Friday, September 25, 2015

Star Wars "Season of the Force" begins at Disneyland on November 16 - DL Railroad, Mark Twain & Columbia, Fantasmic, Big Thunder Ranch Closing For One Year or Permanently Starting January 10

At Disneyland guests will enjoy soon new Star Wars themed experiences as Star Wars "Season of the Force" will begin on November 16. Disney Parks shares more details on these new Star Wars experiences, also coming at WDW Disney’s Hollywood Studios soon:

Season of the Force at Disneyland park will take guests to a galaxy far, far away with these special experiences:

Star Wars Launch Bay
This new area will offer opportunities to visit with favorite Star Wars characters, special exhibits, peeks at the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens and much more. Here’s a look inside!

Choose Your Destiny with Special Character Experiences

Dark Side – Encounter one of the most iconic villains from Star Wars, Darth Vader.
Light Side – Fly casual at this makeshift Rebel base, and meet the most famous co-pilot in the galaxy, Chewbacca.

Explore the Dark and the Light in Themed Galleries

Dark Side Gallery – Get a look at authentic pieces of stormtrooper armor as well as famous Sith lightsabers once wielded by masters of the dark side.
Light Side Gallery – Explore a gallery filled with Rebel flight helmets and lightsabers once wielded by Jedi Knights.
Preview Gallery – See props from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Starship Gallery – Discover models of famous starships and their pilots from throughout the Star Wars saga.

Join the Battle in the Star Wars Game Center – Play the latest games from the Star Wars galaxy, including Disney Infinity 3.0 – featuring park-exclusive Toy Box levels.

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple

Coming in December, experience a twist on the Jedi Training experience when you will encounter new characters and a new villain from the popular Disney XD series, Star Wars Rebels.

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

This popular attraction will feature a new scene inspired by the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Limited-Time Experiences:

Hyperspace Mountain – Climb aboard a reimagined Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing starfighter battle.
Revisit favorite scenes from classic Star Wars films at Tomorrowland Theater.
Try new themed food.

Choose your side during Season of the Force, beginning November 16 at Disneyland park in California.

O-Kay, that's for the good news. Now, here is the bad news, also related to Star Wars as all of this below will happen because of the upcoming Star Wars Land. Here is the official release from Disney Parks:

"Disneyland is also preparing to take guests to a galaxy far, far away with new Star Wars-themed lands. With groundbreaking scheduled to take place in 2016 for our largest single-land expansions ever, building the new 14-acre lands will be major projects at both Disneyland park in Southern California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.

Work to make room for this new land at Disneyland park in California will require the Rivers of America and the Disneyland Railroad to close temporarily. The following will suspend operations at the end of the operating day on January 10:
The Disneyland Railroad, including all stations
Attractions along the Rivers of America, including:
Mark Twain Riverboat and Sailing Ship Columbia
Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
We look forward to all of these attractions reopening in the future.

Elsewhere in Frontierland, Big Thunder Ranch – including Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, Big Thunder Ranch Petting Farm and Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree – will close permanently at the end of the operating day on January 10."

Yes, the beloved Big Thunder Ranch and it's great Big Thunder Barbecue restaurant will close permanently - i.e: forever - on January 10. They didn't mentioned Toon Town so may be there is still hope that Toon Town or at least a part of it will escape to demolition to make place to this Star Wars land. Although i'm dead sure that WDI Imagineers will do their best to create a smooth transition between Frontierland to Star Wars land i have to say that i'll still need to see it to believe it.

Just like many of you i would have preferred that Disney build this Star Wars land out of Disneyland ( as there is no room available near Tomorrowland ) and open a third park with anything Star Wars and Marvel in it, but that's not how it will be so let's cross our fingers that Iger didn't take THE wrong decision of his life by choosing to put the Star Wars land inside Disneyland, just a few meters from Big Thunder Mountain and the Rivers of America on on side and Casey Jr and Story Book Land on the other...

Pictures: copyright Disney, Google Maps

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Shanghaî Disneyland Update : New Castle Pictures, Infos about SDL Shows and Parade...

We've got new pictures of Shanghaî Disneyland for you today - yes, again, after the great aerial pics posted this week-end - as well as more about SDL shows and parades! Let's start by the pics which were posted on social networks by @bigqcat.

