Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walt Disney, Wernher von Braun, and the Space Program

In the 1950's Walt Disney produced the famous "Man in Space" TV series. And when Walt needed for the show a technical director he called the best rocket specialist: Wernher von Braun, a man who knew what the word "rocket" means. Von Braun was one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology during World War II. A one-time member of the Nazi party and a commissioned SS officer, Von Braun would later be regarded as the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century in his role with the United States civilian space agency NASA.

In his 20s and early 30s, von Braun was the central figure in Germany's pre-war rocket development programme, responsible for the design and realization of the deadly V-2 combat rocket during World War II. After the war, he and some of his rocket team were taken to the U.S. as part of the then-secret Operation Paperclip. In 1955, ten years after entering the country, von Braun became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Von Braun worked on the US Army intermediate range ballistic missile program before his group was assimilated by NASA, under which he served as director of the newly-formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.According to one NASA source, he is "without doubt, the greatest rocket scientist in history. His crowning achievement was to lead the development of the Saturn V booster rocket that helped land the first men on the Moon in July 1969." He even received the 1975 National Medal of Science.

To come back to Walt and the Space TV series here above is a picture of Wernher von Braun, Marshall Center Director, with Walt Disney during a visit to the Marshall Space Flight Center in 1954. Later, Von Braun while working in California on the Saturn project, worked with Disney studios as the technical director in the three Disney films about Space Exploration.

On the picture above, shot at the Walt Disney Studios in California, Wernher von Braun and Ernst Stuhlinger are shown discussing the concepts of nuclear-electric spaceships designed to undertake the mission to the planet Mars. As a part of the Disney "Tomorrowland" series on the exploration of space, the nuclear-electric vehicles were shown in the last three television films, entitled "Mars and Beyond," which first aired in December 1957.

Below, von Braun stands beside a model of the upper stage (Earth-returnable stage) of the three-stage launch vehicle built for the Disney TV series.

Years later, Wernher von Braun invited Disney and his associates to tour the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Disney's tour of Marshall in 1965 was Von Braun's hope for a renewed public interest in the future of the Space Program at NASA.

On the rare picture below Walt Disney toured the West Test Area during his visit to the Marshall Space Flight Center on April 13, 1965. The three in center foreground are Karl Heimburg, Director, Test Division; Wernher von Braun, Director, MSFC; and Walt Disney. The Dynamic Test Stand with the S-1C stage being installed is in the background.

Another rare photograph shot the same day, April 13, 1965, during Walt's visit at the Marshall Space Flight Center. From left are R.J. Schwinghamer from the MSFC, Disney, B.J. Bernight, and Wernher von Braun. Walt looks tired on this picture.

The next picture is a famous one of Walt in his office introducing to the TV audience a program about space, with rocket models on his desk...

...And it's interesting to compare Walt's picture with the these pictures of Wernher von Braun, also at his desk with moon lander in background and also with rocket models! Funny is that von Braun's second picture below looks a lot like the pictures of Walt sitting at his famous desk in his TV appearances!

Years later, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, von Braun saw his big dream finally realised. When i think about it, there is something incredible in the fact that the first men on the moon wouldn't have succeed without the help of a brilliant rocket engineer who was also a former Nazi, member of the waffen SS!?! Von Braun died eight years later, in 1977, of a pancreatic cancer. He was only 65 years old.

I found most of the above pictures, including the two rare shots of Walt's 1965 visit at the Marshall Space Flight Center on the fantastic NASA Images web site, a gold mine of space program pictures, all in high-res. If you're a fan of the NASA space program just go HERE.

Finally, for those of you who have never seen Von Braun in the Man in Space TV series here is a video showing an excerpt of the show, with von Braun and his famous "Dr Folamour" german accent!

Pictures: copyright NASA and Disney

Video: copyright Disney

Friday, October 15, 2010

Insane Light Show Celebrating Prague's Clock 600 Years Anniversary

As i often do on week-ends when i have something non-Disney but interesting to show you, here is a special post with an amazing video.

Remember the "Wishes" show with projection effects on the Magic Kingdom castle? Well, this insane light show celebrating the 600 years anniversary of the famous astrological clock in Prague use the same projection effect principle. But it's much much better than Wishes and i think that anyone working at Disney Entertainment division should note the name of the company - The Macula - who did it. These guys should be able to create something truly amazing in Disney parks.

So, have a look at this "vertical" video, don't miss it, it's a real "wow" and i let you imagine the stunning show they could create, for instance, on Sleeping Beauty Castle for DLP's 20th Anniversary!

