Walt Disney World Weekly Scoop

A New Approach

ArchAdvDLIn my discussions of Disney themed design I have long employed the practice of my (theoretical!) classifications of attractions into either Stratificational or Presentational design groups. I have employed these theories in my dissertations, and overall hopefully proved the usefulness of such an approach since introducing these concepts in 2007.

There are inherent problems in such an approach, even beyond the disconnect between theory and practice which is the white elephant of most critical writing. With the ascent of Eisner and his story mandates the concept of Presentationalism, that unique aesthetic mode which WED had been carefully building to towards since 1955 – climaxing with EPCOT in 1982 – was no longer permitted. As a result the usefulness of the classifications of “Stratification” and “Presentationalism” become by and large useless by the mid-80’s. I have never attempted to leverage the two theories at products which followed the end of the Golden Age of Themed Design for just this reason.

In the fallout of this tide change, a number of new schools began to grow. In WDI designs there is a “return to naturalism”, a “faith in the theme”, and a faith in “justified decor” which old-school WED designers were content to either divert or ignore due to those designer’s faith in abstract representation. But I think the chief development in the “Second Wave” which is often discussed but rarely labeled is the growth of what I have begun to call “Post-Themed-Attraction Design”.

First, a few thoughts on that cumbersome name.

What I seek to label when defining a work as being part of the Post-Themed-Attraction school is an attraction, which often appears to perch itself in the Stratificational mode, but which is implicitly or explicitly a reaction to the traditional modes and operations of the designs of WED’s Golden Age. It cannot simply be an acknowledgement of the audience; since WED designs were meant to really “bring you there”, this happens constantly in classical Disney design:

“If we weren’t in the show starting right away we’d be in the audience too.”“They have selected you to fill our quota, and they’ll haunt you until you return!”

 

No… to truly be in the school of the Post-Themed-Attraction Designs, the work must overall acknowledge its’ position as a theme park display or its’ overall role in the diagesis of the theme park “show”. It is one thing to include the audience in the world of the show and quite another to make reference to the theme park location of the show and to rely on the spectator’s familiarity with the mode of the traditional theme show to create a spark which carries on the shows forward momentum.

I. Post Themed Attraction Design

The name itself is a compromise. I have often seen attractions of this stripe labeled “post-modern”; but in reality we’re culturally closer to “post-post-post-post-modernism” today than anything else. Not wanting to create more confusion in my use than simply refraining from using such a term, I elected not to use the term “post-modern”. The second term which came to mind was “Post-Disney”, but again this creates more unnecessary associations with the death of Walt Disney in 1966 than it resolves. Closer still was “Post-Disneyland”, but again, this creates an unnecessary emphasis on a certain place, date, person or time. What the admittedly weak term of “Post-Themed-Attraction Design” seeks to create an understanding that this is a mode which responds not just to Disney works but to the whole business of creating a Disneylike diagetic environment overall. Universal, for example, is probably the best and most prolific practitioner of Post-Themed Design in the world.

PTA01I see two overall grades of the Post-Themed show. Version one strikes a subtle balance between the traditional Stratificational mode and its’ Post-Themed content. A noteworthy attraction in this vein is Star Tours, where we are still tourists, albeit tourists on a space shuttle instead of a theme park simulator. Still, the overall joke of several sequences in Star Tours is in the tourist status of the assembled crew, and we are meant to recognize this as a moment where Disney has broken the “third wall”; not towards us, the spectators – but towards itself, in a way. The moment of non-diagesis forms an ironic counterpoint to the otherwise straightforward nature of the presentation. The Timekeeper, from 1994, included a gag where tourists were beamed forward in time out of the audience, although again the diagetic nature of the attraction was not violated too strongly here as, after all, in the 1994 Tomorrowland we are all meant to be tourists to the land of the future.

