Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tales Of The Orient 2...

In the early 1990's the OLC began negotiations with the Walt Disney Company about adding another park to their popular resort and also adding an entertainment center and possibly Disney branded hotels. Its initial plan was to expand the resort for around one billion dollars(Again, in mid-1990's numbers). This figure was to be for the park, hotels and shopping district... sounds a lot closer in monetary value to what Disneyland in Anaheim got, doesn't it?

Now, the OLC began to use the Imagineers to come up with concepts for a second park and the company wanted their second gate to be different. They didn't want a Disney-MGM Studios or Epcot like the American parks had. They wanted something that would set there resort apart from their American sister parks. The Imagineers, realizing they could work on something different than a clone of an existing park, proposed a variation of the park they had planned on building in the Long Beach Port Disney project: "Disneysea." The executives of the OLC loved the idea of a Disney park designed around the sea... something that plays deep into the Japanese culture. They immediately approved going forward with concepts for the park and resort. As Imagineers are, they planned big and bold... knowing from their history with the Mouse that things eventually get cut. So they planned an elaborate park that they knew would have an abundance of well themed attractions that would survive whatever the OLC decided to cut. When the Imagineers presented there plans to the OLC company executives they were shocked. Not only did they not cut the park... the OLC Executives actually wanted more detail added. And Imagineers gladly obliged. They hadn't done anything like this since the planning of Euro Disneyland, which, while amazingly detailed turned into a financial mess for the Mouse and head cheese Michael Eisner.

Now the budget for the resort grew and grew until the price tag for this little jewel rose from around a billion, to over three billion dollars(well over two billion would go for the Tokyo DisneySEA park alone). Now, the Oriental Land Company had not planned on spending so much money, but it had no intention of scaling back the cost either. So the OLC devised a plan to go public. Since it was owned by two companies, it was beholden to them for financing, but going public would allow it to generate the cash it needed for paying for this massive new expansion. And so, the OLC started on it's road to becoming a publicly traded company in Japan...

On December 2, 1996 the Oriental Land Company went public to raise the money to turn Tokyo Disneyland Park into the Tokyo Disney Resort. It sold over eleven and a half million shares generating over a billion yen for the OLC to use in the new resort's funding. The company went from a privately held company to one of the largest publicly held in Japan, overnight. The planning continued and OLC and the Walt Disney Company moved forward with the plans. Both companies announced on October 22, 1998 that they had finalized an agreement to development a Second Gate, shopping district and two Disney branded hotels on reclaimed land on Tokyo Bay. The new park, "Tokyo DisneySEA would have 27 attractions at opening and only one of them would be a clone(Indiana Jones, although Jumpin' Jellyfish would also come to DCA but in a much cheaper design). Unlike Disneyland, the park would not have lands but ports themed to various ocean designs and emphasizing exploration and progress.

The addition of a Downtown Disney-like shopping district known as "Ikspiari," which is like a Disney themed small town or community. A large souvenir store designed to look like a giant piece of luggage, known as "Bon Voyage". A Disney Resort link, which would be the new monorail system since Tokyo Disneyland didn't have one when it opened(unlike its American monorail, you have to pay to ride the Tokyo one). Two new hotels would be built. The first, "Disney Ambassador Hotel" would be designed in the 30's Art-Deco style that Hollywood would be famous for. The second, "Tokyo DisneySea MiraCosta" would be the premier hotel designed in an old world, Italian style and would be within the walls of the Second Gate. Much like DCA's Grand Californian, the MiraCosta would let guest actually stay the night in the park. Can you imagine waking up to the view of Mount Prometheus?

The Resort would be opened on a staggered release... meaning that parts would open as they were completed, not all at once. The monorail and Ambassador Hotel opened in 2000 to be followed in September of the following year by Tokyo DisneySEA and the Hotel MiraCosta. It was an instant success when it opened. The TDS park had well over 10 million people when it opened, but the result of opening a park next to the original has a similar effect that WDW was familiar with: cannibalization. For it's first year or so the attendance at TDL suffered as guest were curious about the new park. While TDS is great and amazing it's not perfect. There have been complaints about it not having enough for families to do. Although truth-be-told, you could spend a day walking around just looking at the detail and not riding a thing. It also has it's attendance drop over a couple years, something that DCA has not had happen. Also, the OLC has funded two additional attractions. The Tower of Terror in the American Harbor and Raging Spirits in the Lost River Delta were added to boost the ride count and counter a downturn in the attendance. This was unexpected, since the OLC didn't foresee any additional attractions until after the park had at least been around for half a decade. For the most part though, the Resort(which is bigger than the Disneyland Resort) has been a huge success. The Resort continues to grow as well... a new theater is being built for Cirque du Soleil show that will open in 2008. Also, in July the OLC will open their third Disney branded hotel, the aptly named "Tokyo Disneyland Hotel" will greet guest with its Mictorian Splendor. What's next? Well, we'll see over the next few years, but suffice to say, late 2010 and 2011 will play big roles in the Resort's expansion and the OLC's expansion as it builds it's first Disney experience outside Tokyo.

Most Americans don't know much about the parks, but as the proliferation of the internet grows, so to does knowledge about the Tokyo Disney Resort and its fabulous Tokyo DisneySEA. In the 80's it was easy for the Walt Disney Company to not worry about what was going on in Tokyo as most here in the states knew very little about it. With the net expanding people's knowledge of what's available the WDC has had to worry about comparisons between the two parks and others around the world. This will hopefully prove to be a motivating factor in any plans for a new park here in America or around the world as Bob Iger advances his international plans. Comparisons will no doubt be made and rightly so... Tokyo DisneySEA is a shining example of what is possible when great ideas are allowed to be realized... the Disney Way.

My Friends, Tigger & Pooh...

On this day, fifty-two years ago...

A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit and many other endearing characters, passes away in Hartfield, Sussex, England.

When we all gather around the Hundred Acre Woods, we promise not to forget about him. Isn't that right, Pooh...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Everything You Know Is About To Change Forever...

The new one sheet for "Narnia: Prince Caspian" has appeared.

It's nice... I like it. Hopefully the film will live up to the poster. Films as we know, don't always turn out that way.

Suit Vs. Suit...

Edna Mode: "Never look back, darling. It distracts from the now."

It's hard to believe that it has been over two years since Bob Iger took over from Michael Eisner. It seemed like only yesterday we Disney Geeks/Fans were grumbling over the direction of the parks, the studios and the Mouse in general. A couple years later and look how the outlook has changed. It's during times like this that the empty parts of my mind start to wonder...

What different corporate creatures Eisner and Iger are. Oh, there are traits that they share, but mainly the different way they handle the corporate structure is entirely different.

I mean, let's start with Michael Eisner.

Eisner began his career as a page at NBC. He eventually got hired by Barry Diller as an assistant at ABC. He rose quickly in the ranks and eventually becoming a senior vice president in charge of programming and development. ABC created many hits during his tenure in programming there. Shows like "Happy Days" helped ABC in the ratings and Eisner with the having the clout to bring in viewers. One of the things that Eisner was involved in developing that I loved as a child was "School House Rock", the little animated educational cartoons between programs.

His bond with Diller was strong and when Diller left ABC to become head of Paramount Pictures in 1976, Eisner followed him and became CEO of the studio. During his time there, Paramount became a very hot studio known for hits like "Saturday Night Fever" and a small arthouse film called "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Perhaps you've heard of it?

Anyway, eventually Diller left and Eisner was not offered Diller's job so he put out feelers that he was looking...

Someone who was looking: Walt Disney Productions. Roy E. Disney, the kingmaker himself and Stanley Gold were wanting to make Disney relevant again and Ron Miller, Walt Disney's son-in-law that was running the place wasn't exactly believed to be the one capable of doing it(perhaps one too many Herbie film?). Eisner was initially offered the job of studio chief, like the one he had before at Paramount. He said no. He wanted to be the CEO of the entire company... not just the studio. Finally the company agreed to make him CEO and brought Frank Wells in as COO for the company. Frank Wells and Eisner were a very good match for each other. As I've said in earlier posts, Wells was the Yang to Eisner's Yin. Eisner handled the creative side and Wells took care of the other side.

Eisner immediately started getting Disney involved in films that it wouldn't make or some believed it shouldn't make. He used the Touchstone Pictures name(created by Ron Miller, btw) to make films that wouldn't fit under the Disney label. Eisner was brash and showy and unlike any Disney executive before him.

