DISNEY LOSES 'JOHN CARTER' RIGHTS

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Wednesday October 22, 2014
Disney Loses 'John Carter' Rights, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. Plans To Make More Movies
Deputies: Suspicious device at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel 'a hoax'
CN Traveler readers name Disney Cruise line Best 2014
30 Disney Characters Come Together for Wired

Disney Loses 'John Carter' Rights, Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. Plans To Make More Movies

The Playlist - With Disney moving on to bigger, and much, much more profitable things (hello, "Star Wars"), their pre-Lucasfilm acquisition failure of "John Carter" is something the company is eager to move on from. The notorious 2012 sci-fi flop saw the studio take a $200 million loss in the midst of audience disinterest (it earned $284 million worldwide, on a budget of $250 million, oops) and critical lambasting, and yet, there were a core of fans who tried mightily to rally for more. In fact, one particularly driven group hit the floor of Comic-Con in 2012 to try and collect signatures to urge Disney to keep the flame burning for the Edgar Rice Burroughs property. It didn't work out, but fans of the source material can keep hope alive.

Disney has dropped the rights to "John Carter," with the property now reverting back to Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. And that company's plan is to try and make the character work on the big screen again. "We will be seeking a new partner to help develop new adventures on film as chronicled in the eleven Mars novels Burroughs wrote. This adventure never stops," said company president James Sullos in a statement. "Along with a new 'Tarzan' film in development by Warner Bros., we hope to have 'John Carter Of Mars' become another major franchise to entertain world-wide audiences of all ages.”

So, reboot? Or maybe they'll just recast the lead and continue with new adventures in the same continuum? We're sure fans will be very vocal about they want, especially now that there's another kick at the can in the offing. But this is all in very early stages, and a studio needs to come on board before wheels can really start moving. And a few years after Disney tried and failed make "John Carter" work is not the best time for that process to start. That said, it can only get better.

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Orlando Sentinel - County Sheriff's deputies are looking for the person responsible for the "hoax device" that caused the evacuation of Walt Disney World Swan Hotel.

The Orange County bomb squad was called around 10 a.m. after a construction worker found the suspicious device on the seventh floor of the hotel. The five through the ninth floors were evacuated.

About 200 rooms from the second through 12th floors are being renovated so much of the area was not "directly near" any guests, said OCSO Spokeswoman Jane Watrel.

After about 90 minutes, the bomb squad determined that the device was a hoax.

If any arrest is made, the person would face a second degree felony, Watrel said.

The investigation is ongoing.

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CN Traveler readers name Disney Cruise line Best 2014

Yahoo - Disney, Crystal Cruises and Windstar have emerged the highest-rated cruise lines in CN Traveler magazine’s latest edition of the Readers’ Choice Awards which has released a list of the top cruise brands for 2014.

The top 28 cruise lines are divided into four categories: large ship lines, midsize, small ship and river cruise.

In the category of large ship lines, Disney took the top spot for offering family-friendly packages on state-of-the-art vessels and ports of call in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska.

Disney is a big favorite among readers and guests: The brand also topped the 2014 Cruisers’ Choice Awards and was also named best mainstream cruise by Bon Voyage magazine this year.

Crystal Cruises was named the best midsize cruise brand, and distinguishes itself with interesting packages that include appearances by “the best lecturers and personalities of any cruise line."

And for those looking for a more intimate voyage on the water, consider the Windstar brand, which in 2015 will add trips to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Iceland, or Grand Circle Cruise Line, which features hyperlocal and authentic travel, as well as ports of call that include tours of an oyster farm in France and a port of call at a German family’s home for coffee and cake.

Here are the highest-ranking large cruise brands according to the 76,600 readers of CN Traveler magazine:

1. Disney
2. Norwegian Cruise Line
3. Royal Caribbean

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30 Disney Characters Come Together for Wired

E! - It's all small world after all!

In addition to the classic Peter Pan character Tinkerbell, Wired's November 2014 issue features some of Walt Disney Animation's favorite recent characters, including Big Hero 6's Baymax, Fred, Go Go Tomago and Hiro; Bolt's Bolt, Mittens and Rhino; Frozen's, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven; Get a Horse!'s Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse; Paperman's George and Meg; The Princess and the Frog's Prince Naveen, Ray and Tiana; Tangled's Flynn, Pascal and Rapunzel; Winnie the Pooh's Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger and Winnie the Pooh; and Wreck-It Ralph's, Fix-It Felix, Jr., Vanellope von Schweetz and Wreck-It Ralph.