Alien Encounter was a few steps up the scale and also only a few physical steps away from Timekeeper. WDI’s 1994 effort to launch a “franchise ride” aimed at teenage thrillseekers was in reality a handy salvage of an effects chair Imagineering had been tinkering with for years; the original concept was to use the Xenomorph from “Alien”. The resulting attraction was a strange bedfellow for the Magic Kingdom, wildly oscillating between interesting satire and “hip” cynicism, and in fact was removed from service shortly following its premiere to be made more “scary”.

The satire elements of Alien Encounter were the interesting ones, and this is the aspect of the attraction which tips the hand into the realm of Post-Themed Design. The fictional X-S Tech Corp of the attraction, headed by an ethereal CEO seen only on television, is a rather transparent version of Disney; a corporation which employs richly funded but inadequately tested technology to mysterious ends. The CEO is to be teleported into the theater but the signal is lost; in a panic technicians recklessly beam in whatever signal they happen to find which turns out to be, naturally, a dangerous carnivore.

Disney is well known for its ability to feed with one hand and slap with another, and the didactic tone of Animal Kingdom is only a recent example. Although the message is slightly diverted by a mention of “Disneyland Moon” in the Alien Encounter preshow, making it clear that Disney apparently exists alongside X-S Tech, the cautionary tale of a company using new technology to achieve “magic” and its’ dangerous outcome resonates through the Disney canon, from the Flying Saucers at Disneyland to the ongoing charade which was Test Track at EPCOT, diverted for years because the very sophisticated ride vehicles simply would not perform their desired functions. WDI spends years developing concepts and ride vehicles and lots of money on things that never see the light of day; it’s not hard to see the correlation and it wasn’t hard for spectators to see it them, either. Alien Encounter may have been in suspect taste, but there was nothing like it in the Disney canon at the time.

II. Past, Present Dialogue

2000 saw the opening of Journey Into YOUR Imagination at EPCOT, a bare bones replacement for the lavish Kodak pavilion of 1983. It closed only two years later to be replaced with yet another attraction due to rampant guest complaints, and it is this second version – Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment – which interests us here. The short lifespan and heated dislike of version 2 of the attraction perched version 3 in the uncommon situation of being both a replacement of and an apology for the second version, and an intriguing dynamic was created.

In the attraction, a scientific research facility known as the “Imagination Institute” – a concept salvaged from a throwaway joke in the nearby “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” – is headed by the stuffy Eric Idle, who is giving a tour which is repeatedly interrupted by carefree Figment. In version 2 of the attraction, Idle’s chairman of the institute was the authoritative voice, but here he is constantly sidetracked by Figment, and it is not hard to extend Figment the role of being the literal embodiment of WED designs and EPCOT Center in general. Figment, for example, is associated with the disruption of the weirdly sterile atmosphere of the Institute, which is literally exploded in the finale into a succession of abstract spaces – an orange sunset, a starry night, and finally a room which materializes out of nowhere. WDI designs favor concrete and demonstrable spaces – Harambe, Africa, or the sterility of a Hollywood movie studio – but WED era designs created any old imaginary – often not very well developed – spaces they felt like, in any order they pleased. Figment’s explosion of the Institute office corridors into upside down houses and abstract spaces is literally the destruction of Disney’s modern concepts of themed design “placemaking”.

PTA03

 

Besides his inherent historical association with EPCOT, Figment is employed in other ways to subvert Idle, who is essentially filling the role of a modern “creative executive”, a placebo for the hundreds of “empty suits” who continue to stifle creativity in WDI. Figment appears in his trademark yellow sweater and watches animation from the 1983 version of his attraction (a sobering contrast to the gaudy 3D animation of Figment seen elsewhere) on an upside down television. He walks on the walls and ceiling around the cars in a clear allusion to the opening of World of Motion. At one point he summons an oncoming train heard in sound effects which “rush through” the audience, a possible allusion to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. He even actually stops the attraction from continuing and diverts the cars through nonsense space with spinning cutout Figments and lighting effects. So concerned is the attraction with pleasing an audience of hardcore Disney fans that a clever visual reference to The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is even included. This is in contrast to version 2 of Imagination where a hollow reference to the Haunted Mansion was included, very similar to the perfunctory name dropping of the Mansion in California Adventure’s Superstar Limo.