Above and below, two pics shot "from the ground" showing the works on the huge SDL Enchanted Storybook Castle.

Another one showing workers walking towards the castle in the background

Next picture is showing buildings of Mickey Avenue, the entrance street of the park.

This last one shows ...a mystery. I tried to figure where it was shot but between the rain, the fog and water on the lens i can't say for sure where it is... anyone have a guess?

Let's move now to this article that Shanghaî Daily has posted about Shanghaî Disneyland shows and parades in which they interview producer Blake Lennon and associate creative director Zhong Yanle.

Disney producers make every moment magic

As part of our ongoing spotlight on the people working behind-the-scenes on the soon-to-open Shanghai Disney Resort, today Shanghai Daily talks with producer Blake Lennon and associate creative director Zhong Yanle.

Lennon, a native of the United Sates, comes from the Creative Entertainment team of Shanghai Disney Resort which works on the design and production of the shows in the resort. Lennon as a producer has been working on two of the resort’s signature shows: the “Mickey’s Storybook Express” daytime parade and the “Ignite the Dream: A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light.”

He joined Disney 13 years ago as a college intern at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. After graduation, he joined Disney’s special events team and got the opportunity to work all over the US and Canada. He has also worked as a project manager on a number of shows in California.

When he heard about an opportunity to work on creative entertainments in Shanghai, he saw it as a chance to do something new. Having worked on the project for nearly three years back in the US, Lennon is now in Shanghai as part of a group of experts from all over the world to make sure everything goes smoothly once the park starts welcoming visitors.

“I offered myself up,” Lennon said. “I just moved to Shanghai a couple of months ago for the opening of the project, so I am presently under great pressure.

“I am so honored to be part of a team that is opening Shanghai Disney Resort,” Lennon added.

Meanwhile, Zhong Yanle is part of the team that is responsible for the creative content of the shows and entertainment at Shanghai Disneyland. A native of Shanghai, Zhong officially joined the Shanghai Disney Resort in April 2014. Prior to this, she worked on the Shanghai Disney Resort project for around two years as an external consultant. An experienced performer in her own right, Zhong has appeared on-stage on Broadway, as well as London’s West End and China.

“I think this time we are working on the most exciting project on the planet. I am honored that I can do something for my hometown,” Zhong said, who now works closely with Lennon.

To help the Shanghai Disney Resort stand out among its peers, the local cultural and tourism market was extensively researched, with special attention paid to preexisting performances and cultural shows, according to Lennon.

“We really challenged ourselves to come up with things that are new … We hope to bring in something that is really unique and will make people want to come and return to Shanghai Disney Resort,” he said. “The entertainment programs we’re bringing to Shanghai and the Chinese audience are brand new and tailor-made,” Zhong said. “We have the biggest castle in the world, which will be the backdrop of the daytime show and nighttime spectacular. Besides, there is a large variety of shows throughout the six themed lands of the park, such as the “Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular,” which will make its global premiere at El Teatro Fandango in Treasure Cove, made just for Shanghai Disneyland.”

“In Tomorrowland, we have the Star Wars Launch Bay and the Marvel Universe, where visitors can meet characters from the stories,” she added.

But the Shanghai Disneyland experience will be about more than just huge spectacles. Numerous small-scale performances aimed at individual visitors will help create an immersive atmosphere within the park, according to Zhong.

“We also create small intimate moments for people to interact with the characters. Those special moments are important to form memories and to have relatable connections with our guests,” said Lennon.

Below, both Lennon and Zhong go into further detail about their work at Shanghai Disney Resort.

What do you think makes Disney so successful?

Lennon : The universal appeal of our characters and our stories is what make Disney so successful. Sometimes what we have is really a treasure. Everyone in the team knows and loves Disney’s long-cherished, classic as well as brand new stories, and would love to provide the life and personalities to bring them alive in the show.

Zhong : I would say it’s the accuracy, and the magic experience we provide in our resort. We work so hard on the details to give the best to our guests. Our vision is to be the most loved and trusted leisure experience provider in the world.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve worked on?

Lennon : We really pushed ourselves to be always at the cutting-edge, to make everything the newest, the greatest and the best. It is a great challenge to be able to teach and to learn from all of the designers, artisans and performers, due to the fact that this is my first time working on such a big project.

