Thursday, August 9, 2012

Disneyland Paris That Never Was : The First DLP Site Map

Today's document is fascinating as it is the very first site map envisioned by WDI Imagineers for Disneyland Paris. As you will see below Frontierland is the only land which almost didn't had changes between this first map and the final result. All the other lands had big differences and we're going to have a look to these in details.

On this map, which was done in the late 80's and called "Plan X", everything in purple color are attractions buildings. Entertainment and merchandise locations are in blue, covered walkways in orange and transportation systems in light yellow or so. The red lines are park and lands limits.

The Main Street USA that we can see on this map was the first 1920's version envisioned by Eddie Sotto. In this version Main Street had a big attraction - number T 900 on the map - and it was the "Hollywood Theater" or "Circlevision meets Main Street Cinema". The Disneyland Hotel had not been thought of yet that's why it's not on this map. The elevated tramway moving outside and inside what is now Main Street Discovery arcade had a station on Town Square - T 400 - and another one on Central Plaza - T 100.

Frontierland, as i've said, is quite similar with the one we know. On this map Phantom Manor - W 1100 - is already at its current location, so is Big Thunder Mountain - W 800 - and the Riverboat landing - W 1000 - or the River Rogue Keelboats - W 700 . But there is also on this map something which don't currently exist, it's the attraction building W 400, near the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue location. This was supposed to be a kind of rodeo show. Considering that this is the Cottonwood Creek Ranch area the idea was to have a kind of stunt show which could exist in this kind of place. Later, when they decided to add the Buffalo Bill Wild West show to the Disney Village, this rodeo/stunt show in the back of Frontierland was unfortunately cancelled.

Let's have a look now at Adventureland as a big surprise awaits us. Adventure Isle and the Swiss Robinson Tree - A 300 - are already there as well as Pirates of Caribbean - A 1700. But the main surprise is the attraction A 500 as it seems that WDI Imagineers had envisioned to build a Jungle Cruise attractin at DLP Adventureland. Building A 400 was probably the indoor section of the Jungle Cruise.

Among the reasons why the attraction was not built there is the official one which is that the ride has been copied in many European theme parks, beginning by Europa Park. But another and may be more important reason could be the technical difficulties to have outdoor Jungle Cruise Audio-Animatronics during winter time. If you've read my previous report on DLP "under a blanket of snow and ice" you will easily understand that it was technically impossible to have outdoor sophisticated Audio-animatronics during this season which can be really cold. Audio-animatronics Maintenance would have been a nightmare, not to mention the frozen rivers, etc... So, for these reasons and although that i like a lot Jungle Cruise, i think that WDI Imagineers did the good choice when they cancelled the attraction. However, there is not a lot of artwork available about it but at least these two John Horny renderings...

And this other one showing another scene of the cruise in a more "cartoon" style.

Fantasyland looks quite similar to the current version. Peter Pan - F 900 - and Dumbo, the Tea Cups or the Carousel are almost at their current location, and same for It's a Small World - F 300. But Snow White and Pinnochio - F 1000 and F 200 - are not together on the same side, like they are now. Also, Story Book Land or Casey Jr are not on the map although "future expansion" is indicated on their location. Note also the other "future expansion" area in front of where is now the Pizzeria Bella Notte. It's the famous "reserved" location for the Little Mermaid ride.

Discoveryland is very interesting on this map for many reasons. First Videopolis, Star Tours, or the now extinct Visionarium are not on the map. The Orbitron - D 800 - and Space Mountain - D 400 - are already there as well as the Nautilus - D 650 - but Nemo's Submarine is on the left of Space Mountain and its lagoon was located where is now Videopolis! D 200 and D 300 seems to be two others big attractions but unfortunately i couldn't find what it was supposed to be.

But one of the major surprise from this map is the itinerary of the Disneyland Paris railroad. In this version the train station was not located in the back of Discoveryland, but at the entrance of the land! Better than that, it was a major transportation hub as both Disneyland Paris railroad AND the Main Street elevated tramway were supposed to share the same station. In this kind of "ventureport" idea all transports would have be there and it was a kind of gateway to the future, at the entrance of Discoveryland. But the idea did not last very long and artworks of this amazing train station are very rare. However you can see above and below two Tim Delaney renderings showing it. On the night view above you see clearly that the train station is at the entrance of the land as the Orbitron and Space Mountain structures appears behind the train station. On the picture below you can see that the Discoveryland train station was supposed to have two floors and a great architecture to mark the entrance of the land.

