Wednesday, October 17, 2018

BREAKING: Los Angeles Angels Opted Out of Anaheim Angels Stadium. Will Disney Buy the Land and Build a Third Theme Park for Disneyland Resort?

A news posted a few hours ago by the ESPN website could be a major game changer for Disney in Anaheim and eventually lead to a third Disney theme park for Disneyland Resort. The ESPN article title was "Angels opt out of stadium lease with Anaheim",  and it talks about "the Los Angeles Angels who opted out of their Angel Stadium lease with the city of Anaheim on Tuesday, renewing the possibility they could build a stadium somewhere near their longtime Orange County home."

Here are more excerpts from the full ESPN article:
"The team and the city will negotiate on a new deal to keep the Angels in the fourth-oldest ballpark in the major leagues. The Angels also will renew their explorations of the feasibility of building a stadium elsewhere in Southern California. "As we look to the future, we need the ability to continue to deliver a high-quality fan experience beyond what the original lease allows," Angels president John Carpino said in a statement. "It is important that we look at all our options and how we can best serve our fans now and in the future."

The Angels terminated their lease on the last day possible before 2028. The decision means the club has the ability to leave Angel Stadium after the 2019 season. "It's today, or 10 years from now," Angels spokesperson Marie Garvey said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "There's no option in between." Garvey added that the team will sit down with the mayor and city council after elections next month and look at the team's options. City of Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said the Angels' decision was understandable.

Owner Arte Moreno said before the 2017 season that he expected the Angels to stay at their ballpark for at least another decade, but the club is clearly open to the possibility of building a new stadium nearby if a favorable deal could be reached. Moreno also said last year that any move to a new stadium would require at least three years of preparation. After previous negotiations with Anaheim ended in 2014, the Angels actively explored building a new ballpark in Los Angeles, Irvine, Carson or Tustin, an Orange County suburb just a few miles southeast of Angel Stadium."

In two words, the huge land quite close to Disneyland where the Angel Stadium is now could become available soon and the question is: will Disney make the move and buy it? We'll see about that in a few seconds below but, first, i repost my D&M article posted last January, which was talking precisely about that possibility:

January 2018 article:

"Two weeks ago, in an article titled "A roadmap to a third gate at Disneyland needs Gardenwalk" John Frost from The Disney Blog explained, now that the Gardenwalk property is on the market, why Disney should buy it as "it’s half a block away from Disney California Adventure and across Katella from one of Disneyland’s remote parking lots which has long been rumored to be the potential site for a third gate for the Disneyland Resort". John posted a satellite view of the whole thing and it's true that Gardewalk is just next door to Disneyland Resort, and Disney could create a kind of "East Downtown Disney" there easily.

I did a post on the D&M Facebook page linking to John article HERE and then, one day later, someone whom i won't reveal the name but who is a faithful D&M reader and a Disney insider ( not an Imagineer ) sent me a very interesting message in which he was saying:
"In regards to GardenWalk. I worked in Anaheim for many years and we did a walk with the city through GardenWalk. Disney was interested in buying but it came down to looking back at Downtown Disney and realizing that no vendors stayed, so Disney ended up placing Disney owned shops to keep shops open while vendors would leave. For example, House of Blues left and moved to Garden Walk. Also, the third gate area is currently a cast member parking called K lot (Katella lot) and Toy Story lot is behind K lot. They would need more parking structures before a third gate."

"Also, just down the road if the Angels of Anaheim baseball team move to the new stadium which will be build in Irvine area, Disney would buy that massive open area. For now, they make Anaheim cast members park at the baseball stadium on busy days and they get shuttled into the park backstage for work.

The fact that a third gate could not be considered until 2025 literally sounds accurate as it is the time frame of the new hotel in Anaheim plus the new structure parking. The best bet is for Angels Stadium to be moved to another city and take over that massive land. And Angel stadium if they leave is the best Disney's future potential. Check out the amount of land Angel Stadium sits on."

So i did a screenshot showing the land of Angels Stadium in Anaheim, that you can see below as well as aerial view of the stadium above. Definitely click on the screen captures to see them in big size.

