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Why For Zac Efron doesn't have more fans in Mouse House management?

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Why For Zac Efron doesn't have more fans in Mouse House management?

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Mindy T. writes in to say:

I'm a big Beyoncé fan. So last week's story about how Disney was after her to star in the movie version of "Aida" really excited me. Is there any other new on this project?

Dear Mindy T.

Talk between Ms. Knowles and the Mouse are continuing. And though Beyoncé has yet to officially agree to appear in "Aida," the studio has already begun quietly talking with a few other performers about possibly doing this big screen musical. And among the people that Disney has reached out to is "High School Musical" co-star Corbin Bleu.

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Mouse House managers just l-o-o-o-ve Corbin Bleu. They honestly can not say enough nice things about this affable Afro-ed actor. They talk endlessly about personable & professional Corbin is; how Bleu tackles every assignment that the studio throws his way with energy & enthusiasm; and yet -- given how talented this 18-year-old kid is -- he's still very courteous to everyone he deals with Disney. That's why a lot of folks in Burbank think that Corbin is going to have a huge career. Thanks -- in large part -- to the great grounding that Bleu's father, veteran character actor David Reivers, has obviously given his son.

Now contrast this with what's being said on the Burbank lot about Zac Efron. According to studio insiders, this "High School Musical" star has ...

"... has been labeled one of the most difficult talent to ever work with the studio. More vain than the girls on Wisteria Lane, more greedy than Sir Elton, more fickle than Johnny Depp. Kid needs to get a clue."

Mind you, this is what's being said behind Efron's back. Given that the Disney Channel really needs Zac to be happy & cooperative as they begin doing publicity for "High School Musical 2," they're bending over backward right now to kiss this 19-year-old's butt. But once Mr. Efron is out of earshot, the tongues start wagging.

 Image courtesy of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Photo By Alberto Rodriguez. Berliner Studio / BEImages

And given that Walt Disney Pictures still has plans to move forward with production of "High School Musical 3" (Though now that Zac has just signed to star in the remake of "Footloose," the release date of the third installment of the "HSM" trilogy has been pushed from October of 2008 to the later winter / early spring of 2009), Mickey will continue to cave in to this male diva's demands. At least until that last scene is in the can. After that ... Well, Mr. Efron may then find out that it's not all that wise to start throwing your weight around. Particularly when your career is just getting started.

And speaking of just getting started, Peter W. wrote to me earlier this week, seeking my thoughts on WDI's new VP in charge of DCA.

Have you heard? Bob Weis is back at Walt Disney Imagineering! They brought him back to serve as the new Vice President in charge of Disney's California Adventure. He's the one who's going to be calling the shots on how that theme park gets overhauled from here on in. Is that great news or what?

Dear Peter W.

That is great news. For my money, Weis was one of the brightest guys to ever work at WDI. And it's a smart, smart move on Imagineering's part to bring Bob back and then put him in charge of fixing DCA.

After all, given how much of that theme park is a direct lift from Weis's original plans for Disney's America, the man's already got to feel right at home.

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What's that you say? You don't see any hint of Disney's America in California Adventure? Here, let me open your eyes a bit:

  • DCA's "Paradise Pier" district was clearly inspired from DA's "State Fair" territory, given that this part of that proposed theme park was to have featured (I'm quoting from the "Disney's America" informational brochure now) " ... nostalgic recreation(s) of such popular rides as a 60-foot Ferris Wheel and a classic wooden roller coaster."

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  • Meanwhile, over in DCA's "Golden State" district, that theme park's "Grizzly River Run" attraction clearly draws its inspiration from the "Lewis & Clark Expedition" white water raft ride that was supposed to have served as the centerpiece of DA's "Native America" territory.

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  • Speaking of borrowing ideas, California Adventure visitors would have probably found Disney's America's "Victory Field" section very familiar. Given that the whole 1940s era airfield motif that's used so effectively over in DCA's "Condor Flats" district was originally dreamed up by Weis's team for DA.

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  • And as for California Adventure's old "Bountiful Valley Farm" district, that whole part of that theme park was basically a xerox of Disney's America's "Family Farm" territory. Which (Again, I'm quoting from the informational brochure here) was to have offered " ... a cornucopia of pastoral delights and insights into their production ... Visitors will see how crops are harvested ..."

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And given that DCA's "Hollywood Pictures Backlot" is basically a Reader's Digest version of the first theme park that Bob designed for the Walt Disney Company (i.e. Disney-MGM Studios theme park) ... Well, perhaps you can now understand why Weis feels right at home in California Adventure.

Of course, now comes the hard part. Trying to find a way to pull together this hodge-podge of rides, shows and attractions. So that DCA first takes on a unified viewpoint and then begins to tell some sort of cohesive story.

But if anyone can actually pull that off, it's going to be Bob Weis. Honestly, his coming back to Glendale -- after all those years of having his own company, Island Design Associates -- is the best news that I've heard in a long time.

Mind you, not all of the news that's coming out of Glendale these days is great. Take -- for instance -- this note from Nate the Gnat:


Long time reader. Love your site. Keep the good work. Blah, blah, blah.

