Brenda Song as London Tipton, Debby Ryan as Bailey, and Cole Sprouse as Cody.

In 2009, there’s plenty more of excitement from Disney Channel, including two new shows: Sonny With a Chance (premiering February 8), about a girl (Demi Lovato) that gets a part on a variety TV show, and Jonas (premiering this May) featuring the Jonas Brothers playing brothers who live as spies. There will also be three new Disney Channel original movies premiering this year: Dadnapped debuts February 16 and tells the story of a group of kids who have to rescue their friend’s father. The cast includes Emily Osment, Jason Earles, and Moises Arias from Hannah Montana, David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place, Phill Lewis from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck, Denzel Whitaker from Nickelodeon’s All That, Jonathan Keltz, and Greg Newbern. The next new Disney Channel movie to debut this year will be Hatching Pete featuring Jason Dolley as a teenager who fills in for his friend played by Mitchel Musso as the school mascot, while Musso’s character receives all the misunderstood attention for the mascot’s energetic personality. Lastly, Princess Protection Program will feature Demi Lovato as a princess trying to fit in the real world with the help of her friend, played by Selena Gomez. To me, this sounds a lot like 2007’s Enchanted.

Not only will Disney Channel continue to produce new material in 2009, but Toon Disney will also have a major revamp in February, when it officially will change its name to Disney XD. Marketed towards boys, the channel will feature original new shows, as well as already-established Disney Channel favorites.

DVD’s
2008 saw the arrival of several anticipated DVD releases. Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets were released in the spring after their in-theater runs, animated treasures such as The Aristocats and The Sword in the Stone were given re-releases, The Nightmare Before Christmas was given an impressive 2-disc collector’s edition, three new Walt Disney Treasures volumes were released (The Chronological Donald Volume 4, Dr. Syn: Alias the Scarecrow, and The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette) on 2-disc sets, and 101 Dalmatians and Sleeping Beauty were given 2-disc platinum releases. Additionally, there were two original direct-to-DVD animated releases: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning was a prequel to the 1989 Disney classic and Tinker Bell not only gave Tink a voice but also told the story of how the famous Disney fairy got her start in Pixie Hollow, a land deep within Never Land. The film was also the launch of a new Disney Fairies franchise. Lastly, at the end of the year, 2-discs of bonuses were given to Wall-E and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Those two titles along with The Nightmare Before Christmas were the first Disney DVD’s to include a digital copy of their respective films so that viewers can download the movie onto their iPod.

Sleeping Beauty was released on a 2-disc DVD set last October.

2009 looks to be one of the most exciting years for DVD releases in a long time. Just within the next few months, a plethora of very special releases will become available, with more titles coming out next fall. On January 13, four Disney TV movies came to DVD: Gepetto, A Knight in Camelot, Mail to the Chief, and Smart House. On January 27, Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition was released on a 2-disc set that features all of the bonuses from the 40th Anniversary Edition, as well as a new look at the Broadway version of the story. Also on January 27, Corbin Bleu is the voice of the titular animated character in the new live-action film Secret of the Magic Gourd. On February 3, another new direct-to-DVD live-action movie will be released, Space Buddies, the third move in the series of tales about Air Bud’s children. Also on February 3, Oliver & Company will be released on a 20th Anniversary Edition that will include a making-of featurette, a new game, and two Pluto shorts. On February 10, two Disney Channel shows will come to DVD with Wizards of Waverly Place: Supernaturally Stylin’ and Phineas and Ferb: The Daze of Summer. On February 17, the Wildcat mania continues with High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which will be available on both 1- and 2-disc DVD formats, as well as on Blu-ray. Including a digital copy of the film, all releases will include a “cast goodbye” featurette and the 2-disc and Blu-ray releases will include deleted scenes, bloopers, and more. Additionally, the original High School Musical will be released on Blu-ray on February 17. March 3 is all about dogs, with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Beverly Hills Chihuahua (which feature deleted scenes, an audio commentary, a look at the dogs’ voices, a new short, and more) and the special edition DVD of Air Bud, which includes a commentary of the movie by the Air Buddies, Air Bud’s kids. March 10 will kick off a new DVD series, the Walt Disney Family Classics. Although I’m not sure if this will be an ongoing series or a one-time thing, the first two titles in the series will be Escape to Witch Mountain (just in time for its theatrical re-make) and its sequel Return to Witch Mountain. Both releases will include an audio commentary, new pop-up trivia facts, and more. March 10 is also the release date of the highly anticipated Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition, a great 2-disc set which marks the first time the classic film has been released since 2000. On March 17, the Playhouse Disney show Bunnytown will come to DVD with Bunnytown: Hello Bunnies. March 24 will mark a day of very exciting releases, including Lilo & Stitch “Big Wave” Special Edition, a 2-disc set that includes a special behind-the-scenes documentary. Also on March 24, Bolt will be released on Blu-ray and both 1- and 2-disc DVD formats! I was VERY excited when I found out that Bolt would be getting 2 discs of bonuses, especially since one of those bonuses is a new animated short featuring Rhino. Rounding out the spring DVD calendar are Baby Einstein: World Music and Hannah Montana: Keeping It Real, both on March 31, and My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Tigger, Pooh, and a Musical Too on April 7. Sometime in 2009 (though Disney has not said when), the story of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends will continue in Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, once again a direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray animated production featuring the Disney Fairies. This October, the first animated movie of all time and the film that marked the beginning of Disney feature animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, will be released on platinum DVD and Blu-ray.