But i thought that the land look a bit too far from Disneyland Resort and even from the Patella lot... I thought that they won't be able to make the junction between the two, even if the Angels Stadium was going elsewhere and the land became free. To what he answered:

"Well, just imagine they make Disneyland Resort cast members park here on busy days! Yes they will be able to make the junction when Bob Iger will approve the Walt Disney World driver less vehicles as behind Toy Story lot the city built a brand new street called Gene Autry Way that connects Disney property to Angel Stadium. I guess you could say it runs behind Toy Story lot. If Angel Stadium move, all the green area you see on the map will be up for sale. "

The red line on the screen capture above shows the way going from Disneyland to Angel Stadium.

Going back to have a look on the Google map where this Gene Autry way i agree that Disney have at least a road to connect. The high green space where the stadium is on the map is probably as big as Disneyland. I still find it a bit too far from the rest of DLR even with the roads to connect but we'll see if they move the stadium if Disney will buy the land.

To what my D&M reader answered: "They say that Disneyland is gridlock like Las Vegas and if Disneyland is going to expand they need to move out more. For example, Disney Sea originally was originally planned for Long Beach that is 28 miles away from Disneyland Resort. It’s going to be really interesting whatever plan falls through but right now it makes the most sense to purchase Garden Walk now that they've bought the land behind Garden Walk where the parking structure was supposed to be built. "

I agreed that that was right, they wanted to build a DisneySea there and the fact that it was near the sea was in favor of a Disney Sea park. But what i've also been told as one of the reason why Bob Iger didn't wanted to have a third park with a Star Wars land and a Marvel land was because Iger is apparently determined to use each square inch available in DL and DCA before creating a third park in Anaheim. The reason why comes from WDW where, because they have four parks there, plus the water parks, the operating costs are so high that at the end they make less money than in Anaheim, or so.

He agreed that "Iger did a great job removing backstage facilities and moving them off site as well as the horses ranch that took up valuable land behind Big Thunder Ranch. There is still a little room behind Haunted Mansion show building to play with if they really got serious. And possibly re-locating TDA could cause an expansion behind Toon Town in the future. I think a third park won’t be considered for a long long time... The Marvel land at California Adventure behind Cars Land is another project not even announced yet. Until they are out of room it won’t happen... back to Garden Walk I think it’s a good investment to have the land there."

To give you a better idea of how big is the land where Angel Stadium is i've copied it and placed it above Disneyland - see picture below - and i'm pretty sure that i've even forgot to include a parking lot west to the Stadium... As you can see the Angel Stadium land is really huge, there is no doubt that there is enough land there to build a 3rd theme park if they wish.

So, will Disney buy the Angel Stadium land and build on it its third theme park in Anaheim? I wouldn't bet on it at 100% but i think my D&M reader has a very good point and it could be a good bet indeed for a third park, probably an even better one than to have the Katella and Toy Story lots used for a third park?

( end of January article )

So, here we are now in October and the Angels took their decision and more than ever chances are that the stadium land will be available as the stadium is one of the oldest in the U.S and will most likely be demolished. Will Disney buy the land? First, if this had happened before the decision to build Star Wars land at Disneyland and a Marvel land in DCA, it would have been perfect. A majority of Disney fans thought that a third park with Star Wars and Marvel lands would have been better ( and for the most still think it ) but we know it's too late.  As i say above, Bob Iger is also determined to use each square inch available at DL and DCA instead to build a new park, mainly for operations cost.
Yes, BUT we also know that when Star Wars land will open next year at Disneyland ( and later the Marvel land at DCA ) the park will be over packed and it will be the "moment of truth", when we'll know if it was a mistake to build SWL at DL or not. Let's hope not because there won't be any ways to change it, Galaxy Edge is here to stay for decades so i sincerely hope they'll find a way to resolve the crowds problem ( and if possible a different way than to increase insanely the park entrance ticket ).

What we also know is that Disney was planning to build a new luxury hotel before cancelling it last week after the battle with Anaheim City Council. There was obviously a good reason why they wanted to build this hotel and of course the opening of Star Wars land and the expected increase of visitors was one of them. Back to the Angels Stadium land, now. As you'll read below in comments posted last January may be the Angels Stadium land is not that perfect for a new theme park because "large condo (type) complexes are now on former unused Anaheim stadium land, so the D would have to worry about noise abatement as well (no fireworks and more than likely indoor attractions on the berm area)." Still, with such a big land, if Disney don't want to build a new theme park there, there is plenty of things they could use the land for, whether to build several luxury resorts and a kind of Disney Springs or why not something missing at Disneyland: a water park! Or it could be something else, i'm sure that WDI Imagineers will find great ideas for this land, so what to build on it is not really the problem.

