Saturday, July 29, 2017

Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America Reopen at Disneyland Anaheim !

Classic attractions have returned to Disneyland park with today’s official reopening of the Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America attractions. Yesterday, Disneyland celebrated the re-opening in grand style – with some special guests!

John Lasseter, Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, kicked off the celebration with his own train, the Marie E, making a special trip around Disneyland park. The Marie E was previously owned by Lasseter’s mentor, animator and Disney Legend Ollie Johnston – one of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men.” In tow was the Chloe, formerly owned by another of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” animator and Disney Legend Ward Kimball, whose passion for the railroad inspired Walt’s own love of trains.

These classic engines were followed by the Disneyland Railroad itself, full of Disney characters and Disneyland park cast members, as fireworks shot into the blue summer sky and the train traveled across the brand-new elevated trestle above the beautiful new north bank of the Rivers of America.

Here is a video with Imagineer Kim Irvine and John Lasseter!

Disneyland Railroad guests can now see more clearly Tom Sawyer Island and the Indians Village scenes were preserved with the addition of new scenes and five new waterfalls!

Inside the Magic has ousted two great videos the first one showing the ride in the Disneyland Railroad with the new route...

And the other one is a ride aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat

More videos are available on Inside the Magic article so jump HERE.

Pictures: copyright Disney

Videos: copyright Disney, Inside the Magic

Friday, July 28, 2017

D&M Tribute : Disney Legend and "Ultimate Imagineer" Marty Sklar Dies at 83

A VERY sad news today, as Disney Legend and Legendary WDI Imagineer Marty Sklar passed away at 83 on July 27. Disney and more tribute below is, before everything, to a man who dedicated his life to the dream of Walt and Disney theme parks. The "ultimate Imaginner" left us today and will be missed by all Disney fans.

Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on February 6, 1934, Marty Sklar was a student at University of California, Los Angeles and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper in 1955 when he was recruited to create a 1950s-themed newspaper, The Disneyland News, a month before Disneyland opened. After graduating, he joined Disneyland full-time in 1956, where he held responsibility for most of the park's publicity and marketing materials.

On the picture above, Marty Sklar is in the center, with glasses, and poses for a "team photo" with others members of Disneyland opening, in 1955.

In 1961, he moved to WED Enterprises, renamed in 1986 to Walt Disney Imagineering, where he worked on attractions for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Among the attractions he helped to design during this period were the Enchanted Tiki Room and It's a Small World, the latter originally for the World's Fair. For nearly 10 years, he wrote personal materials for Walt Disney for use in publications, television and special films. In 1974 he became vice president of concepts/planning, and guided the creative development of EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) at Walt Disney World Resort.

                   Picture above: Marty Sklar on the Walt Disney World site - 1967

The famous picture of Marty Sklar with architect Welton Becket and Richard Irvine, then executive vice president and chief designer of WED Enterprises. The yellow "X" marks the spot where Cinderella Castle would be built in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. 

 Above Marty Sklar with Disney Legend and friend John Hench during the construction  of Epcot.

Picture above and below: Marty Sklar with Imagineer John Hench and legendary production designer John DeCuir stands near the model of Epcot Spaceship Earth and Future World.

Picture below: Marty Sklar and close friend Herb Ryman with a Herb Ryman painting for Epcot.

As vice president of creative development, executive vice president and then president of Imagineering for nine years, Sklar supervised the design and construction of Tokyo Disneyland, the Disney-MGM Studios, Disneyland Paris, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure Park, Tokyo DisneySea, the Walt Disney Studios Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. Former Disneyland International chairman Jim Cora later said of him, "He understands the Disney way, because he learned it at Walt's knee. He is the keeper of the keys, the conscience, the Jiminy Cricket for the organization."

Marty Sklar was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Disneyland Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai Disneyland last year.

Above and below, Marty Sklar at the opening of Shanghaî Disneyland in June 2016.

Marty Sklar had ten famous "commandments" that anyone who want to be an Imagineer should remember:

1. Know your audience – Don’t bore people, talk down to them or lose them by assuming that they know what you know.

2. Wear your guest’s shoes – Insist that designers, staff and your board members experience your facility as visitors as often as possible.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – Use good story telling techniques, tell good stories not lectures, lay out your exhibit with a clear logic.

4. Create a weenie – Lead visitors from one area to another by creating visual magnets and giving visitors rewards for making the journey

5. Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication – color, shape, form, texture.

6. Avoid overload – Resist the temptation to tell too much, to have too many objects, don’t force people to swallow more than they can digest, try to stimulate and provide guidance to those who want more.

