Friday, January 28, 2011

I Can't Blog, I'm Too Excited!

There are a lot of interesting stories to blog about in the world of Disney this week. There's the maiden voyage of Disney Cruise Lines' amazing new ship, the Disney Dream, from Port Canaveral, Florida (the Disney Geek gives a nice tour of the ship here). On the flip side, there's the curious non-story about the Dream maybe kinda getting too close to another cruise ship (depending, of course, on who you talk to). In the feel-good file, the Chilean miners are finally going on their promised trip to Walt Disney World. On the movie front, the Diane Lane horse and pony show Secretariat came out on video this week (it's still sitting in the Netflix envelope on my kitchen counter--I'll get to it...maybe).

But, all of this is taking a back seat now, because this weekend I'm at Disneyland!

I'm here for MiceChat's 6th anniversary celebration. It's a great time to get my Mickey on with some great friends and some terrific special events, including a meet and greet breakfast Saturday with the first president of Disneyland, Jack Lindquist. He'll be signing his new book In Service to the Mouse. Sources tell me there will also be a special appearance by a high-ranking VIP inside the Disney organization. I've been sworn to secrecy, but rest assured I'll have plenty of pictures and coverage of the event.

Aside from the MiceChat festivities, it's a busy weekend at the park with the premiere of the new The Magic, the Memories and You nighttime show in front of It's a Small World and the reopening of the Blue Sky Cellar preview center at Disney California Adventure (spotlighting the new Little Mermaid attraction opening at DCA this spring). The Disney Gallery will also be launching their "Magic on the Water" exhibit tomorrow.

There's lots of fun stuff going on and I've got my comfy shoes on and the camera batteries charged. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Walt Disney Family Museum Kids Summer Camp

The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco has announced their 2011 Discovery Summer Camp program. These 1-2 week classes introduce children and teens to animation, film making and the performing arts. Programs are taught by museum staff and local artistic professionals. Why wasn't this around when I was a kid?

Jamboree Players
2 weeks: June 27 - July 8 (no class on July 4), 9:00am – 4:00pm
Ages: 8-11
Join the jamboree! How would you like to learn and perform show-stopping numbers just like your favorite Mouseketeers? In this theater arts camp you will get the chance to dance, create your own acting scenes, and just have some fun! Showcase your talents in a variety-style performance on the last day of camp! No experience necessary.

Pencilmation: 2-D Hand Drawn Animation
2 weeks: June 27 - July 8 (no class on July 4), 9:00am – 4:00pm
Ages: 14- 17
Create your own animation! This 2 week camp will provide the traditional tools and knowledge needed to produce an animated short movie. Be inspired by guest animators, and exclusive screenings in our theater as you learn the hand-drawn animation that used by Walt’s award-winning team. Learn storyboarding, character design and editing and also how to compile your movie to broadcast on the web or burn to DVD.

The Art of Illusioneering
1 Week: July 11 – 15, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Ages: 11 – 13,
Ever find yourself wondering, “How did they DO that?!” This is your chance to understand some of the secrets behind classic special effects that are used in theme park rides and attractions. Together you and your team will design and create bizarre, mind-boggling illusions that will amaze your friends. Drawing on material from the Museum’s ten galleries, the art and media centers, and advice from an expert in the field, you’ll become a master of illusioneering!

1 Week: July 18- July 22, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Ages: 7- 11
Discover the many ways you can use animation as art and art as animation! Explore different ways to create animation and develop your artistic, creative ability. Have fun painting, sculpting, drawing and creating animation every day. Take home a portfolio and a DVD of your own animation.

Direct Your Own True Life Adventure
1 Week: July 25-29, 9:00am - 4:00pm
Ages: 11-13
Explore the fascinating world of documentary film. Using soundtrack, editing and state-of-the-art camera technology, this class will explore the Museum’s backyard- San Francisco’s amazing Presidio- as the subject for a film. You will capture the ever-evolving landscape, architecture, people and everyday hustle and bustle of this historic park. Get out your director’s hat and see what kind of filmmaker you can be!