Lilo & Stitch will be released on a new 2-disc set in March.

Theme Parks
A very significant year for both introducing new attractions as well as taking away others, the Disney theme parks were the subject of many changes in 2008. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland both began their multi-year revamps to better change the theme and lineup of their parks and attractions. Hollywood Studios debut the Block Party Bash parade (which was imported from California) and an updated Narnia exhibit which features a look behind-the-scenes of Prince Caspian. California Adventure premiered the new Pixar Play Parade, an energetic parade which features characters from every Pixar film through 2007’s Ratatouille. Both parks premiered a new version of Playhouse Disney Live on Stage, which now features characters and stories from more current Playhouse Disney shows, and High School Musical 3: Senior Year: Right Here, Right Now!, an updated version of the HSM street show that features music from the third film. Both Hollywood Studios and California Adventure also opened Toy Story Mania!, an interactive “E-Ticket” extravaganza that involves its riders into the storyline with favorite Toy Story characters. This February, Hollywood Studios will open the American Idol Experience, a new attraction that will give guests the opportunity to be in the spotlight and go through a pretend American Idol audition. In the forthcoming years at California Adventure, guests will get to see World of Color (a new nighttime water show), a new Cars-themed area of the park that will feature an outstanding new “E-Ticket” attraction, and a new Little Mermaid Fantasyland-like dark ride.









The new ride Toy Story Mania! opened at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland in summer 2008.

Hollywood Studios and California Adventure weren’t the only Disney parks to receive new additions and celebrations in 2008, however. Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated its 10th anniversary on Earth Day with a special ceremony and presentation. At both the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland, guests got the opportunity to meet Tinker Bell and the other Disney Fairies in a specially-themed meet and greet area called Pixie Hollow.

Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests can now meet (top, from left): Silvermist, Tinker Bell, Iridessa, as well as (bottom, from left): Rosetta and Fawn in new specially-themed meet-and-greet areas.

Although there were some excellent new additions to the parks in 2008, there were also numerous cutbacks that took place, as well. Although the economy isn’t significantly hurting Disney, as a result of the economy, Disney decided to take away some of their live entertainment offerings. The Princess Fantasy Faire at Disneyland closed its show (though the meet and greet still remains), Woody’s Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade no longer perform at the Magic Kingdom, Sounds Dangerous is now a seasonal attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Fantasmic! only performs several nights a week now (instead of the previous nightly performance) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends has closed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, the economy’s results on the Disney parks aren’t all negative. Because of the slightly lower attendance, Disney has made some rather nice discounts. On select dates from February 9-April 4 and April 19-June 27, if guests purchase 4 nights at a Walt Disney World resort (with park tickets), they get 3 more nights (again with park tickets) for free. Also, lower attendance means less people in the parks, resulting in shorter ride lines. Now that’s not to say that the parks will be completely empty. Although the recession certainly isn’t helping Disney, Disney’s not in a dire desperate mode. There will still be people in the parks, just on a slightly lower level.

Fantasmic! now does not perform nightly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Also, as part of the 2009 “What will you celebrate?” promotion, any guest can get into a Disneyland or Walt Disney World park on their birthday for free. Although this particular celebration doesn’t have as many attraction openings in its lineup as previous promotions, there are a few additions to look forward to. On January 23, an updated parade premiered at the Magic Kingdom called the Celebrate Dreams Come True Parade. The third version of the Share a Dream Come True Parade, the parade features classic Disney characters in a dazzling display of Disney magic. Additionally, on January 25, Dream Along with Mickey returned from its almost-three-week-long refurbishment. Apparently some stage work was done to the Castle Forecourt stage. It is unknown at this time if the refurbishment involved any changes to the show itself. Sometime within the next few weeks, the interactive Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure will officially open at Epcot. The attraction involves guests participating in somewhat of a scavenger hunt throughout the different country pavilions of Epcot as they use their “Kimmunicator” to help solve a mission. On February 6, “it’s a small world” will re-open after a lengthy refurbishment at Disneyland and will feature appearances by classic Disney characters in “small world” form. However, these changes have not been made to the Florida version of the ride. On February 14, the aforementioned American Idol Experience will debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sometime in February, the new Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It street party will debut at the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the daily afternoon parade, the new show will feature favorite characters as they invite guests to party with them. A similar, though different, show will debut at Disneyland on March 27 called “Celebrate! A Street Party.” On April 1, the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue will open at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch and will offer celebrations, food, and Disney character appearances. Sometime in April, Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration will premiere in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Featuring interactive celebrating and Stitch, the show will take place on a newly-constructed stage in the middle of Tomorrowland. Additionally, the nearby Galaxy Palace Theater (which hosts school band and dance performances) is closing. It is unknown at this time if Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas show (which normally performs there during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) will be effected by this change. Lastly, Space Mountain will temporarily close at the Magic Kingdom on April 19 for a long refurbishment. It will reopen in late 2009. It is unknown right now what exactly the changes will include.

