Thursday, May 31, 2007
Word from the cubicles in Glendale has it that the new "Tinkerbell" film that has been radically reworked as per Mr. Lasseter's instructions is a great improvement over the version Disney Toons was attempting to make last year. Not saying that it's going to be as good as "Toy Story 2" but the animators I chatted with are quite proud...
With all his duties over at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering one would think Uncle Lasseter would have his hands full. Well, he does have his hands full, but his influence within the Team Disney lot is being very much felt... through a lot of corridors and conference rooms. It's already known that Disney Consumer Products have assigned a full time assistant to Mr. Lasseter to keep him up to date on all the going on within that part of the company. This way he can coordinate with them on projects that perk his interest. Not to mention, guard the classic characters from the treatment they've received over the last decade's "cheapquels".
The film is moving steadily along, as are the trilogy of Fairy movies that will follow it. The animators that I've talked to are much happier with Lasseter's involvement in the projects. Even though his input is limited, they feel he genuinely cares about their work and the Disney name, wanting to make the features that come out of Disney Toons reflecting a high standard. There is a renewed sense of optimism that they haven't felt in a long, long time.
If all goes well with Tinkerbell's release then the production of "Disney's Fairies" will go ahead at full speed since the focus on "Disney Princesses" is winding down. Over the next few years these properties will take up the majority of their time, but there are several other exciting ideas that they're working on in between. Of all the proposal on the drawing board, one that Lasseter's DCP assistant is trying to sheppard through the development process has the animators I was talking to gigling like teenagers with excitment. Of course, they wouldn't tell me much about it... except it's a great twist on an old concept that Lasseter really liked. Hopefully we'll hear more on it once Tinkerbell is out and the other Fairy movies are well into production. But one thing is clear... Uncle Lasseter is definately making his presense felt in the halls of the Disney Toons and Disney Consumer Products.
Well, that's it for May. Until next month... Hi ho, it's off I go.
I've heard this rumor floating around for a while and didn't believe it so I didn't feel the need to post about it. I still don't know if it's true. Most of my sources are on the Imagineering side and the animators I know tend to work for Disney, not Pixar... so I can't varify this.
But Al Lutz over at Miceage left a little editorial blurb that mentions Cars 2 will be Pixar's 2009 release. He also mentions a new cars short for 2008 which I had heard about and did believe. But he says his sources confirmed it, so take from that what you will. Some people were thinking that Andrew Stanton was going to direct "A Princess of Mars" and have it out by 2009... I knew that wasn't right. The script for APOM isn't even done yet and it takes about two years to animate one of Pixar's films. That was a big, red flag right there...
It does fill a hole in their schedule:
Toy Story 2010.
So maybe Cars 2 will take that slot? If true, I wonder who Lasseter tapped to direct since he may be kinda busy the next few years...
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Things are really, really secretive when it comes to talking about Disney's most troubled Resort. Normally when that statement is said we're usually talking about Disneyland Paris, but since opening in 2005 the Walt Disney Company has a new theme park for that title. DLP actually looks to be climbing it's way out of the financial black hole it was in and could see a bright future. Stay tuned for a future post on Paris.
Since the restructuring of WDI there has been a great deal of shuffing going on. Even projects that have been approved are getting a second look. This is not a bad thing since the new management and Lasseter seem to realize the cure for bad attendence isn't scimping on rides to save money, but building more and better themed ones to bring in new customers. Radical idea, don't you think?
Anyway, when it comes to the Resort there is a focus on the retailing side as I've mentioned before. There was a kind of wait and see attitude with the old management. Things are still in the embryonic state for the new team but my sources tell me they will take a much more agressive attitude toward the park. The Resort's version of Downtown Disney should be announced sometime mid to late 2008 and will be quite a nicely themed complex reflecting the culture and area of Hong Kong while still resembling the DD we all know and visit.
A decision on a Second Gate is still years off, since Disney has until 2013 to make it's intentions to build a park to the Hong Kong government. And the HK government is making sure Disney knows that if they don't build something in the newly reclaimed land... the government will make sure someone will. The Phase 2 project across the berm is scheduled to be completed in 2008, but already the government is making it clear to Disney that it will not get this prized land for the cheap amount that it got HKDL. Especially now that everyone is unhappy with the attendance numbers. Other names have been bandied about to the WDC executives at the resort. Names they don't like hearing... Universal, MGM and another not so well known company. The last thing Disney wants is for the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort to have a direct competition across the berm from one of these companies. The main haggling item has been price, but hopefully by the end of the decade there will be a compromise and we will see an announcement of a new Disney theme park around 2011(there's that year again) or 2012.
Don't worry about what the concept will be. It's far enough off that WDI has plenty of time to take the hundreds of concepts it has and make one work for Hong Kong. Although a few have already made the cut...
A new themed hotel designed for the Resort was shelved until attendance rises. Once the new rides open later this year and IASW opens in 2008, we may see this one come out of mothballs and move forward for a 2010 or 2011 opening. Time will tell...
Did I mention haggling over price? That happens to be one of the main reasons that HKDL's version of Pirates had it's sails taken down. It's going to be a great version of the ride... if you love the movies. The ride will still have elements from the Anaheim version but will be more lavishly themed to the movie version and be a tad bit darker in tone. So that means in addition to Jack Sparrow, we can look forward to Captain Barbosa rambling from the deck of the Black Pearl as well as other characters represented in the various scenes visitors will encounter. Another item that they're trying to work in is the addition of Captain Sao Feng(Chow Yun Fat) from the new movie. Chow is huge in Hong Kong and the addition of his character could add alot of "ticks" to the turnstiles. Again, his character is not finalized for the version but if Disney and the city government officials can come to a deal then construction could begin in 2009 for a 2011 or 2012 opening. A great deal rides on if IASW opens well and the parks numbers increase to a degree that the company and city officials can justify it. Another factor that Disney didn't think they'd have to deal with could bring them to the bargaining table...
The park across the way is doing far better than originally atticipated. Company officials thought they'd own the Hong Kong market and are rather surprised at the competition it's getting from the park. This is a good thing, because competition will make sure the rides and attractions that follow will be designed to make sure people visiting the resort don't even think about visiting Ocean Park. Cross yer fingers and head to the Resort, increasing the "ticks" if you want to see Pirates roaming around an elaborate expansion of Adventureland, me hartees.
There is preliminary work being done for a "Voodoo" Haunted Mansion as well, but it would likely get approved only well into the construction of Pirates. Several "C" and at least one "D" ride are scheduled to be built should they finally bite the bullet. The "D" ticket could be one of several proposals, the most favored of which, at this time is a themed roller coaster. As I often repeat... these are preliminary ideas still being tossed around and we are still years off so the "D" ticket could change.
The one true bright spot in this is that any future attractions or gates from WDI will not be conceived and designed with Bean Counters in charge of greenlighting the ideas. Rather, the new management is focusing on giving the residence and visitors of Hong Kong a worthy theme park to call their own and not a clone of Anaheim or Orlando... or Paris or Tokyo for that mater.
More updates to follow on this in July, possibly...
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
On this day in 1991 Tokyo Disneyland(before it became a resort) welcomed it's 100,000,000th guest. It did so in far less time than it's older Anaheim sister.
The Japanese seem to love their Disney as much, if not more than we...
And in a few years there will be even more Disney love in the land of the rising sun(hint, hint)... but that is a story which will have to wait to be told another day.
