Connect with us

General

Why For?

Set the Wayback for June of 1993. For Jim Hill’s about to take us all back to get a peek at WDI’s original concept for WDW’s “Animal Kingdom” theme park.

Published

on

Horace H. of Windsor Locks, CT. writes to ask:

Jim,

I really enjoyed that story you did a few weeks back about those WDW guest relations staffers who walk around the theme parks with clipboards, soliciting opinions from guests. Personally, I think it would have been really cool to get to see all that concept stuff for Disney’s Animal Kingdom 5 years before that park was open to the public.

It’s just a shame that neither you, Michelle or Jeff thought to bring a tape recorder or a video camera that day when you visited the Magic Kingdom. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if you could now show JimHillMedia.com readers what you three saw that day?

You know, you’re right, Horace. It would be really cool if I was able to show JHM readers the very same video that I saw in the “Walt Disney Story” theater back in June 1993. But would you all be willing to settle for just being able to read a transcript of the audio track for that particular presentation?

How’d I get my hands on something as snazzy as this? Sorry, but that would be telling. Let’s just say that I have really clever friends (thanks again, FJ!) who never throws anything interesting away.

As I mentioned above, the following is a transcript of what WDW guests heard (and experienced) as they took part in the “Disney’s Animal Kingdom” survey sessions back in the latter part of June / early part of July 1993.

With the hope that they’d be able to get an unbiased guest reaction to a WDI video that detailed a fourth new theme park that had been proposed for Walt Disney World, staffers from Disney’s marketing department recruited guests off the street in all three Disney theme parks. At the Magic Kingdom, guests were taken backstage into the “Walt Disney Story” theater, while guests at EPCOT Center were taken backstage at the Norway Pavilion in World Showcase.

The following transcript was made from a recording taken at the third survey site: a small meeting room that was attached to the “Studio East” cast cafeteria backstage at the Disney-MGM Studio Theme Park.

For the first few minutes of the presentation, guests were asked to fill out surveys that gave WDW’s marketing department some basic information about who the members of their test audience were and where they had come from. Then they had to slog through 10 additional pages that asked for exact information on how these guests had spent their time at the Walt Disney World Resort. Particular attention was paid to the amount of time guests had spent in already existing Disney theme parks as well as other Central Florida theme parks and attractions.

Once this was done, a Disney staffer stepped forward and read the following statement:

“In the recent past, Walt Disney World has added new hotels, new water parks and new rides and attractions at each of the three theme parks. Today, we would like your opinion about a new theme park the company is considering.

I would like to read you a very brief description of the idea and then show a ten minute video of the proposed theme park.

The newest concept for a Disney theme park elevates the subject of animals into a new experience, creating a day-long adventure into the mysteries and marvels of the animal kingdom. Not just live wild animals but long-vanished creatures of the past and beasts of myth and fable come to life in a park where guests travel on a safari of discovery through several different lands of animal adventure.”

With that, the Disney staffer stuck a video tape into a nearby player. The following is a transcript of the audio portion of that tape:

“… is a theme park about animals. Not just wild, live animals, but animals of myth and legend as well as extinct animals from the prehistoric past.

Like a classic Disney theme park, this animal adventure park is divided into several different lands. Each land takes a different look at the subject of animals. ‘Dinoland,’ where you meet the baddest giants of the past, dinosaurs; ‘Beastly Kingdom,’ a realm of imaginary animals, dragons and unicorns, ‘Africa’ and ‘Asia,’ which together offer safaris into the savanna and through the jungle to see live, wild animals in their natural habitats. These lands are connected by a central hub.

Guests enter the park through ‘Genesis Gardens;’ a cool, green grotto of flowers and waterfalls that immerses the guest in a world of nature and animals. Leaving ‘Genesis Gardens,’ guests will cross a bridge over ‘Safari River;’ a river that flows throughout the whole park, connecting all the lands. They find themselves in ‘Safari Village;’ a rustic, tropical village in lush jungle surroundings that line the very center of the park. From here, guests will begin their journeys to the different lands of animal adventure.

Rising above the village is the giant ‘Tree of Life.’ This enormous tree is the icon, the symbol for this park about animals and nature. Beneath the tree spreads out a garden where guests can wander amid streams and flowered pathways surrounded by birds, deer and other animals.

