Magician Mickey Mouse Greeting Guests at New Magic Kingdom LocationApril, 7th 2011

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mickey Mouse now reigns at a new location in Magic Kingdom to meet and greet his friends at Walt Disney World Resort. Guests can now go backstage at Town Square Theater for photos and autographs with Mickey -- without waiting in a standby queue!

Mickey's new location in the park also heralds the first-ever use of Disney's FASTPASS Service for a character meet-and-greet experience. FASTPASS allows guests to reduce waiting by designating a window of time when they can return for a theme park experience.

The fun takes place at the Town Square Theater presented by Kodak, located just inside the Magic Kingdom entrance. Previously known as Town Square Exposition Hall, the venue has been re-imagined as a turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century theater where posters proclaim Mickey Mouse as the star of a magic show.

A glistening marquee with gold-leaf trim and sparkling lights beckons guests to enter a lobby that serves as a hub for character meet-and-greet queues, the Box Office Gifts merchandise shop and Tony's Town Square Restaurant. Lush curtains with gold rope tie-backs, polished-brass chandeliers and a huge tile floor mosaic of the Town Square Theater logo adorn the space.

Just beyond the lobby, guests pass through an ornate arch and enter a queue to meet Magician Mickey Mouse -- or a queue to meet the Disney princesses, for whom Town Square Theater will be a meet-and-greet location during New Fantasyland construction.

The meet-and-greet experience begins when magical posters featuring Mickey's various magic acts come to life, enhancing guests' journey through queues into the backstage corridors of the theater. Mickey greets guests in a rehearsal-room environment amid posters, steamer trunks and stage props. It's a classic backstage area with a wood floor and ceiling. One wall is brick, the others are papered in red and black -- Mickey colors.

During the Princesses' limited engagement at Town Square Theater, they will greet guests in an area fit for royalty -- replete with plush carpeting, lush velvety-blue drapes with gold tiebacks, and a large mural backdrop of a chateau amid green, tree-covered hills and fields.

Exiting the meet-and-greet areas, guests pass through Curtain Call Collectibles, a shop with design elements suggesting a backstage area used for theater shipping and receiving -- with large, barn-like doors through which props and set pieces could pass.

Guests wanting to meet Mickey or the Princesses can either obtain a Disney's FASTPASS ticket or get in standby queues. FASTPASS tickets, which are available near Town Square Theater, designate an hour window of time during which the guest can return to the theater and have their "magic moment" with Mickey or the Princesses without joining the standby queues.

Re-Imagineered Star Tours Returns in Late MayApril, 7th 2011

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- From the time Star Tours debuted at Disneyland Park in 1987 and at Walt Disney World Resort in 1989 until the attraction went dark for "reimagining" in fall 2010, guests embarked on a journey to the Moon of Endor and beyond, with a trainee pilot named REX at the controls of 40-passenger Starspeeder 3000 spacecraft.

Now the Star Tours attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida (scheduled to reopen May 20) and at Disneyland Park in California (scheduled to reopen June 3) as Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, puts a whole new twist on virtual space travel with Starspeeder 1000 craft -- predating the Starspeeder 3000 because the new show depicts an earlier chapter of the Star Wars saga than the original Star Tours did. But fear not: Techno-wizards are equipping passengers on the 1000 with the ability to experience the new adventure in eye-popping 3D -- wherever that adventure may take them.

The destination is not necessarily what guests expect -- unless they expect the unexpected -- as C-3PO, a new pilot (by accident) takes the controls for a journey to the "metropolitan" planet Coruscant or to Tatooine an arid planet on the "Outer Rim," or to some other planet within Star Wars' mythical universe. Even the outcome of the adventure may change from one "launch" to the next.

Guest Images Come to Life on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World ResortApril, 7th 2011

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – In a dramatic new projection show filled with special effects and magic, Cinderella Castle transforms into a shimmering canvas for images of Walt Disney World guests and the memories they made that day at Magic Kingdom.

In the nighttime spectacle, photos of guests captured that very day in the park are projected larger-than-life among the spires and turrets of Cinderella Castle. In similar fashion, guest images are projected onto “it’s a small world” on select nights at Disneyland Park in California.

The ten-minute experience – called “The Magic, The Memories, and You!” – dazzles park guests on both coasts in ways never before experienced, themed to beloved Disney stories and with playful animated sequences that seem to defy the architecture of the buildings. The spectacle is scheduled most nights with up to two shows per night depending on theme park operating hours and other special ticketed events.

As many as 500 images shot that day project onto the castle each night the show is presented, producers estimate. Disney PhotoPass photographers capture guests creating new memories as they “smile for the castle.”

“Disney parks create family vacation memories to last a lifetime,” said Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “What better canvas for those memories than Cinderella Castle, one of the most photographed icons in the world.”

Producers storyboarded the show as if it was a short animated film, explained Alan Bruun, associate creative director, Walt Disney World Entertainment. They weaved music, story, photography, video and animation into a new kind of nighttime entertainment.

After the sun goes down, 16 high-powered state-of-the-art projectors bring the castle to life as that day’s photos (and videos taken from Disney’s “Let the Memories Begin” online hub) seem to dance about the famous facade.

As classic Disney music weaves in and out of the new “Let the Memories Begin” theme song, turrets spin or rocket into space, vines grow, planets and cannonballs whiz by as the castle shimmers and magically transforms itself in playful and exciting ways to accompany the guests’ memories of fun, adventure and family experiences.

“The images dance to favorite Disney tunes and culminate in a spectacular finale punctuated by animated and actual fireworks,” Bruun said. “Guests see the castle behave in ways they would have never thought possible.”

As Disney Parks encourages families to “Let the Memories Begin,” guests have been celebrating their only-at-Disney memories by sharing their stories and by uploading photos and videos online at DisneyParks.com/memories.

Vacation memories hold a special place in the hearts of families, too, according to a recent survey of Americans and Canadians conducted by Ypartnership, a leading research firm that tracks consumer insights and trends in travel.

Nine out of 10 parents polled said they plan their vacations with the express hope of creating a lasting family memory. And most memories don’t fade with the passage of time. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they think back “often” or “very often” on their most cherished vacation memories.

Disney to Begin Construction of Shanghai ParkApril, 7th 2011

SHANGHAI, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Walt Disney Company is set to begin construction of a theme park in China's commercial hub of Shanghai on Friday, sources close to the matter said Thursday.

A ground-breaking ceremony and a news briefing are scheduled to be held Friday morning. Details about matters, such as the duration, scale and investment, will be released at the news briefing, according to the city government.

The agreement for the project was signed in November 2010. The new theme park will be the first Disneyland on the Chinese mainland and the fourth outside the United States, after Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

The cost for the first phase of the project is expected to amount to 24.5 billion yuan (about 3.74 billion U.S. dollars), Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said on the sidelines of the annual parliamentary session in Beijing in early March.

Disney Magic Sailing to HalifaxApril, 7th 2011

thechronicleherald.ca

Mickey will be sailing into Halifax next year. Disney Cruise Line announced Wednesday that one of its ships, Disney Magic, is slated to stop here nine times in 2012. The cruises will be part of a five-day New England package out of New York City that will also include stops in Saint John, N.B.

"We’re anticipating that the calls from Disney next year will bring in about 20,000 new guests to the port of Halifax," Cathy McGrail, manager of cruise development with the Halifax Port Authority, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from New York.

"We’re really excited. We think this is a great opportunity, not only for the Port of Halifax, but for Halifax and for Nova Scotia to be able to showcase our destination to the Disney Cruise Line."

The authority estimates 230,000 to 240,000 passengers will visit Halifax this year on board 126 vessels, which start calling here later this month.

Those estimates are down from a record year in 2010, when the port welcomed an all-time high 261,216 cruise ship passengers from April 27 to Oct. 30, up 14.7 per cent from 2009.

Businesses operating near the waterfront were keen to hear the Disney cruises will stop here next year.

"It’s fantastic news to hear of a new line coming," said Gordon Stevens, president of the Uncommon Group, which owns Rum Runners Rum Cake Factory and Sugah! Confectionery and Ice Cream Emporium at Bishop’s Landing on the waterfront.

Cruise ship passengers represent 15 to 20 per cent of his business.

"It’s sort of a feather in the cap for Halifax as a cruise destination that you’ve got another line that thinks it’s worthwhile," Stevens said.

Delicate giftware won’t have to go on high shelves just because young children will be visiting with the Disney cruises, said Lisa Olie, the showroom manager at NovaScotian Crystal Ltd., at the foot of George Street.

"We love to have the children come in," Olie said. "Actually, there are things within this showroom that we want the children to touch. We don’t want people to be afraid of crystal. When children are afraid, they grow up to be adults that are afraid of crystal."

If something breaks, it just gets thrown back in the pot and recycled, Olie said.

"For us, it’s part of the learning process and educating people that lovely things are not something to be afraid of."

Even if they don’t buy something, it is important the cruise passengers see the glasswork’s craftsmen at work, she said.

"Maybe six months from now, there’s a wedding and they say, ‘Hey, remember that crystal store we saw in Halifax?’ And they go online and pick up a wedding gift."

Brian Doherty, who owns The Old Triangle, said he normally sees a spike in business at the Irish pub on Prince Street when there is a cruise ship in town.

That shouldn’t change just because Disney targets family cruisers, he said.

"We’re family-friendly until 8:30 p.m. and then the kids have to leave," Doherty said.

He is hoping New Yorkers, many of whom are of Irish extraction, will stop by for some hospitality after walking the waterfront.

"We’ll give them a mickey of another kind," Doherty said with a chuckle.

Disney’s rates for the new five-night Canadian cruise itinerary departing from New York start at $715 per person for a standard inside stateroom, based on double occupancy.

Disney says guests will be able to reserve ride times from homeFebruary, 17th 2011

By Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel

Future visitors to Walt Disney World will be able to reserve ride times from their home computers and bypass hotel check-in desks entirely once they arrive at the resort, the head of the Walt Disney Co.'s global theme-park division said at an investors conference Thursday.

