July 6, 2015

A Dinosaur for Hong Kong Disneyland Lands in Shanghai

Over four years ago, I was "gifted" with this piece of very rare concept art for Hong Kong Disneyland. The concept was obviously never brought to fruition, as the park opened with no dinosaurs at all. Even the recent and very successful expansion - which brought us Mystic Manor and more- yielded not one single prehistoric creature. Not one. But as you can tell by this post  where I chronologically present all the dinosaurs in Disney theme parks through the years and the wild success of Jurassic World, dinosaurs never go out of style. With kids of all ages.

Was this unbuilt attraction scheduled to go into the outdoor jungles of Adventureland? Was it meant for an indoor weather-proofed warehouse a la Indiana Jones? Or perhaps a roller coaster through the jungle? Maybe even a combination like what was once proposed but abandoned for the dinosaur area at Animal Kingdom?  

This we know- dinosaurs will appear in China. An attraction is built in an entirely different form at Shanghai Disneyland as part of the Roaring Rapids attraction at Adventure Isle. Instead of a train or car, expect to see a creature such as this while plunging down a wild raging river in a rounded craft similar to those found on Grizzly River Run at California Adventure

If you're like me, you cannot wait to see more concept art... or the final result!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

July 5, 2015

Yes, It Was Me

Websites around the globe are posting this - and many other- pieces of concept art I had found for the proposed Dubai Disneyland

I published these pieces immediately, perhaps seven or eight total, much to the detail of Disney Park pans. I continue to receive inquiries and questions, with some even doubting I had the art. I do, and the most popular piece- to prove so- is above. A couple of weeks after I first posted it, I was contacted by the firm and asked to remove it all, as the client was upset they had even made it relatively public. I did so. But now, I feel at liberty to repost one image to prove it all. One image that, by now, can be found on too many websites and blogs to track...so I have no qualms posting it now.

Below is what I posted in November 2014, and I repeat it here for your understanding only:

"Yes, once more,  this post by The Disney Times is 100% correct. As are others who reported something similar. I did post a series of pieces of concept art on the proposed Dubai Disneyland, and yes, I was contacted by Favilli Studio. A very nice request was made by the Director of Operations, Linus Sora, a very kind man, to have me take down the pieces- which I did as a courtesy. 

Why did they ask me to take them down? Easy, the proposed project is very real and very sensitive. The clients were upset the pieces made their way to the public  Imagine a Disneyland in the Middle East and everything that could mean and everything that could lead to. The area is already a world power, and we all know Disney is solely in the market to make money. Win / Win. 

Favilli also took their pieces down off the web, but you can still find a concept for Glacier Bay, a land once proposed for Tokyo Disney Sea."

July 4, 2015

A Blessed Nation

The rarely sung last stanza from Scott Francis Key's classic song of America:

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace,may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


God blessed the United States of America from the very beginning when brave Christian men and women sought freedom to practice their faith in a new land. It wasn't freedom from faith, as we are so prone to believe today. It was freedom to love God with all their hearts and live it out without the bounds of the government determining what it should look like- which was the norm in Europe when politicians and too many ministers worked hand in hand to control the actions of the people.

Now we find ourselves in a position where we as a nation are moving farther and farther away from God. It's mockery of God, which is a very foolish thing in which to engage. May God have mercy on us even as we prepare for His judgment. His judgment which comes out of His righteousness and love. He longs for us to return to Him. And so we should.

July 3, 2015

Shanghai Disneyland's Jet Packs

Although the look of the area seems to be an altered take on the failed Tomorrowland film (sans Space Mountain), the concept for Shanghai Disneyland's futuristic area seems filled with some great ideas...and some of the normal character tie-ins as well.

Beginning with the Tron Light Cycle (Power Run) Coaster (in the lower right hand corner), the design aesthetic is clean, crisp, and for a city known for its horrible air quality, quite white. However, without the baggage of having to redesign the land due to changes in what is considered futuristic. Seems the only concession to be made is including Disney /Pixar characters such as Buzz Lightyear (expected) and Stitch (unfortunate).