I've promised you at the beginning of this article a fascinating document and for sure it was one. If we look at it with objectivity, i think it's fair to say that WDI Imagineers did the right choices. They've kept the best and improved a lot the park since this first site map. Still, i regret the 1920's version of Main Street. I think DLP have the best of all Main Streets but something more radically different would have been interesting, too.

You'll find many others concept arts of the DLP that never was in my DLP book and this is what makes "From Sketch to Reality" such a great book! And, good news, as until August 30 i do a special summer offer on the Disneyland Paris "From Sketch to Reality" book which not only include a 20% discount on the regular price but, also, each one who will place an order will receive a special gift - and it's a great one! Below, you can see a video showing the whole book and to know more about the book and how to order and send your payment please go HERE , or send me an email at: , or use the Paypal one-click purchase button below, right under the video!

All pictures: copyright Disney Enterprises Inc.

Disneyland Paris Walt's Restaurant Mysterious "River Idol" Rendering

For those of you who never had the pleasure to have lunch at DLP Main Street U.S.A Walt's Restaurant i have to tell you first that the 1st floor is divided in five rooms, one for each land of the park. Each room have a different theming, including renderings and models in relation with the land. For instance, in the "Discoveryland" room you'll find a Nautilus model - created by the way by the late Tom Scherman - and paintings or renderings on the Nautilus theme. Generally, each painting in the rooms shows an attraction or decor that guest can enjoy at Disneyland Paris.

Now, in the "Adventureland" room, where you also have paintings and model in relation with the land, any guest can see the rendering below with the title "The River Idol" and the name of the artist - Bryan Jowers.

Where it becomes interesting is when we realize that this rendering shows a scene which not only can't be find in any DLP attraction, but also nowhere in any Disney theme park in the world! I can be wrong, but as far as i go inside my memory, i don't remember any Disney attraction showing that scene. And, considering that the decor is beautiful, i certainly would have remember it! So, does it show a pre-show decor? Is it a concept-art for another kind of Jungle Cruise temple? Or for a different Indiana Jones Adventure? Let's have a closer look on the idol...

Here is the answer: In fact this concept-art from WDI artist Bryan Jowers was done for the Disneyland Anaheim "Indiana Jones and the lost expedition" project on which WDI Imagineer Eddie Sotto - DLP Main Street show-producer - was the producer during the early concept phases of the Disneyland ride development. This "River Idol" was supposed to be at the heart of a new Jungle Cruise temple... You can read more about this "lost expedition" concept in an old Jim Hill article HERE.

The reason why this rendering is inside Walt's restaurant is because WDI imagineers were thinking to do this Indy ride in Adventureland, so the rendering made it in as a "tease". At least we know, now, that imagineers envisioned for DLP two major Indy attractions: this "lost expedition" concept and the "Indiana Jones Adventure" for which i'm still praying every night that it'll be the next Disneyland Paris "E-Ticket"!

You'll find many others concept arts of the DLP that never was in my DLP book and this is what makes "From Sketch to Reality" such a great book! And, good news, as until August 30 i do a special summer offer on the Disneyland Paris "From Sketch to Reality" book which not only include a 20% discount on the regular price but, also, each one who will place an order will receive a special gift - and it's a great one! Below, you can see a video showing the whole book and to know more about the book and how to order and send your payment please go HERE , or send me an email at: , or use the Paypal one-click purchase button below, right under the video!

Artwork: copyright Disney Enterprises

The Secret Letters of Disneyland Paris Phantom Manor

What you'll see today are rare documents from Phantom Manor... although anyone doing the ride is passing each time at two feet from them! These letters are part of the theming, anyone can see them but nobody can read them because of the moving doom buggy!

