Saturday, May 23, 2009

Disney and more will be back on June 15th... Until then, don't forget to have a look at all the great previous articles !

Editor's Note: Hello, all. I have a good news and a bad news for you today. Let's begin by the bad one: I will be on a trip until June 15th for some well-deserved vacations and there will be no new articles on Disney and more until my return. However i will keep an eye at the news and if there is a major Disney announcement, i'll try to post an article about it. Of course Disney and more stay "open" and i'm sure there is plenty of great previous articles that you will be pleased to discover. Also, when i'll be back, if everything is ready, D&M will have a slightly new design, a first step to many more changes.
However - and that's the good news - i leave you in good hands as this last article is a great interview of legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter talking about the famous Disneyland Paris Little Mermaid attraction concept!
See you very soon, and in the meantime i wish the best to all of you!

Disneyland Paris Little Mermaid Attraction - Interview with Tony Baxter

Since 1994 Disneyland Paris fans are dreaming of the Little Mermaid attraction concept. Designed by Tony Baxter, the attraction was supposed to be build after the park's opening. As we know it's in California Adventure that the Little Mermaid dark ride will finally open in 2011. Disneyland Paris fans will still have to wait a bit, but if everything goes fine the attraction should come at DLP in the near future.

Thanks to Lee Mac Donald and Lindsay Cave from the excellent "Tales from the Laughing Place" Magazine i have the pleasure to post on Disney and more this great interview of Imagineer Tony Baxter, previously published in Tales from the Laughing Place Issue 8. The article below includes pictures of the models and renderings for the attraction storyboards. At the end of the article, you will also find the Little Mermaid virtual ride video, which shows the attraction as it was envisioned for Disneyland Paris.

Part of your (virtual) World
An Interview of Tony Baxter
Article by Lee Mac Donald

When I saw The Little Mermaid on the big screen I got the feeling that we were finally back in the animation business,” Tony reminisces. “The movie was a truly unforgettable masterpiece and for us at WDI that was critical as we had virtually run out of properties to use. Splash Mountain was the result of going through the library and saying ‘Gosh, there is only one product left with amazing places and fun characters for us to develop into a ride.’ We had been gifted a brand new classic.”

At that time Tony and his entire creative team was racing to complete designs for EuroDisneyland as the park was already in the construction phase. However their focus was not limited to preparation for opening day. “We had already earmarked The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast as two properties to develop for the first batch of additional capacity. If you look at Sam McKim’s opening day park map you can clearly see both on there,” Tony reveals. “For Paris The Little Mermaid area would have been directly opposite from Pizzeria Bella Notte. We had developed Fantasyland to reflect the countries that were the five main draws for the park and for Italy we only had Lady & The Tramp as an appropriate Disney property. Opposite the restaurant you can still see the berm populated with Italian Cypress trees where Eric’s southern Mediterranean Palace would have been located. We also had two other The Little Mermaid attractions for that area with an Ursula octopus ride and a themed carrousel that is now the plateau queue area for it’s a small world.”

The Beauty and the Beast attraction was to have been sited between the Auberge de Cendrillon restaurant and Fantasia Gelati and was described by Tony as an ‘Enchanted Tiki Room-type show’ where the guests would enter into a spooky castle which suddenly springs to life with a combination of live performers and Audio-Animatronics©. The hill of grass that would have been the entrance to the attraction is still there with a floral piece in the center as the area was built up to disguise the backstage area of the restaurant and castle.

“To distribute the costs we jointly developed the projects for Disneyland to go where Videopolis was at that time. It fitted both locations well and everybody thought it would go,” Tony continues. “We built models and mock-ups as the key was cracking the illusion of believing that you are above and below the water’s surface. Every attraction has an Achilles’ heel in development and I thought that was the critical component to this project’s potential success.”