Well, not too disappointed of course.
Pirates had a six day opening of $153,042,234 million dollars. It broke a Memorial Day records, just not the all time record when it comes to domestic... but it actually set an opening record for it's tally over six days.
$404,042,234 million dollars. Wow... "that's hot" as Paris Hilton would say...
No film in history has pulled so much booty, err... money, I mean in it's opening. So the total(domestic & international) added together created a powerful statement about Walt Disney Pictures, Franchises and... oh, yes: Pirates!
In an every growing trend, international box office is starting to play more and more of a role, relegating domestic b.o. to the back seat, so to speak. The overseas market made up 62.1 percent of a very big pie. As I've said before, we'll see this coming weekend what kind of legs the film has. If it drops 40 percent or less that's a good thing... if over 50 percent then we may not see it maintain it's hefty grosses. Were it to continue it's showings with the lower drop in receipts then it may still have a chance of overtaking Spider-Man 3. The one movie this summer that may throw a monkey wrench into Spider-Man 3 and POTC 3's plans could be Transformers. It remains to be seen if this movie featuring giant robots can steal the show from Super-Heroes and Pirates.
The summer box office is upon us...
Monday, May 28, 2007
Thanks to all those that wear the uniform and protect our freedoms. All our troops overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, God be with you and may he bring you home safe when your mission is done... We'll keep a watch out for you here.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" hauled in $112.5 million from Friday to Sunday, just below last summer's $135.6 million opening weekend for its predecessor, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Some people are calling it a disappointment that it is only the second highest opening of the year($126,547 million when you count the Thursday night showings).
I think that's highly negative talk... and we have to wait and see the true test of the film. If it drops more than 50 percent next week will be the actual test of it's metal. Spiderman dropped over 60 percent on it's second weekend and if Pirates maintains less than 50 percent then it has a decent chance of catching up to Spiderman. And if it doesn't, then being the second highest grossing film of 2007 isn't all that bad. Just ask John Lasseter about Cars...
"At World's End" had the fifth-biggest three-day opening ever. It's take overseas was $205,500 million dollars which amounted to 61.9 percent of it's total take of $332,047 million. Not bad for three and a half days...
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Every studio wants them. For those of you that don't know what a "tentpole" is, well it's a movie they hang everything else on during that year or season. Usually there is a "Summer Tentpole" like Pirates or Spiderman 3 or a "Fall/Holiday Tentpole" like HP and the Goblet of Fire or Narnia was. It's the one film they hope to identify themselves with and the one out of their schedule that most of their financial livelyhood rides on.
So I thought we'd take a look at what the Mouse has for Tentpoles over the next few years...
Summer 2008 Tentpole:
The Chronicles of Narnia:Prince Caspian - The continuing saga of Pevensie children and their journeys to Narnia.
Bedtime Stories - The Disney/Adam Sandler vehicle that has an overworked executive telling stories to children that become real.
Summer 2009 Tentpole:
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - The Bruckheimer/Bay extravaganza loosely based on the video game.
Fall/Holiday 2009 Tentpole:
The Princess and the Frog - Disney's return to glorious hand drawn animation.
Summer 2010 Tentpole:
The Lone Ranger - The story of a masked ranger that fights for justice with his American Indian sidekick.
Fall/Holiday 2010 Tentpole:
Rapunzel - Glen Keane's CG (co)directorial debut of the classic fairy tale.
Not a bad line up, and it's not a complete line up... for 2008 Walt Disney Pictures will also have "The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless" for a Holiday release unless it gets delayed. This doesn't even take into account several other films such as "Jungle Cruise", "American Dog" or "Gemini Man" but it does show you a shift into a direction of big, epic spectacles which was a territory the Mouse avoided under the stewardship of Michael Eisner. Oh, and we've forgot to mention a "possible" Summer 2011 Tentpole:
Pirates of the Caribbean 4.
Now all they have to do is write it...
Friday, May 25, 2007
Much has happened since I posted out Anaheim report. The most important of course being the shake up at WDI. While this is a good thing, it also puts several projects into limbo. Most of these proposals are making it through the design or approval phase anyway and with a new regime it calls into question everything. The new leaders will want to look at most of these proposals before going ahead... so I don't want anyone e-mailing me about "creating from thin air" what is mentioned in this article. If what is mentioned doesn't happen... don't blame the messenger. Things change fast at WDI...
That being said, I like what is happening with the restructuring within the walls of 1401 Flower Street. As some of you may have already heard, former Research and Development Vice President Bruce Vaughn is now in the position that Chief Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald. Vaughn is well liked within the company and a strong advocate of the creative process over the bureacratic process that has built up under Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will still be working at WDI focusing on the oversight of show development, story integration and uh, um "blue sky" brainstorming process.
Craig Russell, former Vice President of Environmental Design and Show Engineering is now Chief Design and Delivery Executive at WDI. The former WDI President Don Goodman moves out of WDI and into his new role as executive Vice President for resort development. His position is something akin to recreating the Disney Development Company that designed the hotels for the company in the 80's before Eisner combined it with the rest of Imagineering. It appears that it will still be part of the company, but a seperate unit ran by Goodman and the very well liked, Wing Chao. The role Goodman had as President will not be refilled. Some people think that John Lasseter will partially take over this job in an unofficial capacity.
The new structure is great because it will do for WDI what Lasseter and Catmull have done for WDAS, with is to eliminate the layers of bureacracy and middle management that the creatives have to go through to get something done. From now on, Tony Baxter, Joe Rohde and Joe Lanzisero along with other Creative Executives will report directly to Vaughn. As Jim Hill reported, one of Vaughn's comments were "we are no longer going to design rides we don't build". This could be great news since WDI literally designs hundreds upon hundreds of attractions that literally never see the light of day. Unless the Oriental Land Company builds them, of course. This offers a light of hope on projects that got stuck in the approval process over the years because of political back stabbing, but the road ahead is not yet clear so we'll have to wait and let the dust settle. A whole new world may have opened up for Walt Disney Imagineering though...
A lot is going on at the Reedy Creek Improvement District, aka: Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney Company is trying to maximize it's profits without having to put a great deal more expense which is why we heard the announcement of those two projects that would be on the property, but not created by the property. With the Four Seasons at WDW and the Westward Way expansion, they intend on getting as much out of partnering with others while not having to incure the expense associated with the new hotels, shopping centers and developed co-ops.
As for what Disney themselves are doing, we have the progression of the DVC units being build near the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the new addition to the Contemporary that some have dubbed: the Watergate Tower. While I may not be estatic about the look of the tower, I don't take as much offense as other to the design. The Animal Kingdom DVC expansion is something I absolutely love, on the other hand.
There are two other properties being looked at for DVC opportunities, but it's in the early phase and will likely not see any announcements until late 2009.
A new, third themed water park is making its way through the approval process. It still has a long ways to go but the plans right now will have it tie the park in with some of Disney's cinematic properties if all is approved. Don't expect to hear anything publicly about this till sometime in mid 2008 at the earliest.
Despite everyone being depressed about the company announcing no current plans for a "Fifth Gate" in the current future, that doesn't mean ideas aren't being discussed. There is plenty of land for future use. Enough in the southern section for at least two full size parks if they are ever approved. There are "blue sky" proposals for a new park. Actually, three have been seen in the halls of WDI. These projects that are in the embryonic proposal phase and could wind up as a fifth park or serve as inspiration for Hong Kong's second gate or even Tokyo. Should the economy keep firing on all cylinders, the proposals will be narrowed down and one could look for an announcement near the beginning of the next decade. That puts the completion of a fifth park somewhere in the ball park of 2014-2015. Just in time for the preperations for the 45th anniversary of the park. How coincidental? Hmmm...
