Saturday, August 31, 2013

Editor's Note: I remind you that i post daily cool additional posts on the Disney and more Facebook page, that you can access even if you DON'T have a Facebook account. Have a look each day, it's right HERE.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Tribute to John Horny

Here is a tribute to a great artist: John Horny is not only a fantastic painter but also has worked for Walt Disney Imagineering on many Disney theme parks projects including Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Westcot, and many more. We will have a look today at some of his works for Disneyland Paris, beginning by one of his most known painting, i.e the great Pirates of Caribbean artwork that you can see above. Note that the picture is posted here in the high-res file we used in the Disneyland Paris book so it might take some time to appear on the screen.

Among the other artworks that John did for DLP was a series of paintings for Frontierland or Adventureland which served as inspiration for WDI Imagineers who designed the lands. Let's begin by those for Frontierland which shows a series of Frontierland characters. The first one below is of course related to the Lucky Nugget Saloon.

...Just like this other artwork showing one of the girls of the saloon...

This next painting shows the blacksmith - you can see in Frontierland his workshop, located almost in front of Big Thunder Mountain entrance.

DLP fans will recognize on this next painting the architecture of the Fuente Del Oro and, yes, the character swashbuckling on the roof in the background is Zorro!

This Indian Navajo painting is related to the Indian teepees at the entrance but also to the area in the back of Frontierland, near the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue where there was a shop - now unfortunately closed - selling indian/mexican merchandise.

This last character painting shows a medecine man selling his "magical" potions.

For DLP Adventureland John Horny did also some brilliant artwork - and you'll find some of them in my book - but here are two less known paintings, the first one below showing of course a Jungle Cruise scene. I remind you that the Jungle cruise attraction was envisioned for DLP before WDI Imagineers changed their mind and decided to don't bring the Disneyland beloved attraction at DLP Adventureland.

This next rendering is even more rare as it shows what could have been built instead of the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Péril coaster ride. Back in the 1990's John was asked to create a rendering showing a coaster set in a Dinosaurs paleontological field. Finally, the Indy ride is the one which was built but we could have had this Dino coaster instead of the Temple of Peril.

Among others Disney theme parks John Horny also did some renderings for Westcot, like this one done for the Westcot Europe Bay area...

...or this one created when Hong Kong Disneyland was in its early stage. If you look well you'll see that a Lion King Pride rock might have been build in front of Tarzan's Trehouse, but also that a Big Thunder Mountain was envisioned as a "future attraction" - you can see its silhouette in the background.

Most of these images are coming from John Horny website on which you can see many more of his work whether it is for Disney or Landmark, including artwork for Disney theme parks that never were.

You can also find more renderings from John in my Disneyland Paris book in which you have the whole park in 320 pages with 750 photos including 250 WDI renderings. Copies of the book are still available but unfortunately there is now less than TEN copies of the Disneyland Paris From Sketch to Reality book available in its ENGLISH collector's edition - the FRENCH edition is also available - so if you don't own the book yet, it's really now or never! 
And there is a special price right now with a $45 / 40€ discount on the normal price, so order your collector copy while there is still copies available as it's really the last english collector copies. You'll find below a one click Paypal button as well as a video showing the whole book. Also, you can have more infos about this gorgeous 320 pages book HERE.

Choose between french or english edition -Price include shipping

Click on the image below to jump to the book presentation.

Pictures: copyright John Horny - Disney

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Disney Villains Sequence in WDW Celebrate the Magic Castle Show

The Disney Parks blog has posted pictures showing the new Disney Villains sequence in the WDW Celebrate the Magic show on WDW Magic Kingdom castle. According to Disney Parks: "This new segment of “Celebrate the Magic” places the Disney villains center stage. From the sea witch Ursula, lording over the poor unfortunate souls trapped in her underwater lair, to the demon Chernabog from Walt Disney’s “Fantasia,” spreading his wings across the face of Cinderella Castle, it promises to be a particularly dark and foreboding chapter".

"Things heat up as Maleficent casts a forest of thorns around the base of the castle, and then transforms into a wicked, fire-breathing dragon who threatens to destroy the very magic we’ve come to celebrate. Fear not, though. As with all great Disney stories, this one is sure to have a happy ending.

