Friday, March 13, 2009

Tokyo Disneyland's Monsters Inc Ride and Go Seek is now open !

The official opening will be on April 15th, but soft openings of the awaited Tokyo Disneyland's Monsters Inc Ride and Go Seek attraction have began! As usual at TDL there is a 3 hours line for the ride, and JT Cent from the excellent JT Cent web site was there - and the first! - to film everything.

You'll see below his Youtube videos, and no need to say that "Ride and Go Seek" have audio-animatronics of much better quality than the Monsters Inc ride at DCA. As you know, guests have a flashlight - supposedly to "search" the monsters hidden all around the streets of Monsters City, but it's - for now - hard to understand if the light ray from the torch have an effect or not on the audio-animatronics.

Anyway, have a look at the videos, and when you've finished, please have a look at JT Cent's web site as not only it's a great one about Disney parks in Asia, but also because he fully deserves your visit!

I add also this video from kaihirane showing the different little movies shown on tv screens in the queue decor, including the one teaching the guests how to use the flashlights.

Monsters Inc Youtube videos : copyright JT and kaihirane

Artwork: copyright Disney

Giant Buzz Lightyear will welcome WDS guests at the entrance of Toy Story Playland

Interesting news about WDS future attraction as a french forum revealed that a four meters (13 feet) high Buzz Lightyear will "welcome" Walt Disney Studios guests at the entrance of the awaited Toy Story Playland, supposed to open next year.

An early concept showing a "classic" 1950's Robot - probably looking like this one below - holding scrabble letters in his hands forming the words "Toy Story Playland" was envisioned, but is now replaced with Buzz, definitely a more iconic Toy Story character.

Also the manufacturer which will build the RC Racer attraction - a "Half pipe coaster" seems to be a company named Zamperla and not Intamin - the original creator of this kind of carnival ride. However, Zamperla is supposed to build a Half pipe coaster that will be similar to the Intamin one.

I remember you that fences are now all around the area where Toy Story Playland will be built, and works should begin anytime soon. The Tram Tour route already changed and it seems that for now the new tram route is avoiding the Dinotopia scene.

Buzz Lightyear picture; copyright Disney

Pixar released new UP ! clip " First Aid " + synopsis of short animated " Partly Cloudy "

Pixar released today a new clip from UP!. Carl and Russell are in the South America jungle and the clip is called "First Aid". Here it is!

As usual a new short animated will be released in theatre with UP! This one is called "Partly Cloudy" and Pixar released a synopsis of the (short) story:

"Everyone knows that the stork delivers babies, but where do the storks get the babies from? The answer lies up in the stratosphere, where cloud people sculpt babies from clouds and bring them to life. Gus, a lonely and insecure grey cloud, is a master at creating ‘dangerous’ babies. Crocodiles, porcupines, rams and more—Gus’s beloved creations are works of art, but more than a handful for his loyal delivery stork partner, Peck. As Gus’s creations become more and more rambunctious, Peck’s job gets harder and harder. How will Peck manage to handle both his hazardous cargo and his friend’s fiery temperament?"

Here is a picture of one of the clouds - probably Gus.

Who else than Pixar could have the idea of an animated film where "cloud people sculpt babies from clouds and bring them to life"!

Picture and video: copyright Disney - Pixar

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Tribute to Eric Heschong Artwork

Here is the artwork article of the week, and it's going to be a great one, as i am doing a grand tribute to a hlghly talented artist: Eric Heschong.

I love Eric's artwork since ten years ago when i've discovered some of his artwork for Walt Disney Imagineering, and you all know it as i am talking about the fantastic Tomorrowland '98 paintings like the ones below.

Now, today i am not going to show you the artwork he did for WDI, but other great artwork he did for Landmark Entertainment. And those of you who like to discover concept-arts of never realised projects will be in heaven today as lot of the paintings below are in this case. Better than that, i will also let you know at the end of the article how you can own some of them - yes, the "original" painting, not a copy or a print, and for an amazing price.

