Disney World debuts new castle projection show


Walt Disney World’s marketing push for 2011 is all about making memories, and the theme park behemoth put more than 500 of them on display on its most famous icon, Cinderella Castle, Tuesday night.

A new nighttime show, called “The Magic, The Memories and You” was previewed for media at the Magic Kingdom near Orlando, Florida.

The show features images captured daily by Disney’s PhotoPass photographers – those guys and gals who ask you to stop so they can take your picture – and projected on to Cinderella Castle in a show set to music. At least, that’s what I was expecting. What I saw was way more elaborate than that.

Through the use of animation from 16 different projectors, the castle’s turrets spin, vines wind up its walls, and flames engulf it, all while photos dance across the facade. It’s visually stunning, dramatic, and, well, a bit trippy. One guest at the media preview said the show reminded him of performances of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”“It’s a heck of a lot more than a slideshow on a castle,” said Alan Bruun, associate creative director for Walt Disney World Entertainment.

The 10-minute show features familiar Disney tunes threaded around a new song named, aptly, “Let the Memories Begin.”

Show producers started by digitally mapping the castle, to ensure a truly 3D projection on its facade. The castle projection show was then storyboarded as if it were a short film, Bruun said. Animators made the story boards come to life, creating slots for 500 photos from that day in the park.

The 500 photos are hand-selected and cropped, but a computer ultimately decides which photo goes into which slot in the show.

“It’s an amazing and complex process,” Bruun said. “But it involves just as much high-touch as it does high-tech, as individuals select those photograhs before the computer populates the castle with them.”

While there are some large projections, many of the photos are used in photo-mosaic images, and are on the small side. So, you may not be able to pick yours out as they move quickly by. And if you’re worried about photo privacy at Disney, you can opt out and keep your photo from being considered for the show.

“The Magic, The Memories and You” will be projected onto Cinderella Castle each night, twice a night when the park stays open late.

A similar projection show will debut at Disneyland in California on Jan. 27. It will be projected onto the facade of the It’s a Small World ride.

Troubled baby gorilla at Disney World being treated like a kid

Visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park often spot a tiny baby gorilla along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. What most of them don’t know is that she’s much tinier than she should be. Lilly was born last year at Walt Disney World, one of only 10 to 15 gorilla births each year in the United States. And she’s not growing and developing the way she should.

Lilly depends on her mother for many things that a gorilla of her age should be doing independently, and her left side seems to be weaker than her right.

Disney World scrambled for months to solve the mystery of what is wrong with Lilly, according to the Orlando Sentinel. She’s even been seen by doctors who specialize in treating human kids, and gone to a local hospital for an MRI. But, while they have ruled out many serious things that could have been ailing the baby gorilla, her caretakers haven’t found the problem.

So Disney has innovated and switched the focus from diagnosing Lilly to treating her. An occupational therapist who usually works with autistic kids comes to treat the baby gorilla once a week, and she gets therapy sessions twice daily from her trainers.

Everyone involved with Lilly attests that she’s making progress. She remains along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where you can probably see her on your next visit to Orlando. Here’s video from the Orlando Sentinel of Lilly and the progress she’s making:

New Pixar Pals parade disappoints many Disney World fans

Walt Disney World debuted a new parade – Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! – at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday. The new parade features characters from Pixar films Up! and Ratatouille that have never appeared in a Disney parade before.

New stuff at Disney is frequently met with breathless wonder by the many fans of all things Disney out there. But when it comes to this parade, reaction from Disney World fans, including many locals who turned out to see the parade’s debut, has not been good.

In the comments sections of blogs and YouTube videos about the Pixar Pals parade, Disney fans are describing the parade as “low budget,” “horrible” and “disappointing.”

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! replaces the Block Party Bash, a street party-parade hybrid that moved through the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stopped at certain points to bring the audience out to dance with characters from popular movies including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life.

The main beefs with the parade seem to fall into two categories: First, that the parade is not different enough from its predecessor Block Party Bash, and second, that the parade is too short.As for the charge that the Pixar Pals parade is too similar to Block Party Bash, well, it is pretty similar. Many of the floats are the same; the rest are simply repainted. Cast members’ costumes and props are also unchanged.

“All of the floats are recycled from Block Party Bash, merely repainted and slightly re-themed and the music isn’t original. Overall, it comes as a disappointment to many who had high hopes for the new production,” writes a blogger at easyWDW.com.