He immediately started turning around the fortunes of the company. He brought in Jeffrey Katzenberg, also from Paramount to run Disney's movie division. He even at one point early in his tenure considered ending animation. To be fair, he wasn't trying to do this, but was looking at what was best and profitable for the company. With the success of "The Little Mermaid" he realized the potential of animation.

Eisner was very combative with the people in his organization and was known for having others fight out battles. He believed that this combative approach was good for bringing out the best in ideas for the company. Unfortunately, many divisions like WED, which eventually became known as Walt Disney Imagineering suffered from this dog eat dog approach and instead of having each other work towards common goals, it set about balkanizing sections of the company and pitted people against one another.

Eisner's personality was abrasive at times as well. The reason that there are no more Roger Rabbit cartoons or the demise of a potential sequel to it(purported to star Tom Cruise if you believe that) are from the strained relationship he developed with Steven Spielberg. His approach to most creative enterprises during his first decade were usually quite successful. After Wells died in that helicopter crash in 1994 it was a chance to find another balance to Eisner. Hard though it may have been, it didn't happen. No counterweight came to take Frank Wells place and his second decade would go on to do much damage to the success he built up in the first. Eisner did help realize Disney's full potential. He turned a much smaller company that was stuck in the shadow of its founder into a large entertainment giant that had become the second largest entertainment company in the world by the time he left it. The small, almost family run studio that was under threat of hostel takeover attempts in the early 80's was not what most people remember.

Eisner did a great deal to help catapult Disney back to relevance and then his own human faults got the company in trouble again in the early part of this decade. Ironically, it was Roy E. Disney that then started looking for another CEO to replace Eisner when, by 2003, he felt the current CEO had lost his magical touch...

Eventually, at Disney's annual shareholders' meeting in early 2003, a surprising and unprecedented 43% of Disney's shareholders withheld their vote to renew him on the Board. At this point the press and everyone including Eisner knew that the times had changed. The writing was on the wall. Eisner knew it was time to go. He soon announced that he would retire a year before his contract ran out in 2006. Before heading out the door, Eisner suggested the board elect his second in command, Bob Iger as the new CEO. Roy E. Disney and others schofed at the idea. Thinking that Iger would be just another puppet of Eisner, many didn't believe that Iger would be the final choice. After being interviewed by the board, Bob Iger became the first Disney CEO of the 21st Century... the first CEO in almost two and a half decades. That's a long time in business. On September 30th, 2005, Michael Eisner retired as head of the Walt Disney Company and Robert A. Iger took over.

Now who is Bob Iger? He really is an enigma when compared to Michael Eisner... He doesn't have the flashy history, legendary ego or other things associated with Eisner's reign. Just where did Bob Iger com from and what has he done to get where he is?

Well, he started working at ABC in 1973 while Michael Eisner was in programing there. He quickly rose though inside the network until he became president of the ABC Network Television Group in 1993. He held that position for a year and was then offered the job of president and CEO of ABC's corporate parent, Capital Cities/ABC.

Two years later Disney came a knocking and bought Capital Cities thus making Iger a cast member of the Mouse. In 1999 he was named the president of Walt Disney International which handles the overseas operations of the WDC. Now, can many of you can see why he places such an importance of foreign markets? He only held that job for about a year as Eisner named him president and chief operating officer in 1999. This was the title Frank Wells had while he was at the company from 1984-94.

Within a couple years, the revolt against Eisner began and Iger continued to run his part of the company as the number two man in the corporation. After the Board decided that Iger was the right man to succeed Eisner, Iger set about a course that seemed intent on showing his independence and give a signal that he was his own man, not just someone that Eisner could control. He replaced key Eisner associates to show that he was in charge and even disbanded the much dreaded "strategic planning division" which was known as an elephant graveyard for creative ideas. This group was a layer of bureaucracy that Eisner set up to question creativity and drown ideas. Many in the animation division loathed this division and a good portion of WDI hated it. Simply hated it...

He immediately earned kudos for doing these things and raised a few eyebrows of those that believed he wouldn't be so independents. More surprises were to come.

January 24, 2006, Bob Iger announced the Walt Disney Company would buy Pixar Animation Studios for US $7.4 billion. This would have been unthinkable a year earlier. But now Bob Iger was showing the company and its stockholders that he capable of some surprising things.

His style seems to be much more laid back that Eisner's. He lets the divisions have more control over their own areas of the company... so long as they produce he doesn't seem to micromanage them the way the former CEO did. The style he deals with people is far from the confrontational one Michael Eisner used to intimidate people into submission. He's also announced several projects to lead the company into the new century. He's focusing on internet far more than Eisner and seems to embrace technology in a much more forward-centric business practice. His dealings with Apple and its mercurial CEO, Steve Jobs are a world apart from how Eisner handled things. He's even started addressing the problems that people have had with DCA... the ones that Eisner tried to put band-aids on. The Extreme Makeover of Disney's California Adventure marks the first of several projects that Iger and company are planning to strengthen and broaden the growth of the company over the next few years.

As I've mentioned to several commenters... Iger appears to be taking the middle road while guiding the Walt Disney Company forward. Having learned from Eisner's mistakes of extravagance with Euro Disneyland and cheapness with DCA, he's decided to carve out a center path. One that tries to give the company's theme parks the needed attention they deserve while not going all out at once. Cautious optimism seems to be a trademark of this path.

Some people have called Iger the "Anti-Eisner"... because of his exact opposite decision making process... examples in film show a 180 degree different strategy from what Michael Eisner did in the 80's. Where Eisner used Touchstone to strike out into more adult terrain... Iger appears to be going the reverse and focusing on the Walt Disney brand instead concentrating on family terrain. Bob Iger seems to have taken the wisdom of watching all of Eisner's faults and heading in the opposite direction. Hopefully in the future when he encounters his own mistakes he will find his own wisdom to guide him through the changes. Life is filled with challenges... time will tell us how well Bob's done. In the mean time, he seems to be looking forward and has dramatically changed the atmosphere at Disney. Looking forward is what Walt would do...

It's nice to see the current head cheese doing the same.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

She's A Beauty...

On this date, forty-nine years ago...

Walt Disney premiered his 16th animated feature: "Sleeping Beauty"...

Although her castle premiered at Disneyland four years earlier, it doesn't help make the film a success. It will take over two decade before the film will finally show a profit. Many today consider it a classic, but back then it wasn't the case. Disney even confided in friends and colleagues he didn't know if he could keep making these films. It was getting so expensive.

The passage of time has made us realize the value and beauty(pun intended) of this film. While it's not the best in terms of story... Disney was far more interested in the running of his new theme park and was focusing less on the animated films. Hence the weaker story. The animation is some of the best Walt Disney Productions has ever created and its legendary backgrounds are amazing. The film did create arguably, Disney's best villain: Malificent.

Sleeping Beauty is scheduled for release on Platinum DVD and Blu-Ray in fall 2008.

Disney Gives You The ABC's Of The Sword Of Truth...

Sam Raimi is teaming with Disney-ABC Domestic Television and ABC Studios to create a new first-run, live-action weekly series targeted for a fall launch. The series, titled "Wizard's First Rule," is based on Terry Goodkind's best-selling epic fantasy series "The Sword of Truth." Production on the first of 22 episodes is scheduled to begin in May. This will be ABC Studios first venture into broadcast syndication. No word on how the writer's strike will affect the production.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tales Of The Orient...

On this day, twenty-eight years ago, the Industrial Bank of Japan along with several other banks made public that they were lending the Oriental Land Company $300 million to build a Disney theme park.

I know a lot of people are confused when they realize that the Tokyo Disney Resort is not owned by the Walt Disney Company. A Disney theme park not owned by Disney? How can that be?

Simple, really.

Business being what it is and all, a number of events happened to create this very unique situation in the Disney World. Let's start where every story starts.

The beginning...

