Archive for the ‘Disneyland’ Category

Theme Park Headlines – New Frontiers

September 13, 2009

Image © Disney.

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

By Blake

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

I officially and truly appreciate Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related BlakeOnline articles:

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

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The BlakeOnline Buzz, Fall 2009

September 7, 2009

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

Volume 1, Issue 2

By Blake

Originally posted September 7, 2009.

Dear BlakeOnline readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Blake
September 7, 2009

Related BlakeOnline articles:

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

Theme Park Headlines – Celebration Central

June 16, 2009

Image © Disney.

Disney Parks and Disney On Ice continue to roll out new ways to celebrate all year long.

By Blake

Originally posted June 16, 2009.

In recent years, the Disney Parks have been known for their continuous annual “themes,” a marketing technique that has increased particularly within this decade. The “100 Years of Magic” celebration commemorated Walt Disney’s 100th birthday in 2001, “Magical Gatherings” encouraged guests to come in large groups in 2003, the “Happiest Celebration on Earth” honored Disneyland’s 50th anniversary in 2005, and the “Year of a Million Dreams” gave away 1,000,000 special moments to park guests from late 2006 – 2008.

This year, Disney Parks are asking guests to celebrate another occasion. However, this time, it’s up to the guests to decide what to celebrate. Whether it’s an anniversary, graduation, or birthday, Disney wants you to celebrate your event with them.

However, even Disney is aware of the economic recession. To keep their attendance numbers high and to continue to bring more guests to their parks, Disney has implemented several outstanding vacation deals, as well as new live entertainment options.

Disney Parks are celebrating in 2009 with vacation promotions, new live entertainment, and attraction updates. Image © Disney.

Some of those vacation deals include summer guests at Walt Disney World having a “buy 4 nights, get 3 free” option (a deal whose booking window has now closed), Walt Disney World guests receiving the Disney Dining Plan for free (if they book by July 26 and visit by October 3), and Disneyland guests buying 3 nights and getting 2 free (if they book by August 11 and arrive by September 26). Guests visiting an American Disney Park on their birthday in 2009 even get free admission (if it is on their actual birthday and they have a valid ID).

Disney has also implemented several new attractions that encourage guests to “Celebrate Today.” In January, an updated parade debuted at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom called Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade. In February, the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party rolled into the Magic Kingdom and the American Idol Experience opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disneyland premiered the Celebrate! A Street Party procession in March, and opened the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue venue at Big Thunder Ranch in April. In May, the Magic Kingdom debuted Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration, a live stage show in Tomorrowland featuring Stitch interacting with park guests (though there is some serious speculation going around about this show lately, all of which is rumor at this point).

The American Idol Experience opened in February at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image © Disney.

Just last Friday on June 12, Disneyland kicked off a summer-long celebration called “Nightastic!” that will last through August 23. The festivities, which only take place at night, include new live entertainment. Disneyland Park features a new fireworks show called Magical, which includes an appearance by Dumbo. (The former fireworks show, Remember Dreams Come True, will return after Nightastic! is over.) Additionally, Fantasmic! has been updated to include appearances by Tick-Tock Crocodile from Peter Pan and the eels Flotsam and Jetsam from The Little Mermaid. Later this summer, an enhanced dragon of Maleficent will debut. (These changes are just for the Disneyland version, though, and are not being implemented to Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).

Additionally, as part of Nightastic!, special enhancements have been made to the Pixie Hollow character greeting area at Disneyland. The space opened in October 2008 so that guests would have an opportunity to meet Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Now, at nighttime, the area features several updates including special effects using lights and water, as well as enchanting background music. The Disney Fairies also participate in Nightastic! over at Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland’s next-door neighbor. A new Tinker Bell float has been added to Disney’s Electrical Parade, and several floats (including ones carrying Snow White and Pinocchio) have returned to the parade after a period of absence.

And the celebrating isn’t over yet.

On June 29, Walt Disney World will open The Pirates League in the Magic Kingdom, a unique experience that will give guests pirate makeovers (similar to how the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique gives fairy tale makeovers). In early July, Barack Obama will make his debut in the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents along with several other new enhancements to the attraction. In late August at the Magic Kingdom, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority will re-open after its refurbishment, which will be followed by the November re-opening of Space Mountain. (Both attractions have been closed since April.)

