Shanghai Disney Resort to get first boost

April 29th, 2014 by Dirk.

The Shanghai Disney Resort is not yet even open but Disney fans have been gushing about early artwork released by Disney through its various channels (lately in particular the official Disney fan club D23) – and it seems not only the fans are gushing about the new venture that is set to offer a whole new concept for a Magic Kingdom style park. No, the business side seems to be more convinced by the project than ever.

Having learned from the complaints that Hong Kong Disneyland drew when it opened for being “too small” the Shanghai Disney Resort and in particular its theme park already were already a significantly larger project in its first phase. And now that project just got bigger – by $800 million.

Robert Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced during the panel “China In Transition: Still A Land Of Opportunity?” of the Milken Institute Global Conference on April 28, 2014 that TWDC (holding 43% of the project) and its local partner Shanghai Shendi Group (holding 57% of the project) will jointly invest a further $800 million into the Shanghai Disney Resort (each one investing an according part of this sum based on their shares in the project).

Robert Iger stated: “We’ve decided that we would accelerate the expansion of the park while we are building it. We’ve always expected that this park would expand and that it had huge potential but we’ve been so impressed with what we have seen […] we are announcing today that we are putting an additional $800 million into the project so we make it a $5.5 billion project on the onset. With that will come more attractions, basically more entertainment and some other services as well, food and dining being another aspect of it, other forms of entertainment. A big step and a huge vote of confidence not just in the market but obviously in this project“. Considering the stated overall planned investment in the project of now $5.5 billion the (included) addition of $800 million equals an impressive increase of 17%!

Robert Iger further detaield that currently about 8,000 construction workers are working and living on the future resort property. The full video of the panel is currently available for online streaming on the website of Milken Institute Global Conference (Robert Iger is addressed starting about 9:01 min. into the panel and then presents the Shanghai Disney Resort project, the additional investment is announced about starting about 11:19 min.).

However, fans should take note that Robert Iger did not state how this additional amount will be devided. While he spoke of an “acceleration of the expansion of the park” and “more attractions” he also carefully worded that the additional investment goes “into the project” and that it would also cover “other services” such as “food and dining“. Whether all of these are to be located inside the Disneyland Park would need to be awaited. Afterall the project is the full resort and that consists of the Disneyland park, a retail, dining and entertainment area, hotels, a lake, recreational facilities, transit hubs and parking.

Also, the statement did not state whether the additional investment will be realized in time for the expected opening of the resort in 2015 – or whether it may be for a brought forward phase 2 resp. a new phase 1.5 allowing for the addition of new offerings within a relative short time span after opening, as was realized with new small scale attractions in Fantasyland (the Old Mill ferris wheel, the Storyland Boats and Casey Jr.) and the Indiana Jones coaster in Adventureland for Disneyland Paris for example. The resort may need these additional attractions as Robert Iger also explained that – due to high speed rail connections – “330 million income qualified people will live within a 3 hour trip to this park. 330 million people that we would consider capable of affording a visit to Shanghai Disneyland. That is obvious valuable for us and is one of the reasons why we accelerate expansion“.

However, the race is now open for Disney fans to find out: which additional attractions and other offerings is Imagineering now preparing to add to the resort???


For all Disney historians further remarks by Robert Iger later in the panel discussion (starting at roughly 22:27 min.) should be of interest too. In it he confirmed that – besides weather issues – the air quality / pollution at Bejing was worse than in Shanghai at the time that TWDC decided to build the resort. He states “First of all it led to a decision to put the park in Shanghai certainly rather than in Bejing” – implying that at least Bejing (maybe even more locations) were originally in contention as location for the resort as well. Another interesting details concerns the run-up to the signing of the contracts: “Our negotiations to build this park was a decade long“. Starting 42:55 min. into the panel discussions the audience further learned that the chain of (according to Robert Igner) about 40 Disney English language schools now operated in China grew out of a single training facility which Robert Iger approved for Shanghai – presumably in connection with / preparation for the Shanghai Disney Resort – however, he also admits that he is not sure whether this business will reach the scale they originally expected for it.

We should expect more from TWDC on the Chinese market in the future because, as Robert Iger in his closing remarks (starting about 56:03 min.) states: “We need China to create growth for our company and I think for many other multinational companies […] There aren’t that many markets to turn to that are as obvious or as I think as exciting – as hard as it is – in terms of the potential“.

Disney heading back to the beach

April 28th, 2014 by Dirk.

Do you remember the summer of 2013? Back then The Disney Channel took millions of teens (and one may safely assume adults) on a surf ride into a beach movie by way of the “Disney Teen Beach Movie”. The story evolved around a pair of teenage surfers that magically traveled into an old-school beach movie and featured a number of beach pop songs that delivered a number one billboard soundtrack for Disney.

