January 31, 2011

California Adventure Attraction Posters Missing in Action

Months back, someone on the MiceAge chat boards quietly mentioned that Disney California Adventure would soon be receiving its own set of attraction posters. The Blue Sky Cellar premiered three of them. The first one to be seen months ago was one for the Silly Symphony Swings (look here), with The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, World of Color, and Buena Vista Street with its Red Cars. Hopefully, these are only the first of many, as attractions such as Soarin' Over California and Radiator Springs Racers deserve one as well.

Somewhere in my on and off again collection of vintage looking travel posters, I unintentionally ran across this stunningly beautiful one for the community of Boulder, Colorado. It got me to thinking this is the right look for a poster for Grizzly Peak recreation area or even for Carsland. Similar look to those peaks even though the colors are different!

January 29, 2011

Minty Fresh

Wanna look at the latest plans on the board for the constantly evolving California Adventure? For the latest and greatest look at all the wonderful concept art in the recently changed Blue Sky Cellar, you just have to go to Mint Crocodile's excellent Magic Eye blog. It is the posting for January 28, 2011- and it is quite the show. Dare I say, California Adventure may one day be a beautiful park? Evaluate it for yourself.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 28, 2011

When Being Nice Instead of Good Hurts

Truth is truth- and you do not have to be a Christ-follower to appreciate and learn from the truths in this book. Author Paul Coughlin gives a detail and research filled analysis why men have been lead to live passive lives and the danger it creates. This isn't some kind of "lead your wife into submission" book. Instead, it is a call to take responsibility for our actions and to take a stand for what is right. It's about regaining passion for life and goodness- and how we sacrifice the vitality of life God intended and replace it with niceness. Reminds me a bit of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and the description of the main character Aslan:

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

Grab this book now and discover a freshness and richness that's lacking in our current culture of selfishness and complacency. Like me, you may not agree with everything, but it is a most important read for anyone, male or female, who wants more out of life.

January 27, 2011

Comfort Food for the Entertainment Soul

Vintage is on a comeback at the Walt Disney Company these days. It is most seen at the theme parks as classic Disney characters from the early days of the studios invade California Adventure as well as attraction posters that remind us of the old days at the oldest Disney park. Goofy and Snow White make a major appearance at Florida's new Fantasyland at the Walt Disney World complex. There's a return to classic Winnie the Pooh coming the theaters, remakes of old animated films are de rigour, and retro designed souvenirs with EPCOT Center are front and center in that Florida park.

What's it all about? My hunch is it reminds those with the most income and those longing for simpler days that Disney, not Universal or any other group, is part of our American history and our quickly lost way of life. It's comfort food for the entertainment soul. Whenever times are hard, and they are Stateside, we long for what used to be. For an entertainment company, it is not a bad strategy for the short term, but the Mouse House had better have some great new fresh and creative ideas up their sleeves soon. Nostalgia only goes so far, and then there is nothing new to be considered old and valued again.

January 26, 2011

Not Available in Any Record Store!

"Not available in any record store!" Remember those ads on late night television for the latest set of music compilations? Well, here's the modern day version. Rumer's excellent album "Seasons of the Soul" has been joined by a new disc where she sings "Alfie" and a brand new song by Burt Bacharach, "Some Lovers". Catch is, you cannot get it in the good old United States- not even on i-tunes. Try the import store or on line import store. Too bad- it's a pretty great disc. Or just wait it out. I'm sure it will show up, but it could be a Long, Long, Day.

January 25, 2011

Westcoaster Update

The gang at Westcoaster has done it again. A wonderful update of all the most recent happenings at California Adventure. Go here to see the beautiful photos!
(Photo copyright Westcoaster.)

January 24, 2011

Disneyland Attraction Posters: The New Orleans Square Collection

By the middle 1960's, it was apparent that Disneyland was in fact a hit with the public and not the sensational disaster many pundits predicted. To say Walt Disney was pleased would be a gross understatement. The park was his baby and his delight.

