14 March 2013

World News Roundtable - 14 March 2013

Roundtable Contributors: Elizabeth Caran (Outlander Travel), Princess Fee (DF’82), Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place Blog), Alan Mize, Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com), and yours truly.

Blake Taylor (BlakeOnline.com)

An upcoming documentary will shed light on the backstage, inner workings of the most magical workplace on Earth: Walt Disney Imagineering. Helmed by Leslie Iwerks (granddaughter of renowned Mickey Mouse animator Ub Iwerks, one of Walt's earliest colleagues), the film is slated for completion by 2016, just in time for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland.

Leslie Iwerks is no stranger to Disney docs, having directed The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story and The Pixar Story, both of which are must-watch material for Disneyphiles. (For those interested, the former is available on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the latter is a bonus feature on Wall-E.) While quite a few books have traced the history of Imagineering and a handful of television specials have been devoted to the development of the theme parks, never before has Imagineering itself (rather than its creations) been the spotlight of such a dynamic and intriguing project in this medium. Considering the scope of her previous work, I look forward to seeing what Iwerks brings us and what we will learn from her new project.

Alan Mize

It was announced this week that a documentary about Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney Imagineering is in the works.  To be directed by Ub’s granddaughter, Leslie Iwerks, the documentary is slated to be released in 2016 to coincide with the opening of Shanghai Disney.  While I am excited about a documentary about Imagineering and pleased that a Disney legend will be getting some more attention for his life’s work, I can’t help but notice that the documentary has been commissioned by The Disney Company.  On one hand, this is good because it will give Leslie Iwerks access to old Disney files and pieces of history that will help her develop a full story.  One the other hand, this also allows Disney to restrict her creative process.  If they don’t like the way she is portraying the company or the Imagineers or they don’t like the direction she is going with the film, they can make her change course or even prevent her from releasing the film.  Hopefully, this will be a good match and Disney fans around the world can get an honest behind the scenes look at the Imagineers and the Disney Company.

Estelle Hallick (This Happy Place Blog)

It's nice to see that WDW does look through their (vast, I'm sure) suggestion box and actually change things up due to guest requests. I'm not a huge American Idol fan, actually I'm barely a fan of it at all but I do love to hear people perform live! And the only and only time I visited the American Idol Experience at Hollywood Studios -- I had a nice time. Not enough to return during every trip, but hey, it's a nice thing to do if I have the time. When I read that songs translated into Spanish were now available for auditions, I was kind of shocked to realize they weren't readily available before. Sure, a majority of the songs are Disney animated tunes but hey! I'm all for diversity in the parks.

Elizabeth Caran (Outlander Travel)

Disney is apparently making a change to admission policies which could change the way many parents vacation with their kids at the Florida parks. Beginning on March 23, 2013, any children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a guest who is 14 years old or older. This replaces the policy by which a child seven or younger could enter if accompanied by a guest who is at least 14 years old.

Personally, I have never experienced a huge run of children in the parks unless it is a school group or cheerleading squad or the like. And there is nothing to stop these groups from breaking up once inside the park. At least nothing is clear from this particular bit of press. However, it does seem a very good rule to have. I worked in public libraries for many years, and it amazes me how irresponsible many young teens are when it come to looking after a charge. I mean, people hire teens to babysit all the time, but after seeing kids bring in their younger siblings and proceed to completely ignore them or be unaware of their location or activities, it frightens me to think of what could happen in a theme park. Perfectly responsible adults lose their children in crowds at Disney with frequent regularity. It's far too easy to do in a place full of distractions like Walt Disney World parks.

I do wonder what prompted this change. I imagine that perhaps it affects the local Orlando community a bit more than the tourists, but perhaps that is not correct. Keeping in mind that it not only includes the four major parks, but also the water parks and DisneyQuest... Come to think of it... DisneyQuest would be the PERFECT place to send little Johnny with his big brother and also the PERFECT place for little Johnny to completely vanish.

Regardless, it seems that young teens and tweens will just have to hang out with their parents a bit more at the World. Fortunately, even parents are cool when they wear Mickey Mouse ears, right? Right?!

Walt Disney Studios Prepares to Serve a New ‘Dish’

As a result of February’s  EuroDisney Shareholders’ Annual Meeting, it was officially announced that a Ratatouille attraction would be coming to the Walt Disney Studios, Paris, in 2014. Possibly one of the worst-kept secrets in the Paris parks – the construction has been ongoing for at least 10 months – it is nice to have this rumour finally announced. Philippe Gas, Euro Disney Chairman, announcement allows guests of the Paris parks to have another reason to look into visiting the Disneyland Resort once the 20th Anniversary comes to a close. From the official press release:

This unique attraction will take guests into the world of the Oscar-winning Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille which tells the tale of Remy – a talented young rat who dreams of becoming a renowned French chef. Disney storytelling and state-of-the-art technology will come together in this romantic, larger-than-life, Parisian experience.

By developing this new Ratatouille attraction, we continue to ensure our guests can experience their favourite Disney stories in memorable ways that only Disney can provide,’ Gas said. ‘The theme, which is very français, is a tribute to our capital and the unforgettable characters that make Ratatouille the ideal choice for an attraction that fits perfectly at Disneyland Paris.

I, myself, cannot wait for this addition to the Studios. It really is moulding itself into more than just a half-day Park!

Ryan P. Wilson (Main Street Gazette)

Earlier this week the long-rumored Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex, the revitalization and expansion of the current Downtown Disney area, was confirmed to Cast Members. New parking, new shops, restaurants and entertainment venues are all part of the plan, but I'll believe it when we see it.

In 2010 it was announced that Pleasure Island would be reworked to become a new district known as Hyperion Wharf. Some of the clubs were demolished, but in 2011 it was announced that the project was being delayed before being cancelled in 2012. The manner in which this area has been jerked around for the last five years, going back to the closure of Pleasure Island's clubs, leaves me skeptical of any new announcement.

What Disney Springs has going for it is the fact that it isn't just a single area that is going to be reimagined, but the entire Downtown Disney complex. I'd like to believe that such a large undertaking isn't going to be backed down after the announcement. Personally, I'd love to see some sort of cohesive theme play out across the entirety of the area, and Disney Springs has a great story that plays with history and culture of Florida, an idea that is near and dear to my heart. However, I'm just a little weary having been bitten by the enthusiasm bug for this area before.

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