"The new Disney villains sequence makes its debut this Sunday night, September 1, during performances of “Celebrate the Magic,” and will be part of the show for a limited time, through November 1, 2013".
Pictures: copyright Disney

Port Aventura, the best theme park in Spain - Part Two

In the first part of my Port Aventura article we’ve been around four of the five lands of the park : Meditterranea, Polynesia, China, and Mexico. The last land of the park is the “Far-West” , i.e their  “Frontierland” and we're going to have  closer look at it as i like it a lot.
To read the part one of this article, click HERE.

The artists who originally created Port Aventura had the good idea to don’t make a simple “copy” of Disneyland’s original Frontierland and they created a totally different “ Far West”. In fact, on a certain point of view they’ve built a town!

No river, here, no Tom Sawyer island, too, but a real town - probably even more “real” than in Disneyland 's Frontierland. I What i mean is that the original towns in the Far-West probably looked more like this town in Port Aventura than Frontierland. But, at the end, that’s not the point. The point is that you have the delicious feeling to be in the “old west”, and not to see another “copy”.

Before i go further, i have to tell you something that will probably amaze those of you who didn’t knew about it. Could you believe that Spain is full of old “Far West” towns? And even of “ghost towns”? No kidding. And specially the region of Almeria, in Andalucia, south of Spain. Why? Because the wonderful desert of the province of Almeria was looking so much like the vast lands of America’s original Far West that in the 1960’s most of the Italian western movies of Sergio Leone were filmed here. And the towns remain since then. If you go one day in this area, you’ll find lot of them which are now small “Far West” theme parks... In fact, in the sixties, a lot of movies were filmed in Spain : Doctor Zhivago from David Lean was filmed entirely near Madrid! as well as “El Cid” with Charlton Heston, or “55 days of Beijing” also with Heston and Ava Gardner, and even David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia was filmed partly near Almeria...

So, you see, Spain has a long history in movie sets, specially “Far West” towns, and it’s probably partly why this one is so well done...

So, when you exit the “Mexico” land, and enter the far west town, you enter the land by what is supposed to be the other end of the town. And what do you see first? The cemetery!...which, as we know, were built at the exit of the towns. Right after, some yards away, here is the school!  a real school, just like in the ol’ times. If you turn left, you’ll get into the main street of the town. But if you turn right, you’ll find one of my favorite attraction here , called “Stampede”. Stampede is a wooden roller coaster. Well, i should say “two” roller coasters, as the great idea here is that two trains depart together and race to arrive the first! So, sometime, the two tracks are side to side, sometime they separate, then join again, up to the arrival line. It looks pretty simple  but you don’t have any idea how much fun this “race” is! It’s even strange that Disney never thought about it! Don’t miss this one if you’re there one day!

So, now, let’s enter the main street. You’ll find here all what you could find in these kind of streets, restaurants, shops, all perfectly well themed. In one of the building , there is even a medium, which will tell you everything about your future - quite good medium, by the way, as well as a very nice girl!

And, yes! there is a train station! “ Penitence station”  as it is called, where you can embark in the train which goes all around the park...

Not so far, you’ll find a really good “wild wild west stunt show “ The show decor, stunts and explosions are as good as the one you can find in the states.

And when you’ll exit the show, just go to the saloon at the corner of the street. Folks, this one is a real saloon, a great one, really, with a show, a good show, and lovely girls, everything is perfectly themed - including the girls!

Not that far from the saloon, here is the hotel of the town. You won’t sleep in it, but you can dine here , in the restaurant.

When you approach the other end of the town, you’ll find a lot of attractions : a mine train
- like “big thunder”, but with no mine, and a log-flume ride housed in a huge and greatly themed wooden building, with a bridge nearby which lead to the entrance of the land.

Finally, right at the exit of the land, here is the inevitable “raft ride” called “silver river flume”, and all set in a kind of colorado canyon theming.

So, as you might have noticed, this is a quite different “frontierland” they've built here, and honestly, Port Aventura “imagineers” or whatever they call them have done a damn' good work!