The 1963 opening of The Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland proved the success of Audio Animatronics, only showing guests would gladly partake of this new entertainment tool. Walt had other big plans on the horizon: Pirates of the Caribbean was in development as well as the long rumored Haunted Mansion. They would both find a home in New Orleans Square, the most elegant of all Disney lands.

Opening in the summer of 1966, New Orleans Square perfectly showcased the art of Imagineering. Certainly the architecture of this Paris of the new world had already been established with the original, but it was the blending of story, detail, and the opening of the two most celebrated attractions in Disney history that made this expansion the gold standard for theme park excellence. In fact, in this writers opinion, World Showcase at Epcot owes its very existence to the success of the work of the Imagineers in this project. (If you have followed this blog for any time, you may have noticed no other Disney developed land gains as much respect or love as New Orleans Square!) The poster above captures a small bit of the feel of this area. Admittedly, I had not remembered seeing this before but was delighted to happen upon it.

Pirates of the Caribbean. The name may now conjure up Johnny Depp playing Captain Jack Sparrow, but in 1967, the honor of instant name recognition went to this Disney theme park attraction. Sadly, Walt Disney had died only months before its debut. He was unable to see the reaction of park guests or those of the media, but suffice it to say, few accomplishments of Imagineering match this attraction even as it approaches its 45th year of existence! The great Imagineer Marc Davis devised this iconic poster for the attraction's opening.

As you approached the attraction and entered the queue, guests found this poster (above) detailing what was to be experienced.

The above newer poster has me a bit stumped. I believe it to be a copy of the poster that was designed for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom version of the much demanded attraction, perhaps making its debut years after that park's opening in 1971. Even Jason Surrell's excellent book on the attraction- Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies- does not seem to mention this. Any clarification, readers?

For the attraction's 40th anniversary, a new poster was developed. Now, I have only seen this used for merchandise, never displayed under Main Street's Railroad station. The child like portrayal is appealing in the most simplistic of ways, but it certainly does not convey the sophistication of the attraction or its impact on Disneyland or future Magic Kingdoms! Will there be another new poster to celebrate the landmark attraction's 50th anniversary? I can only hope!

Time to move on...
In contrast to the poster-celebrated Pirates adventure, I find it odd that the equally renowned Haunted Mansion has had only one piece of artwork per park to advertise its many charms.

Again, around the time of the opening of the Enchanted Tiki Room, the exterior building was complete for this attraction which would take a humorous look at paranormal activity. It wouldn't be until six years later that the house would be open to those willing to explore it, and the sheer curiosity factor almost guaranteed the attraction's success. Guests were dying to meet the inhabitants, and the adventure was an instant smash from opening day. As a youngster, I was there that summer. The line seemed as endless as the hallway inside the mansion.

Perhaps this poster was so effective in conveying the mix of mystery and fun that it never needed to be improved upon. Florida's Magic Kingdom version opened two years later with an entirely different exterior and a slightly altered poster showing the Gothic mansion in the background. I must say that a new version of the poster would be apropos for the seasonal Haunted Mansion Holiday, and I would welcome it to my collection.

Although the Disney Gallery would be the only attraction to open since the Haunted Mansion- and it could rightly be called as much as shop as an attraction- I have not seen a poster for it, although I have heard that one existed. Finally, one of them came to light!

New poster addition: August 2014. The suits decide to "celebrate" 45 years of the Haunted Mansion. Let's be honest: Celebrating 45 years of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is mainly a cash grab. Why not wait for the 50th? That said, this poster is something worth looking at as it captures many ideas and images of the famed New Orleans Square attraction. Even with the infamous wallpaper as a background, it's still not very elegant. Kind of like the recent remodeling of Club 33 and what they have done to the exterior buildings that were involved.

In spite of an absence of new additions, New Orleans Square remains the ultimate Disney land in the most rich of Magic Kingdoms. Its beauty is as understated and elegant as its attractions are spectacular, making it a must-see for every visitor. From the beautiful landscapes of the south, we'll move on to the fantasy realm of Critter Country. Stay tuned for the next post in the series.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 23, 2011

Here's to Life!