If Disney buy the land, some were dreaming of an extension of the Disneyland Monorail which would go up to the Angels Stadium land for the new Disney park or resort and then back to DLR, but i wouldn't put my bets on this extension considering the tremendous cost per kilometer of the Monorail line. That said, who knows? I'm not from Anaheim and i don't know the Angels Stadium and the land, so it's hard for me to think what would be the best to do with it for Disney but i know one thing: Disney now owns FOX and with it plenty of licenses that could do great theme park attractions. And with the opening of Star Wars land and later the Marvel land at DCA both parks will be close to don't have even-one-square-inch available to build new lands or rides, except if they close existing ones. Sure they can close Autopia and have plenty of room at Disneyland but there is a moment when things don't have sense anymore, and i don't think it would be a good option. At DCA they still have some room in the park area where the Monsters Inc ride is, but not that much. Anyway, what is sure is that before leaving Disney in 2021 Bob Iger should think about DLR future as there will be a moment when the question of available space at DLR will become urgent. Also, i'm not sure that the opportunity of such a big land so close to Disneyland Resort will ever happen again and if only for that reason it think it worth to think twice about it and to secure that land for the future.

EDITING: I had just finished writing this article when i saw that Lance on Screamscape reports that "Disney was made aware of the issues between Anaheim and the Angels years ago and sort of let it be known at the time that they might be very VERY interested in obtaining the stadium property if it were ever to become available. Disney gaining the stadium site if the Angels no longer needed it would really be the only way that their California resort property could ever fit in a third theme park."

I also repost below interesting comments posted by D&M readers last January:

John Frost from The Disney Blog said:

"Hi. Thanks for sharing my post about a 3rd gate. Disney has considered land in the Anaheim platinum triangle area before. I believe the city even offered some land adjacent to the stadium at a decent price, and they're throw in some street trolleys. But Disney declined that property (seen as empty land on the satellite map you have above) and now they're building office buildings and apartments on it. If Disney had any inclination of buying the Angels Stadium, they would have at least secured that land for future hotels. I'm not saying it's not a possibility, but Disney has not shown any interested in the platinum triangle so far. I'm worried that the current administration doesn't think a 3rd gate will ever be necessary. Unless they plan to go vertical on property they already own, they will eventually need more capacity than the existing acreage can provide. Now is the best time for the Mouse House to secure that property. They need to act."

Tanzirian said:

"The area surrounding Angels stadium is not the best - it is rather gritty, and right next to it the Santa Ana River channel has large homeless encampments. Also in the vicinity are several taller buildings which might affect sight lines. Now it is possible that the area may improve somewhat in the years to come - a fancy mall complex has been proposed, albeit with another tall building. Plus with need to relocate the Angels I seriously doubt any possibility for a Disney park here."

Another reader posted anonymously:

"Some of the things to consider is now near Anaheim stadium there are large condo (type) complexes now on former unused Anaheim stadium land, so the D would have to worry about noise abatement as well (no fireworks and more than likely indoor attractions on the berm area).

Many moons ago with the proposed ARTIC train station & City of the Anaheim were proposing a monorail project called the ARC project... that would connect, the ARTIC train, Disneyland and the Convention center. But the monorail project got cancelled as the City thought the monorail was too expensive and went with street car... Disney was even giving some land for the storage area for the street car (can you imagine the busy streets of Anaheim with a street car??)

As for GardenWalk... there is a proposed JW Marriott in core drilling stage behind GW...that many moons ago, Disney had proposed Leasing the land for two hotel towers but, the recession hit and the D walked...

I think in a larger world... the D would buy up every mom and pop hotel on Harbor (they spent 51 B on Fox).... and expend right off of D/L for the land next door before they build in a very busy area with traffic already (Hockey, Concerts etc...)

Speculation in the land of Fantasy..."

Another "anonymous" reader said:

"The reason why comes from WDW where, because they have four parks there, plus the water parks, the operating costs are so high that at the end they make less money than in Anaheim, or so."

But does that take into account just the revenue from the theme parks, or does it take into account the total picture, including revenue from the hotels, etc? It seems to me that having the four theme parks encourages people to stay longer.