7. Tell one story at a time – If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories, people can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical.

8. Avoid contradiction – Clear institutional identity helps give you the competitive edge. Public needs to know who you are and what differentiates you from other institutions they may have seen.

9. For every ounce of treatment , provide a ton of fun – How do you woo people from all other temptations? Give people plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves by emphasizing ways that let people participate in the experience and by making your environment rich and appealing to all senses.

10. Keep it up – Never underestimate the importance of cleanliness and routine maintenance, people expect to get a good show every time, people will comment more on broken and dirty stuff.

On February 16, 2006, Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced that Marty Sklar would resign from his current position at WDI and will become International Ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering. The occupation entails travelling around to art and design and architecture colleges, universities and other institutions around the world, offering seminars and attracting new talent to the company, as well as being a presence at future attraction and park openings, representing the company. Sklar said in a joint statement, "I knew that as my 72nd birthday and my 50th Disney anniversary approached, I would look for new challenges, so when Jay Rasulo asked me to talk about the future, I was 'all ears' to a challenging proposal Jay made. It not only seems to be one of those ideas that is overdue, but it was clear to me that I am the perfect casting (perhaps the only candidate) capable of originating and organizing this assignment."

On July 16, 2009, a retirement celebration party happened at Walt Disney Imagineering in honor of Marty Sklar. Former Imagineer Hani El-Masri now passed away in 2015 was living in Cairo and could not attend the party, but Marty Sklar asked Hani to design his "departure card" - as Hani when he was working at WDI was known to design fun cards to celebrate an imagineer retirement. Hani, who was a good friend of mine kindly sent me a picture of the fantastic and very funny card he designed for Marty, and you can see it below. During the retirement party at WDI, a giant print of Hani's artwork was displayed in the patio and all Imagineers could write on the white space all around it kind messages to Marty Sklar.

So, after 54 years at the WDC and 48 at WDI Marty Sklar was leaving Imagineering, and to celebrate his retirement the invitation below was sent to WDI imagineers - including former WDI imagineers - to invite them to join the party at WDI Big D Patio.

Disney and more had an exclusive pictorial report on Marty's retirement party and i repost the pictures below.

When they arrived on thursday afternoon, the patio was transformed in "Martyland" as you can see on the pictures below and the one above - the man in the vehicle is a Dummy!

...And each of them received this now highly-collectible Martyland button you can see below.

Many talented and wonderful people were there! Among them: Alice Davis, Rolly Crump, Richard Sherman, Mickey Steinberg, Orlando Ferrante and his wife, Walt Peregoy, Julie Svendsen, Tony Baxter, Eric Jacobson, Eddie Sotto, Tom Morris, Bob Weis, Barbara Hastings (Marty's assistant for many years), Dave Smith, Dave Snyder, Nelson Meacham, Frank Armitage and his wife Karen and Nicole Armitage his daughter, Valerie Edwards, Kim Irvine, Craig Russell, Bruce Vaughn, Robert and Lori Coltrin, Stan Dodd, Kathy Mangum, Chris Runco, Greg Wilzbach, Paul Comstock, Dick Cook, Steve Anderson, and many more.

And of course Marty Sklar, on the picture below. The lady on the right of Marty is WDI Imagineer Kim Irvine.

Among Marty's friends Imagineers who were there on that very special day, Alice Davis...

...Imagineers Chris Runco, Bob Gurr and Tony Baxter

...Disney Legend Jack Lindquist

...Imagineers Rolly Crump and Chris Crump with Eddie Sotto

...Imagineer Tom Morris

...Imagineer Eddie Sotto with Legendary Disney animator Walt Peregoy

...and Richard Sherman, who played for Marty " A Great big beautiful tomorrow", and other songs "live".

Marty Sklar, who became a Disney Legend in 2002 at a ceremony inside the Art of Animation building during Paris Walt Disney Studios Grand Opening was also honored that same week, date of Disneyland 54th Anniversary, with his very own window on Main Street at Disneyland, Anaheim.

On November 1, 2016, Marty Sklar also received the prestigious Diane Disney Miller Lifetime Achievement Award.

Marty Sklar also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) in 1995, and has been inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Hall of Fame. When Marty Sklar retired after 54 years at Disney, the Walt Disney Company decided to create the Sklar Legacy Fund – an endowment to fund an entire class of students every year at Ryman Arts. Disney pledged that if Marty Sklar, President of Ryman Arts, could raise $100,000 for Ryman Arts, the WDC would contribute another $250,000 towards the endowment. Marty did it, and on the picture below he receives for Ryman Arts a $250.000 check from Disney!