Leaving ‘Safari Village’ and crossing the bridge, we pass beneath the skeleton gateway into ‘Dinoland.’ ‘Dinoland’ is about the adventure of discovering extinct animals from the past. The land looks like a paleontological dig, a dinosaur dig.

In this land, you have several opportunities for adventure. The main attraction is a thrilling ride that takes us back in time to rescue a few prehistoric creatures from the fiery comet that ended the age of dinosaurs. Giant reptiles threaten us from every side and — if we don’t escape before the comet’s crash — we face extinction ourselves. This fast paced adventure gives the guests a new look at a vanished era.

The ‘Boneyard Playground’ is a chance to play and learn in a dinosaur dig that’s been opened for an opportunity to explore amidst the fossils and equipment. The ‘Excavator’ is a rollicking coaster ride through a section of the dig supposedly too dangerous to enter. Somehow, we’ve gotten in and are having a real good time.

At the edge of the land, there’s a humorous touch: ‘One Million Dollars B.C.’ It’s a combination gift shop and reptile house with an eccentric proprietor who takes the subject of dinosaurs to the limit.

‘Beastly Kingdom’ is the realm of make-believe animals. Animals that don’t really exist. Out of legends, out of fairy tales, out of storybooks. Like our legends and fairy tales, this land is divided into realms of good and realms of evil.

The evil side is dominated by ‘Dragon’s Tower;’ a burned, wrecked castle inhabited by a greedy, fire-breathing dragon. He hordes a fabulous treasure in his tower chamber. The castle is also inhabited by bats who speak to us from their upside down perches. The bats have a plan. They enlist our help trying to rob the dragon and fly us off on a wild chase. At last, we meet the fire-breathing dragon himself and barely escape un-barbequed.

The good side of this land is ruled by ‘Quest of the Unicorn;’ an adventure which sends us through a maze of medieval mythological creates to seek the hidden grotto where the unicorn lives. There is also ‘Fantasia Gardens,’ a gentle musical boat ride through the animals from Disney’s animated classic ‘Fantasia,’ both the crocodiles and hippos from ‘Dance of the Hours’ and the Pegasus, fauns and the centaurs from Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral.’

To the north of the park are our two main attractions, the African and Asian safaris: ‘Journey to Gorilla Valley’ and ‘Tiger River Rapids.’ Both safaris are outdoor adventures with real animals, dealing with real issues. In Africa, we’re exposed to the poaching of wild animals. In Asia, we’re dealing with deforestation.

The African Safari is a jeep safari that takes you from an African village out through the jungle to the broad savanna, where you are surrounded by animals such as giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, even elephants. In the end, this wilderness is threatened by poachers. We encounter these poachers, report them and then need to escape in a fast paced adventure down a narrow river canyon. Ultimately, the poachers are apprehended and we are rewarded with a chance to walk through the ‘Gorilla Preserve;’ a deep, rich jungle where these animals live protected in a beautiful rainforest environment.

For those interested in a deeper look at Africa, we have the ‘Nature Walk;’ a pedestrian walk where you can get a longer look at your favorite animals and a closer look at smaller or well camouflaged creatures. A series of safaris overlook stations offer good views and plenty of information about the savanna animals.

The Asian Safari, ‘Tiger River Rapids’ is completely different from the African Safari. It’s a river raft ride. The Asian Safari takes guests upriver on a flexible river raft deep into the heart of a pristine rain forest. Exotic wildlife of Southeast Asia — leopards, orangutans, rhinoceros, monkeys and elephants — live along the banks of the river amid towering trees and tumbling waterfalls.

Guests depart from a colorful Asian village for a journey that will carry them through waterfalls, rapids, mysterious ruins and a realm of rare, endangered animals. Part of the journey takes us through the devastation created by careless logging of the fragile forest, where erosion creates muddy rapids that threaten our raft. Finally, we conclude in a place where man and animal seek to live together in harmony. As the ride comes to an end, we see what was once a maharajah’s hunting palace, now the headquarters for ‘Operation Tiger,’ a program for restoring rain forests and allowing tigers to live there once again.

There is also a ‘Nature Walk’ that offers a walking tour of the Asian jungle for another look at rhinos, elephants and tigers, providing information and a deeper understanding of jungle life.