“Angels, execs, producers beyond… give us a sign the Green Light is on.”

A fairly subversive quotation, actually, when removed from its’ apparent Hollywood context and placed in the similar decision making world of Imagineering.

Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment may be the only Disney attraction currently operating which seeks to create a dialogue between design team and audience, not intended for the millions of tourists who traipse in and out of the building all year mostly unaware of the subtext and history and meaning behind it. And Disney fans have not embraced it either, not only for its’ uneasy atmosphere and near constant assault on the senses, but because it is not the beloved original attraction. The final verdict on Journey into YOUR Imagination with Figment may rest on whether this “reading” of the attraction is correct or not. I believe it is, and may therefore actually rank as one of WDI’s more subversive achievements, a funny but sad cry of despair from the pit of Disney’s darkest era of themed design. It’s hard not to hear famous creative executives like Paul Pressler behind lines like:

“I want you out of sight!” “I believe Imagination should be captured and controlled!”

And some beleaguered creative team sticking it to the boss, making themselves into Figment, a blind eye turned to them for the moment under the pressures of time and money:

“Imagination should be set free!”

III. WDI on Corporate Culture

1998 saw the opening of possibly the most universally contested attraction in Disney history, The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management. Unlike the gross injustices played out on the EPCOT Center attractions of 1982-1983, The Tiki Room was largely considered to be hallowed ground, a Walt Disney attraction from 1963 which had been playing in roughly its’ original form since then. The 1971 Florida version upgraded the size of the theater, the exterior building and preshow and included beautiful new effects not possible at Disneyland, but was still more or less the Tiki Room, and by the 1990’s was starting to play badly with audiences. At nearly 20 minutes, the sedate original show is subject to walkouts even at the fiercely historical Disneyland. In 1994 an island-themed bird replaced the original Wally Boag “barker” toucan, but it failed to draw more people in. A creative team, probably charged only with creating something loud, colorful and short, was assembled. To these Imagineers, the project was undoubtedly an unpleasant “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, and the show they created is a fascinating doubled edged sword which plays with many of these uneasy themes.

The show is among Disney’s most alienating, although it is a fascinating and less oblique bit of commentary on WDI’s management. The tone is set immediately in the preshow, where the original Clyde and Claude toucans have been replaced by William and Morris, two smarmy talent agents. Where Clyde and Claude provided amusing banter about Adventureland, William and Morris are immediately annoyed at one another and begin bickering. Prominent Disney brands (in 1998) are name dropped, like The Mighty Ducks, and eventually the two birds just start shouting at one another as the preshow abruptly ends. This is the first overture to the audience about the show inside.

Disney bird characters Iago and Zazu have purchased the Enchanted Tiki Room, which is an intentional absurdity in and of itself, as the birds are from unrelated franchises, owned by Disney, and are now appearing in another unrelated franchise owned by Disney. Disney has always carefully guarded the diagetic integrity of their brands, and so the bringing together of these three properties was either created wholly by some marketing department somewhere or by the design team themselves as one more reflection of the heresy of the assignment. Eisnerite Disney may have ground out dozens of “cheapquels” to their most valuable properties, but we never saw Ariel pop up in, say, Beauty and the Beast part 6, and even in the hugely successful Disney Princess line of paraphernalia all of the girls are clustered together but all staring off in slightly different directions so they, eerily, never seem to be quite inhabiting the same space.

The Under New Management preshow also nearly immediately brings up the most important point in the whole project, which is money. To say that the designers were enamoured with the money making potential of the show is probably wrong, although others in the company assuredly were and they do go to great lengths to put these opinions in the mouths of many characters throughout the show, starting with these two cynical toucans.

“Just look at these paying customers waiting to get in.”

“…Did you say paying?”

“As in money!”

“…As in ten percent?”

