Friday, April 29, 2011

Theme Park Nerd Celebrates 40 Years of Walt Disney World!

Stefan Lawrence, a graphic designer and self-professed Theme Park Nerd, offered to share the following series of posters that he created celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World. You can find Stefan's work at Stefan Rules. I love the simplicity of his designs and that the normal park icons are given a new twist.

Make sure to follow Stefan on Twitter or visit his Facebook page.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

D23's Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th at the Walt Disney World Resort : Saturday Events

Tim O'Day, Tony Baxter, Paul F. Anderson, Steve Vagnini, Becky Cline and Dave Smith!

Oh, my!

Just a few of the Imagineers, authors and librarians (yes, librarians!) that will be presenting at the D23 Walt Disney World Celebration in May.

I will be heading down to Florida in a few weeks to participate in the celebration of Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary. This is likely to be the only official celebration (or acknowledgment) of the monumental occasion--if you have the opportunity to be there, then now is the time to get your tickets.

Get your tickets here.

Will you be there? 

Let's take a look at the schedule for Saturday

SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2011

Opening Program
9:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.
D23 Head Steven Clark welcomes D23 Members with some special guests and a few surprises you won't want to miss!

Weird Walt Disney World
10 a.m. - 11 a.m.
Following their laugh-out-loud antics at Destination D: Disneyland '55, Walt Disney Archives director Becky Cline and Disney historian Paul F. Anderson are at it again — this time taking guests on a fun-filled trip through the strangest and most bizarre parts of Walt Disney World history. A peculiar "lawnmower tree?" A crazy cast of singing fruits and vegetables? Who knows what the duo will unearth as they explore the wonderfully weird and wacky side of the Vacation Kingdom.

Walt Disney World: The Way We Were
11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Remember the charm of the Orange Bird and the musical delights of the Mickey Mouse Revue? The elegant Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and backwoods adventures along the Fort Wilderness Railway? Join Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith as we explore vintage pictures of Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts, including rare photos of construction and a fond look at some favorite attractions, shops and restaurants of the past.

Lunch Break
12:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.

EPCOT: Walt Disney's Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow
2:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Walt's vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow far transcended the realm of family entertainment and for many years remained shrouded in secrecy. Re-enter the 1960s hallways of WED Enterprises with Archivist Steven Vagnini and Disney expert Paul F. Anderson in this unprecedented look at the inspirations and plans for Walt's EPCOT, and find out the little-known ways that Imagineers brought their late founder's dream to reality throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort.

Past Forward: A History of Walt Disney World on Television
3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Like its predecessor, Disneyland, the early success of Walt Disney World Resort can be attributed to the extensive television exposure it received through both Disney broadcast efforts and news media coverage. Be sure to tune in to this nostalgic journey through Walt Disney World Resort history as reflected in the many national network TV specials and nascent offerings from the early years of The Disney Channel. Join Disney Archivist Rob Klein as he takes TV remote in hand to stroll through some of the many highlights of Walt Disney World Resort on television.

The Walt Disney World That Never Was
4:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.
What do the Western River Expedition, Asian Resort Hotel and Sleeping Beauty dark ride have in common? While these amazing experiences were crafted in the minds of skilled artists at Walt Disney Imagineering, they comprise a different kind of dimension of Walt Disney World history: the grand experiences that never made it off the drawing board or out of the model shop. With an array of rare artwork and photographs, longtime Imagineer Tony Baxter lifts the curtain and takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour through the incredible world of the Walt Disney World that never was.

Dinner Break
5:45 p.m. - 8 p.m.

From the Vault: Walt Disney World Resort on Film
8 p.m. - Walt Disney World is not often associated with motion pictures and film, but from before groundbreaking up through the creation of EPCOT Center, Walt Disney World Resort was heavily promoted through such theatrical and internal films as "Project Florida," "The Magic of Walt Disney World," "A Dream Called EPCOT" and "EPCOT 77." Join your hosts Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter and Disney author and historian Tim O'Day as they screen these rare treasures from the Disney film vaults, plus newly discovered and restored documentation footage of the construction and early years of Walt Disney World Resort.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DVD Review: The Avengers, Earth's Mightiest Heroes!