After the movie’s success fans expected a sequel rather sooner than later. Afterall, the final scene of the movie showed a group of characters from the movie following the pair of lovers back into the real world of today. And now, Deadline Hollywood reports that The Disney Channel has scheduled the sequel (Disney Teen Beach Movie 2) for a 2015 broadcasting premiere.

The stars of part one, Ross Lynch (whose Disney Channel series “Austin & Ally” just got renewed), Maia Mitchell, Grace Phipps, Garrett Clayton and John DeLuca, will reprise their characters. Jeffrey Hornaday is, according to Deadline Hollywood, ready to get the cameras rolling in July, returning as director.

Considering the infectious beach pop features in the original Disney Teen Beach Movie, which can be expected to return for part 2 (maybe with a more modern twist depending on whether the action will take place more or less only in the real world of today instead of a 50s/60s beach movie setting), and the handling of the High School Musical movies a logic question now is: will the Disney Teen Beach Movie make it to the parks as well in 2015?

The movie with its vacation / beach setting, youthfull cast and upbeat music just lends itself to a summer show that could roll into the streets of Disney Parks such as the Walt Disney Studios Park (at Disneyland Paris), Disney California Adventure (at Disneyland Resort Anaheim), Disney Hollywood Studios (at Walt Disney World) – following the play book established for the High School Musical. For the HSM franchise the Disney parks produced “stage” shows taht were performed on moving stages that rolled along the parade route of the according park and stopped for song & dance performances – with just a bare hint of a story, mostly relying on high energy dance and song performances.

In particular the Walt Disney Studios Park would benefit from a revival of this concept for the Disney Teen Beach Movie franchise as the park is lacking live entertainment on the streets to liven up its atmosphere and to add some kinetic energy. The HSM shows performed in the WDS were hugely popular drawing not only large crowds for numerous performances daily during the summer season but even gaining their own dedicated fans. A street song & dance show based on the Disney Teen Beach Movie franchise would not only allow the Disney Channel to further advertise the two movies to its core audience but also would help the Walt Disney Studios Park to enhance the experience for guests. But then again, as we are talking about 2015 here and Disneyland Paris lately has announced its entertainment offerings only on very short notice we might have to wait a year (or even longer?) till will learn whether or not the movies will make it to that park (or any Disney park).

More music for the Disney Channel

April 28th, 2014 by Dirk.

As Deadline Hollywood reports the Disney Channel show “Austin & Ally” starring Ross Lynch, Laura Marano, Raini Rodriguez and Calum Worthy got renewed for a fourth season. Thereby the Disney Channel not only renewed a show popular with the tween audience but also assured the Walt Disney Records division a further flow of pop songs marketed straight to the audience in the show.

Free advertising by The Library of Congress

December 18th, 2013 by Dirk.

The Library of Congress is helping the promotion for Walt Disney Pictures’ current release “Saving Mr. Banks”, the feature telling the story of how the Disney classic “Mary Poppins” was created – at least that is the sideffect of it revealing its annual list of 25 movies to be added to the National Film Registry, which (with this latest addition) will stand at 625 entries.

As you can obviously guess by this introduction one the 25 entries into the registry for 2013 is Disney’s “Mary Poppins”. It joins fellow Disney classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Beauty and the Beast or Toy Story (to name just a few) already in the registry. Thinking that more Disney movies deserve this special accolade? Check out the official website and learn how enter a nomination for the class of 2014!

The East Wind blows…

December 10th, 2013 by Dirk.

… Mary Poppins to a new destination instead of Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London, … to be exact: to the RONACHER theater in Vienna, Austria.

After London 2004, New York City 2006, Melbourne 2010, national tours in the UK and the USA as well as productions in Europe since 2008 as well as in Mexico City (2012) the musical presented by Walt Disney Theatrical and Cameron Mackintosh based on the Disney classic movie as well as the original books by P.L. Travers is going to have its premiere in a German translation in fall 2014 in Vienna.

The RONACHER is operated by “Vereinigte Bühnen Wien” (“United Stages Vienna”) which will also produce “Mary Poppins” at the theater. Walt Disney Theatrical already worked with Vereinigte Bühnen Wien in 1995 when they premiered the German language version of “Beauty and the Beast” at the RAIMUND theater in Vienna.

The rehearsals for the upcoming “Mary Poppins” production are expected to commence in summer 2014 with the premiere scheduled for “fall 2014″. Translation: if you are a musical performer and are fluent in German you could audition for the production. Currently auditions are scheduled for December in Vienna and two cities in Germany as the production’s casting director Yvonne Ritz Andersen is looking for performers for all(!) parts. You can find the casting notice online to check for details (please note: at this time there is no open audition scheduled, all performers require prior appointments).