Evening makes the park look even better!
The Imagineers are able to create something that is unified in feel.  Green space, water, and wide open spaces will give the area a relaxing, park-like environment which should be quite pleasing to the guests from the city who are used to crowded walkways and busy streets.

China's Disneyland.
Rumors abound as to what exactly will be going into this land of the future in addition to the Tron attraction as things keep changing, but something very exciting seems to be coming in place of the standard Rocket Jets / Astro Orbiter of other Magic Kingdoms. It was leaked as an attraction when the list of what was coming came out in a popular thread at WDW Magic. And later actually placed on the map from Alain at the great Disney and More website.

Jet Packs should be just across the bridge. 
Hidden for a reason in this concept art!

How about a new type of thrill ride that puts you in a jet pack a la The RocketeerWouldn't it be quite a jolt of adrenaline to fly in the skies over Shanghai Disneyland

Click for a large image listing all the park's attractions and their placement.

A close of up Tomorrowland. Jet Packs in the center.
Thanks to Alai Littaye from Disney and More for this piece.

I can imagine the queue they will build for the experience and the small number of guests who will actually get to ride the packs each day. Sounds a bit like a public relations nightmare, although you can rest assured, everything is always rosy in China's Disney park!

(Concept art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 30, 2015

Peter Pan's Flight: History, Rare Concept Art, and More

Just in time to celebrate Disneyand's 60th Anniversary on July 17th, Peter Pan's Flight, the park's most beloved dark ride, re-opens after a top to bottom overhaul by Imagineering. If you were thrilled with what they accomplished in he recent overhaul of Alice in Wonderland, the results should be spellbinding. As those guests on the West Coast prepare to be delighted by the changes when it debuts today,  let's look backwards at the ride's creation. (Annual passport holders got a glimpse yesterday- video at the end of this article.) There's rare concept art and more below...

Few Disney park fans would argue that perhaps the most beloved dark ride attraction in Disney park history is Peter Pan Flight. When it debuted with the opening of Disneyland in 1955, it was an instant smash. After all, who could resist flying in a pirate ship over the evening skies of London and Neverland? For millions of kids and the adults who read the bedtime stories, the dream to fly was about to become a reality.

English author J.M. Barrie's novel of the boy who wouldn't grow up debuted in 1911. Readers were immediately enthralled with Peter Pan's journeys. The cast of characters were just as interesting: the Lost Boys, the villainous Captain Hook, and the manipulative but good hearted fairy, Tinker Bell. Toss in some mermaids, a few Indians, and an amphibian with a gastric problem to create more adventures than a boy could envision. Dreams of flying over a darkened but starlit London past the Big Ben's clock and onto the island of Neverland were birthed in the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Adults, too!

Off to Neverland!

Naturally, as Walt and his film makers looked at classic literature as the main source of animated film inspiration, the book and Peter Pan's adventures were a natural choice for exploration. The colorful characters and lush environments screamed for the Disney animators to tell their stories. When it was finally released to theaters in 1953, the movie drew universal praise for its enchanting theme, instantly singable songs, beautifully colorful textures and backgrounds, and of course, its endearing characters.

The idea for a family friendly park had been brewing in Walt's mind for more than a few years when he finally decided to take a chance and build Disneyland. He risked everything to do so. This park, Walt's park, had to be unlike anything ever seen before, and that meant the attractions contained within needed to be creatively satisfying as well as crowd pleasing. With a handpicked crew, Walt and the team went to work. Each land would be unique, and Fantasyland would draw guests into the stories the animators told so well in their films.

Coming our way in 1955.

During its initial creation and design stage, Walt Disney insisted that his Fantasyland section of the new park would give his guests the unprecedented ability of experiencing the fun and excitement of his animated films by becoming part of them. Remember, this was years before Universal Studios got into the act. Again as usual, Walt Disney was ahead of his time. Way ahead of his time.

The folks that brought in carnivals and fairs told Walt he was out of his mind to build a park the way he wanted to, but Walt persisted to do as he felt he should. Giving guests an incredible experience at a reasonable cost was at the front of his mind. With this perspective and dedication to excellence, his Imagineering team (as they would later be called) created a gem, setting the bar for all theme parks to follow- and up until recently has been the acknowledged leader in the themed guest experience.