In the United States, today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. The year was 1983, and then President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a national day to honor the intrinsic value of human life and the basic right to life of each human being, beginning in utero. It was a bold proclamation that would delight some and anger others.

However, let me be the first to day that the value of life is just as important. Not as a measurement tool to decide whether life should continue or not, but as a reminder that all of us as part of the human race can and should participate in making someone's life better than what it would be if we were not involved.

This can take on a wide variety of involvement. Help stop human trafficking. Feed the poor. Mentor a teen. Help build a home. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit people in prison. Care for the widows and orphans. In other words, put your love and care into action. It's the model of things first practiced by Jesus Christ himself, who out of his love for mankind, not his condemnation of it, came to the earth to die for the sins of the world. He took his message and put feet to it. Here's to life and here's to love- as modeled by God himself.

January 21, 2011

Disney's Wild Africa Trek Hits and Misses

An upscale, limited capacity three hour excursion through the wilds of Africa at the beautiful Disney's Animal Kingdom. Does it sound appealing enough to fork out the big bucks? Disney is banking on it!

The idea of a boutique park has been bantered about for a few years on both the theme park discussion boards and in the Disney Company board rooms. Yet, the economy has tanked with no foreseeable rebound, sending the best laid plans of mice and men back to square one.

Still, Disney wants to cash in on the trend started by Sea World and its incredible Discovery Cove aquatic adventure. The Wild Africa Trek is the Mouse's response. Even at the introductory rate at $129 per person, it is an experience for the elite and cash rich. The experience looks great in writing and more than worth it via the video promotion. It belongs here, but something still feels amiss.
The park's opening in 1998 left most of the buying public crying "foul" and "half day park"- and the dismal opening year numbers backed up the response of guests. So Disney scrambled to add more.

Here's the catch: an experience like this should have been offered on opening day sans lunch and the hefty price tag. Even with an advanced reservations system, it could have been a public relations nightmare or an operational challenge never before seen. Regardless, Disney could have figured it out- and avoided the problems associated with the park for its first decade, thereby ensuring high guest numbers and even higher revenue.

The Wild Animal Trek won't change the park's image for those unwilling to pay the additional fees, but it will be a nice add-on for those who are already more than accustomed to a lifestyle beyond the reach of the average American. However, to put it another way, the lifestyle of the average American- and our trips to the Disney Kingdoms- is already beyond the reach of most of the world, so this trek will be available to the smallest percentage of people possible, ultimately making the experience highly desirable and very profitable.
To track the progress of the development and expansion of Disney's Animal Kingdom, feel free to begin reading this multi-part series filled with concept art, photos, and more. You'll see the park in a whole new light! It begins here.
Lastly, please consider answering the poll to your left. Thanks!
(Photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 20, 2011

What's Up in the Haunted Mansion?

Could the Disney Imagineers really have plans to upgrade and change the famous hitchhiking ghosts in the Haunted Mansion? At California's Disneyland, there doesn't seem to be any new additions or changes after 2010's Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. However, a new interactive "Next Gen" queue - the latest rage- is in the works for Florida's Magic Kingdom, and it wouldn't be too difficult to incorporate something new at the end of the attraction. Talk is all over the MiceAge and WDWMagic boards, so maybe something is up. Regardless of the ourtcome, it is great to see this park finally getting the attention it deserves. Make sure you check our most recent posts for more of what's finally happening in Florida!

January 19, 2011

New Fantasyland is a Beauty

Well, that announcement is complete. So, here is the rest of the concept art for the Magic Kingdom's new Fantasyland Forest. Quite a bit of a change from what was announced before.

The circus truly has arrived in Florida. This new reworking of Mickey's Toontown Fair will be the location of the new Dueling Dumbos. It's two, two, two Dumbos in one. Should help make the lines much shorter! And Goofy, or should I say Goofini, invites guests to ride along with him on his stunt plane.

