Thursday, June 20, 2019

D&M Exclusive: The Inside Story of the Making of Disney's California Adventure Grizzly River Run, by WDI Imagineer Chris Tietz

Not too long ago Mark Faft from the Insights and Sounds blog has posted the Tom Gilleon artwork below of Disney's California Adventure Grizzly Peak. It happens that the Imagineer who was show-producer for Grizzly Peak was WDI Imagineer Chris Tietz - who also was the show producer of Disneyland Paris beautiful Adventureland.  So  i had the idea to ask Chris if he had some inside story of the making and in this article Chris share his memories of the creation of Grizzly Peak and Grizzly River Run ride, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, as well as answering questions that Disney fans often ask about why there is no Audio-Animatronics scenes during the raft ride.

In addition, and for the first time, you will also learn that Chris had envisioned for the land a train ride, which unfortunately never existed. The article also include never-seen-before pictures of the construction of the land shot by Chris Tietz!

Chris Tietz: Disney’s California Adventure was already in the starting stages of development when I became free and was looking for a new assignment at WDI around 1997. The Grizzly Peak area interested me the most so I inquired about it. They had already cast a Lead Designer, Chris Runco, and there was already a Show Producer in place.

I wanted to work on this state park-like area so I took the Production Designer position that was still open, as I had done on the first Star Tours a decade earlier where i had worked on the droid known as the "Goose Droid" that appears in the pre-show. Chris Runco did the head design of the Goose droid and we worked together on them - there were 2 "Goose Droids" in the pre-show of Star Tours and these two Goose figures were taken out of the now gone "America Sings" attraction in Tomorrowland, the rest of the Audio-Animatronics animal figures from that show went into the first "Splash Mountain" attraction. Chris Runco was also working on designing the REX droid while I made the hands, feet, tanks on the back of the “Goose droid", and the radar tail, plus the laser tool in his hand.

Runco was a good designer, but the Grizzly Peak project as a whole, was slow getting off the ground. There was a small 1/8th inch to the foot model that was rather simple. It had a generic bear on top and the raft ride track did a simple loop around it. I took this model back to my desk and redesigned much of it. I sent the raft ride track through the bear, and created the mine shaft scene under the bear among other things.

Teaming up with Runco we worked out the details and got the project moving along on track. Management was so pleased with the progress, they made me the Show Producer. I brought John Gizienski in to fill the Production Designer role ( John worked with me on Adventureland at Disneyland Paris as a Show Designer and Production Designer ).

I was amazed that there was no provision in the project for a large scale model. A project with so much rockwork design, and that interacts with a ride envelope, has to have a large model that can be scanned for accurate construction. It would be a disaster trying to build the real thing without it.

So I got a 1” inch to the foot model started that took us almost a year to design, build, and be ready for computer scanning. The ride engineers also used this model for their calculations, lighting and audio designers, landscape design, waterfall pump volumes, etc. From the model scans, this computer information went to the rebar fabricators to form the rockwork cage assemblies for the cement carvers in the field.

Above and below, pictures of the 1" to the foot rockwork model.
Picture above: Left side of Grizzly River Run.

Above: Right side of Grizzly River Run.

Above: Top of Grizzly River Run lift.

Above: Cut away of the Grizzly Bear model showing modular rockwork sections fitted around the steel structure.

Earlier Runco had proposed a “Nature Walk “ trail up and around the mountain. This concept was later dropped because of operations problems and safety concerns around the water flume. It was also around this time that I had proposed a train ride reminiscent of the old “Nature’s Wonderland Mine Train” that used to be in Frontierland. It would have gone over the geyser field into the mountain behind Condor Flats ( now Grizzly Air Field ) through a Rainbow Caverns - like scene and, coming outside, it would cross the large waterfall facing the Farm ( that later became Bugs Land and soon will be Marvel Land ) and continue behind the Winery viewing animated scenes before coming out over the main walkway, skirting The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, and possibly along the edge of The Grand Californian hotel before returning to the station.

