Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Day DLP's Sleeping Beauty Castle was Unveiled

I know you're all waiting for my DLP update and 20th Anniversary news. You should have it probably at the end of this week. In the meantime we'll go back in time with this video shot at DLP 20 years ago.

On October 12, 1991, long before Main Street U.S.A was finished a special presentation event happened at DLP with Michael Eisney, Roy Disney and Robert Fitzpatrick - who was DLP first CEO - to unveil Sleeping Beauty Castle. You'll note that Main Street buildings are still under construction and most of them were not even painted yet. It was still the time of innoncence for the park, long before the financial problems that we know, and that's part of the reason why this video have its charm.

Video: copyright Disney

Disney MGM Studios " 3D Sound " now available on iPhone App

I don't remember the exact name of the attraction - if you do please let me know in the comments - but ten years ago, at the Disney MGM Studios there was an attraction where you could experiment what WDI Imagineers called "3D Sound". Basically, you had some headphone and sounds like hair cut, thunder storm, plane flying, etc were playing. It was really impressive as the sounds were incredible due to a new technique called "Holophonic Sounds". Later, WDI Imagineers used the same 3D sound technique in the Alien Encounter attraction.

Here is what Wikipedia is saying about this amazing Holophonic sound:

"Holophonics was created by Argentine Hugo Zuccarelli in 1980, during his studies at the Politecnico di Milano university. It, along with Zuccarelli, rose to fame in 1983 with the release of a recording entitled Zuccarelli Holophonics (The Matchbox Shaker) released in the UK by CBS which consisted entirely of short recordings of sound effects designed to show off the system. These included the shaking matchbox, haircut & blower, bees, balloon, plastic bag, birds, airplanes, fireworks, thunder, and racing cars. In its early years, Holophonics was used by various artists including Michael Jackson, who used Holophonics on his album "Bad", Paul McCartney, and Richard Branson. It has been used in film soundtrack, popular music, television and themeparks.

Zuccarelli stated that the human auditory system is a sound emitter, producing a reference sound that combines with incoming sound to form an interference pattern inside the ear. The nature of this pattern is sensitive to the direction of the incoming sound. According to the hypothesis, the cochlea detects and analyzes this pattern as if it were an acoustic hologram. The brain then interprets this data and infers the direction of the sound. Holophonics, like binaural recording, reproduces the interaural differences (arrival time and amplitude between the ears), as well as rudimentary head-related transfer functions. These create the illusion that sounds produced in the membrane of a speaker emanate from specific directions."

Now, why do i talk about this today? Because a new iPhone app (also working on iPad and iPod Touch) was released on the App Store. It's called 3D Audio Illusions and, although this iPhone application is not released by Disney, you'll be able to find back in it some of the great 3D sounds effects you've heard at the Disney MGM Studios attraction. And, good news, it is a FREE application! Here is the Appstore link to download it.

Another good news for those of you who don't own an iPhone as you'll be able to test right now a selection of these 3D sounds. You have the links below for five of them. So, put your headphone, close windows and stop any other sounds in your room to make sure you can enjoy them as best as possible! You can also listen the 3D sound effects of the Alien Encounter attraction in a really good "binaural audio" recording of the original attraction that you'll find on the excellent WDW Memories website HERE.

Here is some examples of Holophonic Sounds:

> Match Box

> Bell Sound

> Hair Cut

> Hair Dryer

> Sensual Woman Voice

Sounds: copyright

Wikipedia text: copyright Wikipedia

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New WDA short animated "The Ballad of Nessie" to be released with Winnie the Pooh

The artwork article of the week is thanks to Walt Disney Animation Studios. "The Ballad of Nessie" is the new short animated movie which will be released with the new Winnie the Pooh movie to be released soon.

Here is the synopsis: "A story set in the bonny blue highlands of Scotland, and centered on Nessie, the friendly Loch Ness monster, her best friend MacQuack the rubber duck, and how the duo came to live in the moor they call home. Problems arrive in the form of a land developer named MacFroogle, who wants to build a mini-golf empire on top of Nessie's home".