With the new addition of the Seven Dwarf's Mine Coaster- thanks to the cooler head of Tom Staggs and sons- the princess brigade has been mostly relegated to the old building of the Snow White dark ride. (As always, click on these for large images.)

We may never see the great Beauty and the Beast Audio Animatronics show first designed for Disneyland Paris, (go here to see the concept art), but at least we will see Belle's Village and the Be Our Guest Restaurant. Who can resist a chance to dine as guest of the beast?

Above the one that started it all- Ariel's Undersea Adventure. The Little Mermaid will be part of our world in 2012. Still love this attraction- long overdue!

Yes, the new Fantasyland will be a beauty. Finally, something new and wonderful for the Florida kingdom!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 18, 2011

Mystery of the Main Street Candy Palace

Searching, searching, searching. In my blog collection of Disneyland attraction posters, (Part One begins here), I have recently found what looks like one for Main Street's Candy Palace. Does anyone happen to know the origin of this- or even if it is legitimate work of an Imagineer?

January 17, 2011

Do You Know Me?

In honor of Dr. King:

We live in a divided world. It may be a small world, but it remains divided along racial lines, economic lines, and many others. If you want to see how you can make a difference and bring increased unity among the races, go to this site http://www.doyouknowme.org/ or click on the sidebar link to the Gatekeeper Project. Racial unity should begin in our churches, yet we have a long way to go. If you are in the Denver area on January 28th, make it a point to come by for an evening of reflection as we seek God together- regardless of color or affiliation. More details can be found by clicking on the above image.

January 16, 2011

Up and Coming

This week on the Insights blog: Why Martin Luther King was right; Disney's Wild Africa Trek; Changes to the Haunted Mansion, and Disney attraction posters- and more... See you tomorrow!

Indyless in Adventureland

You'd never guess by looking at it then, but in 1955, even without the Swiss Family Treehouse, Enchanted Tiki Room, or the still mind boggling Indiana Jones Adventure, Disneyland's Adventureland lured guests by the thousands into its exotic landscape. The Jungle River Cruise beckoned daring men and women, boys and girls, to explore river ways of the world and encounter dangerous animals.(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 13, 2011

If Adventure Has a Name

From his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark to his latest appearance in the lamest film of the bunch, its star Indiana Jones continues to be an enduring American icon. Four films, (two coming soon), and decades later, writers, artists, and Disney Imagineers continue to create new pieces of art honoring their hero. From Anaheim to Walt Disney World to Tokyo DisneySea, even the Walt Disney Company has been bitten hard by the bug.

Blogger Eric Tan is one skilled man and Indy fan. He has created some very cool, uniquely styled posters celebrating the phenominal success of our beloved Doctor Jones. While I cannot say I appreciate everything on his blog, I certainly recommend going there to check out these pieces. Absolutely terrific work!

January 12, 2011

One by One by One

For the last several years, there's a very popular book out called The Tipping Point by author Malcolm Gladwell. The basic premise is quite intriguing, as it is a research project of sorts on how trends are started, viruses are spread, etc. The byline reads, "How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference". Truer words could not be spoken. Gladwell gives many examples of how the choices of one person can make an impact.

Just take an objective look at the early criticisms of Disney's California Adventure when it opened in 2001. Instead of rehashing such well known- and correct- observations about the park, the reality was longtime Disney park fans knew an inferior product when they saw it. It wasn't supposed to be Disneyland, but it wasn't a quality product either. There was a breach of trust and integrity in place of honor and honesty to this next generation park.

Conversely, when it comes to the remake of California Adventure, each new and individual park project that is done with excellence from start to finish has been met with enthusiastic response and the appropriate rewards it brings. World of Color has brought in the masses, and the soon to be finished The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Buena Vista Street, and Radiator Springs Racers will no doubt do the same. Excellence is recognized and rewarded.

