Archive for the ‘Toy Story Midway Mania’ Category

Disney Talk – Toys “R” Back

April 8, 2009

Toy Story returns, as do two of Disney’s beloved animated princesses.

By Blake

Originally posted April 8, 2009.

Disney re-releases several of their classics onto DVD every year. But with the spread of DVD and Blu-ray, it’s been quite a while since a Disney masterpiece has been given a re-release in theaters. Until now.

I reported in January 2008 that Disney was planning a return of the Toy Story franchise. It began last year with the openings of Toy Story: The Musical onboard the Disney Wonder and Toy Story Midway Mania! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s California Adventure. It continued promotionally when the Buzz Lightyear balloon appeared in the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The next phase of this Toy Story return will begin this fall, when a video game based on Toy Story Midway Mania! will be released on the Nintendo Wii game system.

Toy Story Midway Mania!, a theme park attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s California Adventure, will have a video game based upon it, coming to the Nintendo Wii system this fall.

Then comes the really exciting part. On October 2, 2009, both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 will be re-released to select theaters in 3-D as a double feature presentation! Previously, the films were going to have two separate re-releases (with Toy Story in October 2009, and Toy Story 2 following in February 2010). Now they will both appear together in a double feature for the price of one ticket.

Economically, this is fantastic. Two movies for the price of one? Count me in! However, both movies back-to-back total about three hours of sitting in a theater. I personally don’t have a problem with that, but squirmy preschoolers might. Additionally, many families own Toy Story already on video or DVD. Even if you are indeed getting to see two movies for one price, a movie theater outing is still expensive, especially with the added-on price of 3-D films. Will families justify going to the theater to see two movies that they can rent for a fraction of their ticket price?

I think it’s worth it for Disney fans who know and love these films and are eager to see them again in a new medium. Additionally, getting to see a movie on the big screen that you’re used to watching on a TV set should be very exciting. Not only that, but both films have been reported to have received some tweaking in lighting using technology that wasn’t available during their initial theatrical runs. Overall, the Toy Story double feature in 3-D would probably be a pleasant experience that wouldn’t hurt the wallets of individuals or couples, but I don’t know if entire families will give in to the cost.

What’s all of this Toy Story hoopla leading up to? The very anticipated release of Toy Story 3, coming to theaters in June 2010.

Toy Story 3 is coming to theaters in June 2010!

Just a few days after the first two Toy Story films will be re-released to theaters in 3-D, another Disney classic will be re-released, but this time not in theaters. On October 6, 2009, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be released on Platinum Edition Blu-ray. It’s quite the coincidence that Toy Story (Pixar’s first feature film) and Snow White (Disney’s first feature film) are being re-released in the same week, isn’t it?

However, a DVD version of Snow White will not be available at first. It will eventually, with a two-disc Platinum Edition DVD release on November 24, 2009. However, if consumers want to see Snow White on DVD before then, the only option is the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, which includes both formats of the film. However, an individual DVD option (without the Blu-ray) won’t be available until November 24.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is coming to Blu-ray in October and DVD in November.

I think this is somewhat clever on Disney’s part, because previously they’ve just implemented the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack a few days before wide DVD releases (like they did with Bolt). Most people are content to wait a mere few days to purchase a DVD version if that means they don’t have to pay extra for the Blu-ray. But a few weeks? That could pose an issue.

Personally, I won’t be giving in to the Combo Pack, although I certainly would rather Disney not decide to implement it in the first place. I don’t see the point in purchasing a player for a few hundred dollars just so I can see a movie a few weeks ahead of time. I’m content to wait. Besides, Platinum Editions are fun to anticipate, anyway. They provide a plethora of bonus features that delve deep into the making of their respective films and give plenty of behind-the-scenes glimpses that are pleasurable to watch. They’re not worth buying an entire Blu-ray player just to see them in advance, but they’re worth their wait, and for that reason I’m content to hold off until Snow White’s individual DVD release.