The advances are among of a series of technological initiatives Disney is developing in hopes of making visits to its increasingly crowded theme parks easier to plan and less intimidating to navigate, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs said at the conference in Anaheim, Calif.

"In the coming years, we'll introduce a broad set of systems and tools that will help us create a more seamless and personalized experience and help guests get more out of their visit with us," Staggs said. The ultimate goal, he added, is "to welcome more and more people, while making their experience more satisfying, more personal and more immersive."

Staggs' comments offered the first detailed glimpse at a secretive initiative dubbed "Next Generation Experience," or "NextGen," that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has been working on for more than a year. The budget for the project is said to be around $1 billion — as much as Disney spent to build its recently launched Disney Dream cruise ship.

In his remarks, Staggs described a "a version of Fast Pass for an entire Disney vacation." Future guests, he said, will be able to reserve specific ride times for popular attractions and secure seating for shows, make restaurant reservations and pre-book other experiences long before they leave their homes on vacation.

They will also be able to able to obtain their room keys in advance, eliminating the need to check into hotels and allowing them to proceed immediately to their hotel rooms or the theme park once they arrive on Disney property.

"Our tools will help our guests better understand all that we have to offer and better plan their time with us," Staggs said.

Other advances, he said, will include incorporating personalization for individual guests into rides and character greetings, adding more interactive queues designed to entertain people while they wait in line for attractions and designing behind-the-scenes systems that allow operations workers to better monitor and steer crowd flow to ease congestion.

Disney will also aim to cull more personal information from its guests, which Staggs said "will put better information into the hands of our cast, so they can deliver even better and more personalized service."

Staggs declined to say when Disney would begin to implement many of the advances in its theme parks, though he said the company has already applied for "a number" of patents related to the work. Disney would not elaborate on his comments in any detail.

"It will be some time before we roll out the bulk of these developments," Staggs said. "But we're well into development."

The decision to pump more than $1 billion into developing systems that aid in vacation planning and crowd flow underscores one of the biggest challenges facing Disney's flagship theme-park resorts, particularly Disney World, which has four parks and roughly 25,000 hotel rooms. As those resorts have grown bigger over the years, they have also become more complex to navigate and more crowded, threatening to undermine Disney's historically high guest-satisfaction ratings and deter repeat visits.

"We know that our guests love creating great memories," Staggs said. "We also know they don't exactly relish waiting in line, checking in at the resort, worry about missing their favorite attractions or feeling uncertain about how to best navigate and access our properties."

There are risks. Former company officials have questioned whether technological advances would boost attendance or guest-spending enough to justify the more than $1 billion price tag or whether advance-planning by some guests could spoil the experience who do not pre-plan and arrive in a park only to find the most popular attractions already booked.

But Scott Smith, an instructor at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said there are also several advantages. Issuing hotel room keys in advance, for instance, will ensure Disney gets its guests into its parks more quickly.

Smith likened it to similar advance check-in options at some Las Vegas casino resorts where "the idea is that you go right to the craps table.

"Disney is probably looking at the same type of philosophy," Scott said. "The sooner we check you in, the sooner you go into our parks and start spending money."

In addition, a new generation of technology-savvy travelers increasingly expects features such as customizable vacations and interactive attractions, he said.

"Their audience is so much more sophisticated now," Smith said. "If you're not investing in this already, you're going to get left behind. And the last thing Disney wants is to be saddled with the reputation of being old school."

New details on Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansionFebruary, 8th 2011

Since Walt Disney World announced a massive expansion of the Magic Kingdom in the fall of 2009, the internet has been buzzing regarding what the "Fantasyland Forest" might eventually look like. The details Disney provided concerned some that the plans were too "princess-focused" (a feeling shared by Tom Staggs himself). As a result, rumors started flying that the initial plans were undergoing a "rethinking" to appeal to both young males and females. Today, those rumors became reality.

In advance of a special press event this evening, Walt Disney World released artist renderings of the updated expansion plans now known as "New Fantasyland." Many elements remain the same from the original plans such as the Little Mermaid attraction, the addition of a duplicate Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride in a new Storybook Circus area, and a restaurant and meet-and-greet location inspired by "Beauty and the Beast." The name of the re-purposed Goofy's Barnstormer was released as well; it will be named "The Great Goofini."

However, the inclusion of a large-scale Pixie Hollow area is no more and it will be replaced by the "Princess Fairytale Hall," where guests can meet Aurora, Cinderella, Tiana, Rapunzel and "other Disney princesses." This hall will be constructed in the current location of Snow White's Scary Adventures. In addition, Tinkerbell and her friends will soon be found at EPCOT where they will also be involved with the Flower and Garden Festival.

Another confirmation in the press release was that a Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster attraction has been added to expansion plans. This new coaster will tell the story of Snow White as the ride vehicles will "swing back and forth as they whisk along the track."

Downtown Disney's LEGO Store to ExpandFebruary, 8th 2011

Downtown Disney's LEGO Imagination Center will be undergoing a major renovation beginning January 29. The store's square footage will increase by nearly 3,500 square-feet. There will also be exterior models of Disney characters made out of LEGOs. Construction walls will surround the area beginning January 29. While work is being done, the LEGO Imagination Center will be in a temporary location between Once Upon A Toy and Earl of Sandwich. The new LEGO Imagination Center is scheduled to open in mid-April.

Disneyland California Adventures 10th AnniversaryFebruary, 8th 2011

February 8, 2011

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort. The park opened on February 8, 2001.

Disney California Adventure is a park you don’t want to miss as it has a number of fun and exciting rides for all ages. Have you visited the park recently? Which ride there is your favorite that you just can’t get enough of?

Happy 10th anniversary Disney California Adventure!

Mickey and Minnie to meet and greet in Tomorrowland once Toontown closesFebruary, 8th 2011

Feb 03, 2011

Mickey and Minnie will be doing their meet and greets near to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland from February 12 2011, once Mickey's Toontown Fair closes on February 11 to make way for the new Fantasyland expansion. It's not clear yet whether their location will rotate, but this is the current plan.

The Princesses from Hall of Fame in Toontown Fair will be moving to the Adventureland Veranda, and the Fairies at Pixie Hollow will be moving to Epcot.

Star Wars Weekends 2011 dates announcedFebruary, 8th 2011

Feb 04, 2011

Disney have today confirmed that dates for this year's Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The event kicks off on Friday May 20 2011, and runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 20 to June 12 2011. Most significantly this year, May 20 sees the opening off the all new Star Tours II 3D.

Star Wars Weekends will once again be hosted each weekend by Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano in the Clone Wars series), and Anthony Daniels will return for weekend 1 and weekend 2.

Disney to expand Fantasyland at Walt Disney WorldSeptember, 14th 2009

ANAHEIM, California (Reuters) - Mickey Mouse's house and his Toon Town world will make way next year for a vastly larger Fantasyland, in the biggest-ever expansion of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida, Walt Disney Co said on Saturday.

The Fantasyland expansion, whose price tag was not disclosed, will open in two stages in 2012 and 2013 and builds on the popularity of the Disney Princess and Fairies franchises, which have topped $4 billion in global retail sales.

Disney theme parks Chairman Jay Rasulo said the Fantasyland project, which breaks ground next year, will be paid for from funds designated for the theme park division's annual capital expenditures.

Plans call for four Disney Princess characters -- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" -- to be featured in "fantasy lands" where park visitors engage in dancing, storytelling or a birthday party with costumed characters from the films.

The expansion includes two new dining spots -- Gascon's Tavern and the 552-seat Beast's Castle. A new underwater ride based on "The Little Mermaid, will be built both in the Florida Fantasyland and at the ongoing expansion of California Adventure in Disneyland.

The second phase of the Fantasyland expansion will be an oversized world based on the fairy world of Pixie Hollow from "Peter Pan," but no other details were available because the attraction was still in early development stages, Rasulo said.

As part of the Fantasyland expansion, Disney plans to double the size of the popular Dumbo ride to add a covered "three-ring circus" waiting area with interactive games and a play area.

Disney Imagineers, who design rides and attractions, said the Toon Town attraction would be dismantled and its popular Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse houses relocated to another section of Walt Disney World.

Rasulo also announced an upgrade to the Star Tours rides at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney's Hollywood Studio in Florida to open in 2011.

Star Tours simulates a ride through space aboard spacecraft like those in the original "Star Wars" film.

The updated version features new digital 3D effects and projectors that let ride operators vary "destinations," as well as upgrades to the Star Speeder cabins, Rasulo said.

Pirates 4 Gets title at D23September, 11th 2009

ANAHEIM, California — Nobody puts on a show like Walt Disney, a point proven once again Friday morning (September 11) in a massive event featuring appearances by Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Miley Cyrus and big news on the future of the "Pirates of the Caribbean," "National Treasure" and other franchises.

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook took the stage after a live orchestra presented a tribute to Disney films new and old, addressing a crowd of 5,000 people at the Anaheim Convention Center as part of the studio's massive D23 fan convention.

Among the big news announced by Cook as he looked into the crystal ball at Disney's next several years on film:

» "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" finally has a title ("On Stranger Tides") and a release date (summer 2011). Depp thrilled the crowd by "sailing" onstage as Captain Jack Sparrow, staying in character the whole time while asking Cook where he could get some rum.

» Disney announced a new venture with Guillermo del Toro called "Disney Double Dare You" that will focus on scarier genre films. The "Pan's Labyrinth" director appeared via videotape from the New Zealand pre-production offices of "The Hobbit" to say the book, merchandise and film division was inspired by his childhood love for the darker side of Disney attractions like the Haunted Mansion. The first film is based on an original idea by del Toro and is called "The Troll Hunters."

» Cook referred to Andrew Stanton's upcoming blockbuster "John Carter of Mars" as the first in a trilogy, showed stunning concept art and called the possible series "a new Disney franchise for years and years to come."