At this time Vereinigte Bühnen Wien has not yet released any information regarding the show’s creative team and whether the production will use the script from London or the slightly reworked script developed later. However, usually Vienna does present the original productions as staged in London’s West End or on the Broadway.

The making of TOY STORY – and the meddling of Disney

December 9th, 2013 by Dirk.

Deadline Hollywood – the online source for movie business news including a great write-up each weekend of the US box-office – provided Disney and in particular PIXAR afficionados with unique reading material lifting the curtain of PIXAR history a bit. This past Sunday Deadline Hollywood released an exclusive excerpt from the book  “The CG Story: Computer Generated Animation and Special Effects” by Christopher Finch which provides a look into the world of CGI, its introduction into the magic of movie making driven by determined indivuduals such as Pixar’s John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and how it in this process changed the movie business.

So why should you head over to Deadline for the excerpt? Well, because Deadline chose the perfect excerpt if you are interested in the history of Disney and Pixar animated features: the story of how the original Disney Pixar hit “Toy Story” came about and how the meddling by Disney executives nearly derailed the project that not only ushered in the period of CGI dominance at the animated box office but also shaped the relationship between Disney and Pixar. But enough said – time for some quality reading…

Universal Ticket Prices UP

May 20th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

rogueatioa.jpgUniversal Orlando has raised their day tickets up to $92 for a one day, one park ticket. With this they are the first park to ask above the $90 and are now “only” $8 away from a three digit ticket price. It will come sooner as you will want to.

Other ticket combinations also changed. For example a one ticket, two parks will now set you back $128

Normally, when one of the big players in Orlando raises their ticket price, the other players are not far behind. If this trend continues we might see Walt Disney World and SeaWorld do the same in the very near future. A Walt Disney World one day tickets cost you $89 at the moment.

Sometimes I wonder how they calculate their increasing as they are certainly not following your regular inflation. For those that like some history; in 1971, when Walt Disney World opened, a ticket to the Magic Kingdom would set you back $3.50. (although you did need to buy extra tickets for the attractions. These where Adventures Books and started at $4.50 for 7 tickets)

Disney Vacation Club Villas at Grand Floridian Sales starting Dates

May 20th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.


Disney Vacation Club will start their sales for the new Floridian Villas as from the 23rd of May 2013. This date is only for current members who want to add on some extra points to their portfolio. New buyers will have to wait a little longer (June 19) before they can buy their forst share in the magic.

No news on pricing yet, but this will come out very soon. Add on minimum will be 25 points while new members will have to get the usual 160 points (unless changed again for this resort). More early info can be found via the DVC Facebook page at this time.

Get your points for some more “Welcome Home” magic

Picture copyrights Disney

Amazing Image of the Shanghai Disney Project

March 6th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.


Walt Disney Chairman CEO Robert Igor showed a first piece of artwork from the new Shanghai Disneyland project during today’s Shareholder meeting. The park is planned to open its gates in 2015 to the first visitors. Still a little time to go, but until then Disney fans can already gaze upon what might become an amazing Kingdom.

“We believe this will be one of the most spectacular Disney experiences yet – and an important part of our future. We look forward to opening the gates at the end of 2015 and welcoming the first of the millions of guests who will enjoy Shanghai Disneyland for generations to come.” R. Iger.

The image shows the center of the Disneyland park, including the Enchanted Storybook Castle, a very green central plaza, a carousel and (what looks like) the Walt and Mickey storytellers statue from Disney California Adventure. This will be an amazing project to follow, but will be even more amazing once finished.

Picture copyrights Disney.

Tony Baxter Leaving Imagineering

February 2nd, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

TonyBmaster3It is something that would have to happen at some stage, but I don’t think anybody really was prepared for it to happen at this time or any time. Tony Baxter is leaving his Senior Vice President position within the Imagineers department at Disney. He might not leave completely as he will take a role as a part time advisor.

Tony has been part of the Disney family for more then 30 years. He started in Disneyland as an ice cream vendor when he was 17 years young. Over 30 years later he became a well love Disney Imagineer that brought some incredible magic to Disney. Some of his greatest works include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Indiana Jones, Re-designing complete lands like Disneyland’s Tomorrowland (in 1998) and Disneyland’s Fantasyland (in 1983). He is also the man that created a big part of our beloved Disneyland  Paris.

I was privileged and lucky enough to have been able to meet this Disney icon in person. Not only was I able to hear his stories about the creation of Disneyland Paris (a full transcript can be found here), but I was able to give him a copy of Brits Guide to Disneyland I was the main researched for, but he also signed a copy, congratulated and thanked me for the work on the book. To me, as a Disney enthusiast, that meant a lot. Thank you Tony for all the things you’ve done.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FELLOW IMAGINEERS Read the rest of this entry »

Star Wars Live Action TV Series for ABC

January 11th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

The rumor of a live action Star Wars television series has been out their for a while but with Disney now buying the Star Wars franchise it looks like it might finally become reality. EW has talked to ABC entertainment president Paul Lee who seems excited about the idea. There are already fifty scrips out there written by Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore. Those scripts have been sitting on the shelves for some year but could now be dusted off for future use.