Next up is a re-release that I am absolutely ecstatic about. Coming to 3-D in IMAX on February 12, 2010 is Beauty and the Beast! I’m not sure if it’s going to be limited to just IMAX theaters, but I would hope that it will be released in the same way that the Jonas Brothers 3-D concert was in February, available in both regular 3-D theaters and in IMAX.

Beauty and the Beast will be re-released in 3-D and IMAX in February 2010.

For Beauty and the Beast, I don’t see the financial issues discussed above with the Toy Story re-release being such a problem. Although Beauty and the Beast has been released in IMAX before (in January 2002), it also hasn’t been released on video or DVD since October 2002. This was during the later part of the video-to-DVD transition that many families were making, and at this time my family hadn’t bought a DVD player yet. Because of this, we purchased the VHS version of Beauty and the Beast, and other families may have done the same thing. For this reason, Beauty and the Beast may not be as accessible to families today as Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are because VHS players are scarce and both Toy Story films were released on DVD in both 2000 and 2005. Long story short, I’m very excited about Beauty and the Beast being released in theaters again.

With Toy Story and Toy Story 2 coming to 3-D in select theaters in October, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs coming to Blu-ray in October followed by a DVD release in November, and Beauty and the Beast coming to 3-D in select theaters and IMAX in February, Disney fans have plenty to be celebrating about! Those are four of some of Disney’s greatest animated features, and to see them again in a new experience should be fantastic.

By Blake; posted April 8, 2009. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Beauty and the Beast images (C) Disney. Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and Toy Story Midway Mania! images (C) Disney/Pixar.


Theme Park Headlines – Reinventing Disney-MGM Studios

February 10, 2008

A new name! New attractions! New entertainment! Oh, my! Walt Disney World is redefining its third theme park with a slew of major changes. And will American Idol and Ratatouille REALLY be making their way to Walt Disney World? Maybe.

By Blake

Originally posted February 10, 2008.

When Disney-MGM Studios opened in May 1989, it truly offered guests a look into how movies were made and was defined as “The Hollywood That Never Was and Always Will Be”, complete with backstage tours, behind-the-scenes exhibits, and actual television studios. Since then, the park has slowly distanced itself from its original intention and, bit by bit, has had less and less Hollywood charm as it once had. Sure, there have been massive hits such as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, and Fantasmic!, but overall the park has suffered as a whole. And, finally, Disney has recognized where they went wrong in turning the “fantasy Hollywood” park into a huge advertisement for modern Disney movies and products by turning its direction around.

The park took its first baby step in completely redefining its image by getting a name change. For years it had been rumored that the Disney-MGM partnership contract was running thin and that a name change would be in place soon. Disney Studios and Disney-Pixar Studios, as well as a few others, were suspected to likely be the park’s new title, but it was not until August 9, 2007 that Disney officially announced that effective January 7, 2008, Disney-MGM Studios would become Disney’s Hollywood Studios . . . which in the long run could cause potential confusion among guests, since Hollywood is an actual town name in the state of Florida.

So, does a new name mean a new park? Kind of. The park is no longer defined as a dreamy Hollywood, but as “all that today’s Hollywood has to offer – in movies, music, theater, and television”, as said in Disney’s original press release concerning the name change that was issued in December. And, over the course of the next few years, there will be a very evident change in the park as a whole. Some attractions will be refurbished and refreshed, while others will sadly have the curtain closed upon them to make way for forthcoming projects. Here’s a look at what’s already changing in the park and what still is yet to come:

First up is the new edition of Playhouse Disney Live on Stage. Since 2001, the show has entertained preschoolers by bringing to life (in puppet form) the settings and characters from Playhouse Disney television shows Bear in the Big Blue House, The Book of Pooh, Rolie Polie Olie, Jojo’s Circus, and Stanley. Well, while that might have been really popular for preschoolers when the stage show initially opened, not one of those programs still airs regularly on the network today. So, for the past couple of years, the show has been in serious need of some refreshment. On January 28, 2008, soft preview openings for a new version of the show, featuring characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Handy Manny, Little Einsteins, and My Friends Tigger & Pooh, debuted before its official opening on February 1. And I’m happy to say that from the pictures and videos I’ve seen of the new show, Mickey and the gang make the transfer to puppetry quite nicely, and I’ve even read that the puppets were created using the same scale as the majestic “Partners” statue at Magic Kingdom.

Characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are part of the new Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and coming soon to Disney’s California Adventure.

Characters from Handy Manny are part of the new Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and coming soon to Disney’s California Adventure.

Characters from Little Einsteins are part of the new Playhouse Disney Live on Stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and coming soon to Disney’s California Adventure.

The next step in the reinvention of the Studios is a parade replacement. Since October 2001, Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade has entertained guests with its daily march through the Studios’ streets, featuring a plethora of Disney characters riding in unique cars suited to match the characters riding in them. (It also features plenty of rare character appearances! J) Unfortunately, the parade’s time has come to move on. It will have its last performance at the Studios on March 9, 2008, before being moved to Disneyland Paris. It will surely be missed, but a new parade, Block Party Bash, will debut in its place five days later on March 14. The question is will this completely different-style, high-energy Pixar parade please guests just as much as the quaint and charming Stars and Motor Cars? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. The new parade is being imported from Disney’s California Adventure, where it has been performed since May 2005, and features floats based on the Pixar films Toy Story; a bug’s life; Monsters, Inc.; and more.

The next date on the agenda is this summer, when the Mickey Avenue section of the Studios will awaken from its year-and-a-half hibernation as “Pixar Place”, a re-themed area of the park based on Pixar films. Just what WDW needs . . . MORE Pixar-themed attractions. Disney has officially confirmed that Toy Story Mania!, an interactive 3D ride featuring Toy Story characters, will open as part of Pixar Place this summer; and if the rumors I’ve been hearing are true, Pixar Place will eventually expand into further areas of the park. The word on the street is that the Backlot Tour, one of the only two rides that have been open since the first operating day of the park in 1989, will be demolished to make room for a Ratatouille-themed roller coaster, though this has not been officially announced, confirmed, or denied by Disney. Right now all it’s still a RUMOR.

Concept art for the upcoming Toy Story Mania! attraction, opening this summer at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Imagineers “test-play” the new Toy Story Mania! attraction, coming this summer to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

And, finally, the year of redefining the Studios will come to a close in late 2008 with the opening of a brand-new, just-announced, breaking-news attraction . . . so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet. Announced on February 7 by Disney, with its temporary name “American Idol Attraction”, the hit Fox television show will be making a permanent home at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And while it would be really neat for Ryan, Simon, Paula, and Randy to set up camp for airing the show at Walt Disney World, that’s unfortunately not what this new attraction means. What it does mean is that beginning late next year, guests between the ages of 14 and 28 (yes, that’s 14, not the TV show’s age minimum limit of 16) will be able to pretend to go through the “audition” process and try out for Disney’s version of American Idol. Guests can either sing in front of a live audience or pretend to be a judge and review other guests’ performances. At the end of each operating park day, a winner for the day will be announced, and the winner will receive a “Fastpass” to skip the massive thousands of people in line at the REAL American Idol auditions for the television show.

Concept art for the upcoming American Idol attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

And while all this seems really exciting right now, I’d give this two – maybe three – years, if that, to belong at the Studios. I mean, think about it. Most of the kids who want to try out won’t be able to since the age minimum is 14 (and even then, how is Disney going to check to see if someone is 14?!), and most adults who would like to go through the experience would be too old. Additionally, the problem with creating any attraction based on a television series is that TV shows don’t last forever. They have their heyday for a few years and then it’s time to say bye-bye as the shows goes off the air, as evidenced with the former version of the Playhouse Disney stage show, as discussed above. American Idol’s popularity is great right now, but it’s not really a wise decision on Disney’s part to partner with the show if it’s not going to continuously be a phenomenal success in the years to come. I think that American Idol will surely last much longer, but you can never be too sure. Besides, who honestly wants to visit a Disney park to sit around all day and watch people sing karaoke?

Concept art for the upcoming American Idol attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So, it’s pretty evident that Disney-MGM Studios is no more. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has officially taken over, both literally and figuratively. Whether the massive changes are good or bad is a decision too early to make. We can hope for the best, but with Block Party Bash and American Idol on the horizon, I wouldn’t bet on it just yet.

