Tony Baxter Leaving Imagineering

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

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.


Universal vs. Disney: The Tolkien Round!

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Universal did it again! At least if these rumors are indeed correct as no official announcements are made yet. Universal gets the rights to build the Lord of the Ring attractions in their park. This is yet another fantastic move that will bring over even more people to the parks. Harry Potter already proofed success and with Lord of the Rings they will do it again. This franchise is so big, popular and timeless that guest numbers for the park will grow for sure.

Queues for the Harry Potter attractions are stupendously long and will get even bigger once the second phase is in place. Once Lords of the Rings and the Hobbit will make it to the park another big fan followers will find their way to the Universal Studios getting those visitor numbers way up. Orlando visitors will need to find a way to see all the stuff and while their holiday might not get extended, a visit to Universal might. As guest might have to find that extra day for Universal, this could cost Disney some visitors.

OK, Disney just got the big Star Wars deal, the new Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, the rumored Carsland for Hollywood Studios and… Avatar for Animal Kingdom. Fantasyland is already proofing to be a success for Disney and depending on their Star Wars plans will have another crowd pleaser. As long as it will be spectacular and the Imagineers get to do something with it. Avatar is still another story in my honest opinion. Avatar might still see two more movies and although this will keep the franchise alive, it is in no way as timeless as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

Never the less, it is exciting to see how the theme parks are creating new wonderful stuff. The Lord of the Rings deal will make Disney work their hardest to bring out their best of the best and the real winners are we, the fans and the guests.

Make sure to visit us regularly as we will report on all the new Orlando area park stuff once we know more.

Disney Buys Lucasfilm and Opens door for new Star Wars Movie

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Disney has already proven that they can successfully buy a big franchise and make it even more successful. Just look at the Marvel and the current successes at the box office. Disney has done it again by buying the Lucasfilm and will be looking at expanding not only the Disney family, but also expanding the Star Wars universe. The deal is worth $4 billion and is the biggest buy out deal Disney ever made and the fourth biggest buy out deal up to date. Disney will pony up half of the total in cash and will issue another part in 40 million shares.

This opens the doors to many new Star Wars films and Disney CEO Robert Iger already mention that we can expect a new Star Wars film every 2 or 3 years. George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars universe, is ready to pass on his legacy.

 “For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next, It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers”
George Lucas

With this deal Disney will acquire full ownership of Star Wars franchise as well as the cutting edge technology from Industrial Light & Magic, Skywalker Sound and more. Current Lucasfilm Co-Chairman, Kathleen Kennedy, will become the president of the Lucasfilm department.

Star Wars Episode 7 will be the first movie that will come from this deal. While Disney has full control of the new Star Wars movie, George Lucas will still play a part of the process as a creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is set for a 2015 release.

The possibilities with this new deal are endless. One can only hope that Star Wars will find an even more prominent place in the parks. There have been rumors of expansions at the Disney Hollywood Studios for a while. (example a Cantina) This deal could be that little extra push to see this happening even sooner then the fans had hoped for. This is just the beginning of a big story, one that we will follow closely for sure.

Avatar Kingdom

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

It’s been the biggest news since yesterday, Avatar coming to the Animal Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. Disney has closed a deal with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Fox Filmed Entertainment to bring the world of Avatar to the Disney parks.

James and his producing partner Jon Landau and their team at Lightstorm Entertainment will serve as creative consultants on the project and will work side-by-side with our Walt Disney Imagineers as we dream up experiences that will take our guests deep into worlds of AVATAR like never before. (Disneyparks Blog)

Who is excited? Well, I am not. While I think that the Avatar movie is amazing I don’t like the idea of it going into a Disney park, let alone the Animal Kingdom park. I see the Animal Kingdom park as a Imagineering masterpiece and I just don’t see it fitting in here, even if it could be linked with nature. Alien nature in the Animal Kingdom park?

There are two more movies planned in the Avatar universe, but what happens after that? Will it stay as big as Star Wars? Will it stay as cool as Indiana Jones? (Even with the last movie being a disaster). Or will it be the Harry Potter impact that Universal got? I am not so sure. Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter are timeless that might need some updates over time (Like Star Wars just had), but will Avatar also become a timeless story. If you look at the secondary market (toys, collectibles, etc), Star Wars, and Harry Potter are everywhere (Indiana Jones not so much). Avatar, can’t remember when I’ve seen anything in the shops anywhere. With Avatar in the park there will be a continuous live for the franchise. But will they be able to turn it timeless?