I'm not privy to all the information that Iger has, of course, but I still feel that it's short sighted to not build the third theme park. The market is there!!! You can charge another admission! They put so much money into Shanghai, and it seems to be paying off. Build it and they will come.'

And, finally The Blue Tarp said:

"A new monorail line connecting the parks would be amazing. that would be costly though. i think star wars land will bring in the revenue needed. also, you could then build a waterpark in the employee parking lot area with its own disney monorail stop. if they bought the garden walk there could be another hotel there as well with a monorail stop. the waterpark could feature a giant dome that can open and close so the waterpark could be open all year around. dang! getting excited. hopefully it happens in my lifetime..."

What do you think? Do you think that Disney must buy the Angels Stadium land? If yes, what do you think Disney should build on it? Thanks to leave your thoughts about it in a comment below!

Pictures: copyright Google Maps

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

D&M Exclusive Report : The Marvel Experience Thailand Is Now Open in Bangkok

A few weeks ago i could experience the brand new Marvel Experience Thailand which opened three and a half months ago in Bang Na area, Bangkok. I came late afternoon on a monsoon day so there was not a lot of people that rainy day which was perfect for the pictures that you'll see below.

The first and most important thing is this one: when the Marvel Experience was launched in the U.S in 2014, produced by Hero Ventures with a Marvel licence, it was designed as a touring attraction with the different areas being under giant inflatable domes. In Thailand, they've built a real huge building which is here to stay at least as long as the attraction will be popular and this has also allowed to do a pretty good theming inside as we will see.

A bit more introduction from the press release: Operated in Thailand by Hero Experience Co., Ltd, under a joint venture with Hero Ventures, it will be known as ‘The Marvel Experience Thailand’, or TMX Thailand, the first in South East Asia located at Megabangna and spanning over 20,000 square meters. ‘The Marvel Experience Thailand’ (TMX Thailand) is a groundbreaking ‘Themed- Entertainment Attraction’, providing a ‘Digital Hyper-Reality’ entertainment experience through state-of-the-art technologies and next-generation interactive elements. This includes a 4-D motion ride, original 3-D animated features, the 360-degree 4-D stereoscopic full-Dome projection theatre, and thanks to the augmented reality, multi-person gaming, you can see and feel yourself in action.

‘The Marvel Experience Thailand’ is divided into two main zones: The Reception Building and The Attraction Zone. The Reception Building includes the ticket office, Avengers Café, Super Hero Snack Bar, and the Marvel Adventure Zone for kids. The Marvel Experience Super Store hosts an extensive range of Marvel licensed products, including an exclusive selection of ‘The Marvel Experience Thailand’ merchandise. The Holding Zone Beta is the prepping area before the future agents head into battle in the Attraction Zone. This is the active zone where S.H.I.E.L.D agents young and old can join a full two-hour battle alongside the Marvel Heroes in a combination of Immersive Hyper Reality, state-of-the-art interactive and multimedia technology games, and augmented and virtual reality simulations. It’s an awe-inspiring experience, which also includes a 4-D Motion Ride, a 360-degree 4-D stereoscopic projection Dome as well as the chance to come face-to-face with Marvel heroes.

The Marvel Experience Thailand’ invites guests on an epic adventure, as Marvel’s iconic Super Heroes battle against the villains, who intend to wreak havoc in South East Asia starting first in Thailand. As a new recruit, guests get to join forces with their favorite Marvel Heroes on the mission to save the planet. Everything will happen with bleeding-edge technology and advanced computer animation. There’s nothing else like it."

Below the entrance lobby and ticket counter.

Floor theming of the entrance lobby really makes you feel you're entering in a S.H.I.E.L.D base.

It is also in the reception building where guests can find the Avengers Cafe and the Marvel Experience Super Store but we'll come back to these later.

Once you have your ticket entrance you're ready to move in the attractions zone and this is done going through a S.H.I.E.L.D themed hallway.

The Attraction Zone consists of: Jocasta Introduction: the area where S.H.I.E.L.D. recruits are shown the rules, regulations and etiquettes. Guests also see the Prequel Comic Wall, providing the backstory created for The Marvel Experience Thailand exclusively.