Walt Disney seemed to understand this fact inherently. His earliest creations may not have been the blockbusters he would later experience, but he never skimped on quality. Oswald was not Mickey Mouse, but he was not designed with any less heart or elegance. Disneyland begat Walt Disney World, and under the leadership of his brother, the complex in Florida continued on with the company's tradition of excellence one project, one decision at a time. The public knew they could count on Walt and his company to produce any entertainment product and that it would be available at a fair price. His reputation (and that of his family and company) was always at stake, and Walt did not underestimate the potential of his core audience.

You are no different than Walt Disney. There is only a difference in the individual situation, unique skills, and personal contacts. But the same opportunity to live with integrity and excellence is available to us. Think about what is important to you and live for that. If you stumble around because your decisions lead you astray, you can always start over, rebuilding your life and reputation one decision at a time. It is akin to building good habits and breaking ones you hate. One by one by one by one, we can and do make a difference. One person making one deicision to do right multiplies itself.

Mahatma Gandi's famous quote, "Be the change you want to see in the world" is no less significant because it is well known. Now, I am not a follower of the Hindu faith. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, God himself made flesh who came to the earth to die for the sins of all mankind and rose from death to prove His power over Hell. His disciples, those who walked this earth with him, believed in him and gave up their lives for him, turned the world upside down. Their amazing message is timeless and revolutionary.

Their choice to follow Jesus Christ resulted in following their convictions- and one by one by one, as word spread, individuals exchanged broken lives for freedom and hope in him. Christianity became a worldwide faith because of the One who first acted in obedience and in integrity- and then spread one by one because of the power He gave his followers as they did his work and spoke the truth about Jesus. It continues to live to this day, be it in postmodern America, secular Europe, or in Third World countries where the good works of man accompany the Good News of Jesus. Sure, it unfortunately doesn't always look like it did in the early days- and please do not get me started on that topic- but the message and character of Christ remains a life changing one to this day.

But back to you, back to me. Will you be the one, the one who chooses to live with integrity instead of taking the short way out? Will you be the one who is the example of living honestly for the common good when others look out only for themselves? Will you be the one who chooses to live knowing your decisions will impact many people as well as impact your reputation? As for me, I am trying. This is my heart: to live a life that honors my God and reveals who He is as others watch me. Sure, I do and will fall flat on my face at times. But as I humbly come to him, by his power, I can start over again one decision at a time. One by one by one.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 10, 2011

Back to the Future: 1994 at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

The year: 1994. The mission: a remodel of the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland.

Love it or loathe it, upon the Magic Kingdom's opening in 1971, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom had a pretty sterile looking white palette. This was even before the massive Space Mountain entered the picture. There was soon If You Had Wings, a personal favorite, and the Wedway Peoplemover to round out the land. The feeling was fresh and contemporary but nothing futuristic aside from Flight to the Moon.

Above image from the amazing Vintage Disneyland Tickets

For the remake, the future was catching up with the Imagineers. So it would be a whole new alien world that would debut.

I couldn't wait for my next trip to see it- and I was not at all disappointed! Reusing the old Mission to Mars facility, the exciting Alien Encounter was a whole newform of thrill in the Disney lexicon. Mildly terrifying without much humor and clearly aiming for the teen audience. Add in a stateside version of Disneyland Paris's Le Visionarium, new "skins" on the existing buildings, fun props, great signage, and lots of neon, and it was a galaxy far far away from the serenity of opening day. Especially at night!

Thanks to Disney and More for the above image.

Unfortunately, time and new management has not been very kind to the Magic Kingdom's land of the future. The centerpiece attraction Alien Encounter gave way to the child friendly Stitch's Great Escape, and the Timekeeper attraction said goodbye, only to be replaced by the characters of Monsters Inc. Of course, the character invasion started years earlier when Wings and it look alike attractions were replaced by Buzz Lightyear. Could the success of Tron: Legacy lead us back to the future? One can only hope!
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 9, 2011

Back to the Future Tomorrow!