This short animated is directed by Emmy Awards winners Stevie Wermers-Skelton et Kevin Deters, in 2D traditional animation i.e in Walt Disney Animation Studios grand tradition. Nessie's animation was supervised by five of WDAS greatest artists: Andreas Deja, Mark Henn, Randy Haycock, Dale Baer et Ruben A. Aquino and Michael Giacchino wrote the music score. All of this sounds good, and i'm sure it's going to be good!

Pictures: copyright Walt Disney Animation Studios

Imagineering video previews new WDW Haunted Mansion interactive queue

You probably know that WDI Imagineers created an interactive queue at WDW Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion and it's a pretty cool one. On the video below Imagineers previews what they've done. One more thing: after you've watched the video, jump to the one filmed by Inside the Magic HERE, which will show you even more of this great Haunted Mansion interactive queue!

Video: copyright Disney

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Disneyland Paris releases cool Tilt-Shift video of both parks

On the occasion of Walt Disney Studios anniversary and to celebrate the upcoming Disney Magical Moments Festival opening on April 6th, Disneyland Paris has released a new video of the DLP resort, shot using the now famous "Tilt Shift" technique.

As you know the tilt-shift technique takes photographs, usually from high vantage points, using selective focus and perspective control to give the impression of a miniture model. All the photographs are then stitched together and edited to create the illusion of a short movie. Post production will then do the rest, oversaturating colours to reinforce the model impression, working on contrasts and even further blurring images.

The video called "A Magical Day at Disneyland Paris" is pretty cool and shows vignettes of both Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park, including favourite attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain or the new rides in Toy Story Playland, shows and daily parades, including the Fantillusion Parade, from sunrise to nighttime entertainment and fireworks.

More than 125.000 still photographs were taken during the shoot in the parks, although only 4.000 were used in the final edit, over a period of seven months. Here it is!

Picture and video: copyright Disney

New High-Res Pirates of Caribbean 4 Posters

New Pirates of Caribbean 4 posters were released and i suppose that you'll be happy to get them, specially in high-res, so here they are!

Two new posters of the Barbossa and Blackbeard characters, these one are in "medium-res".

Pictures: copyright Disney-Jerry Bruckheimer

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TDR : Is the Unthinkable Becoming a Possibility?

Let's put it this way: if i had posted this article only one week ago probably everyone would have thought "Tokyo Disney theme parks in danger of radioactivity? Is he totally insane?". The devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami happened only six days ago and it's a catastrophe of such gigantic proportions that in less than six days what was unthinkable is becoming possible.

The nuclear reactors of Fukushima nuclear plant are almost out of control, the nuclear agency declared yesterday that the accident is now considered to be on "level six" - next level is level seven which indicates a nuclear accident as serious as the one which happened in Tchernobyl - and when you hear a president saying that the situation is "totally dramatic" or a minister who declares after a meeting with his Japanese counterpart that the situation "is extremely serious" you begin to understand that they know something that we don't know. In two words, the gates of hell have just opened at Fukushima nuclear plant and the situation is almost totally out of control. Which means that the risk to reach a situation similar to what happened in Tchernobyl in 1986 - with radioactive elements sent in the air - exist and can't be exclude. And at Fukushima they have problems on four nuclear reactors instead of one...

Above and below new pictures of Fukushima nuclear plant showing the damaged reactors

As you probably all watched these last days on TV this dramatic event i'm not going to play the "Bill Nye the Science guy" to explain what would be the worst scenario, you all know that the risk is to have highly radioactive elements like xénon, krypton, césium-137 and iode-131 being sent in the atmosphere, without a possibility to stop them. To give you an idea how long the effects of a "level 7" nuclear disaster can last, in Tchernobyl, 25 years after the nuclear accident there is still a forbidden zone 30 kilometers all around the site where NO ONE can enter and another zone more than 100 kilometers all around the site in which it is always forbidden to live. And this will last for a looong time... Because the japanese reactors have a different design than the one at Tchernobyl the same kind of explosion that happened 25 years ago might not be possible but unfortunately that's not the problem. The problem is to have radioactivity elements leaked and moving in the atmosphere whether it is by an explosion or gentle winds.