Testing the ride vehicle.
Check out the great Disney Avenue site. 
Blogmaster Keith Mahne uncovered this photo.

With Disneyland, not only was the concept unique, the choice and execution of the attractions would be as well. Although those same carnival operators of the day pressed Walt's team to include the ordinary Ferris Wheels and iron carnival rides, Walt insisted on the new and innovative. Instead, this team created adventures that could not be duplicated elsewhere. If you wanted to have this experience, Disneyland would be the place you had to go.  This trend would continue for decades before a change of direction and lack of vision at the end of the 20th century when the Disney suits began lowering the bar of execution and expectation, becoming more like its competitors than being differentiated from them.

Another view of the flight path, courtesy Disney and More.

Dark rides were a staple of amusement piers from Coney Island on the East Coast to various locations dotting much of California. Some were scary, some held promises of love or at least affection, but all of them held a certain mystique to paying customers as they could only guess at the wonders within the building they saw. This medium fit the Disney team perfectly, and they took the experience to a form of art using black light, special effects, and sophisticated animated props. Disney art directors would fashion the rides just as they could a film, directly the riders eyes to carefully chosen scenes. Add in great lighting, terrific and memorable music, the experiences found in the park would be memorable, creating a desire within guests to ride again and again.

With the layout of the park determined Fantasyland's courtyard would hold these smaller but still innovative and compelling adventures. Since the film was one of the most recent Disney hits, Peter Pan was prime for exploitation. Live theater and film had been telling the story for years, a dark ride would be a whole new way to share it. Beyond the marketing potential of living the adventure of Peter and his friends, the possibilities of how to tell the story were endless. A flight over London and Neverland were obvious contenders for the scenes, and Peter Pan Flight, as the attraction was initially named, was quickly decided upon as a necessary choice for opening day. Walt and the designers must have known they had a winning combination of story and ride vehicle on their hands.

The original plan for the exterior of the attraction.

How to set the stage for this great people pleasing adventure? The simple but effective exterior of the attraction, as shown above, fully met the strict budgetary requirements of the new venture while still presenting a fanciful, enticing entrance. The rounded tent entrance seen above would give way to a flat fronted entrance, but the primary concept remained. Even though budgets changed the exterior design what Walt originally wished to present, the tournament tents, banners, and other decorations created war still an atmosphere that could not found elsewhere. The style of Fantasyland wasn't what was fully envisioned, but the more extravagant surroundings would have to wait for later, finally appearing in 1983.

So beloved, it became the centerpiece of the Company's 1952 Christmas card.

The actual attraction, however, was as successful as they thought it would be. Filled with lavish and sometimes expensive little details that others might deem unnecessary, it was a rich experience from opening day  The queue area may have been decorated with a painted mural along the side of the building but even that was done with great care. Loving creation of the attraction- including a unique ride system whose cars were ornate pirate ships suspended from a track in the building's ceiling - rightfully enchanted guests.

Wisely, it's two rows of seats in Paris!

In many ways, this Peter Pan attraction and the more elaborate Jungle River Cruise would define Walt's park by showing what could be accomplished by the artisans and engineers when the goal was to tell a great story through pleasing, entertaining, and delighting its guests. This relentless dedication to excellence by Walt's experienced team of filmmakers brought great rewards and extremely long lines for both smaller rides as well as lengthy iconic attractions. Upon the park's opening, these Peter Pan Flight and the Jungle River Cruise became instant icons along with the it's physical centerpiece, Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Rare alternate entrance and exterior.

Not only was Mr. Disney a premier showman, he was also a savvy marketeer, and he worked hard to make sure every American knew of his beloved park. Walt and his brother Roy enticed television's ABC network into a creative and financial partnership that truly benefited both parties. Bringing Walt Disney to television was a coup for the struggling network, and the weekly network exposure of the plans for the park guaranteed much anticipation for its opening. The marketing plan was wildly successful- perhaps too successful- resulting in hoards of guests with money to spend. Anticipation was high, and so were expectations due to the buildup given Walt's magic kingdom.