Spain in the summer can be hot, really. So, when Universal bought the park some years ago, they had the good idea to create, next to Port Aventura’s entrance a “water park” called “ Costa Caribe” , where guests can refresh and have fun.

Don’t expect a “typhoon lagoon” or a “blizzard beach” here, but you’ll find some elements of good theming, like this giant plane floating over the heads in the “in door” section.

When Universal owned the park they built too two very good hotels, one with a “meditteranean” theming and one on a “mexican” theming, and both are big, and good - my favorite is the meditteranean as it is one built like a Meditterranean village.

Hope this little flight to spain was pleasant to you, and that you'll be able to visit soon Port Aventura!

All photos : copyright Alain Littaye or Port Aventura

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Port Aventura, the best theme park in Spain - Part one -

Today, we're flying to Spain,  to see at a one hour drive from Barcelona what i consider as one of the best theme park in Europe, and certainly the best one in Spain : Port Aventura. Well, until some years ago it was “Universal Port Aventura”. But Universal in the U.S decided to withdraw from the park, so, now, it’s again “only” Port Aventura.

Open in the 1990’s, Port Aventura is, most of all, extremely well themed, and, if you’re an Adventureland or Frontierland lover, you’ll love this park from the first minute you’ll walk in. Let me be clear right now: although you’ll find some really good e-ticket attractions, and perfectly themed lands and roller-coasters, as well as good shows, Port Aventura does not have some of the sophistication of disney or universal theme parks. But you will find here this “space-time” effect - when you have the feeling to be in another world than where you really are - perfectly “working” , just as well as in disneyland. The park have five lands: Mediterranea, Polynesia, China, Mexico, and Far West, their “frontierland”.

So let’s begin by the beginning, the Mediterranean land. After all, the park is only at 10 minutes drive from the Mediterranean sea, and here is wonderfully recreated a litlle mediterranean harbor as they were built last century. Until recently no attractions here - except the night show on the lake - but you’ll find souvenirs shops, restaurants, etc..

The theming is really well done, with reconstitution of old boats of the early 20th century and its wharf.

The attraction of this land - "Furious Baco" is an incredible roller coaster ride system as you can see on the pictures below.

Then, as most of the visitors, you’ll probably begin by the “Polynesia” land, which will transport you in a fraction of a second in a kind of Adventureland.

Let me tell you that the theming here is just as good as you can find in Disneyland, and the vegetation theming is perfect with lush vegetation, water falls and there is some good reasons to that, as the park was for a big part designed by americans theme park designers, i.e the people from Busch Gardens who obviously knows what the word “garden” means, and it’ll be the same all along the different lands, with always the same perfection and good choice in the vegetation theming.

There is a really good “E-ticket” here, which has been built by Universal “imagineers” when the company took the control of the park some years ago, and this one is called “Sea Odyssey”.

Basically, you’re supposed to enter in a submarine which will dive in the pacific ocean seas at the research of another one which is in jeopardy, all this leads by a intelligent dolphin equiped with high technology which allows to translate the dolphin sounds in intelligible language.there is a really good pre-show decor - universal quality - and it’s there where you’ll find one of the rare “audio-animatronic” of the park.

It’ s a big “simulator ride with a specially created movie projected on a giant screen supposed to be one of the huge “window” of the submarine.

And what should happen is happening, with an encounter of a terrifying sea monster, and the chase to escape from him.

The movie itself and the simulator is really good, but what amazed me was the quality of the decor theming - a real disney quality. and the pre-show with the life size image of the dolphin appearing in a giant glass tube “supposedly” full of water is just perfect.

Here is the video of Sea Odyssey, including the pre-show.

There is lot of others smaller attractions in polynesia, like small roller coasters, one of the train station where you can embark in the train which goes around the park, and a big splash ride themed around a small polynesian volcano, with not a lot of things to see , but where you’ll sure get wet if you need to refresh yourself. But there is two good shows ( the “shows” of port aventura are all good ) with a “bird” show, and a really good polynesian luau show, with natives polynesian arriving in pirogues on a small lagoon.