The Magic Kingdom is the park with the least going on. At least from my sources at WDI. This could all be thrown around now that the new structure is being put in place over on Flower Street, but the full effect of the reorganization won't be clear until summer is over. As for now, there are proposals for a new parade that would corrispond with some additional entertainment, but otherwise the next "E" ticket isn't planned for at least 2009. Lasseter and crew have a couple propsals that are being pitched about but nothing is concrete at the moment. As far as it being a Pixar ride, I'm sure some of you are thinking of asking... well, as of now the proposal's don't involve creations from Disney's Emeryville branch. In fact, of the two proposals my sources know of, one involves a "classic" Disney character and the other is something entirely different. Hopefully, if Disneyland's new Christmas overlay works out well it will be applied to Orlando's castle as well, but we won't know for sure till early next year.
By now, everyone knows that Epcot's Spaceship Earth will open next year with a brand new interior and from what people have seen so far it's a great redo. From one of my sources, the new attraction will really entertain guest in the best "Epcot" way. Talk continues about "THE WAND" coming down. The decision hasn't been made official, but signs are good that it could come down by next year... so cross your fingers. There are a couple prominent ideas for Epcot's next "E" ticket, but within departments, it won't see daylight till 2010 probably.
Over in World Showcase, there is a faction within WDI that wants to address some of the eyesores that disrupt the view of the lands. No, I'm not talking about the Dolphin and Swan... that requires more radical surgery. But there is momentum from a group of Imagineers to reintroduce a proposal to retheme the back of Soarin' to the Canadian Rockies which would hide the show building and give the area another "E" ticket ride simular to DCA's GRR. Other areas are supposed to be addressed if the plan goes through, again... these are "blue sky" proposal's so it'll all depend on the new management and how much they desire to fix the mistakes of the past.
Disney-MGM Studios, or as we may soon be calling it: Disney-Pixar Studios has the most promising future ahead of it. With the park meandering as to what it's identity has been over the last few years it is slated to get a good deal of attention over the next couple years. Whatever it's called, the name will not be the only rebranding in the park. A direction as to what kind of park it is will begin in the fall with the expected announcement of some form of name change. Once that is done there will be some major changes in theme and design in various parts of the studio. Lasseter himself has expressed an interest in refocusing the park towards a much more family friendly movie experience. Expect at least one and possibly two "E" tickets and two to four "C" or "D" tickets to be approved in the next year or so that will focus on making the experience one has when entering the former MGM park, a truly memorable one. Some of these projects will have a direct impact on WDW's sister park in Anaheim. What projects am I talking about. Well let me just give you their innitials... ST 2.0 and IJ4. How's that for a tease? These will be a huge draw for the studio when all this is said and done around... 2011. There's that year again. Sorry, my lips are sealed. There'll be nothing else for now...
The results of Epedition Everest are a great sign for Animal Kingdom. However, the high expense of the ride itself has been an inhibitor in bringing forward that most holy grail of DAK projects: Beastly Kingdom. There is still a small group within WDI that wants to do BK, but the amount of money it will cost has many managers hesitant to put that much capital into such an attraction. The wildcard in this is Lasseter. While it is not known if he will champion BK, he is much in favor of creating rides that immerse the guest and doesn't seem interested in throwing out mediocre attractions to simply have WDI keep busy. There are Imagineers who have been trying to get one of several small scale theming proposals for Dinoland approved, but under the old management the approval was moving at a snails pace. Perhaps the new leadership will allow these blue sky proposals which would take away the gharish, carnival atmosphere and give the area a more atmospheric touch to move forward? Clearly the days of Paul Pressler are over. The recent changes in WDI and the rising stock of Joe Rohde could bring BK out of the shadows and onto the fast track. At the very least, Joe's position means DAK will be receiving a disproportional amount of attention over the next few years.
Well, that's all I can relate without getting caught in Disney's dragnet or having my friends shot. Hope you enjoyed it and have a great Memorial Day weekend. Stay tuned for more updates later in June...
Thursday, May 24, 2007
"Pirates of the Caribbean" screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are possibly being tapped to write producer Jerry Bruckheimer's take on "The Lone Ranger" for Walt Disney Pictures. Gore Verbinski may direct. Verbinski is a great director and lensing this could fill his desire to make a film far, far away from any water being as it takes place in the dessert.
Originally having began as a radio show, "The Lone Ranger" quickly moved into film and then the popular television series starring Clayton Moore. For those that have never known TLR, or are living under a rock, the story followed a masked Texas Ranger in the American Old West, who fights for justices, usually with the aid of his pal American Indian sidekick Tonto, while riding his trusty steed, Silver. Uhm.. Tonto's was named Scout, just so ya know...
The Mouse hopes that Elliot and Rossio will do for the Masked Man what they did for Pirate movies. The irony is the Walt Disney Company owned The Lone Ranger in the early 90's as a result of a deal with the Wrather Group that secured it the rights to the Disneyland Hotel. Somewhere along they way they sold the rights of a valuable character to Entertainment Rights PLC that they could have owned outright. Oh well, another mistake by Michael Eisner. At least they had nothing to do with the horrible WB pilot starring Chad Michael Murray a few years back.
This sounds like it could be quite fun given the proper script, actors and director. I'm causiouly looking forward to this one. Anyone like me picture a new character popping up in Frontierland a few years from now?
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Well the film has been seen...
Here's some quotes the critics and fans have been saying:
"This is an amazing film." Harry Knowles, AICN
"A lavish spectacle illuminated by Johnny Depp's swishing as a slightly dainty pirate captain with better makeup than Paris Hilton, the movie has its dull moments, but not a lot of them." Stephen Hunter, Washington Post
"But Pirates 3 has no narrative throughline, no emotional spine. It's a mess, and the troubles originated with Pirates 2." Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronical
"The third voyage in the 'Pirates' trilogy could be touted as "the biggest, loudest and second-best (or second-worst) 'Pirates' ever!" Brian Lowry, Variety
"Seriously, this thing is a stern master — walk in casually off the street and you risk nearly three hours of very high-octane confusion." Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times
"And, yes, the ending of this film is gigantic, the sort of spectacle that seems to only be possible in this new digital age, on a staggering scale." Moriarty, AICN
"Though the film is filled with the expected special-effects wizardry, its most stunning and surreal moments are also the most peaceful: an army of crabs transporting the Black Pearl over dunes and into the ocean, and a flaming sunrise viewed through tattered seaweed sails." Jeanette Catsouli, New York Times
"For what it's worth, the trilogy-capping Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, represents a considerable step up from the soulless Dead Man's Chest." Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter
A mixed bag, but it seems most consider this one at least better than the second enstallment: Dead Man's Chest... We'll see how it does at the box office this weekend.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Well it appears Brad Bird's next film will not be "The Princess of Mars".
That being said, it appears that "1906" will be his next film. IESB is reporting in an interview with John Lasseter and Ed Catmull that there is confirmation on two subjects. The John Carter of Mars book, "The Princess of Mars" is being made by Pixar and Brad Bird is in negotiations to direct 1906.