In a commitment to worldwide animal conservation, Disney’s animal adventure park also offers ‘Wildlife Express to Preservation Station.’ A train ride that takes guests through both safaris to our facilities for conservation and rare animal breeding. There, you can learn about the real work we’re doing to preserve endangered species and even get involved with zoos in your own home town through a special computerized link-up.

Disney’s new park creates a day-long adventure for the whole family. Shows, rides, attractions and real wildlife safaris offer an incredible selection of animal experiences. Whether you love tigers, teddy bears or Tyrannosaurus Rex, you’ll find all your favorite animals right here …”

At this point, the Disney marketing staffer shut off the video and asked guests to continue filling out their survey forms. The questions that followed asked for specific information about how guests might have spent their vacations differently had the fourth WDW theme park already been open for business (IE: Would you still have spent a day and a half exploring EPCOT Center and/or would you have cancelled that side trip to Busch Gardens Tampa, etc.) This was followed by questions concerning which sort of multi-day passes guests would have been willing to buy if Disney’s animal park had been open now.

Of particular interest (at least to me) were the proposed names for the fourth Disney World theme park. Guests were asked to select the name they found most appealing from the following list:

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Disney’s Wild World Disney’s Animal Adventure Disney’s Wild Territorium The Animal Expedition at Disney Disney’s Animal Encounter

The survey concluded with a series of questions asking guests whether they thought the proposed theme park fit in with their image of what “Disney” was all about. Once guests completed their surveys, they handed them in to the Disney staffers — who thanked the guests for their time and then offered them complimentary sodas.

That’s a pretty fascinating document, don’t you think? Both for what does include (I.E. descriptions of all of the attractions for “Beastly Kingdom,” those “Nature Walk” trails that were supposed to been included as key elements of the African and Asian safaris, not to mention the “Excavator”) and what it DOESN’T include (I.E. no mention at all of “Camp MinnieMickey” or that any show at all was under consideration for installation at the “Tree of Life”).

Clearly, the Imagineers had a very different theme park in mind when they put together this “Disney’s Animal Kingdom” concept video tape back in 1993. One that wouldn’t rely quite so heavily on live animals. One that actually tried to balance the park’s entertainment offerings between tried-and-true theme park rides and shows and more cutting edge stuff. Safari rides that took guests through environments that were filled with really-for-real live animals. Not to mention those “Nature Trails,” which would have allowed DAK visitors to take a self-paced tour of the park’s savanna and rain forest enclosures.

One has to wonder … would Disney’s Animal Kingdom really have been that much more of a success if the Imagineers had stuck to their original plans? If WDI hadn’t allowed Disney’s accountants to pare this ambitious theme park project down to the bare bone?

Update Oh … almost forgot. Those of you who dropped by the site today expecting to find a brand new Roger Colton column: don’t despair. I actually decided to hold Roger’s next story ’til Monday, February 3rd. When that column would be sure to get the maximum play possible here at JimHillMedia. Given its subject matter, I’m fairly certain that this particular piece will cause a bit of a fur-renzy over on the JHM discussion boards once you guys get to read it. So be sure to come by on Monday and check it out.

Also … quoting from Sally Fields now: “You like me. You really like me.” By that I mean: the response to last week’s announcement about the beta tests of the JHM Disneyland and DCA tours was downright overwhelming. Due to the incredible demand for slots, I actually had to expand the number of tours that I’ll be giving on Saturday, March 22nd and Sunday, March 23rd. Now there’ll be two tours of Disneyland on Saturday — one that leaves at 10 a.m. and one that leaves at 2 p.m. On Sunday, there’ll be a 10 a.m. tour of DCA, followed by a 2 p.m. tour of Disneyland.

Of course, given that I’m now doing extra tours that weekend, there are (of course) a few extra slots available. But only a few. 5 for the Disneyland tours and 4 for the DCA tour. So — if you’d still like try to get in on the beta test of the JHM tours — now would be a really good time to sign up. (Just be aware that — in the event that a few folks may eventually have to back out at the last minute — I will be wait-listing a few slots for these tours. But just a few. After all, I can’t guarantee that anyone who’s on the wait list will actually end up being able to get in on this inaugural run of tours. So — if you’d really like to get in on the fun — you’d best drop me an e-mail today at my stadlerhill@mindspring.com e-mail address ASAP.)