Back in the late 1970's Walt Disney Productions(now known as the Walt Disney Company) was building a little theme park we like to call EPCOT. Now, even though Walt had passed from this world for over a decade and there was, at times and in areas of the company, a lack of direction, some areas of the company still focused on a great deal of attention, detail and quality to the parks. EPCOT was costing the company millions and millions of dollars in cost overruns as it moved toward completion(the final bill would be over a billion dollars in 1982 dollars, friends). Now around this time a company known as the Keisei Electric Railway Company was also having financial difficulties in Japan. Through their real estate holding company, known as The Oriental Land Company they just happened to own a piece of land near Tokyo's harbor and came up with the idea of getting Walt Disney Productions to build a park there. Knowing the Japanese love of Disney characters, the company thought it would be a great way to get out of debt and what better way than getting the Mouse to build a park in the land of the rising sun. Well, when they approached the company, Disney said no. EPCOT was costing so much money that the company couldn't afford to finance such a venture.

Not to be deterred, Keisei Electric Railway Company and its partner the Mitsui Real Estate Company, the two companies that created the Oriental Land Company in 1960 deciced to have the OLC make Disney a very enticing offer. Within a short amout of time the OLC hammered out an agreement with Walt Disney Productions that seemed like a great deal for the cash strapped rodent. They wouldn't have to put up a penny. The Oriental Land Company would build the park and in return for Disney licensing out it's characters and allowing the Japanese company to use the Imagineers, Disney would get a 10 percent royalty on all admissions to the park. They also received a 5 percent royalty on all merchandise and concessions(This would be similar to the deal agreed upon to expand the park into a resort and Second Gate). Seemed like a winner for Disney. It incurred no financial risk and reaped the benefit of the park should it be a success. And there was a good chance of that given Japanese love of the Mouse. The close proximity to Tokyo was also a great comfort since the park would be near an extremely large population. It would be equivalent to Disney building a park on the harbor in New York City. There would be that many people within a very short distance.

And so the foundation for Tokyo Disneyland was created. Tokyo Disneyland opened up in 1983 and has since gone on to become the most visited Disney theme park in the world. By the time the OLC got around to deciding to expand on their success and turn this one park into an entire resort, well over 17 million people a year were going through the turnstiles.

That is where we will pick up next time...

If you would like to read more about the origins of the Oriental Land Company then get a copy of "The Prince of the Magic Kingdom" by Joe Flower.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Take A Look Up...

Apparently over at Disney's Hollywood Studios' Animation Exhibit there is a piece of concept art up(no pun intended) featuring a scene from Pixar's 2009 release: "Up". It appears to show an old gentleman with a very vivid imagination... very Don Quixote, if you ask me.

Hat Tip to Upcoming Pixar.

Friday, January 25, 2008

101 On 25 In 61...

On this day, forty-seven years ago...

Walt Disney Productions premiered its 17th animated feature: "101 Dalmatians". The film begins using the Xerox process where they don't have to hand-trace every animators drawing onto cels anymore. Although considered a classic today, most people don't know that Walt Disney was not really that impressed with the final designs of the characters and let his opinion be known.

Still, the film showcased what has become one of Disney's classic villains: "Cruella De Vil"

101 Dalmatians comes to DVD in a two-disc Platinum Edition on March 4th, 2008.

Buzz And Woody More Real Than Ever...

Walt Disney Studios has decided to rerelease "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" in Disney Digital 3-D™ in a staggered debut over the next couple years as it awaits the coming "Toy Story 3". The new film is being produced in 3-D. Lee Unkrich, whom co-directed “Toy Story 2” is at the helm of this third and final installment. I wonder how that film will look in 3-D outside during its premiere at DCA's Paradise Pier? Here's hoping they don't fall too far back in construction if they want to still have it there.

Anyways the movies releases are:

“Toy Story” on October 2nd, 2009.

“Toy Story 2” on February 12th, 2010.

"Toy Story 3" on June 18th, 2010.

Although the premiere will be around a week or so earlier.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Purchase...

Two years ago today, Bob Iger announced the Walt Disney Company was acquiring Pixar Animation Studios for 7.4 billion in an all-stock transaction. The purchase makes Apple Inc. CEO and Pixar's Chairman, Steve Jobs, Disney's largest Shareholder. It also puts John Lasseter in charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation as well as Pixar Animation. It also puts him in charge of creativity at Walt Disney Imagineering...

A new act begins for the Mouse...

Let's hope it's going to be a great big, beautiful tomorrow for a long, long time...

Animated Short Nominations Are Goofy...

I was aiming to write about this the other day...

But I got busy... Hey, I do have a life ya know!

The Oscar Nominations have been announced and I like most of what was announced, except...

The nominations for Best Animated Short. Or to be more specific, the "lack" of a nomination is what has me a bit upset.

2007 Best Animated Short Film Nominations:

I Met the Walrus - Josh Raskin
Madame Tutli-Putli - Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski
• Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven) - Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
My Love (Moya Lyubov) - Alexander Petrov
Peter and the Wolf - Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

I don't want to take away from any of the shorts that have been nominated. This post is not about them. It's more about the Academy and its decision making process. I find it hard to believe the Academy let "How To Hook Up Your Home Theater" go without a nomination. Was this some form of slight against the short, or perhaps a sign that they've given up on Disney hand drawn animation? It could also be that the short plays so well as a bridge to the Disney shorts of the past that Academy members thought they were looking at an old cartoon. But then they wouldn't have or couldn't have watched the whole thing would be my guess. This wouldn't be the first time, Oscar winners are filled with films that even the voters didn't see, but felt should win. Even when it's just entertainment, it's political, sadly.

I'm not saying that Goofy's new short should win... although I wouldn't mind it. But the short should have been nominated. It deserves it for not only being a great animated short, but for showing that a group of talented animators can create something so wonderfully funny and memorable after having their skills neglected and tossed aside for half a decade.

Maybe they should expand the number? Maybe they should have to actually take a test to prove they watched what they vote for. Either way, the lack of a nomination for Disney's first new short in years is just plain goofy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Too Much, Too Many, Too Little, Too Late...

Blue Sky Disney gets a lot of e-mail. A LOT. When I started this sight it was simply an outlet of my love of all things Disney... a vent for releasing a little of my interest in the Mouse so that the girls I date don't start thinking I'm too weird. I tend to not sleep very much and it's a good cure for that... it's also very cathartic. So anyway, back to what I was saying...

In the winter of 2006 as I began posting, I got maybe an e-mail once every two or three weeks. Around the turn of the new year in 2007 that began to change as some websites started clicking onto my site and liking what I wrote. I don't know why, but I'm grateful for their support. Many of them starting linking to posts that I've written and in so doing the e-mails have climbed higher and higher. By March of 2007, I was getting 5 to 10 e-mails a week. By summer I was getting 10 to 15 a week and as the end of the year drew near I was getting about 20 to 30 a week. As the new year begins, I'm getting even more than that so my apologies to all those that think I'm being rude in not responding. I simply don't have the time to answer all the e-mail I've been getting. The interest fellow Disney Geeks have placed on my blog is truly something I never thought I'd see. I just started this little blog as a hobby. I never expected it would affect so many other people.

Anyway, I've tried to respond to questions that people have sent repeatedly by posting an article on it and try and use that as a way to answer some people's questions about the Mouse. One such question or critique I've been seeing a lot of e-mail on lately is the Extreme Makeover of DCA. In particular, the great number of rides that are coming to the park based on animated movies/characters. The complaint has been that there are too many of these. That they need to create more attractions like Tokyo DisneySEA. That Walt Disney wouldn't have thrown so many rides into one of his parks that were just "cartoons".

So I decided to take a look at TDS and DCA and compare them in regards to Attraction(rides and shows), Shops(all manner of retail places)and Restaurants(sit down and ODV carts). Stay with me here...

This may get kind of confusing because it's a lot of numbers. So lets dig through this and see what we find...

First off, we have Tokyo DisneySEA... the Disney Geeks/Fans crowning jewel. The one everyone of us lusts after like the girl the jock dated in high school that we always wanted to be with but knew we had no chance of being with. I know, you're saying... speak for yourself, bub. Anyway, long-time readers will know my love for this park... it is my second favorite park after Disneyland itself. That being said, I thought we'd examine just how many things it had in it that were cartoon versus non-cartoon.

Now first and most important is to examine the attractions. They are the main reason we go to a theme park, particularly a Disney theme park.