» Cage came onstage to unveil a trailer for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" that featured a dragon, a magical nesting doll and the now-infamous car chase. Cook then asked Cage if he was onboard for a third "National Treasure" film, and the star said "absolutely" to great applause.

» After Kermit, Fozzie and Jim Henson's other creations took over the stage for an updated take on "The Rainbow Connection," Cook announced a new film called "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." He did not mention whether this film — whose title was shown crudely scribbled on a cocktail napkin — is the same project Jason Segel has discussed in recent years.

» In a touching surprise, John Travolta, Kelly Preston and their daughter Ella Blue Travolta came onstage, in what was the family's first public appearance since the recent death of Jett Travolta. They were met with massive applause, and a few people in the crowd could be seen choking back tears.

» Cook announced that Travolta and his old co-stars will return for "Wild Hogs 2: Bachelor Ride."

» Audiences were shown a 3-D slide promoting "The Yellow Submarine," which Cook announced will be made by Robert Zemeckis. "Yes, it is true, we are making a 'Yellow Submarine' movie with Bob piloting the sub," he explained. "You're going to see Pepperland and the Blue Meanies as you never have before — and the greatest soundtrack of all time."

Among other films unveiling never-before-seen footage were "Alice in Wonderland," "The Prince of Persia," "Tron: Legacy" and "Oceans," a 2010 sequel to the Disney nature flick "Earth." Cook briefly reiterated prior details on Jerry Bruckheimer's "Lone Ranger" reboot with Depp, but noticeably absent from his comments was anything regarding the massive acquisition of Marvel that occurred recently.

Zemeckis, Bruckheimer and Tim Burton also made appearances, along with Miley Cyrus, who discussed her recently wrapped Nicholas Sparks tearjerker "The Last Song." The mostly older crowd greeted her performance of "The Climb" with polite applause but went wild moments later when Depp sailed onstage to announce that Captain Jack will soon be back.

DCL Heading to AlaskaSeptember, 11th 2009

Disney Cruise Line, whose fleet is about to double in size, is preparing to spread its ships around the world.

The company announced today that it will send its Disney Wonder cruise ship to Alaska during the summer of 2011, its first foray into one of the cruise industry's most popular and lucrative markets. At the same time, the company will send the Disney Magic ship back to Europe for another summer of sailings in the Mediterranean Sea.

Disney Cruise Line will be able to offer multiple far-flung destinations in 2011 because the year marks the arrival of the Disney Dream, the first of two new massive ocean liners the company is having built in Germany. Although Disney has not yet announced an itinerary for the new ship, which is expected to arrive near the beginning of 2011, it will spend the year sailing out of Disney's longtime base at Port Canaveral.

The Dream will be joined at the Brevard County seaport in 2012 by the Disney Fantasy. The new ships will hold about 4,000 passengers each -- compared with 2,700 each for the Magic and Wonder -- and will include new features such as water slides that extend beyond their decks and over open water.

Disney, which announced plans for the new ships in early 2007, has been itching to expand its cruise footprint for years. The company views cruising as a valuable growth engine, offering both an opportunity to introduce the Disney brand to consumers in new markets and to capture more vacation spending from devoted company fans.

"The beauty of the Disney Cruise Line -- and the expansion of this fleet -- is it truly is a fantastic growth opportunity. This investment makes sense for the company," said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations.

The Wonder will spend about four months in Alaska beginning in early May of 2011, offering seven-night sailings out of Vancouver, B.C. To prepare for the new climate, the ship will undergo an extensive overhaul during a dry dock in which crews will add a 2,500-square-foot, enclosed viewing area on a top deck.

"When you go to Alaska, you need to be prepared," Holz said. "The weather can be absolutely perfect -- and it can also be on the chilly side."

The Wonder will spend the rest of 2011 sailing seven-night voyages along the Mexican Riviera out of its new home port in Los Angeles. The Wonder has been based at Port Canaveral but will move with the arrival of the Dream.

Aside from its three months in the Mediterranean, the Magic will spend the rest of 2011 sailing familiar seven-night Caribbean itineraries out of Port Canaveral. The ship is expected to get a new permanent home in 2012, when the Fantasy begins sailing out of the Brevard County port.

Asked about the future of the Magic, Holz said to look at the ship as "a sort of globe-trotting ship."

"Our guests have told us all along, 'We want to go to new places. We want to go to exotic locations,' " Holz said. "And frankly, there are options beyond those that we're talking about today."

Disney to Acquire Marvel EntertainementAugust, 31st 2009

Worldwide leader in family entertainment agrees to acquire Marvel and its portfolio of over 5,000 characters

Acquisition highlights Disney`s strategic focus on quality branded content, technological innovation and international expansion to build long-term shareholder value

An investor conference call will take place at approximately 10:15 a.m. EDT / 7:15 a.m. PDT August 31, 2009. Details for the call are listed in the release. BURBANK, Calif. & NEW YORK--(Business Wire)-- Building on its strategy of delivering quality branded content to people around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has agreed to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE:MVL) in a stock and cash transaction, the companies announced today.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. At closing, the amount of cash and stock will be adjusted if necessary so that the total value of the Disney stock issued as merger consideration based on its trading value at that time is not less than 40% of the total merger consideration.

Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

"This transaction combines Marvel`s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney`s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories," said Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. "Ike Perlmutter and his team have done an impressive job of nurturing these properties and have created significant value. We are pleased to bring this talent and these great assets to Disney."

"We believe that adding Marvel to Disney`s unique portfolio of brands provides significant opportunities for long-term growth and value creation," Iger said.

"Disney is the perfect home for Marvel`s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses," said Ike Perlmutter, Marvel`s Chief Executive Officer. "This is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney`s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world."

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Marvel including its more than 5,000 Marvel characters. Mr. Perlmutter will oversee the Marvel properties, and will work directly with Disney`s global lines of business to build and further integrate Marvel`s properties.

The Boards of Directors of Disney and Marvel have each approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, effectiveness of a registration statement with respect to Disney shares issued in the transaction and other customary closing conditions. The agreement will require the approval of Marvel shareholders. Marvel was advised on the transaction by BofA Merrill Lynch.

Candlelight Processional ListJuly, 27th 2009

posted by Dewayne Bevil on Jul 27, 2009 3:14:52 PM

The holidays are right around the corner? Really? Well, let's think good cool(er) thoughts as we peruse the just-released list of narrators for this year's Candlelight Processional at Epcot. The event includes an orchestra, the Voice of Liberty, a mass choir of cast members and community folk and a celebrity reader, who tells the Christmas story.

New to the list: Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Williams and Isabella Rossellini.

Here's the schedule, subject to change of course. It's July!

Isabella Rossellini -- Nov. 27-29

John O' Hurley -- Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2

Steven Curtis Chapman -- Dec. 3-5

TBA -- Dec. 6-8

Andy Garcia -- Dec. 9-11

Vanessa Williams -- Dec. 12-14

Abigail Breslin -- Dec. 15-17

Whoopi Goldberg -- Dec. 18-20

Brian Dennehy -- Dec. 21-23

Edward James Olmos -- Dec. 24-26

Angela Bassett & Courtney B. Vance -- Dec. 27-30.

Free Dining Through Dec 17July, 25th 2009

The down economy continues to challenge Disney to fill their hotel rooms, which is resulting in a continuing stream of deals for you!

Walt Disney World has just announced free dining packages for September 27 through December 17. Right now it's only available to Disney Visa cardmembers (use codes EVN or GCA), but it will open for general availability on Sunday morning.

NOTE: This offer is not available November 25-28, the Wednesday through Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.

This time, the free dining comes with a twist: while the package stays the same if you book at a moderate, deluxe or villas resort, free dining packages at value resorts will be the quick service dining plan instead of the basic dining plan. You should be able to pay to upgrade your plan, but the "free" value of the deal will be $29.99 per day for adults, $8.99 for children instead of $39.99 per day for adults, $10.99 for children. For a family of four with both children under age 10, that's a difference of $24 per day. For a family of four with both kids age 10 and up, it's a difference of $40 per day. Please be aware of that before you choose your resort!

You can book this offer through September 26, the last day of the Walt Disney Company's 2008-2009 fiscal year. Book now, get a great deal, and help Disney improve its numbers at the same time!

Walt Disney, Panasonic to market movies on SD memory cardsJuly, 25th 2009

MCT Regional News Section: Entertainment, Tourism, Chambers Of Commerce Byline: Kyodo News International, Tokyo Source: McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 22--OSAKA -- Walt Disney Co. of the United States and Panasonic Corp. plan to sell movies on flash memory cards in Japan, enabling consumers to see movies on their mobile phone handsets and car navigation systems, sources close to the deal said Wednesday.

Walt Disney expects the deal will boost sales of its movies, while Panasonic hopes it will help make its memory card format a standard in the industry, they said.

Under the deal, the two companies plan to put on the market this fall Disney movies on DVDs that come in a package containing a Panasonic microSD card with a copy of the movie. The card has a copy-protection feature.

The price of the DVDs with the memory cards will be higher than those containing only a DVD, the sources said.

By inserting the memory card into mobile phones and car navigation systems capable of receiving digital TV broadcasts, consumers can enjoy movies outside their homes.

Panasonic produces memory cards compatible with a variety of devices such as flat-panel televisions and digital video cameras.

Central Fastpass at AK TestedJuly, 25th 2009

posted by Dewayne Bevil on Jul 24, 2009 10:59:42 AM

Disney currently is testing the concept of centralized FastPass station at Animal Kingdom. When I visited yesterday afternoon, there were six machines in operation in the area that once was the FastPass distribution area for It's Tough to Be a Bug. Three attractions were available at two stations apiece. You could get passes for Dinosaur, Expedition Everest and the Kilimanjaro Safaris. You could still get FastPasses at those individual attractions as well.