What I don't understand is Brad's already on record as saying his next picture is for Pixar so... how can he be in negotiations? Unless they're talking about aquiring the rights to James Dalessandro's novel.
Pixar also talked about how TPOM will be different from Pixar's other family friendly films. It didn't mention that it would be live action so we don't know yet if TPOM will be live action or animated.
Interensting times at the Mouse... errr, Lamp?
Thanks to "UpComingPixar" for the hat tip.
Monday, May 21, 2007
I would direct everyone that enjoys hearing about the innerworkings of Walt Disney Imagineering to check out Jim Hill Media's latest column.
I was talking about the difficulty in getting information with the new culture starting to pervade through the halls over there in Glendale. Well, Jim talks about how the restructing of WDI, who is now in charge and who's on the outs...
Jim's article makes it sound like the events happening over on Flower Street could be on a Mouse Mutiny against the poisonous culture that was left behind when Mr. Eisner left. But the goal sounds like Lasseter is having the structure change to reflect his desires and work ethic, away from a venomous, back stabing political atmosphere to an enviroment of passionate creativity.
It's a great read and sounds mildly positive in its discussion of WDI's future. I highly recommend it.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Welcome to another installment of our Blue Sky Alert series. Much has happened since our last update. Not the least of which is a great deal more traffic. My thanks to the many of you that wrote in with such kind words. I also have been contacted by some people that run other sites on the web we happen to read and feel honored that they have visited our little site here. Another thing that has changed is we've decided to break the BSA into regional alerts. You've already seen the Tokyo Alert. This is the Anaheim Alert, in about a couple weeks we'll have the Orlando Alert and so on...
Just so everyone knows... this is "Blue Sky" Disney. What that means for those of you that don't know the term, is the proposal phase that Disney's Imagineers go through while they're throwing ideas around. Not everything I report will come to pass simply because many, many projects make it up the ladder through meeting after meeting only to get cut at the last moment. Everything you here from us here at BlueSkyDisney is based on actual proposals that have been planned or designed at the little building on Flower Street in Glendale. I've had a few people e-mail some nasty comments about me making things up and I don't like someone throwing expletives my way calling me a liar. This information comes from actual sources... it doesn't mean all of it will come to pass, but hopefully, most of it should. Especially with Uncle John now in charge creatively.
Another thing I wanted to mention is because of said Uncle John, the Pixar persona that has been working it's way through Walt Disney Animation Studios is now working it's way through Walt Disney Imagineering. Information about the coming few years is really getting hard to get. Uncle John, Jobs and Iger are really working the group and people are much more tight lipped than they used to be. People have been fired as an example and many are looking over their shoulders. Good thing for Disney, bad thing for us... or at least not as good as it was for us Disney fans. I absolutely understand the reasoning behind this move, but I still think that we as a fan base will always try to find out what is coming and will continue playing this game of cat versus mouse for the immediate future. So before we begin I'd just like to quote someone here:
"Many Bothans died to bring us this information" - Mon Mothma, Return of the Jedi
Let's get started in our own back yard here in California... The design of hotels working it's way through the approval process. As we told you in our last DLR update, there are up to four new hotels being proposed. Two of those hotels are in the final design phase. One source describes the artwork seen as "amazingly beautiful" and "pure Disney". I haven't seen any artwork for the new hotel designs, but I have seen the art for the new renovation of the Disneyland Hotel. It is very cool. Very. Couldn't take pictures, damn it... and I can't go into descriptions so as to protect one of my sources, but let's say those who have hated the dated look of the current hotel will be in love with the new designs. Also, the renovation is still on, but it won't begin begin until late Fall. We may not see anything begin before November or towards the end of the year. Since this will be the holiday season, I don't expect much to be done over Christmas and the massive amount of work to be done will commence after the seasonal celebration has settled down.
As I reported last time, the Fantasyland theater is scheduled to be replaced around 2010 or 2011 by a new structure. Pixar Haters will not be happy to hear that the current proposal for it's show is "Toy Story Live". This is another stage show wrapped around Pixar characters, but played by cast members not wearing masks like the "meet & greet" characters. After the huge success of "Finding Nemo the Musical" Disney has placed this one on the fast track. Another show could be put on, but with Toy Story 3 being released in 2010 it would provide Dick Cook and Jay Rasulo another coordinated effort to increase capasity due to the marketing campaign surrounding the impending release of the third and last Toy Story film. This also falls into line with Lasseter's desire to release attractions and shows that corrispond to a current Disney or Pixar movie.
After the summer we'll find out if "Pirates Lair at Tom Sawyer Island" is a success. Many of the Imagineers are quite positive on this project and have been given the go head for preliminary design work on Phase 2 of the island which will involve a more "permanent" Pirates presence. This one will create a much more interesting reason to visit TSI. WDI is worried about the ability to get people on to/off of the island so the planning guys will be watching how the crowds swell up around the area late this month.
There are currently at least two proposals for a renovation of Tomorrowland beginning in spring 2009 and an end date planned for fall 2010 or spring 2011. The current Wall-E proposed replacement for Innoventions is the leading one and as I've said before... the box office receipts will play a very importment role in the final decision which won't be until late 2008/early 2009.
The metamorphosis of Paradise Pier and the Route 66/Bay Area into a detailed, lavish throwback to turn of the century boardwalks will be finished in 2009. Just in time to provide a idealized atmosphere for Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color show. The entensive retrofitting of Paradise Bay should take about six months, so the walls that go up in January 2008 should be down by summer. Some test will have to be done, but most of that will happen in the off hours after all the guest have gone home. The Jellyfish are currently planned to go the way of the Do Do Bird... removal, for those that have no clue as to what I'm talking about. That area is prime real estate for viewing of the new water show.
The retheming of Screamin' is working it's way through the approval process and there are a couple proposals competing for a "yes" vote. Although Al over at Miceage talked about a "Villains" theme being proposed, it is highly unlikely this will be approved as a new theme for the roller coaster. The logistics of creating an immersive show/scenes with Villains would be very difficult to pull off without the support of being done in an enclosed building, aka: a dark ride. If they decide to do a Villains theme it probably would be applied to the "classic" roller coaster being designed for an enclosed building where MM currently sits. Although the final word has yet to come down, the chances of it being a Villain theme over something else is dimishing with each passing day. No one will know what the final design is until the final budget is approved. The "carnie" games section of the Paradise Pier area will be behind walls next month as they're exteriors are redone to match the new ride. Only about four or five will return. There simply won't be room enough for all seven in the final design of the building
It is likely that after TSMM opens one of two new placemaking projects will get going. The most likely candidate is the Condor Flats area where the current plans are for the area to be rethemed to an mid 20th century airfield in the California mountains. This retheming should be done by the time the new night show opens as well. If not, it shouldn't be more than a couple months later. The other place making project is being decided on as we speak.
The proposal for adding wilderness scenes in the Golden State area is progressing further along in the design phase but nothing has been approved. Everything is being done piecemeal and the projects as a whole may not be approved. Rather, it will go forward in rolling phases. The plan for a train ride around the area does not appear at this time to be going anywhere.
Oh, and as for Carland... most people are confusing what they mean by that. It's not just a movie related land. As it stands now the area will be turned into an area focusing on the California cultural love of automobiles. You know, CAR-LAND? The proposal right now is to theme the land to the 50's to 60's with the Cars ride being the only area of the land that reflects the movie. The Cars movie ride will be an "E" ticket and several "C" and at least one "D" ticket ride in the area. The name has not been settled on yet and could be changed from Carland to Route 66 or something entirely different. Well, that's all I can delve into at the moment. Hope you enjoyed it.