Zhong : There’s a total collaboration between Disney and the Chinese culture. We have a lot of projects, which we work on with the local artists. There are a lot of challenges during the whole process. But I think the result is rewarding, because this whole program is made especially for the local audience. We didn’t just copy the original stage shows in other Disney parks and resorts. They are tailor-made for Shanghai, for the Chinese market.

Are there any highlighted shows in Shanghai Disney Resort?

Lennon : Both the parade and the nighttime show are brand new and custom-made for Shanghai. The parade, called “Mickey’s Storybook Express,” will transport fantasy, romance, music and merriment throughout Shanghai Disneyland each day. Led by a whimsical locomotive, it is the longest parade route ever traveled in a Disney park.

The nighttime show is a signature event, a hallmark element of our Disneyland. The Enchanted Storybook Castle will become the star of the nighttime spectacular as it inspires everyone to unlock and ignite their dreams.

Zhong : I personally like the show “Tarzan: Call of the Jungle,” which will be available at the Storyhouse Stage in Adventure Isle. We have a Chinese director and use Chinese elements and acrobatics to retell the Disney story. This is the only one like it in the world. You cannot see a version like this at any other Disney park in the world.

What does Disney mean for your career and personal development?

Lennon : It was a lot of fun getting to Shanghai to work with the local artisans, especially having worked with Disney for 13 years. To work with people who are excited and enthusiastic about working on their very first Disney project, it makes for a lot of smiles and a lot of friendships.

Zhong : It’s a great environment to support each other. It is success for the whole team, the whole group and the company. We are committed to collaborative teamwork. And as a team, we all want to do our best. The company has a great culture and I would say this is the best job in the world because I help create happiness.

Pictures: copyright @bigqcat

Text: copyright Shanghaî Daily

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Best Beach Spot at Disney Cruise Castaway Cay

I've been only once on the beautiful ships of the Disney Cruise Line, and if i remember it well it was for the press event for the Disney Magic, so back at the end of the 90's. Which in fact happened before the Inaugural Cruise. Which means that, basically, i was on the very first cruise of the very first ship of Disney Cruise Line. I enjoyed it a lot and so far the Disney Magic is the most elegant cruise ship i've ever seen. I loved, literally, the art-deco style of the ship the multiple pools on the sun deck, the cabin, the beautiful Lumière and Animator Palette restaurants, the Walt Disney Theater, everything! Or almost, as we'll see in a few seconds.

But first, as i've found back some press material that Disney gave us at that time i let you have a look at the pics below, and don't hesitate to enlarge them as i've kept them in a dimension big enough so you'll be able to read the text.

A not-to-be-missed dinner is in the Lumière restaurant, a pure art-deco wonder with literally a ballet of waiters all around you, it'll make you feel you're back in the old era of last century's famous liners!

I'm adding this double page presentation of the second ship, the Disney Wonder.

Now, for those of you who will choose the classical trip going from Florida to the Bahamas you'll arrive to Disney's private island Castaway Cay. The picture below is by the way really a "perfect shot" as it shows the ship, most of the island and specially Castaway Cay beaches all in one great aerial shot.

When you arrive at Castaway Cay everyone is of course going down the ship and i remember there was a little tram - the same kind of tram that takes you from the parking lots at WDW DHS to the entrance of the park - which basically transport the guests to the first beach 500 Meters away from the ship. It looked a bit strange to find a tram there when you're awaiting a Bahamas wild island but i understood the intention, and it save time to don't have to walk this short distance.

Anyway, so you arrive on the beach and Castaway Cay lagoon and although they've themed pretty well beach bars and restaurants there was something i didn't liked: that beach looked a bit too clean to me. When i say "clean", i was not missing anything dirty of course but things more natural on a beach, like little stones, shells, dead wood, etc... that kind of thing. What happened is that Disney had cleaned the beach AND inside the sea of everything that could be potentially dangerous for guests. As usual they want to avoid to have any problem that could lead guests to sue Disney if they were hurt and it can be understandable but in this case the beach lost all its natural "wild" aspect that one can find on this kind of island. And the other problem was that they've cleaned so much under water of any kind of stones that there was no fishes anymore! No kidding. May be it changed since 17 years ago but at that time it was frustrating. In two words, Castaway Cay didn't matched my idea of a "lost island" in the Bahamas archipelago. Don't get me wrong, if you're a family with children looking for a safe cruise with them, Disney's Castaway Cay beaches will be perfect as nothing bad will happen to your children. But if you're a couple looking for the feeling to be on a wild "pirate" island, then you won't find it there.