The Celebrate Dreams Come True Parade is now performing daily at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.


Are you 23?

Now here’s the puzzle that has tons of Disney fans scratching their heads. A few weeks ago, Disney launched a new website at www.disney.com/23. If you’ll open the website, you’ll see that words appear on a black screen reading “Are you 23? Find out March 10.” Then Tinker Bell comes and brings a countdown clock to March 10. What does this all mean? Nobody quite seems to know for sure. I don’t have any idea as to what it could be. It definitely is a clever way to disguise whatever it is the website is advertising, and has many Disney fans interested in what this is all about.

The Big Finish
That wraps up what was accomplished by the Walt Disney Company in 2008, as well as what you can expect from them in 2009. There are sure to be plenty unmentioned happenings along the way as well, but the products and events Disney has already announced has me getting excited as to what sort of Disney wonderment we’ll be reflecting about this time next year.

Happy New Year from BlakeOnline and have a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 2009!

By Blake; posted February 1, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Special – ‘American Idol’ 2008 Concert Report

August 18, 2008

Words can’t describe the amazingly awesome feel-good experience of this year’s American Idol season and contestants, which is sensationally amplified on this year’s concert tour.


By Blake

SPOILER WARNING: If you’re going to an American Idol 2008 concert and want to be surprised by the song lineup, performances, and, well . . . surprises, then please don’t read any further. It would spoil the entire concert for you! However, if you’ve already been to the concert or just don’t care about not being surprised, then please read on! You’ve been warned, though . . .

It’s not just a reality show. American Idol is a program that the entire family can enjoy without worrying about inappropriate content, and at the same time the show expands itself beyond the television set by creating solid singing careers out of everyday aspiring performers.

So you can imagine my excitement when the moment had arrived when I would be experiencing my first American Idol concert, this year featuring this 2008’s top ten contestants: Chikezie Eze, Ramiele Malubay, Michael Johns, Kristy Lee Cook, Carly Smithson, Brooke White, Jason Castro, Syesha Mercado, and, of course, the Davids – David Archuleta and David Cook.

I had taken a visit to the American Idol message boards about a month beforehand just to read other people’s comments to get the lowdown on what to expect at the concert, how things were run, etc., without spoiling any of the show itself for me. I’m certainly glad I had read the information that I did because I found out that right as the American Idol buses pull into the venue, many of the contestants come outside to talk, take pictures, and sign autographs for their fans waiting outside. This was great news.

We arrived at the arena around 11:45am and found a small crowd waiting near where the buses were scheduled to arrive. WHAT AWESOME TIMING! Just as we got there, a group of policemen arrived telling everyone that the meet & greet would be moved to another area of the arena because the current spot would interfere with traffic on the road. So everyone relocated to the new spot, where we were among the first people behind the barriers for the red carpet-like walkway, just without the red carpet or press. It was just fans.

The contestants finally arrived around 2:30, which was about an hour after they usually come out in other cities (I learned later that they had just finished a 7 ½ – hour bus ride). If you plan on going early to see if you can meet the contestants, I’d advise to bring some snacks and water. There’s no set time for how long you’ll be waiting, and standing in the summer heat can get sweltering. Thankfully, the morning’s thunderstorm had passed over, leaving behind a shady spot of clouds which hovered over us, occasionally dropping some rain sprinkles, but nothing too serious. We could have been out in the sweltering sun for the 2 ½ hours of waiting. I’m very thankful for the weather we had. It could have been MUCH worse.

The clouds eventually disappeared, revealing the sun . . . oh, and DAVID COOK!!! I guess he could tell by the looks on everyone’s faces that we had been standing out there a while, so when he arrived he literally leaped out the arena door, landed with a stomp on the ground, and then – again literally – ran over to the fans waiting in the line. I don’t think I’ve ever heard such loud screaming in all my life. Carly and Jason soon followed.