I didn’t get very far before I was told to cease because there was no budget for any of it. I tried to provide a “right away” path for the train to be added at some future date, but was again directed to stop because of cost. It would have been a nice attraction for the area.

Above and below: Rare pictures of the construction of Grizzly Peak. 
Chris Tietz is in the foreground, bottom left.

Picture above: Crane putting the top of the Grizzly head on.

Picture above: Grizzly River Run lift with Grizzly Peak.

Picture above: Also the ride lift, with Paradise Pier in construction in the background.

Picture above: the mine shaft of Grizzly River Run during construction.

Picture above: Grizzly River Run second drop, in the foreground.

Picture above: WDI Imagineers testing the Grizzly River Run raft ride, with the Grand Californian Hotel in the background.

It is often asked why we don’t have any animated scenes along the raft ride. The answer is we didn’t have any budget for it. Runco and I brainstormed some ideas and he did some fun sketches, but again we had no budget for any of it. The scenes we talked about would have been in areas like at the top of the lift, inside the Bear, just before the first drop, inside the Mine Shaft, before the second drop, and possibly in the Geyser Field. They were mostly about bears getting into mischief like getting into a camp site and going through the things they found. Funny scenes. That was going to be just before the first drop. Another bear in the Mine Shaft was a little bit scary in the dark. At the top of the lift there was going to be animated machinery huffing and puffing steam like it was going to blow up. More machinery, too, just before the second drop.

We also talked about having an old wooden shack sitting in the geyser field offering steam baths. The litttle shack scene would not have been accessible to guests, it was only to be a show scene to look at. The "steam baths" or "hot baths" was a gag because of the geysers all around it. It didn't get any further than a sketch idea. Unfortunately, there was no budget for any of these scenes, though. We only had a small budget for purchased props like old mine and lumber equipment we placed around the mountain.

Early in 1999 John and I relocated to the Anaheim construction site, while Runco stayed at WDI in Glendale, and for the next year and a half I field Art Directed Grizzly Peak, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, and the merchandise shop from start to finish. It was a lot of work, but the results were very satisfying. A project I will always be proud of.

Above and below, a series of different WDI artworks for Grizzly River Run.

Below, artwork and map for Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

I want to thanks personally Chris Tietz for this great inside story and the construction pictures. Also, at a time Disneyland Resort is desperately trying to find ways to attract guests to others attractions to avoid crowds in the new Galaxy's Edge land, it could be a good idea to add the envisioned animated scenes which would cost much less than building a new attraction and will provide a new life to Grizzly River Run.

In the meantime, watch the videos below showing Grizzly River Run and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail filmed by Adventures in VR and SoCal Attractions 360! Note that the first video below is a 360° video and you can move the image with your mouse but you need to watch it either on Chrome or Firefox but not on Safari as it won't work.

Text and pictures: copyright Chris Tietz,

Artworks and others pictures: copyright Disney

Monday, June 17, 2019

Here is the Truth About WDWNT Rumor of a Removal of WDW Country Bear Jamboree Show

If you've read the post below you already know that WDWNT has posted a rumor that WDW beloved Country Bear Jamboree show will be removed and replaced by a Toy Story AA "marionette" show. Disney fans were quickly infuriated that Disney thinks to remove the Country Bear Audio-Animatronics show that many consider, and for good reasons, as part of Walt's legacy.