More recently, Marty Sklar release a series of books about Imagineering and his life as an Imagineer,  the picture below was shot during a signature of Marty "Dream it! Do it!" book during the 2015 D23 Expo. I just learned today that Marty was working on a new book, so we may have another book from Marty to be published in a near future!

Marty Sklar final appearance happened just a few days ago during the 2017 D23 Expo and yo can see below the video of Marty with Tony Baxter  for the "Legend of Walt Disney Imagineering" panel.

And it's with this video that ends D&M tribute to Marty Sklar, the "ultimate Imagineer" who will be remember forever. Disney and more send its deepest condolences to Marty's wife, Leah, and their son and daughter.

Disney Legend and Legendary WDI Imagineer Marty Sklar Dies at 83

VERY sad news, as Disney Legend and Legendary WDI Imagineer Marty Sklar passed away today at 83. Below, Disney Parks release, and Disney and more will post a tribute article to Marty later today.

Legendary Disney Imagineer Martin A. “Marty” Sklar passed away in his Hollywood Hills home on Thursday. He was 83. During an illustrious career spanning 54 years, Marty worked closely with Walt Disney and was instrumental in creating, enhancing and expanding Disney’s creative vision. Named a Disney Legend in 2001, he is best remembered and revered by fans around the world for his work bringing Disney’s theme parks to life.

“Everything about Marty was legendary – his achievements, his spirit, his career,” said Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “He embodied the very best of Disney, from his bold originality to his joyful optimism and relentless drive for excellence. He was also a powerful connection to Walt himself. No one was more passionate about than Marty and we’ll miss his enthusiasm, his grace, and his indomitable spirit".

Born in New Brunswick, N.J., on February 6, 1934, Marty was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper when he was recruited to create The Disneyland News for Walt’s new theme park in 1955. After graduating in 1956, he joined Disney full-time, and would go on to serve as Walt’s right-hand man—scripting speeches, marketing materials, and a film showcasing Walt’s vision for Epcot. During this period, he also joined WED Enterprises, the forerunner of Walt Disney Imagineering, and he would later become the creative leader of Imagineering, leading the development of Disney theme parks and attractions for the next three decades. He retired as Executive Vice President and Imagineering Ambassador on July 17, 2009, Disneyland’s 54th birthday. Disney marked the occasion by paying tribute to Marty with the highest Parks and Resorts recognition, dedicating a window in his name on Disneyland’s City Hall.

“Marty was the ultimate Disney Imagineer and Cast Member. From his days working as an intern with Walt to just two weeks ago engaging with fans at D23 Expo, Marty left an indelible mark on Disney Parks around the globe and on all of the guests who make memories every day with us,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “He was one of the few people that was fortunate to attend the opening of every single Disney park in the world, from Anaheim in 1955 to Shanghai just last year. We will dearly miss Marty’s passion, skill and imaginative spark that inspired generations of Cast, Crew and Imagineers.”

Bob Weis was one of those Imagineers. “Marty was one of Walt’s most trusted advisors and helped turn his most ambitious dreams into reality. For us, it’s hard to imagine a world without Marty, because Marty is synonymous with Imagineering,” said Weis, President, Walt Disney Imagineering. “His influence can be seen around the world, in every Disney park, and in the creative and imaginative work of almost every professional in the themed entertainment industry.”

Marty’s impact and achievements were recognized with a number of prestigious awards and accolades, including the Lifetime Achievement award from TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), induction into the Hall of Fame of IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), and the prestigious Professional Achievement Award from UCLA.

He also authored several books about his experiences and adventures at Disney: Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms (2013), and One Little Spark!: Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering (2015).

Marty is survived by his wife of 60 years, Leah; son Howard and his wife, Katriina Koski-Sklar; grandchildren Gabriel and Hannah; daughter Leslie; and grandchildren Rachel and Jacob.

Marty and Leah were two of the founders of the Ryman Program for Young Artists, a project of Ryman Arts, a nonprofit foundation whose purpose is to teach and mentor “traditional” drawing and painting skills to talented young artists in Southern California. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Marty’s name to Ryman Arts at

Picture: copyright Disney

Monday, July 24, 2017

Universal Orlando Announces New Generation of Thrill Ride Coming in 2019 to Harry Potter Wizarding World

The Universal Orlando Blog announced today that a new generation of thrill ride is coming to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2019! They didn't tell everything about the new ride just yet, but here’s what they share:
- This all-new thrill ride will take you deeper into J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, where you will encounter some of your favorite characters and creatures. It’ll be unlike anything we’ve ever done before and it will be fun for the entire family.
- The new attraction will be one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences we’ve created. It will combine a new level of storytelling with an action-packed adventure…and a few surprises along the way.
- Our award-winning Universal Creative team is once again collaborating with Warner Bros. and the production design team from the Harry Potter films to bring this new coaster experience to life.
- This ride is going to redefine the category and transport you to thrilling places, drawing you into even more exciting adventures within the wizarding world. It’s going to be the perfect addition to Hogsmeade.
- We’re permanently closing Dragon Challenge on September 5 to make way for this all-new ride. The last day of operation will be Monday, September 4.