And then i had the good idea to rent a bicycle, something you could do at that time to "explore" the island - or at least to explore the part of the island that Disney is ready to let you explore. If you do this, which i recommend, you'll find easily a landing runway located behind the beach, and at the end you'll arrive to another "official" beach located on the island west coast. Now, there is a path on the right going all along the beach and if you take this path you'll arrive at a dead end as right after there is the sea. But right in front, at 20 - 30 meters the island continues and i remember thinking "that looks like what i'm looking for!". As i'm a quite good swimmer i decided to swim to the other side and, boy, there it was paradise! Nobody, a real natural beach as it exist normally before corporate lawyers decide to remove everything, nothing artificial, and fishes in the sea! You can walk even a bit more and find easily a place where you'll feel being alone in the world, far away from everything, exactly the feeling you should have on this kind of island. I've indicated for you the spot and how to reach it on the picture below.

However,  you might find one problem to reach this part of the island. It's not the sea or the fact that you have to swim 20 meters, if the sea is calm the risks are none for a good swimmer. It's that generally you'll find some Disney guys at the dead end of the path, which are there to precisely avoid that you go "on the other side".  If they're not here, it'll be fine. But if they're here the only way would be to swim from the "authorized beach" nearby and then after 20 meters, when you're a bit out of sight,  to turn right and swim in direction of the spot i told you. It's feasible but you'll need to swim a longer distance and this can be exhausting if you're not a regular swimmer, so i don't really recommend it. But if you're a good swimmer and IF there is no Disney guys to stop you to go on the "other side" then the spot definitely worth the 30 meters of swimming that you'll have to do to reach it! It'll be at your own risk, of course, but if the sea is calm, the risk will be limited, and of course don't go there with children.

Pictures: copyright Disney

Watch Disney's Little Mermaid Animator Glen Keane Drawing in Virtual Reality

Except if you live on another planet you probably have heard about virtual reality which is about to take a bigger place in our lives in the years to come and today we have a great example of what you can do with it thanks to Disney's animator and Director Glen Keane who did the beloved Little Mermaid and Aladdin animated films.

The Vive VR headset use a HTC's position-tracking and has a the standout demo called Tilt Brush. According to Wired "this 3D painting experience is like Paper by FiftyThree in space -- you use wand-like controllers to splatter the air with oils, rainbows or pure light in real space, and can move around your creation in order to add depth and shading."

A new short film by the Future Of StoryTelling festival shows how impressive it caa be when Disney's Glen Keane, 61, put on the headset, and recreated some of his most famous characters from Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast in virtual reality with Tilt Brush (or at least something very much like it).

"I can put goggles on and I just step into the paper and now I'm drawing in it," Keane says in the video. "Today, all the rules have changed. All directions are open now, just immersing myself in space is more like a dance. What is this amazing new world I just stepped into? When I draw in VR I draw all the characters real life size. They are that size in my imagination. The character can turn... and even if you take the goggles off, I'm still remembering -- she's right there, she's real."

Have a look at the video and don't go away as i have more greatness with Glen Keane for you.

Glen Keane – Step into the Page from Future Of StoryTelling on Vimeo.

Now, Glen Keane did also recently a beautiful traditionally animated short film called "Nephtali." in this short film, Keane "uses both film and drawing in order to depict the journey of a ballerina that is drawn towards a higher power."

Pixar and Disney are now doing only 3D animation these days, but "Nephtali" is a good example of 2D animated art that makes you regret that most of animated studios if not all of them don' create anymore animated films in 2D.

And if you've missed it, her dis another animated short by Glen Keane titled "Duet" with absolutely no dialogue, but a wonderful soundtrack. It tells a story which follows the lives of a man and a woman as they journey into adulthood and succeed to find one another along the way.

Videos: copyright Glen Keane