Remember, this is a test and a work in progress. Certainly, signage would be better and it would be listed on guide maps were it to become reality.

Another bugaboo, to me, was that you could not tell what time you were going to get BEFORE you put your ticket into the machine or what the current wait time was at that attraction. (The cast member there was happy to tell me the times it was currently distrubting, but that's labor-intensive.

I liked that the machines were designated by logo of the attraction, although the Dino Institute design doesn't scream DINOSAUR like the Everest or Safaris signs. And they were low to the ground and hard to see if someone were actually using the machine.

FastPass is confusing enough to newbies, and the cast members spent a lot of time there explaining how it works and how this test is working. Of course, there were people trying to get FastPasses for It's a Bug's Life there still.

I got a FastPass for Everest, and it told me to arrive at 12:40 p.m. I think walked over to Everest, which took five minutes or so, and the FastPasses there were being distributed for 12:55. Made sense.

I'm not a huge FastPass fan, though my fellow Rangers can't live without it. What exactly Disney is testing for is not clear. However, a front-line cast member pal of mine is totally in favor of centralizing FastPass. He says he spends untold hours at the entrance explaining to guests how FP works (and measuring the height of kids, but that's another problem, one that he wants to wristband kids for.

Win a Night in the Cinderella Castle Suite from Martha StewartDecember, 30th 2008

From blogs1.marthastewart.com:

I am thrilled to share a new contest we are launching today: Perfect Proposals. All you need to do is upload a photo of you and your loved one and tell us your magical tale! Martha Stewart Weddings will select the couple with our favorite love story to win a 6 day/5 night trip for two to the Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida, including a one night stay in the Cinderella Castle Suite, one $1,000 Disney gift card for a honeymoon from Disney’s Honeymoon Registry and two Magic Your Way passes to the Magic Kingdom® Theme Park, Epcot® Center, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. I was dying to win this contest since I am obsessed with Disney (thanks to my 3- and 5-year-old daughters), but given that I’m part of the judging committee, I’m obviously not allowed to enter. And of course if you win, I’d love to blog about your trip, but don’t worry, I won’t come along (you can just email me). So please, enter your proposal story for the chance to win the royal treatment from Disney’s Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons! There are also runner up prizes, but the offer ends on April 15th. Good luck!

Disneyworld.com to receive makeoverDecember, 27th 2008

Expect changes in the coming weeks to www.disneyworld.com. I am hopeful that the alterations will alleviate some of my issues with the vacation-planning site, which I sometimes find to be clunky and hard to wade through to find exact information. (But then, I don't really use the vacation-planning elements of it.)

On the plus side, am told that the total number of pages on the site has been decreased to make navigation better. A new filter search looks promising as well. You'll check off the areas of interest and eliminate things you know don't apply to your needs (hotel facts don't usually pertain to the locals). Looks like you can filter by many factors, including height requirements.

Other features: more photos (including panoramics) and videos, answers from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel and convenient planning tools for folks not familiar with WDW.

If I can find the hours of operation for the day, I'm happy. (Parade and show schedules might push me totally over the edge. Stay tuned.)

Meanwhile, have you noticed the disclaimer on the current version? On one of the What Will You Celebrate pages, down at the bottom is a footnote that reads: "Disney does not condone the release of balloons into the environment." I reckon this is tied to the marketing chmpaign that has Mickey balloons floating willynilly into the environment. It's always something.

Cinderella Castle Royal Suite will stay open in 2009December, 27th 2008

Scott Powers | Sentinel Staff Writer
December 25, 2008

Cinderella is keeping the light on.

Walt Disney World confirmed Wednesday that the Cinderella Castle Royal Suite -- created in early 2007 for overnight stays by winners of Disney's two-year "Million Dreams" promotion -- will remain open for selected guests next year, though on a more limited basis.

The suite is in a tower of Cinderella Castle, in the middle of the Magic Kingdom theme park. During the Million Dreams promotion, which ends Wednesday night, there has been a nearly daily sweepstakes prize for a family picked at random on Disney World property.

The suite's creation captured the imagination of Disney fans worldwide, and its availability as a daily door prize for Disney World visitors created enormous buzz for Disney's marketing campaign.

Set into space originally reserved as a possible apartment for company founder Walt Disney's family when the castle was first built, the 650-square-foot, three-room Royal Suite offers a mix of 17th-century French luxury, 21st-century convenience and 1950s-era motifs from Disney's Cinderella movie.

Features include stained glass, a mosaic floor, original Cinderella movie concept art by renowned Disney artist Mary Blair, a display case containing a single glass slipper, and a whirlpool tub. A concierge is on standby outside.

Almost from the start, the suite inspired widespread speculation about what Disney might do with it once the Million Dreams promotion ends.

On Jan. 1, that campaign is to be replaced with the "What Will You Celebrate?" promotion that strives to get people to bring their personal celebrations to Disney World.

The room will continue to be available for use as the prize for promotions, including some run by outside companies, Disney spokesman Rick Sylvain said Wednesday.

For starters, the room is being offered as a prize in a sweepstakes called "Inside Your Celebration," organized by the Internet travel portal Orbitz.

"This ties in nicely with our 'What Will You Celebrate?' " Sylvain said. "Other uses and opportunities for the suite are still to be determined.

"We will continue to evaluate all options," he added. "It's all about 'right fit.' Not unlike a certain glass slipper."

Disney dance partyDecember, 22nd 2008

Scott Powers and Jason Garcia | Sentinel Staff Writers
December 22, 2008

Walt Disney World will premier a daily, live-entertainment event called the "Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It! Street Party" in the Magic Kingdom in February.

The event, combining a parade and a dance party, will begin at Town Square and move down Main Street USA to the rhythms of contemporary pop songs such as "Breakout" by Miley Cyrus. The parade will include floats, stilt walkers and Disney characters. Visitors will be encouraged to mix, mingle and dance in the street during the 12- to 15-minute party.

"This is the main idea of the show -- to have the opportunity to play and dance with the characters," Disney Entertainment Producer Gary Gutierrez explained in a note to passholders.

Cirque du Soleil La Nouba celebrates 10 years at DisneyDecember, 22nd 2008

Tod Caviness | Sentinel Staff Writer
December 19, 2008

It's an artistic and acrobatic achievement every time the lights go up on La Nouba, Downtown Disney's very own piece of the Cirque du Soleil phenomenon. Tuesday marks a particular milestone: The show celebrates its 10th anniversary here in Orlando. By their reckoning, that's 2,094,484 feet walked on the high wire; 9,486 people jumped over by mountain bikes; and 853,740 minutes of leaping for Alexander "Sasha" Daniltchenko, a trampolinist whose particular claim to fame is never having missed a show since La Nouba's inception. We sat down before the show last month with Daniltchenko to see what keeps him on (and off) his feet for so long.

I can't go a year at my desk job without missing a day. How do you go 10 years of trampolining?

Eat healthy food? No, I'm joking. I would call it an accident, maybe. The first time I was sick I went to the doctor's office. I took a note from the doctor to bring to the theater, but I didn't realize it was my day off. In the beginning, we had a little competition going [with the other performers], but. . .

That's one thing that surprised me, to hear that you have had a lot of people here from the start.

I believe it's about 35 percent of the artists working here since the beginning.

What do you do in your off hours?

I have a family. I have a little one. She really misses me, and I like to spend time with family.

What is your history before Cirque Du Soleil?

I was a trampolinist. I mean, I'm still a trampolinist, but I was on a national team. I got five gold medals. I'd say I was a professional trampolinist, but the professional people make money. Now, trampolining is in the Olympic games, but I quit before it was included.

How hard was it to make the transition to this kind of work, where there are so many other people and objects to interact with?

You have to be very observant. You practice every day, and you can only see your partner a little bit. But you can feel him, and you can hear him. You use all your senses.

Seems like this show alone has created an entire new job market. Any advice for budding jumpers, aside from buying a trampoline?

No, don't buy a trampoline. It's better to go to a gym and be supervised by a professional coach who can spot you. Lots of people have a trampoline in their backyard to have fun, and so many injuries happen. Better to be supervised when you do this, and afterward you can have some fun. It becomes routine, and your brain starts working with your body.

Disney Meets The Hundreds, new Street WearDecember, 9th 2008

by John Frost

The Hundreds and The Walt Disney Company team up to present “The Lost Boys” a new line of street wear featuring the gang of eternal youths from Never Never Land. The video below previews a limited edition drop to occur this Thursday December 11th at The Hundreds stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Wish I could get my hands on some event swag, anyone want to help a Disney Blog editor out?

In the video Bobby Hundreds talks with some of the Disney Product Designers who worked on the project. These designers focus on what Disney calls their “Halo” brands, so some of the artwork is a little bit out there. (Mickey with three eyes, for instance.)


THEHUNDREDS // DISNEY // THE LOST BOYS from Bobby Hundreds on Vimeo.

 

Top 10 MoviesDecember, 9th 2008

#1 Wall-E

Most smart filmmakers want to parade their facility with all the tools in the modern movie box. Andrew Stanton, the director and cowriter of the Pixar animated feature WALL-E, experimented with what talking pictures could plausibly do without. Talking, for example: the first third of the movie has almost no dialogue. How about depriving the two main characters — the humble, lonely trash compacter WALL-E and his space princess EVE — of emotional signifiers like a mouth, eyebrows, shoulders, elbows? Yet with all the limitations he imposed on himself and his robot stars, Stanton still connected with a huge audience. Great science-fiction love stories (there aren't many) will do that. So will futurist adventures that evoke the splendor of the movie past. A dirt-of-the-earth guy hooking up with the ultimate ethereal gal, WALL-E and EVE could be the 29th century version of Tracy and Hepburn, or Seth Rogen and any attractive woman. It hardly matters that the movie is not-quite-silent, when it blends art and heart as spectacularly as WALL-E does.

