Monday, August 27, 2007
Blue Sky Alert-America (Orlando): Special Forces...
Much has happened since our last update on the little property in Florida that Disney owns. As I've said in an earlier post, WDW moves at a pace of about 18-24 months behind it's older sister in Anaheim... and while not as much is happening in Orlando there is a great deal of activity happening.
The situation at the Resort is more fluid than it is at Disneyland as Tom Fitzgerald and the Imagineers under his charge have still yet to finalize some of their plans. Even though Uncle John's main focus is the original park, he is watching what Fitzgerald is doing and making suggestions as to where he'd like them to go. Tom and company tend to know where their bread is buttered and are taking many suggestions as orders... not suggestions. This could turn out to be a good thing in a few years. There is much planning going on right now and we won't really get to see the results until January of 2008. Over the next three to four years there are plans to dust off some of the theme parks assets and fully use them without adding anymore gaudy(cough, wand, cough...) decorations.
THE MAGIC RETURNS...
The original park in Walt Disney World has a few plans prepared for it. While the Monster's Inc. Laugh Factory hasn't been the blazing hit everyone expected it to be(thanks, Tom)... it hasn't dimmed the Imagineers ideas when it comes to proposing new rides based on Pixar films. There is at least one proposal for a Pixar ride, most likely a "D" ticket attraction that is making it's way through the halls of WDI. There are plans over the next three years to have at least one new "E" ticket ride... possibly two if things go right. This all depends on how much progress is made getting those hotel rooms filled of course.
There are plans involving a new parade show as well, but it's in the early phase and won't be seen for some while now. Some Imagineers have been complaining about the general upkeep of certain areas of the park in the hope that Lasseter will make more suggestions to Tom about the overall comparison of quality between Anaheim and Orlando's attractions. It's not known yet if all the tugging on Uncle John's ear will wield early results, but he should be paying more attention to the parks as Tony Baxter and Bob Weiss takes over much of the control of Disneyland/DCA. While he will be active in the planning of the DL Resort it will free up more of his time next year so he can concentrate a little more on Disney's other parks.
FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION...
There are plans in place to have everyones favorite purple dragon make a return engagement. Several proposed plans include bringing back a new version of his old attraction... parts of the old show along with new enhancements have been proposed. Several Imagineers are hoping this plan gets signed off quickly so work can begin.
Many people are overjoyed at the removal of the wand. This is just a small sign of what will come over the next couple years as we see Spaceship Earth have a much needed makeover completed by the beginning of the new year. Some of the tacky tarps that are supposed to provide shade are scheduled for removal... not all are supposed to go, but the plans are still not final. There is clearly a plan that involves taking Epcot and removing some of the mistakes of the 90's.
The story of Epcot over the next few years is one of renewal more than anything else. There are proposals in the blue sky phase of course. Two prominent ones that WDI are working on are making their way through the process... we can expect to see at least one new E-Ticket by the end of the decade at Epcot, with a modest D-Ticket possible depending on funding next year.
A small faction within the walls of the Glendale Kingdom still wants to do something about the eyesores that exist around World Showcase. While it would be nice to see something done so that the Dolphin and Swan are not seen, it'll be a while before this is dealt with since it's much hard to hide. The Canadian pavilion is where some Imagineers want to focus by bringing out the old plans for a Canadian Rockies structure behind it to cover the Soarin' building and add a water ride like DCA's Grizzly River Rampage. It's unknown yet if they've been able to tug on the ear of Uncle John on this matter though, as he has a full plate. Time will tell...
NO KINGDOM IN SIGHT...
Sadly, I've heard no rumors of Beastly Kingdom returning. If WDI plans on bringing this dream project for Disney Geeks back, it's being held close to the vest, which wouldn't be a surprise given all the tight security these days with voluminous non-disclosure agreements being signed just to go to the bathroom... I'm kidding about that, but just barely. The good news is there is a proposed attraction being designed for DAK, it's not known yet if it is a D or E-Ticket, but my Bothans say it's a great addition to the park. Don't expect to see this for at least a couple of years though...
