Saturday, March 20, 2010

D&M Innoventions : Special Audio Animatronics

D&M Innoventions series are each week-end on Disney and more and the goal is to introduce some amazing technologies. If you like Epcot, Tomorrowland and Audio-Animatronics, then this article is for you!

We begin with RoboThespian which is a great Audio Animatronic created by Engineered Arts. This first video showing RoboThespian having a check-up you will learn the secrets of its making.

In this next video RoboThespian demonstrates how his movement routines can be created using Blender, the open source 3D animation application. The virtual robot drives the movements of the real robot hardware.

In this last video RoboThespian demonstrates content playback and control using a touch screen interface.

The Japanese as we know love robots, and this next one is coming from Japan. Yotaro, the Baby Robot was created to be a Baby Simulator. As you'll guess when you will see Yotaro’s oversized head, Yotaro is not only made of robotic elements but also have a projector behind his head to simulate a face. Yotaro reacts to the user through a sophisticated emotion-control system that watches and senses what they are doing and provides an accompanying reaction. This baby simulator can do a variety of things that make it much more sophisticated than the standard baby training dolls, like crying real tears on its 2-d face.

As someone said in a comment about the video: "It's almost comforting to know that the Japanese will always be there to come up with something even more bizarre every day as if the universe would end if they suddenly stopped!"

Audio Animatronics may also leave the Earth soon and go on the Moon with NASA JSC's "Project M". The NASA video below depicts a Robonaut-based, tele-operated mission to the Moon - one that JSC claims could be accomplished in 1000 days once the go-ahead will be given. The robot will be controlled from the Earth using motion capture. Hope we will see this for real soon!

But how this future NASA robot will work using motion capture? Well, let's come back to RoboThespian which can use the same technique. The video below show a demonstration of the prototype motion capture device, more or less the same technique that will be used for the NASA robot on the moon and almost the same one that WED Imagineers used for the Carousel of Progress Audio Animatronics 45 years ago!

Videos: copyright NASA, Engineered Arts Ltd.

Friday, March 19, 2010

" TRON " Monorail debut on Epcot Line

Since yesterday Epcot guests can see a bit of the TRON universe zipping high above their heads as renderings of yellow and blue light cycles have transformed one WDW monorail. A blue light cycle zips to the left along one side of Walt Disney World's "highway in the sky" and the yellow light cycle zooms to the right. This specially customized "TRON" monorail takes guests between Epcot and Walt Disney World's Transportation Center.

As always it's Inside the Magic who did the best video showing not only the train moving around Epcot but also inside the Transportation Center when the train stopped inside the station.

This next short video shoot by BravaCentauri shows the TRON Monorail moving inside Epcot at sunset.

Is it a good idea or a bad idea to have WDW monorails customized - and, in this case advertizing a movie? Let's say that the theming with this TRON visuals is okay, specially for the Epcot line. But let's hope it's not the beginning of a series, WDW monorails are not billboards and should be used for advertizing only exceptionally.

Video: copyright Inside the Magic, BravaCentauri

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The making of WDS Toy Story Playland

March 17 was the date of DLP Annual Shareholders meeting and the keynote presentation was released today on DLP's corporate website. During the keynote a special presentation of Toy Story Playland was done by Imagineer Tom FITZGERALD, Executive Vice President and Senior Crative Executive at WDI, who came with a TSP making-of movie, great new concept arts and behind the scenes pictures. Let's explore this new documents!

On this first picture, a new and great shot of Toy Story Playland model.

Of course the new rendering showing the whole Toy Stoy Playland - that i've show you one month ago - was show to the shareholders.

At the entrance of the land will stand a 4 meters high Buzz lightyear. Here is a close shot on the model showing Buzz.

The next pictures show the making of this giant Buzz Lightyear.

It seems that the sculpture of Buzz have the approval of John Lasseter!

Then, it was time to presents the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. Let's start by this new artwork showing the outside, with the parachutes.

This next one and interesting scene show the pre-show decor inside the Army's camp including a jeep and the Toy Soldiers.

Here are the Toy Soldiers - that guests will see in this pre-show scene - during their making - you'll note that they are not totally finished yet, just "fresh out of the mold".

This next rendering show the Toy Soldiers bringing a giant talkie-walkie...

...and here is a picture of the giant "Playskool" talkie walkie which will soon be in place at the WDS.

The next attraction presented at the shareholders meeting was Slinky Dog Zig Zag Spin, and here is a new artwork of the attraction.

Also very interesting this new picture of the model. As you can see the queue will be inside a giant Slinky Dog toy box replica.

Here is John Lasseter having a close look to Slinky Dog during its making.

Let's have a look now to the last ride of Toy Story Playland: the R.C Racer half pipe coaster with, first, a new picture of the model.

This next picture of the R.C Racer model show the queue path which obviously is designed to look like a Scalextric track.

A giant R.C Racer will find its place in the decor...

...But the real big one is definitely the vehicle which will be used for the ride!

I remind you that Toy Story Playland is scheduled to open in August. As summer season is always the high season at DLP let's hope that everything will be ready eventually before, early July would be perfect, if possible.

Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this article on D&M english forum on Mice Chat

All pictures and artwork: copyright dIsney, Walt Disney Imagineering

Universal Studios Singapore are now open !

Believe it or not, but this time Universal Studios Singapore is open for real, with most of the rides operationals! USS released today a promotional video, and here it is below!

Video: copyright Universal Studios Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa

Fess Parker, the "King of the Wild Frontier" dies at 85

Fess Parker, the American film and television actor known for his 1950s portrayals of Davy Crockett, the "King of the Wild Frontier", in Walt Disney's TV series and his late 1960s portrayals of Daniel Boone dies today March 18th at 85. He was also known as a wine maker and resort owner-operator.

Parker was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up on a small farm outside San Angelo. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps at the end of World War II. He joined to become a pilot, but was turned down for being too tall at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) to fill such a position. Parker began his show-business career in the play Mister Roberts in 1951, although he is credited with the voice of Leslie, the chauffeur, in the 1950 film Harvey.

Parker became a contract player with Warner Brothers appearing in small roles in several films such as Springfield Rifle (1952), Island in the Sky, The Bounty Hunter and Battle Cry. In 1954, he appeared as Grat Dalton in the Jim Davis western anthology Stories of the Century in the episode The Dalton Brothers.

There is an interesting story from Parker himself. When Walt Disney Company was looking for an actor to play Davy Crockett, they originally considered James Arness for the title role. Parker had recently graduated to a contract weekly actor, but listened to his agent, so he appeared instead in a B movie called Them!, that required only one day's work. He had a small scene in the movie, that of a pilot put into an insane asylum after claiming his plane had been downed by giant flying insects. Arness appeared in a larger role in the same film.

It was during a screening of this film that Walt Disney looked past Arness and discovered Parker. Disney was impressed by Parker's portrayal of a man who was unswerving in his belief in what he saw despite the forces of authority against him. Parker was asked to drop by the Disney Studio. When he did, he brought his guitar, met Walt, sang a song, and then said his goodbye. A couple of weeks later he was told that he had been selected over Arness and several other actors considered for the role, including Buddy Ebsen who eventually played Crockett's friend, George Russell.

Disney's portrayal of Crockett in three episodes depicted his exploits as frontiersman, congressman, and tragic hero of the Alamo, in what has been called the first television miniseries though the term had not yet been coined. Davy Crockett was a tremendous hit with children, and led to a merchandising frenzy for coonskin caps and all things Crockett.

On this next picture Fess "Davy Crockett" Parker is at Disneyland while the park was in construction early 1955.

On the picture below Fess and Walt are riding horses during a Disneyland parade.

Parker became a contract star for Disney appearing in many films such as The Great Locomotive Chase, Old Yeller, and Westward Ho, The Wagons! but complained they were all pretty much the same role.

After his acting career, Parker devoted much of his time to operating his Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards in Los Olivos, California. The winery is owned and operated by Parker's family, and has produced several different types of award-winning wines. The Parker operation includes over 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) of vineyards, and a tasting room and visitor center along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

For his work with Disney, Parker was honored in December 2004 with his own tribute window on a facade in the Frontierland section of Disneyland.

Believe it or not, but the Davy Crockett frenzy happened also in France in the early sixties. And yes, when i was young i too had a coonskin cap! I have childhood memories of Davy Crockett, and it's good one. So, rest in peace Fess Parker, with all my thanks for these good childhood memories.

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All pictures: copyright Disney

When Popular Science Magazine went at WED Enterprises

Two weeks ago a major event happened: all the issues of legendary Popular Science magazine are now available on line. And when i say "all" i mean ALL the issues since the magazine was founded in 1872, 138 years ago! Everything, every page was scanned, not to mention the famous covers like these below or the smallest ad. Incredible. If you're young this news may not impress you, but for people of my generation Popular Science is really a legendary magazine, just like LIFE was in its own category.

When you're on the Popular Science Archives web site HERE all you have to do is to type a key word, and the site will search in all the archives the articles related to the key word and this back in time up to 1872. To give you an idea how "back in time" it is, 1872 the date of the first issue was only 7 years after the end of the U.S civil war! And believe it or not but at that time some of the issues had 750 pages!

So, no need to say that when i heard that Popular Science archives were on line i went instantly to the site to see if i could find article related to "Disney". Because Popular Science is a magazine carrying articles on science and technology subjects the first key word i typed was "Walt Disney Imagineering" and among the results one interesting article that i've found was the one below, a January 1964 article in which Popular Science went to WED Enterprises and met the cavemen audio-animatronics that WED was preparing for the New York World's Fair Magic Skyway.

Then i typed "Disney" as key word and of course dozens of articles appeared in the result includin the one below, a rare January 1941 article called "Mickey Mouse goes classical related to the Fantasia movie and the technical innovations created for the movie recording and the in theatre incredible audio system.

My next key word was - no surprise - "Disneyland" and in the old issues you can find small articles like the one below talking briefly about the Disneyland railroad...

Sometime you can find interesting pictures even in smaller articles like this one about the People Mover, showing the track system...

Of course if you're a fan of scientific topics these Popular Science archives should put you in heaven and we will never thank enough the creation of internet which made possible to have treasures like this available for every one - and for free!