Thankfully, Walt, Roy, and the Company delivered on their promise and their advertising. Disneyland actually made available one unforgettable experience after another, becoming the new gold standard for the American family vacation. Word quickly spread.

With television consistently whetting the appetites of millions of viewers, fantasies became realities- and the company was soon flush with cash to create even more amazing experiences. This meant even more ambitious and innovative attractions than what the Disney team was first designed.

Turning this into reality for Disneyland guests.

As with any new venture that was unprecedented, initial budgets were underestimated and therefore strained for the park, with Fantasyland and Tomorrowland suffering the most changes compared to what was originally desired. Still, no one could resist Peter Pan's Flight. Where else in the world could guests fly over London without being on a real airplane or cruise down exotic jungle rivers? Yet, this dream and others would become real for those visiting Anaheim and later, Florida, Tokyo and Paris.

A new and greatly detailed queue in Florida.But what about the inside?

Yes, Peter Pan Flight was so iconic, it had to be duplicated in Florida's Walt Disney World and its Magic Kingdom. Sure, other dark rides unique to Florida's park were considered, (Mary Poppins and Sleeping Beauty among them), but nothing past or present has held its own with the undisputed champion. In 2015, the Florida version received an enhanced queue, but the interior remains sorely in need of an update.

The original size of the art. Enlarged below to show detail.

Back on the West Coast, Fantasyland, and the newly named Peter Pan's Flight, remained the same for almost 30 years, until Tony Baxter led a group of Imagineers on a total revamp of the land. Now with the cash they desired, the carnival/circus tent/medieval fair look of the heart of Disneyland soon gave way to a fanciful take on the villages and atmosphere of Western Europe.

Typical Walt Disney:
Personally involved in the park that bears his name!

These changes also brought the dark ride's namesake characters into the attraction for the very first time. Originally, guests were supposed to be the main characters, but few understood the concept and many were left wondering why they never saw Peter Pan in an attraction that carried his name. This problem was corrected with the extensive remodel, much to the appreciation of frustrated parents trying to explain the initial idea to their bewildered children.

Paris' Peter Pan. A bit gritty as I blew it up so you could see the details.
On the other side through the arcade? Skull Rock!

Disneylands to come, in Tokyo then Paris, were designed with the crowd pleasing Peter Pan's Flight as a centerpiece to each respective Fantasyland. Only in Paris were the Imagineers smart enough to increase the rider capacity. However, even with larger pirate ships sailing into the night sky, guests continued to make the queue time one of the longest in the park. In fact, the lines to hop aboard are just as full in Japan and Paris as they are in Anaheim and Orlando!

Unrealized Tokyo Disneyland Peter Pan mini-land.
Courtesy photograph by Disney Geek.

Oddly, at Hong Kong Disneyland, Peter Pan's Flight never made the initial roster of opening day attractions. Quite strange, considering Hong Kong's history of being under British rule and given their knowledge of the culture. The only Brit represented there in China would be A. A. Milne's cuddly bear, Winnie the Pooh. He could be found as the star of his own dark ride next door to the 3D film, Mickey's Philharmagic. Whether Peter makes it to Shanghai Disneyland is yet to be revealed.

Perfectly maintained dark ride in - where else?- Tokyo.

In a perfectly designed kingdom, Peter Pan's Flight would be a full scale "E" Ticket attraction with a lengthy ride time. Yet, the shorter flight seems to require repeated trips to soak it all in. And guests continue to line up over and over again with each new generation. It's a rite of passage every bit as strong as a first flight with Dumbo or the first ride on Space Mountain.

Walt enjoying the fruits of his team's hard work.

Proving once again that a great story and near flawless execution are much more important than sheer mass, big thrills and excessive budgets, Peter Pan's Flight has held its own with Imagineering's "E" ticket attractions- for 60 years...and counting.

And now, a video of the new attraction!
Courtesy Mouse Info

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 29, 2015

Art for Dragon's Challenge at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Unbuilt Disney attractions. Is there anything else that creates a high level of both curiosity and frustration among fans of Imagineering and the Disney theme parks? Not for me, especially in a Disney world where good enough often passes for excellence while the competition next door is turning out world class attractions.