Right around the time that the new night-time show appears. That's right, I said night-time show. But it won't appear before fall 2008/summer 2009... by then there will hopefully be enough activities to keep people in the park past the sunlight. DAK's "Rivers of Light" is a show that has been being worked on concurrently with DCA's "Disney's World of Color" show. Both should appear around the same time unless some scheduling delay happens.
By 2009, DAK should have a couple new restaurants(one of which is being built now), a night-time water show, the new DAK-DVC units and a new ride either done or in the final stages of construction. Joe Rodhe is working hard to deliver a full day experience by the end of the decade and will most likely make it. Now, if he'll just tug on Uncle John's ear about Beastly Kingdom...
RETCHED HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLAINY...
Disney's Hollywood Studio, or as it was going to be called literally up until the week before the announcement, Disney-Pixar Studios is the park that has the most in store for it over the next four years. By the beginning of the next decade this park will be the one that looks the most different. Not as much as DCA will look to us in California... but much different than it does today.
As far as the question everyone asks about... will the hat go away? There's a growing presence in WDI that would like to see this happen... the higher-ups have made no decision yet. But the talk is going in the right direction.
Now DHS will not be getting 1.2 billion dollars to spend, but it will be getting a much healthier share than the other three parks. The decision to go with the new name over the Pixar name has everything to do with focusing the park on movies in particular and Hollywood in general... the Pixar brand, while a gold standard in animation caused too much confusion with visitors and it was decided to avoid this entirely with a different name.
We will see the Pixar area of the park start to have more attractions/activities over the rest of the decade. There are proposals to liven up the area as well as various other sections with a renewed focus on theming. Some of the drab areas will get a much needed spruce-up by 2010.
There are plans in the works for one new E-Ticket, in addition to "Toy Story Mania" and at least another C and D-Ticket by the beginning of the next decade. The focus on Hollywood will be emphasized much more, at least in the blue sky plans that are currently heading along, gathering steam.
The other big news, mentioned here a couple months ago and also bandied about the web lately is the new coziness that the Walt Disney Company has with George Lucas. There will be a big expansion of the Lucas properties at both DHL and Disneyland(more on that in a later report). This focus will include Star Wars(Movies), Indiana Jones and the new Clone Wars/Star Wars television shows if Bob Iger has his way. While Eisner ruffled the feathers of just about everyone from Lucas, Spielberg, Jobs, etc., it appears that Iger is doing a great deal of damage control. After making friends with Jobs and buying Pixar, it appears one of Bob's main goals is to bring Lucas back into the fold of Disney. Does this mean buying Lusasfilm? No, not really... although that would be an interesting acquisition for the Mouse to make in the future. Top Lucasfilm execs have said they wouldn't rule out taking the company public in the future. This happening would cause many entertainment companies to drool at the opportunity to own a piece of the force. But at this point, George isn't quite ready to do that. What he is ready to do is work with Disney, which he's always had a great fondness for. As well as a much more detailed Star Tours ride, new Indiana Jones events to correspond with the new film next year and a few things that will involve Indy later in 2008... Iger is also asking Lucas to help in other areas that don't have to do with Vader or Jones. There is talk that the folks at WDI are excited about getting Lucas' input on another, top-secret E=Ticket... one that is in the early stages and could make its debut at the start of the next decade. Uncle John is also involved in this as he recognizes the value and potential of George Lucas.
And you know what?
George is friends with this guy named Steven. He hasn't really worked for Disney since his tiff with Eisner. Could it be that Bob and Uncle John may want George help bridge the gap and smooth the feathers with Steven now that Eisner is gone? So this new friendship could turn out to be a two-for-one thing. And DHS could be the first of many Disney theme parks to benefit from this.
Remember, in Hollywood it's all about relationships... Eisner forgot that. He let his ego blind him and the company and the parks really suffered because of it. Not anymore.
Well, that's all I could get out of my Bothans for Florida... at least all I can tell you without getting them thrown over into the dark side. Stay tuned for more updates soon.