Disney On Ice is also getting in on the act. They’re debuting a new show called “Celebrations!,” which will premiere in Lakeland, Florida, on September 4, followed by a nationwide tour. The new show involves many Disney characters celebrating all kinds of festivities, from unbirthdays to holidays.

Disney On Ice will debut a new show, Celebrations!, this September. Image © Disney.

Additionally, from the look of the art for the show on DisneyOnIce.com, it appears that Princess Tiana will be making her Disney debut in Celebrations!, which should be quite exciting. Tiana is a new Disney Princess and the main character of the upcoming animated film The Princess and the Frog, which is coming to theaters on December 11. This means that Disney On Ice guests might get a sneak peek into Tiana’s story a bit before it comes to the silver screen. Nevertheless, the art for Celebrations! also includes Woody, Buzz, Stitch, Peter Pan, and more, so it should be a very entertaining show to say the least.

With the great vacation deals Disney has implemented and the new live entertainment and attraction updates they’ve added to their parks, the first part of 2009 has certainly been host to a lot of celebrating where Disney is concerned. The upcoming Disney On Ice show and additional theme park enhancements hint that the party is just getting started.

By Blake; posted June 16, 2009. All images © Disney.

Disney Talk – 23 Again

May 19, 2009


The question of joining D23 circulates again among Disney fans.

By Blake

Originally posted May 19, 2009.

It’s been two months since Disney launched D23, a new official Disney fan club. With D23’s start came a new website (which features news, comics from the archives, and more) and a new quarterly magazine, Disney twenty-three. A one-year D23 membership (which costs about $75) includes four issues of Disney twenty-three, a certificate of membership, a “surprise gift,” and the opportunity to spend more money on members-only events and merchandise.

When D23 was first announced in March, I had decided that I would be purchasing the Disney twenty-three issues as they were released for $16 each instead of purchasing a full membership upfront. Many Disney fans probably decided to do the same thing if they were unsure about what the specific members-only benefits included.

I still stand by what I said about purchasing the Disney twenty-three magazine issues individually as they were released. Some have said that the magazine is fantastic, but shouldn’t be priced at $16 per issue. I agree and would definitely appreciate if Disney decided to decrease the rather high price of the magazine, but it does include great articles and is very high-quality, so therefore I’m going to continue to purchase it. The second issue was released on May 5 and includes more fascinating articles geared towards Disney fans, including a peak into the history of Donald Duck, who celebrates his 75th birthday next month.

The second issue of Disney twenty-three magazine features a special look at Donald Duck.

Most of the D23 members-only special events had been pretty vague (with the exception of the D23 Expo, to be held in September) until last Thursday, May 14, 2009, when Disney announced a lineup of summer plans exclusive to D23 members.

First is a night of Pixar fun at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, CA on Thursday, May 28. The event starts at 7pm with pin trading, and then continues at 10pm with Disney songs being played on the theatre’s organ. At 11pm, guests will see the premiere of a new stage show (called Lighten Up!, which will continue to play at the Theatre through Up’s run), and then at 12am guests will see a screening of the new Pixar film Up. Overall it seems like it should be a pretty exciting night, but it lasts a little late to be happening on a weeknight. The cost of the event is free to D23 members, making it an excellent value for those that can attend.

A screening of Up on May 28 at the El Capitan Theatre for D23 members includes pin trading, an organ performance, and a new stage show.

The next D23-member event will take place at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida on May 31. It starts at 7:15pm and includes reserved seating for a performance of the Flower Power concert series, a social with desserts and coffee, and reserved seating for IllumiNations. Guests must pay for Epcot admission to attend, but there is no additional cost for the D23 happenings.

D23 members visiting Epcot on May 31 can attend a free night of fun, which includes seating for the Flower Power conert and IllumiNations, as well as a dessert social.

On June 24, both productions of Mary Poppins (including the Broadway show in New York and the touring show, which is currently in Chicago) will have a special behind-the-scenes peek for D23 members after the performance. D23 members that sign up for this event will also have special seating for the show and will receive a copy of the Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition DVD. The cost is $121.50 for the New York show and $133.00 for the Chicago show.

D23 is having a behind-the-scenes peek of Mary Poppins in New York and Chicago on June 24, and of The Lion King in Las Vegas on June 27.

A similar event that includes a behind-the-scenes peek will take place for the Las Vegas production of The Lion King on June 27. It costs $113.50.