So, as you can imagine i wanted to double check as quick as possible if there was any truth in all this and here is the truth. First, the WDWNT rumor is TRUE. Yes, i know that many of you think that rumors coming from WDWNT are not reliable but in this case it appears that they're right. But there is a big "but" as it's more complicated, as actually it's still undecided what the final choice will be. Bob Chapek, as we know, is eager to introduce modern IPs in the parks and is for a renewal of less known IPs. Although the Country Bear Jamboree has its roots deeply in Disney history and is a lovely attraction - designed by Marc Davis and approved by Walt before his death - it’s based on less known side characters. But Country Bear Jamboree is somewhat like the Enchanted Tiki Room or the Carousel of Progress, it's an attraction so deeply considered as part of Walt's legacy - even if it opened at WDW first and after Walt's death - that it's seen as a "hands off" attraction, you don't touch it, period. Actually there is a Disney rule that i can't disclose here in details which forbid to remove forever some attractions part of Walt's legacy, built during Walt life and in some cases even after his death. These are "hands off" attractions, they can't touch them. Now, fans are not the only ones to be angry of this proposal to remove the Country Bear Jamboree and actually, from what i've been told, many more people in the “house” consider that there is a big chance that the Country Bear Jamboree will stay instead of being removed. Internal voting on this is over 80 percent in favor of keeping the attraction, which is good news. Now, about this supposed Toy Story AA marionette show i didn't have any confirmation on it. I've seen in some readers comments that in fact the puppets show is going to Disney's Hollywood Studios in a new dining location, which woud be a much better idea as they have a Toy Story land there. And by the way, instead to remove it they could update the Country Bear Jamboree show a little bit, not specifically on the Audio-Animatronics but on the lines, on some jokes that can be outdated and could have eventually a fresh update, which won't cost that much and would be smarter than to “throw the baby with the bath”, as they say.

Now, here my take about all this: in my post below i said that some attractions should be considered as the State does for historical monuments. I remember 20 years ago, during an interview at WDI, telling to the interviewed Imagineer that the funny thing in a town like L.A that didn’t existed 100 years before and which is not like our centuries-old European cities, is that Disneyland became in fact like a historical monument. The Imagineer laughs and told me that i was right. Now, the point is that guests coming at DL or WDW are not only coming to see Mickey and the gang or attractions based on new IPs, a lot of them are also coming for what they consider as Walt's legacy. Also, children are not coming by themselves in the parks, parents are the ones who bring them. And these parents are also coming to find back memories of their own childhood, and the Country Bear Jamboree is one of them. In addition - and always in the “historical” section - there is a few attractions which are an important part of the history of Disney's beloved Audio-Animatronics technology, and there is at least four of them that should not be changed or removed: the Tiki Room, the Abraham Lincoln AA at DL Opera House, the Country Bear Jamboree and the Carousel of Progress ( i don’t count the big ones like Haunted Mansion, Pirates of Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and It's a Small World which won’t be removed ).

It don't looks to me that difficult to don't remove these attractions which also have a low operational cost as they don't need dozens of cast-members. And trying to make these beloved attractions disappear little by little is just like shooting yourself in the foot ( in french we would say “to saw the tree branch on which you’re sit” ). Disney Parks had a President some years ago who destroyed some of Disney fans most beloved attractions - remember Paul Pressler who destroyed the 20000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at the Magic Kingdom and the highly loved Horizons at Epcot, and more? Yes, the guy who then went to Gap, almost destroyed the company so they had to fired him.

As Walt said, Disneyland is about the past, the present and the future, and it’s highly important that some elements of the past are not removed from Disneyland because in real life, contrary to what people think, past, present and future are not divided, they all exist together at the same time. It’s not only symbolic, it’s just the reality. So, whether Disney execs like it or not Disneyland has became a historical monument. The problem is that it is both a theme park and a historical monument at the same time, so they need to find a way to preserve both, one for economic reasons and the other because it is a legacy. Will they need space for expansion in the future? Sure they will. But the Country Bear Jamboree has not a big show building, they’ll hardly put a ride in it, all they can do is to change the show which apparently they’re trying to do. But for what? A Toy Story marionette show? REALLY? Don’t they think there is enough Toy Story IP in the parks? Can’t they even come with a better idea? Because, whatever this puppets show will be, i can tell you that it won’t have the charm that the Country Bear Jamboree have. No one would make a show like the Country Bear Jamboree today but the reasons why it won’t be done is also why it has such charm, it has something that bring you back in times where technology was not as perfect as it is today but also in an era which still had innocence.