Wow. The Avengers Series produced for Disney XD is a cut above most superhero shows.

Beyond pandering to the fanboys, we get a fairly complex storyline that arcs over 13 episodes that introduces the characters, villains and their raison d'etre. Suffice it to say, any one who enjoys the superhero genre is going to love these DVDs.

My seven year-old and I are big superhero fans. Iron Man and the Hulk are his current favorites. After watching the Avengers DVD release, he has a fascination with Thor and Captain America and the idea of the Avengers.

We missed this series when it premiered on Disney XD and the notion behind the Avengers was never quite clear before watching. I read comic books sporadically when growing up because my parents never bought them for me on a regular basis. I knew that the Iron Man franchise and latest Hulk film were leading up to an Avengers film, but I never saw all of the heroes tied together. This is also a great time to introduce the animated Avengers' series as we see the release of Thor to theaters.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stories, the voice-acting and the animation.It is obvious that the creatives behind the series have a fondness for the original tales without disregarding trends in current superhero lore.

It was a great bonding experience for me and my son. We discussed why the Avengers were forming a team and why the Hulk was so distrusting. Plus, there was the anticipation of queuing up the next episode and trying to decipher where the story might lead us next.

My only issue with the set is that Disney chose to break up the season into two separate discs instead of packaging them together. It must have been a marketing issue or a business strategy of some sort.

Volume 1 Episodes:
1. Iron Man Is Born!
2. Thor The Mighty
3. Hulk Versus The World
4. Meet Captain America
5. The Man in the Ant Hill
6. Breakout: Part 1
7. Breakout: Part 2

Volume 2 Episodes:
8. Some Assembly Required
9. Living Legend
10. Everything Is Wonderful
11. Panther’s Quest
12. Gamma World: Part1
13. Gamma World: Part 2

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Walt's People Update from Dider Ghez

Didier Ghez just released an update about volumes 11 and 12 of the Walt's People series.
I spent a big part of this long weekend working on Volumes 11 and 12 of Walt's People, which I believe will be spectacular. Here is a glimpse at the table of contents of Volume 11. As you can see I am including a large section about Disney during the '50s (without neglecting the Golden Age of the Studio), and have started to open the doors to the world of WDI. The interview with Ed Catmull, conducted last week, does contain a few small scoops. (
  • Foreword: John Canemaker 
  • Didier Ghez: Ruthie Tompson 
  • Christopher Finch and Linda Rosenkrantz: Walt Pfeiffer 
  • John Culhane: Shirley Temple 
  • John Culhane: I. Klein 
  • Peter Hansen: Basil Reynolds 
  • Christopher Finch and Linda Rosenkrantz: Eric Larson 
  • John Culhane: John Hubley 
  • Robin Allan: Jules Engel 
  • Darrell Van Citters: Ed Love 
  • Darrell Van Citters: Mike Lah 
  • JB Kaufman: Frank Thomas 
  • Dave Smith: Carl Nater 
  • John Culhane: John Hench 
  • John Canemaker: Ward Kimball 
  • Dave Smith: Ward Kimball about space 
  • Didier Ghez: Frank Armitage 
  • Robin Allan: Ray Aragon 
  • Didier Ghez: Ray Aragon 
  • Gord Wilson: Jacques Rupp 
  • David Tietyen: George Bruns 
  • John Canemaker: Dale Oliver 
  • John Canemaker: Iwao Takamoto 
  • John Canemaker: Richard Williams 
  • Charles Solomon: Brad Bird about Milt Kahl 
  • Alberto Becattini: Don R. Christensen 
  • Jim Korkis: Tom Nabbe 
  • Dave Smith: Roger Broggie 
  • Didier Ghez: David Snyder 
  • Didier Ghez: Carl Bongirno 
  • John Culhane: Daniel MacManus 
  • John Culhane: Ted Kierscey 
  • John Canemaker: Glen Keane 
  • Didier Ghez: Joe Hale 
  • Jérémie Noyer: Mark Henn 
  • Animated News: Andreas Deja and Mark Henn 
  • Didier Ghez: Ed Catmull

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Travel By Twitter: Kennedy Space Center (Walt Disney World Day 03)

For those of you not following me on Twitter, you missed my sensational, live tweets from Walt Disney World during our family vacation (we were there March 26 - April 1). The crowds were moderately heavy and I am so glad that I had the Touring Plans app on my Android phone.