The 600 Years from the macula on Vimeo.

Video: copyright The Macula

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DLP CEO Philippe Gas confirms indirectly the WDS Ratatouille dark ride project

In today's Telegraph interview DLP CEO Philippe Gas announced indirectly the WDS Ratatouille attraction project. It's the first time that he mentions Ratatouille and although he don't talk specifically about an attraction it's easy to read "between the lines". He didn't announced an opening date but, still, it's one more confirmation that the project is not pure DLP fan fantasy. In two words, it's not a rumor anymore.

He didn't talked about Star Tours 2 coming to DLP but it doesn't mean that they won't do it. They still have plenty of time - almost one year - to take their decisions and i won't be surprised if they were waiting for the ST2 opening at DL and WDW next year to see how good it is to make a decision.

I've told you in my latest DLP pdate that the park envision changes in major DLP attractions like Phantom Manor and Pirates of Caribbean and it's interesting to note that in his interview Philippe Gas mentions that the park "have enough cash pay for rehabilitation of current attractions in the park".

He also talked about the third park and confirmed that the decision to build the third park may not be made until 2020.

Here is excerpts of the Telegraph interview:

“You cannot think about Disneyland Paris as a five-year play or a 10-year play. We are looking at 2035. We’re not looking at tomorrow – so, looking at this strategically, investing in a second park was the right thing to do.”

Mr Gas said the group is committed to paying back 25pc of its current debt by 2013. He plans to significantly expand the Studios Park and is now talking about developing a third theme park on its Disneyland Paris site.

“Honestly, we have enough cash today to pay our debt, to finance our expansion and to pay for rehabilitation [of current attractions in the park],” highlighted Mr Gas, denying recent speculation that the company came close to breaching banking covenants...

...High on Mr Gas’s agenda are the development of the Disney Studios, where he plans more attractions and restaurants with the intention of turning it into a “one-day experience”. New Disney characters he is keen to feature at the park include Disney’s Cars and Ratatouille.

“Ratatouille is perfect, as it is set in Paris,” he said, pointing to a large wall poster of the film in his office. Furthermore, there is the agreement to build homes as part of the development of Marne la Vallée, where Disneyland Paris is located, as well as a nature park that will be set up with French holiday company Pierre et Vacances."

Later down the line, the construction of a third theme park is also on the agenda...

...Mr Gas said a decision to build the third theme park may not be made until 2020, though it may be brought forward if planned work on the existing Disney Studios Park is completed."

You can read the full Telegraph interview HERE in which Philippe Gas also defends DLP workers condition.

Text: copyright

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Disneyland Paris " from above " - Aerial Pictures by Jolly Roger

Since i began Disney and more three years and a half ago i've posted hundred of pictures of Disneyland Paris - whether they were shot during Halloween, Christmas, Summer season and even under "ice and snow". Not to mention great panoramic pictures. But there is one kind of pictures that i've never posted, and it's aerial shots of the parks and resort. I remember posting pictures shot from the Disney Village balloon but you can't get great aerial shots of the park from the balloon.

Today, thanks to "Jolly Roger", you will see Disneyland Paris as you have never seen it before. Just like you and me Jolly Roger is a big DLP fan but he is also something that we are not: he is a plane pilot. Small planes. And when the weather and winds are right for a safe flight Jolly Roger takes a plane and his camera and, flying over the resort, he is shooting great aerial pictures of Disneyland Paris "from above".

The pictures you will see today are a kind of "best-of" of the pictures shot by Jolly Roger during the last years. They were shot at different time whether it was during winter or summer season but they are fascinating as they reveal the resort on a totally different angle than the one you usually see when you visit the parks. Everyone ready for a flight? Then, fasten seat belts and lift off!

On the first picture below Jolly Roger in his plane is approaching the resort. On the top: DLP Magic Kingdom.

Below, the Disneyland Hotel at the entrance of the park. Don't forget to click on each picture to see them in larger scale.

On this next picture, an aerial shot of Town Square.

Let's fly over Frontierland with a great view of Big Thunder and the Rivers of the Far-West.

Same shooting angle, but at Autumn, with Phantom Manor and Town Square in the background.

Jolly Roger's new shot of Cottonwood Creek Ranch in the back of Frontierland with the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue and Critter Corral. Amazing how the trees and other vegetation have filled in so handsomely around the architectural elements and truly created Cottonwood Creek.

A winter shot of "Thunder Mesa".

Another shot of Frontierland with the Walt Disney Studios on the top. You'll note how close WDS Toon Studio is from Frontierland, something you can't guess when you're in the parks.