More details will be released in the future. In the meantime, make sure you come out and take your last ride on Dragon Challenge before it closes.

Picture: copyright Universal

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Only in Japan : Discover Azuma, the First Hologram Communication Robot

Azuma is a cheerful young girl about twenty centimeters tall, with long blue hair, living under a glass bell. Lying near the sofa in the living room or on the night table, she welcomes her owner's bachelor with a big smile when he comes home from work, then turns on the lights and informs him of the weather tomorrow. When her darling is not there, she sends him text messages to remind her that she thinks about him and is languishing.

This kind of Tinkerbell is called Azuma Hikari, and it is a character in the manga style: diaphanous skin, interminable legs, huge eyes and childish voice. She is the first occupant of the Gatebox, the magic box launched in December 2016 by Japanese company Vinclu. Once activated, the translucent bubble, placed on a black base, lights up and Azuma appears inside, like a hologram, it's the first "Hologram Communication Robot", as they call her.

Azuma lives her life inside the transparent globe. She sleeps, ishes her teeth, takes a cup of tea sitting in an armchair, but rises as soon as her "master", as named on the site of the apparatus, solicits her. Equipped with a camera and a microphone, she recognizes him, distinguishes his movements, understands a few words and interacts with him, like virtual assistants like Siri.

If Azuma is, for the moment, less elaborate than robots, she has a considerable advantage: a body, untouchable but visible, animated, and she possess the adorable and fluid voice of the characters of Japanese cartoons. A body that gives fantasy, an animated creature to which one can attach oneself. "We are trying to make these characters naturally part of our daily lives and spend quiet moments with us," explains its designers. Azuma is "a presence".

In a video of demonstration, she is seen under her dome, tiny and smiling, sitting next to her young master watching television. It looks like a couple would be lazing on a Sunday night. "It is a comforting character for those who live alone," says Vinclu's website, which defines this virtual girlfriend as gentle, considerate and playful. One understands the goal: this little fairy of the house is supposed to fight the loneliness in a country where the number of singles grows. With Azuma, promises the company, "you will finally want to go home early."

Just created, its Artificial Intelligence (AI) currently only includes Japanese, and the Gatebox is only available in Japan and the United States. Only 300 copies have been sold to date - at the price of 298,000 yen (2,400 euros). Will this virtual girl become the miniature companion of men alone?

But how does it works? Is it really a hologram? Well, not really, it is actually a projection on a glass plate and it uses the old and very famous "Pepper Ghost effect", the same one that WDI Imagineers use in Disney's Haunted Mansion since 50 years! But it works great, apparently as you'll see on the videos below!

Awesome Trailer for Steven Spielberg's New Movie "Ready Player One"

An absolutely awesome trailer for Steven Spielberg's new movie "Ready Player One" was shown yesterday at San Diego ComicCon!

""When the creator of an MMO called the Oasis dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all Oasis users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg."

Spielberg also said that the Iron Giant is playing a major role in the movie - you'll see him briefly in the trailer below -  which is great news!  Ready Player One will be released next March.

New Trailer and Poster for Thor Ragnarok !

A new trailer and poster was released at San Diego ComicCon yesterday for the awaited Thor Ragnarok, here they are!

Marvel has also released a new poster for Black Panther, and with the Thor Ragnarok poster below, these are the posters that were given out to the fans who attended the Marvel panel at Comic-Con yesterday. Marvel also screened some cool new footage from Black Panther but they said it would not be released online.

During the Marvel panel Kevin Feige revealed new details about Captain Marvel - including the concept art of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel below - and he announced that the film would be set in the early 1990s, and Feige also confirmed that Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury would be back and as the story is set in the 90s... he'll have both of his eyes!

Also, The Skrulls will be in the movie! The Skrulls are a villainous alien race with shape-shifting abilities and they are hell bent on invading Earth and engaged in a prolonged war with the extraterrestrial Kree. Check out the concept art with them below!

 Pictures and video: copyright Marvel