I am a big Disney fan and love the parks. I will give it a chance and hope I am totally wrong, but for now I am very skeptic.

On the other hand, if the Imagineers get the money and resources they need we might get to see an incredible land with amazing Disney attractions. At the end of the day, that’s what people and Disney park fans like me get excited.

The web has been the place where people put up some questions about Disney’s decision and Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has added some answers to them. One of the questions was one that popped up in my head to; Why buy someone else’s idea instead of letting WDI come up with something? Find out what Tom Staggs has to say about this and read his other answers on the Disneypark blog.

Disneyland’s Flying Elephant

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

… and we are not talking about Dumbo this time. It’s the one the Jungle Cruise skippers call “the largest and most feared animal in our jungle – the mother-in-law” Disney has lifted the animatronics by air with a helicopter for a well deserved check up. This happens once every 7 to 10 years but this time the action was filmed and put on-line by Disney.

New Show or New Location for Cirque du Soleil (Update)

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Sometimes a single sign can get you to start thinking. What would you think if you pass a room while walking through Disney’s Grand Californian hotel and notice that at the door of the room is a sign saying “WDI / Cirque du Soleil Meeting”. Lance from Screamscape saw this while visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, took a picture and placed it on twitpic. Let the rumors begin! Could it be that Cirque will get another theater in Disneyland, or is it a meeting to change the show in Walt Disney World? Both of these option have been rumors in the past, but we will not know as Walt Disney Imagineering will not let us find out. Not long after the picture of the sign got live on the web, the sign was removed and replaced with a generic one.

Good find from Screamscape. I can only hope they will not replace the La Nouba show as we still want to go and see it.

UPDATE: According to the latest update on Screamscape the meeting was for a new show in Hong Kong.

Star Tours 2 Review

Monday, May 16th, 2011

First reviews are in regarding the new Star Tours: The Adventure Continues attraction. Cast Members in Disneyland have been invited for their first trip on the Starspeeder. In this first review we are invited to enjoy the result of 2 alternative trips. The review has info on the queue area and the trip intself, including a collection of spoilers about Kashyyk, Leah and Naboo. You will get info on C-3PO, R2-D2, stormtroopers and also on the 3D effects. Read on to find out what could happen when you go on your first Star Tours 2 trip.

The review is very positive, something we expected from this second version. Can’t wait to ride it myself!

A Pirate’s Ship, a Mousekedances Album and Walt’s Signature

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Are you a Disney collector looking for something special that can’t be found in the Disney stores and Theme Parks. How about visiting auctions? You can always find something special there. In about 3 days Julien’s Live will action of some amazing stuff in their “Hollywood Legends Auction”. Some of this stuff is truly awesome. From the TV hit “Heroes” to the fantastic movie Serenity, from Star Wars to Marlene Dietrich and a lot more. There are 602 different lots starting from $50 to well over $10000.

For the Disney fanatics and specialist collectors there are three lots to look out for. All three of them pretty amazing. The three lots are…

An architectural drawing for the Disneyland Inc. Fantasyland Pirate Ship. Drawing is dated “5-7-55,” showing the side and end elevations of the ship, marked “Sheet No. A3.” Designed by WED Enterprises. Designed to resemble Captain Hook’s pirate ship, it served as a restaurant at Disneyland from 1955 to 1982. (lot 357)

This lot is estimated $500 to $700.

The second item is…

A 10″ 78 rpm copy of “Mousekedances” signed on record label by Walt Disney and on the reverse label by members of The Mickey Mouse Club including: Annette, Doreen, Karen, Tommy, Cheryl, Roy, Cubby, Jimmie Dodd and Bobby. (lot 358)

An amazing item signed by 9 people. This is an absolute rare find and is estimated to bring $800 to $1000.

And item number three…

An original vintage photograph inscribed and signed by Walt Disney. (lot 359)

A gem for sure and something many Walt Disney fans would love to own. Estimated at $600 to $800, but I see this item selling for more beating the higher end estimate. Beautiful Disney collectible. For those that want to place a bit; happy bidding and good luck and if you win it let us know…

Picture copyrights Julien’s Auctions. Click picture to see full size on their page

An appointment with Mickey

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Mickey Mouse will have a new house in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. He will meet and greet guests at the Town Square Theater at the entrance of the park. I guess with Toontown closed Mickey had to move. The imagineers are making sure everything will be ready for Mickey once he will start to appear in the beginning of the spring time. It will be more then just a meet and greet area as the Disney imagineers are creating an interactive queue for those that are waiting to see Mickey.