I must say all of the contestants’ energy and enthusiasm during the little greeting was certainly contagious! As each of them came out and walked by, you couldn’t help but have a huge, obnoxious smile on your face. Some of the people around us were complaining about the heat and that they couldn’t see the contestants . . . I was thinking, HOW could you POSSIBLY not be beaming when DAVID COOK is merely a few feet away?!?!? I just couldn’t see how anyone could not be happy in that mob of people.

It was such a thrill to meet all of them. It was like, here they are. All of the people that brought joy into your home every Tuesday and Wednesday night for the past year, and you have one chance to say to them anything you want and tell them how much their work is appreciated. I just didn’t know how to express how much each of them meant to me and my family. My Disney fascination is great and all, but I can’t physically thank any one person for the happiness that Disney brings to me, except for maybe Mickey Mouse. But he wouldn’t even say anything back. With the American Idol contestants, they were all lined up right there in front of me. I wanted to thank each of them immensely for all their hard work, for being awesome role models, for taking the time to meet us right now, but somehow I never got around to saying any of that. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to say, it was just I didn’t know how to say it. So, other than a “Thank you” to each of them for their autographs (who responded gratefully and appreciatively), I pretty much kept my mouth shut.

Beforehand I had made a collage of all ten contestants using Picasa and then formatted it sepia, and then with some help mounted it on a poster board for the contestants to sign autographs on. Carly was the first to sign. She seemed sort of rushed, but I totally understand that all of them are pushed for time on their packed tour schedule.

Next was Jason, who was talking to everyone, and drew a little smiley face with some dreadlocks next to his name on some of the autographs he was signing.

Then, while David Cook was still making his way down the line, out came David Archuleta! I take back what I said earlier – this was the loudest screaming I’ve ever heard in my life. David A. started at our end and worked his way down the line VERY slowly, but certainly not in a bad way. He took his time with each and every one of the people standing out there and signed everything they asked him to, posed in every picture, and was definitely out there longer than any of the other contestants. He was one of the first to come out and the 2nd last to leave. He still seemed to be just as overwhelmed – in a good way – with how many people adored him as he was on the show. I did manage to tell David that I was enjoying his tour blog – he seems to update it more than any of the other contestants – though my compliment was drained out by the woman next to me who said something loudly to David so he couldn’t hear me.

Next out was Kristy Lee Cook! She made her way down the line and seemed to efficiently give autographs to anyone who wanted them.

Then Chikezie came out and started at our end of the line. Although he looked tired, he also seemed to be very patient with each fan in line, and posed for more than one picture with us. (He remarked at how the many cameras everywhere “always confuses me!”)

Next was Brooke, who WANTED to stop and talk to everyone, but was being urged by one of her handlers to go inside and take a phone interview, as the interviewers were already waiting for her. Right when she got to us she started doing a countdown from ten as to how many more autographs she would give out. You could tell she was heartbroken when she got to zero and couldn’t sign any other autographs, as were the last few fans that she didn’t get to see.

Lastly was Michael Johns! (Ramiele and Syesha weren’t going to be coming out.) He too seemed to take his time with the fans, but not nearly as slowly as Archuleta. When one of his fans gave him a picture of himself to sign his autograph on, he remarked “Oh, I hate this picture!” in his Australian accent. “I couldn’t look worse in this picture!” Hahahaha.

After that, the crowds began to dissolve, as only David Archuleta and Michael Johns were left and most of the fans had gotten their pictures and autographs. We stuck around a little longer . . . eventually David made it through the end of the line and finally Michael headed on in.

And so . . . we came back to the arena around 6pm for the concert! The preshow started around 6:55 and included a walk-around Pop-Tart guy dancing through the audience. When it was finally show time, I could feel the anticipation gathering in the air. I guess it was that American Idol contagiousness again because I couldn’t help bearing a smile.

Chikezie’s set was great, and then Ramiele came out and had a bee-boppin’ pop set. I was thinking that her performance sounded like something I would hear on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, and then later I read in the concert program that she hoped to do something with Disney Channel in the future.

Next was Michael Johns who ROCKED THE HOUSE. He sang “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”, “It’s All Wrong But It’s All Right”, and “Dream On.” It was awesome.

Next was Kristy Lee Cook, who of course had some country songs, including “God Bless the USA”, which happens to be the song that saved her in the voting process. I was a little surprised that Kristy didn’t sing her new single “15 Minutes of Shame,” especially since her album is being released on September 16. Perhaps she doesn’t yet have the necessary rights to perform it live or something.

Then it was the incredible Carly’s turn, who was jammin’.