The audience is being manipulated for cash, the show repeatedly tells us, which is a second absurdity in that attractions are loss leaders for Disney, not money makers, and doubly in that the Enchanted Tiki Room in any form hasn’t inspired copious cash flow from the bulk of tourists in decades. It’s easy to interpret these essential themes as being quite earnest in the show, although the logic of doing so doesn’t and never has quite added up. But this never comes off as funny or detached; it comes off as honestly cynical and rotten. This is why the show has been and continues to be so poorly received; what was probably intended as satire comes off as a sort of thesis statement on audiences, taste, culture, Disney and everything else. This authorette remains unconvinced, for reasons I will shortly elaborate on.

The show begins just as it used to, but even before the signature number “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” gets underway, Iago descends fromPTA06 the ceiling and stops the show short, bellowing that the song, a classic Disney number, is going to make him “toss his crackers”, a line which is so cringe inducing that the show actually stops dead and hardly recovers. But the writing here is essential and significant because in order for the show to be “justified” in altering the WED original, Iago, as the voice of change in the show, has to be the hero – but he is portrayed as a villain. He sits on a pillow, shouts through a megaphone, and says of Zaszu, who warns Iago that he “cannot toy with the Enchanted Tiki Room”, “He’s not my friend!”. Where we have been constantly warned about “New Management”, seen talent agents, heard shouted arguments about money and ego, and now had a Walt Disney product violated in front of us, it’s easy to connect the dots. Iago, a villain in Aladdin, is a stand in for the “empty suits” who greenlit the project and demanded change, whereas Zaszu is the protesting creative team.

“Hey you boring old Tiki birds!
I’m a big celebrity!
That’s why we’re gonna go and change the show!
Ain’t it great to have a friend like me?”

This is not a positive picture being painted of the whole concept of a brand new Tiki Room.

Iago not only violates the Walt Disney era song, but one of his own product, “Friend Like Me”, and turns it on its’ head – from a celebration of the possibilities of Aladdin to become a “someone” via the Genie in the 1993 film to the ego driven mania to change things because Iago is in a position of power over the 1963 show. Even the trademark “friend like me” line is corrupted to become cynical.

The Tiki Room, however, will have the last word. The third component of this nexis of “new management” vs “old management” is the Tiki Room itself, which is obviously a stand-in for Walt Disney and all the corporate heritage that comes with his work. In protest, the architecture of the Tiki Room itself seems to summon fictional Tiki goddess Uhoah, who literally blows up Iago, banishing him. It is literally the past materializing in the present to banish “new management”, and its’ short sighted profit minded ventures.

The show goes on for a few more minutes at this point, ending rather inconclusively. The remaining original Tiki Room effects – chanting totems, the girlie birdie wheel, etc are displayed very shortly and the audience is shuffled out the door with the show in full swing. Iago returns and declares the Tiki birds acceptable. There is an atmosphere of dulling the business end of the message of what has transpired, and ending the thing as quickly as possible. Neither “old management” nor “new management” has won in the end, interestingly, and the Tiki room show goes on. The largest weakness, actually, of the show’s integrity (not of the original version, but of this version, by itself) is not that it models a dynamic, as lopsided as it may be towards “new management”, but that the show fails to resolve it.

The show’s final message may actually be best voiced by Morris at the very end of the preshow: “Hey, who am I to go against the status crow?”

Yet that is the corporate culture of Disney, where neither side wins but the company grinds on regardless. Many people dislike the new Tiki Room show but many do like it, doubtlessly because it is loud, colorful and short. It may be the nearest Disney ever got to creating something analogous to a music video, right in the middle of the height of the “MTV Generation”. The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management is irreverant, disposable and easy to dislike, but the reverberations of its’ core message should not be forgoten or swept under the rug so quickly – it has some sharp teeth behind that smile.

IV. Summation / Some Warnings

I have profiled one Disney attraction here which I personally find lacking and two which are nearly continously condemed in the mainstream of Disney writing, but I do not come to this subject to condone or condenm. Even if such labels were easily applied to anything, both “good texts” and “bad texts” deserve equal weight, and I believe that all of these attractions profiled above have recieved insubstantial serious treatment. The label of “Post-Themed-Attraction Design” does not inherently mean any one work is bad, nor is it exclusive to bad or second tier attractions; Countdown to Extinction and Kilimanjaro Safaris contain echoes of this style.