The next events are real treats. The first is a very special tour that will take guests behind the scenes at the Walt Disney Studios and the Walt Disney Archives in Burbank, CA, both of which are strict about admittance to non-Cast Members. D23 members who attend will get a peek inside both of these facilities that will last two hours total. The event is free and will take place on two dates: June 27 and August 15.

On July 17, to celebrate Disneyland’s 54th birthday, a special screening of the People and Places featurette entitled Disneyland, U.S.A. will be shown. Additionally, a discussion will be held by Imagineer Tony Baxter, Disney Archivist Dave Smith, and Disney Studios Film Archivist Ed Hobelman. The event is free and will take place in the Team Disney Anaheim Building at Disneyland.

A D23 members-only screening of Disneyland, U.S.A. will be shown at Disneyland on the park’s 54th birthday, July 17, 2009.

The next event is a preview of the Walt Disney Family Museum, which officially opens in October in the Presidio of San Francisco, CA. The D23 sneak preview will take place sometime in September (an exact date hasn’t yet been released) and is free.

Lastly, the already-announced D23 Expo will be held at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA on September 10 – 13. Basically, it’s a massive Disney fan convention that will include special screenings, Disney celebrities, exhibits, speaking events, and more. Admission for non-D23 members is $37 for one day and $111 for four days, while admission for D23 members is $30 for one day and $90 for four days.

The D23 Expo is coming to Disneyland on September 10 – 13, 2009.

Among all of those exciting activities going on, it seems to me that Disney has now made it very clear what sort of special events D23 members will be invited to. Now the decision of joining D23 is not about whether or not D23 is worth its membership, but whether or not you’ll be able to attend the events they have planned. Based on the lineup of activities scheduled for the summer, if Disney continues to have similar events further on down the road, most of the D23 happenings will either occur inside/near a Disney theme park, Hollywood, or somewhere involving a Disney live production.

Although all of those events sound very fun and worthwhile, I wouldn’t be able to attend any of them, even if I was a D23 member. So really, now that Disney has unveiled where they most likely will be planning D23-related events, it boils down to whether or not you personally think you’d be capable of going to any of those locations listed above to attend a D23 event. No, I don’t think it’s worth it to make a special trip to Hollywood to see the screening of Up at the El Capitan Theatre, but it might be worth a visit to Disneyland for the D23 Expo. However, since anybody can enter the D23 Expo (even if it is for a higher price than D23 members pay), is it really beneficial to be a D23 member in this case?

For now, I’m still not joining D23. I’ll continue to check out the excellent new website Disney has set up, and I’ll definitely keep purchasing issues of the Disney twenty-three magazine as they’re quarterly released in stores. But for me, I can’t justify paying for the full membership.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted May 19, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Detours – Budgeting Disney, Part One: Finding Promotions

March 27, 2009

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

By Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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.

Channel Flippin’ – The WDW Christmas Day Parade 2008 "Drive-Through" Review

December 27, 2008


By Blake

Originally posted December 27, 2008.

OK, so here’s the deal. I’m about to dash out the door in a few minutes and I’ll be unable to post any new articles on here for over a week and I thought the holiday season couldn’t go by without me awarding some compliments to this year’s outstanding Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade. Since I’m short on time and I really need to summarize a lot in this article, instead of calling this a regular review (which it’s not), I’ll dub it a “drive-through” review, since I’m not really taking the time to elaborate (simply because I can’t) and you’re really getting the bare basics of my thoughts.

But ANYWAY, this year’s Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade was once again hosted by Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa from Walt Disney World in Florida and Ryan Seacrest from Disneyland in California. There were a few times when I felt embarrassed for them because of the lines they were saying, but it’s Christmastime so I’ll cut them some slack.

It was a VERY Disney parade this year and it seemed like instead of featuring celebrities with the characters off to the side as with previous years, there was more focus on the characters with the celebrities to the side.

Making their debut in the parade were Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino from Bolt and Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Giselle from Enchanted even made a quick little appearance, which was certainly welcome since she hasn’t been seen on WDW premises for about a year now.

Since it was the parade’s 25th anniversary, there were archived “flashback” clips from previous years’ parades scattered throughout the show, including performances by Jodi Benson, Kermit the Frog, Amy Grant, and others. These features were clever and appreciated until a 2005 clip of Vanessa Williams was played again and billed as this year’s finale, which made me feel partially jipped because I was hoping for a brand spankin’ new grand finale.