Next was Brooke, who sang her best American Idol song (in my opinion, at least) “Let It Be”, along with “Yellow” and “1, 2, 3, 4”. I had recently taken a liking to “1, 2, 3, 4”, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it sung at the concert. When I first heard it (which happened to be on a clip from Sesame Street on YouTube) I thought “This would be a great song for Brooke White to sing.” And there she was singing it!

Then it was time for the act one finale, which included the bottom six contestants singing U2’s “Pride” white footage from American Idol Gives Back played on the big screens to promote Fox’s campaign for viewers to donate money to needy families in Africa.

The intermission was Guitar Hero central! The two Guitar Hero commercials featuring the Davids (that originally played during this season’s finale) showed on the big screens, as did a brand-new commercial that’s exclusive to the concert. It’s promoting the upcoming Guitar Hero: World Tour game and features the entire top ten decked out in 70’s clothes and hairstyles.

Then there was some live entertainment, as opposed to up on the screens. First two crew members had a live Guitar Hero competition and then two audience members had an “air guitar” competition.

After that, it was time to get back to the show! Jason Castro was up first, singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on his ukulele, followed by two other songs. Next Syesha wonderfully belted out some tunes, and after that you could just feel the excitement in the audience (even way up from our 2nd floor seats) as everyone anxiously awaited David Archuleta’s performance. He arrived via a stage lift playing the piano and singing “Angels”, “Apologize”, “Stand By Me”, and “When You Say You Love Me”. Again, I was surprised that he didn’t sing his new single “Crush”. Anyway, as always he was phenomenal and, as I stated earlier, he seemed just as humble as he was on TV. And I even got to hear his laugh in person.

Lastly, it was time for David Cook to take to the stage! As he entered through a stage lift, the arena was almost silent. He calmly walked to the center of the stage, stopped, looked around, and simply said “Hi.” The crowd goes bazerk. He was FANTASTIC. He sang “Hello”, “The Time of My Life”, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, “Hero”, and “Billy Jean”. He seems to have taken his instant superstardom very professionally, with having a powerful stage presence and in the way he acts in interviews, performances, and such but at the same time hasn’t let his sudden fame go to his head in any way. In the concert program interview with him, when asked who his best friend on the show was, he proceeded to list all 23 of his competitors, and when asked what he was going to do after the tour, he said “I can’t wait to do some charity work.” While not being an obsessive fan, David Cook is someone who, between last January and now, I have grown to greatly respect and admire and I sincerely hope he goes on to have a successful career and not let his opportunities slip through the cracks like some have done. He even threw his half-finished Coke bottle into the crowd.

As David Cook’s set came to a close, it was time for the big finale! “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna began to fill the air and I was literally bouncing in my seat my now, clapping along, since everyone else in my section still neglected to get on their feet. The finale I think will be the most memorable part of the show for me, for several reasons: “Please Don’t Stop the Music” is my favorite current song. My favorite group of performers was singing it right before my eyes. I got to see the Mavid in person. David Archuleta playfully kicked David Cook’s hiney. And all this going on as I realize that with such an incredible American Idol season that took place this year, it’s unlikely that any other future season will top this year’s outstanding display of artists and their incredible voices. Right now, watching this amazing top ten, was probably as good as it was ever going to get. I just couldn’t help but getting reflective and soaking in the atmosphere, watching an excellent group of performers. I still can’t comprehend how much each and every one of them has musically impacted my family. They’re an amazing group of talented people.

As the show-stopping finale came to a close, it was time for the contestants to head on in. Everyone had one last look at the bottom nine as they walked backstage, and at David Cook as he glided back down through the stage lift.

As we exited the arena, we saw a huge mob of people waiting in the same area that we had been earlier to meet the contestants (they came out after the show, too). However, whereas when we met them the crowd was at most two people deep, this had to be at least seven people deep. It was insane, so we decided not to stay. We later found out that the contestants finally made it outside a little after 11pm (the concert ended around 10:15ish), and all of them except David Cook and Ramiele come out. I kinda wish we would have stayed, but at the same time I know it would have been crazy. Fun crazy. But still crazy. I needed sleep, anyway.

Well, the awesome night was finally over. The whole American Idol concert experience was . . . amazing. Outstanding. Phenomenal. ROCKIN’. Superb. Unbelievable. Excellent. And what’s that word that you say when you don’t know what to say? Oh, yeah. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I just can’t describe it any other way.

By Blake; originally posted August 18, 2008. All images belong to Blake’s family.

BlakeOnline Special – Reader’s Character Picks

March 10, 2007

Readers share their favorite Disney characters.

by Blake

Originally posted March 9, 2007.

Earlier, I asked who readers’ favorite Disney characters were. So, here now, are the BlakeOnline Reader’s Character Picks!

Thomas O’Malley from The Aristocats

Coming from an era of lesser-remembered Disney animated films, The Aristocats in none-the-less a charming tale of fancy Paris kittens and their mother that get lost in the wilds of France. Along the way, the kittens and their mother Duchess meet up with Thomas O’Malley, who teaches them how to live on the wild side.