Western River Expedition, Westcot, Discovery Bay and countless other unrealized gems are the backbone of discussions for armchair imaginers and would-be Disney Company CEOs. These are the things of myth and legend... and some great concept art!

Over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, long before Avatar made an impact on the physical landscape, plans were well under way for Beastly Kingdom, a land full of dragons, unicorns, and other animals of mythology. Effectively, this was to be the Fantasyland of the park, bringing dark rides, family friendly attractions, and a bit of the imaginary element promised for the park and reflected in its dedication by Michael Eisner:

Welcome to a kingdom of animals... real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.
                          Michael D. Eisner, April 22, 1998

An intriguing entrance to the attraction.

The centerpiece attraction was to be Dragon's Challenge, a roller coaster thrill ride where guests encounter one of the largest Audio-Animatronic creatures ever built as they try to capture kingdom treasure long under guard this dangerous inhabitant.

The concept art that introduces this post supposedly shows the inside of the climax of the attraction. Honestly, there is some speculation it may not be really the work of Imagineers and instead is just the art drawn by a fan. Yet, the viewer can indeed get a better idea of the concept hat surely would have been a winner in guest satisfaction surveys. The two pieces that follow are well known paintings from Disney itself.

Will we ever see a Beastly Kingdom? Sadly, my guess is that we never will. Universal's Islands of Adventure, have very high profile thrill rides with Harry Potter and company that make good use of the dragons found in the books from which the attractions were derived. I believe its safe to say that Disney does not want to be seen as following the leader by repeating what's already been done. 

But the re-Imagining of Disney's Hollywood Studios park better be first class. The fact is, for many fans, Disney is already following the new leader. It is not going unnoticed by the Disney suits that folks are beginning to spend two or three days of their vacation at Universal instead of Walt Disney World. The lack of revenue- and the word of mouth about the great attractions found at their competition's parks- are creating issues in the House of Mouse. Nobody steals the treasure from that dragon!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 27, 2015

Love Wins

The United States Supreme Court has decided that same sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Those folks that are disagreeing with the decision say its not the court's place to decide or are opposed on grounds of their traditional understanding that God designed marriage for one man and one woman, referencing both the Old and New Testaments that make up the Bible.

Those celebrating the court's decision say "Love Wins", claiming marriage is only a legal bond between two people of any gender, and the availability of the institution should be made for all.

I say "Love Already Won". And it won two thousand years ago, when the supreme act of love was taken by Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the sin of all mankind, making a way to eternal life for all who would turn away from their sin, trust in Him and His work on the Cross before being raised from the dead, and choose to live a life that honors God by following the law he gave.

What constitutes civil rights will change from county to country, decade to decade. God's Word and his law are eternal - in fact through the Ten Commandments, He did legislate morality- and He does not change. 

In spite of where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, the most important question we will ever have to answer still remains: Jesus asks "Who do you say I am?" 

Your answer and the relationship you do or don't have with the creator of the universe, the only one who paid the price for your sin and mine, is the first and most important relationship you need to have settled. Everything else is important but secondary. 

How you handle this decision and how you love people, even those you disagree with,  will show whether or not real love has won in your life. End of story. 

Here's a good video from Dr. Michael Brown discussing God's love for ALL people, including the gay community. 20 Minutes worth your time- minus the slightly dorky music...

June 25, 2015

$1 Billion Investment into Disneyland Resort Pending

Ready for another $1 Billion to be pumped into the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim? I am!

Will it go to Disneyland or to its new finally successful sibling, Disney California Adventure or split into both? Perhaps its even for improvements to the resort district with additionally parking and all of the above.

The answer depends on the city of Anaheim and a new gate tax.

Read about it here for full details. But know this- if the city says no new tax, construction will start after plans are announced in December. Will this delay announcing plans at D23 or is this part of a game from Disney to get benefits from what they already plan to do? Who knows.

June 23, 2015

First Visit Ever To Disneyland!

Tomorrow my son-in-law ventures into Disneyland for his first visit ever to a Disney park. And what a year to go! Stay tuned for a unique trip report...

