20 December 2012

World News Roundtable - 20 December 2012

Roundtable Contributors: Princess Fee (DF’82), Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place), Alan Mize, Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), Andrew (Disney Hipsters Blog), and yours truly.

Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com)

With the new year will come new additions to Disney Junior—Live on Stage! (with that obligatory exclamation point) at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure. The show will introduce new segments featuring characters from Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins that will replace the Handy Manny and Little Einsteins scenes.  Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake and the Never Land Pirates will remain part of the show.  The changes will take place mid-February for DHS and mid-March for DCA.

Disney Junior—Live on Stage! is continually updated to reflect the current market in Disney's preschool programming, and is essentially proof for why it's difficult for Imagineering to be able to implement much from television into the Parks.  With TV series having such short, fleeting lifetimes, most of them simply cannot maintain a legacy fit for a permanent home in a generation-spanning Disney attraction.  Granted, there have been a few exceptions over the years (Agent P's World Showcase Adventure being one of them), but for the most part, TV presence in the Parks has been an ongoing cycle of temporary or easily updated enticements cashing in on what's currently (but not lastingly) popular, a la Disneyland's Afternoon Avenue and DHS's ongoing saga of Disney Channel street shows.  I'd love to see a property roll around that has the longevity to withstand a full-blown, permanent Disney Park experience and not become dated. Phineas and Ferb appears to fit that bill, but the Imagineers seem to be cautiously (and rightfully) testing the waters before they get too ambitious with that franchise.

Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place)

Ben Brantley, theatre critic at the New York Times, is not the easiest guy to impress.

Case in point: This is a line from his top 10 theater picks of the year – “Of the spate of desperately misconceived new Broadway shows that opened and closed in the last months of this year, the less said the better.”

And who would have thought that Disney Theatrical’s Peter and the Starcatcher play would be included in a list of theater experience that “woke up” this hard to please theater critic. While I’ve been carrying the banner for Newsiesthe musical since its pre-Broadway tryouts, I’ve always felt that Peter knocked it out of the park and gave me so much more. (I did end up seeing it twice this year.)

Peter, based on a children’s novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Peterson, tells the story of just how Peter became the boy who never wants to grow up. Despite the 6 Tony Awards the production took home in June, the show will unfortunately be closing its doors on January 20. So, if you are in town, take some time to check it out and keep your eyes peeled, touring productions will be starting soon!

Princess Fee (DF’82)

Just this week, Walt Disney Studios released a new poster for their forthcoming feature “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, featuring James Franco, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams. The poster features the person known as The Wicked Witch of the West, and has really heightened my expectations for this movie! If you haven’t heard much about it, you could probably guess that it’s related to the original story of the Wizard Of Oz. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film will tell the tale of a circus magician who has been swept away to the Land of Oz, and his encounters with three witches.

As a fan of the musical Wicked, and – of course – the original Wizard of Oz film and book, I cannot wait to see what story this movie will tell. From the graphics alone, and the trailer, the film looks truly breathtaking! Be sure to check out the Disney website for the movie as there are plenty of goodies on show, and I’m sure more will be added over the next few months. “Oz” is due for release worldwide March 2013.

I'm a pretty big fan of all this 'nextgen' nonsense that Disney is rolling out.  Be it RFID room keys/park tickets, or planning your FastPasses in advance...I think the experience of planning a trip will be all the more fun.  But THIS my friends is getting out of hand.  Sure, I know Be Our Guest is out of control (we ate their for lunch last week...) but do we really need to be planning every aspect of our trip down to the time we eat lunch? Not to mention that the food you order in advance might not be the food you really want at the moment of delivery.   Though its not clear as of yet, I'll assume that this will be kind of like a traditional FastPass with an hour or so window. I'd be surprised if they gave us that amount of leniency.

Alan Mize

This week, the official Walt Disney World website began a “soft opening” of sorts.  I had heard that the new site would be rolling out somewhat randomly so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the link at the top of my Macbook on Monday night.  With a focus on trip planning and itineraries, the new site is designed to bring aspects of the nextgen technology from the parks into your home.  First impressions are important, and the new site does not fall short.

The new homepage is beautiful with stunning full screen photos of the parks.  Across the top of the screen are the various selections that you can make to browse the theme parks, restaurants, and resorts.  In addition, there is a new selection labeled “My Disney Experience.”  Most of you will recognize that as the name for the new official Disney app available for smart phones and tablets.  Overall, I liked the new site.  The layout was nice and I felt that the user interface was friendly and easy to use.

I was frustrated that the site did not recognize any of my reservations for dining nor did it recognize my resort reservation.  I had to manually update the site to include each of those reservations which was a lengthy process.  It’s possible that the site didn’t recognize my resort reservation because it was booked through the Disney Vacation Club site using points, but if Disney wants guests to be able to plan their trips out in advance, it’s high time that the various branches of the Disney internet start talking to one another.  And that doesn’t explain why none of my dining reservations pulled up, because those were booked online through the Disney World website, not through Disney Vacation Club member services.  Though they were frustrating, ultimately those were minor issues for me and I will chalk them up to the fact that the site is still new and I’m sure they’re still working out some of the bugs.

I think the foundation for a great site is there and I look forward to the final live site rolling out for everyone to experience.

Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)

A new exhibit is coming to The American Adventure gallery. With over forty pieces of art and history, some dating back as far as the 17th Century, the Kinsey collection seeks to further educate guests on the lives of African Americans. The showcase is scheduled to be installed by March 9, 2013, with no end point yet slated.

In recent years, the galleries of The American Adventure and Japan pavilions have done a remarkable job with rotating their displays regularly. Additionally, some of the game elements found in Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure have done the yeoman’s work of driving guests into the galleries. However, there is still work to be done. The galleries in each pavilion of World Showcase are terrific tools with which to educate and illuminate the corners of the world many guests are altogether unfamiliar with. As education is a lifelong pursuit, these galleries should not remain stagnant and should reinvent themselves every couple of years. After all, there isn’t only one story to tell from each country. Here’s hoping the trend we’ve been witnessing in The American Adventure, Japan, and, to some extent, Mexico continues to spread throughout World Showcase.

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