However, it seems that the cash usually spent on the rousing, choir-filled finale was used elsewhere in the parade for several other superb numbers that were very satisfying. One of the highlights that comes to mind for me is the opening number featuring Miley Cyrus singing “Santa Claus in Coming to Town.” Although I’m not a big Miley fan – but I certainly don’t have anything against her – I found her performance to be exceptionally great. It was performed in front of Cinderella Castle and featured appearances by Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip, and Dale. Additionally, Miley had a brief jam session with Stitch (dressed as Santa) on the guitar, and then Mickey made his grand parade surprise entrance in true Disney fashion. It was an overall Disney-fied performance that I think worked so well because Miley Cyrus is an all-Disney girl herself and having an out-of-studio performer usually takes away from that Disney experience. It was definitely one of the best of the parade’s opening numbers I’ve seen in a few years. Miley Cyrus shared the stage equally with the characters instead of taking up the entire spotlight and interacted very professionally with them, doing a very good job to bring some Disney flavor to the performance.

Anyone who’s been reading BlakeOnline for a while knows that I’m crazy when it comes to American Idol, and I was very pleased to see this year’s winner David Cook sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on Main Street. Runner-up David Archuleta also appeared, but he served as the viewers’ tour through Disney’s Hollywood Studios rather than singing.

Lastly, the best performance of the parade was undoubtedly the Mary Poppins number on Main Street. Talk about a showstopper!!!!! Being my favorite live-action Disney film, I was delighted that it would be represented in the parade. Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee appeared as Mary Poppins and Bert, respectively, from the Broadway musical and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpiaelidocious” accompanied by 500 (!) dancers. They worked their way from inside the Confectionary and then proceeded outside to fill Main Street from Town Square to the hub! I loved the way the song didn’t all stay contained in one place as it traveled from inside the Main Street shops and then transitioned its way into the Street itself. In that regard it reminded me of the parade’s opening numbers of the 1990’s where hundreds of Disney Cast Members and characters would prance around the entire resort singing Christmas carols.

Not only that, but the Mary Poppins performance also included the background dancers from the Broadway show dressed as Main Street Cast Members, which added an extra bit of Pixie Dust to the already-magical number.

Although ABC will not be re-airing the parade, you can catch clips of it, including the sensational Mary Poppins performance, as well as behind-the-scenes footage (which features the performers rehearsing at 5:00 am) at Disney.com/celebrate, but hurry before they’re taken off the page! I noted last year that I thought the parade was on its way to becoming a real Disney show instead of a celebrity concert, and I think this year’s parade made that statement even clearer.

Merry Christmas!!!!!

By Blake; posted December 27, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Book Review – The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland

November 30, 2008

The latest behind-the-scenes pocket-sized sneak peek into Walt Disney Imagineering is another treat for all Disney fans.

By Blake

Originally posted November 30, 2008.

I’m really liking Disney Book Group lately, particularly Disney Editions. Not only have they continued to release their successful Disney-related novels, but recently I’ve begun to see a very steady increase in their backstage books for fans that give them a look behind the Disney magic. Out of this wonderful crop of Disney fan books include the amazing Imagineering Field Guide series. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland follows behind the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as the fourth volume in a very satisfying book series that began in fall 2005.

Each installment if filled with eye-pleasing art, little-known secrets, and many, many tidbits of trivia facts. Although I thought that the Disneyland volume might be a bit similar to the Magic Kingdom book (since the two parks contain many of the same attractions), it thankfully wasn’t. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland is its own book in its own right and, although at times a few stories and facts are repeated, it’s mostly not a twin at all.

Some of the very interesting trivia pieces we learn this time around include:
15 attractions that were open on opening day – July 17, 1955 – are still open today.