Okay. Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you that I work at Walt Disney Imagineering. I can't tell you where I work because I signed an NDA when I first started with the company and I don't want to lose my job now.

But what I can tell you is that I have friends who are working on the 'Toy Story Mania' attraction. And that project is an awful mess right now. They can't get the interactive 3D projection system to work to anyone's satisfaction. There's lots of issues with blurring and image resolution. Which is why there's been a lot of talk lately about pushing back the opening date of this attraction (Both the DCA AND the Disney-MGM version) by as much as six months. Just so that WDI will then have all of the time that it needs to work all the bugs out.

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Just thought that you would want to know.

Nate the Gnat

Dear Nate the Gnat,

Yeah, I'd been hearing similar things from other folks who work at WDI. Of course, given that "Toy Story Mania" is one of the key pieces of the Disney-MGM-becomes-Disney-Pixar-Studios name change project ... Management is not real happy to be hearing the Imagineer's pleas of "We need more time." They want this name-change to take place next year with lots of Pixar-related hoopla. But if this interactive dark ride isn't working correctly and/or is deemed to be less-than-impressive by the theme-park-going public (Shades of the "Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor" !) ... Well, that could then give this newly renamed theme park a black eye before the Imagineers really get started with Pixarizing the place.

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So the pressure's really on right now. The way I hear it, Imagineering management is throwing unlimited men, time and money at the "Toy Story Mania" attraction. Saying -- in essence -- that "I don't care what you do. Just make sure that this attraction is fully-functional and ready to open by the middle of 2008."

So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out next year. Whether WDI will be able to work out all of the kinks in time. Or will "Toy Story Mania" wind up just like "Laugh Floor" and have to push back its originally announced opening date by as much as six months.

Okay. That's enough for this week. You folks have a great weekend, okay? And we'll all see you again come Monday morning.

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  • I was not a fan of the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor (even though they read my text-messaged joke -- probably the only one they got!). I would be glad if they moved it out of Tomorrowland and threw in something a little more "futuristic."

    While they're at it, gut the Stich's Great Escape thing, too! Put something cool in there and give me an excuse to renew my annual passes!!

  • OK, so I understand the problems with Toy Story Mania...that's not wonderful news, but whatever.  What really makes me curious when you say "not all the news out of Glendale is great" is--is there any more word these days about the changing quality of the work environment there?  I haven't heard much since the "shake-up", when most of the talk was speculation about how good things *might* get and how happy many Imagineers were about the *possible* upswing in things.  So what's the latest on the prevailing attitudes over at WDI?  Do those on the inside have any tangible feeling about the place (positive, negative, status quo) to report?

  • I'm just not all that confident in anything themepark related these days. If all these theme parks are now is a massive marketting tool for DVD, Movie tickets, and Itunes downloads.... then count me out. From a corporate standpoint.... why poor money into real estate, material goods and construction when you can flood the market with digital products that people can pay for in their pajamas at 2:AM? And with all these theme park acidents lately ... is it all really worth a risk anymore?

    Its good to know that if Toy Story Mania is delayed due to technical difficulties .... it means they are at least trying to create something new and state of the art. I say let them take all the time they need to make it right.... rather than cutting corners to turn it into something just slightly more interesting and entertaining than a WII or PS3 game in order to get it out on time.

  • The layout problems of both MGM and Animal Kingdom are that unless you've memorized the place, you literally need a map in your hand to navigate the place.  And even if you have only a halfway-decent idea of where everything's at you still might get stuck in dead ends.  At least Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are circular in design, with MK a very easy to traverse wagon wheel.

    But then maybe the designers of the newer parks--Universal's included--really do want to get their guests lost and sidetracked.  Perhaps it'll make the ride lines shorter.

  • Thanks Jim, enjoyed this week's Why For Installment!  I like to hear behind-the-scenes stuff.

  • Hi :) I'm new to this board! Uh...I jst read the article. I've heard rumours that Zac was acting up a little, and it wouldn't surprise me I always thought he was a little too good to be true. I'm not surprised about Corbin also, everytime I hear people say that they've met him or something they always say he's really nice and sweet. I think Zac has got to big for his boots. He seems to think that he is convinced that he is only reason that HSM (when he wasn't even singing in it, it was Drew Seely). But if Zac keeps on acting up don't worry. He won't get very far. After Disney he won't have very much because eventually the looks will fade then what will he rely on? His acting? Which is ok but not amazing. I mean I wouldn't say he was the best actor in Hairspray. Where as Corbin is going to get far if he keeps on being a nice guy. If he doesn't get many film offers (which I highly doubt) then I say he should go into theatre. I think he'd be excellent in roles such as Billy Flynn in Chicago, Fiyero in Wicked even Simba in Lion King. Zac had better watch himself becuase once HSM is over Disney can be done with him. I only hope he won't go and influence people like Corbin, Ashley or Vanessa to become big headed prima donnas with even bigger egos.

  • I must say, it's neat reading about Toy Story Midway Mania three years later. It's turned into an amazing success (despite the fact that the lines are far too long). Good job, Imagineers!

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