And is the parade, which has a soundtrack made up largely of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” too short? At less than 8 minutes in length, it is shorter than other Disney Parks parades, which typically clock in closer to the 15-minute mark.

Shelley Caran of OnTheGoinMCO.com describes Pixar Pals as a “lack luster eight minute blink and you missed it.”

About the only positive reaction we could find in the blogosphere comes from Ricky Brigante of Inside the Magic.net, who was a vocal opponent of the way the Block Party Bash stopped in the theme park’s walkways each day: “At least it doesn’t hog the streets for extended periods of time like Block Party Bash once did.”

So, while kids may enjoy catching a glimpse of their favorite movie characters, the overall consensus from the grown-ups seems to be that Disney’s previous afternoon “parade,” Block Party Bash, was superior.

StudiosCentral.com, a blog devoted to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park where the new parade debuted, writes: “The previous two daytime parades at the Studios, Block Party Bash and Stars & Motor Cars Parade, were far superior displays and much more of an engaging experience. … For those that have enjoyed quality Disney World parades over the years, you may find yourself disappointed and underwhelmed.”

Now that you’ve seen the video, what do you think?

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Why you shouldn’t worry about Donald Duck groping you at Disney World

Donald Duck groping caseThe case against Donald Duck is moving forward. A federal judge has ruled that a Pennsylvania woman’s lawsuit against Walt Disney World can proceed.

April Magolon says that an actor costumed as Donald Duck at Epcot touched her breast and then joked about it in May 2008.

The Donald Duck groping case ruling allows Magolon’s civil lawsuit to proceed in Pennsylvania. Disney had wanted it moved to Orlando, where the alleged incident actually happened.

Magolon isn’t the first to claim that a costumed character at a Disney theme park intentionally groped her, and she won’t be the last.

But this kind of intentional incident is highly unlikely because of the costumes these actors are wearing that restrict their movement and their vision. As John Frost of The Disney Blog puts it:

Many guests get incensed when they wrongly interpret the costumed workers clumsy movements as groping, but it’s just not practical for a person to intentionally grope, let along joke about the action afterwords, inside one of those costumes.

Now because of the characters’ “clumsy movements,” an unintentional touch could happen. There are plenty of awkward Disney character photos to prove that. But an intentional grope? There’s no reason to worry that it might happen to you.

Also? The person in that Donald Duck suit is almost always a woman. Sorry if that bursts your bubble, but have you seen how short Donald is? The same goes for Mickey Mouse and many other “male” Disney characters.

[Image credit: Flickr user gwaar]

Skyscraper as theme park: Architect re-imagines thrill rides on a vertical scale

Can you imagine a theme park in the middle of Manhattan? Finding the capital to acquire the land and raise the buildings on it to create the necessary open space would be nearly impossible.

But what if that theme park could be built vertically, as a theme park skyscraper?

Skyscraper theme parkThat’s the idea behind architect Ju-Hyun Kim’s vertical theme park prototypes. Kim says in order to be eco-friendly and save the world from more sprawl, the theme parks of tomorrow need to be built in the middle of cities:

Instead of sprawling parks with giant footprints, stack the park into a skyscraper. The altitude will only add to the speed and excitement of rides, and the view of the surrounding dense urban environment will be incredible. There’ll be so much more to see from the top of the carousel and roller coaster on the perimeter. Best of all, it will be easily reached by public transportation, and the environmental impact will be minimal. Now is the time to build the joyful destination for families’ perfect day out at the center of cities.

Kim’s vertical theme park would be broken into five sections:

  • Vertigo World, which would include a carousel and observation deck at the top of the theme park skyscraper
  • Fast Land, including a flume ride and a rollercoaster
  • 360 World, with a Ferris Wheel and sky promenade
  • Abyss City, a bungee jumping platform
  • Elsewhere Universe, a geodesic dome with a gravity-free zone

Though very different from Kim’s vision, theme-park pioneer Walt Disney also considered building a vertical theme park in a city’s downtown. Fifty years ago, Disney was planning a River Front Square on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Louis. The five-story indoor attraction’s plans are said to have included a walk-through pirate ship, audio-animatronic exhibits and a haunted house.

But the St. Louis plans for a metropolitan Disney theme park were scrapped, and the second Disney theme park — the Magic Kingdom — was built outdoors, horizontally, on part of a sprawling 40-square-mile swampy area now known as Walt Disney World.

You can see all the prototypes from Kim’s vertical theme park proposal at ArchDaily.