Those of you JHM readers who aren’t really interested in taking part in these tours at the park should be aware that Roger, Chuck, Michelle and I are also looking into the idea of staging an informal get-together on either Saturday or Sunday night. Nothing fancy, mind you. Just maybe the bunch of us meeting some place in Disneyland, then heading off as a group to one of the cheaper eateries in the park to nosh and talk. Get to know one another. Put some names to some faces, etc.

We’re even hoping that we can persuade JHM’s most excellent tech guy — David Gasior — to come out and join us. Whaddaya say, Dave? Wanna come out and actually finally meet the folks you’ve been working with lo these many months?

Alright. That’s enough yammering for this week. Come back on Monday to read Roger Colton’s intriguing new column as well as the first installment of the newly reworked “Remembering ‘Light Magic” series.

Honest. I promise.

Talk to you later,

jrh

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

General

Seward Johnson bronzes add a surreal, artistic touch to NYC’s Garment District

Published

on

Greetings from NYC. Nancy and I drove down from New
Hampshire yesterday because we'll be checking out
Disney Consumer Products' annual Holiday Showcase later today.

Anyway … After checking into our hotel (i.e., The Paul.
Which is located down in NYC's NoMad district), we decided to grab some dinner.
Which is how we wound up at the Melt Shop.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is this restaurant that only sells grilled cheese sandwiches.
This comfort food was delicious, but kind of on the heavy side.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why — given that it was a beautiful summer night
— we'd then try and walk off our meals. We started our stroll down by the Empire
State Building


Photo by Jim Hill

… and eventually wound up just below Times
Square
(right behind where the Waterford Crystal Times Square New
Year's Eve Ball
is kept).


Photo by Jim Hill

But you know what we discovered en route? Right in the heart
of Manhattan's Garment District
along Broadway between 36th and 41st? This incredibly cool series of life-like
and life-sized sculptures that Seward
Johnson has created
.


Photo by Jim Hill

And — yes — that is Abraham Lincoln (who seems to have
slipped out of WDW's Hall of Presidents when no one was looking and is now
leading tourists around Times Square). These 18 painted
bronze pieces (which were just installed late this past Sunday night / early
Monday morning) range from the surreal to the all-too-real.


Photo by Jim Hill

Some of these pieces look like typical New Yorkers. Like the
business woman planning out her day …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the postman delivering the mail …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the hot dog vendor working at his cart …


Photo by Jim Hill


Photo by Jim Hill

… the street musician playing for tourists …


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention the tourists themselves.


Photo by Jim Hill

But right alongside the bronze businessmen …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and the tired grandmother hauling her groceries home …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there were also statues representing people who were
from out-of-town …


Photo by Jim Hill

… or — for that matter — out-of-time.


Photo by Jim Hill

These were the Seward Johnson pieces that genuinely beguiled. Famous impressionist paintings brought to life in three dimensions.


Note the out-of-period water bottle that some tourist left
behind. Photo by Jim Hill 

Some of them so lifelike that you actually had to pause for
a moment (especially as day gave way to night in the city) and say to yourself
"Is that one of the bronzes? Or just someone pretending to be one of these
bronzes?"

Mind you, for those of you who aren't big fans of the
impressionists …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there's also an array of American icons. Among them
Marilyn Monroe …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and that farmer couple from Grant Wood's "American
Gothic."


Photo by Jim Hill

But for those of you who know your NYC history, it's hard to
beat that piece which recreates Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous photograph of V-J Day in Times Square.


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, a 25-foot-tall version of this particular Seward
Johnson piece ( which — FYI — is entitled "Embracing Peace") will actually
be placed in Times Square for a few days on or around  August 14th to commemorate the 70th
anniversary of Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day).


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, if you'd like to check these Seward Johnson bronzes in
person (which — it should be noted — are part of the part of the Garment
District Alliance
's new public art offering) — you'd best schedule a trip to
the City sometime over the next three months. For these pieces will only be on
display now through September 15th. 