We did something highly unusual on this family vacation. Instead of spending every spare moment running from theme park to theme park, we decided to visit Kennedy Space Center. After spending a little more than an hour in the car and about $4.00 in tolls, we reached KSC and were excited to see some space stuff!

After buying our tickets, we headed in!

Space Churros!

Waiting on the Hubble 3D Imax film. He really wanted some popcorn.

Lunch at the Orbit Cafe.  These astronauts eat well!

Sharing our Space root beer!

I couldn't figure out how to get inside this ride...

Jet-propelled wheelchair access?

Space dancing!

From the LC-39 Observation Gallery. Yes, that is the Vehicle Assembly Building. It is massive.

Another shot from the LC-39 with the Shuttle Endeavour • STS-134 on the pad.

They both approved of the Space popcorn!

The Backside of Rocket!

It was amazing how large the rocket was.

Janitors in spaaaaaaace...

I have no idea why the plush space shuttle is sitting on a hot dog!

Inside the Explorer's bay.

We decided to skip the Shuttle Launch Simulation; the kids weren't feeling too brave that afternoon.

Space trash!

Um, where are the real ones?

You guessed it! Space nachos!!!
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Review: Kingdom Keepers II Disney at Dawn by Ridley Pearson

Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn (The Kingdom Keepers)by Ridley Pearson. 2009. 384 pp.

Pearson continues the epic story of five teens brought together for two reasons: to be the models for the new interactive, holographic hosts and to defeat the Overtakers.

The Overtakers?

Yep. The Overtakers are the animatronics and fantasies that Walt Disney created through the films and theme parks. The Overtakers want to take over the Disney theme parks and turn them into their own evil kingdoms.

There is not much written about Walt Disney World that follows a fantasy format and there is very little that is written that is based in fiction. The Kingdom Keepers series is aimed squarely at the tween and teen audiences, adding another niche that it fills.

In the second volume of the series, the Kingdom Keepers must rescue two of their own while deciphering the clues left behind by the enigmatic Imagineer named Wayne (who is a no-so-subtle nod to Walt Disney) and one of their new found friends, Jez. The sisters, Amanda and Jez are fairlies and add some interesting twists to the story. Jez has been captured by the Oveetakers and is being held hostage in the Animal Kingdom, leaving additional clues four our band of holographic heroes. The crux of the story is trying to discover who is running the Overtakers and what their plans are for the animals from the theme park.

John Rozum, comic book and television writer, blogger and Disney enthusiast offered his thoughts about the series after reading my review of the first Kingdom Keepers. He agreed to let me re-publish his comments.
My daughter and I have both been reading this series. Our assessment is pretty close in that they are engaging page turners, but are also frustrating in that much of each book is about trying to overcome or solve one problem that should be taken care of in a few chapters and that each book ends without any real resolution or forward progress. In a familiar comparison it would be if it took six Star Wars movies for Luke Skywalker to get around to blowing up the Death Star with entire movies dedicated to getting the characters out of the trash compactor or figuring out which cell Leia was in. Book IV was even more frustrating because the book ended with forward progression taking two steps backwards.
So, why do we keep reading them? Aside from the at the moment engaging read, it's primarily because the stories take place in well-loved and familiar terrain, even though as you point out geography is distorted and history essentially rewritten. For my daughter there's a real excitement of knowing exactly where the characters are and what's around them, and knowing she had been in some of those exact locations.
John adds a lot of great points!

It is obvious that the books are written for kids and teens that love Walt Disney World. Most people will overlook the disparities in the storytelling, but it is important to acknowledge that they exist. These are a great bunch of books to read with your kids and discuss the choices and actions of the Kingdom Keepers.