As someone once said, Disney parks are places with a unique mix of innocence and corporate cynicism. Disney needs to sell merchandise, and more, to cover the huge cost of the attractions and operations and we all understand this and accept that the merchandise shop at the exit of a ride is the price to pay. Still, at the end of the day guests leaving the parks will remember mainly the part of innocence as WDI Imagineers are so gifted to find back something of the true childhood spirit. Destroying attractions like the Country Bear Jamboree which not only have the charm of the times when it was created but also the innocence of the era is where the real crime is. Additionally, it shows how the people in charge of the parks and resorts don’t have any insight and don’t get it because if they had at least a bit of insight and knew what life is really made of, they wouldn’t even think to remove the Country Bear Jamboree. Let's hope now that they will finally understand what a huge mistake it would be to remove this beloved attraction.

Go ahead, post your comments below or on WDWNT to make sure that Disney knows your opinion about all this before it's too late.

If you’ve not seen it since a while, here is the full WDW Country Bear Jamboree Show.

And, from Toy Story 2 here is the "Woody's Roundup / Woody watches his TV Show” on which is supposed to be based the AA marionette show rumored to replace the Country Bear Jamboree.

Picture: copyright Disney

Disney Apparently Want to Remove WDW Country Bear Jamboree, Let Disney Know Right NOW That You Don't Want This to Happen !

There is a serious "Red Alert" today as WDWNT has posted that Disney is planning to close the beloved WDW Country Bear Jamboree to replace it by a puppet /AA Toy Story show ( see post below ). What of Walt's legacy will they destroy next? The Enchanted Tiki Room? DL It's a Small World? ( as rumored by Mice Age last week? ) The Carousel of Progress? Sure, they won't remove the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of Caribbean or Jungle Cruise, but these smaller attractions are also part of Walt's legacy, we all love them and they should NEVER been removed, just like a historical monument.

By the way, they don't do it only to place more modern IPs in the parks, and also not only to sell more merchandise, but for another reason if not the mainly one, i.e to SAVE money on a new show building construction cost. They could perfectly leave WDW Country Bear Jamboree where it is - it is an attraction having a low operational cost as it don't request dozens of cast-members - and build a new Toy Story show somewhere else at Frontierland ( or even better at DHS Toy Story land where it will fit more naturally ) but it will require the cost of a new show building, which is exactly what they try to avoid to have to pay for. So, Walt legacy is destroyed little by little by people for whom the monthly bottom line is more important than anything else, and that is saying a lot about the lack of vision that these folks have...

Go to the WDWNT article HERE and POST your comment to let Disney know how furious you are if this removal of the Country Bear Jamboree is true. You can also leave your comment below but Disney is watching closely WDWNT ( as well ad D&M btw ), so do it NOW before it is announced officially at D23 because when the attraction will be gone we know it will never come back.

Picture: copyright Disney

Disneyland Paris New Lion King Show Will Also Be Projected at WDS Studio Theatre

As you know, a new Lion King show is coming to Disneyland Paris, starting June 30 in the new Frontierland Theatre that was re-built this year. Now, something unusual happened today as DLP announced on InsideEars that the show will also be projected daily at the WDS Studio Theatre, so in DLP second park.

Why do they do this, something which has never been done before in a Disney theme park? Well, first, you need to know that they're late on the theatre construction in Frontierland. The stage and the audience area is ready but not the backstage of the theatre. So, apparently DLP decided to play the show anyway, and postpone the end of the works on the backstage area ( or may be they'll do the works at night ) so they could play the show in time, as scheduled, specially considering that it's the main new attraction this year at DLP.

I've been told that Daniel Delcourt, at the head of DLP Operations, announced that the security commission came recently and gave its approval for the opening of the theatre, so the show will start at the end of June. On the other hand the WDS have less attractions than ever to offer to WDS guests now that Armaggedon is gone and that works are happening all over the Backlot area for its transformation in a Marvel land. So i think the main reason of this odd announcement is to increase the park capacity and the offering for WDS guests during this Summer season.