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

General

Wondering what you should “Boldly Go” see at the movies next year? The 2015 Licensing Expo offers you some clues

Published

on

Greeting from the 2015 Licensing Expo, which is being held
at the Mandalay Bay
Convention Center in Las
Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that I enjoy covering the Licensing Expo.
Mostly becomes it allows bloggers & entertainment writers like myself to
get a peek over the horizon. Scope out some of the major motion pictures &
TV shows that today's vertically integrated entertainment conglomerates
(Remember when these companies used to be called movie studios?) will be
sending our way over the next two years or so.


Photo by Jim Hill

Take — for example — all of "The Secret Life of
Pets
" banners that greeted Expo attendees as they made their way to the
show floor today. I actually got to see some footage from this new Illumination
Entertainment
production (which will hit theaters on July 8, 2016) the last time I was in Vegas. Which
was for CinemaCon back in April. And the five or so minutes of film that I viewed
suggested that "The Secret Life of Pets" will be a really funny
animated feature.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, Universal Pictures wanted to make sure that Expo
attendees remembered that there was another Illumination Entertainment production
coming-to-a-theater-near-them before "The Secret Life of Pets" (And
that's "Minions," the "Despicable Me" prequel. Which
premieres at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival next week but
won't be screened stateside 'til July 10th of this year). Which is why they had
three minions who were made entirely out of LEGOS loitering out in the lobby.


Photo by Jim Hill

And Warner Bros. — because they wanted "Batman v
Superman: Dawn of Justice
" to start trending on Twitter today — brought
the Batmobile to Las Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention full-sized macquettes of Batman, Superman and
Wonder Woman. Just so conventioneers could then see what these DC superheroes
would actually look like in this eagerly anticipated, March 25, 2016 release.


Photo by Jim Hill

That's the thing that can sometimes be a wee bit frustrating
about the Licensing Expo. It's all about delayed gratification. You'll come
around a corner and see this 100 foot-long ad for "The Peanuts Movie"
and think "Hey, that looks great. I want to see that Blue Sky Studios production
right now." It's only then that you notice the fine print and realize that
"The Peanuts Movie" doesn't actually open in theaters 'til November
6th of this year.


Photo by Jim Hill

And fan of Blue Sky's "Ice Age" film franchise are in for an even
longer wait. Given that the latest installment in that top grossing series
doesn't arrive in theaters 'til July
15, 2016.


Photo by Jim Hill

Of course, if you're one of those people who needs immediate
gratification when it comes to your entertainment, there was stuff like that to
be found at this year's Licensing Expo. Take — for example — how the WWE
booth was actually shaped like a wrestling ring. Which — I'm guessing — meant
that if the executives of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. didn't like
the offer that you were making, they were then allowed to toss you out over the
top rope, Royal Rumble-style.


Photo by Jim Hill

I also have to admit that — as a longtime Star Trek fan —
it was cool to see the enormous Starship Enterprise that hung in place over the
CBS booth. Not to mention getting a glimpse of the official Star Trek 50th
Anniversary logo.


Photo by Jim Hill

I was also pleased to see lots of activity in The Jim Henson
Company booth. Which suggests that JHC has actually finally carved out a
post-Muppets identity for itself.


Photo by Jim Hill

Likewise for all of us who were getting a little concerned
about DreamWorks Animation (what with all the layoffs & write-downs &
projects that were put into turnaround or outright cancelled last year), it was
nice to see that booth bustling.


Photo by Jim Hill

Every so often, you'd come across some people who were
promoting a movie that you weren't entirely sure that you actually wanted to
see (EX: "Angry Birds," which Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia
Pictures
will be releasing to theaters on May 20, 2016). But then you remembered that Clay Kaytis
who's this hugely talented former Walt Disney Animation Studios animator — is
riding herd on "Angry Birds" with Fergal Reilly. And you'd think
"Well, if Clay's working on 'Angry Birds,' I'm sure this animated feature
will turn out fine."


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there were reminders at this year's Licensing Expo
of great animated features that we're never going to get to see now. I still
can't believe — especially after that brilliant proof-of-concept footage
popped up online last year — that Sony execs decided not to go forward
with  production
of Genndy Tartakovsky's
"Popeye" movie.  But that's the
cruel thing about the entertainment business, folks. It will sometime break
your heart.