Disney-Pixar to Premiere Its First Disney Digital 3-D(TM) Short FilmDecember, 9th 2008

Oscar(R)-Winner John Lasseter Directs Animated Short Based on "Cars" Character

Last update: 8:00 a.m. EST Dec. 9, 2008
BURBANK, Calif., Dec 09, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

Disney-Pixar will premiere its first Disney Digital 3-D(TM) short film - "Tokyo Mater" - directed by Academy Award(R)-winner John Lasseter, at theaters nationwide beginning December 12. Appearing before Walt Disney Pictures' "Bolt," the animated short is the fourth in Disney-Pixar's "Cars Toons" series, inspired by the hit 2006 film "Cars."

The series stars Mater the tow truck (voiced by LARRY THE CABLE GUY), Lightning McQueen's rusty but trusty friend. In "Tokyo Mater," a routine tow lands Mater in Tokyo, where he is challenged to a drift-style race against a nefarious gang leader and his posse of ninjas. With the help of his friend, "Dragon" Lightning McQueen, and some special modifications, Mater attempts to drift to victory and become "Tow-ke-O Mater, King of all Drifters."

All of the "Cars Toons" are directed by Lasseter (director of "Cars," "Toy Story 2," "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story") and co-directed by Victor Navone (animator on "Cars," "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters, Inc.") and Rob Gibbs (story artist on "Cars," "Finding Nemo," "Monsters, Inc." and "Toy Story 2"). Kori Rae (associate producer on "The Incredibles" and "Monsters, Inc.") serves as producer. The previous toons in the series featured Mater as a fire truck in "Rescue Squad Mater," a daredevil in "Mater the Greater" and as a bulldozer fighter in "El Materdor." These three "Cars Toons" aired on Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Family.

"I'm delighted to be back in the director's chair for the 'Cars Toons' series," said Lasseter, who serves as chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios and most recently executive produced "Bolt." "Mater is one of my favorite characters from 'Cars' and is the definition of true friendship. The world has grown to love Mater as much as we do, and we are excited to take him on new adventures with his best friend, Lighting McQueen."

2-D computer versions of "Tokyo Mater" will also be available for theaters showing "Bolt" in 2-D.

About "Cars"

Directed by Academy Award(R)-winner John Lasseter, "Cars" opened in theaters on June 9, 2006. "Cars" was the 2007 Golden Globe(R) winner for Best Animated Feature Film and received Academy Award(R) nominations for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Music - Original Song. The film also won the 2007 Grammy Award(R) for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. "Cars" was the #1 animated film on DVD for 2006, and the Disney-Pixar's "Cars" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack debuted in June 2006 at #8, making it the first Pixar soundtrack to enter the Billboard Top 10 and to ship gold.

Disney-Pixar's "Cars 2" will be released in Summer 2011. "Cars 2" is being directed by Brad Lewis, producer of the Oscar(R)-winning film "Ratatouille." In this adventure, all the world's a racetrack as racing superstar Lightning McQueen zooms back into action, with his best friend Mater in tow, to take on the globe's fastest and finest in this thrilling high-octane new installment of the "Cars" saga. Mater and Lightning McQueen will need their passports as they find themselves in a new world of intrigue, thrills and fast-paced comedic escapades around the globe.

About "Bolt"

For super-dog Bolt (voice of JOHN TRAVOLTA), every day is filled with adventure, danger and intrigue -- at least until the cameras stop rolling. When the star of a hit TV show is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he begins his biggest adventure yet -- a cross-country journey through the real world to get back to his owner and co-star, Penny (voice of MILEY CYRUS). Armed only with the delusions that all his amazing feats and powers are real, and the help of two unlikely traveling companions -- a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (voice of SUSIE ESSMAN) and a TV-obsessed hamster named Rhino (voice of MARK WALTON) -- Bolt discovers he doesn't need superpowers to be a hero. Directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard, "Bolt" is a hilarious, fun-filled, action-packed animated comedy adventure in Disney Digital 3-D(TM). Rated PG, Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Bolt" hit theaters Nov. 21, 2008.

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Burbank
Jasmine Madatian, Senior Vice President, Publicity
818-560-5610

Credit crisis may delay plans for 3-D in theatersDecember, 7th 2008

By Bloomberg News  |  December 7, 2008

The credit crisis is stalling plans to convert thousands of theaters to digital projection, threatening profits on more than a dozen 3-D films Hollywood will release next year, including DreamWorks Animation SKG's "Monsters vs. Aliens."

Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp., a supplier of software to run digital theaters, had planned to convert as many as 1,500 screens by March 2009. Now, with funds on hold, the company expects 100 to 200, chief executive Bud Mayo said.

"Here we are in the December quarter, and we're just getting going," Mayo said in an interview.

Cinedigm is supplying software and services to one of two theater groups seeking to raise as much as $1.7 billion for the conversions. That would allow owners to install extra 3-D equipment and charge premium ticket prices for 14 films scheduled for release next year by studios including Walt Disney Co. and News Corp.

They may have to wait six months to a year for funding, said Neil Begley, an analyst at Moody's Corp. in New York. Borrowing money now would mean double-digit interest rates, he said in an interview.

Next year's 3-D releases include a version of the original "Toy Story" from Disney and James Cameron's "Avatar" from News Corp., the director's first feature film since "Titanic" in 1997. Disney plans five 3-D films, the most of any studio. In February, NBC Universal will release "Coraline," based on the book by Neil Gaiman. "Monsters vs. Aliens" is set for March, DreamWorks Animation's only movie of the year.

The appeal of 3-D was demonstrated in February by "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," which had $70.6 million in sales, according to Box Office Mojo LLC, a film researcher. Theaters charged as much as $15 a ticket, more than double the US average of $6.88 in 2007, according to Media By Numbers LLC.

The two groups seeking to raise as much as $1.7 billion are Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, representing the three largest US theater chains, and Cinema Buying Group, representing smaller operators. They are trying to convert about 28,000 screens to digital from film over three or more years.

The money raised by both groups would be repaid by fees collected from studios based on the number of digital films shown, said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners.

Movie tickets sold in the United States and Canada have declined in four of the past five years, dropping to 1.41 billion in 2007, according to Media By Numbers. Through Nov. 30, admissions are down 4 percent this year.

More than 4,000 screens in the United States and Canada have been converted, and about 1,400 have the necessary equipment, said Michael Lewis, chief executive officer of RealD, the largest 3-D equipment supplier.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, said in October it was still possible as many as 2,500 screens would be 3-D ready when "Monsters vs. Aliens" comes out on March 27. The Glendale, Calif., company plans to make all future films available for 3-D.

3-D will be installed at more than 1,000 locations by the time Disney's next release in the format, a Jonas Brothers concert film, opens in February, Chuck Viane, president of distribution for Walt Disney Studios, said in an interview. "Whenever the capital markets open up, I think this is one of the sure-thing bets out there," Viane said.

Some owners are moving ahead on their own, borrowing to convert a few screens before studios begin releasing movies next year, Mayo said. The 100 to 200 that Cinedigm plans to complete by the end of March are being financed that way, Mayo said.

Until more 3-D screens become available, most studios plan to release movies in both 3-D and conventional formats.

The first 3-D film of 2009, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.'s "My Bloody Valentine," will be distributed in both formats at its debut Jan. 16, Steve Rothenberg, president of theatrical distribution, said in an interview.

"There's enough of a critical mass of 3-D locations in the US and Canada that you can open up with a tremendous box office gross," Rothenberg said. "Would we want there to be more 3-D locations? Of course." 

TCM to show Classic Disney Live action films on Sundays in December.December, 7th 2008

Relive your childhood moviegoing experiences with your own children in this 27-film festival featuring a new documentary, The Age of Believing: The Disney Live-Action Classics (2008) and favorite movies such as The Shaggy Dog, The Love Bug, Pollyanna and many more.

For more information visit and showing times visit.
http://www.tcm.com/redirects/link/?cid=217440

2008 Annie Award Nominations by CategoryDecember, 7th 2008

PRODUCTION CATEGORIES

Best Animated Feature

Bolt – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Kung Fu Panda – DreamWorks Animation
$9.99 – Sherman Pictures/Lama Films
Wall·E – Pixar Animation Studios
Waltz With Bashir – Sony Pictures Classics, Bridgit Folman, Les Films D'ici, Razor Films

Best Animated Home Entertainment Production

Batman: Gotham Knight – Warner Bros. Animation
Christmas Is Here Again – Easy To Dream Entertainment in association with Renegade Animation
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs – The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Justice League: The New Frontier – Warner Bros. Animation
The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning – DisneyToon Studios

Best Animated Short Subject

Glago’s Guest – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Hot Dog – Bill Plympton Studio
Presto – Pixar Animation Studios
Sebastian’s Voodoo – Joaquin Baldwin
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death – Aardman Animations Ltd.

Best Animated Television Production

King of the Hill – 20th Century Fox TV
Moral Orel – ShadowMachine
Phineas and Ferb – Disney Television Animation
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II - ShadowMachine
The Simpsons – Gracie Films/Fox TV

Best Animated Video Game

Dead Space – Electronic Arts
Kung Fu Panda – Activision
Wall·E – Heavy Iron Studios, a division of THQ, Inc.

INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT CATEGORIES

Animated Effects

Alen Lai “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who” – Blue Sky Studios
Li-Ming Lawrence Lee “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Fangwei Lee “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” – DreamWorks Animation
Kevin Lee “Bolt” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Enrique Vila “Wall·E” – Pixar Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Feature Production

James Baxter “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Jeff Gabor “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who” – Blue Sky Studios
Philippe Le Brun “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Victor Navone “Wall·E” – Pixar Animation Studios
Dan Wagner “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation

Directing in an Animated Feature Production

Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen “The Tale Of Despereaux” – Universal Pictures
Ari Folman “Waltz With Bashir” – Sony Pictures Classics, Bridgit Folman, Les Films D'ici, Razor Films
Tatia Rosenthal “9.99” – Sherman Pictures/ Lama Films
John Stevenson & Mark Osborne “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Andrew Stanton “Wall·E” – Pixar Animation Studios

Production Design in an Animated Feature Production

Ralph Eggleston “Wall·E” – Pixar Animation Studios
Paul Felix “Bolt” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Tang Heng “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Evgeni Tomov “The Tale Of Despereaux” – Universal Pictures
Raymond Zibach “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation

Production Design in an Animated Television Production or Short Form

Andy Harkness “Glago’s Guest” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Tang Heng “Secrets of the Furious Five” – DreamWorks Animation
Seonna Hong – The Mighty B! “Bee Patients” – Nickelodeon |
Dan Krall – Chowder “The Heavy Sleeper” – Cartoon Network Studios
Raymond Zibach “Secrets of the Furious Five” – DreamWorks Animation

Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production

Alessandro Carloni – “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Ronnie Del Carmen – “Wall·E” – Pixar Animation Studios
Joe Mateo “Bolt” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Jen Yuh Nelson – “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Rob Stevenhagen – “The Tale Of Despereaux” – Universal Pictures

Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production or Short Form

Butch Hartman – Fairly OddParents “Mission: Responsible” – Nickelodeon
Andy Kelly – Ni Hao, Kai-Lan “Twirly Whirly Flyers” – Nickelodeon Productions/Nelvana
Andy Schuler – “Secret of the Furious Five” – DreamWorks Animation
Eddie Trigueros “The Mighty B! “Name Shame”– Nickelodeon
Chris Williams “Glago’s Guest” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

Ben Burtt – Voice of Wall·E – “Wall·E” – Pixar Animation Studios
Dustin Hoffman – Voice of Shifu – “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
James Hong – Voice of Mr. Ping – “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Ian McShane – Voice of Tai Lung – “Kung Fu Panda” – DreamWorks Animation
Mark Walton – Voice of Rhino – “Bolt” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Writing in an Animated Television Production or Short Form

Joel H. Cohen – The Simpsons “The Debarted” – Gracie Films/Fox TV
Scott Kreamer – El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera “Mustache Love” – Nickelodeon
Paul McEvoy and Todd Berger – “Secrets of the Furious Five” – DreamWorks Animation
Tom Root, Douglas Goldstein, Hugh Davidson, Mike Fasolo, Seth Green, Dan Milano, Matthew Senreich, Kevin Shinick, Zeb Wells, Breckin Meyer – “Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II” – ShadowMachine
Chris Williams – “Glago’s Guest” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

JURIED AWARDS

  • Winsor McCay recipients - Mike Judge, John Lasseter and Nick Park for career contributions to the art of animation
  • June Foray award - Bill Turner for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation
  • Certificate of Merit award - Amir Avni, Mike Fontanelli, Kathy Turner, Alex Vassilev

Disney Guests Ask "Where is the Beef"December, 6th 2008

Prime rib has been replaced on buffet serving lines at Walt Disney World restaurants with whole strip loins. The official, company line is that the switch was made for aesthetic reasons. Lenny DeGeorge told me that prime rib is not meant to be cut into small slices, which is how people in a buffet situation request it. He says they want smaller portions because they're sampling a lot of different things and don't want to fill up on just prime rib. And when cutting small pieces you can get a lot of fat.Prime rib

The whole strip loin, he says, is better suited for smaller slicing. So at venues like Boma, the all-you-can-eat walkabout buffet at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, the prime rib is out and the whole strip loins are in, and on the spit with the signature African blend of spices.

But is that the real reason for the change? Could it be that strip loins are cheaper than standing rib roasts? Restaurants, even those at Walt Disney World, are trying to find ways of cutting costs in this depressed economy. DeGeorge says the strips are a little less expensive, but he points out that prime rib hasn't been banished entirely from the Kingdom. "We're still using tons and tons of prime rib," he says. You can still find it at such places as Olivia's, Boatwright's and Captain's Grill at the Yacht and Beach Club.

And when he says tons and tons, he means that quite literally. He estimates Disney serves between 400 and 500 thousand pounds of prime rib annually. Just not at all-you-can-eat venues anymore.

So watch that number to go down next year.

Baruchel negotiating for ApprenticeDecember, 6th 2008

Cage plays sorcerer in Disney's live-action pic

Jay Baruchel is negotiating to play the title role in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" for Walt Disney Pictures. He joins Nicolas Cage, who plays the sorcerer in the Jon Turteltaub-directed live-action pic.

Jerry Bruckheimer is producing.

Baruchel, who co-starred in "Tropic Thunder," next plays the lead in the DreamWorks romantic comedy "She's Out of My League."

He's also attached to co-star with Seth Rogen in "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse," a project they've set at Mandate Pictures. Baruchel is also lead voice in the DreamWorks animated film "How to Train Your Dragon."

Scripted by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal and rewritten by Matt Lopez, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" takes place in contemporary New York, where a wizard searches for an apprentice. C

age, Saturn partner Norm Golightly and Todd Garner will be exec producers along with Chad Oman, Barry Waldman and Mike Stenson.

Escape winter for as low as $49 per night plus tax at Select Disney Resort Hotels!December, 4th 2008

Select Disney Value Resorts - Standard Room
For stays most Sunday through Thursday nights during the travel dates below:

  • $49 per night, plus tax    01/04-01/15/09 and 01/19-02/12/09
  • $74 per night, plus tax    02/16-04/02/09

Select Disney Moderate Resorts - Standard Room
For stays most Sunday through Thursday nights during the travel dates below:

  • $94 per night, plus tax    01/04-01/15/09 and 01/19-02/12/09
  • $124 per night, plus tax  02/16-04/02/09

Select Disney Deluxe Resorts:
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Standard Room
For stays most Sunday through Thursday nights during the travel dates below:

  • $154 per night, plus tax   01/04-01/15/09 and 01/19-02/12/09
  • $229 per night, plus tax   02/16-04/02/09

Select Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts:
Disney's Old Key West Resort and Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
- Studio*
For stays most Sunday through Thursday nights during the travel dates below:

  • $189 per night, plus tax    01/04-01/15/09 and 01/19-02/12/09
  • $244 per night, plus tax    02/16-04/02/09

The number of rooms available at these rates is limited.
See Important Details.
Book through January 4, 2009.

Disney Denies Report of Shanghai Theme-ParkDecember, 3rd 2008

By Stephanie Wong

Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co. denied a newspaper report saying the Chinese government gave approval for the company to build a theme park in Shanghai.

“There is no announcement and there is no deal,” Alannah Hall-Smith, Hong Kong-based Disney spokeswoman for Asia, said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News. China is an “important market” for the entertainment company, she added.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission gave approval for Disney to set up a theme park in Shanghai ahead of a final agreement between the U.S. company and the city’s municipal government, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today, citing people it didn’t identify.

“We have continuing discussions with the Chinese government about a variety of Disney initiatives, from community programs to business operations including television, motion pictures and consumer products, of which theme parks are only a part,” Hall- Smith said. Calls put through to the regulator seeking comment on the report went unanswered.

A group of top executives from Disney is scheduled to visit China this month and negotiations over details of the agreement for the theme park have reached their final stages, the Post said.

The planned park will be built in several stages and completed in five years, the newspaper added, citing an unidentified person close to the Shanghai municipal government.

The park would be situated in Shanghai’s Huanglou district, about 10 minutes by car from Pudong international airport, Shanghai Securities News said Nov. 20, citing an unidentified expert carrying out a feasibility study on the project.

Negotiations on the project are continuing, the Xinhua News Agency-affiliated newspaper said.

To contact the reporter for this story: Stephanie Wong in Shanghai at swong139@bloomberg.net

6 Million WALL•E DVD and Blu-ray Copies SoldDecember, 2nd 2008

WALL•E sold a whopping 6,203,203 units in it’s first week! That amounts to $112,073,889 in sales and makes it the best selling DVD and Blu-ray this week! To compare, last year’s Ratatouille sold just under 5 million copies and earlier in November, Kung Fu Panda sold just over 5 million copies.

If you haven’t bought it already, go out and get it now!

Disney Cruise Line eliminates fuel surchargesDecember, 1st 2008

Disney Cruise Line was notably late to the game of adding fuel surcharges to bookings this year, and now it's one of the last major lines to get rid of the extra fees.

The two-ship line today announced it is eliminating fuel surcharges for all new bookings, effective immediately. The line said in a statement that the decision comes as a result of dropping fuel prices.

Most major lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess, Holland America and Cunard announced plans to elimate fuel surcharges weeks ago as oil plunged below $60 a barrel from a summer high of $147.

Like the other lines, Disney also announced plans to refund fuel surcharges for upcoming cruises that already have been booked if oil remains below $70 a barrel.

"If the closing price on the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) of West Texas Intermediate fuel is below $70 a barrel two weeks prior to the beginning of the calendar quarter (during which a specific cruise is scheduled), the company will refund fuel surcharges paid in the form of an onboard credit," the line says in a statement.

Like other lines, Disney warns that it could reinstate fuel surcharge if prices head back up.

CEO Of The Year Nominees: 1) Robert Iger of Disney (DIS)December, 1st 2008

24/7 Wall St. will name its annual CEO of the Year next week. The executive will be picked from a field of ten which we will profile this week.

The CEOs are chosen on the basis of their company’s stock market and financial performances compared to their own industry groups and all large companies traded on US markets. Only firms with market caps of over $5 billion were considered. 24/7 reviewed revenue growth, operating margins, balance sheets, return on assets, and return on equity.

Large media content companies have had a brutal year primarily as the recession has cut spending for advertising. Shares in CBS (CBS) are down over 78%. Rupert Murdoch, considered by many to be the most clever media firm operator in the world, has watched shares in his News Corp (NWS) drop nearly 65%.