There also remain other major works which either partially or fully model this mode. Ellen’s Energy Adventure is one of the most successful and pleasing. Test Track contains some elements of Post-Themed design, and Stitch’s Great Escape may be added to the “infamous two” profiled above as a crucial “third part” of an informal trifecta of key Post-Themed works. I can only hope that this new concept proves useful in charting Imagineering’s past, present and future of design as well as filling in a major discussion point which I often feel is lacking in current discussions of the possibilities and the products of our modern era of theme park going.

To purchase you discount Disney Tickets, please call our office toll free at 1-877-406-4836.

Walt Disney World Weekly Scoop

Inspiration from an Amazing Imagineer

IMG_0434

Traveling past the Mad Tea Party at The Magic Kingdom the other day, I came upon this quotation I had never seen before. Nestled in the topiary it reads:
“Be good at something.
It makes you valuable.
Have something to bring to the table.
Because that will make you more welcome.”
–Randy Pausch
If the name sounds familiar, Randy was a Disney Imagineer who fought and loss a courageous battle to pancreatic cancer in 2008. During this ordeal, he gave at Carnegie Mellon an upbeat and inspirational set of remarks known “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood” Dreams.” This lecture became popular on YouTube and throughout the internet. He also co-authored the book offering the same theme, which became a New York Times best-seller.
In recognition of Randy The Magic Kingdom has placed this quote from his talk within the topiary gardens of The Mad Tea Party. It is a lesson to all of us to find our strengths, and to bring something unique and wonderful about ourselves to the table of life.
It’s a relevant message in mad, recessionary times.

 

Walt Disney World Weekly Scoop

Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration set to debut!!!

Took a break from Manta Madness and caught a soft-opening performance this afternoon of Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration at Walt Disney World’sMagic Kingdom. The stage show officially opened in Tomorrowland on Wednesday, May 6.

What it is: A big stage, singing host Tip Trendo plus his Galactic Girls. You can see it’s set in the retro-future by their silver knee-high boots. Eventually they are joined by dancing robots ordered by Stitch from Robo-Mart. Stitch is up on the big screen, yet interacting with various audience members in a fashion previously seen in the nearby Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and Epcot’s Turtle Talk with Crush.

It’s outdoors and toasty warm already. Heaven help those high-energy, costume-heavy performers.

A few photos follow … and there’s a bit of a spoiler after the jump.

DSC04135 

Here’s our host and two of the Girls. We’re all here to celebrate Galaxy Day. Stitch is somewhat remote on the screen.

DSC04136 

The two robots and the other two Girls. They dance to “Mr. Roboto” and “Love Machine.” They do the robot and some ambitious break dancing.

Later the robots must be rebooted, which leads to “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.” (One of the Girls is appropriately named Nancy.)

DSC04152 

Eventually the crowd interacts by learning the Stitch dance. That blue carpet keeps little knees from getting burned. Many folks stayed in the shadows cast by TTA.

 

DSC04148 

This makes me feel a little Power Ranger.

DSC04151  

A better shot of a Galactic Girl. A least she can feel a breeze! (Are you ready, boots?)

DSC04157 

Eventually, Stitch transports himself from screen to Tomorrowland in Elvis mode. (Cue “Rubberneckin” and more dancing. Do the Stitch!)

The finale is followed by a futuristic, intergalactic, instrumental version of “The Time of Your Life.”  I know you’re shocked.

DSC04127 

Rewinding a second — the preshow is a telecast of Tomorrowland News Network. It starts 10 minutes before showtime. Here’s what I learned: There’s still Happy Talk in the newscast of the retro-future. Sigh.

Universal Studios Weekly Scoop

Universal Studios announces it’s Summer Concert Series Lineup!!! 

American Idol winner Jordin Sparks will kick off Universal Studios first-ever Summer Concert Series on Saturday, June 13. The performances will take place at the Music Plaza, which opened at the theme park this year during Mardi Gras festivitiies.