Here is the whole story: When we prepared the Disneyland Paris, from Sketch to reality book back in 2000, we needed photos of Phantom Manor scenes. Disneyland paris photo library had thousands of photos, but not of every scene. So, as i am also a professionnal photographer, after the park was closed and with a DLP escort, i spent some nights shooting pictures not only inside Phantom manor, but also in Pirates of Caribbean, It's a small world, Peter Pan's Flight, etc...

And for Phantom manor i had the pleasure to walk around inside the manor, taking pictures of all the needed scenes. At one point i arrived near the "Bride in front of the mirror" scene. Right in front of it, on the other side of the doom buggy track, there is some furniture, and upon it, those letters. Simply by curiosity i shoot a picture of them....and forget all about it, until recently when i found back the slides.

And what is written on them is amazing! It took me sometime to decipher the writing as the photo is not perfectly sharp, but you'll find the text below.

First these letters are written in FRENCH! I must remind you, that, although the park is in France, Phantom Manor is located in Frontierland which is supposed to be the old AMERICAN west, and so the letters should be written in english! Does this mean that we have here the first theming mistake in Frontierland? On a certain point, yes, but this doesn't matter really, what is interesting is why these letters are written in french, and most of all, what is the text talking about?

Here is what is written, first in french, and then in english with a translartion i did for you of two only letters where the whole text is visible. Hope that my translation is not too bad...

First letter, supposedly written by the son of Phantom Manor's owner, Mr Ravenswood:

Mon Père,

Je suis lasse de notre conflit.

Ce constat me mène à me rabaisser sans pudeur devant vous tellement il est difficile, je l’avoue, de vivre sans ( sous ) votre grande richesse.

Père, je vous prie d’accepter mes excuses les plus hypocrites que j’ai jamais pu faire.

Votre cher fils.

English translation:

Dear Father,

I am tired of our conflict.

This report leads me to decrease me immodestly in front of you, as it is so difficult to live under your great wealth.

Father, please accept the most hypocritical apologies i ever did.

Your dear son.

Second letter, supposedly written by Melanie Ravenswood lover - the one who will be - in Phantom Manor's mythology - killed by Mr Ravenswood:

Dear Mélanie,

Il est temps maintenant d’annoncer à votre père votre amour pour moi. Je ne supporte plus de voir votre beauté...(déchiffrage du texte impossible)...qui lorgnent sans cesse sur votre douce et volumineuse poitrine. Il est donc temps de vous offrir à moi.

Je baise...(déchiffrage du texte impossible)

English translation:

Dear mélanie,

It is now time to announce to your father your love for me. I can't stand any more to watch your beauty...(impossible to decipher the text)..who peer endlessly at your sweet and voluminous chest. It is now time to offer you to me.

I kiss...(impossible to decipher the end of the text)

Now, what do we have here? A letter - even a "hot" letter - from Melanie's lover who will be killed soon after this writing ( obviously it was not a good idea to suggest to Melanie to announce her love from him to her father, Mr Ravenswood ! ), and, two a letter written by Mr Ravenswood's son - so, Melanie's brother - with a "perfume" of coming suicide...

There is just one little problem: in Phantom Manor's story line, Mr Ravenswood don't have any "son", and Melanie don't have any brother!! Was it a real mistake or a private joke done by WDI props people?

So, what happened ? Why are these letters written in french and not in english, and have a text who take some "liberty" with the attraction's story line?

Well, i asked a friend imagineer involved in the creation of Frontierland about this. After his thanks for "sharing this interesting and seemingly provocative discovery from (my) archives" (!) he gave me the answer to this riddle...

During the final days of dressing the sets, not only for the Manor but overall Frontierland, the lead team of WDI Glendale prop people were assisted by French set and props dressing associates. This accounts for some of the "love letters" being written en français.

As to the questionable content, "your dear son", etc.., It seems that i figured it out perfectly. Because it was so far from the guests vision, it would only be discovered upon closer scrutiny - like me with my camera. So, it was the perfect kind of private, inside joke that someone working on the project could do. Some WDI designers always include hidden "Mickeys" in their work, but here we have a jokester who takes this practice to a completely different and cleverly humorous level. Hidden in plain sight!

So, next time you will ride Phantom Manor, instead to look at the bride and the mirror, have a look on the other side of the track. Because your doom buggy will be moving, you'll still won't be able to read those letters, but you won't mind, as now you are in the secret of what is written on them...

