29 November 2012

World News Roundtable - 29 November 2012

Roundtable Contributors: Elizabeth Caran (Outlander Travel), Alan Mize, Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind), Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), and yours truly.

Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com)

In the tradition of their past viral video hits (Bohemian Rhapsody, anyone?), on Monday the Muppets debuted the music video for their new holiday single with CeeLo Green, "All I Need Is Love." The song, which appears on the new album CeeLo's Magic Moment, was given major publicity buzz this week with exposure on Good Morning America, The Voice, and Green's own Christmas special. The music video, running longer than the song's length at a glorious 7 minutes, is Muppets galore and lots of fun.

But what does this have to do with Walt Disney World? On the surface, nothing at all. Looking deeper into things, though, Disney has invested a lot into the Muppets franchise's potential over the last several years, peaking with the release of the feature film The Muppets in November 2011. With the massive frenzy following that movie (an Oscar win and a currently-in-production sequel among them), it's not a stretch to think that the next logical step for Kermit and company could be the Disney Parks. The interactive adventure game onboard the Disney Fantasy proved the Imagineers' interest in the characters, so I can't help but wondering if there are more exciting Muppet projects in the works. Something similar to the Cruise Line's adventure game seems ideal for Hollywood Studios, which has yet to debut an interactive mobile game like the Magic Kingdom and Epcot have. If we're dreaming big, a fully-realized Muppet eatery in the location of Pizza Planet could be exquisite (complete with sounds of the Swedish Chef's cacophony coming from the kitchen doors). For now we'll have to be content with Muppet*Vision 3D, though I wouldn't be surprised if more Muppet fun pops up in the Parks in the next few years at the pace this franchise is escalating.

Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind)

When the two-credit signature restaurant in Epcot's France Pavilion reopens in December, it will bear a new name: "Monsieur Paul." The dinner-spot formerly known as Bistro de Paris will be renamed in honor of Paul Bocuse, one of the three chefs who started the restaurant. A fitting tribute to a beloved chef, to be sure, but I just hope they don't get rid of the warm chocolate and almond cake.

Alan Mize

This week, it was announced that Epcot’s interactive game Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure would be expanding its Horizons (see what I did there?).  This replacement to the old Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure debuted earlier this summer on a limited basis but new elements have been installed in the Mexico, United Kingdom and Japan pavilions and they are ready to be rolled out in the coming weeks.   While I never took the opportunity to play the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, and I haven’t yet had an opportunity to see the Agent P version, I have heard great things about these interactive games.  Epcot is my favorite of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World, so I don’t need any additional motivation to spend time there, but I can see why the park in its current state may be less than thrilling to a child.  Agent P is an extremely popular character with both kids and adults and this interactive game will surely keep the younger Epcot guests entertained while wandering World Showcase.  Plus, while they’re walking through the different countries and playing the game, maybe they’ll learn something while they’re at it.  After all, edutainment was one of the foundations of Epcot Center 30 years ago so a little more of that wouldn’t hurt.

Elizabeth Caran (Outlander Travel)

Although my skills in the hard sciences are regrettably limited, I do geek out when Disney technology gets way cool, and a piece appeared in the Washington Post this week that completely got my inner nerd whooping and hollering. It seems that Disney research has been able to take the Audio-Animatronics figure one step closer to Asimovian proportions by programming one to play catch! That's right... perhaps one day soon in a theme park near you, you will be able to toss a ball back and forth with a computer. The figures can even do partner juggling. And if they miss a catch? They are programmed with subtle reactions of shame, confusion, or even indifference. The reactions real people have to playing catch with a robot, even in it's skeletal form, are remarkable. No telling how far this is from implementation, but I personally cannot wait to queue up for my chance to play catch with... Abraham Lincoln? Mark Twain? Walt Disney? The possibilities are endless!

Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)

It was announced this week the Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special will be returning to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Last year the Pleasure Island alum were granted a week long showcase at the park, but this year they have been granted a larger amphitheater and a two week engagement. After only one year, the show is already one of the top holiday draws in the park, which tells me that perhaps it is time to throw open the doors of the Comedy Warehouse down in Pleasure Island once again!

Interacting with the audience/guests is a hallmark of Walt Disney World entertainment. The residents of Main Street, the World Showcase Players, and the streetmosphere personalities of Disney's Hollywood Studios are all integral parts of the park going experience. Walt Disney World learned from this and created unique shows and interactions when they originally opened Pleasure Island with the Comedy Warehouse and Adventurers Club.

Now, I understand that Walt Disney World had other plans for the spaces of Pleasure Island when they shuttered the clubs, and I know that trying to come up with a solution to loiterers and families without cutting off the walkway between the Marketplace and West Side is not easy, but Pleasure Island feels about as remarkable as a parking lot at this point. I'm not asking to return Pleasure Island to its previous state, but it should just be left sitting like an open wound either. Clearly the comedy stylings of the amazing cast from Comedy Warehouse strikes a chord with guests, why not start revitalizing Pleasure Island by reintroducing them into a regularly scheduled show there?

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