Tokyo DisneySEA Attractions:

Mediterranean Harbor - Fortress Explorations, Venetian Gondolas, DisneySea Transit Steamer Line. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 3

Mysterious Island
- Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 2

Mermaid Lagoon - Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster, Scuttle's Scooters, Jumpin' Jellyfish, Blowfish Balloon Race, The Whirlpool, Ariel's Playground. Cartoon Attractions: 6, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 0

Arabian Coast
- Sinbad's Seven Voyages, Magic Lamp Theater, Caravan Carousel. Cartoon Attractions: 3, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 0

Lost River Delta - Indiana Jones Adventure, Raging Spirits. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 2

Port Discovery - StormRider, Aquatopia, DisneySea Electric Railway. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 3

American Waterfront - Tower of Terror, City Vehicles, DisneySea Electric Railway. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 3

Total Cartoon attractions:
9 Total Non-Cartoon Attractions: 12

Tokyo DisneySEA Shops:

(C): Cartoon, (X): Non-Cartoon

Mediterranean Harbor - Galleria Disney(C), Emporio(C), Valentina's Sweets(X), Fotografica (X), Il Postino Stationery(X), Nicolo's Workshop(X), Figrao's Clothiers(C), Merchant of Venice Confections(C), Venetian Carnival Market(X), Romeo's Watches & Jewelry(X), Juliet's Collections & Treasures(X), ODV Stands/Carts(C). Cartoon Shops: 5, Non-Cartoon Shops: 7

Mysterious Island - Nautilus Gifts. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 1

Mermaid Lagoon - The Sleepy Whale Shoppe, Mermaid Treasures, Kiss de Girl Fashions. Cartoon Shops: 3, Non-Cartoon Shops: 0

Arabian Coast - Agrabah Marketplace. Cartoon Shops: 1, Non-Cartoon Shops: 0

Lost River Delta - Lost River Outfitters. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 1

Port Discovery
- Discovery Gifts. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 1

American Waterfront
- McDuck's Department Store, Steamboat Mickey's, Aunt Peg's Village Store. Cartoon Shops: 2, Non-Cartoon Shops: 1

Total Cartoon Shops:
11 Total Non-Cartoon Shops: 11

Tokyo DisneySEA Restaurants:

Mediterranean Harbor - Cafe Portofino(X), Zambini Brother's Ristorante(X), Mamma Biscotti's Bakery(X), Fotografica (X), Magellan's(X). Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 5

Mysterious Island - Vulcania Restaurant, Nautilus Galley, Refreshment Station. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 3

Mermaid Lagoon - Sebastian's Calypso Kitchen. Cartoon Restaurants: 1, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 0

Arabian Coast - Sultan's Oasis, Casbah Food Court. Cartoon Restaurants: 2, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 0

Lost River Delta - Yucatan Base Camp Grill, Miguel El Dorado Cantina, Expedition Eats, Lost River Cookhouse, Tropic Al's. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 5

Port Discovery - Horizon Bay Restaurant. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 1

American Waterfront - S.S. Columbia Dining Room, The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge, Restaurant Sakura, Sailing Day Buffet, New York Deli, Cape Cod Cook-Off, Delancey Catering, Liberty Landing Diner. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 8

Total Cartoon Restaurants:
3 Total Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 22

I know, it's a lot of numbers to digest... but in the end it adds up to 23 Cartoon Attractions, Shops and Restaurants and 45 Non-Cartoon Attractions, Shops and Restaurants. Now while that might sound like a lot, you really have to take the restaurants out because most restaurants in DCA and other Disney theme parks are not based on cartoons. The best way to look at it is by taking the attractions and shops and seeing what this totals out to. The result of this is 21 Non-Cartoon Attractions and Shops compared to 22 Cartoon Attractions and Shops. So it comes down to a pretty even score... almost a 50/50 splint. That doesn't seem like too many cartoons to me, really. There are a great many animated characters in TDS and they seem balanced out with the parks other entertainment offerings.

Now, let's look at DCA.

Disney's California Adventure Attractions:

Sunshine Plaza - Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 0

Hollywood Pictures Backlot - Monsters, Inc., Animation Academy, Character Close up, Sorcerer's Workshop, Disney's Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular, Muppet-Vision™ 3D, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Playhouse Disney Live, Turtle Talk with Crush, Hollywood Backlot Stage. Cartoon Attractions: 8, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 2

Golden State - Seasons of the Vine, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, Grizzly River Run. Golden Dreams, Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 4 (of note, I didn't count Redwood as a character ride because the Brother Bear facade out front was added later and is not really part of the trail itself).

A Bug's Land - It's Tough To Be A Bug, Bountiful Valley Farm, Flicks Flyers, Francis' Ladybug Boogie, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train, Princess Dot Puddle Park, Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies. Cartoon Attractions: 6, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 1

Condor Flats - Soarin' Over California. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 1

Paradise Pier - California Screamin', Maliboomer, Sun Wheel, Mulholland Madness, Orange Stinger, Golden Zephyr, King Triton's Carousel, Jumpin' Jellyfish, S.S. Rustworth, Games of the Boardwalk. Cartoon Attractions: 2, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 8

Pacific Wharf - Mission Tortilla Factory, The Bakery Tour. Cartoon Attractions: 0, Non-Cartoon Attractions: 2

Total Cartoon attractions: 16 Total Non-Cartoon Attractions: 18

Disney's California Adventure Shops:

Sunshine Plaza - Engine-Ears Toys, Greetings From California. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 2

Hollywood Pictures Backlot - Gone Hollywood, Off-The-Page, Studio Store. Cartoon Shops: 1, Non-Cartoon Shops: 2

Golden State - Rushin' River Outfitters. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 1

A Bug's Land - P.T. Flea Market. Cartoon Shops: 1, Non-Cartoon Shops: 0

Condor Flats - None. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 0

Paradise Pier - Souvenir 66, Point Mugu Tattoo, Sideshow Shirts, Treasures In Paradise, Dinosaur Jack's Sunglass Shack, Man, Hat N' Beach. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 6

Pacific Wharf - None. Cartoon Shops: 0, Non-Cartoon Shops: 0

Total Cartoon Shops: 2 Total Non-Cartoon Shops: 11

Disney's California Adventure Restaurants:

Sunshine Plaza - Baker's Field Bakery, Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 2

Hollywood Pictures Backlot - Fairfax Market, Schmoozies, Award Weiners. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 3

Golden State - Wine Country Trattoria. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 1

A Bug's Land - ODV Carts. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 0(there are a couple ODV carts which are not cartoon themed)

Condor Flats - Taste Pilots' Grill. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 1

Paradise Pier - Ariel's Grotto, Burger Invasion, Catch A Flave, Corn Dog Castle, Pizza Oom Mow Mow. Cartoon Restaurants: 1, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 4

Pacific Wharf - Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill, Pacific Wharf Cafe, Rita's Baja Blenders. Cartoon Restaurants: 0, Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 3

Total Cartoon Restaurants: 1 Total Non-Cartoon Restaurants: 14

That adds up to 19 Cartoon Attractions, Shops and Restaurants and 43 Non-Cartoon Attractions, Shops and Restaurants. Now if you take away the restaurants like we did with TDS then that leaves you with 18 Cartoon Attractions and Shops compared with 29 Non-Cartoon Attractions and Shops. This doesn't appear to be out of line and it doesn't take into account the new attractions that are coming as part of the Extreme Makeover. With the Sun Wheel becoming Mickey's Sun Wheel, Mulholland becoming Goofy's Sky School, the addition of the Little Mermaid attraction plus the three Cars Land ride and TSMM the total comes to 23 Cartoon Attractions and Shops versus 28 Non-Cartoon Attractions and Shops...

I hope all those numbers weren't too confusing for you. I tried to be as accurate as I could. I may have missed a restaurant or shop, but I should be pretty close in the final count when all things are considered.

Again, this is not that much different that Tokyo DisneySEA in terms of percentages. These rides will be very nicely themed and the areas around them will be greatly improved. Judging by these figures it really doesn't seem that DCA is becoming a "Cartoon" park. It is adding more "Disney" characters, but not that many when compared to other parks... the problem is that it has been lacking in that Disney representation. For those of you that are still worried about this? Fear not, the Second Phase of this makeover has at least one, possibly two attractions that you'll be happy to know have nothing to do with animated characters. Of course, you'll have to wait a few years though. Patience. The park isn't turning into one giant Toon Town, it's just turning into a Disney park after a decade of having an identity crisis...

Now that it finally knows what it is, we will start to learn what it will become.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What's Next?