Beyond the Funny Pages: Creating Comic Books
1 Week: July 25-29, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Ages: 7-11
Comics have been a part of American popular culture since the 1930s; now you can create your very own! Learn to tell a story through visual imagery and creative dialogue. Discover the art of storyboarding, illustrating emotional expressions, and the illusion of movement. Who will be your comic book hero?

Pre and Post Camp Care
8:00 am - 9:00 am, $25.00 per week
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm, $40.00 per week
We will be offering Pre and Post Care for enrolled participants during the time of their selected camp. There will be a supervised general activity or free time.

Class descriptions provided by the Walt Disney Family Museum. For more information, please contact

'Toy Story 3' Gets Five Oscar Nominations; Three for 'Alice in Wonderland'

Academy Award nominations were announced this morning and Toy Story 3 led the charge for Disney, getting five nominations including Best Picture and Best Animated Feature Film. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland received three nominations for Art Direction, Costume Design and Visual Effects.

There were a few surprises for Disney, as Tangled failed to receive a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. With only three slots available, the Rapunzel fairy tale was bumped by the French film The Illusionist. The remaining nomination went to Dreamworks' How to Train Your DragonTangled's only nomination was for Original Song ("I See the Light").

Another surprise was Tron: Legacy only scoring a single nomination for Sound Editing and getting shut out of Visual Effects and Original Score.

Disney/Pixar was also honored in the Best Animated Short Film category for the very clever Day & Night.

Toy Story 3's other nominations were for Adapted Screenplay, Sound Editing and Song ("We Belong Together"). The song was written by Randy Newman, who received his 19th Oscar nomination. Newman's only previous win was for Best Song for "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc.

Of Toy Story 3's five nominations, director Lee Unkrich's only comment on Twitter was "Speechless."

The Oscars will be presented in Hollywood on February 27.

This year's Best Picture nominees:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Complete nominations list:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

'Tron: Legacy' Digital Book Now on iPad

Disney Worldwide Publishing just released its newest digital book for the iPad, Tron: Legacy, The Complete Story. It's an attractive retelling of the back-to-the-Grid story with 150 pages of illustrations and over 35 stills from the movie. It also includes two tracks from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. The most interesting feature of the app, however, is Disney's motion comics version of the story that's a comic book come-to-life with animation, narration and audio from the movie. The first episode of the motion comic is included with the app. Additional episodes will be available as free upgrades in the coming weeks.

As good as the stories and images are, though, the interface is a bit buggy. Launching a slideshow of the movie stills at times requires repeated screen taps. Likewise for the motion comic. I also experienced multiple crashes, especially when exiting back to the multimedia menu. A quick review of other Disney digital books in the App Store revealed this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Until Disney fixes the bugs, Tron Legacy: The Complete Story is not much of a deal at $8.99. It looks terrific, but appearance and functionality should never be a trade off.

Monday, January 17, 2011

An Early Look at 'Cars 2'

On June 24, Pixar journeys back to Radiator Springs for its12th feature-length animated film, Cars 2. Below are the latest character images plus some concept art from the new movie.

In Cars 2, hotshot racer Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) enters the World Grand Prix, an international competition to determine the world's fastest car. This time, though, Lightning is no longer the arrogant rookie he was in Cars. He's now a respected veteran and winner of four Piston Cups.

Needing a first class pit crew, Lightning enlists the help of his Carburetor County buddies. Hippie VW Van Fillmore becomes his fuel expert, scrappy Italians Luigi and Guido take care of tires, and Lightning's best friend, the dim but loyal Tow Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), becomes crew chief and takes his first ever trip outside of Radiator Springs.

(l. to r.) Fillmore, Luigi, Guido and Mater
Every international racing team needs a solid security detail, and Army Jeep Sarge is up to the challenge.

Things get complicated for Team McQueen when Mater somehow gets mistaken for an American secret agent and hooks up with British spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine)

Finn McMissile
All this thrill-packed racing and espionage takes our heroes to some exciting destinations. Here's concept art showing Lightning in action at these worldwide locales.

