22 November 2012

World News Roundtable - 22 November 2012

Roundtable Contributors: Princess Fee (DF’82), Alan Mize, Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind), Jeremy Morrison (Spins The World), Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), and yours truly.

Toy Soldier Shapes Up For Parade

Princess Fee (DF’82)

Although Christmas starts in the Magic Kingdom, and the rest of Walt Disney World, from the beginning of November, I never feel like the Christmas season can truly begin until Thanksgiving has passed. Happy Thanksgiving to all Main Street Gazette readers who celebrate it! With that being said, I can finally sit back and enjoy the festivities that all the Disney theme parks have to offer, without feeling it’s too early. Take, for example, this clip showing one of the Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade Toy Soldiers tryout for a place in the aforementioned classic parade. If you have ever been lucky enough to witness these Toy Soldiers in person (or through the magic of the internet), you’ll really appreciate this small clip! The Toy Soldiers are one of the most amazing parts of this holiday parade. Something fun for this Thanksgiving week. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party runs in the Magic Kingdom on select evenings until December 21st 2012. The Once Upon A Christmastime Parade can also be seen on the week commencing 12/22/12 in addition to the daytime parade.

Oz Comes to Epcot

Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind)

The 2013 Flower and Garden Festival seems very far from now, but this week, Disney released some details that have me excited for the annual celebration in Epcot: they're creating a new, Oz-themed mini-land for the Festival! The area will feature midway games, a play area for kids and an Oz-inspired garden. Thinking back on last year's Merida-themed Festival offering, I'm glad they've added something for the adults this time with midway games and a garden, and I can't wait to see what they come up with for Oz's hot air balloon. Admittedly, I am a Wizard of Oz fanatic, but I love the idea of fun, interactive, pop-up-style movie tie-in attractions. Bring it on, Imagineers!

Why Walt Disney World Matters in the Wizarding World

Jeremy Morrison (Spins The World)

I like Wizards.  If you’ve journeyed through Spins The World, the preceding statement is not a surprise to you.   I don’t speak only of the wand-waiving, spell-casting, dragon riding, Dark Lord bashing variety of magic folk.  More over, I’m referring to the wizards that create and build the attractions we adore so much.  

These wizards are hard at work in Central Florida.   From the oft-maligned plans for Avatarland, to New Fantasyland – new hyper-themed attractions are appearing in every corner.  Just down the street from Disney World is a park that was built by Imagineering-exiles - Universal Orlando.   If you’ve spent any time enjoying the on-line theme park community, you’ll know that Universal is presently constructing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion.  

Excitement is high as people analyze rumors surrounding the Boy Wizard.  Ultimately, this led to my inspiration this week - the ‘sneaky’ construction photos posted by legions of adoring fans, and the armchair Imagineers that have created a pseudo-competition between Universal and Disney World. 

Some have gone far enough to claim that Disney World can no longer compete with Universal.   Their argument is simple – Disney is not progressive enough, the rides are out dated, and people want more.  My response is also simple:  the 121 million people that visited Disney Parks worldwide can’t be wrong.   Disney Parks hold 8 of the top 10 spots on the highest attended parks list.  So it seems, critics, they are doing something well.  

While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is brilliant, innovative, and host to what is likely the greatest single ride on the planet today, it is a microscopic element on the scale of theme park greatness.   Yes, guests will remember singular attractions, but not the overall experience that Disney creates.  Creating an expansion is undoubtedly exciting. Does a new Harry Potter land draw in new guests?  Or simple recycle the old ones? 

These people become overly analytical of the wrong things.  They look in-depth at roller coasters, motion simulators, and the like.  They have, it seems, forgotten the magic that makes Disney World timeless – family. 

The reason Disney World will endure is simple.  It is inherited.  It’s passed from one generation to the next.   My wife and I will pass it to our daughter, and so on down the tree.  We are but one of millions of Disney families. It’s the smile when a child meets Mickey Mouse for the first time; the laughter of a Father and Son as they exit Space Mountain; the fireworks that end the night.  There is really nothing new about New Fantasyland.  That is why it works.  It is an updated version of timeless stories that will be fresh and nostalgic at once.  

These family memories and the bonds Disney creates is the most innovated wand-flick of them all. 

Mining for Big Thunder Clues

Blake Taylor

Quick on the heels of the mysterious dragon puzzle that Estelle shared on the Roundtable last week, the Disney Parks blog asked readers to put on their thinking caps again for another Imagineering project coming to Walt Disney World soon. Disney revealed no more than a striking portrait of a man who many say bears a striking resemblance to Imagineer Tony Baxter, saying that the painting had something to do with an enhancement to a classic Disney attraction. Several days afterward, it was unveiled to be connected with the upcoming interactive queue being added to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom.

Big Thunder underwent an extensive refurbishment earlier this year that many folks, including myself, hoped would include an interactive queue similar to the ingenious ones that have cropped up at Pooh and the Haunted Mansion. Now it's outstanding to hear that not only is such an experience being implemented, but a clever backstory is coming with it, adding to the already-elaborate tale of legendary Big Thunder Mountain. The blog has full details of this new backstory.

I'm glad that Disney is getting creative with how they relay their news. It wouldn't be the first time they tried something like this; the currently ongoing dragon mystery is another prime example, as are the "Are you 23?" campaign leading up to D23's reveal and Universal's trail of clues leading to its Despicable Me announcement. It's a little more fun than a potentially boring press release.

Alan Mize

This week, Disney released a portrait of a rich and powerful citizen of Frontierland.  As a Disney fan, his face looks awfully familiar, but apparently his name is Barnabas T. Bullion, so I must have him confused with someone else.  Mr. Bullion is the owner of the Big Thunder Mountain Mining Company and he has been having a lot of issues mining for the gold in those hills.  Natural disasters and runaway mine trains have plagued his efforts to strike gold, but like any good entrepreneur, he hasn’t given up.

Disney, as part of a new back-story, has introduced this fictional character for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  As part of the refurbishment in 2012, Disney installed the foundation for a new interactive queue for the attraction, but until now, no elements of this queue have been released.  There are a lot of negative opinions out there about the interactive queues, but I personally don’t see any issue with them.  While it’s true that the majority of Disney queues are very well done and have a lot of elements that add to the story of each attraction, many of these elements are subtle; especially to the youngest Disney fans.  While I don’t feel that every attraction needs an interactive queue, these interactive elements can add fun to an otherwise boring part of Disney World, waiting in line.  My next trip is in March and I hope that the interactive elements are up and running for Big Thunder Mountain so I can see them for myself.

Afternoon Heroes Come Home

Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)

Let me give you a few lines to start:

"Daring duck of mystery, champion of right..."
"There's no case too big, no case to small..."
"Race cars, lasers, airplanes, it's a duck-blur..."
"Bouncin' here and there and everywhere, high adventure that's beyond compare..."
"Friends for life through thick and thin..."

If even a single one of these line got you singing a song that you haven't heard since you were a kid, then you are a child of The Disney Afternoon, just like me! Luckily for us, there's a new line of merchandise appearing in the parks of Walt Disney World dedicated to these afternoon cartoons.

I fully believe Disney could bring back Duck Tales or Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers today and kids, along with their parents would gobble the shows up. These were some of my favorite afternoon shows, but the show was Darkwing Duck, because as brave as Drake Mallard was, he was also a bit on the clumsy and oblivious side, just the kind of hero I would be (no matter how much I fancy myself a Batman type)!

In recent history, Disney, along with the parks, have been doing a bang up job of paying respect to the characters and films that have made them popular the world over. These new souvenir items are in step with that movement and I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on the Darkwing Duck shirt!

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