  • The Opera House on Main Street has held 5 different attractions, making it the most-recycled building in the park.
  • Walt Disney insisted that the windows on Main Street be ground level so that children could easily see inside them.
  • Orange trees in Adventureland were removed and then planted upside-down when the park first opened in 1955 (the park was a mass of orange groves prior to its opening).
  • For the second Indiana Jones film, Steven Spielberg had crew members come to Disneyland to record sounds from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to use in the movie!
  • Thurl Ravenscroft (a.k.a. Tony the Tiger and the singer of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) voices many different Disneyland attraction characters, including Fritz in The Enchanted Tiki Room, a singing tombstone in The Haunted Mansion, a singing pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean, and many others.
  • Several “credit” windows stray from Main Street, including one for Fess Parker (the actor who played Davy Crockett in the Disneyland television series) in Frontierland and a fictional one for the Three Little Pigs in Toontown.
  • Voice actor Paul Frees lends his voice to both the Auctioneer in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Ghost Host in The Haunted Mansion.
  • Pirate sails seen over a rooftop of a building in New Orleans Square actually don’t belong to a ship at all – they’re built in to the roof, but you can’t tell from the ground! This was done to add more theming to the land, but the construction of an entire new ship wasn’t needed in this case.
  • Christopher Robin was discreetly not included in Disneyland’s version of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction because of the ride’s location in Critter Country.
  • The Imagineers felt that any characters other than “critters” would take away from the proper theming of the land.
  • The Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction was originally going to have guests ride in flying pink elephants (from the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence of the film) rather than on Dumbo himself.

These and MANY other wonderful little-known secrets are filled all throughout The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland. Together with short making-of stories for each attraction of how it came from conception to reality, as well as great art pieces, the book is quite marvelous indeed. Although it’s credited to be written by “The Imagineers,” its actual author is Imagineer Alex Wright, who also wrote the preceding three volumes in the series. Any Disney fan will find this and all other three Imagineering Field Guide books amazing. Even though I’ve never visited Disneyland, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it for any Disneyphile. It’s just pure fun.

How do I rank The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

The Imagineering Field Guide will most likely please: Disney Fans – Young Adults – Adults

By Blake; originally posted November 30, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

DVD Review – Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic

January 20, 2008
Image © Disney.

A very fascinating installment in the seventh wave of the ‘Walt Disney Treasures’ DVD series will delight Disney fans with trivia, little-known facts, and a plethora of exciting vintage footage and interviews celebrating the original Disney theme park.

By Blake

Originally posted January 20, 2008.

It’s about time!

Disney fans have been waiting for this DVD to arrive for over two years now. Originally supposed to be released in July 2005 in sync with the kickoff of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration, Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, & Magic wasn’t initially intended for the Walt Disney Treasures series, but instead for a stand-alone, single-disc set. However, after repetitive push-backs and delays, here it lies on shelves under the Walt Disney Treasures label, jam-packed with plenty of fantastic extras and bonus material that we might not have seen if it was released when it was supposed to.

Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic was originally supposed to be released in 2005 in a case that would have looked like this. Image © Disney.

Thankfully, the set is WELL worth the long wait it went through, and I advise Disney fans to consider this impressive, limited numbered set before it’s gone.

Disc One

Approx. Total Disc Running Time – about 204 minutes (about 3 hours and 24 minutes)
Highlight of Disc – “Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic”
Highlights Runner-Up – Audio Commentary for “People and Places: Disneyland USA”

Disc One Main Feature

Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, & Magic (about 81 minutes) – The main draw of this DVD set is the newly created documentary that tells the Disneyland story through archival footage and interviews with many faces familiar to Disney fans. Among these interviewees are Diane Disney Miller, Roy E. Disney, Julie Andrews, George Lucas, Pete Docter, John Lasseter, Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, Jay Rasulo, and many Imagineers who helped create the park in the 1950’s. The documentary truly is a magical film that starts out with Walt Disney’s dream of creating a place where all members of the family could enjoy themselves and then journeys through the construction of the park, the chaotic opening day, the continuous growth of the park throughout the years, and all the way up to today with the opening of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in June 2007.

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is one of the attractions talked about in the new Disneyland documentary. Image © Disney.

Not only is the film a fascinating timeline into Disneyland’s history, but it also provides MANY small tidbits of trivia information that are quite neat, such as that the front of Sleeping Beauty Castle today was originally supposed to be the back (and vice versa); that due to plumbing issues on opening day Walt Disney had to choose between building either bathrooms or water fountains; that there was originally a “lost” ghost in The Haunted Mansion that’s no longer there, yet Disney has no official record of it ever existing; that the finale of Splash Mountain with all the critters dancing was built because the Imagineers had many left over Audio-Animatronics that they didn’t know where to put; and a simulator attraction similar to Star Tours was considered that involved a cowboy chase and was to be put in Frontierland. And that’s just a small sampling of the plethora of fun treats we find out in this truly magical film that captures the true essence of the Disney theme parks.