On this day nineteen years ago, the Walt Disney Company aired another commercial in a series of ads that have become part of our cultural lexicon. The San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 and Joe Montana starts to walk across the field...

A voice off screen asks him: "Joe Montana, you've just won Super Bowl XXIII. What's next?"

To which he replies a line that has been mocked and imitated for a generation:

"I'm going to Disney World!"

It sounds like some marketing genius came up with that phrase, but in reality it was Disney CEO Michael Eisner's wife that thought it up. Sometimes life's answers come from the most unlikely places.

In two weeks, we'll see if Tom Brady or Eli Manning gets asked this question...

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Much For A Room?

Twenty years ago today, the Walt Disney Company finally got hold of something even Walt Disney couldn't get. What was that you ask?

The Disneyland Hotel.

Wait a minute... it's the "Disneyland" hotel, right? How could they not own their own hotel? Well, if you're a normal Disney Geek/Fan then you may know this, if not, then please bare with me.

It is surprising to people when you tell them that the Disneyland Hotel wasn't always owned by the Mouse. You see when Walt Disney built Disneyland back in 1955, well he spent all the money he had on its construction. He borrowed against his home, he got his brother Roy to get other investors and then had the ABC Network inject a significant amount of cash in return for airing a new show on its fledgling broadcast called, ironically: "Disneyland." Getting a filmmaker like Disney was a premiere feather in their cap. That show, as readers of this blog may have read, is really the worlds first infomercial as it was a primary way for Walt to advertise the coming park that he was building.


Now he put all he had into this place, but he didn't have enough money to build a hotel. Walt knew that there were no hotels with a reasonable distance that would support enough people who came to see his park. So he asked his friend, Jack Wrather to build a hotel near by. Wrather reportedly refused. Disney told rather that if he would build a hotel in Anaheim, he would give him the right to use the Disney name on it... and any other hotel he built in California. And then he sweetened it more by telling Wrather it would be a 99 year contract. And so the Disneyland Hotel was born...

Wrather built a very nice 50's style hotel that was right next door to the theme park. After the 1959 expansion of Disneyland was completed, Walt instructed the Imagineers to draw up plans for the monorail to pull right up to the hotel so that guest could ride straight into the park. A couple years later he did just that. Wrather never built any other hotels in California with Disney's name on them even though he had the right to. And so it went for decades...

Now when Michael Eisner became the Top Cheese at the Mouse he started exploited the properties in Walt Disney World that had been underdeveloped and underused. He started building hotels on the property and planning new parks to take advantage of the enormous potential of the Florida Resort. As he did so, Eisner saw that there was more growth for Disney World's older sister in Anaheim and started WDI working on a plan to expand the property. He was surprised to learn that the Disneyland Hotel was not owned by the company... just like many of you. He had Disney representatives inquire about the property and the Wrather Company, which owned it was not interested in selling. At least not to Disney...

The Mouse soon learned that Wrather was indeed in talks to sell the property, but to a foreign company. Eisner didn't want this to happen and got the company lawyers at work on trying to find a way to stop this. It just so happened that the monorail contract with Disneyland was going to be coming up for renewal soon and Disney's Suits and lawyers used this as it's main leverage. They told the Wrather Company that the license renewal was going to be expensive. Much more expensive.

This through a wrench into Wrather's plans to sell the hotel... once the buyer examined all the books and would discover how costly it would be to have the monorail contract renewed it would be a very unattractive deal. Exactly what the Mouse wanted. Once they announced this the Wrather Company found that prospective buyers were going to be hard to come by...

Except for the Walt Disney Company.

And so they started negotiations to sell the Disneyland Hotel. But the deal that Wrather had been setting up wasn't just for the hotel, but also for his entire company. By the time the deal was done, the Walt Disney Company purchased the Wrather Company and got a lot more than just the Disneyland Hotel that it wanted.

Several properties that came with the first Disney hotel were the Queen Mary in Long Beach and a certain Masked Man that rode a white horse riding throughout the West searching for justice. Now with this out of the way, Michael Eisner began with his intention of expanding the property in Anaheim to a full resort like the one in Florida, albeit a bit smaller. He got the Imagineers to start designing what would eventually be proposed as "WestCOT" for the new Disneyland Resort. But while he was doing this, he also turned his attention to that new property the Mouse owned in Long Beach. He asked the Imagineers to come up with something that could be used there. Possibly some kind of new park right where the Queen Mary was. This was known internally at WDI as the "Long Beach Project" that eventually became the proposed "Port Disney" Resort, that was the inspiration for "Tokyo DisneySEA." Eisney's plan would serve two-fold, it would be a potentially new park in the Southern California area and it would be used as leverage against Anaheim in his plans to build a new park there. He could in essence put both cities against one another to get the best deal possible.

As we all know, WestCot didn't happen. Port Disney didn't happen. The Disneyland Resort did happen. It was built on a vastly smaller scale that the grandiose plans that Eisner and the Imagineers had envisioned though. While WestCot was to be a 3 billion dollar project(in 1990 numbers, my friends) and Port Disney was a 2 billion dollar project(in 1991 numbers), the new Disneyland Resort was an expansion of 1.6 billion dollars(in 1998 dollars). While Anaheim got it's new resort... it was decidedly smaller because of the financial mess that came from Euro Disneyland. Eisner's grand plans crumbled under this burden and the resulting parks and resorts over the next decade would be much more frugal and underwheming. The Disneyland Hotel which was to get a fourth, new tower and massive retheming would instead get a modest makeover. Instead of WestCOT, we got Disney's California Adventure. Built for 650 million, this park was intended to be a modest one, able to make a profit from day one and not having to endure all the headaches Eisner had dealing with Euro Disneyland. First, he dreamed too big and then too small... but that is a story for another day.

Now the Disneyland Resort is in the middle of an expansion that will bring it closer to the original vision that the Imagineers had... not the exact same one, but one that in a decade could be just as lovely. Only a couple decades after it was supposed to be realized. Progress comes, but slowly my friends. The Disneyland Hotel should get that massive makeover that was planned back in the 90's. By spring we should see some form of an announcement and by the end of the decade the hotel will greet visitors with a brand new face... a brand new look.

Now, what became of the other properties. The Queen Mary, well it's still there... but that fabulous resort that was to be constructed around it is now Tokyo Disney Resort's Second Gate. Eisner had the company sell off all the other assets it bought from the Wrather Company to help justify its cost. Even the Lone Ranger was sold to another company. This character that could have joined may others like Peter Pan and Jack Sparrow... but the Masked Man was not wanted. Until now... It appears that Jerry Bruckheimer will be mounting a large scale, big budget version of the character. And since his production deal is with Walt Disney Studios, well guess how costly that is going to be for the Mouse? They're going to be charged many, many times what they sold him for. Oh and that expansion of DCA which is going to cost around 800 million for the First Phase is costing many times what the Suits originally thought it would when they opened the park back in 2001. Now over in Japan, where a version of the Port Disney concept came about... they're not doing any major construction. There's no need... it was built right the first time. They didn't make the mistakes the Mouse did. But they did profit from them. They got the fruit of the Imagineer's labor. California? It got the backlash of Euro Disney.

You have to ask yourself about that. In hindsight, with all this stuff about Michael Eisner wanting to purchase the Disneyland Hotel back from Jack Wrather...

How much did it actually cost for one of those rooms?

Sunday, January 20, 2008


People always wonder what it is about Walt Disney that makes us Disney Geeks such a fan of him. Why is there such a devotion to his memory, his movies and his theme parks?

It's simple, really. Like most of life's problems and solutions to them, the answer lies right in front of you... but most simply refuse to accept or even believe the obvious.

It was Walt's optimism. His belief in things. America. The world. Humanity, itself...

He was positive and held that view throughout his life. Oh, I'm not saying he didn't have bad habit, he didn't sometime brood over things. The man was human, after-all... but through it all, he worked at being upbeat and not focusing on the negative. In this world of negative pessimism it's good to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Life is difficult, but it's not impossible and through it all it is very important to keep an outlook to help you get through it. Disney did that for people. He presented a more encouraging experience for people. He represented the notion that tomorrow could be a better day. That there was potential...

That there was hope.

That's hard to come by in this world today even more than when the Maestro was around to help us carry on.