Photo by Jim Hill

And make no mistake about this. The Licensing Expo is all
about business. That point was clearly driven home at this year's show when —
as you walked through the doors of the Mandalay
Bay Convention Center
— the first thing that you saw was the Hasbros Booth. Which was this gleaming,
sleek two story-tall affair full of people who were negotiating deals &
signing contracts for all of the would-be summer blockbusters that have already
announced release dates for 2019 & beyond.


Photo by Jim Hill

"But what about The Walt Disney Company?," you
ask. "Weren't they represented on the show floor at this year's Licensing
Expo?" Not really, not. I mean, sure. There were a few companies there hyping
Disney-related products. Take — for example — the Disney Wikkeez people.


Photo by Jim Hill

I'm assuming that some Disney Consumer Products exec is
hoping that Wikkeez will eventually become the new Tsum Tsum. But to be blunt,
these little hard plastic figures don't seem to have the same huggable charm
that those stackable plush do. But I've been wrong before. So let's see what
happens with Disney Wikkeez once they start showing up on the shelves of the
Company's North American retail partners.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of Disney's retail partners … They were
meeting with Mouse House executives behind closed doors one floor down from the
official show floor for this year's Licensing Expo.


Photo by Jim Hill

And the theme for this year's invitation-only Disney shindig? "Timeless
Stories" involving the Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm brands that
would then appeal to "tomorrow's consumer."


Photo by Jim Hill

And just to sort of hammer home the idea that Disney is no
longer the Company which cornered the market when it comes to little girls
(i.e., its Disney Princess and Disney Fairies franchises), check out this
wall-sized Star Wars-related image that DCP put up just outside of one of its
many private meeting rooms. "See?," this carefully crafted photo
screams. "It isn't just little boys who want to wield the Force. Little
girls also want to grow up and be Lords of the Sith."


Photo by Jim Hill

One final, kind-of-ironic note: According to this banner,
Paramount Pictures will be releasing a movie called "Amusement Park"
to theaters sometime in 2017.  


Photo by Jim Hill

Well, given all the "Blackfish" -related issues
that have been dogged SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment over the past two years, I'm
just hoping that they'll still be in the amusement park business come 2017.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

General

It takes more than three circles to craft a Classic version of Mickey Mouse

Published

on

You know what Mickey Mouse looks like, right? Little guy,
big ears?

Truth be told, Disney's corporate symbol has a lot of
different looks. If Mickey's interacting with Guests at Disneyland
Park
(especially this summer, when
the Happiest Place on Earth
is celebrating its 60th anniversary), he looks & dresses like this.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Or when he's appearing in one of those Emmy Award-winning shorts that Disney
Television Animation has produced (EX: "Bronco Busted," which debuts
on the Disney Channel tonight at 8 p.m. ET / PT), Mickey is drawn in a such a
way that he looks hip, cool, edgy & retro all at the same time.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

Looking ahead to 2017 now, when Disney Junior rolls out "Mickey and the
Roadster Racers
," this brand-new animated series will feature a sportier version
of Disney's corporate symbol. One that Mouse House managers hope will persuade
preschool boys to more fully embrace this now 86 year-old character.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

That's what most people don't realize about the Mouse. The
Walt Disney Company deliberately tailors Mickey's look, even his style of
movement, depending on what sort of project / production he's appearing in.

Take — for example — Disney
California Adventure
Park
's "World of Color:
Celebrate!
" Because Disney's main mouse would be co-hosting this new
nighttime lagoon show with ace emcee Neil Patrick Harris, Eric Goldberg really had
to step up Mickey's game. Which is why this master Disney animator created
several minutes of all-new Mouse animation which then showed that Mickey was
just as skilled a showman as Neil was.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Better yet, let's take a look at what the folks at Avalanche Studios just went
through as they attempted to create a Classic version of Mickey & Minnie.
One that would then allow this popular pair to become part of Disney Infinity
3.0.

"I won't lie to you. We were under a lot of pressure to
get the look of this particular version of Mickey — he's called Red Pants
Mickey around here — just right," said Jeff Bunker, the VP of Art
Development at Avalanche Studios, during a recent phone interview. "When
we brought Sorcerer Mickey into Disney Infinity 1.0 back in January of 2014,
that one was relatively easy because … Well, everyone knows what Mickey Mouse
looked like when he appeared in 'Fantasia.' "


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"But this time around, we were being asked to design
THE Mickey & Minnie," Bunker continued. "And given that these Classic
Disney characters have been around in various different forms for the better
part of the last century … Well, which look was the right look?"