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

June 22, 2015

The Definitive Ranking of Pixar Movies

Warmly, but with absolutely no apologies to Kelly Lawler at USA Today who posted a totally different list with the same title, here's my ranking of the greatest (and least) of Pixar films. With an agreement that we can all lovingly disagree, your list will probably vary:
You're cute but your story is too heavy handed.
15. Wall-E
A preachy, mostly charmingless tale of two robots with only eyes for each other. The human race be damned. I'll take my Starbucks and my computer when I choose, thank you very much.

Oh no, there's some, ugh bugs, to work out of the story.
14. A Bug's Life
Even for an attraction that has to use film as its main medium to tell a story, I find this Animal Kingdom attraction based on this movie pretty terrific. But then, it's only 6 minutes at best. This film is boring, boring, boring. Had it not followed up Toy Story, it would have flopped.

I am woman. Hear me roar.
13. Brave
Beautiful scenery. Good main character but undeveloped secondary ones. Convoluted tale of feminism. Merida does win points for being a strong female in spite of some bad choices to accomplish her independence and make her point.

In my beautiful balloon.
12. Up
The powerful but depressing opening scenes give way to a tale of two odd friends. There is so much potential but it's wasted as the story becomes a fantasy filled with speaking dogs and an entirely unnecessary villain. Kudos for using an old man as a lead character.

 I see dead batteries.
11. Cars 2
Loses some points for a less than original script, but the cars are lovable, making it a great daddy and son Saturday matinee movie. Not sure if chapter three is even necessary. Out of gas?

That was it?!?
10. Inside Out
There was much potential for this to be a truly great film. But as I said a few posts earlier, the film just isn't much fun. So much for the second wave of Pixar greatness... at least for now.

Who needs a dog when you have Bullseye?
9.  Toy Story 2
Terrific storyline and characters we all know and love. Jessie's sour attitude is quite annoying, but Bullseye saves the day. Ride on cowboys!

Frat brothers.
8.  Monsters University
What's not to love here? Collage age Mike and Sully are just as much fun as their older selves. If there ever was a buddy movie with plots twists and turns we didn't expect, this is it. Not quite as good as the original but every bit as creative.

Buddy movie of a different kind.
7.  Cars
Is is Doc Hollywood in car form? Sure, but that storyline has been told for decades. Owen Wilson is terrific as the lead ego propelled racer who learns the lessons of true friendship. A winning film for those who don't care about being politcally correct. Bonus points for being the film that produced one of the best "lands" from Disney Imagineering since New Orleans Square at Disneyland

You've got a franchise in me.
6.  Toy Story
The first and perhaps the best loved. Buzz Lightyear is a revelation.   Optimistic and lighthearted with a good dose of nostalgia tossed in. The heartstrings don't get fully pulled until two sequels later, but boy, what a tug!

Ah, Paris!
5.  Ratatouille
One of my personal favorites. The story is unexpected, the main characters strong, and the atmosphere and musical score totally mesmerizing. If you've been to Paris, you understand. 

Could strong fathers be a key to Pixar's success?
4.  Finding Nemo
A strong loving father and a special needs son that both find their way home. You have to have a heart of stone to not like this film. Populated with an oceanful of great characters.

Who says you have to be young to be cool?
3.  The Incredibles
A Pixar film for adults that have survived (and thrived through) a midlife crisis. Discovering yourself and your partner amidst marriage drama, changing bodies, and the sometimes joyless responsibilities of being a parent. Sophisticated stuff for an animated film made enjoyable by a great plot line and dazzling environments. The perfect Pixar film for a series. Can't wait for the second one!

Is it just me or should this be a Disney roller coaster attraction?
2.  Monsters Inc.
Billy Crystal in the part he was designed for! Turning an old story on its head, Monsters Inc. creates a charming world all its own. One we are sad to leave when the time comes. 

It's ok- we've all grown up, Andy.
1.  Toy Story 3
By the time this film came out, the characters were beloved world over. The climax of the film is as gripping as anything Disney has ever done. It's at that moment we viewers realized these characters had a well earned place in our lives. The art of storytelling at its Pixar best.

(Art copyright Disney/Pixar.)