In order to win support from the Studio Tony invited Jeffrey Katzenberg and the lead animators on The Little Mermaid to WDI. They were able to stand on a platform ten feet above the models and actually put their hands through the waterlevel. The models enabled the animators to see their created worlds in three-dimensional form and they immediately endorsed the project. However as the Scottish poet Robert Burns reminded us ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’

“Once we opened EuroDisneyland we knew that we needed two things; thrill rides and quick capacity,” Tony admits. “We had literally picked the crown jewels of the Disneyland model and I think we opened that park environment richer than any we have ever done before. However we needed things to distribute the crowd and let them vanish into the environments. So we added the Passage of Aladdin and Fort Comstock walk-throughs, a new train station, Casey Jr., Le Pays des Contes de Fées [Storybook Land Canal Boats] and Les Mystères du Nautilus [Mysteries of the Nautilus]. We also built Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril as the park only had Big Thunder Mountain in the original attraction mix that was a thrill ride so the park needed something else. We were able to put in about 13,000 guests per hour capacity with those additions. That was all within the working capital requirements of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast attractions which had capacities far south of that figure so it made sense for us to drop those initial plans. It also allowed us to go right on in with Space Mountain.”

“The other issue was that The Little Mermaid turned out not to be a fluke,” Tony continues. “The studio had a series of successes and so it became harder to lavish attention on just this one movie. To be honest we never really caught up at WDI with every movie of that period being a box office triumph. Most of those movies came to the parks as festivals, parades and shows which are quicker and easier to mount. By ’94 everything was about The Lion King and so Ariel got put aside and we didn’t revisit it until the studio came over recently to see what we had developed for The Little Mermaid. We didn’t have the CG technology that we have today and so it is cool to see it in CG. For the Subs at Disneyland we were able to put the entire attraction in the computer and then ride the attraction from any seat in 3D. We worked alongside the studio’s animators to create the ride-through. They wanted to animate it like a movie with cutaways but I had to explain to them that we are not creating a formative movie but a window that enables us to see the attraction. You cannot cut away to another scene as it has to be a continuous tour. They also wanted to fully animate the characters but I wanted to go back to the way it would have been in ’92 as it was in the vein of traditional cycle animation of our dark rides without fully functioning Audio-Animatronics©.”

“When we were developing EuroDisneyland we were looking to find areas of deficiency in our line-up,” Tony says. “When The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast came along we were thrilled to be able to get two new pieces into our park vocabulary. They were both fresh and adjusted thematically and emotionally for a new audience. The struggle that Ariel goes through with her father and then going out on a limb for what she believes is right is very different to Snow White who just wants someone to wash and cook for! Belle was even more modern as she has no interest in the hunk that is drooling over her. These heroines were profoundly more relevant to today’s audience and young kids really did identify with them and if you capture that spirit at a particular age they will carry it with them through life. WDI needs to get those moments into the parks for each new generation. For fifteen years or so we lost touch with the audience film-wise so WDI had to initiate a new direction as the studio was not producing product that was relevant to that generation. So we pushed for George Lucas and Star Wars. I’ve always believed that the key to Disneyland’s success is a being a reflection of the popular culture that is captivating the world at that time.”

As mentioned earlier the key innovation was the ability to believably create two worlds for Ariel and her friends to inhabit namely the submarine environment of merfolk and fish and above the sea’s surface where Eric resides. “Now no-one was going to be wearing a wetsuit in this dark ride so you did need to suspend some disbelief to enjoy the experience,” Tony jokes. “We would have approximated the water’s surface with Eric and Ariel in front of you. The boat would have disrupted that surface and everything that touched the water’s surface would have had a ring of fiber optics radiating out like ripples. Your brain has been conditioned over a lifetime to only consider that to be real. So when the ride vehicle dips below the surface you would have thought why didn’t I get wet? The two worlds would have looked very different with the gaudy colors of Sebastian’s Under the Sea number being very different to the tone of Eric’s ship emerging from the fog or the glade in Kiss the Girl. The ride would have been able to glide between those two worlds and some of the show scenes were stacked so you could see another portion of the ride below or above you. I am intrigued by the idea of seeing something from a different vantage point. We toyed with it at Pirates of the Caribbean in Paris where you look down at the battle and village from the ramparts.”

