07 February 2013

World News Roundtable - 7 February 2013

Roundtable Contributors: Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place), Alan Mize, Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley (Mouse on the Mind), Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), Andrew (Disney Hipsters Blog), and yours truly.

Here I am, talking about a nice, hot cup of joe … again. After all of the Starbucks chatter over the past few months, you'd think we'd be all coffee'd out, but you'd be wrong. This week, it was revealed that Joffrey's Coffee will be replacing Nescafe throughout Walt Disney World and Disneyland. My response: YIPPEE! I know that NesCrape has its supporters, but I couldn't be happier to see it go the way of The Skyway. I've enjoyed Joffrey's several times from the espresso stations in Epcot and at the TTA (you probably have, too, without realizing it), and it's a nice, strong cup of warm, delicious energy. Word on the street is that they grind all of the coffee fresh in Orlando, which sounds just right to me.

Another week, another Limited Time Magic. It seems like lately I've been focusing a lot of time trying to understand this promotion, which in theory I love. But the problem with theories? They're often proved wrong...

So far each week has been very hit or miss. When I saw that "True Love Week" (Feb. 11 - Feb. 17) would include special prix fixe meals at several signature dining restaurants I thought this week would be a definite hit. Then I got a glimpse of the special menus...which include not one vegan option.  Each of these restaurants tout wonderful vegan options on their normal menus, so whats the harm in throwing us lowly vegetarians a scrap or two? I'm not asking for much, just ONE SOLID vegan prix fixe menu for this Limited Magic. Or, better yet an entire week where the whole resort is vegetarian. Hey I can dream, right?

Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com)

Another round of Long-Lost Friends graced the Magic Kingdom this week, but their visit had nothing to do with Limited Time Magic. On Monday, February 4, guests found rarely seen characters dispersed throughout the park: two penguins with Mary Poppins in Town Square, Rabbit with Pooh and Tigger in Fantasyland, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum near Mad Tea Party. The appearances were unannounced and not part of any promotion or special event. They do not reflect a permanent change in the park's entertainment schedule, but rather a surprise treat for those who happened to be in the Magic Kingdom that day.

This kind of character greeting—spontaneous, unannounced, not drawing a lot of attention to itself, and existing for no other reason than "just because"—is exciting and commendable. There's something fun in the idea of exploring the parks without knowing who you might run into, and I hope the practice is put to use more often.

Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place)

Last November, Amid Amidi posted an article on Cartoon Brew about his yet-to-be published biography of Disney animator, Ward Kimball. The release date continued to be pushed back because the Disney Company had decided they didn’t like how a genuine look at the life at one of their artist’s made their company look.

It’s truly disheartening that Disney would use its power to exercise such censorship, gypping their fans the opportunity to learn about an important figure in the company’s history.

Sadly, last week Amidi announced on his Twitter page that Disney had indeed blocked Ward’s biography from hitting bookshelves as a publication of Chronicle Books. Despite setbacks, the fight to get this book published is not over yet, Amidi promises in his tweets.

We can only hope that Disney and art fans alike will one day get the opportunity to learn more about Kimball through this biography, without interference from a company that strives too hard to perfect an image that is more like a fairy tale than real life.

Alan Mize

The Disney Company is good at a lot of things.  They've built fantastic theme parks around the world. They've built numerous themed resort hotels.  They've got top notch cruise ships and they've managed to be very successful in the timeshare business. All of that, however, pales in comparison to Disney's true calling...squeezing every last penny out of a franchise.

For those that haven't heard, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney plans to not only release Episodes 7, 8, and 9 of the Star Wars film franchise, but they also plan to release spin-off films that are based on specific characters. While part of me is excited about the possibility of a film about Yoda or Boba Fett, another part of me is very aware that you can get too much of a good thing. Maybe I'm being a little pessimistic here, but let's be honest; Disney has a tendency to beat a dead horse sometimes. Perhaps you recall such cinematic gems as The Lion King 1 1/2, Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World, or Cinderella II. Those are just a few examples of Disney taking beloved characters and cashing in on them with reckless abandon. Maybe my concerns will be all for naught. Maybe I'll be wrong and these films will be fantastic. But for now, let's just say that I've got a very bad feeling about this.

Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)

There are plenty of stories in the Disney family of a small-time nobody making good and becoming royalty. No, I’m not talking about Tiana and Aladdin, I’m talking about individuals that started out as Cast Members selling magic tricks and ice cream bars or sailing down the rivers of the Jungle Cruise who rise to become big wigs in the company, famous actors, directors, and Imagineers. One such individual, Tony Baxter, hung up his ears at the end of last week.

In an open letter to Imagineering, you can see Tony Baxter wandering through decades of hard work and lessons learned. Mentoring to Baxter went both ways, whether he was working alongside Claude Coates or Imagineers who are up and comers but whose names are not yet recognizable. You learn from one another, the latest and greatest and time tested strategies. In his parting words, Baxter sought to show the qualities that were for so long instilled in the blood of not just WED and Imagineering, but the Disney organization as a whole. He had spent years attempting to bridge the earliest of Disney creators with whatever the current mindset was of the company, in his letter you can see how he has not given up this lifelong work to legacy, but instead will continue to be a voice of wisdom around the halls of Imagineering and hopefully will be picked up and carried on by the younger generation.

It is no secret that Big Thunder Mountain has been a favorite attraction of my since my earliest visits to the Magic Kingdom, and regardless of how it came into being, Tony Baxter had a hand in its creation. For that, he shall always occupy a special place in my heart. He came up through the Disney ranks to become the voice of imagination, ingenuity, and storytelling, a path a fear is all but locked off today. Then again, if there is magic in the world, and if we can dream it, then maybe we can make a difference, just as Tony did.

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