Join me tomorrow on the Insights blog as we look back to the future to the Magic Kingdom's New Tomorrowland. Great concept art to be seen! And by the way, won't you please respond to the poll directly to your left? Thanks.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 8, 2011


He was always so cool, so together, so settled. Therefore, I was so surprised I do not even know what to say. When you think someone has it all together and you find out, they may not, it's just a shock. I walked up to the front doors of my gym to find this note. One of my trainers had passed away. He was fairly young, much younger than I. Never expected this. What happened?

The letter on the door was one of those notes, kind of the "we regret to inform you type" that doesn't really tell you anything. Understandable. Respectful. Brief and to the point. But, I couldn't help but think about him. The shock of death and all. How one minute, someone's there and then gone, not to be seen on this earth ever again.

Years ago, the big question was "If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?" The variations included discussion on heaven or hell and why, who is Jesus, his sacrifice for our sins, and how our answer impacts our eternity. The stuff of philosophy classes and Sunday School class debates. In some circles, it was considered impolite, but I always thought that was just a nice way of acting as if the inevitable would never happen. Avoidance of life's most important question.

We all die. Sometimes it happens when we are ready, sometimes not. But we are all eternal beings, so life on earth is not the end, but it is only the beginning of a new existance. I would have liked to known his answer to the question, but now I'll never get the chance. But I can ask you. "Where will you go when you die? Why?" I'd love to hear your answers...

January 5, 2011

Why My Next Disneyland Vacation Can Wait

A couple of weeks back, I took some time to write about why I will wait awhile for my next trip to Walt Disney World. It certainly created a bit of interest, as it quickly became one of my most read posts ever! It may have also stirred up the idea that I am one who has an immense disrespect for what the Walt Disney Company has created in Florida. But that would be far from the truth.

Regardless, here is the follow up to that post- the reasons my next visit to Disneyland can wait. (Quite ironic actually, as I am typing away while wearing a gift from my wife- a Fifty Year Disneyland Resort logoed sweatshirt!) So, in much the same manner as the earlier post, here is what I will miss and here is why I am choosing to wait...

Let's be honest here- as a former Californian now living in Colorado, going to the Disneyland Resort is now a much more rare occurrence. So, I have to have a plan to maximize my day. It usually involves going to Downtown Disney the night before and buying my passport.Whether it is walking on to the property from the Downtown Disney parking lot and eventually seeing the entrances to both parks or parking in the multistory lot for the day and arriving at the security check via tram, few things beat the rush I get peering into both parks while I wait for the gates to open.

Even better is walking through the Disneyland Railroad tunnels into Main Street U.S.A. Upon my first sight of this land, there is a quaintness and familiarity to the place I do not experience when I am in Florida or Paris. It comes from years of visits with family and friends encompassing various stages of life together. These images can flash through my mind at times, making me misty eyed if I'm not careful.

In contrast, walking through the gates at California Adventure only reminds me "the suits" did not take fans' sense of loyalty into consideration as they sacrificed innovation and creativity, instead planning a park designed for profits first and quality far from second. (Bring on Buena Vista Street!)To any recent visitors, it is pretty clear that portions of the entire resort are under the knife- or should be. And this is ultimately why my next vacation will wait. 

The once majestic Disneyland Hotel is now a construction kingdom. Debates will and should continue as to whether or not the suits once again took shortcuts on the place, but the truth remains, the workers and walls are plentiful. The towers, the main pool, the grounds, and soon the lobby areas, will continue to be transformed. All great, but it makes for a poor experience now. Nor are there any new hotels coming soon.

Downtown Disney continues to change as vendors come and go. Such is retail life in our current economy. So we can kiss goodbye any expansion plans for now. Expansion is sorely needed- the place can be an absolute zoo- but we will not see it for at least another 3-5 years at best guess.

What hasn't been said about the reImagineering of California Adventure? It should be pretty spectacular upon the completion of Phase One come mid-2012. Sure, the California themed elements seem to be giving way to Disney film characters and Pixar-centric attractions, but what great additions they will be!