The main problem in the beginning was money and ownership issues. Episodes where said to cost about $5 million each to produce. Not something that would make any decision easy! With the ownership now at Disney and ABC part of the Disney family the step to make a Star Wars Live TV show changes a lot. Full control of all aspect will be at one location and this could be that little push the project needed to get started.

There is not much known about the story that could be used. However, there are rumors that a favorite draft would be about rival families in the Star Wars universe fighting for control. The main location would be the subterranean levels of the planet Coruscant and a bounty hunter would be a main part of the story. Remember that this is only a rumor and that the project is in an early stage so all of this could still change.

Exciting times for Star Wars fans for sure. Not only will there be new movies but their might be a great TV show too. Can’t wait to see it all materialize!

Animation Nominations

January 11th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

We all know that Disney brings out some of the best animations, so it will come to no surprise Disney has some nominations. In the United Kingdom the BAFTA Award nominations have been released. Here Disney has 2 chances to win the price. Both Brave and Frankenweenie are on the short list. They are up against only one more movie in their category. The third nominee is Paranorman.

Disney does even a little better on the Oscar list. Besides Brave and Frankenweenie are on the list, but also Wreck-It Ralph got nominated. The Oscar list is a little bigger with a total of 5 nominations. 3 of them from Disney, Paranorman is also on it and the final name on the list is The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Click the links for a full list on all BAFTA and Oscar nominations

A Little More MyMagic+

January 8th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

A little more information is leaking regarding the MyMagic+ wristbands. Walt Disney World Hotel bookers and Annual passes will get the bands at no extra costs but the future plan is to have all guests wear a wristbands with the RFID integrated.

The wristbands will be available in different colors or themes. Some of these Disney themes can be from a Pirates of the Caribbean, some of the Pixar characters, Disney princesses and many more. It is also rumored that there could be some special wristbands done by other companies like Dooney & Burke and Swarovski and for those that don’t like wearing anything around their wrist there might be alternatives coming in the form of keychains and other jewelry.


January 7th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

Disney has made it official, the Next-gen technology will be introduced soon under “MyMagic+” for the Walt Disney World resort. With this new tool Disney guests will be able to create their Disney vacation from the comfort of their own home. Guest will be able to use a new website “My Disney Experience” where they will be able to book dinner reservations and other Disney experiences. There will also be an option to book a selection of FastPass+ to avoid not only the lines at the attractions but also a visit to the FasPass booths.

The FastPass+ option will not only include attractions but will have Character meet and greet, preferred firework and parade viewing place and other options. The firework and Parade option could be your key to make sure to see your favorites from a dedicated space every time you want. (I know I’ll be booking Illuminations on many nights once available).

To be able to take advantage of all the early bookings guest will be provided a special RFID wristband named “MagicBand”. This wristband will serve as your hotel room key, park admission, the FastPass+ pre-booked options, your personal photopass and will even have an integrated payment option. The later one might come with a code once spending will reach a certain amount. This to protect the owners in case they would loose their wristband and to avoid those dishonest guests from plundering your account.

With the personal information saved on your wristband character will now also be able to know your name and use it when you visit them. Imagine the faces of the children when talking Mickey comes up to them and knows their names. This might not be for integrated in the early phase of the project, but one that is sure one of the many future options that will find it’s way into the system.

There is no specific date yet when the MyMagic+ will completely take over, but it is slowly finding it ways into the park as some guests already have been part of the testing phase.

Also read the WDWnewstoday article. They where the first to bring out this exciting news. Also visit the Disneyparks blog for some more pictures.

Picture copyrights Disney

Disneyland… every Day

January 6th, 2013 by Andy De Maertelaere.

Would it not be fun to visit Disneyland on a daily basis? Both Jeff Reitz and Tonya Mickesh where thinking the same thing. The couple had lost their jobs but where given each an annual pass for Disneyland by a friend. While searching for new jobs they decided to also visit the park on a daily basis during 2012. Once they would find jobs to visits would be less. So they said, but once they did get a job both still went every day. Not an easy task as the worked during different times and sometimes had to go alone. One day even almost didn’t make it in time to set their record.

During their time at Disneyland the became know as the Daily couple and befriended with a lot of the Cast Members. After the year they also became honorary citizens of Disneyland. What a great and fun achievement. I wouldn’t mind visiting a Disney park a day. If only I lived a little closer.

Visit the link to see some great pictures from their trips.