Let me tell you more about Eric first. Eric Heschong learned to paint at the now defunct Hanna-Barbera cartoon studios. Later, he worked doing tight architectural illustration. And then for Landmark Entertainment, a company specialised in attraction, theme parks and resorts or casinos design. if you don't know Landmark, it's them for instance who designed the Terminator 3D attraction for Universal Studios and the amazing Spiderman ride at Islands of Adventure. At Landmark, back at the end of the 1990's Eric worked with Chuck Cancillier who was the designer. Chuck would do pencil layouts and then hand them off to Eric for paint. Every so often, he'd be asked to do the layouts.

"Working for Landmark was a fun time for me." says Eric. "I enjoyed the work and tried to please. I used my portfolio from Landmark to get work at Universal Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering. Most of the work I did at Walt Disney Imagineering was for Tony Baxter."

We will begin by paintings which are part of Eric's portfolio. No need to say they are gorgeous.

The first one, at the top of this article, is an "Emerald City" painting done for a Wizard of Oz park that was supposed to go in somewhere in Kansas. Landmark didn't mind that Eric's Emerald City looked nothing like the one in the movie. The header image is also an Eric's painting, for a Warner Bros concept.

This next painting with the purple rocket was for a Paramount Pictures park. A Willie Wonka attraction (on the right) and a Godfather's restaurant (on the left) were to be featured.

The two next paintings were done of course for a Star Trek attraction. I don't think these scenes/decors were realised but Landmark is the company who did do the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas.

The next concept with this copper colored space station was actually built in South Korea.

This Bluto Bay decor was designed for a movie company who has or had the Popeye property - it might have been Universal.

Eric did also this concept-art for a James Bond "Licence to thrill" attraction. First, i thought he did it for a previous concept of the Walt Disney Studios "Motors, Action!" stunt show, as i knew WDI envisioned to do the stunt show on a James Bond theme. Then it was cancelled and i always thought it was for a rights/license problem, that the Bond license was too expensive, etc... In fact not, it's probably because Paramount Parks got the rights to do this "License to thrill" attraction. The attraction existed for real from 1998 in three or four diferent Paramount parks.

Landmark also designed Hotels and Casinos, like this 1999 ”Muwi Kingdom Hotel” concept for Inchon, South Korea.

This next bird's eye view was to be a casino/hotel called the City of Gold. It looks similar to the one above and may be it was done for the same concept.

The interior lobby would have been incredibly spectacular - i should say dazzling. That's the painting below, with the griffins.

The next concept-art with the movie theaters and trolley car was for a Navy Pier concept in Chicago.

This one too was done for the Chicago Navy Pier concept.

This 1998 acrylic painting shows a land called "Cartoon Ville" part of a proposal for a "Shanghai Movie Park" in China.

"Heavy Metal Island" is the title of this 1999 concept-art, the entrance to an island-Rolling Stones land in a proposed Rock theme park.

The two next paintings called "Metropolis Metro Entertainment Center" were done for a Shanghai Metro Entertainment Center.

The concept-art below show a "Nautical Sports Dome" for a Niagra Theme Park.

"U.S.O. with Bob Hope" is the name of the Cell Vinyl on illustration board concept below.

This next painting was for a "Rhythm and Blues Area" in a Grammy Exposition.

As i told you Landmark did lot of concepts for casinos. Here are some paintings that Eric did for these concepts. Let's begin with the Las Vegas Caesar's Palace and this concept-art for a 1995 "Caesar's Exterior Expansion".

The next one shows a new inside decor proposal for the Caesar's palace...

And this one, always at the Caesar's, is called "Casino of the Gods".

The next 1999 painting below is named "Secondary Gaming-Train Station", a proposed expansion of the Barona Casino in San Diego.

”Rooftop Casino” is the name of the scene below - obviously inspired by the rooftop of Paris Opera (where by the way i walked upon for real some years ago for a photo shooting!).

This next 1997 painting ”Monex New York Casino” was another kind of "rooftop" view for the Century City Monex.

"Starlight Restaurant Interior” is the title of the artwork below, designed for Phantom Phantasy Casino.

These two 1993 acrylic paintings were concepts for the Harrahs Hotel/CasinoLaughlin in Las Vegas. The first one is called "Harrahs Laughlin" and the next one "Plaza Scene"

Always for the Harrahs in Las Vegas, this last artwork is called "Mardi Gras".