I'm an unabashed fan of The Little Mermaid (how can a Dad not love a film that ends with a father being willing to sacrifice himself for his child?), so this animatronic filled ride through Triton's undersea kingdom will be a must see for me. From an entirely different perspective, I am thrilled for Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racers, From first sight of it on film, I could tell the whole town was made to be built as a land in a Disney park- and my bet is we will not be disappointed with the end result. However, for the time being, World of Color- though quite terrific- will not bring me back. Neither will a "new" Paradise Pier and its carnival rides.

Sure, I'll miss Soarin' Over California , a new generation Disney favorite. I'll even miss an evening ride on Grizzly Mountain's rapids, but I'm satisfied to wait until it feels like the whole new place it is truly becoming. (How sad is it that a decade old Disney park, one that does have its fun moments, can be reduced to a couple of must do attractions?)In spite of the early observations that Disney has always revamped its parks, the truth is nothing of this scale and scope has ever been done before. It will seem like a whole new park upon completion.

What's not under the knife in a big way? Disneyland itself- but it should be. Star Tours 2 will not bring me into the gates or into the well worn and very unimaginative Tomorrowland. Had my Captain Eo and Space Mountain fix last time. In fact, as much as I will greatly miss sailing on the moonlit bayou to descend into the realm of pirates, flying off to Neverland or outer space, joining 999 happy haunts or happy children 'round the world, Disneyland will have to wait until I'm dazzled by something new. Nostalgia only goes so far. Same for marketing.

I love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and the always incredible Indiana Jones Adventure, even many of the smaller attractions like the Disney Gallery and Tarzan's Treehouse, but I can wait. I'm hoping for that big Tomorrowland revamp, but it seems as if the reviews of Tron Legacy may alter what happens next. Hope I'm wrong. Still, I have to admit, not much has changed in Walt's park recently- at least nothing to write home about. A new parade or firworks show won't bring me in, either. Think bigger, better, cutting edge, attractions. That will do it!

I guess, conversely, a trip to Walt Disney World could be the answer. But not now, maybe in a few years. A new Fantasyland, a few years apart from my beloved Epcot, and maybe even something new at the neglected Animal Kingdom, will bring me back.

Again, there are many places in the USA vying for my travel dollars. Even my desire to see Harry Potter will have to wait until I can combine it with Disney and some beach time. I'm thinking perhaps San Francisco (as we used to live in the Bay Area), a return visit to Charleston, or even a fall leaves tour of New England. Regardless what I choose, a Disney trip is on the back burner until they win us back. They can do it- if they want to!

(Photographs copyright Mark Taft.)

January 4, 2011

I'll Take A Letter

The Walt Disney Company is spinning the Wheel of Fortune with their remake of the once awful California Adventure. Late last night and early today, they are taking a letter. In fact, all of them, as they remove one of the park's iconic images- the concrete letters that spell out the state's name at the entrance to the park. It is a gamble they'll take to rebuild the park's damaged image.

Soon, a new entrance will grace the front as a faithful recreation of Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios gates come to California. Yep, an exact replica of what is in Florida, a take on the long gone Pan Pacific in Los Angeles. Although a bit dismaying, a look beyond the gates will reveal the beautiful new Buena Vista Street.
Let the construction continue- and we'll put up with all the walls and the rerouting of visitors. It's the price we'll pay for a new park entrance. Actually, it is the price the Disney Company will pay, part of the one billion dollar rehaul of the park that should have been built right in the first place.
(Art and photo copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

January 3, 2011

Ideals, Dreams, and Hard Facts for 2011

Wow- a New Year and a new chance for changing what we don't like but can and living with what we cannot. The Walt Disney Company has its own set of must dos for 2011. Some we'll be happy with, some will displease us. Regardless, let's take a look at what is coming down the road...

The big Disney park news for 2011 is bound to be the much waited for arrival of The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure at the constantly changing California Adventure. Although I am very excited about what is coming afterward, namely Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, what Disney creates for this attraction will give us geeks the best idea of the mindset of the company with regards to the future of the parks. The company revealed its hand with the creation of the park and then followed it with a cut-rate version of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to save it. It's relative failure at bringing in the crowds led to the one billion dollar investment we are seeing now.