The next stop is the china land, and let me tell you that the china pavillion of epcot is a joke in have to go around a kind of replica of the famous “great wall of china” with the majestic “graphic” cirlcles of the “dragon khan” roller coaster in the background.

On a certain point of view the “dragon khan” is one of the icon of the park, its beautiful red loops are part of the skyline visible some time from other lands.

On the first level, you’ll find chinese themed play ground for kids, and a good “dark light” magic show in the “gran teatre imperial” ...

...then on the “second level” here is the vast square with other show a “chinese circus” show, beautiful shops and restaurants ( talking about shops, the merchandise is great at port aventura, with genuine decorative items coming from each country) and the entrance to the Dragon Khan.

There is something remarkable with this coaster: although it has many loops, it don’t “knocks”, it’s very smooth alltime, and there is a very good reason for that, as it has been built by the B&M company, known as more expensive than others but, too, because they’re able to build real smooth coasters, even with “inversions”.

Right at the exit of china, here is the mexico land! thanks to the vegetation theming, you’re immediately transported in a mexican world. Big mayan pyramid huge temples lost in the jungle with , inside, a good “aztec show”...

great themed building for restaurants...

...and, in the attractions , some “mine train” with “el diablo” , smaller one , well re-themed with a mexican look like “Hurakan Condor” - a giant free fall from 300 feet high (!)

But here is my favorite attraction in the land: “Templo del Fuego” (temple of fire). We’re gonna stop on this one as it is a real good “E” ticket. This is the second attraction which was built by Universal to “improve” the park, and here is all the talent of universal creators when they’re using pyrotechnic effects.
First, you enter in a great queue decor with a total “Indiana Jones” style. And this is what it’s all about: a archeologic adventure inside a lost - and a dangerous temple . But no vehicle here, it’s a show , and the closest example i can find is the “backdraft” show at universal studios hollywood except that it’s much much better than “Backdraft” !

Here is how it goes ( warning , spoilers below ): When you enter in the temple, there is a pre show room, with two actors disquised like “Indy’s” adventurers who are trying to open the secret door. To achieve this, they have to turn three “stone circles” to form a combination whichwill open the door. The scene is a “night scene” just like if you were in an rom open on the sky inside the temple. Each time they are turning the circle, strange things are happening: strange sounds, light of thunders , etc...until when they succeed where the light suddenly goes down, and, over your head , in what was supposed to be the sky appears now a giant “mexican death mask”. But the secret door opens, and everybody moves in the giantsecret room of the temple. All around , statues of mexican gods...There, we find back the archeologist, of course determined to find - and steal - the treasure and particularly a “golden” statue ( does this reminds you something?) Of course, he founds it, the treasure appears on the left and right side, and.........trouble begins!

The inside temple is now “cracking” all around, The archeologist has fall down inside the “mouth” of the statue in a big explosion of fire, the stone stairs collapsed, fire begin to appears from everywhere,the water is getting on fire, and.....everything is now on fire, folks!!! Just RUN!!!

...well, stay some few more seconds as the climax scene is just great! As you realy begin to fear for your life with all this fire around you, here, coming out of the ground of the small lake, are rising up suddenly dozen of skelettons , the dead bodies of the previous archeologists which dared to enter the temple, all attached on wood pylons and all this with a last huge ball of fire project in your direction,and water explosions effects ! the “skeleton” effect is not only surprising, but deliciously scaring in the big “indiana jones tradition” !

Personnally, it’s the best “fire” show, with the best theming i’ve seen until know, and no doubt that we must thanks the wizards of universal who, one again, shows us how good they are in the pyrotechnic effects. Believe me, once you get out of the “temple del fuego”, the only thing you have in mind is to run to do it again!

Good news i have found a really good youtube video of the whole show, including the pre-show, and here it is!

There is more in Port Aventura, so come back for the second part of this article, where you will discover another kind of “Frontierland”, as well as the other park of Port Aventura, the water themed “Costa Caribe”!

All photos : copyright Alain Littaye except Hurakan Kondor and Furious Baco photos : copyright Alexandre Rosa