Now, as promised, i will tell you how you can own some of these paintings. Landmark Entertainment actually put on sale most of their old artwork on two sites. The first one is the Landmark Selections site and the other one is on where they have their own Landmark artwork store. All the paintings on this page after (and including) the second Chicago Navy Pier concept artwork are part of the sale. On Ebay they are not listed as auction but in "buy it now".

Eric Heschong paintings prices on the Landmark site are between $250 and $350 and ALL the paintings are originals, i.e one of a kind, NOT "prints". Considering Eric's awesome talent, this is amazingly good prices, and to give you an idea, if the same kind of paintings were done for WDI and sold by Disney they would cost at least ten time these prices. I have to add that Eric has nothing to do with this Landmark sale as the owner of the artwork is Landmark Entertainment who is as i've said the company who is selling them. If you love artwork, this is a unique opportunity to own some of Eric's gorgeous artwork. I want to add that these Landmark sale prices are NOT the normal prices for Eric's paintings.

Finally, i want to thanks Eric Heschong and Landmark Entertainment for providing me the pictures files and authorisation to post them in this article and i hope you now love as much as i do Eric's artwork!

Artwork: copyright Landmark - Eric Heschong - Disney Enterprises

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why " Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair " is exactly the kind of product they should sell at the D23 store - and not a $314 pen ...

Good news: Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair 5 CD Box Set is finally released on March 24. Great idea, as it is a rare and highly collectible document of Walt Disney Imagineering history that will be released for the first time. Exactly the kind of merchandise the Disney fans are looking for. Not "Executive Pen" at $849.

Once again, i salute the initiative of the new D23 site and magazine. I have not seen yet the magazine, but i'm confident that it is good. No, the two problems that makes the fans screaming on all forums is the membership $74 price - some of them didn't understood that it includes four issues of the D23 magazine and not only a membership card and certificate. However, it's probably the wrong price at the wrong time. And i don't mention the "amazing" shipping price for non-U.S residents, probably due to the fact that Disney use generally DHL for any overseas shipment. Also, D23 is almost described like a "private club for Disney fans", but honestly, i think Disney fans are not sensitive to that. Let me be clear: if any of you could become instantly a member of the legendary Club 33 at Disneyland, i'm sure you will be happy, but the D23 membership - although it has real advantages - is probably seen more like a "virtual" club for Disney fans. In fact, it's even worst: simply nobody - or very very few people - cares anymore about "club and membership". It's the kind of mental image that belongs to the past, except for some super rich people.

To come back to the membership price, personally i think it's probably 30$ too high, but most of all the timing is terrible - did nobody tell them we are in the middle of a world economy crisis? At least probably not to the guy responsible of the D23 merchandise shop - in fact a new section on the Disney shopping web site. T-Shirts at $25 with only "Are you 23?" written on them - and with no disney logo! Pens at $314 or $849 !?! I'm sure the items are beautifully crafted, but the problem is elsewhere - it's simply that Disney fans are expecting other kind of collectibles!

And which kind of collectibles? Well, this "Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair 5 CD Box Set" is EXACTLY the kind of collectible they should sell at the D23 "boutique".
Need another example? Take this gorgeous Mark Twain Riverboat model released last year on Disney Shopping. Don't you think it would be a perfect collectible too for the D23 shop? For the Mark Twain it's too late of course, but they're is PLENTY of good collectible ideas that would be perfect for the D23 shop.

I have a long experience with Disney merchandise departments - specially since i did my Disneyland Paris book, and let me tell you more about it as it will help you to understand where is the problem. You have no idea what fight it has been, back ten years ago, to convince them that guests and fans were looking for this kind of book...even after the book was released they were surprised it sells so well. And since then, thousands copies of the book have been sold!