Let's fly now over Adventureland! This first picture shows the entrance of the land, Adventureland Bazaar and Swiss Robinson Tree.

This next one is showing the African part, Swiss Robinson Tree and Adventure Isle with Captain Hook ship and Skull Rock.

Two pictures shot from different angles of the Indiana Jones temple.

Let's move to Fantasyland with this first picture showing Alice's Curious Labyrinth and the Mad Hatter tea cups.

On this next one, Story Book Land and Casey Jr train.

Dumbo, Mad Hatter tea cups and le Caroussel de Lancelot, all together on the same shot.

A last aerial shot of Fantasyland with Discoveryland in the back.

A closer shot of Discoveryland with Space Mountain.

Another one, with Autopia and the Orbitron.

On this next you'll have a better view of the Nautilus. Videopolis theatre building is in the foreground.

This last Discoveryland picture shows Star Tours and Captain EO entrance.

It's time to fly over the Walt Disney Studios and this first shot shows the WDS from the back and of course the first park on the left.

Another picture showing both parks, in the foreground: the train tracks nearby.

A closer and panoramic shot of the WDS.

Another view on another angle with WDS entrance on the left and Toon Studio on the right.

A close shot of Crush's coaster building.

A great - and new - shot of the WDS with Toy Story Playland and Toon studio on the top, the Stunt show and Reign of Fire decor in the foreground, and of course Tower of Terror, here view from the back.

In the background of this last aerial shot of the WDS, Lake Disney, the Disney Village and the park hotels.

A great aerial shot of the hotels located around lake Disney. The New York hotel is in the front, the Newport Bay Club in the back and the Sequoia Lodge on the left.

This last Jolly Roger shot shows the Disney Village area and the Walt Disney Studios entrance in the back.

I think we can all thanks Jolly Roger for these fantastic pictures of Disneyland Resort Paris "from above". So, if you enjoyed the flight, don't hesitate to tell him in the comments! Please note that, due to too many spams, all comments have now to be approved by me, so your comment might not appear immediately.

If you love aerial shots i remind you that you will find in my Disneyland Paris book plenty of gorgeous aerial pictures of the park shot by world known aerial pictures master Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Here below is what you need to know if you want to order a copy of the book.

So, if you're looking for a great gift for anyone you love - including you! - the "Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality" book with its 320 pages and 750 pictures - including 250 renderings from Walt Disney Imagineering - would be a fantastic gift for any Disney fan! I still have some copies of this hard to find book and, as i am one of the two authors of the book, each copy will be sign specially for you or anyone you wish. Of course, don't forget to tell me the name to whom you wish I dedicate the book.

Price for one copy of the english updated edition (with the text in english) is 87 Euros + 15 euros shipping to any country. Payment can be done with Paypal or by wire transfert if you don't have a Paypal account.

You can see some inside pages of the book on this D&M page HERE and to order the book please email me at:

Paypal payment can be sent to:

All pictures: copyright Jolly Roger whom i thanks a lot!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Disneyland Paris Update: The 20th Anniversary Projects

In this new Disneyland Paris update we will have a look to what DLP guests might expect for the 20th Anniversary. But before the future let's have a look at the present.

It may look like minor changes or additions but there is some new things at DLP. First, a great Wall-E and Eve statues appeared in Discoveryland, on the left of Space Mountain. It's pretty well done, Eve seems to be floating in the air and of course it became instantly a photo location!

It seems that the park envision to add more characters/photo locations in other areas next year, so keep your eyes open next time you'll come at the parks!

Outside the parks, other changes are happening in some of the hotels. For instance, at the Santa Fe Hotel the giant Clint Eastwood picture is now replaced by.....the big "Cars" picture who was previously over the entrance of WDS Studio 1. I suppose they thought that Radiator Springs desert could fit well with the Santa Fe theme.

Inside the rooms, the bedspreads now have a "Cars" theme (instead of a New Mexico style) as well as Cars renderings on the wall. These are minor changes and as you can see on the pictures below a big part of the previous Santa Fe style decor is still there.

Apparently the same kind of changes are done at the Sequoia Lodge Hotel with a "Bambi" theme. I've read on DCP forum that the Santa Fe will change its name and be re-named "Cars Hotel" but it seems that this is not going to happen, the hotel will stay with its current name.

At the Walt Disney Studios Toy Story Playland changes also happened but this time nothing was added as it's a decor element who disappeared just two months after the opening of the new land! The RC Racer car photo location was removed and apparently permanently, which means it should never return. From what i've been told it's because of small injuries due to kids climbing on the car and falling down. Considering that the guests had a direct access to the vehicle it was almost inevitable that kids were going to climb it and what had to happen happened. The only thing which is still there is the Hot Wheel orange track.