Following Jordin Sparks on successive Saturdays will be hip-hop artist LL Cool J (June 20), British pop star Natasha Bedingfield (June 27) and Rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Famers The O’Jays (July 4). The concerts are scheduled to start at 9 p.m. 

The new stage, in the shadow of the under-construction Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster, is designed in the style of the Hollywood Bowl in California. The Music Plaza sports a 2,400-square-foot performance stage, a 15,000-square-foot viewing “lawn” and two 20-foot-tall projection screens, Universal Orlando says.

Like the Mardi Gras concerts, these events will be included with your Universal Studios Tickets!

the-music-plaza

Walt Disney World Weekly Scoop

Characters return to Disney’s Celebrate a Dream Come True parade at Magic Kingdom

Hallelujah! Someone has seen the light at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and boosted the number of characters in the Celebrate a Dream Come True snoozefest of a parade. I counted almost two dozen additional characters in the daily parade.

The additional characters — who are walking the route so they can actually interact with guests (imagine that!) — are interspersed throughout the Magic Kingdom parade, leading each unit.

Strangely, the additional characters come with a cost: The villains float has been removed. That’s a shame, as Cruella, Maleficent and the Evil Queen from “Snow White” always entertained. But for those who have to have some evil in their parade, some of the new characters are villainous.

Among the character additions are some faces not as frequently seen in the Magic Kingdom parades. Here’s a run-down of what I noticed:

* Chip, Dale and Pluto have moved to the front of the parade in front of Mickey and Minnie.

* Gepetto, Gideon and Foulfellow are in front of the Pinocchio/Snow White float.

* Jafar, Genie, and the rarely seen Abu character lead Aladdin, Mary Poppins and Bert.

* Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Tweedle Dee and Dum process in front of Peter Pan, Wendy, Alice and Mad Hatter.

* Cinderella’s mice, Suzy and Perla, kick off the princess procession, along with her evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine and her ugly stepsisters, who provide some fun comic relief.

* Lilo & Stitch, Woody and Jessie are in front of the finale float, which now includes Baloo and King Louie.

Other changes after the jump:

  

* In an effort to let the characters interact more with the crowd, they dismount their floats during the show stop and dance closer to the audience. Dancers run up on the floats to take their place.

* It seems an effort has been made to jazz up the show stop. Along with the men waving flags, it looked as though there was increased ribbon action from the women.

Overall, the improvements were needed and they improve the ambience of the parade, but it still is a pretty weak effort by Disney. I still wonder who thought it was a good idea to OK a parade full of generic dancing Disney kids and minimal characters. At least these changes seem like an effort to add some charm and magic into what should be the daytime centerpiece of Disney’s entertainment.

I’m going to give it some time and check it out again in a few weeks when I have company in town. We’ll see if there are any more tweaks to be had. If you should need Disney Tickets, please call us toll free at 1-877-406-4836 or just order them here on our web site.

imageCA9JTAWZ

Walt Disney Weekly Scoop

Star Wars Weekends, Guest Celebrities List

Last year’s Star Wars Weekends was pretty amazing. With ‘behind the force’ in the new enclosed theater and the best photo themed photo ops and character costumes yet, it set a high bar for this year’s event. And yet, inevitably, the weekends grow closer until it’s time to start planning for Star Wars Weekends which will run from May 22 to June 14, 2009.

The lineup of special guests who will be participating in the Star Wars fun at the Disney Hollywood Studios has been announced. Fans of all ages will converge to celebrate the heroes, villains, creatures and droids of the saga. In addition to Star Wars costumed characters, fun activities, and the Star Tours theme park ride, celebrity guests will be in attendance for meet-and-greet sessions, star conversations, and a classic Hollywood-style motorcade.

Here’s a look at the celebrity guests which include Star Wars cast members from the entire saga. As always the guest list is subject to change. I’ll try and return and update this post if I hear of changes.

The celebrity host for each weekend will be Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho) while Clone Wars: Behind the Force will be hosted by Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka). Laga’aia replaces Warwick Davis who has had the job for the last few years.