Do you want to know why you can't find the book at WDW or Disneyland shops? Not because i didn't proposed the book at their mechandise dept. I DID proposed the book to them. And even send them a copy so they can see how it looks. And what was the answer? Well, the answer was: "because the book is talking about Disneyland Paris, it will not interest ANYBODY at WDW or DL" !!! No kidding. It was just like Disney fans didn't exist for them. At least at that time, 7 years ago. But it's still true today, i could give you hundred of other examples, and personally, i arrived at this conclusion: merchandise dept guys (or women) simply don't know AT ALL what kind of products Disney fans are looking for. NO VISION, really. Okay, to be perfectly honest, since the Disneyland 50th Anniversary, and more specifically since the release of Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily 50th Ann collectibles on Disney shopping, Disneyland merchandise finally understood that true-fans collectibles could be profitable. Of course it is when it's well done! And also when it's NOT done in a "cheap" way (i'm thinking about the beautiful Tiki Fountain released last year for the Tiki Room anniversary and which had problems as Disney choose a cheap "pump" system and of course the pump began to stop working after few hours...)

Frankly, there is nothing more simple than to find good ideas for special-fans collectibles. But there is ONE condition for that: you MUST be a fan yourself, that's the trick. If you're not a Disney fan, you can't know how Disney fans are thinking, right? And this is where the problem is: most people at merchandise dept don't think like Disney fans. They think they do, but in fact, deeply, they don't. Believe me.

Now, there are exceptions: i was talking about Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, well, here are two persons, designing Disney collectible since years and years (and it's always perfect) and who are ALSO Disney hardcore fans. And it's hard to find a collectible they've designed that didn't provoked fan enthusiasm. And i'm sure they're not alone. But Kevin and Jody - and i am NOT their "agent"! - would be, in my opinion, the best people qualified to create D23 collectibles. I mean: collectibles that fans will rush to order. Even expensive one.

Do you remember the famous line from Kevin Costner movie "Fields of Dreams"? : "If you build it, he will come". The line became famous since then, but it's perfect for what we talk about today, and a perfect message to D23 Boutique managers/designers : "If you build them ( the right collectibles) , fans will come". And if you don't know what to do, ask those who knows - i mean, of course, those who are REAL fans.

Photo: copyright Disney

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Editor's Note: All about the major Disney news of the month, the creation of Disney D23 web site and magazine, officially announced today by Bob Iger!

Disney announces D23 , " The Official Community for Disney Fans "

It's the major Disney news of the day - if not of the month: Disney announces today the D23 web site and magazine, "the first official community for Disney fans in the Company's 85-year history. ".

It's hard to believe that it took them 85 years to think about it (!), but that's it, Disney has finally decided to take care of all the Disney fans in the world with a great web site and a classy magazine as well. I can't stop thinking that all the different "non-officials" web sites and magazines like "Tales from the Laughing Place" did "open the road" to Disney D23. That somebody in Burbank finally thought that "may-be-we-should-do-something-for-all-these Disney-fans"...

But, hey, here it is at last, so today should be a zip-a-dee-do-dah day!

Let's have a closer look to all this, beginning by the D23 web site. As Bob Iger will explain to you on the "What is D23" page: "D23 is Named in honor of the year 1923, when Walt left Kansas City, headed for Hollywood and founded what would become the Disney Studios, D23 gives Disney fans VIP access to all things Disney through this brand-new Web site; Disney twenty-three, the club's beautiful quarterly magazine; and, in perhaps the most exciting news of all, the D23 Expo, a Disney fan mega event to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center this fall!
Through D23, fans will go backstage and behind closed doors to get the inside scoop from every part of Disney, while experiencing the nostalgia, adventure and fantasy of Disney as never before.

If you still don't believe that all this is is real, here is Bob iger himself in his official announcement.

The web site has different sections, one of them talks about "the latest news and features" with different "Feature Stories" - and you will be pleased to know that an updated "Great moments with Mr Lincoln" will come back to Disneyland later this year...

Other sections of "News and Features" include:
- Late-breaking news, press releases, and photos of interest to fans from every part of Disney.
- "Twilight Bark" — inspired by the Disney animated feature 101 Dalmatians — offers up the latest tidbits and news "bites" from all around the world of Disney.
- Feature articles and interviews on current Disney topics from theme parks and animation to television and motion pictures, as well as historical retrospectives.
- Official Disney Bloggers — Get regular updates on films in production at Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, current Walt Disney Imagineering projects, and the Walt Disney Archives.