One technical development that did emerge from The Little Mermaid dark ride was the ability to synchronize onboard audio. “The real breakthrough for this attraction was the creation of a device that allowed the ride vehicle to understand exactly where it was in the attraction, and without having to change the pitch, adjust the delivery of information to match,” Tony proudly explains. “Eventually it was first employed on Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris. It was actually more critical there as a light car could arrive back in the station some twenty seconds earlier than a heavier car. We needed to be able to deliver the key audio punchlines at the same point in every dip, turn and loop. I always feel it is the technical things that don’t contribute to the obvious part of the show that are the really amazing parts of what we do at WDI. It is such an amazing effect to be able to punch the ride on the key kinetic moments and to ensure that there is perfect synchrony every time.”

If you have seen the virtual ride-through and are familiar with the movie’s story arc you might feel a disconnection between the two. That was a deliberate move on Tony’s part. “I am stickler for playing with the sequencing as I believe that the most boring ride we can do is a book report of the movie,” Tony asserts. “Our attractions are more about the emotion and environments that you come through and I just didn’t want to take the good with the bad just because that is what you saw in the theater. We set the ride up by showing you two people that belong in two different worlds and they want to be together. The first major scene was "Under the Sea" as it validates the notion that we are beneath the surface in their world and this is contrasted by the villainy of Ursula in her dark grotto. Ultimately we needed to be honest to the emotions and feelings of the story rather than just laying it all out again. Pinocchio at Disneyland is the perfect example of a book report of a dark ride which is frustrating as scenes become small vignettes and you cannot bathe in that environment as we tried to get every nuance of the story in that short ride. In my opinion Disneyland’s Peter Pan’s Flight has the best script as all that is important is the phrase ‘Come on everybody and here we go!’ as we fly out the window. Ray Bradbury wrote to Walt saying ‘I will be eternally grateful that you allowed me to fly out of a children’s bedroom out over a moonlit London in a pirate galleon’ and that is what it is all about. We don’t tell the story of Peter or the Darlings and they just become ciphers to set the stage and gently remind you of the story. It is about the experience rather than being forced to drink in storyline point.”

For an organization that was often shrouded in secrecy in the past WDI seem to be willing to embrace a new age of disclosure with the general public with this DVD bonus featurette. “I think this a great way of getting a new brand on to Disney DVDs that people can look forward to in the future,” Tony sums up. “I’m sure we will get a lot of comments from guests asking why we didn’t build it though! Hopefully this test will go well and we can contribute to future releases. Ultimately it keeps the public aware of WDI and the things we do for the parks.”

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would love to have access to rummage through the WDI archives for shelved projects.

Any volunteers?

Once again, I want to add for those of you who don't know the "Tales of the Laughing Place" magazine that it is a fantastic magazine about Disney theme parks, full of great reports or interviews with WDI Imagineers like this one with Tony Baxter. The latest issue, no 14, of this gorgeous magazine will be released very soon, and among the great reports this issue will include a "Story of Tokyo Disneyland" article. More infos on the new issue 14 HERE.

Artwork, model pictures and video: copyright Disney.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Want to go at Disneyland Paris right NOW ? And for FREE ? Then, go on Google Earth and wonder at the new Disneyland Paris 3D !

In a previous article three months ago i let you know that a re-creation in 3D of Disneyland Paris was coming anytime soon on Google Earth. Well, here it is, and let me tell you that the guys of Google Earth did a STUNNING job! As you will see on all the screen captures i did for you, it's absolutely FANTASTIC. Even better than the WDW 3D already available on Google Earth.

Absolutely every thing of both parks AND the Disney Village AND all the hotels are re-created in 3D. For anyone who never had the luck to visit DLP it's as close as you can get of the real thing. And DLP super-fans as well as Imagineers who've built this gorgeous park will be in heaven as you can fly over the parks or "move" inside the lands, just like if you were there!