The only big media stock to outperform the DJIA is Disney (DIS). To a very large extent that is because CEO Robert Iger has managed to efficiently operate and balance Disney’s theme park, television network, cable content, movie studio, and consumer products divisions. Revenue and segment operating income at all of Disney’s four major divisions were flat to higher for the last fiscal.

The firm’s peers should be so lucky. Disney’s balance sheet has remarkably little leverage when put up against the balance of the industry. Disney has been careful to continue to develop properties like ESPN and its animation studios which should serve it well as the recession spreads. A decision to cut costs in expensive divisions like the movie studio operation has paid off at the bottom line this year. His alliance with Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs in both animation and digital content delivery is a huge asset.

Douglas A. McIntyre

Pardoned Turkey going to DisneylandNovember, 26th 2008

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- United Airlines says it will help the turkey that dodges Thanksgiving dinner at the White House make its getaway to Disneyland this week.

The airline will strap the lucky bird into a first-class seat Wednesday for a non-stop flight from Washington to LAX where it will be whisked to Orange County and a date as grand marshal of the annual Thanksgiving parade at Disneyland.

President Bush is set to issue the traditional Thanksgiving pardon Wednesday, freeing the bird and a companion for the holidays.

A United spokesman told Crain's Chicago Business Disney annually buys out the entire first-class cabin for the turkey delegation, which includes the caged turkey and a group from the National Turkey Federation.

United Press International

Walkthrough at Sleeping Beauty Castle open for ThanksgivingNovember, 26th 2008

The interior of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, long closed to guests, will "reawaken" in time for Thanksgiving. A vibrant new version of the classic walkthrough attraction features colorful scenes of Aurora, her gallant prince, the evil Maleficent and other characters from the beloved fairy tale film. The attraction is scheduled to open at 5 p.m. Wednesday, kicking off the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

This revived Sleeping Beauty Castle "show" differs from the window-display dioramas which could be seen in the castle during the 1980s and '90s. It takes its inspiration from the unique style of the original Disneyland castle walkthrough attraction of 1957, co-designed by animation art director and color stylist Eyvind Earle, who was credited with giving the motion picture "Sleeping Beauty" its distinctive and colorful look of storybook illustrations in medieval style.

Enhanced with new scenes and special-effects magic, the re-Imagineered attraction employs technology not available in the 1950s to tell the story of Sleeping Beauty, including the magic of good fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, and the more sinister spells of the evil Maleficent.

For the first time, guests who are unable to climb stairs or navigate the passageways of the Castle will be able to experience the walkthrough "virtually" in a special room on the ground floor of the Castle

Christmas Parade taping to be open to allNovember, 26th 2008

It is being reported that the Disney Christmas Day parade taping at the Magic Kingdom will be open to all visitors. Scheduled for December 5 and 6, this event will allow all guests, space permitting, to take part in the filming.

In the past, tickets for reserved sections of Main Street and in front of the castle were given to Disney World annual passholders, with the remaining tickets distributed by Lightship Entertainment. These passes included free admission that day. This procedure will not take place this year.

The parade taping involves long waits. The floats are frequently stopped and restarted and performers often repeat their routines while proper camera placement is being worked out.

Disney has yet to announce which celebrities will be appearing in this year's production.

Bolt takes third place at box officeNovember, 26th 2008

Disney's animated film "Bolt" proved no match against the blockbuster premiere of "Twilight." The vampire love story garnered $70.6 million in box office revenue while Disney's dog pic came in at third place with $27 million. The latest Bond movie "Quantum of Solace", last week's top money maker, had the second biggest weekend draw at $27.4 million.

Disney had hoped that the heavily promoted Bolt would take in $30 million against strong competition. Chuck Viane, Disney Distribution President stated "There's a big, big picture in the marketplace and there was nothing that we could do about it. But we're looking at this as a weekend of paid previews that sets us up for the long Thanksgiving weekend."

Bolt, rated PG, features the voice talents of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus. It is the first film released by Disney Animation since 2007's "Meet the Robinsons." That movie took in $25.1 million for its premiere and tallied $97.8 million in the domestic market.

While the demographic breakdown is not in, it is believed that Twilight's appeal to the teen/tween market was a big factor in Bolt's disappointing results.

High School Musical #1October, 27th 2008

Zefron and crew's singing and dancing brought in HUGE dollars for the Mouse at the weekend.

High School Musical 3, the big screen version of the popular made-for-Disney Channel movie, made $82 million Friday-Sunday worldwide. In the U.S. alone, it raked in $42 million.

That's the biggest musical debut ever both internationally and domestically, and the first global #1 opening since The Dark Knight.

Congrats, Wildcats!!

The gory thriller Saw V took the U.S. box office #2 spot with a $30.5 million weekend. It's now the top grossing horror franchise of all time.

Last week's #1 movie, Max Payne, dropped to #3.

Disney's Beverly Hills Chihuahua is still kicking at the box office. It earned $6.9 million and the #4 spot this weekend.

Zac Efron 'signs for Pirates of the Caribbean 4'October, 24th 2008

Efron, who turned 21 last week, has reportedly agreed to a £6 million deal to appear alongside Johnny Depp in the fourth instalment of the popular Disney franchise.

The deal also ties him to a fourth High School Musical Movie, something he had said he would previously not do.

Efron has found international fame in the role of Troy, the school basketball star, but had said it was "time to grow up".

Thousands of screaming fans turned out to greet Efron when he arrived at the London premiere of High School Musical 3 along with co-star and girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens.

Efron is also expected to star in a remake of 80s favourite Footloose, which originally starred Kevin Bacon.

Depp, 45, currently filming Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland where he plays The Mad Hatter, will reportedly make £30 million reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow.

A source told The Sun: "Zac was extremely interested. But Disney realised they couldn't make the fourth Pirates movie without Johnny. They had to offer him a small fortune to do it."

Keira Knightley is expected to reprise her role as Elizabeth Swann although it is not thought Orlando Bloom will return.

It is rumoured the fourth Pirates film will focus on Jack Sparrow's quest for the Fountain of Youth.

California Adventure Coaster going GoofyOctober, 24th 2008

Mulholland Madness — a themeless off-the-shelf roller coaster that earned Disney’s California Adventure its on-the-cheap reputation — will get a Goofy’s Sky Skool “refreshing” as part of a $1.1-billion effort to add a heavy dose of Mickey Mouse and friends to the under-performing theme park.

Gone is the giant foldout map of Southern California that always seemed like a futile attempt to hide the fact that the coaster was nothing more than a wild-mouse ride found at any freeway entertainment center. Gone too is the Magic Mountain-esque, slapdash, Caltrans maintenance-yard theme involving little more than a plastering of roadwork signs.

The new back story follows Goofy’s attempts to teach a group of novice pilots how to fly. Naturally, things go awry. The reworked ride is expected to open in 2010.

Bob Weis, California Adventure’s chief imagineer, said the four-person Mulholland Madness cars will get an extensive makeover. The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, features a similarly themed Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster with airplane styling and a front propeller.

Blue Sky Disney suggests the Goofy makeover is merely a placeholder for a true E-ticket-type attraction — essentially a Disney character Band-Aid meant to hide a scar until more money frees up for future expansion.

In addition to the Goofy coaster, Paradise Pier will get a complete Disney overlay in the next few years, with the Orange Stinger transforming into the Silly Symphony Swings (with a “Band Concert” Mickey Mouse makeover) and the park’s iconic Sun Wheel becoming Mickey’s Fun Wheel. The boardwalk games and shops, currently sporting tongue-in-cheek California references, will adopt new Disney character back stories as well.

$800M development plan unveiledOctober, 24th 2008

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts' first stand-alone hotel and time-share resort at Ko Olina Resort & Marina on Oahu's

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts unveiled yesterday details of its first stand-alone hotel and time-share resort at Ko Olina Resort & Marina, estimated to cost at least $800 million.

The expansive resort, projected to open in 2011, will include 350 hotel rooms and 480 time-share villas as part of the Disney Vacation Club, as well as an 8,000-square-foot conference center and 18,000-square-foot spa, and is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to Oahu's Leeward Coast.

The development furthermore is seen as a catalyst to help long-struggling Ko Olina achieve critical mass and push Kapolei further to attaining Oahu's second-city status.

"Disney is committed to being a good corporate citizen and will help develop a stronger community by creating new jobs and offering promising career paths to many local residents," said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who announced the plans with Disney executives at his offices in Kapolei.

While Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo declined to disclose project costs, a source familiar with the deal who asked not to be identified said Disney will spend at least $800 million on the mixed-use resort.

Disney, which paid $144 million last year for 21 acres of oceanfront property adjacent to JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa near Ko Olina Lagoon 1, selected Hawaii as its first stand-alone hotel destination outside of its famed theme parks because time-share members showed strong demand for the islands.

Disney's worldwide time-share operation has more than 350,000 members from more than 100 countries, though it is not yet registered with the state to sell vacation club memberships here.

The company said it plans to complete the necessary paperwork and begin selling time-share memberships before its 2011 opening, though a date has not been determined.

In addition, Disney said it has not applied for state tax credits for the project.

Despite a severe downturn in Hawaii's tourism industry, the company is forging ahead with the project - which is expected to infuse millions of dollars into the local economy - because it is confident in the long-term prospects in the islands.

"You've got to know they have confidence that Hawaii is going to be strong despite a down economy," Hannemann said.

During the past year, Disney executives have met with local architects and cultural experts to incorporate the Hawaiian culture into the resort's design process.

Its latest project is befitting for Ko Olina, which means "place of joy" in Hawaiian, since Disney's interest in the islands dates back to the company's infancy, when founder Walt Disney created the animated short "Hawaiian Holiday" in 1937.

Disney has vacation club properties at the Walt Disney World Resort, as well as stand-alone time-share properties in Vero Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head, S.C.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts unveiled yesterday details of its first stand-alone hotel and time-share resort at Ko Olina Resort & Marina, estimated to cost at least $800 million.