So, sit back and enjoy suspense-filled and family-friendly book about the Vacation Kingdom of the world!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011


Disney sent over thier latest press release for the Summer Issue of the D23 Magazine.



Behind the Scenes on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Scoop from Director Rob Marshall, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Richard Griffiths; 
Exclusive Interview with George Lucas on Reimagining Star Tours 
And a Sit Down with Stan Lee on Marvel’s Move to Disney 

BURBANK, Calif. – April 20, 2011 – The summer issue of Disney twenty-three magazine hits stands May 3, filled with features that will take readers from the depths of the sea to the edges of outer space.

In the swashbuckling cover story on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, director Rob Marshall and actors Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Richard Griffiths take D23: The Official Disney Fan Club into the action-packed world of the highly anticipated film. The piece gives readers the inside scoop on Captain Jack Sparrow’s latest adventure with an eight-page spread of gorgeous images from the film and fascinating nuggets from the set. Readers will discover what select cast and crew have to say about Johnny Depp returning to his iconic role; learn what inspired the screenwriting team behind the earlier Pirates films as they reunited to lace together legends of the fearsome Blackbeard, the Fountain of Youth and sirens of the sea; and uncover why director Rob Marshall says of the 106 days of shooting: “You’re undergoing your own adventure as you’re filming one.”

Disney twenty-three’s summer issue also includes an exclusive interview with George Lucas, the force behind Star Wars and Indiana Jones, discussing his participation in the various park attractions inspired by his films. Readers can expect to be immersed in the creative process as Disney twenty-three reveals multiple concepts for rides that were never made. More specifically, readers will be privy to the unique brainstorm that brewed the new Star Tours ride and learn about a distinctive new twist in the experience.

In “What a MARVELous World!,” Stan Lee talks about his excitement to be working with Disney Imagineers. “It’s great for Marvel to have access to Disney’s brains, because they’re pretty smart, and it’s great for Disney to have all these characters, with their built-in audience. It’s one of the wisest things that either company could have done.” Readers will also find a comprehensive look at Stan’s history that might well serve as a Marvel 101 class. The article’s glimpse into future plans for this historic team-up shows why Disney, Marvel and fans alike are looking forward to super hero-sized results.

Just in time for summer road trips, John Lasseter introduces readers to Cars 2, in which Lightning McQueen, Mater, and a whole fleet of new characters race across the country on an international adventure. In true Pixar fashion, Cars 2 will zoom to the big screen alongside the brand new animated short Hawaiian Vacation featuring characters from the Toy Story films. This issue also celebrates Walt Disney’s own motor mania with a look back at some of Walt’s personal cars as well as a few favorites that have played special roles in Disney history.

There’s much more in the summer issue of Disney twenty-three, including: ·
  • THAT WILLY NILLY SILLY NEW BEAR: Voice actor extraordinaire Jim Cummings is a natural when it comes to voicing Winnie the Pooh. He’s been doing it ever since he was a kid and is adding to his resume with the upcoming Winnie the Pooh movie.
  • JUSTICE FOR ALL: Disney Legend Bill Justice, who passed away in February, left a big imprint at Disney working on projects ranging from Bambi and Mary Poppins to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
  • ARIEL’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN: Legendary Disney animators Glen Keane, Mark Henn and Andreas Deja see their characters come to life in 3D at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, coming soon to Disney California Adventure.
  • PASSING THE TIKI TORCH: From the Enchanted Tiki Room to the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean films, the work of two laid-back Southern California craftsmen is carved into Disney lore.
  • A WALK WITH WALT 1940: WISHING UPON A STAR: The first year of the new decade saw creative and celebrated breakthroughs, including the release of Fantasia. But there were storm clouds on the horizon.
  • D SOCIETY: Disney President and CEO Bob Iger takes to the skies to photograph the Disney Dream, John Stamos and the Massey brothers get onboard, and Super Bowl champ Aaron Rodgers visits Walt Disney World.
  • PHOTOfiles: Disney twenty-three’s 10th installment of rare pictures from the Disney Photo Library shows Walt embracing Audio-Animatronics® at the Enchanted Tiki Room, Sean Connery “bonding” with Autopia, and Daryl Hannah making a big splash!
  • GOOD MOUSEKEEPING: Now in each issue of Disney twenty-three, this new column features classic Disney comics originally published in the 1930s and early 1940s in Good Housekeeping magazine. This month’s featured cartoon is from July 1937 and portrays the trio that sailed off in a wooden shoe: Wynken, Blynken and Nod. And there’s even more for Disney fans to explore. 