Cool, calm, and laid back, O’Malley loves to just relax and take things pretty easy. Although this is entirely different than the way Duchess is used to living, Thomas O’Malley soon shows her how to see things his way, without worries.

What I found particularly odd about The Aristocats was that the most (for me, at least) humorous and entertaining parts of the movie did not feature cats, but dogs. The hounds Napoleon and Lafayette always earn several laughs from me throughout the film.

Baloo from The Jungle Book

Baloo is the living spirit of “chill.” Not having a care in the world, he proudly protects the “man cub” Mowgli and explores and plays with him around the jungle. Luckily, he had Bagheera the black panther to watch over him and keep him out of trouble! Figuratively, Baloo may be more of a child than Mowgli!

Reader Kenny wrote a poem about why he likes Thomas O’Malley from The Aristocats and Baloo from The Jungle Book:

“I know that you will find this odd
Which characters will get the nod

There were so many,
I didn’t know who
I couldn’t pick one
So I picked two!

The first pick of mine lives in an alley
Not many will not him
He’s C. Thomas O’Malley!

The second one smells and needs some shampoo
But he’s still one of the best
You guessed it – Baloo!

Now here’s where it’s weird
Like plaster of Paris
They’re both played by the same voice – Phil Harris!”

The next entry is part of Pirates Countdown 2007
Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean

Captain Jack seems to be Disney’s #1 most popular character right now, and with good reason. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (released in July 2006) was the #1 highest-grossing Disney film of all time and is only one of the THREE films in history to gross over one billion dollars. You’ll probably find Jack Sparrow in any mall of Wal-Mart you walk into lately – Disney tries to make the most of any character or movie when it’s successful, often overdoing themselves.

Jack Sparrow – sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow – is truly the ultimate villain: cunning, egocentric, clever, haughty, rude, greedy . . . yet we don’t view him as the bad guy. Instead, we view Davy Jones as the main villain. And we should – he’s definitely more powerful and more evil than Jack. But he’s on a different level of a villain. If you really want to get technical, the powdered-wigged generals at Port Royal are the good guys! If the good guys always won in the Pirates movies, the old guys at Port Royal would have Will and Elizabeth put to justice and Jack (permanently) dead.

In the Pirates films, the difference of good and bad is night and day compared to other films (especially Disney films). Jack Sparrow is really a villain, yet everyone is rooting for him (including me). But even now, as we are about to enter the third film in the series this May, the villain level turns on us again in a surprising plot twist.

What did readers say about Captain Jack? Readers Denise, Hunter, and Colton think that “Jack Sparrow is the very best Disney character ever designed.”

That’s quite a statement: and one that I’d gladly agree with.

Minnie Mouse from classic Disney cartoon shorts

Minnie is purely the ideal girlfriend. All for Mickey, she makes picnics, goes on outings, watches Mickey’s pet, bakes, plants, sews, shops, and so much more. Of course, the two wouldn’t want to be to sudden about their relationship – they would be rushing things if they got married after nearly 80 years of dating!

Minnie is loyal to her pals, particularly Daisy Duck. However, Daisy often gets Minnie into so many precarious situations (particularly in the television shows Mickey’s Mouse Works and House of Mouse) that Minnie wonders why she always puts up with Daisy! Daisy proclaims Minnie is her “only friend in the world.” Though, through compassion, mercy, and patience, Minnie always pulls through for Daisy when the duck needs it most.


Reader Lacey wrote an essay about why Minnie is her favorite character:

“‘Why?’ You ask. What’s not to like, she has cute clothes, long eyelashes, wonderful shoes, and a dashingly handsome boyfriend!!!

I would love to have that really cute red dress with the white dots on it. Everyone loves polka dots! And, you know those yellow shoes just set it off. Also, the bow . . . now that is an accessory! Every girl looks good with a bow in her hair.

She also has such a sweet voice, and she is kind to everyone. Now, the world could take a lesson from her. A soft voice and a kind spirit . . . think how much better the world would be if we all tried to be a little more like Minnie Mouse!”

Reader Melissa wrote a creative poem about Minnie:

“She’s got a smile on her face
And a twinkle in her eye
She loves to go shopping
And she dates a real cool guy.

Her name is Minnie Mouse
You can find her at Disney World.
Strutting around Ton Town
She’s quite a swingin‘ girl.

Her kitchen’s got cool gadgets
Her yard has pretty flowers.
She has a lot of friends
She’s the queen of Girl Power.

She’s been in lots of movies
Some would say she’s a star
Maybe you’ve gotten her autograph
Or seen her riding in a car.

I met Minnie one day
And she was very, very nice.
I even saw her ice skate
In a show: Disney on Ice!