The expansive resort, projected to open in 2011, will include 350 hotel rooms and 480 time-share villas as part of the Disney Vacation Club, as well as an 8,000-square-foot conference center and 18,000-square-foot spa, and is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to Oahu's Leeward Coast.

The development furthermore is seen as a catalyst to help long-struggling Ko Olina achieve critical mass and push Kapolei further to attaining Oahu's second-city status.

"Disney is committed to being a good corporate citizen and will help develop a stronger community by creating new jobs and offering promising career paths to many local residents," said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who announced the plans with Disney executives at his offices in Kapolei.

While Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo declined to disclose project costs, a source familiar with the deal who asked not to be identified said Disney will spend at least $800 million on the mixed-use resort.

Disney, which paid $144 million last year for 21 acres of oceanfront property adjacent to JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa near Ko Olina Lagoon 1, selected Hawaii as its first stand-alone hotel destination outside of its famed theme parks because time-share members showed strong demand for the islands.

Disney's worldwide time-share operation has more than 350,000 members from more than 100 countries, though it is not yet registered with the state to sell vacation club memberships here.

The company said it plans to complete the necessary paperwork and begin selling time-share memberships before its 2011 opening, though a date has not been determined.

In addition, Disney said it has not applied for state tax credits for the project.

Despite a severe downturn in Hawaii's tourism industry, the company is forging ahead with the project - which is expected to infuse millions of dollars into the local economy - because it is confident in the long-term prospects in the islands.

"You've got to know they have confidence that Hawaii is going to be strong despite a down economy," Hannemann said.

During the past year, Disney executives have met with local architects and cultural experts to incorporate the Hawaiian culture into the resort's design process.

Its latest project is befitting for Ko Olina, which means "place of joy" in Hawaiian, since Disney's interest in the islands dates back to the company's infancy, when founder Walt Disney created the animated short "Hawaiian Holiday" in 1937.

Disney has vacation club properties at the Walt Disney World Resort, as well as stand-alone time-share properties in Vero Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head, S.C.

Disney to unveil Bay Lake Tower and Treehouse VillasSeptember, 21st 2008

The Walt Disney Co.'s rapidly growing time-share division takes an aggressive step forward today when it unveils plans for two new resorts in Orlando -- even as Disney Vacation Club battles some of the strongest financial headwinds it has ever faced.

Disney this morning will formally reveal plans for its Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, confirming earlier reports that the 15-story tower rising just beyond the Magic Kingdom will be used for time shares. The company also will unveil plans to sell time shares at the Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, a secluded community of 60 units that is being rebuilt in a forested pocket of Walt Disney World.

The twin announcements ensure that Celebration-based Disney Vacation Club, which has grown to nine resorts and more than 350,000 members, will have more time shares for sale in 2009 than it has ever had before.

Company executives say they are confident of strong demand for their newest resorts despite the slumping U.S. economy, which has eroded consumer spending and made financing for big-ticket purchases such as time shares harder to obtain.

"What we're trying to do, particularly with the resorts that we build on site [at Walt Disney World], is really provide something that's unique, something that you can't get any other place in Central Florida -- and, really, in the world," said Jim Lewis, president of Disney Vacation Club. "With these two resorts, we believe we've done that."

The company is especially optimistic about the roughly 300-unit Bay Lake Tower, which will be linked to the iconic Contemporary Resort by a fifth-floor pedestrian bridge and will feature the first time shares Disney has ever sold within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom theme park. Sales will begin Sunday, with first crack going to existing Vacation Club owners.

"We think it's going to do very, very well," Lewis said. "That is a premium location . . . right across the street -- literally -- from our flagship park."

Disney will command a premium price for that convenience. Lewis said prices at Bay Lake Tower will begin at $18,000 -- the most expensive starting point of any Vacation Club resort. Prices at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas, which opened its first phase last year, begin just below $17,000.

The 60 elevated homes comprising the Treehouse Villas will be built as a new phase of the Saratoga Springs resort near Downtown Disney. A sales date and prices haven't yet been set.

The Treehouse Villas will open next summer. Bay Lake Tower will follow in the fall.

Although different in size and theme, Disney says both resorts share a similar heritage.

The Contemporary, which was just the second hotel to open at Walt Disney World, is one of the park's most recognizable monuments, with its mammoth, A-frame structure straddling the resort's monorail. The Treehouses have stood in a quiet corner of the park since 1975, used at various times as hotel rooms, Disney Institute housing, and dorms for international student-employees.

Design challenges

When designers first set to work on blueprints for an addition to the Contemporary, concepts ranged from copies of the main hotel to a "George Jetson"-like theme, said Bill Hanus, director of development at Walt Disney Imagineering. But they worried about constructing a building that could be seen as competing with the original. They opted instead to build a crescent-shaped tower, hoping the Bay Lake Tower's curved architecture will complement the angular Contemporary.

There are touches of symmetry: Exterior grooves marking each floor are aligned in both buildings, and a rooftop lounge on the Bay Lake Tower matches the California Grill restaurant on top of the Contemporary.

Inside, designers have made sure to emphasize the views that they hope will ultimately make Bay Lake Tower one of Disney Vacation Club's most sought-after resorts. Rooms will contain nearly wall-length windows that open to views of the Magic Kingdom or Bay Lake. Some bathrooms will even have sliding walls allowing guests to watch fireworks while soaking in tubs.

"It feels like a Tomorrowland building," Hanus said, alluding to the section of the Magic Kingdom that the tower overlooks.

Saving trees

Each of the new Treehouse Villas has been manufactured in sections at a factory in Wingate, Pa., and they are being installed by cranes that lift them over existing treetops. That approach will allow Disney to build modern, 1,200-square-foot homes without damaging the lush, campsite feel that many Disney fans recall, said Jim Durham, vice president of resort projects for Imagineering.

Disney Vacation Club is now scheduled to have space in four time-share resorts for sale in 2009, with Bay Lake Tower and the Treehouse Villas joining the Animal Kingdom Villas and the upcoming Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland in California. It will be the first time the company has had four resorts for sale at once. Disney is also in the early stages of developing a roughly 800-room resort in Hawaii that will include both time shares and hotel rooms.

"It's certainly going to be challenging," said Jeremy Glaser, a lodging industry analyst with the research firm Morningstar Inc. "I think they'll find buyers, just not at the same speed as they were before."

But Lewis said Disney's investment in Bay Lake Tower and the Treehouse Villas demonstrate its confidence that its time-share business will remain strong.

"During tough economic times, people are really a little bit more receptive to a message regarding how you can save money on future vacations," Lewis said. "Clearly, we're not recession-proof. But we are recession-resilient."

Birthdays are free at Disney theme parksSeptember, 21st 2008

By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY

The Disney theme parks rarely offer admission discounts, but throughout 2009 both the Anaheim, Calif., and Orlando locations will admit guests celebrating a birthday for free, officials announced Thursday. In jumping on the "celebration vacation" trend, the parks also are offering profit-enhancing add-ons ranging from dessert parties to custom entertainment for revelers. To get the deal, pre-register online at disneyparks.com or present identification at the gate.

The announcement comes on the heels of Walt Disney World's latest price hike last month, which brought single-day, single-park admission to $79.88 for ages 10 and up.

In other Walt Disney World news, the park's Pleasure Island nightclubs will close for good on Sept. 27. The 120-acre area is slated to feature more shopping and dining venues.

Disney looks at possible acquisitions in U.K.September, 21st 2008

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Iger told the London media today that he is considering possible acquisitions in the U.K. as the company looks to global markets for expansion, according to published reports.

Iger declined to comment on whether the company is interested in the U.K.'s largest commercial broadcaster, ITV, parrying the question by telling Bloomberg, "Hasn't everyone looked at ITV?" The company, home of the long-running soap opera "Coronation Street," is periodically the topic of takeover rumors.

Speculation that the London-based company is vulnerable to a takeover has been fueled by the company's precipitous 45% stock decline this year. ITV rejected a 2006 offer for a controlling interest in the firm.

Disney has shown heightened interest in the market, acquiring the parenting Web site raisingkids.co.uk in August to bolster its portal in the U.K. Iger told Bloomberg the company has a "very strong balance sheet," and that U.K. is one of the "primary markets" in which Disney sees opportunities.

Spokespeople for Disney confirmed the published reports.

Mickey and Minnie Planning to Show Off New CostumeSeptember, 21st 2008

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When the Disney characters dress up for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this September and October, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will be debuting a whole new look. Mickey has traded his scarecrow costume for stunning purple and orange eveningwear fit for a Halloween ball. Not to be outdone, Mickey’s best girl, Minnie Mouse, exchanged her witch costume for a party dress to complement Mickey’s attire.

For Mickey, it’s a top hat and purple tails. For Minnie, it’s a party dress with a purple hat with an orange ribbon – bright and colorful, befitting the fun on 26 evenings between Sept. 5 and Oct. 31 when Magic Kingdom hosts the popular after-hours party.

Guests are invited to dress up as well for the 7 p.m.-midnight party which features two scheduled entertainment extravaganzas guests can see at no other time: the “Boo-to-You” Halloween parade and the bewitching “Happy HalloWishes” fireworks spectacular. There’s trick-or-treating galore and also a chance to experience popular attractions throughout the evening.

Parties are slated for Sept. 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 28, 30 and Oct. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31. To purchase advance tickets, guests can call 407/W-DISNEY or visit Disneyworld.com/halloween.

Disney Cruise Line is considering Alaskan cruisesSeptember, 21st 2008

Disney Cruise Line is apparently considering cruises in Alaska.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska revealed last week that Disney is one of half a dozen cruise companies that have submitted proposals seeking contracts to sail in the park sometime between Jan. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2019. Other prominent companies competing for some of the limited number of "cruise ship use days" in Glacier Bay include Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Disney's application was first reported by the website, CruiseCritic.com. A representative for Glacier Bay said contracts will likely be awarded near the end of the year.