Sure, the Imagineers can create the most awesome of grand old school "E" Ticket adventures, but will the Budgeteers actually approve it? What is finally marketed by the Company is not always what the company delivers. DCA 1.0 is a perfectly horrible example of this truth! Bargain Basement Imagineering at its most glaring example. If California Adventure is to finally remove itself from Disneyland's shadow, it needs more than just the remake of Paradise Pier to make it happen.

Maybe with Ariel, the park executives know guests really meant it- and listened- when they were told there needed to be some great attractions on the scale of the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion. While the success of Carsland's Radiator Springs Racers' is a given, The Little Mermaid could be the surprise hit of the remake of the park. It's got memorable music a la It's A Small World and the atmospheric punch of the aforementioned attractions without any height restrictions. Too bad Paradise Pier by definition will never have the style and charm of New Orleans Square.

On the other side of the esplanade, we have Star Tours 2.0 coming in May. It's harder to be objective about this project as I am not a Star Wars fan nor am I a fan of 3D in general. The movies have a timeless appeal, but my hunch is the new addition of 3D will cheapen the overall experience. Queue length will increase at first, but the novelty will wear off. Personally, I'll be very surprised if I ride it more than once or twice.

What else can I predict for the Disneyland Resort? Hmmm. The sadly lackluster revamping of the Disneyland Hotel will continue, additional closures happening at Downtown Disney, small scale projects for Tony Baxter before he retires, and another year where Tomorrowland lays in neglect of vision. Gotta live with some things we don't like.

Cannot say things in Walt Disney World look much better. Well, they will look better at the Magic Kingdom as painting and repair continues. Fantasyland Forest will continue to grow, and the new (improved?) Haunted Mansion queue will spark discussion board debates. 

I'd be happily shocked should something worthwhile be announced for Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios or the Animal Kingdom, but we'll have to settle for the hard facts of some great merchandise to honor the complex's 40th anniversary. And the usual special parade and fireworks show, accompanied by a sparkly new promotion. I've got an idea! How about for their 40th anniversary, Walt Disney World sends some of their greatest attractions to parks around the world? Not feeling the love? Me neither.

Overseas, the characterization of the parks continue. Toy Story Playlands are the new Toontowns after all, ("But everyone has one!"), dark ride and creativity aside. Other than in Tokyo, real "E" Tickets are reserved for when a park hits a slumping attendance, resulting in visitor spending dipping below acceptable levels. Speaking of Tokyo, Disney Sea will continue to show Americans how it can be done, while the Walt Disney Studios Paris reminds us how it shouldn't be.

Disney television and music is almost becoming an oxymoron, but maybe the future in media is to be found in gaming. Epic Mickey is pretty fun.

Disney/Pixar films. Well, I'll definitely see Pirates 4, and certainly The Lone Ranger should at least begin filming. Here's hoping this new Johnny Depp film will relaunch an interest the American West. Could result in developing Frontierland into greatness once again. The truth is Disney has few bankable stars, and if anyone can relaunch a genre, it's Johnny. Will Pixar's The Bear and the Bow keep the string of hits unbroken? We'll see, but a Christmas / Thanksgiving time slot won't hurt.

Should 2011 be a banner year for Disney entertainment, I'll be plesantly surprised. However, things change all the time, and 2012 is not all that far away. The D23 convention should bring some fun news as we will have Shanghai Disneyland plans to drool over, a look at the revised plans for Florida's Fantasyland, and the steel and concrete completed additions to California Adventure. I think we'll be all too busy to complain about what Disney didn't do in 2012- but that is another tale for another year.

As I continue with the Insights blog for the new year, I want to thank you all for reading and becoming friends. Always appreciate the kind comments and emails. For those of you that are bloggers as well as readers, thank you for all your hard work. I learn so much from each of you, and I enjoy your perspectives, stories, and photos. May God bless you richly. To the Company we all love- Good Luck! May you find the New Year to be one where creating by Walt's ideals brings you great success. Happy New Year Everyone!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)