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, as it looked for the park’s 50th anniversary festivities during the Happiest Celebration on Earth. Image © Disney.

Disc One Bonus Features

Wonderful World of Disneyland Trivia Game (running time varies) – I don’t typically enjoy playing DVD games since there’s not much you can really do with a remote control as your joystick, though this one I actually took a taking to, especially since I’m a Disney fan. The game’s menu is set up like the map of Disneyland, and you select one of the eight lands of the park. After you make your selection, a short overview of the land you chose is played and then a question is asked about the land. If you get the question correct, you move on and get to choose another land yourself. If you get the answer wrong, the game automatically selects your next land choice and you eventually have to go back to the land you missed and answer another question. Once you’ve successfully answered all eight land’s questions, you receive a small virtual prize.

People and Places: Disneyland USA (about 41 minutes for each viewing option, about 123 minutes if all options are played) – A featurette that was theatrically released in 1956 to publicize Disneyland as part of Disney’s People and Places series, this is a nice overview of Disneyland that includes neat aerial views of the park. The featurette can be viewed in three options. First is the original 1956 theatrical version, with a narrator to guide you through the park. The second option is a real treat – an audio commentary of the featurette by Walt Disney Treasures host Leonard Maltin and longtime Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, who each chime in a good deal of information to give us a backdrop for the time period the film was released and to point out the significant changes the park has gone through since then. The last option is a “Music Version” that plays the featurette with no words or narration, just its score of various instrumental Disney songs.

Disc Two

Approx. total disc running time – about 201 minutes (about 3 hours and 21 minutes)
Highlight of Disc – Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction
Highlight Runner-Up – The Golden Horseshoe Revue

Disc Two Main Features

Operation Disneyland (about 14 minutes) – Originally not intended for the public’s eyes, this is a short bit of footage that was sent to ABC executives in 1955 to give the bosses there a peek into the creation of the daunting task of filming the live Disneyland opening day telecast. (The entire 90-minute broadcast can be seen on the 2001 DVD Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA.) The look behind the telecast that we see here is actually pretty fascinating, and it’s especially remarkable to find that construction was still going on in the park while its opening day festivities were being rehearsed.

The Golden Horseshoe Revue (about 49 minutes) – A 1962 episode of The Wonderful World of Color, this is an ENTIRE run-through of the 10,000th performance of the popular Disneyland show “The Golden Horseshoe Revue” that ran for 31 years in the park (and at one time also performed at Walt Disney World in Florida). The show is pure, simple fun. This episode features the Golden Horseshoe’s regular performers Wally Boag and Betty Taylor, as well as celebrity guests Annette Funicello (yes, the same Annette from The Mickey Mouse Club) and Ed Wynn (who played Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland). The show has a western setting and involves several dance numbers featuring cowboys and Native Americans, as well as some funny comedy routines.

Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair (about 50 minutes) – This episode of The Wonderful World of Color that originally aired in May 1964 deals with Disney’s participation in the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, in which it contributed several attractions, among them It’s a Small World, the Carrousel of Progress, Primeval World and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, all of which later went on to become Disneyland classics. The episode opens with an animated sequence dealing with the history of world fairs in the form of a nearly 10-minute-long song. Then, we’re taken to the Disney Studio to be shown how the 30-foot-tall dinosaurs of Disney’s prehistoric World’s Fair attraction, Primeval World, were built. Then it’s off to test the Audio-Animatronics for the attractions, a technology that was brand spanking new at the time. Finally, we’re taken to the finished product of It’s a Small World and given a complete ride-through of the attraction as seen in the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. Overall this episode provides a fascinating look into some of the backstage magic behind several classic Disney attractions, though some portions of the episode (such as the opening historical sequence and the Small World run-through) drag on a little too long.

Viewers get a peek into Disney’s attractions of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in several episodes of The Wonderful World of Color. Image © Disney.

Disneyland Around the Seasons (about 50 minutes) – Another episode of The Wonderful World of Color, this recaps the year 1966 at Disneyland with highlights from the openings of attractions such as It’s a Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Primeval World, and New Orleans Square. And, as you can probably tell by the list of those attractions, much of the material in this episode is borrowed from “Disneyland Goes to the World’s Fair” and at times gets somewhat repetitive. We’re also shown the gala openings of these attractions after they were imported from the World’s Fair to Disneyland.