One big extra element will be a FastPass to visit the mouse. From now on guests can get a FastPass, enjoy the rest of the park, and come back in their specific one hour window to see and meet Mickey. Good Idea? Not sure yet! I love the FastPass system but we will have to wait and see if it will work for character meets to. If it does then this could be something that might get implemented at other future character meet and greet area’s. What do you think about it?

Picture copyrights Disney via Disney Parks Blog

Own a Home at Walt Disney World

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Are you ready to move and live inside the boundaries of Walt Disney World? This is your chance as Disney unveiled Golden Oak, a place where they will build private homes for those that would want to live in the middle of the magic. The magic comes with a hefty price tag of a minimum of $1.5 million and goes up to $8 million for one of the thirty homes that will go on sale this year. The homes are designed by the Disney Imagineers and will be build in a gated community.

Over the years a total of approximately 450 homes are planned to be build at the Golden Oak project. Living inside the boundaries of Walt Disney World… it doesn’t get any more magical. Time to play the lottery.

Press Release (more…)

Trouble for Disneyland Shanghai?

Monday, November 30th, 2009

mickey1.jpgThe project has been approved  and the plans for the first phase are ready. This first phase will have a feisty price tag of $3.6 billion. You might think this could buy you a lot, but it will not get you a “big” first gate. The first gate will only be 116 hectares big, this is 10 hectares smaller than the Hong Kong Park. This will make the Shanghai park the smallest of all Disney parks yet. Remember the trouble the Hong Kong park went true in the beginning; to small, not enough rides, only a half day park…

Hong Kong has proven that a small Disney park doesn’t work and will only give the company trouble. People will leave the small park wanting more, but will not return because they where disappointed the first time. Unfortunately I think history will repeat itself if Disney doesn’t change their plans by learning from the Hong Kong parks. The park needs to be big and full of Disney attractions to get the people into it. Have a look at Tokyo and its DisneySea. Quality brings in people and brings in the needed cash to make it a success. I am worried that making yet another “small” park, Disney will yet again loose on their investment. (I just hope I’m wrong)

Captain EO Limited

Friday, November 27th, 2009

In a rumor we posted not to long ago we already mentioned the possible return of Michael Jackson’s Captain EO. Another rumor floating on the web says that the returning experience would be a limited run at Disneyland and not a long term return of this Disney Park classic. (via Screamscape)

Let’s hope that the limited run doesn’t stop to early. It would be a shame for the fans if they had to miss out on the opportunity to see this again because the time frame is to narrow.

Space Mountain Surprises

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Disney has released a couple of pictures from the Space Mountain attraction queue area in Walt Disney World. The pictures include the new interactive game which guests will be able to play when waiting for their shuttle. The game can be played with up to 86 guests and lasts 90 seconds. More updates are announces on the official Disney blog.

Spider-Man Going to Shanghai?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

AmazingFantasy15Could this rumor be the first indication that Disney will start to use the big Marvel Comic characters collection in their new parks? The imagineers have been asked to look at the Marvel super heroes and the stories and how to use them in new attractions. They might not find a home in any of the US parks at this time. Especially with the big Marvel theme already at Island of Adventure next door. (and the fact they have the sole rights to use it in a theme park).

Good idea? To use the Marvel characters and to put new rides out there; yes! But to put it in a Disneyland park? I am not sure how they would want to fit that in. If it would be in a second gate they can make it work. But, even being a massive Marvel fan myself, I do think it should stay out of the main gate.

Source; Screamscape

Disney Dream Keel-Laying Ceremony

Friday, October 9th, 2009

DisneyDream1Disney always tries to keep secrets as long as possible and will then reveal all at a special event. The same will happen for the newest Disney Ship; Dream. The Disney Dream ship will set sail as of 2011 with the Disney Fantasy to follow in 2012. Both ships will have 1250 staterooms, but most of the other information is still kept under wraps. However, it is to be expected the the ships will be equipped with some Imagineering wonders.

Until more of the shops mysteries are revealed enjoy 5 pictures of a special keel-laying ceremony at the Meyer Werft at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg, Germany.

Picture via ABC 26 WGNO