Here is how it looked before - with the characters...

And here is how it looks now.

Twenty meters from this now extinct RC Racer photo location, Rex - who had a part of him destroyed - is now repaired.

They've put a plastic plaque where the hole was, and although it's not the ideal at least they will be able to replace it easily if another kid destroy it again and guests can still hear the sound of Rex' voice. Let's hope that no accident will happen there too as kids are also climbing on Rex, most of the time with the help of their parents!

Okay, let's have a look now to the future and more precisely the 20th anniversary. As you know 2012 is the 20th anniversary of DLP Magic Kingdom, not of the WDS. And from what i know the park has decided that it was the right time to do a re-launch of the park and to update famous attractions. Phantom Manor should have an update of its special effects, probably the same way they did it at DL and WDW. Can you expect to see Mrs Leota crystal ball "floating" in the air? Probably...

But, due to Phantom Manor different story line DLP Imagineers might have some problems to introduce some of the new effects created at the U.S Haunted Mansions, like the endless stairs - below a WDI Imagineer with the model. That's why DLPI is apparently thinking to introduce changes in Phantom Manor's story line. May be it's the price to pay to have these new effects or the famous hat box ghost appearing in the halls of Phantom Manor in 2012...

Always at Frontierland, it seems that they also envision changes or additions on Big Thunder Mountain. I don't have more infos about this now but if this is true and if DLP Imagineers are looking to enhance some of the BTM effects they could begin by putting back the explosion effects which were designed for the last BTM lift, when rocks are moving and the gold mine appear. Originally there was light flashes effects as well as smoke effects and this is definitely not impossible to achieve.

In Adventureland, the main changes should happen on Pirates of Caribbean as Jack Sparrow Audio-Animatronics as well as Davy Jones ghost effect should at last be introduced. We know now why they didn't put Sparrow's AA before, they were keeping them fot the 20th...but better later than never, right?

Nothing is still confirmed yet for Star Tours 2 but considering they can change the ride in less than a year and that Star Tours really need these changes the 20th anniversary would be the perfect timing for this awaited new version. I still bet on it, mainly because of the reasons above and the reasonable cost for an almost new attraction.

Of course we can expect probably new shows or fireworks for DLP 20th but this "re-launch of the first gate" angle also mean that nothing should be expected for the WDS in 2012 and that the awaited Ratatouille dark ride should not open before...2013. Three more years is a bit long to wait for a new E-Ticket but that's probably what is going to happen.

However, outside the parks something new should open as works on the giant World of Disney store - located at the entrance of the Disney Village - are about to begin. As you'll see on the panoramic shot below palisades are now in place.

Behind the palisades nothing happened yet but they are bringing little by little what they need to build the store which should be ready for a 2012 opening.

Another interesting news is this project to have Paris Rolland Garros highly famous tennis courts relocated near the A4 highway exit. Have a look at the concept-art below showing the project, i've indicated where the park is. Rolland Garros tennis tournament is one of the most famous in the world and is the most viewed sports event after the Olympic Games and the soccer world cup.

The project would bring huge crowds during the two weeks tournament to the park hotels (even if the plan includes a new hotel near the tennis courts) and it's certainly a better idea than the Formula 1 race track envisioned last year. This last project, thanks god, is now dead and for sure the tennis players should make less noise than the Formula 1 cars. However, as the city of Paris really want to keep the tournament inside its "gates" it's not sure at all that we will see a transfert of Rolland Garros to DLP, but if it works it's scheduled to open in 2016.

Something else might happen in DLP future, too, but this is for an upcoming article!

In the meantime, if you're looking for a great Christmas gift for anyone you love - including you! - the "Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality" book with its 320 pages and 750 pictures - including 250 renderings from Walt Disney Imagineering - would be a GREAT gift for any Disney fan! I still have some copies of this hard to find book and, as i am one of the two authors of the book, each copy will be sign specially for you or anyone you wish. Of course, don't forget to tell me the name to whom you wish I dedicate the book.

Price for one copy of the english updated edition (with the text in english) is 87 Euros + 15 euros shipping to any country. Payment can be done with Paypal or by wire transfert if you don't have a Paypal account.

You can see some inside pages of the book on this D&M page HERE and to order the book please email me at:

Paypal payment can be sent to:

Pictures: copyright Disney, Disney and more, Disney Central Plaza