Saturday, October 29, 2011

Editor's Note: It's the week-end, and it's time for the D&M Archives with an amazing story about how a NASA 1960's Mercury flights Astronaut became a WDI Imagineer!

D&M Archives : Gordon Cooper, when a Legendary Astronaut became a WED Imagineer

Here is the part three of D&M "Man on the Moon" celebration, and Imagineer Pat Burke is back on Disney and more with a great story.

Before the Apollo missions in the late 60's, the Mercury missions opened the way to the conquest of the moon. Seven legendary Astronauts were part of this Mercury team - see picture below - and among them, the famous Leroy Gordon Cooper that you can see above in this gorgeous 1962 NASA picture.

What is less known is that ten years later or so, Gordon Cooper will become a WED Imagineer and Vice-President of Research and Development! Incredible!

I introduce now the great Pat Burke, who will tell you his memories about Gordon Cooper, Imagineer at WED Enterprises.

Gordon Cooper, from Test Pilot to Astronaut to being an Imagineer.
By Pat Burke.

"After WED Enterprises got Walt Disney World open in 1971, it was time to start working on Walt's "Dream City of the Future" Epcot. Ray Bradbury was the elected spokesman and was often seen in the halls at then WED Enterprises before it became WDI. Having come aboard in 1972, I was a bit surprised when I heard about a new recruit I had met earlier in the late 50's. In 1973, Disney President Card Walker, had hired a new Vice President of Research and Development. Having grown up around all the test pilots for Edwards Air Force base or Murdoch Field, as it was called back then, Gordon Cooper was a name I heard about often. X 1 to X15 Test Pilot Scott Crossfield, lived just a few doors down from my family, as there was not a lot of housing at Edwards. I believe Scott called him Gordo at some BBQ's my family attended at his home. My father, who had been in the Army Airforce training pilots in WW2, was the first contractor to be hired to build their new homes out near the Base.

Gordon moved out there after graduation in about 1957, and it was soon after that he had his first encounter with UFO's that were well documented in a film he submitted to his superiors that never went anywhere public. So seeing Gordon Cooper in the mid 70's as our new Vice President of Research and Development was not that hard to believe. We were getting both Space Mountains going for Walt Disney World in 75 and Disneyland in 77. Some of Gordon's Mercury 7 teammates, 6 astronauts in total of the 7, helped launch Space Mountain to the waiting public at WDW. Gordon Cooper was also hired by Card Walker to promote Epcot. He also helped us to get some infrared photos taken from an overhead Space Satellite in about 1974, of our Lake Independence site for ski run development.

I was lucky enough to join a group of WED Imagineers several times for a lunch in the park with Gordon. We would all pick up our ZUP'S or Pecos Bill's sandwiches and head to the nearby Griffith Park for a meet and eat session with our VP. There we would learn about his "Right Stuff" test pilot days, being an Astronaut with Mercury 7 and all the UFO's and alien encounters he had been witness to. Like Walt, he believed "it was fun to do the impossible!" and he had surely done that. He seemed to fit right in with Space Mountain and Ray Bradbury for our Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow!"

I managed to find on Youtube the video of the Space Mountain opening at Walt disney World in 1975. You will see some of the astronauts invited for the Grand Opening event and, of course, Imagineer Gordon Cooper!

Twenty years later, in 1995, another legendary astronaut, Buzz Aldrin - the 2nd man who walked on the moon - was invited to celebrate the opening of Disneyland Paris Space Mountain. And more recently at Disneyland Anaheim, it was Neil armstrong himself who came for the Grand opening of the "new" Space Mountain!

Here is the video of the ceremony where you'll see Neil Armstrong speech.

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

Pictures: copyright NASA or Disney

Youtube video: copyright Disney

Friday, October 28, 2011

New accident at DLP Big Thunder Mountain

It's the second time this year that DLP Big Thunder Mountain have an accident and, although it could have ended in a more dramatic way, nobody seems to be seriously hurt in yesterday's accident. The park statement say that nobody was hurt but other sources are saying that two people were slightly hurt - a 8 year old girl had pain in a knee and one adult said that he had some pain in his back. In addition, one young child left badly shocked in the accident which saw 31 people evacuated and the attraction closed for checks.