By Blake; originally posted February 10, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Disney Talk – The Return of Two Disney Classics

January 26, 2008

Two Disney masterpieces are being reintroduced to a new generation with re-releases, theme park attractions, and sequels.

By Blake

Originally posted January 26, 2008.
Often when a Disney film hasn’t been seen in a while, it’s released from the metaphorical “vault” and put on the shelves once again, most of the time with a special edition label. And that’s usually it. Occasionally there’s a new sequel to follow the re-release, if that. However, Disney is about to give two treasured classics the ultimate star treatment by not only re-releasing these films, but also establishing them in the world beyond DVD shelves.

First up is The Little Mermaid. Originally released in 1989, it was the film that launched the second golden age of Disney animation, with masterpieces Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King all following in its footsteps not long after it was released. In 2006, The Little Mermaid was released on a two-disc platinum edition DVD, and we’ve not heard much out of Ariel and the gang since then. Until now. This month, the Broadway musical adaptation of the film officially premiered in New York, performing in the very theatre that Beauty and the Beast held its performances until July 2007. The Broadway show features all of the songs from the movie written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, as well as ten new songs, written by Menken and a new collaborator, Glenn Slater. And it doesn’t stop there. In August 2008, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, a new prequel showing what happened before the original film, will be released on DVD.

Additionally, in the distant future at Disney’s California Adventure, an all-new attraction, The Little Mermaid: Under the Sea Adventure, will open and will be along the lines of Fantasyland’s dark rides. The neat part is that this attraction was originally developed as an idea for the original Disneyland park in the early 1990’s and was eventually scratched. A behind-the-scenes look at the lost attraction was released as a bonus feature on the 2006 Little Mermaid DVD. And now, what do you know, the lost attraction is actually being green lit.

The next franchise to get a boost is Toy Story. When it was first released in 1995, the original Toy Story was not only the first film to be cranked out of Pixar Animation Studios, but also the world’s first every entirely computer-animated movie. Toy Story 2 was released in 1999 to rave reviews and since then the franchise has been implemented into the Disney parks by examples of parades, an Al’s Toy Barn-themed meet & greet, several Buzz Lightyear rides around the globe, and even a recreation of Pizza Planet at Walt Disney World.

Now, it’s time to gear up for an entire reinvented Toy Story era. In March 2008, the film will be featured in the Block Party Bash Parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (which previously performed at Disney’s California Adventure) and in April, Toy Story: The Musical will premiere on the Disney Wonder cruise ship. This summer on both coasts (at Disneyland AND Walt Disney World) an all-new immersive experience attraction will debut starring the Toy Story gang. The new Toy Story Mania ride will feature the Toy Story characters setting up their own midway games and guests have the opportunity to play these games. Toy Story Mania will involve guests wearing 3D glasses to view the virtual Toy Story characters and the virtual midway games. Not only will the new 3D technology be introduced to allow an entire ride set appear virtually, but, since it’s all virtual, the ride can be modified at any given moment.

And then comes Toy Story 3! The new film will be released in theaters 2010. Although the film’s plot hasn’t yet been released, we can definitely count on a worthy plot line now that Pixar is onboard with the project. And, in anticipation of this new sequel, the first two Toy Story films will be re-released theatrically in Disney Digital 3D! Toy Story will be released October 2009, with Toy Story 2 following in February 2010 and, finally, Toy Story 3 in June 2010.*

So, with The Little Mermaid and Toy Story both being revived with stage musicals, exciting new attractions, sequels, parades, re-releases, and more, a new generation will be able to enjoy these classics, while others who remember the films’ original beginnings will be able to relive the magic with 2 ½ years of fast-paced, exciting entertainment.

*At the time this article was written, this schedule was true. However, as of April 2009, both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are set to be re-released in 3D at the same time as a double feature in October 2009 instead of having two separate releases. Toy Story 3 is still scheduled to be released in June 2010.

By Blake; posted January 26, 2008. Little Mermaid images (C) Disney. Toy Story 3 images (C) Disney/Pixar.