Over the years Minnie has changed
But she’s still a real sweet gal
Lovin, laughin, making friends
And Mickey’s still her #1 pal!”

Pluto from the classic Disney cartoon shorts

Pluto may be the most complicated Disney character of them all. Because he doesn’t speak, his movements of face expressions have to clearly define his mood or thoughts. In the 40’s, when Pluto’s collection of shorts were in their “golden age,” animators would put mirrors at their desks to make faces in so they could successfully capture the expressions they wanted Pluto to use!

I’ll compare this subject to the walk-around characters at the Disney parks. Because most of the characters that are there to meet don’t have to capability to speak, it’s necessary to make head and arm movements to capture the characters’ feelings.

It’s the same situation with Pluto. Because he doesn’t speak, he has to move, walk, or look a certain way for the audience to understand how Pluto is feeling or what he’s thinking. He’s purely a dog. Loyal, dependant, protective, and yappy! As for Goofy . . .

Reader John wrote a poem concerning the Pluto/Goofy matter:

Poor Pluto

“Goofy, the dog, acts so crazy
And he’s surely not a scholar.
Things seem just a little hazy,
But he has clothes – you, a collar.

Pluto, on all fours you must walk
Goofy, meanwhile, can walk upright.
You can only bark, but he can talk.
Disney, it just does not seem right!

And, as if these things weren’t enough;
You’ve got no teeth, Goofy has TWO!
It seems to me you have it rough,
But, if it helps, we love you! Goofy, too!”

Peter Pan from Peter Pan

Peter Pan is truly a child in every sense. He loves to play, and takes every chance he gets to have some fun. He barely has any worries, which can sometimes get him into troublesome situations, especially involving pirates.


Reader Denise says, “He truly defines fantasy with a bit of most people’s reality. A little escape to a kid-like, fun filled, action packed, story land is always a dream for me, and many other adults I am sure!”

Well, that wraps up the Reader’s Character Picks! 🙂

By Blake; originally posted March 9, 2007. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Special – ‘Cars’ World Premiere Report

June 3, 2006

by Blake

Originally posted June 2, 2006.

The world premiere of Disney/Pixar’s new movie Cars was held on Friday, May 26, 2006 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. I was there to see it all! Luckily we bought tickets (which were only $10 per person – TOTALLY worth it!) before they sold out. Here’s how everything played out:

Red Carpet

Directly after our arrival at the Speedway, we mosied around to see all the big setups for the event. We saw a Mater car off to the side, there were huge Cars banners everywhere, the red carpet was being put out, and a few radio stations (including, of course, Radio Disney) were broadcasting from the event. We decided to pick out a spot near the red carpet to see if we could get a chance to see the celebrities arrive. Guests with a VIP pass were instructed to sit on some bleachers in the middle of the red carpet, which we thought was sort of odd as it didn’t really give them a chance to see the celebrities at all, but rather just watch them from a close distance.

Anyway, we picked out a spot at an end of the red carpet that we thought would be where all the celebrities would EXIT. Keep that in mind. We waited in that same spot for quite some time. The celebrities were supposed to arrive at 6:00, but a storm was brewin‘, so that delayed their arrival until 7:30! The red carpet was completely covered in plastic to keep it dry. We waited in our ponchos for the storm to pass and then about an hour later I saw someone pass by. It wasn’t just “someone,” it was John Ratzenberger! As it turned out, we were at the ENTRANCE to the red carpet instead of the EXIT! So we were literally about three feet away from where all the celebrities stepped out of their limos! Because we were at the very beginning, all of the celebrities were fresh, friendly, and up for autographs. Here’s a list of who all was there:

  • Jeff Burton (Nascar Driver)
  • Kyle Busch (Nascar driver)
  • George Carlin (voice of Fillmore)
  • Dick Cook (Walt Disney Studios Chairman)
  • Paul Dooley (voice of Sarge)
  • Dave Foley (voice of Flik in A Bug’s Life)
  • Dale Earndhart, Jr. (voice of Jr.)
  • Jeff Gordon (Nascar driver)
  • Katherine Helmond (voice of Lizzie)
  • Bonnie Hunt (voice of Sally)
  • Bob Iger (CEO of the Walt Disney Company)
  • Jimmie Johnson (Nascar Driver)
  • Larry the Cable Guy (voice of Mater)
  • John Lasseter (director of Toy Story, a bug’s life, Toy Story 2, and Cars)
  • Jenifer Lewis (voice of Flo)
  • Cheech Marin (voice of Ramone)
  • Norm Mineta (U.S. Secretary of Transportation)
  • Paul Newman (voice of Doc)
  • Brad Paisley (country music superstar)
  • Richard Petty (voice of the King)
  • John Ratzenberger (voice of Mack)
  • Mike Rucker (Carolina Panthers player)
  • Tony Shaloub (voice of Luigi)
  • Bruton Smith (Chairman of Speedway Children’s Charities)
  • Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers player)
  • Michael Wallis (voice of the Sheriff)
  • Darrell Waltrip (voice of Darrell Cartrip)
  • Humpy Wheeler (President and General Manager of Lowe’s Motor Speedway)
  • Owen Wilson (voice of Lightning McQueen)

Needless to say, it was amazing to see them all walk by in person!