The openings of those attractions take up about half of the episode, while the other half is about the Disneyland 1966 “Fantasy on Parade,” the park’s yearly Christmas parade. The real neat aspect of this is that even though no grand floats or quirky dancers are used, the parade still seems to satisfy the enthusiastic crowd. Another really fascinating thing worth mentioning is the look of all the characters – they look totally different than they do today! Pooh even has a honey pot on his head.

Concluding the episode is the Candlelight Processional, an annual Disneyland tradition where large assemblies of church choirs march their way down Main Street and head into Town Square for a lavish pageant featuring music and the telling of the Christmas story.

Disc Two Bonus Features

Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction (about 38 minutes) – During the construction of Disneyland, Walt Disney placed cameras all throughout the park, and the footage from those cameras is presented here to show a sped-up process of the building of Disneyland. The cameras show us footage from several different views in each of the lands of Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland. As if that wasn’t fascinating enough, the construction footage is accentuated by a commentary track with Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, as well as Ed Hobelman and Walter Magnuson. They chime in frequently with many little-known bits of information that are quite a treat to hear (such as that the rocket being erected on screen, which was the main draw of Tomorrowland, wasn’t put up until ten days before the park’s opening).

A fascinating look at the construction of the park is shown in “Building Walt’s Dream: Disneyland Under Construction.” Image © Disney.

Gallery (running time varies) – This is a still-frame gallery with a plethora of concept art, sketches, renderings, paintings, and posters for most of the Disneyland attractions and sets. It really is fascinating to see how much of the Imagineers’ original visions of Disneyland in these art pieces made it into what guests see in the park today.

Presentation


On each disc, Walt Disney Treasures host Leonard Maltin provides us with a brief introduction to what we’ll be watching and gives us a background on what may have been happening in the Disney community at that time. Each discs’ menus are easy to navigate, and your selection on the screen is shown by either a small icon (disc one) or sparkling stars (disc two). The only issue I had with the menu format was on disc two – the background is a grid of various images, which made it somewhat confusing when picking images to view in the art gallery. At times I couldn’t tell the difference between the background and the art pieces.

The DVD set is a limited release, with 50,000 copies made, and each is presented in a signature Walt Disney Treasures silver tin, with a numbered certificate of authenticity inside the case. Also inserted inside the case are a sketch of Sleeping Beauty Castle by Herb Ryman and a replica of the original Disneyland ticket book. (Initially guests bought a ticket book that included separate tickets for each attraction, labeled from “A” to “E”, with “E” being the most exciting attractions.) I must say the inclusion of the Disneyland ticket book with this DVD was a nice, subtle surprise that I gladly appreciated.

A replica of a Disneyland ticket book is included in the Disneyland Secrets, Stories, and Magic DVD. Image © Disney.

Wrapping It Up

Disneyland: Secrets, Stories, & Magic is definitely one of the better Walt Disney Treasures installments to be released, and delivers a very intriguing look behind the scenes into the history of the happiest place on earth. The newly created documentary is a real treat with plenty of trivia to keep you watching. The People and Places featurette as well as its audio commentary are fascinating and the vintage episodes of The Wonderful World of Color show somewhat of a time capsule into the history of the park and are welcome additions to the set. Bonus features like “Operation Disneyland” and the construction cam show just how much work was put into creating the park. Additionally, the trivia game and the art gallery will surely keep you busy for a while. On top of that, the inclusion of the ticket book only ups the value of this already extraordinary DVD set, and will delight Disney fans for over seven (yup, seven!) entertaining, fun-filled hours of material.

How do I rank Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic DVD? (Bolded is my choice.)
Brilliant main feature + very good bonus features =
  • Aaah!
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

Walt Disney Treasure: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic DVD will most likely please: Disney fans – Adults – Older Folks

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By Blake; posted January 20, 2008. All images © Disney.

Book Review – "The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak"

October 27, 2007

The newest “peak” into Walt Disney Imagineering is informative, fascinating, and fun, but leaves its readers thirsty for more by the time their expedition has concluded.
By Blake
Originally posted October 27, 2007.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest are some of the most popular attractions to be found in Disney theme parks worldwide. They’re exhilarating, exciting, fanciful, and fun . . . and they all just so happen to be mountains.