Picture: copyright Disney

Shanghaî Disneyland Celebrates Its 3rd Anniversary - Exclusive Pictorial Report of the Park on Opening Day by Alexis Lefranc

Shanghaî Disneyland celebrates its 3rd Anniversary today! As we know, theme parks never look that good than they are on on opening day so to celebrate SDL 3rd Anniversary i repost the D&M exclusive pictorial report with fantastic pictures of the park that were shot by D&M contributor Alexis Lefranc, a faithful D&M reader. And these great pictures, were even shot before Shanghaî Disneyland official opening day, during the park soft-opening in May 2016 with the luck of an incredible sunny day and a clear blue sky all over the park! Back in 2016 it was for Alexis the second Disney park he visited and below he describes his visit and give us his feelings about Shanghaî Disneyland:

The park is beautiful! Shanghaî Disneyland is very neat and as detailed as Disneyland Paris can be, it is clean and 90% of the attractions were open with reasonable wait of 40minutes maximum. Visitors were respectful and behaved quite well, I have no complaints about Chinese tourists they were perfect. Many Western expatriates were also present. I had very good impressions. 

I know you all know this but, to make a long story short: there is no Haunted Mansion or It's a Small World and Star Tours. Big Thunder Mountain became the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain was replaced by TRON Lightcyle Power Run and Pirates of the Caribbean became a land in its own right with a brand new version of the ride. Strangely, it didn't not bothered me too much. Specifically, we are in a new park, more fresh because the offering of new attractions benefit of amazing technology but also remains what is known as all the codes of a Disney park are there. It's like everything rediscovering everything and it's good as Disneyland Paris, we love it, but we know it so much ...

The entrance to Disneyland Paris is so majestic with the hotel that we forgot that it was unique and not found elsewhere. So, it was strange to see the entrance of Shanghai Disneyland, less ambitious. It is still beautiful and is inspired by the original park in California with a small station and tower ( without railroad ) and the usual head of Mickey in flowers .

Disneyland Paris Main Street USA is the most visually rich and suddenly it was strange to see here a totally different version of the entrance street. Mickey Avenue performs the same function but is two-third smaller and a bit less classy, but mix with taste a good dozen of architectural styles (classical, art nouveau, Victorian, Hollywood / art deco, toon, Parisian, American, Georgian ...) to introduce the Chinese guests, less steeped in Western culture, to the park. It's eclectic, colorful and joyful.

Between Mickey Avenue and Enchanted Story Book castle, our DLP Central Plaza has given way to a much larger "Gardens of Imagination" quite welcome mixing small gardens, bridges and ponds and many flowers on various themes. Of course the elements of the Chinese zodiac reviewed with Disney characters ( the monkey Abu from Aladdin, the dragon is Muchu from Mulan, etc ...). It's subtle and really cute.The adaptation of the park to Chinese public  is through these tips: a beautiful decorated Chinese restaurant in Suzhou style - Tea House of Wandering Moon - has been included, east of the castle, the parade has a special focus on the Mulan float as we have at DLP on the Sleeping Beauty float, rice, noodles and chopsticks are present in menus, some shows (Tarzan, Frozen) or even dark rides (Snow White, Voyage to the Crystal Grotto ...) are in mandarin but the rest is also in English. The castle is not at all Chinese, not even one detail, and I am delighted!

Alexis has shot also some excellent panoramics. Make sure to click on it to see it in big size!  

The castle... is beautiful, really great. It stands majestically in the middle of the park as an extremely impressive lighthouse. It can be seen from everywhere! It mixes many styles ( Roman, Gothic, Baroque, Classical ) with the elegance of our Sleeping Beauty Castle. Again, I know you are aware of it but it is important to remember a set of points: it is the highest castle of all Disney castles, this is the first castle to represent all Disney princesses so its name "Enchanted Storybook Castle » ( with however an attraction inside telling the story of Snow White) and it is the most interactive, offerings shops, restaurants (at 500cny the menu), two attractions and is so detailed!