Stay tuned for more updates near the end of May/early June...
Friday, May 18, 2007
One has to wonder if Pixar's new film Ratatouille is going to test Walt Disney Pictures marketing departtment. Even though this one has had at least two trailer out to warm everyone to this coming Brad Bird film from Pixar... not much excitement can be seen.
Oh sure you have the Pixar fans(of which I am one) who can't wait to see this. You also have the fans of Brad Bird(of which I am one) that gladly look forward to whatever he does. But otherwise, when I talk to people it doesn't register on the "movie radar" for summer. Wheter this is Pixar fatigue or just being surrounded in a summer season choked with sequels no one is quite sure. It could also have something to do with the name which is almost unpronouncable to most Americans. Perhaps it reflects on our cultural distaste for anything French?
Again, please don't think I'm bashing Pixar or the film. I'm not. I love Pixar and the Incredibles is one of my favorite films. If you've read this blog and read my "Walt Disney 2.0" column then you should know my respect for John Lasseter. It's just that the vibe I'm getting is not the same as other films. I believe the marketing department over at the Mouse is really, really going to have to jump through some hoops to get people exposed to this film. The trailer is nice and all, but the reason I'll be seeing it is the little lamp logo in front of the film and Brad Bird's name where it says: "directed by". I have high expectations when it comes to Mr. Bird and I have a great deal of faith that he'll deliver with this film. But unlike other Pixar films that had huge buzz before they came out, I believe Ratytoowee, ratatooych... uh the rat film from Pixar will have to rely on word of mouth. Pixar is going through a growing phase right now and I this film and next years Wall-E are a reflection of that.
Here's to it opening big and getting bigger. It would be a shame for the films of Pixar since joining the Walt Disney family to start being boxoffice disappointments. If we want Disney animation to succeed as well as Disney theme parks we need Uncle Lasseter to get more clout as he settles in his new Glendale diggs. Let's just pray it all isn't spoiled by a dirty rotten rat...
Thursday, May 17, 2007
On the eve of the premiere of POTC: At World's End, I figured I'd give you some insight into more Walt Disney Pictures purchases over the last few years that were or possibly will be in the Mouse's future. Here's another sampling of what story ideas they felt important enough to pay large sums of money for:
Bought by Disney in 2005, a fake couple travel on vacation to Alaska to visit the grooms family and are forced to keep the charade going when his family throws a surprise wedding. Pete Chiarelli, who is repped by CAA, was to write the script from his own pitch.
Aladdin (live action)
Yes, as if the animated classic wasn't enough the Mouse thought in 2005 that people couldn't get enough of the live action version in DCA. The live action project will be developed by Bill Kelly and Sunil Perkash. Kelly will write the script and his deal with the Mouse was set up by UTA.
Screenwriter Elizabeth Hunter was hired by The Walt Disney Company in 2003 to write the script for Lafiya, a new animated film featuring an African Girl(well before any talk of an African-American girl in The Frog Princess). The story's main character is involved in an adventure that takes place on the plains of Africa.
Dean DeBlois, co-writer and co-director of Lilo & Stitch, signed a deal with Walt Disney Pictures in 2003 to direct a live action film described as a "period ghost story set in Ireland". The story of a little boy who is ignored by the world and pretends to be a ghost, who comes into contact with a real ghost. A story of friendship, love and loss aimed at the Harry Potter audience Production was supposed to begin spring 2005, it was reported that Robert Nelson Jacobs(Chocolat, Dinosaur, Out to Sea) has been hired to rewrite DeBlois' script. Currently known as "The Banshee and Fin Magee".
Walt Disney Pictures purchased a pitch by writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay(Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo), described as a cross between Love Story and Rebel Without a Cause. A tragic story of first love set in contemporary Los Angeles following a rebellious girl from the Westside and a working class Latino from East LA exploring contemporary relationships between teenagers from opposite sides of the tracks.
Rumored to have been developed when Disney decided to make the jump(pun intended) into computer animation back in 2005. The story concerns an outdated video game character trying to cope in the fast paced world of modern video games. No word yet if this production is going to move forward under the stewardship of John Lasseter.
A man living at Sherlock Holmes' London address, 221B Baker St., decides to take on a case from one of the many letters sent from all over the world asking the great detective for help in solving real life crimes. In becoming a detective, his whole life is turned upside down. Disney and Walden Media purchased the script by writer Julie Golden in 2005.
Kiki's Delivery Service(live action)
An English language adaptation of Eiko Kadani's book series, which was previously brought to the screen in Hayao Miyazaki's popular late-'80s anime film of the same name. Jeff Stockwell (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys) is writing a screenplay.
Walt Disney Company has purchase (possibly for Touchstone Pictures) a spect script by James Egan for midsix figures. Described as a teen romantic comedy between a young witch and warlock from opposing covens who fall in love but are forbidden to see each other. Essentially, it's a high concept, contemporary Romeo and Juliet.
Bundle of Joy
Walt Disney Pictures and Beacon Pictures in 2005, bought Allison Burnett's spec script "Bundle of Joy" for mid- against high-six figures. It's described only as a romantic comedy involving an unexpected package that a newly married couple recieves. The project was to be overseen by executives Jodi Zuckerman and Zanne Devine.
A pitch from former Beverly Hills Hotel valet Kirk Ward and his partner Charlie Santori was purchased by Disney for a low-six figure sum. The story centers on the hard-working men and women who park cars for a living. Disney production executives Todd Garner, Nina Jacobson and Jason Reed were very high on the pitch.
The Mouse paid low- against mid-six figures for this teen comedy pitch written by Oliver Butcher and Eric Freiser. A fantasy story of a group of teens who, after taunting elderly people, suddenly become old. The teens ultimately learn to respect the value of age and experience. Disney executives Mark Vahradian and Brigham Taylor were to be overseeing the project.
What will happen to these stories, scripts and pitches? Send all inquiries to Walt Disney Pictures, care of... uhm. I think if you want to really find out what will become of these projects you'll just have figure out how to get in touch with the powers that be yourself...
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
That report I mentioned a last week about "American Dog" getting screened by the Big Wigs of WDAS and PAS seems to have gone well. Over at the TAG blog, the animation guild's blog they're reporting:
"At Disney Feature Animation, the American Dog story reels -- unspooled in Burbank and Emeryville, met with the Brain Trusts favor. "The whole picture was up on reels, and the notes were pretty positive," a story artist told me. "The crew worked lots of o.t. getting things up in a few months, and they're pretty satisfied. They know they've got lots of work ahead, but the showings went well."
Work is progressing on various scenes being polished and the aim is a Fall 2008 release. I'll be glad when we see a trailer for this one, being as THIS is really the first "post-Pixar" film and will have the influence of Uncle Lasseter's guiding hand. Plus, I'm really curious about what the new designs look like. Based on what I've had described to me they look nothing like Chris Sander's work and I really want to see what Lasseter and Williams' "American Dog" will look like. What are your thoughts?
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
A great many people have complained about the lack of a celebration for EPCOT's twenty fifth anniversary and I would count myself among them. But there is another aniversary that most people are overlooking. One that happen on this very day.