You'll find many others great documents in my Disneyland Paris book and this is what makes "From Sketch to Reality" such a great book! And, good news, as until August 30 i do a special summer offer on the Disneyland Paris "From Sketch to Reality" book which not only include a 20% discount on the regular price but, also, each one who will place an order will receive a special gift - and it's a great one! Below, you can see a video showing the whole book and to know more about the book and how to order and send your payment please go HERE , or send me an email at: , or use the Paypal one-click purchase button below, right under the video!

Pictures: copyright Disney and more

WDW New Fantasyland Imagineering Video

WDWNewsToday posted yesterday a great Imagineering video, which apparently was shown to WDW cast members and you'll see in it great inside shots of the Enchanted Forest, Be our Guest restaurant - including Lumière and the wardrobe audio-animatronics, Gaston's Tavern, Little Mermaid ride, and much more. You can check the video below and see screen captures on WDWNT web site HERE.

Video: copyright Disney

Why the Disneyland Paris book is so Great, Part Two: DLP From Above

In my previous article about the Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality, book i've shown you the great renderings of the DLP that never was which are include in the book. Today, i will show you another type of great documents which you can also find in the book and it is stunning pictures of Disneyland Paris seen from above. And all these pictures were shot by aerial photography master Yann Arthus Bertrand who did a lot of famous books including the acclaimed "Earth from Above". No one is better than Arthus Bertrand for aerial pictures and we were extremely lucky to have pictures from him in the book!

Above, a fantastic view showing Big Thunder at sunset and a part of DLP Frontierland. And below another aerial shot of DLP Big Thunder. A great one as it shows almost all of BTM track!

One of the most gorgeous aerial shot of DLP ever done showing the whole Frontierland! Click to enlarge the picture.

On this next shot, the Disneyland Paris railroad is entering Adventureland and passes in front of Indiana Jones Temple du Péril.

Talking about Indiana Jones Temple du Péril here is another picture showing the temple seen from above.

Let's stay in Adventureland with this great aerial picture of Captain Hook's pirate ship and Adventure Isle.

Let's move now to Fantasyland with this beautiful sunrise shot showing the back of Sleeping Beauty castle.

Another fantastic picture showing a big part of Fantasyland with also the Disneyland Paris railroad passing by.

Now, you need to know that all these great aerial pictures that you will find in the book are reproduced on full double pages ( or full page for the vertical shots ) which makes them even more spectacular when you're reading the book as each double page is 31 X 46 cm!

And when we didn't had pictures of Yann Arthus Bertrand, like for instance for Discoveryland, you'll find spectacular pictures like this one showing the Nautilus and Space Mountain, also reproduced in the book on a double page.

However Yann Arthus Bertrand also did aerial shots above DLP hotels and came back with some great ones like the one below showing the Newport Bay hotel which is reproduced on a double page in the chapter about DLP Hotels and Disney Village.

By the way, whether it is an aerial shot or not, each time a picture deserved to be on a double page you'll find it in the book. A good example is this next one, a stunning night shot showing the Main Street Electrical Parade in front of Sleeping Beauty castle.

So, you see, in addition to the 250 WDI renderings and the hundreds of others great pictures of the park, as well as a great text telling all the story of the making, the Disneyland Paris book has even more to offer than you might have thought. All the pictures you've seen above are of course include in the Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book, and if you don't own the book yet, you now understand why it is such a great book.

And, good news, as until August 30 i do a special summer offer on the book which not only include a 20% discount on the regular price but, also, each one who will place an order will receive a special gift - and it's a great one! Below, you can see a video showing the whole book and to know more about the book and how to order and send your payment please go HERE , or send me an email at: , or use the Paypal one-click purchase button below, right under the video!

Pictures: copyright Altitude - Yann Arthus Bertrand

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First Digital Artworks of Dreamworks Shanghaî Dream Center ?

Are these two "night and day" digital pictures showing the Dreamworks Shanghaî Dream Center announced yesterday? Not sure... According to the pictures caption: "Photo taken on August 6, 2012 shows a design sketch of Oriental DreamWorks at night in Shanghai, East China's municipality. The construction of Oriental DreamWorks, a joint venture set up by DreamWorks Animation and Chinese partner, will start in Xuhui district on the west bank of the Huangpu River on August 7, 2012. Oriental DreamWorks will be the flagship company at a new media center for film, TV production and digital entertaiment."