Everything is free and all you have to do is to download Google Earth last version if you don't have it yet. Then, you launch the program and type as key words "Disneyland Paris". AND, very important, you must choose on the left bar "3D buildings" to have the 3D buildings appearing. Once you're over DLP, zoom inside the image.

There we go for a "fly" over Disneyland Resort Paris! Please double-click on each image to see it in big size, you'll be amaze! Let's begin by the first park with this view of the Disneyland Hotel and the Fantasia Gardens.

Let's fly now over the Disneyland Hotel and have a look at Main Street.

Here is the City Hall, and then a Main Street overview.

Another view of Main Street, facing the Disneyland Hotel.

A view and a "zoom" on the castle, as seen from Central Plaza.

Tinkerbell is even there, at the top!

And if you go down, a surprise awaits you at the castle's door: Mickey is welcoming you!

They even recreated in 3D the INSIDE of the castle! Incredible.

Let's fly now to Frontierland. The building that you see on the top left are the Walt Disney Studios. When you're in the park for real, you don't see them, there is no visual intrusion.

Here is Frontierland Fort and Big Thunder Mountain.

A cloder look to Big Thunder Mountain seen on different angle, as well as Phantom Manor and the Riverboat. Look carefully, and you'll notice the BTM trains on the mountain!

Another view and a close shot on Phantom Manor.

A Frontierland overview and the Molly Brown in the front.

Big Thunder loading building and the Fuente Del Oro Restaurant.

The Cowboy Cookout barbecue restaurant and the back of Frontierland.

The Frontierland Station and Woody's Round-Up area.

Let's fly to Adventureland Entrance!

Swiss Robinson Tree and Indiana Jones in the background, as well as Colonel Hathi's restaurant.

A close shot of Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril.

Captain Hook ship, Skull rock and Pirates of Caribbean fortress and entrance.

Let's move to Fantasyland. Here is Dumbo, Alice's Curious Labyrinth, Fantasyland Station and Toad Hall.

A close shot on Alice's Curious Labyrinth.

Mad Hatter tea cups, the Old Mill and It's A Small World.

Story Book Land and Casey Jr.

It's A Small World facade.

Lancelot Carousel and Pinocchio dark ride as well as the back of the castle and Fantasyland shops on the left.

Let's fly to Discoveryland! Gorgeous views whether you see it from Central Plaza...

...or from Autopia...

...or from anywhere else!

You can zoom on Space Mountain cannon and even see the train inside!

Or fly over the Orbitron and Buzz Lightyear.

And did they also recreated in 3D the Walt Disney Studios, you ask? You bet they did! Here is the entrance of the WDS and the Front Lot.

The Tower of Terror and Toon Studio seen over the Studio 1.

The Hollywood Blvd and the Art of Animation building. In the background, the Tram Tour station.

Toon Studio seen over the Animagique building.

The Cars Race Rally attraction as well as Crush's Coaster and Aladdin Flying carpet.

By the way, if you wonder where the awaited Toy Story Playland that will open in 2010 will be build, it's right HERE.

Another view of the park on a different angle.

A front view of the Tower of Terror and Hollywood Blvd.

A different angle, in direction to Armaggedon and Rock and Roller coaster attractions.

The Moteurs, Action Stunt Show decor seen from where the guests seats normally.

As i told you they've also recreated in 3D the Disney Village and the hotels. Here is the entrance of the Disney Village and the Planet Hollywood restaurant.

You can "move" inside the village...

Or see it from another angle as guests can see it from the balloon.

Around Lake Disney, the hotel New York...

And the Sequoia Lodge and the Newport Bay hotels.

You can also fly over the Cheyenne hotel...

...and the Santa Fe hotel, next to the Cheyenne.

Whooof, that was incredible, wasn't it? Frankly, they did an amazing job. On a marketing point of view this DLP 3D will be a fantastic tool as guests planning to visit the parks and stay at the hotels can now have a look to where-is-what before they arrive at DLP.

Once again, you can zoom, move in every land, etc... So go now on Google earth, as what you will see is fascinating!

All pictures: copyright Google Earth and Disney