May 15, 1974
Card Walker, Disney president and chief operating officer, announces to a meeting of the American Marketing Association that Walt Disney Productions will be moving ahead "in a phased program" with the development of Walt Disney's concept for EPCOT. The process of taking Walt's EPCOT (a real city) apart and concocting something different with the pieces has begun.
No one quite knew exactly what it would be, including Card Walker, but it was the start of something new, something big and the first time a Disney park would have a second gate... although they probably wouldn't have called it that in those days.
There are exciting times ahead for Epcot, not as much excitment as MGM will be getting... but there are things ahead that will create a stronger future for Epcot with Lasseter guiding the way. Hopefully, we'll be able to talk about it in our upcoming Orlando update of Blue Sky Alert. If not this time, maybe the next one depending on what I can say without getting some people fired.
Let's just say Epcot's future is bright, a little fella named the Dreamfinder told me.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
As we talked about last time, the Oriental Land Company is looking to add a third Disney themed gate, or Urban Entertainment Center as some will call it. Only not in Tokyo Bay at the current Tokyo Disney Resort. No sooner had we reported that here than the OLC released a report on the following Tuesday that it will open an indoor Disney Entertainment facility(UEC) in partnership with the Walt Disney Company in a major Japanese city other than Tokyo in or after 2010.
"We would like to allow people far away from Tokyo Disney Resort to enjoy the Disney world," said Oriental Land Executive Vice President Akio Nagaoka. Candidate cities for the first indoor Disney facility in Japan may include Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka, the company said. The facility may occupy several floors of a large building in an urban center, offering Disney shows, shops and restaurants for families, the company was quoted as saying.
Although several major cities are said to be under consideration, only two actually remain viable in any real economic sense. If you notice Mr. Nagaoka's statement, the UEC he's talking about could indeed be one of Jay Rasulo's boutique parks. Although I wouldn't consider this a small park from the descriptions I've heard. Disneyland itself is around 99 acres and the current proposal for Japan's third gate is hovering between 50 and 70 acres. This may not be as big as the other's but it's not a tiny park and will be filled with many original rides that will make this park a destination in it's own right.
Although WDI presented several versions of what OLC could use, from a large, normal-style theme park to several boutique examples it was decided on using an enclosed park that wouldn't have to deal with the Japanese weather and land consideration also were weighed with Japans limited available space. If you've seen the Walt Disney Company's annual report then you've seen what a concept like this could look like. Although similar versions are being talked about for DL in Anaheim, OLC officials are insisting on a unique park for the Japanese the same way they did with Tokyo DisneySea. Look for 2011 to be a banner year for the Oriental Land Company and Walt Disney around the world as well.
Work continues on the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel for it's Grand Opening in April 2008. The building is going up rather fast and guests of the resort will be able to have an idea as to what it will resemble by fall. Another hotel on the back burner is quietly being positioned for approval should the resort keep seeing good times and initial occupancy rates of the new Tokyo Disneyland Hotel remain high.
The 25th anniversary will be going on next year and the park will celebrating the quarter century mark with a number of events. The Monster's Inc. ride will not be ready until 2009, but expect plenty of press associated with it. Although several new shows have been proposed OLC declined on using most, instead focusing their efforts on already planned entertainment. The next ride after Monster's Inc. isn't scheduled to be completed in the park until 2011(there's that year again) or 2012 at the earliest.
Attendance is up at Tokyo DisneySea for the first time in three years and it appears the additions of TOT and several other attractions have helped turn the numbers around. Although the park doesn't attract nearly as many as TDL it is generating quite a loyal following. Of the 25 million plus that go through the turnstiles, around 15-16 million usually visit TDL, TDS get's the other 9-10 million. Since OLC is experiencing a very good year, the hopes in Glendale are that they will greenlight several projects that Imagineers want to start more extensive work on. While it's sad that the Snow Queen was canceled due to budget constraints most Disney fans would probably rather have an attraction in Mediterranean Harbor wouldn't they? It appears WDI will be very busy over the next few years with the original TDR and OLC's third gate for Japan.
This bodes well for the American parks in the sense that a lot of design work used in our current and future rides will be subsidized by the OLC. Thus eliminating much of the budget for expensive research... that money can, and will now go towards the actual rides themselves. Tokyo Disney Resort's good fortune will benefit us in the States as well. Life is good when we all win, yes? It's a small world, afterall...
Friday, May 11, 2007
I thought we would focus on some of the stories that were being developed over the last few years for the Mouse. Many of which are in development hell, others still languishing in the process, with a select few actually having worked their way toward preproduction:
Walt Disney Pictures are developing the spec script Game Boys as an action film for the studio. The script which was purchased last summer is written by Tom Ropelewski and Evan Katz and is being fast tracked for production. Jerry Bruckheimer will produce for Disney, Mike Stenson and Chad Oman of Bruckheimer's company will executive produce the project.
The story centers on a pair of immature thirty-something game junkies who are recruited by the Department of Homeland Security to lead an army of similar gamers in a battle to the death against evil creatures that have come to life from a video game they have mastered.
The Viking Project
Walt Disney Pictures was exploring the possibility of striking more pirate booty by resurrecting the vikings(the "original" Pirates). Writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift sold the Mouse an untitled viking action-adventure pitch for high-six figures in 2004. The story centered on a washed-up viking legend and his ragtag team of marauders who are forced to go on an epic quest to save the world from evil including sea monsters, giants, Valkyries and beserkers.
Writers Ron Freidman and Steven Bencich(Chicken Little) were paid mid-six figures for the script in the fall of 2005. It is a live-action family comedy - a monkey spy adventure flick similar to The Bourne Identity...but with monkeys. I wonder if anyone that paid for this actually watched Chicken Little?
The Princess & the Pauper
Walt Disney Picturesin 2004, optioned the movie rights to this young adult novel, the tale is a modern, female-oriented take on the classic story: The lives of rebellious 16-year-old twins living poles apart, one a "pauper," the other a princess, become intertwined when they swap places for what is supposed to be one night but turns into a more long-term arrangement.
Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless
First-time writer Ahmet Zappa just got his ticket punched for the big time in 2005. Zappa's novel, is still supposed to be heading to the big screen with the help of Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. The film rights cost Disney $1.5 million for the children's novel. The story is about a young brother and sister who discover their lineage is a long line of monster hunters and now they must put aside their differences and battle, what else, an evil monster.
The Feynman Chronicles.
Based on a spec script by Ashley E. Miller and Zack Stentz; it's about a mysterious object that crashes into a remote mountain in 1940s Africa;a young physicist Richard Feynman is recruited by the government to investigate it. He teams with a beautiful English spy and a cynical French aviator in a race against the Nazis to find the object and unlock its secrets.
Snow and the Seven
The story, set during the 1800's, of a beautiful English Princess that finds herself under the protection of Seven Shaolin monks from the forces of evil that are after her. At first, this sounds like another remake of a classic from someone that can't come up with new ideas until you examine who is attached to this project. Woo-ping Yuen, the amazing choreographer of such films as "The Matrix" and "Kill Bill" is the film's director. Michael Chabon, the Pulizer Prize winning writer in charge of the screenplay. Now I don't know about you, but seven dwarfs that know Kung Fu protecting some hot chick is something I'm willing to buy a ticket for.