So although it seems to be located in Shanghaî Xuhui district like Shanghaî Dreamworks Dream Center is supposed to be, it might be pictures showing the new Dreamworks China animation studios but not the "entertainment zone" itself. Or may be it shows the real thing, and in this case it means that the Dream Centre will be a waterfront entertainment zone which will simply include some attractions, which will explain why Katzenberg spent a lot of time yesterday to explain that it won't be really a theme park. Have a look at these two pictures anyway and if you've missed yesterday's article announcing this big news you'll find it HERE.

Pictures: copyright Oriental DreamWorks-Xinhua

Disneyland Paris Announces Third Quarter Financial Results

Disneyland Paris announced this morning DLP third quarter financial results and although they are positive they're not exceptional too. Basically, the turnover for the last three months is up 4% at 358 millions d'euros ( instead of €343,2 M for the 2011 third quarter ) and for the last 9 months it's up 1% at 911 millions d'euros ( instead of €900,4 M in 2011 ). The park released a statement saying "We are satisfied of the launch of our 20th Anniversary celebration which helped this 4% growth in our third quarter in difficult economy times." You can download the french PDF of the financial results on DLP Corporate site HERE.

That said, the 11+ millions won't be of a great help to finance new attractions. I'm not even sure these 11M would be enough to pay to WDI the POTC Jack Sparrow audio-animatronics that DLP once envisioned to introduce in the ride in 2013.

Don't miss below the two others topics of the day, including today's big news with Dreamworks announcement of a new theme park (or so) in Shanghaî in 2016!

WDW New Fantasyland Pete’s Silly Sideshow Artwork

Disney Parks has released a set of renderings for the new Pete’s Silly Sideshow at WDW New Fantasyland Storybook Circus. As they say on their blog "This new character greeting area has two entrances: One line leads to Minnie Magnifique (Minnie Mouse as a circus star) and Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck as a fortuneteller), while the other line leads to The Great Goofini (Goofy as a daredevil stunt pilot) and The Amazing Donaldo (Donald Duck as a snake charmer)".

So, basically, this Pete’s Silly Sideshow is a character location but the background decors look more fun than what they do for the Princesses meet and greet, so may be it will be fun. Note that not so long ago the renderings released by Disney Parks were in big size and good definition. Strangely, since a few days, all pictures and artworks are now released in small size and with a definition so low that they're not even sharp! As usual i tried to make them sharper and a little bit bigger too. Have a look at all this below!

Artwork: copyright Disney

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dreamworks China announces the opening of a US$3.2B theme park in Shanghaî ! Updated with Latest News

Jeffrey Katzenberg is for Disney like the famous sparadrap of Captain Haddock in the adventures of Tintin - the typical sticking plaster scene where it sticks to everything and you can't get rid of it. When Pixar or Disney Animation have a good idea they probably pray that no one at Dreamworks will hear about it - remember ANTZ, anyone?

Sure, since then Dreamworks Animation developed its own ideas and had success with movies like Shrek, Madagascar or Kung-Fu Panda. Last February, DreamWorks Animation announced it will create a China JV called Oriental Dreamworks "that will develop and produce Chinese animated and live-action content for distribution within China and around the globe". And today, guess what?, Jeffrey Katzenberg, announced in a news conference that DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc and its Chinese joint venture partners will open a theme park in Shanghai by 2016, with a total investment amount of 20 billion yuan!

And 20 billion yuan - US$3.1B - is not a small amount. To give you an idea, Shanghai Disneyland theme park is estimated to cost 24.5 billion yuan, with hotels and additional facilities costing another 4.5 billion yuan. So, with 20 billion yuan they can create a real big theme park. Juxt next door, or almost, to Shanghaî Disneyland as this DreamWorks' theme park, called Dream Centre, will be located in the Xuhui district of Shanghai, as said this morning Li Ruigang, Chairman of China Media Capital, adding he hoped it would become China's Broadway or West End. And they don't plan to open it in 2020! But in 2016, just one year after SDL opening. For sure, Bob Iger is gonna like this news when he will learn about it this morning...