Italy's Porto Corsa
Japan's Mount Fuji
London's Big Ben
Paris's Eiffel Tower
Like the first installment, Cars 2 is directed by John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative advisor of Walt Disney Imagineering. In select theaters, Cars 2 will be shown in Disney Digital 3D and IMAX 3D.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Be Our Guest . . . in 3D

"When people tell you they like 3D, d'ya sorta look at them like if they said their grandfather smoked and he lived until 103?" --Film critic Roger Ebert

Regardless of what revisionist filmmakers might tell you, there are certain unquestionable truths in movies:

Han shot first.

The agents in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial carried guns, not walkie-talkies.

Disney's The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast are 2D animated films.

Walt Disney Studios announced last week they will release "at least" 15 home video titles on Blu-ray 3D in 2011. Those with 3D-capable hi-def televisions and compatible Blu-ray players will now be able to see a wider selection of movies at home that match the 3D experience offered at the multiplex. There are some obvious names on the release schedule: Tangled, Tron: Legacy, Bolt, Meet the Robinsons and the 3D-retrofitted Nightmare Before Christmas. Then there are The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

Say what?

In the press release from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, executive vice president and general manager Lori MacPherson said, "We're thrilled that consumers will have the exclusive Blu-ray 3D experience of two of the most celebrated Disney animated features, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast."

Count me among the not-thrilled.

I'll say it again. The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast are 2D animated films.

Other than to generate a new revenue stream, what possible reason could Disney have to "dimensionalize" (MacPherson's word, not mine) these post-Walt classics? Will it make the wildebeest stampede that traps Simba and Mufasa any more harrowing? Will it make us root harder for Belle to escape her provincial life?

Will it be a slap in the face to the creative artists who, two decades ago, toiled within a 2D platform to create these timeless stories and settings?

Yes, I know, these 3D updates don't mean the 2D originals are going away (get Beauty and the Beast's recent Blu-ray release while you can--it's amazing!), and it doesn't appear Disney will be tampering with the stories any, but if they ain't broke, why fix 'em?

To me, 3D will never be more than a novelty format. It's fine for "fun house" movies that are all about the visuals, Tron: Legacy being the recent rare example of a 3D theatrical film that works. But, aside from life on the grid, the best use of 3D that I've experienced is It's Tough to Be a Bug at Disney California Adventure--and it came with insects poking me in the back and crawling under my seat. Presentation is everything.

Walt Disney set the standard for "plussing" his products, adding that extra element, whether it be to a movie or a theme park attraction, to make it that much more special. Adding 3D to The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast does not plus them. It tampers with movie classics that were just fine 20 years ago and require no enhancements to make them relevant to modern audiences. Some movies are perfect as is.

Just because technology enables you to change something doesn't mean you have to.

Can't wait to get 3D in your house, or are you fine with your current home entertainment setup? Should Disney's 2D animated classics be "dimensionalized," or are they untouchable? Please share your comments below.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wilde About CES

I'm at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, checking out the latest in high-tech gizmos and gadgets. CES is not only the best place to see what's new in 3D TV's, tablet computers and smartphones, it's also a great place to spot a celebrity or two. Appearing at the Blackberry booth yesterday was none other than fanboy fantasy girl Olivia Wilde, the gal pal program Quorra in Tron: Legacy. Needless to say, she drew quite a crowd of admiring tech geeks (yeah OK, I like her too) as she sat down with Lara Spencer from TV's The Insider to talk about Tron: Legacy, her upcoming film projects (ButterCowboys and Aliens, Now) and her humanitarian work in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Even though I arrived for Olivia's appearance a half hour early, the Blackberry booth was already packed with fans, so I don't have the greatest camera angle in the video below. I do have some spectacular shots of the left side of her head, though. Enjoy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Disney Bookshelf: Jack Lindquist, 'Pixar Treasures' and Inside the Walt Disney Family Museum

Happy 2011!  I hope it's a great year for you.