May 22-24 — Ray Park, Warwick Davis, and James Arnold Taylor

Ray Park thrilled audiences as the unforgettable Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, and will be joined by Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Return of the Jedi as well as Anakin’s young friend Wald in The Phantom Menace. James Arnold Taylor, who voices Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars, will appear as a guest in Behind the Force.

May 29-31 — Peter Mayhew & Matthew Wood

Peter Mayhew has of course appeared in four of the six Star Wars movies as the mighty Chewbacca. Also appearing will be Matt Wood, Supervising Sound Editor for Episode III and The Clone Wars as well as the voice of General Grievous.

June 5-7 — Jeremy Bulloch, David Prowse, and Matt Lanter

Jeremy Bulloch is best known for his role as Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and also made a brief cameo in Revenge of the Sith as Captain Colton. David Prowse played ultimate villain Darth Vader throughout the original trilogy as the man behind the mask. Matt Lanter, the voice of Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars, appears as a guest in Behind the Force.

June 12-14 — Dave Filoni & Temuera Morrison

The creative force behind The Clone Wars, Supervising Director Dave Filoni is also a die-hard Star Wars fan! Filoni will be joined by Temuera Morrison, who plays Jango Fett as well as the unmasked clones of Episodes II and III!

I’m looking forward to hearing from this great lineup. If you should need to buy your Disney Tickets for this event, please call our office toll free at 1-877-406-4836 or just order them here on our web site!

image

 

Kennedy Space Center Weekly Scoop

JUST IN FROM NASA: HUBBLE MISSION A GO ON MAY 11.

Here’s the news release:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA managers completed a review Thursday of space shuttle Atlantis’ readiness for flight and selected an official launch date for the STS-125 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Commander Scott Altman and his six crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 2:01 p.m. EDT, May 11, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Atlantis’ launch date was announced following Thursday’s Flight Readiness Review. During the meeting, top NASA and contractor managers assessed the risks associated with the mission and determined the shuttle’s equipment, support systems and procedures are ready for flight.

Atlantis’ 11-day mission will include five spacewalks to refurbish Hubble with state-of-the-art science instruments. After the astronauts’ visit, the telescope’s capabilities will be expanded and its lifetime extended through at least 2014.

Commander Altman will be joined on the mission by Pilot Gregory C. Johnson and Mission Specialists Andrew Feustel, Michael Good, John Grunsfeld, Megan McArthur and Mike Massimino. The spacewalkers are Feustel, Good, Grunsfeld and Massimino. McArthur is the flight engineer and lead for robotic arm operations. To purchase your Kennedy Space Center tickets, please call our office toll free at 1-877-406-4836 or just order them here on our web site!

Sea World Orlando Weekly Scoop

SeaWorld’s new roller coaster Manta on track for May opening!

Sea World Orlando guests might catch their first glimpses of the new Manta roller coaster in action next week when its three trains are tested on the rails already snaking through the theme park.

By midweek, the safety tests would get under way after 3 p.m. The trains, which seat 32 passengers apiece and are fronted by a 12-foot manta design overhead, are tucked away in a maintenance building on the site. Construction of Manta, an inverted flying roller coaster that incorporates an enormous aquarium in its queue at Sea World, is on track for its official opening May 22.

“It’s like the homestretch for us; we’re about 2½ months away from wrapping it up,” said Brian Morrow, director of design and engineering, during a walk-through of the area Wednesday. The sea life — including 3,000 animals — will be moved into the aquarium in about three weeks, Morrow said. “We’re putting in landscaping, so that’s an indication that we’re very far along in our attraction,” he said.

Mantaseaworld1089f
Manta, very visible from the park entrance, will be a major addition just before a peak tourism season threatened by difficult economic times. The ride has been planned for years. “We just keep trucking ahead because we’re really looking for this ride to be an important asset to Sea World Orlando,” Morrow said. To purchase Sea World Tickets, please call our office toll free at 1-877-406-4836 or just order them here on our web site!