Many people will misinterpret this as calling him perfect. Walt Disney was not a perfect man, but he was a great man... men don't have to be perfect to be great. But in this world where so much can go wrong, it's a calming feeling to know that some things can go right.

That is why Walt is revered so much. People head toward his optimism... Americans in general have always been optimistic people... and this man that started out just wanting to draw... just wanting to tell stories on film... just wanting to let families experience the magic he saw in person... well, he was like a light. A beacon, really.

A beacon that gave you confidence that there was another way. A better way. He was the best example of American Exceptionalism and a perfect example of how successful American culture is when spread throughout the world. Even then, Walt Disney was a world renowned name. An American product that was easily transferable and accepted around the globe. His optimism was not just an American trait, but an international one.

Take a look at Progressland and the other areas that Walt built for the 1964 World's Fair. These four areas put on display his philosophy as a man about what America and the world could accomplish. A world without limits or restrictions, a world that would be a better place for us:

One that celebrated man's yearning to be free(Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln).
One that celebrated what we had in common(It's A Small World).
One that celebrated where we had come from and where we were going(Carousel of Progress).
One that celebrated how it all began(The Magic Skyway).

So if you come across someone that gives you that look when you talk with enthusiasm about Disney... you can tell them the reason you love Walt is he gave you a reason to believe. That is after-all, the real Disney Magic.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Who's The Leader Of The Band...

It's been a charmed year for the man that owns more Disney stock than any other person right now. Steve Jobs, leader of Apple, Inc. and prolific Disney Board member has been going through a very sweet period. The company's stock is worth about thirty times what it was just around the beginning of the decade and right now it seems as if Jobs and his company can do no wrong.

Jobs is considered a genius and visionary... he is after-all, half of the team that gave us home computing. Jobs in world reknown for his "Reality Distortion Field" that traps all who enter its path like a Death Star tractor beam. He was once considered a hot-head and too juvenile to run Apple. John Sculley fired him from the famous fruit company after a big battle with the Board in a power struggle to take back control of a company he was running. Steve Jobs spent years wandering in the jungle after that... banished from the company he helped create. He did a few things in between getting fired from Apple and then returning to Apple of course... he created a new computer company called NeXT, Computers which would one day be bought up and form the basis for Apple's new operating system: Mac OS X and he also bought a little division of Lucasfilm that you may have heard of called Pixar.

He's given a great deal of credit when people talk about Pixar and while he has helped it a great deal, he wasn't always so sure of the little computer graphics company. He didn't buy it with the intention of making films. He bought it with the intention of selling software, like the Renderman program that Pixar makes. That was Steve's original intent. He even tried several time early to sell the company considering that it was a loss for him. How would you like to be one of those people that turned down buying Pixar from him? After a period, Pixar's shorts which were testing the technology they were developing starting winning Oscars. This made Jobs confident enough in the Lamp to spend more, but he also got the company started trying to make a profit by creating commercials for several years. This became Pixar's bread and butter as they slowly tried to bring Ed Catmull's dream of making a computer animated movie. It was only after they secured a deal with Disney and the story started coming in that Steve realized what he had on his hands... but when he did, he went after it full bore and with the success of "Toy Story" he was even able to re-negotiate the original deal he had with the Mouse. While he ran Pixar he was very, shall we say... "unJobsian". Jobs is known as a very detail oriented micro-manager, but while CEO of Pixar he was decidedly hands off. He let Ed Catmull and John Lasseter run the company for the most part, but his support and strength during the Disney negotiations for films and the eventual acquisition were extremely valuable. The relationship that Jobs began with Bob Iger also proved strong and survived an attempt by former CEO Michael Eisner to stop the purchase of Pixar. He was decidedly against it and asked Iger and the Board not to do so and bring Steve Jobs into the company. Eisner knew that doing so would make Jobs the largest shareholder in the company with between six and seven percent. This would have made Eisner's close to one percent of the company's stock seem like nothing and put a man that Eisner had contempt for in control of a great deal of decision making at the company he just left. The Board didn't follow Eisner's advise, having remembered how he told them that after having seen "Finding Nemo" he thought it wasn't a very good picture. He then said it's failure or disappointment at the box office would help in the upcoming negotiations Disney was planning on for renewing their contract with Disney. Ouch.

While Bob Iger is definitely in charge at the Mouse, he has from time to time called up to Cupertino to ask Jobs for his suggestion when it comes to matters of business. Jobs has also expressed his opinion in the Boardroom on Disney's business strategy and they've listened for the most part. He is an intimidating figure... one with a record of accomplishment that is hard to argue with. His influence on the Walt Disney Company reflects many of the people that now run the company. While he has the ear of Iger, he is also a powerful friend and ally of John Lasseter and Ed Catmull. His backing of their direction of Walt Disney Animation Studios has helped Lasseter acquire more control over Disney's animation and has also affected the ability of Lasseter being able to pretty much green-lite most pictures at the division without having to get anyone's approval. It also helps the "Mousetro" that in addition to his power over animation and his ability to call on his friend Steve that he also has to only answer to Iger when it comes to wanting something done at WDI... the Imagineers over there are very happy with John Lasseter's suggestions and encouragement to dream bigger and Jobs is a big champion of creativity. Focused creativity... but creativity non-the-less.

There was talk early after Pixar was bought by Disney that Jobs would pull another move like he did at Apple. After being brought in he overturned the old administration and became the CEO within six months. It is the stuff of legend, when reporting how after being brought back as an "advisor" he started running things and telling people to do things behind Apple's CEO at the time. It's a testament to his persuasiveness that people around him at the time followed his direction even though he didn't actually have the power or authority to do what he did. That's one thing Jobs is famous for... getting people to believe in something, in him to do something that no one believed possible. Everyone felt he was going to force out Iger and be the new CEO of Disney. Even some of Iger's own Suits were taking bets that this would happen. But Steve Jobs didn't want to run Disney. He's having too much fun playing with his fruit company right now trying to change the world. He does exercise a lot of influence over the Board and his opinion weighs a great deal on the direction that it goes though. He's had a lot to say at the last few board meetings and he's a powerful ally to have, not to mention a powerful enemy to confront. But the worries that some had about him secretly taking over appear to be unfounded. As long as he believes in the direction Disney's headed, he won't interfere... much.

It's good to have someone as powerful as he for an advisor for Iger. Lasseter also knows that he's got an extremely influential motivator were he to get in an argument where he butts heads with Disney's CEO, unlikely as that may be.

Steve Jobs is a powerful asset to the Mouse. He may want to change the world, but it appears he only wants to influence the Disney world...

Friday, January 18, 2008

In Memorium: Rabbit...

On this day, thirty-years ago...

A Rabbit in the Hundred Acre Woods fell silent.

Across the universe in Los Angeles, California, Junius Matthews passes from the earth into memory. He was the voice of Rabbit in the original three shorts that formed the movie "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh". No need to hide the hunny from Pooh, anymore...

His gift will live on in the hearts of children young and old.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let's Put A Plan Together...

Those of you wanting to know more about the Grand California's 2009 Expansion and DVC units might want to head over to DVCNews... the guys over there have put up several detailed plans showing what the rooms offered will look like and some more interesting bits. Check it out here.

Poor Unfortunate Souls...

As some of you have noticed, Greg Emmer is leaving the Disneyland Resort. I, for one am deeply saddened and wish he would stay on, but I also wish Greg well...

He was a much more palatable person to deal with than Ed Grier, and certainly more friendly, not to mention less stiff and uncomfortable with guest. He was truly one of the TDA Suits that I respected the most. When he was here with Matt Ouimett, we had a great team. He will be missed. I would hope that this doesn't portend a longer tenure for Jay Rasulo than we have already had to deal with. Word from inside the Resort is not good for Jay, but he's nothing if not a survivor. Please, Jay... do us a favor and retire. NOW.

But that got me to wondering...

What you ask? Well the question that came up was: "Where are they now?"

All those that have left the company over the past three or four years. Most of whom needed to go and at least one that we wished would have stayed. So I thought I'd compile a list of who's who and where they are.

So to speak...

We can't begin any discussion of former Disney executives without discussing the Head Cheese... or at least, former Head Cheese.

Michael Eisner
- After his fall from grace, Eisner has now established a new company known as Tornante Co. and has purchased several properties in the last couple years. His firm now owns Topps baseball cards and Bazooka Joe. It appears the former Disney CEO has gone from Mice to Bubble Gum... let's hope he has someone like Frank Wells to temper his massive ego.