Now, let's see if they will come with better rides than the ones created at Universal Singapore in the Dreamworks land. That should not be too difficult....

Edited: More about all this from the latest AFP news:

SHANGHAI — DreamWorks Animation on Tuesday said it plans to build a $3.2 billion "entertainment zone" in Shanghai, as the US film giant seeks to bolster its presence in the booming Chinese market.

The studio's newly-formed China joint venture, Oriental DreamWorks, is set to open the tourism attraction in 2016, the creator of megahits like "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" said in a statement. The project -- called the Dream Center -- will comprise entertainment facilities, animation exhibitions and commercial developments including hotels and shopping areas in Shanghai's Xuhui district, it said. The announcement comes after US entertainment giant Disney last year broke ground on a planned $3.7 billion theme park in Shanghai, scheduled to open in 2015.

However, one of the DreamWorks' Chinese partners denied being in competition with Disney, describing the project not as a theme park, but as an "entertainment zone". "It's different from any other large cultural project in China, including Disneyland," Li Ruigang, chairman of China Media Capital was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

DreamWorks in February announced plans for a $330 million joint venture company with three Chinese partners -- China Media Capital, Shanghai Media Group and Shanghai Alliance Investment -- to cooperate on film productions. Tuesday's statement posted on DreamWorks' website said that joint venture had now been formally established, with the three state-backed Chinese firms together holding a majority 55 percent stake in the company.

Oriental Dreamworks will make the next "Kung Fu Panda" movie -- the third instalment in the hugely popular series -- in China as a co-production for release in 2016, the statement said. It plans to release up to three major films a year, with its first feature-length animated film scheduled for global release in 2017, it said.

Edited: From another press agency: ...In addition, the two parties signed an agreement Tuesday to establish the "Dream Center" entertainment zone in the West Bank Media Port, which is located in Shanghai's Xuhui district. The zone, to be built with a total investment of more than 20 billion yuan, will be made up of theaters, restaurants and bars, said Li Ruigang, CMC's chairman.

The West Bank Media Port, with the "Dream Center" as its flagship attraction, is expected to see 20 million visitors a year, according to data provided by the district government of Xuhui. Li said the two sides will strive to develop Shanghai into an international culture center. "In the long term, we may bring more entertainment zones to other domestic cities or even build them abroad," he added. Katzenberg was said to have "intense interest" in the entertainment zone project, a first for the California-based company.

Some have said that the announcement of the "Oriental DreamWorks" deal has put DWA in a fierce race with its domestic rival Walt Disney, which began to build a theme park in Shanghai last April. Nevertheless, Katzenberg and Li both claimed on Tuesday that the "Dream Center" project will not be a threat to the Shanghai Disneyland. "The 'Dream Center' is not a theme park. It's different from any other large cultural project in China, including Disneyland," Li said.

And, finally, from BBC News: The Dream Center will open in 2016 in the Xuhui district along the Huangpu river, it said.

The complex aims to create a "global cultural centre" to rival New York's Broadway and London's West End. It will house the world's largest Imax screen and tourist attractions, as well as restaurants and hotels.

"This doesn't exist anywhere else in the world," Dreamworks chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg told a news conference."

In conclusion what we can say about this Dream centre announcement:
They're going to spend $3.2 B, expect 20 million visitors and they think that we're going to believe that what they plan is just a kind of upgraded Downtown Disney? Despise what Katzenberg is saying and whatever this new concept of entertainment can be, it is probably a threat for Shanghaî Disneyland. My guess is that they're planning something like Singapore did at Sentosa. A mix of hotels, restaurants, cinemas, shows, etc... AND a kind of theme park with rides and attractions. Or may be the rides will be directly inside the entertainment zone. The only thing which is missing - if it's not already in their plans - is a casino. A casino in addition to this "entertaiment center" with rides, etc... now THAT would be a serious threat for SDL as we know that chinese are big big gamblers. We still have to wait for the final concept to know more about all this, but so far one thing is sure: whatever they can say about "no threat for Shanghaî Disneyland" when the expected 20 million visitors will be at this Dream Center they won't be at Shanghaî Disneyland.

