Archive for the ‘Imagineering’ 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.

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.

Theme Park Headlines – Disney’s Hollywood Studios Turns 20

April 29, 2009


Disney’s Hollywood Studios celebrates 20 years of showbiz enchantment on May 1.

By Blake

Originally posted April 28, 2009.

WDWCelebrations has done it again. For the third time, the fan-based Disney website http://www.wdwcelebrations.com/ set up an unofficial event to commemorate a special Disney park anniversary. Also for the third time, Disney indirectly set up some official events of their own to accommodate the many fans attending the unofficial WDWCelebrations event. This first happened for Epcot’s 25th anniversary in October, 2007 and then again for the 10th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in April, 2008.

Now it’s happening again for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as WDWCelebrations’ “Studio 20” event takes place at the park on Friday, May 1, 2009 and Saturday, May 2, 2009.

The day caps off an eventful few weeks for Hollywood Studios, as several other activities surrounding the park began on April 17 when Grad Nites began. A special event exclusive to high school seniors, Grad Nites took place at Hollywood Studios this year after years of occurring at the Magic Kingdom. Grad Nites took place four select nights April 17 – 25.

The Hollywood Studios birthday fun continued today (Tuesday, April 28) when The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by the Imagineers was released into bookstores. However, even though the book was supposed to be released on the 28th, the bookstore that I visited to buy it didn’t have a copy available. When I went to go ask if the bookstore could order it, they said that for some reason the book hadn’t printed yet, so they couldn’t order it. I do not know at this time if the book was indeed released today, or if it was delayed. If anyone else has any news about the book’s release status, please let me know.

The new book The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was supposed to be released April 28, though some stores may not have it yet.

The next DHS-related event will occur on Thursday, April 30, when characters from the popular Disney Internet game Club Penguin will begin making appearances at Hollywood Studios near the Backlot Tour. It should be exciting to see how the characters look, as well as if Disney decides to put anymore of their Internet characters (such as those from Toontown Online or Pirates of the Caribbean Online) into the parks.

Characters from the Club Penguin online game are scheduled to begin greeting Hollywood Studios guests starting April 30.

Lastly, Disney is planning some official events to take place on Friday, May 1, in addition to the unofficial Studio 20 activities. When the park opens at 8:00am, a special ceremony will take place. Later on at two different times throughout the morning, a special Imagineering presentation will take place in the Premiere Theater, which should definitely be an insightful experience for those who attend. Imagineers Tom Fitzgerald, Eric Jacobson, and Bob Weis are all scheduled to speak at the presentations. Any park guest can view both the ceremony and the Imagineering presentations (you don’t have to participate in Studio 20 to see them).

With The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios being released, the Club Penguin character meet & greet beginning, Studio 20 taking place, and the special ceremony and Imagineering presentations going on, it’s sure to be an exciting 20th anniversary celebration for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

*Update from May 2, 2009.* You can check out coverage of Hollywood Studios’ 20th anniversary (which featured a speech by the park’s vice president Rilous Carter and a special exhibit) on StudiosCentral.com, LaughingPlace.com, and AttractionsMagazine.com.

*Update from May 16, 2009* The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now scheduled for a July 2010 tentative release.

Related BlakeOnline articles:
By Blake; posted April 28, 2009; updated May 2, 2009 and May 15, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Talk – Read Your Way Through Imagineering’s Secrets

April 6, 2009

Several exciting book releases are in the works from Walt Disney Imagineering.

By Blake

Originally posted April 6, 2009.

In the past, Walt Disney Imagineering – the team of the Walt Disney Company that creates the attractions guests experience in the Disney theme parks – have been the subject of several fascinating books that have given fans a glimpse into what goes into creating some of Disney’s most beloved rides and shows.

There have been looks into Disney’s “mountains,” advice on how to think like an Imagineer, sneak peeks into the making of movies based on some of Imagineering’s attractions, and more. Looking ahead into the rest of 2009, there are several more very exciting books coming from Disney Editions that pertain to Imagineering.

The first is The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fifth book in the Imagineering Field Guide series by Alex Wright, it will give a look into the creation of Walt Disney World’s third theme park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The book will be released on April 28, 2009*, just three days before the parks’ 20th birthday. Like the other Imagineering Field Guides, this one is expected to include a run-down of the development of the park’s rides and attractions, as well as little details that can be found throughout the park. It will be especially fascinating to see what went into creating Toy Story Mania!, the Tower of Terror, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and Muppet Vision 3-D. The book will sell for $9.95.

*Update from May 15, 2009: The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now scheduled for a July 2010 tentative release.

The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is coming soon.
Another Imagineering release is scheduled to be published on November 3, 2009. Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real by the Imagineers will be a sequel to a highly popular Imagineering book that was published in 1996. If the new installment is anything like its original, it’s sure to be magnificent. The book’s list price of $60.00 is a bit much, though hopefully a less-expensive paperback edition will be offered like it was for the book’s predecessor.

The next title, set to be published on December 15, 2009, is The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World–Updated!. The first version of this book was the book to kick off the Imagineering Field Guide series, and was published in 2005. Since that time, the Magic Kingdom’s major changes have included the addition of the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and the refurbishments of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Additionally, at the time the book will be published, the Hall of Presidents and Space Mountain are both expected to have finished their refurbishments. I would think that these changes will be covered in the new edition of the book, though nothing has been confirmed. Selling for $9.95, the value of the book is most likely worth whatever changes may be made to its contents.

It should be noted that all release dates are tentative. Books tend to get their release dates moved around sometimes, and the dates listed here are when these books are expected to be released, and should not necessarily be viewed as their definite release dates.

I’m very excited to see what the Imagineers have in store to tell readers once these titles are published. The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real, and The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World–Updated! seem to be like fascinating treats into backstage Disney magic.

By Blake; posted April 6, 2009. 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.