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Pictures: copyright Popular Science

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Disneyland Paris that never was - Part one

Hello aeveryone. Here is the first part of a series of articles about the "Disneyland Paris that never was", and this is a new version of the one previously released someyears ago, with new and better scans and some surprises.
As you know, when WDI imagineers begin to think about a new park or attraction, the phase one is call “blue sky”, everything in this phase one can be imagined as there is still no limit that the final budget will put inevitably. Then, from the blue sky comes the comeback to earth and choices must be done. Mind you, it’s not that the imagineers love to do some “cut” in their wonderful concepts as they are always pleased to enhance any project or put more theming details when it’s possible. The best example is Tokyo Disney Sea although even with this one some choices had to be done like with the “Voyages of Sindbad attraction which had a different first concept than the actual one with its oriental “small world puppet” theming.

To come back to DLP, and although the budget for the park back in 1990 was high, the imagineers had to make choices. Most of the time, they’ve kept the best. Sometime, as we will see, the project they had in mind was really too expensive...others were not really that expensive but the park’s management decided to do some “cuts”. It’s always the same thing when we look at renderings of “never done“ projects: we want this one to be built immediately! .........and we forget that what we already have is great! So, most of these coming projects will never exist, although, as they say at WDI “a good idea never die”. Let’s just dream about them, leave your mind enter the art-work and imagine that it’s real.

To begin by the beginning, the first picture below show you a model of the park, and, that’s how it looks before the imagineers decided to add Autopia, with the Disneyland Paris hotel at the entrance.

You may have not noticed it but the map of EuroDisneyland at the top of this article have an interesting detail. If you look at Discoveryland's entrance on the left of the Orbitron you'll see a structure which was never built. WDI Imagineer Tim Delaney had envisioned to build the Alien Encounter attraction at DLP's Discoveryland - in front of the Visionarium building and the Constellations shop, and this is a rare proof of the project. Although the words "Alien Encounter" are not written on the map you can see clearly the two theaters of the attraction on the picture detail below. Unfortunately the attraction was cancelled.

This rendering below show you a pretty different park's entrance, with two small lake where the fantasia gardens are now, and a big one at the bottom with a wharf and a boat where now stands a big boulevard.

The next one is a “winter” version of the previous one, where imagineers have imagined the small lake frozen and where people could have done ice-skating on them (Actually, this is possible in front of the New York hotel, so all is not lost)

This town square rendering shows main street entrance with coconut trees. This image depicts an early concept when the disneyland Paris Hotel was inside of Main Street U.S.A and the left side shows the resort architecture of a grand floridian style hotel. The coconut trees were part of that idea.

The Disneyland Hotel was indeed built but this two next artworks show a slightly different architecture and a much bigger pool too.

...You'll note that the coconut trees are back!

I will come back soon on the Main Street that never was with a brand new article as we were at two fingers to get a really different Main Street than the one which now exist. Instead to have a “turn of the century” theming, Eddie Sotto - DLP Main Street show-designer - had designed a Main Street set up at the 20’s-30’s with a totally different look.

This next artwork show Central Plaza and all we can see on it exist in reality but you'll see some Christmas season decor at the center of the plaza which, them, don't exist.

In Frontierland, most of the original concepts were realized, but sometime , small changes makes big difference. Take this early model of Phantom manor, for instance. Next to the manor you can see a barn where now instead stands a totally different queue building.

What i miss the most is the great voice of Vincent Price who was recorded - as Phantom Manor ghost host. For a little while , at the opening of the park , visitors were welcomed by Price’s voice, until it was realised that this only english version was not understand by the french audience.....But the ghost laughs that you can hear during the ride are still Vincent Price laughs! A little story about the recording session: when it was recorded , Vincent Price was already at the end of his life , and really tired, physically speaking. So, the agreement was that Price could come for the recording , but just for one hour. Everything was ready, and Price arrived at the recording studio. He look really tired and everybody hoped that he could do it right....then he begin to read the text, and , all of a sudden , it was magical. A few takes were done, and that was it! Probably one of the last thing that Vincent Price did with all his genius. However, all is not lost , as this recording was released on the Haunted mansion anniversary cd , that you can still find easily.

On the picture below around Vincent Price are Imagineers Al Vasquez behind the camera, Jeff Kurti is behind Vincent Price and the woman on the right is Gabrielle Reynolds.

Another concept never realised for Frontierland was this small wood carver shop.

But the most surprising is probably this Lil' Big Thunder ride concept by Julie Svendsen - Obviously inspired by Disneyland extinct attraction "Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland" it was a kind of Big Thunder family coaster for young kids going through "rainbow caverns", Geysers, friendly cactus, rolling stone balls and even a mine blast!

Don't miss the next parts of these Disneyland Paris that never was articles, coming soon!

You will find many more renderings of Disneyland Paris in my “Disneyland Paris, from sketch to reality” book which tell you all about the creation of the park, thanks to 750 pictures of the park including 250 renderings, and a great text by Didier Ghez. You can order easily the book to me if you wish, please check my special offer below!

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All artwork and photos: copyright Disney