Fantasyland, always behind the castle and extending north of the park, is just wonderful. It is as detailed as our Fantasyland at DLP, full of small shops and restaurants with ornate roofs. Classics rides such as Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White, the tea cups and the carousel are present in new versions with some newcomers. The Voyage to the Crystal Grotto is nice because it's a ride on the water which recounts the stories of Disney animated classics, but details of the characters are a bit coarse. Alice in Wonderland maze is a new version, really good, with a mix of the animated classic with the recent Tim Burton movie and, as it is at the foot of the castle, the whole maze at night with the lighted lanterns is a wow.
However, we lose It's a Small World, and I find it a bit of a shame because it's such a mythical attraction for me. And there is no dragon too under the castle or a Pinocchio ride.

The facade of Pinnochio Village Kitchen...

...and the one of Peter Pan's Flight, on the right.

The entrance and facade of the Frozen show theatre.

The Tangled Tree Tavern, inspired by the famous tavern of the animated movie.

The final scene of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Note that the Audio-Animatronic which is not include in this SDL version.

Tomorrowland is the land of the park with which i was a little bit disappointed. With its grey and too sleek design it loses the magic which has our Jules Verne style Discoveryland and her goes to a new cool but somewhat sanitized futurism. The Buzz Lighther attraction is nice, the addition of the Marvel Universe is also a good idea but I stayed on my hunger. The Star Wars area was not open yet, and neither Star Tours , Autopia, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the Nautilus or Space Mountain exist here, and the land looks a bit empty.

But the TRON attraction is absolutely amazing !!! A little too short and probably reduced in speed to appeal to a wider audience, it is still very strong and will score points. It is closer to Space Mountain than Rock'N 'Roller in terms of sensation but the immersion in the TRON universe is just phenomenal. The decorations, lights, sounds, music, lightcycles vehicles for a run through the grid are just crazy and I had never experienced anything like it.

Let's move now to the other side of the park and say a little hello to Shanghaî Disneyland castle when we walk in front of it on our way to Adventure Isle while the parade is passing by.

At Disneyland Paris Adventureland we have an Adventure Isle, and at Shanghaî Disneyland it became a whole land with shops, restaurants and entertainment with the Tarzan show and two major attractions that are not at DLP but that i could not do unfortunately. The first - Soarin over the Horizon - had 2 hours of waiting and the second - Roaring Rapids- remains closed until the park official opening ( Ndr: there is also Camp Discovery that apparently Alexis didn’t do, too ). This land is super pretty, but nevertheless we lose DLP Adventure Isle "Center of the Earth" with the caves, the Disneydendron - the Swiss Robinson Tree, or even the Indiana Jones ride.

A new land appeared: Treasure Cove! It is superb, by far the most successful after Fantasyland and is themed on the theme of the seven seas and pirates. The decors are amazing, there is palm trees, wrecked ships on abandoned beaches, taverns and pirates hideouts with a galleon that can be visited and an explorer canoes ride around an island not to mention of course the fort in which is the Pirates of the Caribeean : Battle for the Sunken Treasure attraction. ThisPOTC attraction is INSANE. So I did it twice. You probably have never seen such a ride. By cons, it has very little to do with the original version that we love, even if we always hear the phrases "Yo ho! "" Dead men tell no tale "and certain sequences are obviously a tribute to the original ride - like this scene with the prisoners in jail always calling the dog holding the keys ... except that they’re now skeletons. It is so impressive...

Below, three great panoramic pictures of Treasure Cove shot by Alexis. Click on each to see them in big size!

We will end this photo report by going back near the castle and through Alice in Wonderland Maze at sunset time. I also saw SDL night show "Ignite the Dream" happening in front and over the Castle at 9pm, and it's magical. There were holographic projections, water fountains, lights show, sound effects, lasers, fireworks… and a fantastic music from Disney classics from the Lion King to Fantasia, Aladdin, Frozen, Mulan, Star Wars and more!

I want to thanks personally again Alexis for kindly providing to Disney and more this great pictorial report on Shanghaî Disneyland, and don't hesitate to leave a comment fro Alexis below!

Pictures: copyright Alexis Lefranc