So, what happened this time? Apparently two front wagons of the train came off the tracks - the wheels literally derailed - in what is known as "zone 5" - see the orange circle on the picture below. The "zone 5" is this part of the track which is just before the last lift where happened some months ago the first accident which was much more serious. Fortunately the train was going at a relatively slow pace on a flat section of the track as, depending which part of the zone 5 it happened, the train could have fall in the Rivers of the Far-West which, thanks god, didn't happen.

As you probably remember, in the first accident last April a 38-year-old man was seriously hurt when he was hit in the head by a block of wood and glass fibre that fell off the mountain structure. Four other people were also hurt in the incident. Yesterday's accident, fortunately, was not as tragic but of course the attraction was closed immediately, police arrived on site and a new enquiry will begin.

No need to say that the ride will remain closed for the next days and probably weeks - and will NOT be open during the upcoming Halloween Party. This is not good news for Halloween guests as two rides only - Phantom Manor and the river boats will be open in Frontierland, which might be not enough for the thousands of guests who will join the big Halloween party at DLP.

Once again DLP fans began to talk again about the poor maintenance of the park but personally i prefer to wait for the end of the enquiry as this new accident might have happen because of an element of the track, eventually hard to see even for DLP maintenance.

Pictures: copyright Disney or Agence Altitude - Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Visions of the Future

Editor's Note: Two posts today, and both are very "Tomorrowland". The first one below shows a vision of the future coming from the past as it is a Tomorrowland project that never was, and the second post is on my Innoventions Blog with a video just released by Microsoft showing their vision of the future. Although the video looks pretty cool i strongly doubt that Microsoft will ever be able to release the devices shown in the video, even in a distant future. So, have a look at this video before these devices, too, will be part of a future that never was...

Plectu's Fantastic Galactic Revue, the "Disney Decade" project that never was

"Plectu's Fantastic Galactic Revue" was part of the new attraction/show announced in 1990's famous "Disney decade" project. Supposed to replace the Carousel of Progress at WDW, it was, unfortunately, never built. The renderings of this "Plectu's" project are extremely rare, but here is one showing how the exterior would have looked. Let's thanks Mark Taft from the excellent Insight and Sounds blog who had the good idea to take the picture of the artwork in 1990 at Disneyland.

In one of his famous "Why for?" articles published in 2004, Jim Hill described the building exterior theming as "Like someone had brought the Mothership from "Close Encounters of a Third Kind" in for a three-point landing in the heart of Tomorrowland", and when we look at the artwork, the least we can say is that Jim's description was right!

To know more how this "singing audio-animatronics aliens" and their "outer-space musical-variety revue" would have been - if WDI succeed to have the green light from Michael Eisner - which they never had, i suggest you to have a look at Jim's article HERE

Artwork: copyright Walt Disney Enterprises

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Michael is Back and "Immortal" at Cirque du Soleil - and in a brand new documentary, too !

Considering that Disney theme parks still have the Captain EO attraction playing and that the Cirque du Soleil shows also play permanently in two Disney resorts - at WDW and TDR - i think that this news about the new "Immortal" show designed by the Cirque du soleil in tribute to Michael Jackson finds naturally its place in D&M columns.

Let's begin by a good news: the new Immortal show will visit 60 North American cities! So, if you live in the U.S or Canada you won't have to go to Las Vegas to watch it as the show will be coming in a city near you! Once the tour will be over and if you didn't had the luck to see it then you'll have to go to Las Vegas as the show will take up residency at the Mandalay Bay Resort.

Described as "A riveting fusion of visuals, dance, music and fantasy that immerses audiences in Michael's creative world and literally turns his signature moves upside down, Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour unfolds Michael Jackson's artistry before the eyes of the audience. Aimed at lifelong fans as well as those experiencing Michael's creative genius for the first time, the show captures the essence, soul and inspiration of the King of Pop, celebrating a legacy that continues to transcend generations.