Mother of Invention
Walt Disney Pictures bought the spec script of Joe D'Ambrosia and Tom Teves. The family comedy is loosely based on a real-life spy who also is a San Francisco single soccer mom with two kids and a nanny, her kids do not know she is a spy, and she plans to retire as the hilarity ensues. Think of it as Mr. & Mrs. Smith with kids, minus... errr Mr. Smith?
Writing partners Chris Pappas and Mike Bernier sold this pitch in 2004 to Walt Disney Pictures. As the title suggest, it is a romantic comedy about a bride from hell and the pain her soon to be husband to be and she go through on the way to the ceremony.
The Walt Disney Co. paid mid- to high six figures to acquire this pitch five years ago from writer Richard Jefferies. Set in Alaska, the story followsf a remote fishing camp operator who discovers one of his guests is an international fugitive. The locals nab the criminal only to learn the bad guy's private army is coming to extract their leader.
Marlon Wayans was attached to develop, produce and star in this film last year for Walt Disney Pictures. The material made it more than likely that this would wind up a Touchstone release. The story follows a handsome lifestyle mogul who wakes up one day hideously ugly because of a curse. As a result he must discover his inner beauty to save his company and win over the woman he loves. The project didn't get very far and Disney lost interest putting it into turnaround. Wayans was persuing several other studios, notably Dreamworks earlier this year.
The Wind In The Willows
Walt Disney Pictures and Guillermo del Toro back in 2003 were trying to bring the classic children's novel by Kenneth Grahame about a group of endearing talking animals(are there any other kind?) to the screen in a live action version of the book. Fan's of Mr. Toads Wild Ride will find this of interest if it ever gets off the ground.
Valentine's Day Project
Cristi Limm will write a romantic comedy for Walt Disney Pictures from her own pitch, and a idea by Joe Farrell, about a woman who dreads Valentine's Day. The story revolves around the day to day life of a single woman who negative view of the holiday comes into question when she falls unexpectedly for a man.
Which will die a long and torturous death? Which will make it to the screen? Which will be affected by the new studio "Development Executives" that took over Walt Disney Pictures last year? No one has any idea if any of these ideas fit into Oren Aviv's view of what the Mouse movies are. If you know... Vegas is calling. Place your bets...
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
It seems we keep reporting name changes here at Blue Sky Disney...
First, last week it was "American Dog" getting a new name that has yet to be decided on. Now comes some form of confirmation of a name change for "The Frog Princess". This is one I'd hoped wasn't true since I happen to like that name. Word has come through that TFP has had it's title changed to "The Princess and the Frog". Personally, I don't care too much for this. It sounds a bit too generic for me. Like something Filmation would have released straight to video in the late eighties.
Also comes news that the Princess... known as "Princess Maddy" will not/was not really Maddy, but is infact "Princess Tiana". I remember alot of people criticizing Disney for the name as racially derogatory. I hope this wasn't the reason it was changed as I abore anything that is PC. I also hope Disney's publicity people don't really expect us to think that it is just Wikipedia that got it wrong. Perhaps they should refer to the annual stock holders meeting where John Lasseter described a story about a princess named Maddy. I bet they forgot people heard him say that one. If they were to listen to everyone that had an objection to something they did there would be no classic Disney films in the first place.
Anyway, this appears to be legit since it came from corporate offices on official Walt Disney Company stationary and the Mouse's press people are backing it up. Hopefully, this is only a cosmetic change... the last thing I want them to do is start sticking their finger in the wind and doing what they feel is PC and not what they believe is right. That's not how Pixar has become so successful and that won't be the way Walt Disney animation makes a comeback.
Monday, May 7, 2007
Walt Disney Pictures have gotten Jerry Bruckheimer to come aboard and produce the long gestating script: Gemini Man. Bruckheimer and the Mouse have hired screenwriter David Benioff(Troy and the awesome Wolverine script which is cool as all get out) to do a complete rewrite of the project. Benioff will be paid $2 million for the rewrite! Wow...
Gemini Man is the story of an aging hitman in a game of cat and mouse with a younger assassin that he soon finds out is a clone of himself.
I've read the old draft by Jonathan Hensleigh and thought it was a great read. I guess they're now aiming for a "PG-13" rating since the version I read was a solid "R". This script had Harrison Ford attached at one point with them talking of taking Star Wars footage of a younger Ford and CGI'ing it into the film. Ford dropped out and the script then had Mel Gibson linked to the project for a while. No one has talked about casting for the new version of Gemini Man since they'll have to wait for Benioff's rewrite.
Looks like Disney is branching out and trying to expand what audiences will accept as the Walt Disney Pictures brand. Jungle Cruise, Prince of Persia and now this. The key words here are epic and franchise I believe...
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Like this caricature? It's one John Musker did of John. I think it's a perfect representation of the man. Cartoony. Full of life. Loud. Whimsical.
I've had this talk with friends. I love Walt Disney... I love animation... I love Disneyland. I think he's one of maybe five people that had such a dramatic impact on the American Experience of the 20th century. So during the last forty years or so there has been a hollow feeling all up and down the Disney lot. The seventies were the worst of it, I think. This was the "Grieving Decade" where the company really didn't know what to do. It's founder was so dominant, so towering over everything that happened at the studio that his lost didn't leave an empty space for the company... it left a Black Hole(pun intended).
Oh sure, the company came back roaring in the eighties. Say what you will about Michael Eisner, but he truly did revitalize the company in the eighties. If it wasn't for him, I really don't think there would be a Walt Disney Company today. Believe me, it PAINS me to say that. Because I feel Eisner was the main problem with the company for the last decade. And Michael was in denial about it...
But even with his leadership... something was missing. Sure, animation came roaring back(Thanks, Mr. Katzenberg). But I still think those avenues on the Burbank lot were lonely... calling out for a genius. Calling out for a Walt. When WDC purchased Pixar I believe that "Walt" arived. I know that's saying alot... but I think it's justified.
John Lasseter is Walt Disney.
Maybe not the reincarnation of him... but he's got his soul. He has his understanding of story. He has his unbridled optimism and childlike view of life. I'm sure some of you will disagree with this. Hey, to each his own. We all have an opinion. This is mine.
I believe the care that Pixar puts into it's pictures is a direct result of someone of John's caliber. From all the people I've talked to that have had dealings with him... I'd say they agree. There realize he "gets it". All the story artist I've managed to have a discussion with would tell me of the reaction John would have when a movie was up on reels and they knew, just like animators did with Walt, that what he said was worth more than anything anyone else said. Boy, that was a long sentence... sorry about that.
So you can probably guess I was on cloud 9 when Pixar was purchased by Disney and John was retained as head of both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. And then, with my love of Disney theme parks and WDI in general, you can tell my jaw hit the floor when I heard he was Head of Creativity for Imagineering.
So, now we can look forward to rich immersive stories not only at Disney and Pixar... but the rides as well. As John said to the guys at WDI on his first meeting: "We'll not be making anymore mediocre rides". Yeah. I like that. I know some have complained about the fact that almost all new rides at DL are Pixar rides. I understand, but we have to realize that right now THOSE are the ones that are popular. Those are what Disney movies used to be. I can't wait to see the new rides John will develope for the Disney films he will be in charge of. You know, those ones which will now be made by "story tellers", not middle management that has no idea how to write a story.
I can't wait to get some pics of the new Studio John is building over on the campus next to Imagineering. I'm even hearing some buzz about something maybe happening to WDI's headquarters if all goes well with the other things John is planning. Let's all hope the work he's doing is successful. It'll give him more clout to make better rides, better parks, better films and a better Disney all around.