Walt Disney World Weekly Scoop

SPACE MOUNTAIN CLOSED UNTIL NOVEMBER 21st. One of the more iconic attractions at Walt Disney World is getting a makeover. Disney said Wednesday it will shut down Space Mountain this spring for what the company described as a months-long “refreshment” of the 34-year-old Magic Kingdom roller coaster. The ride will close April 19, just after the Easter holiday. It is expected to reopen late in the year, Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said, though a specific reopening date has not been set. The timetable means Space Mountain will be closed throughout the busy summer-travel season. The construction work will include installing new track inside the enclosed coaster, which carries guests in the dark through a series of sudden drops and sharp turns. The layout of the track will remain the same, however. Other upgrades will include a new enclosure for the ride’s queuing area and a new ceiling inside its signature, white dome, Finger said. Finger said the renovations are the first substantial work on the ride since September 1999. The project follows a series of other makeovers Disney has made in recent years to some of its oldest attractions, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom and Spaceship Earth in Epcot. Disney fans have been swapping rumors for more than a year that the company was planning a sweeping overhaul of Space Mountain. In 2005, the Walt Disney Co. completed an extensive, two-year makeover of the Space Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. But the changes to Orlando’s version of the ride — it’s the original Space Mountain, having opened Jan. 15, 1975 — are likely to be more modest. “We’re retaining many of the classic elements that made Space Mountain a rite of passage at the Magic Kingdom that’s been enjoyed by generations,” Finger said. So if you are planning on visiting Walt Disney World and need discount Disney Tickets. then please contact our office toll free at 1-877-406-4836 or just order your tickets here online.

Universal Studios Weekly Scoop

Hi everyone, Pat Pulliam here to relay a little info on the new Harry Potter attraction, due to open in 2010. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Universal Orlando Resort are partnering to create the world’s first fully immersive Harry Potter themed environment based on the bestselling books by J.K. Rowling and blockbuster feature films from Warner Bros. Envisioned as a “theme park within a theme park” and titled “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” the new environment will become part of the experience within Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park at the Universal Orlando Resort.

Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters – and faithful to the visual landscapes of the films – “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” will provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience the magical world of Harry and his friends. The fully immersive, themed land will enable guests to visit some of the most iconic locations found in the books and the films including the village of Hogsmeade, the mysterious Forbidden Forest, and even Hogwarts castle itself. “The plans I’ve seen look incredibly exciting, and I don’t think fans of the books or films will be disappointed,” said J.K. Rowling.

Expected to be revealed in 2010, the new environment will feature immersive rides and interactive attractions, as well as experiential shops and restaurants that will enable guests to sample fare from the wizarding world’s best known establishments. Also debuting will be a state-of-the-art attraction that will bring the magic, characters and stories of Harry Potter to life in an exciting way that guests have never before experienced.

 The Academy Award-winning production designer Stuart Craig, who has worked to bring the world of Harry Potter to life in all of the feature films to date, leads the creative design for the area to ensure it remains faithful to the look and feel of the films.

“Our primary goal is to make sure this experience is an authentic extension of Harry Potter’s world as it is portrayed in the books and films,” said Craig. “I am very excited to be working closely with the Universal Orlando team to bring the area to life.”

The Universal Orlando resort destination includes two dramatically distinct and adjacent theme parks, the Universal Studios motion picture and television theme park and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando’s most thrilling and exhilarating theme park. Universal Orlando also includes CityWalk, a 30-acre dining, shopping, club and live-entertainment venue as well as premier on-site Loews hotels and world-class film and television production facilities.

Harry Potter continues to be a global phenomenon. The series of books by author J.K. Rowling has been translated into 65 languages with more than 325 million copies sold in over 200 territories around the world. The films, produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, have grossed more than $3.5 billion at the box office worldwide. Each of the four Harry Potter films produced to date has the distinction of making it into the all time top 20 grossing films worldwide. The fifth film in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix™, will be released in theatres on July 11, 2007. So if you would like to purchase your discount Universal Studios Tickets, please call us toll free at 1-877-406-4836 or just order them here online!