Santa was good to me this Christmas, dropping off three excellent books that you should add to your Disney collection as well.

In Service to the Mouse
Jack Lindquist (with Melinda J. Combs)

For 38 years, Jack Lindquist worked for the parks division of Disney. He began his career as an advertising manager at Disneyland just months after it opened in 1955 and stayed until Mickey Mouse's 65th birthday in the fall of 1993. Most of his time was spent at Walt's original Magic Kingdom, but Jack also did a significant amount of work at Walt Disney World in the 1970s and 80s before being named Disneyland's first president in 1988. In In Service to the Mouse, Lindquist recalls some of the highlights of a four decade-long career where he rubbed elbows with celebrities, world leaders and Walt Disney himself.

Lindquist earned a reputation for being an innovative thinker with a tenacious work ethic.  He rarely backed down from an idea he believed in, more than once putting his job on the line to prove a point. He was the driving force behind incredible marketing successes (Date Nite at Disneyland, the Gift Giver Extraordinaire, Disney Dollars) and immense failures (USC Trojan Nite, "Lifetime" passes to Disneyland). He idolized Walt Disney, respected Michael Eisner and was scolded by Imelda Marcos. He even went toe-to-toe against 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace...and won.

Lindquist tells all these stories--from the endless business hours to the late-night parties--with a generous combination of good humor and sincere honesty.  He's a straight shooter who knows he had the coolest job around and relishes passing his experiences onto you. Reading In Service to the Mouse is like inviting Jack Lindquist to your living room to share fascinating stories over a few cocktails. He's a welcome guest in my house anytime.

In Service to the Mouse is available from Amazon and at

The Pixar Treasures
Tim Hauser

In 2003, Disney Editions published The Disney Treasures, a hefty volume of nostalgia that chronicled in scrapbook form the output of Walt Disney's life from his Midwest youth through the birth of Mickey Mouse through the early concepts for Walt Disney World. It was chock full of photos, correspondence and memorabilia, including reproductions of original studio materials you could pull out of the book.

Seven year later, The Pixar Treasures takes the same approach with the little Emeryville company that could, and in many ways exceeds what The Disney Treasures set out to do, personalize a golden age of family entertainment.

The Pixar Treasures has it easier by covering a shorter and more recent span of time. It also helps that almost all the major players at Pixar are very much alive. While Disney archivist Robert Tieman did an impressive job mining the vaults for The Disney Treasures, there's something cool about knowing that Pixar artist Ralph Eggleston personally turned over a copy of his 1983 hand-written note from Disney animator Glen Keane to Tim Hauser, or that Hauser, himself once a writer-animator for Disney, used his own copy of The Art of Animation for inclusion in The Pixar Treasures. Of course, all the sketches and concept art included from the likes of Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles and Wall*E don't hurt either.

Picturing the Walt Disney Family Museum
Jim Smith and Richard Benefield

The Walt Disney Family Museum recently released its second souvenir book, Picturing the Walt Disney Family Museum. It's an ideal companion to the museum's first release, The Walt Disney Family Museum: The Man, the Magic, the Memories. While the first book focused on the major events in Walt's life, Picturing shows how that life is actually presented at the museum.

Working primarily in the evening, after museum hours, photographer Jim Smith and his crew shot each of the ten galleries, capturing most of the multimedia displays and many of the artifacts. You'll see a close-up view of the earliest know drawing of Mickey Mouse, an overhead look at one of only three multiplane cameras in existence and multiple shots of the exquisite Disneyland of Walt's imagination, a three-dimensional rendering of how Walt might have visualized his original theme park in the last years of his life. You'll also see some spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay taken from the museum grounds at the Presidio.

The Walt Disney Family Museum does not allow guests to take pictures inside the galleries, so if you're visiting, Picturing the Walt Disney Family Museum is the best way to take your experience home with you. And if you've never been, ordering a copy online will give you a nice taste of what the museum holds in store. It's a beautiful book.