Another section dedicated to "Expos and special events" will inform you on how a D23 member can participate to "a special D23 members-only showing of Up, Pixar's latest animation masterpiece!" and you will learn also everything about the first D23 EXPO! The D23 Expo — to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center from September 10-13, 2009 — will be "The Ultimate Disney Fan Experience," featuring incredible speakers, celebrity appearances, breathtaking exhibitions, interactive experiences, sneak peeks, film screenings, one-of-a-kind merchandise, and much more. All Disney fans are welcome, but D23 members will receive a discount on Expo admissions and early access to the show daily. D23 will also offers unique members-only special event opportunities throughout the year.

Talking about members, there is a "Membership Certificate and Card": The D23 membership card and suitable-for-framing member certificate — both specially created for D23's Charter Year — feature many of Disney's most beloved characters.
more interesting, the "Surprise Collectible Gift and Member Merchandise": Each member who joins D23 will receive an exclusive collectible gift from the new Walt Disney Archives Collection. This merchandise line was created specifically with D23 members in mind, and each piece is authorized by the Walt Disney Archives. D23 members will have exclusive or early access to a wide assortment of Walt Disney Archives Collection pieces.
The D23 membership will cost you $74.99 a year. It will also allows you to buy special D23 merchandise on the D23 online store as you will see below.

The Disney Archives section is also very interesting and have its own sections:
- "This Day in Disney" — A daily walk down memory lane.
- "What's Old Is News" — Go back in time and enjoy rare, vintage and classic articles, stories, interviews, press materials and other highlights from deep within the Disney Archives.
- "Ask Dave" — Disney Legend and Chief Archivist Dave Smith answers your questions about Disney history.
- "Archives Library" — helpful Disney reference tools including biographies, filmographies, award chronologies, Disney A to Z updates, historical profiles and other archival information.

And then there is the D23 Magazine, the cherry on the top of the cake, a classy quarterly publication: Disney 23 is a hybrid entertainment and lifestyle magazine that is the all-access pass to discovering the magic of Disney's past, present and future. Its name pays homage to 1923, the year The Walt Disney Company was founded.

The premiere issue of Disney 23 includes exclusive features such as:

- Interviews with Tim Burton, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens
- Inside look at the new Disney/Pixar animated film Up, featuring interviews with Director Pete Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera, concept and production art, and a look at the new animated short Partly Cloudy.
- A rare look inside Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. Meet the Pixar team and learn the secrets behind the success of their films.
- The doors open for two of the most exclusive, magical suites in the world: the Cinderella Castle Suite at Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Dream Suite overlooking New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America at the Disneyland Resort.

Disney twenty-three's regular featured departments will include:

- A Walk with Walt: A look back at the trials and triumphs of the man who made dreams come true and whose imagination started it all.
- D Society: From gala movie premieres and grand openings to candid Disney moments and memories, D Society takes readers backstage and onto the red carpet.
- PHOTOfiles: The legendary Walt Disney Archives Photo Library houses millions of Disney's most cherished photographic memories, and the Archives team shares its Top 100, five in every issue. Let the countdown begin!
- Where in D?: Try to identify where in the world of Disney each issue's mystery photo was taken.
- The Funny Pages: For the first time in decades, enjoy the vintage newspaper comic strips that helped make many of Disney's most popular characters famous.
- Making Magic: Crafts for children of all ages, inspired by Disney's favorite stories and experiences.
- Recipes from Disney's most popular restaurants and eateries, past and present.

Stitch Kingdom posted a review of the first issue, and you can read it HERE.

Finally, Disney created a online D23 shop on the Disney Shopping web site. As i've said you need to be a D23 member to buy those exclusive collectibles. Some are not cheap, but there is nice items like this 12" high sculpture of Walt with his first creation - no, it's not Mickey Mouse but Oswald the rabbit! at $224.95

Let be honest, these D23 web site and magazine are real good news, and even if it took them sometime to create them, we can wish to both site and magazine a warm the community of Disney fans.

All pictures and Video: copyright Disney

A quite Icy Wall-E

WALL-E did pretty well in Japan - currently the box office is $44 M - and they love so much Pixar's robot that they even did a ice sculpture of it, as you will see on these pictures shot by Rika Toriumi near a hotel swimming pool at Okinawa.

And, talking about robot, the japanese - as usual - have released what is probablly the smaller remote-controlled robot in the world, as you will see on the video below!

Pictures: copyright Rika Toriumi