As with every issue of Disney twenty-three, Members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club receive an added bonus. This issue comes with one of two scented Cars 2 air fresheners featuring either racing star Lightning McQueen or his devoted best pal Mater. These limited-edition gifts will be sent only to members. To become a D23 Member, and learn more about membership and the spring issue of Disney twenty-three, visit Beginning May 3, Disney twenty-three is available at select retail locations for $15.95.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Celebrating 40 Years of Walt Disney World: The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Let's celebrate Earth Day by looking at one of the few books that investigates and explores the making of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park.

October 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Vacation Kingdom has seen a lot of changes over the past four decades and the editorial staff at Imaginerding wants to celebrate the unique and rich history of the resort with a series of posts. 

A very special thanks to Celeste Cronrath for designing the series of logos for our posts. Make sure to follow her on Twitter.

TheMaking of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park by Melody Malmberg (1998, 160 pages)

For Animal Kingdom fans, there isn't a lot of published information that focuses on the theme park. Malmberg's book is a rare gem for several reasons: it is an in-depth look at the creation of the park; a thorough look at the team, the political process and environmental issues; and most importantly, it is one of the few resources that looks at the step-by-step development of a Disney theme park--how it grew from a small team led by Joe Rohde to a cast of thousands.

This book reflects the Animal Kingdom in so many ways. The park was shepherded by Imagineer Joe Rohde, who had the vision and the desire to keep the project moving forward. Ms. Malmberg was able to collect the stories of the Imagineers, follow their progress and take us behind the scenes of the park. She interviewed key people that were there from the beginning: Joe Rohde, Rick Barongi and Zofia Kostyrko. You get the feeling that you were there, day-by-day, watching as they create the park.

You learn, early on, that the Imagineers knew they needed one thing to make the park a success; their rallying cry was Proximity Equals Excitement! During one budget and planning meeting, the Imagineers, unbeknown even to Marty Sklar, brought in a 400 pound female Bengal tiger that walked around the conference room while Rohde spoke. The executives got the point and let the group move forward (p. 25). They were able to try and develop new means of getting the guests closer to the animals--safely, of course.

You get a detailed look at how the art (re: buildings, details, interiors, roofs, painting) was constructed using as many local and foreign talents as available. Sculptors, thatchers and artisans were brought in from all over the world. Malmberg spends a lot of time looking at the backstage care and living areas. Since Disney was creating a park that would, inevitably, be compared to zoos, there is a focus on how Disney treats the animals. The first two animals to arrive, the giraffes Miles and Zari, were greeted with tears and cheers. Malmberg goes into great detail explaining how the animals were procured, transported and acclimated to the park.

The book is filled with photos, artwork, and concept drawings. One of the final sections looks at the next few years of the Animal Kingdom. Asia is the next land planned with the river ride and the Maharajah Jungle Trek opening first. The possibility of a new hotel called the Animal Kingdom Lodge, with savanna views, is even mentioned! The very last section is a listing of all the Imagineers that worked on the Animal Kingdom. Eight pages of names.
The park has come a long way in 10 years.

Bottom Line: This is a one-of-a-kind resource for Disney fans. There is not another work that takes such a detailed look at the making of the Animal Kingdom or a Disney theme park. There is a lot of discussion about conservation and animal care--this is not a negative, but the whole work is a balanced look at the creation of the park. There are chapters dedicated to the creation of the attractions and lands, but equal attention is paid to the zoological needs of the park. There is a lot less of the geeky stuff and more a look at the animals and their care. Ms. Malmberg is able to capture the passion of those involved and it translates very well to the written word. You will enjoy this work for the vast detail dedicated to the creation of a Disney theme park. (As an aside, Melody Malmberg is married to Joe Rohde.)

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