THE IMMORTAL World Tour takes place in a fantastical realm where we discover Michael's inspirational Giving Tree - the wellspring of his creativity. The secrets of Michael's inner world are unlocked - his love of music and dance, fairy tale and magic, and the fragile beauty of nature. The underpinnings of THE IMMORTAL World Tour are Michael Jackson's powerful, inspirational music and lyrics - the driving force behind the show—brought to life with extraordinary power and breathless intensity. Through unforgettable performances Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour underscores Michael’s global messages of love, peace and unity".

The show began today Oct 26 at Winnipeg, CA, and as you may be curious to see more about "Immortal", here is a video showing some of the show.

Writer-director Jamie King who also worked with Madonna, Prince, Rihanna, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, the Spice Girls and others, told "Everything about this project has felt large. Being around (Jackson), he always wanted everything larger, bigger — more confetti, more pyro, more magic. He wanted fans to feel like they were getting the best experience ever, so we started with that and moved forward. With every aspect of this show we’ve pushed the envelope — costumes, music, going above and beyond what Michael was as a star and really putting it on steroids, taking it to the next level.”

The Immortal World Tour, also have 10 choreographers and a live band led by longtime Jackson keyboardist Gregg Phillinganes that will perform more than 60 songs from Jackson’s catalog — backing the late singer’s recorded vocals. “It was important to have a live band; Michael always had a live band in his show,” King notes. “You can imagine what it feels like to have people who actually played music with Michael there, playing it again.” King also said he directed musical designer Kevin Antunes to be as inventive as possible with arrangements and mash-ups and a soundtrack album from the Immortal World Tour will be released next month.

You can read more about the show and the tour dates on the official web site of Immortal HERE

But that's not all about Michael as a brand new documentary will also be released soon. Called "Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon" this new movie is not just another Michael Jackson movie and is the creation of MJ's friend David Gest, who produced and narrated the documentary with unprecedented access to Michael's inner family, including interviews with his mother, Katherine.

The documentary focuses on stories from the star's closest friends and family relaying public and private memories and stories from the entertainer's life including never-before-seen family photos and performance footage. The film also looks at the difficult times during Michael's life including the moment an arrest warrant was ordered and how the molestation trial impacted all their lives in 2005.

Michael's mother Katherine said, "Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon" is a truly remarkable film that captures the true character, wit and sensitivity of my son. Producer David Gest takes you on an emotional roller coaster that will bring people to tears as well as really understand who the man behind the music was and is."

Here is the trailer of "Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon"

Videos: copyright Cirque du Soleil or David Gest Production

Don't miss my new HKDL Wallpapers HD App for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch HERE !
Direct iTunes Appstore link to download the App is HERE.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Islands of Adventure : The Jurassic Park Jeep Safari Ride That Never Was

When Islands of Adventure opened twelve years ago some rides envisioned for the Jurassic Park Island were unfortunately cancelled. One of them was the Jeep Safari ride which would have been great as you will see on the renderings below from artist and former WDI Imagineer Scott Scherman.

The first artwork above shows a concept for the jeep vehicle of the ride. The next one below shows the jeeps entering a Jurassic Park camp before they move inside the land where the AA dinosaurs are.

On the next artwork things are becoming serious as the jeeps would have gone right under a giant Brontosaur. These artworks are unfortunately in low-res but if you enlarge them you can see that others animals would have appear like a long Apatosaur neck, from the lagoon. Before moving under the Brontosaur the jeep would have enter the land through the famous Jurassic Park gates and moving under a kind of giant net where probably others effects or animals would have await the guests.

On this last artwork - which was not the last part of the ride - you can see clearly a jeep being attacked by what seems to be Velociraptors. The arrows on the drawing indicate for sure other kind of effects and i wish i could tell which one, if i only knew... What i know is that others renderings exist and that in another scene a T-Rex would have "stepped on" the guests jeep and spun it in a way similar to the scene in the movie!

Apparently this ride was planned for the area behind Thunder Falls and was scrapped for its similarity to the River Adventure raft ride. Universal obviously favored the water based ride but who knows, may be they will build it one day - let's hope so!

Artwork by Scott Scherman : copyright Universal Studios