This area is also a pre-show movie - TMX LIVE : News Report: Where S.H.I.E.L.D. agents prepare for the mission ahead - and also has display of giant pictures on the wall to introduce to Thai audience the Marvel heroes and villains to make sure they know who is who. There is not much to say about this except that it is the usual pre-show. By the way, make sure to click on each picture to see them in big size!

Next room is Stark Mobile Lab: where the mission starts by a greeting from none other than Tony Stark. Another kind of pre-show but with a much more interesting theming with Iron Man armors and a 3D short movie.

Next area is the Mobile Command Center: it's where S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director Nick Fury provides a briefing on the coming mission to fight the villains. Good theming and 3D short movie here too.

And we finally arrive to the real first "attraction", the Holoblaster Shooting Gallery: it's the area where the Recruits start their training on a mission against the villains in 3D Multimedia Gaming and with the exclusive technology for The Marvel Experience Thailand, the total of up to 140 players can enjoy this area at the same time.

Now, think about a room that will remind you a bit the one of Alien Encounter but with a mix of a 3D shooting game movie that will remind you Toy Story Mania except that you're not in moving vehicles but standing. The theming and lighting is very good in my opinion, check the pictures below!

The next attraction of Marvel Experience is the Simularium 360° 3D: the area where guests can join your Marvel heroes on an important mission. This is a giant and pretty impressive dome with a 3D projection and because of the size of the characters you really feel more than ever that they are "super-heroes"!

Next room is Transport Corridor: the prepping area prior to boarding the Transport Shuttle, where the brand new simulators await you. As you'll see on the pre-show screens you'll fight Hydra and the Red Skull, one of my favorite Marvel villain.

On the picture below, the entrance to the 4D Motion Ride: in this theatre, guests join the combat on the Transport Shuttle in a 4D Motion Ride technology where they can enjoy a thrilling life-like experience.

A few months ago, Lance from Screamscape said that he had been told that the simulation platforms would be the latest models so i asked the question and he was right, they've been provided the simulation platforms with the latest technology. The good point is that it is a huge hemispheric screen that surrounds you, and not a small screen like in Star Tours. Still, it's a simulator ride like we have experienced before in others attractions, but it's well done and the theatre theming is great.

Once you exit the 4D motion ride you'll enter the post-show areas with, first, the "Training Center", the interactive gaming area where everyone can train like their favorite Marvel heroes thanks to augmented reality, and The Astral Plane: where visitors can meet other Marvel heroes who have not yet joined this particular mission.

There is more with the Secret “Meet & Greet”, an area where guests can rub shoulders with the iconic Marvel Heroes and take a photo home. Believe it or not but i've been told that this is the most favorite of young kids, which is not really surprising as they can meet their favorite super-hero in "real". There is four rooms an you enter in one, with the surprise of which super-hero will be inside as you don't know it before. The day i was there guests could meet Black Panther, Iron Man and Captain America. I think Spiderman was the one missing.

One good idea on the way out is these villains that you're supposed to have defeat, now prisoners in containment from where they won't escape!

Another themed hallway take you back to the reception building where are the merchandise shop and the Avengers Cafe. After crossing the bridge back to the Reception Building, guests will receive their S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent ID Card to certify that they are part of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team!

Let's start by the Avengers Cafe where giant murals pay tribute to Marvel super-heroes.

There is also a kids playground area nearby.

Hey, there is even themed rest-rooms near the Avengers Cafe!

We're not done yet as there is also a great Marvel Experience merchandise store.

Some items displayed are really cool like this big Tony Stark / Iron Man scene

The Marvel Experience Thailand is located in Bangkok Bang Na area, behind the huge shopping mall and the IKEA store. It's open daily from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. ( Last entry in attractions are: in English 7 p.m, Chinese 7.15 p.m, and Thai 7.30 p.m ). International Experience: Guests can choose their preferred entry time and languages with Thai, English and Chinese being available. 

Buying tickets on line: To save time guests are invited to visit to purchase tickets in advance. As it is often the case in thailand for tourists attractions there is a price for Thais and a higher price for non-residents ( Adult: 1500THB - $46  / Child: 1350 THB - $43 ). Although i enjoyed the whole experience my opinion is that the right price - and i told them - is the 30% cheaper Thai price, that's what the Marvel Experience worth, in my opinion.

All pictures: copyright Disney and more - Alain Littaye