Cars Road Trip ’06

Cars Road Trip ’06 was a nationwide tour that showcased life-sized replicas of Lightning McQueen and Sally from the movie. In addition to those cars, exclusive to the world premiere tour stop were Mater and Doc!

Anyone that wanted to see Lightning, Sally, Mater, and Doc, however, was not in luck. The giant truck that carries the crew around the nation was blocking the exit to the red carpet, where the cars were available for photo-ops, making it impossible to meet the cars unless you were a celebrity or a VIP guest, none of which we were.

Merchandise

Although there were a few pieces of official world premiere-exclusive items available in kiosks located throughout the speedway, I was hoping there would be more. After all, it was the WORLD PREMIERE of the newest movie created by the two biggest names in animation, Disney and Pixar.

Available for sale were two world premeire shirts, one with Lightning McQueen and Sally on the front and the Cars logo on the back and another with Lightning, Chick Hicks, and the King all racing on the front with Lightning, Mater and the King on the back. I bought the latter because it said “World Premiere” prominently on the front and the other shirt looked a little too “kiddie” for me.

Other merchandise also included a black baseball hat with the Cars logo stitched on the front as well as “World Premiere” and “May 26, 2006” on the back. My favorite item for sale was the world premiere pin, with the logo, date, and location all in one awesome pin – and for a pretty cheap price, too!

Pre-Show

Although the pre-show was pretty entertaining and included a lot of big names from Hollywood, Disney, and Nascar, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it hadn’t been delayed by the rain. The entertainment was supposed to start at 6:30, but due to the rain didn’t begin until 9:00. It ended around 10. It was a pretty impressive show, but after waiting in the rain for two hours and already seeing all the stars on the red carpet that were in the pre-show, I was personally ready to get the show on the road and start the movie. Not to mention that it was getting pretty late.

The pre-show entertainment was hosted by Larry the Cable Guy and started out with him doing a comedy routine. Then there was a military salute, followed by a performance by a local band called “Party on the Moon.” One of the lead singers’ microphones had a little technical difficulty in the middle of the performance, but it was soon fixed.

Next, Larry the Cable Guy introduced Disney CEO Bob Iger and Cars director John Lasseter to present to the charitable organizations that the money from the event went towards with one million dollars.

Then there was a twelve-lap race around the speedway track and ,not-so-surprisingly, the Cars car won. 😉

After the race, there was a performance by country music star Brad Paisley, who sang two of his songs that were featured in the film as well as an additional song of his own that was not from the movie.

Next up on stage was Chuck Berry (who I hadn’t seen earlier on the red carpet), who entertained the crowd with “Route 66.”

Finally, Larry the Cable Guy proclaimed that the movie was starting, resulting in many cheers from some impatient audience members.

The Movie

After 20 years of Pixar and 11 years of Pixar films, everyone has high expectations when they see a Pixar movie these days.

The movie actually seemed to start out a little slow for me, despite its fast-paced opening sequence. I was beginning to think that the entire movie would be revolved around Nascar racing. Fortunately, the film turned itself around and once its plot started progressing, I liked it more and more.

The animation was superb, the humor was spot-on, and the characters are just downright fun to watch. The touching storyline accentuated by a pleasant score and song arrangement are all certainly plusses that add to the movie’s value, as well. And make sure you stay for the END CREDITS!!! 🙂

Presentation

Of course, being outside with a crowd of 30,000 people, the world premiere of Cars was a little chilly. Rain sprinkles were on and off during the movie, but each drizzle didn’t last longer than five minutes, if that.

There was a slight sync problem with the sound towards the beginning, but of course that was fixed in a snap and everything was back on track.

The film was projected onto four gigantic (and I mean HUGE) movie screens that were placed around the speedway, making for quite a unique movie experienced that’s not to be forgotten easily too soon.

Fireworks

Seconds after the movie was over, surprise fireworks started exploding from the middle of the speedway. And these were not your average local fireworks – it was a truly magical display and one that only Disney could have pulled off. It was an amazing ending to an awesome night that was just adorned with Pixie Dust and Disney magic. And at a price tag of just $10 per person, it’s safe to say that EVERY person that attended certainly got their money’s worth out of the event!

by Blake; originally posted June 2, 2006. All images (C) Disney.