Paul Pressler - The man despised much more than Eisner and truthfully, the one I blame even more than the former CEO. A marketing guy without a soul, Pressler is the one that not only precided over, but actually is responsible for the plummet in quality at Disneyland and the rest of the parks in Disney's world. The 800 million dollar "Extreme Makeover" at DCA should be charged to Pressler's bank account. After his retirement from Disney, he became the CEO of Gap and he quickly showed he knew less how to run a clothing company than a entertainment company. He lasted from the fall of 2002 to early 2007... by then the Board knew they had a lemon on their hands and he "retired" rather than face an embarrassing firing. As one Gap employee noted: "Maybe he was the wrong guy at the wrong time". Well, duh... we, the Disney Geeks/Fans could have told you that one and saved you four years of suffering.

Cynthia Harriss - The short of it is to just look at what happened to Paul Pressler. Ms. Harris followed Pressler over to The Gap after resigning as President of the Disneyland Resort and was appointed president of Gap brand in May of 2005. She left in February of 2007, the same month that her boss, Pressler also resigned. Hopefully she will follow Pressler to his new job so that they can both be credited with trying to destroy three companies... the third time is the charm, you know.

Barry Braverman - The one time wunderkin that could do no wrong in Michael Eisner's eyes was told unceremoniously in June 2005 that his job was no longer needed... a polite way of saying: "get the @#^@ out, before we kick you out". Where Barry Braverman is now? Well, if you find out please tell me... I can't really mention his name to my Bothans. They seem to threaten not to send me anymore new information if I bring him up. Could it be they've quietly disposed of the body and want it keep quite? Probably not, Braverman has kept a quiet profile since leaving his position at WDI a little more than two years ago. Surely it doesn't take that long to fake a new resume? Wait a minute... DCA... maybe he should just change his name?

David Stainton - The former head of Walt Disney Feature Animation, who promptly resigned from Disney the day the Pixar acquisition was final... he could see the writing on the wall. Too bad he couldn't see how badly he was hated at the Hat Building. He was a Suit that should never, ever have been put in charge of animation. His belittling of the animators is widespread and he helped create the destructive culture that almost destroyed WDFA. He's established a production company since leaving Walt Disney Feature Animation that is named after his dog... I wonder if this is a metaphor for all the dogs he plans on putting out? Hopefully, Stainton doesn't treat his new writers and artist like the ones over in Burbank. I don't think his production company will survive if he does.

Tom Fitzgerald - Formerly at the top of the heap at WDI, Fitzgeral was sent packing(banished, really) to the development of Walt DIsney World where he's been working like a mad scientist to prove he's still worthy of John Lasseter's blessing. Hopefully he'll lay off all the 3-D projects he has been working on and do something with animatronics... just a little friendly advice, Tom.

Other than this sorry lot, there are a few others we could list, namely Don Goodman, president of WDI whose light at the Mouse is very quickly dimming. Several others whom I won't mention are also gone or have their Mouse careers on the chopping block as these words are being read.

And lastly, we come to what I call... my special "Wish" list for a retirement/firing/demotion or what-have-you:

Jay Rasulo
- There have been rumblings that the man that took Pressler's place would be leaving within the next year and to that I say... That is too long to wait! Jay is the the one link that still needs to be replaced. I can only hope that the rumors I've heard are true... it would be a blessed day when he's no longer collecting a check from the Mouse.

Calling Matt Ouimett, calling Matt Ouimett? Where are you? I believe there is a position opening that we need you to fill...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Disney's New Court Case...

It appears that Bob Iger's strategy of moving into Asian markets involves buying sports franchises or at least part of them according to this article. Unusual, since Disney gave up on sports ownership here in America when it sold the Anaheim Angels and Anaheim Ducks a few years back. The Disney company is trying to get its brand further in the consciousness of Chinese citizens and being involved in sports is a natural extension of Disney's lineup of movies, television, theme parks and merchandising.

Mouse Movies For Rent From Fruit Company...

Steve Jobs announced the Mouse was joining 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Sony, MGM, Lionsgate, New Line on a new iTunes movie rental service that would make movies available costing $2.99 for library titles, $3.99 for new releases with older high-definition films renting for $3.99 and new releases priced at $4.99. You would have 30 days to activate the title and once started, have 24 hours to finish it.

Now if the AMPTP could settle with the WGA we could get moving into the 21st Century... Apple has long seemed to have gotten it, the studios are getting it with this deal at least. Perhaps, there is a light at the end of the tunnel?

No? Sigh...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Best Animated Picture...

A press conference was held to announce the Golden Globe winners tonight. Gone was the normal glitz and glamour due to the on-going WGA strike. The awards were given out and there was good news for Disney-Pixar fans...

That disappointing movie "Ratatouille" won for Best Animated Film...

Congratulations to Brad Bird, John Lasseter and all the talented artist at Pixar.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The First From The Last...

If anyone cared to look through the Walt Disney Company's Annual Report on Friday, you would have gotten a nice surprise had you gone to the last page of CEO Bob Iger's letter in the book. The first shot from "The Princess and the Frog" was used for his closing statements. Here's another copy of it sans all the text. Needless to say, all the art is copyright Disney.

Hope you enjoy...

Friday, January 11, 2008

How Healthy Is A Mouse?

Those of you that keep track of financials and such who are also fans of Disney might want to head over here sometime later today. Probably after 2 p.m. Pacific time when the market closes...

That's when the company's Annual Report is supposed to be put up for all eyes to see. We'll see.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More Bolt Than You Could Shake A Stick At...

For those of you ranting about Walt Disney Animation Studios "Bolt", here's another piece of artwork you can chew on...

It's A Disney Consumer Product poster of all the merchandising tie-ins. Feel free to vent, but remember that we haven't seen a trailer and more importantly, we haven't seen the movie yet. When it comes out you can hate it all you like, but until then...


Hat Tip to M.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Little Background...

If you're an animation buff like myself, then you have your favorite animators. Since this is a Disney blog then it will obviously be dealing with Disney animators... this is not to take away from some of the great animators that worked on Warner's Looney Tunes, MGM's Tom & Jerry shorts, the wonderful animators that worked for Max Fleischer or many, many others.

Ask a Disney Geek/Fan who his favorite animation artist is. For some it's as easy as asking "Who's your favorite President?" and having someone say "Washington" or "Lincoln". In animation terms that would like saying "Ollie Johnston" or "Frank Thomas". We've all got our favorites, from Glen Keane, Adreas Dejas or Eric Goldberg. But what about Ralph Hulett, Ray Huffine, Art Riley or Thelma Witmer? Sometimes talented artist can get overlooked. We all seem to forget that the characters these gifted men create don't exist in a vacuum. They don't walk around a field of white or float in a vast sea of nothingness. They have to have something to react to. When Donald Duck is chasing Chip and Dale across a field, you have to have... well, a field! And someone has to paint that field. And it has to look right. It has to look detailed, but still exist in a cartoon world. We can forget sometime that drawn characters have to have a background on which they can come to life. Maleficent had her castle, Alice had her Wonderland and Peter Pan had Neverland.

Where would we be without the artist that painted these places?

We would probably be watching a bunch of characters in pantomime, more than likely. I think that it's prime-time we honored some of these artist with the respect and admiration they deserve. That's why if you want to admire this long neglected part of the medium, I suggest you go over to a great little blog called, what else: Animation Backgrounds. If you haven't seen it, go over for a looksie... there are some really beautiful examples of what we all take for granted each time we go into a darkened theater or pop in a DVD.

Check it out...


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Blue Sky Alert-Asia (Hong Kong): The Great Walls...

It's been a while since we discussed Disney's foray into the Forbidden Kingdom. A lot has happened since we last talked... and a lot has stayed the same. Dealing with Disney's first theme park in China is as frustrating as it is dealing with the government of China for American officials. There is a lot of mystery in this fortune cookie...

Shall we break the shell and see what awaits?

The next few years will be extremely interesting on Lantau Island. There is a lot of give and take going on behind the scenes as Disney and the Hong Kong government tries to expand and improve the park so that attendance gets a much needed boost. The Walt Disney Company has been negotiating behind the scenes for quite sometime now and those Imagineers in Glendale have been busy working on proposals for the park beyond "It's A Small World". Not everything they're pitching will make it into the park by 2010-12 timeframe, but a large amount of it will.