I mean, you want to see how much he's becoming like Walt? Remember after Walt had made Snow White and wanted another challege... so he started making live action films? Well, with Pixar now starting to make live action films we can look forward to that "Executive Producer John Lasseter" credit. How much longer before we start seeing "John Lasseter presents..."? I don't know about you, but this is going to be the most exciting time in a Disney Geek's life... at least for the next half decade. How do you feel about that?
Friday, May 4, 2007
It appears Chris Williams' American Dog is in the process of getting a name. A new name, other than "American Dog" that is. The movie is up on reels and gets screened soon by the Big Wigs in Pixar and WDAS. Chris is probably biting his nails right now waiting to see how John, Brad, Andrew, Pete, Glene and several others feel about what he's done since taking over from Chris Sanders.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Here is the start of hopefully a regular feature here at Blue Sky Disney. With the constraints of time we shall try to give you a collection of the proposals, rumors and plans the Mouse has for the future of it's theme parks and resorts.
This post will be a monthly column released on Wednesdays and will contain what information we can gather from our sources to fill it. I hope you enjoy it. Let's get started.
First we'll start with the park(or Resort, now) that started it all...
The Year of a Million Dreams(YOMD) campaign has been extended till the end of 2008. Uhg... The Disneyland resort just finished a record quarter that beat, yes beat the same quarter last year during the 50th celebration. This has caused Jay Rasulo to go into orgasmic fits at the profits he can pull out of the park. This holds great news for we lovers of the park that started it all since those numbers will make Team Disney and TDB more willing to cough up the money to design better attractions, more lavish hotels and move closer toward an expansion that includes those two sacred words: Third Park. Not that it'll be announce anytime soon, but planning will move forward as attendance and profits soar. As reported over at Jim Hill Media there are serious plans for hotels on the lot with at least two hotels being planned on opening in the next 5 to 6 years. The design and theming of the hotels is being done right now and preliminary planning is underway for 1 or 2 more hotels to follow those if the good times keep rolling. The Walt Disney Company has been in negotiations with several property owners in the surrounding area about selling their land to the company or representatives of "other" companies.
Current plans(could change) call for the removal of the Fantasyland Theater in 2009 for a completely new theater to house a new show set to debut in 2011(it seems that year keeps showing up). There is talk concerning dramatic work altering the look/theme of Tomorrowland by 2010, but it's still in the Blue Sky phase(he he, love using that term). If money keeps flowing over the next year or so then plans could solidify and construction could begin in late 2008 for a late 2010/early 2011 completion. Again, this is very early in the development process, speculative and many, many factors could change it.
The majority of plans for the Resort over the next 5 years will be for the younger sister park.
There has been talk about taking out a great deal of the rides around Paradise Bay, but plans change daily. The current rumors about the Zephyr being moved cannot be confirmed because the expansion budget has yet to be approved. It is unknown yet if it will be moved. The Orange Stinger will be staying, but the large citris structure will be dismantled and a Victorian stucture more in line with the Midway Mania ride will be put in it's place. There has been talk of expanding the Bay Area from where it is near Golden State down to the area where Route 66 is. This is not happening. The current proposal envision the exact opposite. The Paradise Pier section is going to be continued from TSMM all the way up to the beginning of the Golden State area. The San Francisco buildings are being looked at for retheming to turn of the century Victorian architecture as well. The cheesy surf shops and restaurants would be gone and in it's place a Victorian beer garden dining environment. Mulholland Madness, the bland, off the shelf roller coaster would be history and replaced by an entirely new coaster built in an enclosed Victorian structure. The coaster will be more of a "classic" type coaster based on major Pixar characters, which some speculate will be an exact copy of the Crush Coaster in WDSP, but my sources seriously doubt this because of the existence of Turtle Talk already in DCA and Lasseter is not likely to have two attraction of the same character in one park. The Golden Dreams theater would be rethemed to match newly rethemed areas and a dark ride would be place inside featuring an attraction based on one of everyone's favorite Disney films... fans of WDFA in the 90's should be quite happy. The Block Party Bash will be leaving at the end of 07 and a new one will take it's place early in 2008.
Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
Not much happening on this front, normally I save stuff about HKDL for my "Forbidden Kingdom" articles, but Disney is even more tight lipped about HKDL than it's other parks. Hopefully, this will turn out to be a good thing. As far as the Resort, the Victorian Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel has won awards at the prestigious China Starlight Awards in two categories – Most Stylish Hotel and Best Themed Hotel.
The expansion of the resort is nowhere near as clear as other resorts future. It appears Hong Kong's government is leary about pumping more money into the resort and is taking a wait and see philosophy. This doesn't mean that the Pirate expansion of Adventureland has been canceled/rejected so much as waiting to see how attendance picks up over the next year with the shows, parades and IASW attraction coming online. Cautious news, but not bad news so don't panic yet Disney Geeks!
Tokyo Disney Resort
The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel 700 room hotel is scheduled to open in April 2008. It is being built in the parking lot in front of Tokyo Disneyland Park. This will create an environment simular to Disneyland Paris where the park's namesake hotel is situated directly in front of the park. The hotel's rooms are designed with families in mind. Designed like the WDW, Paris, HK version as a turn of the century Victorian experience that offers the amazing service that the Tokyo Disney Resort is know for.
The main thing that Tokyo Disney is getting is the Monster's Inc. attraction that is planned for the tomorrowland area. This will be a ride that uses much of the technology in DCA's Toy Story Midway Mania, except with the different films characters. Being as this is OLC though, the production of this Monster ride will be much more elaborate than DCA's Monster's Inc. ride. While California Adventure's ride cost around 30 million, the TDL version hovers somewhere between 80 and 90 million... almost three times. I'll say one thing about OLC, they spare no expense. The ride is scheduled to open in 2009.
Here in the most beautiful park Disney built there is not much to report right now. There is not much of a focus on Tokyo DisneySea right now with Tokyo Disneyland's 25th anniversary. The only plan that was squeduled resently was a new show called "The Snow Queen" that was canceled due to the Oriental Land Company's cut in funding for the park. The next phase of proposals won't be ready until at least 2009. One such Blue Sky proposal is for Tokyo DisneySea to have Soarin' as an attraction in Mediterranean Harbor. The ride would have a different film, one that's more in line with the Japanese audience. If approved, this project wouldn't be completed until 2010 or 2011. Other than this project no other information is known about expansion of the Tokyo Disney Resort. The OLC is looking at building a second Disney Resort in Japan, though, but it won't be located in Tokyo Bay. If OLC builds a third Disney Park it'll be located in another location in Japan. A location far enough away from the Tokyo Resort that doesn't take guest away from the original resort. OLC representative are already searching various locations for potential sights. WDI is at work on preliminary concepts for pitches to the company.
Well that's it for this report. I hope you enjoyed the deep chatter we hear from deep inside the hallways of Glendale. I know some of you will wonder why nothing was posted concerning WDW. Well, I'll have a report on Florida latter in the month or early June. Information about WDW is not as interesting right now since there are no plans on the front burner for a Fifth Park or any major announcements of new attractions. That doesn't mean there aren't plans in the works, but the focus will clearly be on Disneyland(Anaheim) for the immediate future. As for WDW, it's plans are more interesting when you talk four or five years from now, then it starts to get interesting. But that's a story for another article, another day. Keep on the lookout for new articles as recon comes in.