Picture: copyright Dreamworks

Mission to Mars

Curiosity, the largest and most advanced robot vehicle ever sent to another planet, succeeded its extraordinary landing Sunday night on Mars. May be it don't look like but the success of this new NASA - Jet Propulsion Laboratory $2.5-billion mission is amazing. Why? because Curiosity is a huge robot, three meters long, more or less the size of an Austin Mini, and sending such a huge robot vehicle which weight 900 kilos at 250 millions kilometers from Earth and have it landing perfectly on another planet was not so obvious. In tribute to this amazing success today's article will tell you how a legendary astronaut became a WDI Imagineer.

As for Curiosity, don't miss my article about it on my Innoventions Blog HERE where you'll see a great NASA video showing you this "Mission to Mars". And it's narrated by William Shatner - Star Trek Captain Kirk himself!

Gordon Cooper, when a Legendary NASA Astronaut became a WED Imagineer

Imagineer Pat Burke is back today 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 Imagineer Pat Burke who will tell you his memories about Gordon Cooper, or how one of NASA most famous astronaut became an 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

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Tomorrowland "Space Age" Dream Come True

Fifteen years ago, i had the luck to be allowed to enter the Kennedy Space Center for a special photographic report for a french magazine. I was allowed to go almost everywhere including the legendary Vehicle Assembly Building where all Space Shuttle and the huge Saturn V rockets were assembled. I went also in the facility where the space shuttles were repaired between two missions and was almost as close as the space shuttle than i am right now of my computer writing this article. Then i had lunch in the NASA Space Center restaurant, surrounded by NASA people including probably some astronauts. People of the press office have been wonderful and delivered to me some amazingly beautiful printed pictures from the NASA photo library and you'll seen one of them tomorrow in my next post talking about how a former Mercury missions astronaut became a WDI Imagineer.

It was an awesome day and it happened because at that time we still were in the pre-Sept 11 era, in a time where the "system" didn't yet became totally paranoid. Of course, now it will be probably more difficult to have the authorization to come inside what was known previously as Cape Canaveral, and the fact that we entered the digital age doesn't help as photographers have less good reasons to come inside the Kennedy Space Center now that they they can download pictures directly from the NASA website.

That said i have a great news for you as you'll be able to visit right now the same places where i've been fifteen years ago. And this thanks to Google Maps as the Google guys in partnership with NASA have been inside Kennedy Space Center and were allowed to shoot inside the most famous locations just like they do when the Google car is taking pictures of your street. All you have to do is to go at THIS LINK and there you go for an exclusive look inside what was considered as the holy of the holies by any space age fans.

Ready for the visit? Then here is a selection of the places in which you'll be able to "walk in" as Google Street allows you to move all around a place, turn left or right, or look up and down. The top picture shows you of course the Endeavour space shuttle. If you move a bit you'll be able to see next to it the Atlantis space shuttle, both being if i'm right in the huge Vehicle Assembly Building. Don't forget to look up to the ceiling to see how huge this building is. The VAB was built in the 1960's when NASA needed it to assemble the huge Saturn V rockets for the Apollo missions.

Not so far you'll be able to move inside the facility where are the Space Shuttle main engines.

Another great location that you can explore is the famous Firing Room 4 from where were launched the legendary NASA rockets in their missions to the Moon.

You'll be allowed also to move inside the Firing Room 3!

Then you can go and explore the famous launch pad 39A and move around not only at the bottom...

...but also at the top of it with spectacular views of the Space Center and the ocean nearby.

Amond others locations inside the Kennedy Space Center you'll find the Space Station Processing Facility but Google Street also have been in the other Space Center, the one that tourists can visit where can be seen most of the famous NASA rockets. Below, the huge Saturn V rocket, the one which was used for the missions to the moon.

Others locations include the room with the Apollo 14 Command Module where you'll see also a collection of astronauts suits!

NASA and Google have released a video to introduce all this and here it is below.

To be able to move inside and explore these legendary places is really something that you must not missed and, again, HERE is the direct link to the Google page. Enjoy the tour!

Screen Captures: copyright Google - NASA