The picture above show the location of towns with more than 500000 inhabitants and distances from Fukushima nuclear plant

Let's come back to Tokyo. I wish with all my heart that we won't reach the worst scenario - we will know that in the next days - but if it happens it will be a tremendous tragedy. Tokyo, one of the biggest city in the world with 13.5 million people, is only at 200km from the Fukushima nuclear plant and chances of contamination by radioactive elements sent in the air are high - yesterday, radiation levels in Tokyo were 10 times higher than normal but this is still an "acceptable" safe level. In case of a radioactive cloud the contamination might touch not only Tokyo but also, depending of the winds, a big part of the country, not to mention foreign countries near Japan. The impact on Japanese economy will be dramatic - just look to what is happening at Tokyo's stock exchange since last Monday - and as Japan is the third economy in the world it will have an effect on other countries economy...

If radioactive elements reach Tokyo what do you think that will happen to Tokyo Disney Resort? I hope you don't think that TDR is living under a bubble which won't be affected by what will happen outside. If there is a radioactive contamination through the air which reaches Tokyo it will also reach TDR, there is little doubt about that. Depending of the level and dangerousness of the radioactivity Oriental Land Co will have to decide if guests can enter the parks or not, right? Do you think they will say "come in the parks, don't pay attention to the césium-137 and iode-131 floating in the air, just enjoy the rides and take a good shower when you'll be back home and everything will be fine"? Probably not. What we will see - although i doubt they will accept anyone to be a witness - is surrealistic scenes with TDR people all around the parks checking the radioactivity level with Geiger counters and then announce that parks are closed "until further notice" if the radioactivity is too high.

I know it looks unbelievable, but what is even more unbelievable is how - in less than six days - what was so unthinkable that it didn't even enter our minds just became a possibility that we can't exclude - even if, once again, i really really hope that it won't happen and that we will never see "Warning! Radio activity!" signs at TDL or TDS.

There is something fascinating when you look at the destiny at work: you understand that we don't control anything, that man is not stronger than nature, that it was just an illusion. An illusion which, when everything goes awry, can have serious dramatic consequences.

EDITED : I will update this article with the latest news of the situation. For those of you who might think that this article is excessively alarmist (it's not my goal but i know that some of you will think it is) here is the latest facts:

But first, you can watch the latest news, live on the site of the japanese NHK TV HERE. It's translated in english. Also, for all donations to help japanese people please go HERE.

- LATEST: Director of Nuclear Security Institute announced today that, so far, the radioactivity released at Fukushima nuclear plant is equal to 10% of what has been released at Tchernobyl in 1986.

- LATEST: Taiwan and South Korean authorities announced thursday March 17 that unusual high radioactivity levels were detected on passengers coming from Japan.

- LATEST: Tadashi Nishimura, an official with the Osaka Ryokan and Hotel Association, said Wednesday that "Due to last Friday's quake, our members have been reporting increased cancellations. But we do need to start thinking about what would happen in the event Osaka suddenly sees large numbers of people from Tokyo looking for rooms," he said.

In Kyoto, where hotels and ryokan over the next couple of weeks were previously almost fully booked for the cherry blossom season, the prefecture said it is starting to consider measures to deal with sudden spikes in mid- and long-term demands for hotel rooms. Kyoto is only about two hours and 20 minutes from Tokyo Station by the fastest trains. "Discussions on a scenario that requires responding to the arrival of refugees from Tokyo are expected to begin soon," said Shinya Iwako, a prefectural official.

In Kyoto and Osaka prefectures, there are more than 500 hotels and ryokan, plus another 340 or so in Hyogo Prefecture. Over the past few days, a number of people from Tokyo have been arriving at Kyoto Station and Kansai and Itami airports with plans to stay in the region for an indefinite period.