So where to begin?

The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort had a downturn in attendance as every Disney Geek/Fan knows. This isn't quite the disaster that some are making it out to be, but it shows the difficulty that the Walt Disney Company is having adapting its theme parks to a culture that isn't as fanatical about Disney as Americans or the uber-fanatical Japanese. It was to be expected that the second year of the park would have a drop in attendance given that the "newness" of HKDL was gone. But what Disney has discovered is even the Chinese know when you try to sell them a half-day park as a full-day park... they ain't gonna buy it. While most who come to this very detailed park like it, they can tell that it is far too small and doesn't have enough attractions to justify spending an entire day there. If you start early when the park opens, you can usually finish all the attractions and rides by two or three in the afternoon at the latest. That gives you an enormous amount of time to kill before bedtime.

Thank you, Michael Eisner.

Fortunately, there will be many new things over the next few years to entertain and engage the guest that purchase a ticket. Unfortunately, it won't all happen overnight which will anger many an impatient Disney Geek. Fear not...

The walls that separate the Mouse from Hong Kong's governing officials is finally being dismantled. Progress is coming, albeit slowly.

After-all, Rome wasn't built in a day... it actually took at least two weeks, didn't it?

I've noticed many fans have been rather vocal about the "attractions" that Disney recently announced which would open up around the debut of "It's A Small World" this summer. You shouldn't be. This isn't just a quick fix that the company is throwing in... well, ok... it is a quick fix, but not so much like you would think. These attractions(Muppet Mobile Lab, High School Musical Celebration, Nemo Submarine “Turtle Talk” and The Art of Animation) are being added to expand what is there to do in addition to the new ride that is opening up. Some fans think that these were being placed throughout the park as a replacement for big D and E-Tickets. This is not the case. Trust me, those things are coming, just not in 2008. These attractions are simply to expand the roster of things that will keep the guest in the park after they've ridden IASW several times. Remember the goal of theme parks here... keep the guest in as long as possible so as to take as much of their money as possible. Somewhere down the line, Eisner and Pressler lost their way and thought guest would come for just the Disney name and a lot of places to eat and shop at. This was the main failure of DCA... along with sparse or no theming at all in many areas and attractions.

The "Year of the Mouse" will be underway throughout 2008 and Disney hopes to give people more reason to come to the resort. There are negotiations behind the scenes that are winding down which will likely give this park a lavish expansion over the next four or five years. Both the Hong Kong government and the Disney company know that there has to be more attractions. They know what is needed... they've just been haggling over who pays for it. By the end of this summer everything should be wrapped up and both parties can get on with construction of the wonderful things that the Imagineers have been designing for this park.

That third hotel that was being planned is... well, it's still being planned, but it won't be built more likely till the beginning of the next decade, and then only if those clicks through the turnstiles pick up. The plans have drifted back and forth, but eventually the baseball field that resides in the area behind Adventureland in between the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Hollywood Hotel will wind up getting a third sister hotel. But at this time the company is busy trying to fill the beds in the original two hotels. One proposal that has yet to be greenlit, but is very popular is the possibility of adding DVC units to the resort. There are some logistics that have to be overcome, but these units are something the Mouse would greatly like to have available once the park's expansion is completed.

Remember I said Disney was adding attractions to keep people in the resort? Well, another thing that is needed is the addition of a "Downtown Disney" type area. If the plans go forward, we can expect the areas around the Esplanade to start becoming more entertaining near the end of this decade. Construction of a DD type area should begin by the end of summer 2009 and the completion of which will likely happen around late 2010/early 2011. The plans should include shops, shows and other entertainment venues similar to what we've come to expect from Anaheim and Orlando Downtown Disney shopping districts as well as Tokyo Disney Resort's Downtown Disney-like Ikspiari.

Once this place is up and running, guest should have plenty of areas to shop and eat and be entertained without having to enter the park. Of course, when they are through walking around the Resort and shopping they will have to enter the park, right?

The negotiations with the Hong Kong government should be concluded by summer. The main sticking point has always been how much the Walt Disney Company would contribute. Both parties know they have to expand the Park, it's simply a matter of coming to terms with what the Mouse will agree to fork over. We've already seen some of that in Disney agreeing to forgo royalties for a couple years. This and several other items are still being worked through but by the time Small World opens there should be a clearer picture...

Most of the public may not see it, but those behind the scenes will know what's going on. Keep an eye out in early 2009. That'll most likely be when the Mouse and Hong Kong officials give an announcement like the one given for DCA last October. It will be touted as a grand expansion, and it'll be just that.

The plan originally was to have each ride come a year after the other, but as of right now the idea is to start preliminary work on all of them. This will be to generate excitement for the expansion. They may still open at separate times over three to four years, but construction will begin on the entire area if the plans continue as scheduled.

They? What are they?

Pirates of course... but right now it's up in the air as to wether it or Haunted Mansion will come first. Both of these rides are scheduled to start construction by sometime late 2009. The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction that opens in Hong Kong will bare less of a resemblance to the Anaheim ride than the blockbuster film. Several key elements will come from the feature with classic Marc Davis elements sprinkled throughout the ride. More of a focus will be on Jack Sparrow and the exploits of the trilogy. The town being plundered by the pirates will likely involve real fire in the attraction unlike the other rides around the world that rely on colored lights, wind blowers and lit sheets. The large drop that comes on the ride will feel more reminiscent of Splash Mountain that Pirates, but it's shaping up to be a really detailed experience. In fact, the entire area will almost be like a new Pirate land unto itself. The way that "Lost River Delta" in TDS is basically an Indiana Jones land, this area will essentially be a Jack Sparrow/Pirates land. It'll almost be like walking into the movie, really. The Haunted Mansion will be closer in style to the Disneyland original its Florida cousin. There will be elements of Pirate influence in the design and several layers of the Adventureland theme will take hold around the design and the storyline... should what I've seen make it into the final design. The land in that large area next to Adventureland should start to be moved by late next year. As well as these obvious two attractions, another ride that will likely be an E-Ticket or at least a plussed D-Ticket will also be headed for construction. It will be a roller coaster clone, modified of course, from the Raging Spirit ride in Tokyo. All the area is supposed to be themed to lavishly fit the Asian/African style areas of Adventureland and the rides and attractions will be themed in this style as well. There are at least one, maybe two more D-Tickets being planned. The area around the Pirates ride will have several C-Tickets to compliment it with more atmosphere. What kind of area will this be? If you want to see the kind of area this will be, the closest thing that will compare to it is the "Fortress Explorations" attraction over at Tokyo DisneySEA. It won't be exact, but check out what this place looks like and you'll be able to grasp the idea Imagineers have for this area. There was even a little talk about splitting the area off, partitioning it, so to speak and calling one part of it "Frontierland" or "Westernland" and having the other part be considered the extension of Adventureland, but as of now that has been shelved. There are still plans to possibly add that land someday, but as of now it is not in the current five year plan.

There was talk of adding a Mickey's Toon Town area, but my Bothans think that this will have to come later, like DCA, there is only so much money to go around during this phase. This doesn't mean the park will have nothing else planned for the remaining few years, but Adventureland will take up the majority of new offerings until early in the next decade. There is at least one more new parade that is planned for introduction near the end of the decade.

So what do we have to look forward to?

Well, by the end of this decade the Hong Kong park will not be so small. The elements that Eisner left out will be in place, slightly different and possibly in different locations, but they'll be there. Many of us have questioned the reason they weren't included in the first place. The addition of another 300 million dollars worth of attractions could have cost a lost less than the publicity headache the Mouse has got over this park. While Eisner didn't skimp on detail and theming like he did on DCA, he did pull back in scope and constructed a park that needed at least two more E-Tickets when it opened. Come the end of the decade it will have those rides... and a few others. Hong Kong Disneyland will be a very nice park in a few years. It'll also have a few variations from the state parks and the Tokyo one so that it will give Disney Geeks a reason to visit the latest magic kingdom for the uniqueness it has as a Disney park. Have patience friends...

The bumpy ride will start to be much smoother by the end of this year.

Patience is a blessing.

I'll try and have another Blue Sky Alert for Anaheim up by early February, time permitting.