In Disney Editions’ new book “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak”, author Jason Surrell (a Show Writer for Walt Disney Imagineering) delves into the making of these monstrous mountains and tells each attraction’s individual story of its initial conception and journey to open. Quite a fascinating treat for Disney fans, this collection of stories provides a plethora of background information about each attraction, and includes interviews with some of the rides’ key creators.
The first mountain the book delves into is the Matterhorn, a Disneyland original that hasn’t been duplicated at any other Disney park (though, interestingly enough, was at one time scheduled to open at a never-built Switzerland pavilion in Walt Disney World’s Epcot). We learn that if not for Walt Disney’s visit to the set of the 50’s film First Man on the Mountain, the Matterhorn might not have ever been built. Additionally, the Matterhorn revolutionized the concept of a “roller coaster”. Instead of using a wooden track, which wouldn’t be very well managed inside a concrete mountain, the track was built using metal pipes, a concept that has since been used on most roller coasters of today.
Next up is Space Mountain, which was actually originally built to draw an appeal for the teenage audience at the then-four-year-old Walt Disney World. After being put on a hiatus of nearly a decade after Walt Disney’s death, Space Mountain finally opened in 1975.
After Space Mountain is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, probably the most appealing section of the book, as it provides an in-depth look into what this attraction almost became: a part roller coaster, part “Pirates of the Caribbean”-ish journey through the wild west. Originally to be called Thunder Mesa, the main attraction would be a boat ride featuring a full cast of Audio Animatronics portraying a story of cowboys and Native Americans. Surrounding the mountain would be a train roller coaster ride. Eventually, the entire boat ride concept was flushed, and the train concept was conceived into a bigger role; and Big Thunder Mountain was born.
Next is Splash Mountain, which was conceived when the Audio Animatronics show “America Sings” was closing and Disneyland and Imagineers needed a use for the 114 robots used in the show. Hence, Splash Mountain was born. Splash Mountain, though not many guests realize it, is based on the 1946 Disney film Song of the South (which is currently not available for sale in America), which in turn is based on the classic Uncle Remus stories. Originally supposed to be called “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah River Run”, Splash Mountain was also ALMOST going to incorporate mermaids from the Touchstone movie Splash, which, the Imagineers fortunately convinced Michael Eisner, was not a very wise idea.
The final mountain we delve into in “The Disney Mountains” is Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, the newest Disney “E-Ticket” attraction that recently opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2006. Probably the most research-driven Disney attraction in history, Imagineers actually went on several voyages to China to explore mountains there and ask local residents just what a mysterious legendary “yeti” figure might look like. And their research paid off, as Expedition Everest is very much the most authentic Disney attraction ever. The queue line is abundant in cultural artifacts and figures Imagineers retrieved on their journeys to China, and the overall attraction experience is stunningly spectacular. Additionally, the yeti revealed at the ride’s finale is rightfully the most complex Audio Animatronics figure to ever be built in history.
Not only are we treated to full-fledged “making-of” stories in “The Disney Mountains”, but also scattered throughout the book are several 2-8 page looks at some of Disney’s smaller, less popular mountains such as Grizzly Peak at Disney’s California Adventure, Mount Prometheus at Tokyo Disney Sea, Mount Gushmore at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, and Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Also included is a fascinating look at a mountain that was planned for Disneyland but never built: Candy Mountain.
Although all the components of “The Disney Mountains” add up to an exciting look at some of Disney’s most beloved attractions, it leaves readers wanting more. Surely there is more than 20 pages’ worth each of information on these massive attractions. After all, the book’s author Jason Surrell has recently written entire individual books dealing with the creation of Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as The Haunted Mansion. If those attractions were given the treatment of an entire book to themselves, why aren’t the attractions featured in Disney Mountains given the same recognition?
So, while “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak” is a superlative journey through classic Disney adventures, its lack of full treatment for each of the attractions leaves readers thirsty for more. This is by all means fine for the time being, but hopefully sometime soon full credit will be given for the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Expedition Everest.
How do I rank “The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak?” (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

“The Disney Mountains: Imagineering At Its Peak” will most likely please: Disney Fans – Teens – Young Adults – Adults – Older Folks

By Blake; originally posted October 27, 2007. All images (C) Disney.