- LATEST: UK Foreign Office asked british citizens living in Tokyo and North-East Japan to move away from these regions. The German government suggests to all Germans in the area to leave Tokyo and go south of Japan as soon as possible.

- Japan prime minister Naoto Kan announced this morning that "radioactivity levels have considerably increased in north-east region of Japan and up to Tokyo. At Ibaraki, north of Tokyo, the radioactivity level was 300 times superior to the normal level with 15,8 microsieverts per hour". Nevertheless, Japan authorities consider that this level of radioactivity is not dangerous for human beings. So why is the "normal radioactivity level" has been fixed 300 times lower than the one currently measured at Ibaraki? And this is just five days after it all began. We'll check the radioactivity level in one week, let's hope it go down.

- Yesterday, as the level of radioactivity became too high at Fukushima nuclear plant they decided to send water on the reactors from helicopters. This morning it was announced that it was no longer possible to do it with helicopters because the radioactivity which is released from the reactors is now too high to get close to them even from an helicopter. Hopefully this might change but i wouldn't bet on it.

- It's now almost sure that TDR Parks will not re-open on March 22 and apparently Oriental Land might decide to don't resume parks operations before the end of April. All this situation is smelling so bad that yesterday Oriental Land has announced that "they offer to send any international cast member back home if they want, with the promise that their job would be available when the situation returns to normal".
They have to check everything in the parks to make sure there is no hidden damages, repair the damages caused by the earthquake on the parking lot, and not to mention reduced power supply which makes park operations difficult if not impossible. The hidden truth is that they're probably just like everyone in Tokyo, praying that the unthinkable don't become reality.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A closer look to the Shanghaî Disneyland Resort map

Last week you discovered the first map of Shanghaî Disneyland Resort. The first version of the map was in black and white but since then i've found it in color as you can see above. And the colors reveal something extremely interesting.

If you remind what was written in the text of last week article you probably remember this quote: "Water will be a prominent feature of the amusement park. A river, about 10 kilometers long and 60 meters wide, is being created around the park area...". Now that we see the map in color you can see clearly on it this "60 meters wide river", in light blue on the plan, making a square all around SDL resort. It looks unusual, and it's true that this "river" going all around the resort is a premiere for a Disney Resort.

When i first saw this it reminded me something and i had the feeling that it was more than simply a river going all around the resort. However, technically, practically, that's what it is, a kind of water barrier which both indicates the limits of the resort and also prevents too easy intrusions inside Shanghaî Disneyland Resort. But we are in China, a country where symbolism always had a lot of importance, so i knew this square of water was meaning something else.

First, you must remember the importance of wall/barrier for Chineses. All along the centuries Chinese Empire took great care to protect the country by building walls and the most famous wall is of course the Great Wall of China, which was built to protect the Empire from invasions but also, almost by definition, to mark the limits of the Empire. And a nation which is able to build a 6700 km long huge wall definitely attach some importance and a symbolic value to it.

For instance, in the Mah Jong - China's most famous game - the players begin the game by building a square of four walls which symbolize...the Great Wall of China - and also the walls around the Forbidden City where was living the Emperor. Since centuries each time that millions on chineses were playing Mah Jong they've repeated symbolically the Great Wall of China. As you will see soon this have some importance.

And, talking about Beijing famous Forbidden "Imperial" City, have a closer look at the picture below. As you will see the Forbidden City was not only protected by a wall but also by...moats filled with water, all around the Imperial City!

Now, look back to the SDL plan and its water "river". That's right, it's making a square all around the resort just like the moats around the Forbidden City. Interesting also to note that, just like the Forbidden City, SDLR has also a "right in the middle" south entrance. But when you'll know that in chinese energetic science the water element is linked to dream time and also to early years of childhood - the famous "Peter Pan" years - you'll understand the symbolic thrust of this "square of water". By creating this "river" going all around the resort - a subconscious reminiscence of the moats filled with water around the Imperial City - the Imagineers signify to Shanghaî Disneyland future visitors that the ones who will come will enter a kingdom - in this case a MAGIC KINGDOM - where DREAMS come true.