Which is why Jeff and his team at Avalanche Studios began watching hours &
hours of Mickey Mouse shorts. As they tried to get a handle on which look would
work best for these characters in Disney Infinity 3.0.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And we went all the way back to the very start of Mickey's career. We began
with 'Steamboat Willie' and then watched all of those black & white Mickey shorts
that Walt made back in the late 1920s & early 1930s. From there, we
transitioned to his Technicolor shorts. Which is when Mickey went from being
this pie-eyed, really feisty character to more of a well-behaved leading
man," Bunker recalled. "We then finished out our Mouse marathon by
watching all of those new Mickey shorts that Paul Rudish & his team have
been creating for Disney Television Animation. Those cartoons really recapture
a lot of the spirit and wild slapstick fun that Mickey's early, black &
white shorts had."

But given that the specific assignment that Avalanche Studios had been handed
was to create the most appealing looking, likeable version of Mickey Mouse
possible … In the end, Jeff and his team wound up borrowing bits & pieces
from a lot of different versions of the world's most famous mouse. So that
Classic Mickey would then look & move in a way that best fit the sort of
gameplay which people would soon be able to experience with Disney Infinity
3.0.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"That — in a lot of ways — was actually the toughest
part of the Classic Mickey design project. You have to remember that one of the
key creative conceits of  Disney Infinity
is that all the characters which appear in this game are toys," Bunker
stated. "Okay. So they're beautifully detailed, highly stylized toy
versions of beloved Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm characters. But
they're still supposed to be toys. So our Classic versions of Mickey &
Minnie have the same sort of thickness & sturdiness to them that toys have.
So that they'll then be able to fit right in with all of the rest of the
characters that Avalanche Studios had previously designed for Disney Infinity."

And then there was the matter of coming up with just the
right pose for Classic Mickey & Minnie. Which — to hear Jeff tell the
story — involved input from a lot of Disney upper management.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"Everyone within the Company seemed to have an opinion
about how Mickey & Minnie should be posed. More to the point, if you Google
Mickey, you then discover that there are literally thousands of poses out there
for these two. Though — truth be told — a lot of those kind of play off the
way Mickey poses when he's being Disney's corporate symbol," Bunker said.
"But what I was most concerned about was that Mickey's pose had to work
with Minnie's pose. Because we were bringing the Classic versions of these
characters up into Disney Infinity 3.0 at the exact same time. And we wanted to
make sure — especially for those fans who like to put their Disney Infinity
figures on display — that Mickey's pose would then complement Minnie.

Which is why Jeff & the crew at Avalanche Studios
decided — when it came to Classic Mickey & Minnie's pose — that they
should go all the way back to the beginning. Which is why these two Disney icons
are sculpted in such a way that it almost seems as though you're witnessing the
very first time Mickey set eyes on Minnie.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"And what was really great about that was — as soon as
we began showing people within the Company this pose — everyone at Disney
quickly got on board with the idea. I mean, the Classic Mickey that we sculpted
for Disney Infinity 3.0 is clearly a very playful, spunky character. But at the
same time, he's obviously got eyes for Minnie," Bunker concluded. "So
in the end, we were able to come up with Classic versions of these characters
that will work well within the creative confines of Disney Infinity 3.0 but at
the same time please those Disney fans who just collect these figures because
they like the way the Disney Infinity characters look."

So now that this particular design project is over, does
Jeff regret that Mouse House upper management was so hands-on when it came to
making sure that the Classic versions of Mickey & Minnie were specifically
tailored to fit the look & style of gameplay found in Disney Infinity 3.0?


Copyright Lucasfilm / Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"To be blunt, we go through this every time we add a new character to the
game. The folks at Lucasfilm were just as hands-on when we were designing the
versions of Darth Vader and Yoda that will also soon be appearing in Disney
Infinity 3.0," Bunker laughed. "So in the end, if the character's
creators AND the fans are happy, then I'm happy."

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Continue Reading

Trending