Frankly, i don't know who at WDI had this idea but it's pure genius. You can believe me, the chineses will get instantly the symbolism, it will "talk" to their subconscious. And this time the water won't be a barrier around a Forbidden City where no one is allowed to enter. This time, everyone will be invited to come, to enter and enjoy the "Kingdom"!

Pure genius idea, really.

Edited 3/17: According to one of Screamscape sources: "The moat seen surrounding the Shanghai Disney resort area on the above map image will very likely not be built. According to this source, that map image is old and the man-made perimeter river has long since been cut from the plan". If that's true, that's too bad as it was a good idea.

Always about Asia: Don't miss today's article about Tokyo Disneyland and to what could happen if the Fukushima nuclear plant problems goes totally out of control. It's HERE.

Picture: copyright Disney

Official Oriental Land Company press release confirms that Tokyo Disneyland Resort will be closed at least until March 21

The Oriental Land Company has issued a press release which confirms that Tokyo Disneyland Resort will be closed at least until March 21:

"Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea suspended operations today due to the effect of the Tohoku Region Pacific Coast Earthquake on 3/11. Theme park operations will continue to be suspended tomorrow and thereafter. We will target 3/21 for a decision and notification on when to expect operations to resume.

This earthquake did not cause major damage to the facilities and buildings in the theme parks, and we have already begun safety verifications. We will make a decision on the timing of restarting operations carefully, taking into account the safety of the parks, and the recovery of transportation systems as well as neighboring infrastructure".

It couldn't be more clear, and not only it confirms that the parks will be closed until March 21 but also may be after that date as Oriental Land still have to decide and notify when parks operations will resume.

Here is some new reports from people who were at TDR last Friday:

"No injuries and only superficial damage, but of course the situation is near chaotic...We were fortunate here at TDR to avoid major injuries among Guests and Cast, and while safety inspections are ongoing there was no catastrophic damage to the infrastructure. No tsunami waves reached the seawall surrounding the property, either.

The parks closed after the quake (which occurred at 14:46 JST Friday) and have remained closed. Several thousand Guests and Cast were stranded due to transportation disruptions and had to spend the night in various park and hotel facilities, but all were kept warm and provided with simple food and beverages. Train service is being gradually restored and roads are reopening throughout Tokyo.

The damage in northern Japan is devastating, from the violent shaking of the quake and its seemingly endless aftershocks, as well as from the numerous tsunami waves that have hit virtually the entire coastline of Japan. We're simply lucky that the epicenter wasn't closer to Tokyo - it could have been a lot worse."

Another report:

"Everyone at OLC is safe. Those who were at work that day ended up staying at the office overnight. Among the Guests there were NO injuries and the Resort only had some minor damage. But outside the Parks and Backstage areas there was a lot of damage and liquefaction. Water and mud flooded the street between the Parks and Ikspiari. The Cast Members and everyone at OLC and WDAJ did a great job taking care of the Guests and all of the Cast Members, too. There was electricity, water, heat, food and drinks for everyone."

I remind you that you can see many TDL and TDS videos filmed during Japan's earthquake in my previous report HERE.

John Lasseter Gives Cars 2 Sneak Peek

In this interesting new Cars 2 video John Lasseter reveals the origin of the Finn McMissile character - who is "play" by the great Michael Caine - and also that John Turturro, another great actor and Pixar's favorite choice, will make the voice of Cars 2 italian character Francesco Bernoulli. Have a look!

Picture and video: copyright Disney-Pixar

New Star Tours 2 rendering shows Boba Fett chase scene

A new Star Tours 2 rendering was released recently, apparently included in an email sent to WDW annual passholders. Interesting rendering showing what might be another "destination" near planet Geonosis. You can see on the rendering the Starspeeder being chased by Boba Fett vessel and also - in the background - the first Death Star under construction. Star Tours 2 open in a bit more than two months at DHS and it's going to be a very exciting moment!

Picture: copyright Disney-Lucas Film