WIRED Disney Cover Story

Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios president Ed Catmull and chief creative officer John Lassete pose with the 30+ characters for the cover and discuss how they revived the company's animation unit.

In 2006, Disney CEO Bob Iger put Catmull and Lasseter in charge of the company's animation arm, which hadn't produced a hit movie in several years. "There was so much pressure on us to close these doors," says Lasseter, who directed Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Cars. "Ed and I absolutely could not do that."

Instead, they rescued Walt Disney Animation Studios by deciding to run it separately from Pixar.

Lasseter had been fired in 1984, and when he returned 22 years later, he learned that the problems he experienced as a young animator were still prevalent. As he tells it, the creative staff wanted to make masterpieces, but studio executives had little interest in the dying art form. "None of them grew up wanting to create animation. None of them," Lasseter explains. "Those are the people we let go."

Together, they created a work environment that fostered creativity and encouraged all employees to pitch their ideas—not just animators. "It's an odd thing to say, but I just had this belief that this place was once great and it would be great again," Big Hero 6 co-director Don Hall tells Wired of the change.

With expert storytelling and masterful artwork, Lasseter and co. revamped the animation division. "The connection you make with you audience is an emotional connection," says two-time Academy Award winner Lasseter. "The audience can't be told to feel a certain way. They have to discover it themselves."

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Tuesday October 21, 2014
The ‘Frozen’ Fun Continues at Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Snowground! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney creates new digital animation process for "Big Hero 6"
Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid Closing Feb 2015 for Refurb
Disney Animation Officially Announces 2016 Movie Moana
John Lasseter: Disney-Pixar Has No Plans to Localize in Asia Just Yet
James Gunn Talks ‘Guardians’ Sequel, VFX, Crossovers

The ‘Frozen’ Fun Continues at Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Snowground! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

DisneyParks Blog - Yoo-Hoo! Have you heard? Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post, one of the most popular parts of last summer’s “Frozen Summer Fun LIVE!” event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is back and staying put through the holidays!

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Oaken and his cousins have re-opened their cool hot spot (or is that hot cool spot?) in a new space, on Streets of America just steps away from Studio Catering Co. and “Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.” The new Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Snowground! features a larger-than-ever play area with real snow, plenty of “Frozen” merchandise, and those yummy “Frozen”-inspired cupcakes and other treats. And every 30 minutes or so, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights shimmering in the night sky.

So if you want to build a snowman or are just craving one in cupcake form (that’s carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – YUM!), you’re in luck! Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Snowground! is open daily at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, through the holiday season.

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Disney creates new digital animation process for "Big Hero 6"

Orlando Sentinel - theatergoers see Disney’s “Big Hero 6” early next month, they’ll see another big-budget animated film that taps into the emotional dynamics of love, loss and courage that the studio made so successful in its previous film hit, “Frozen.”

But while watching the multicolored and near-future cityscape of San Fransokyo, the fast-paced chase scenes and the gee-wiz technology on full display in a film filled with laughs, manga and obscure Marvel heroes, will the movie’s viewers notice something else? Specifically, will moviegoers notice how light bounces from its source to the camera and how it illuminates other nearby subjects in the film?

It’s not necessarily a trivial question because for this new film Disney animators, special-effects artists, computer programmers and countless others have spent the past two years of the film’s production creating a new way in which an animated film can be created to more realistically present an animated scene’s lighting.

Though the effect was created especially for “Big Hero 6,” the technical breakthrough probably will change the way most other animated films are made, as well.

Disney technology teams created a brand new renderer called Hyperion. This new in-house rendering system allowed “Big Hero 6” animators to show the lighting of each scene with an increased level of complexity that made the scenes more lifelike. Also and equally important, the new Hyperion process rendered the animation scenes much more quickly than established rendering processes used in previous animated films.

Disney Chief Technology Officer Andy Hendrickson has said in various media interviews that when the Hyperion renderer concept was created, not everyone was sure it would work the way in which they needed. So, for much of the film’s early progress, Disney relied on creating the new renderer from scratch and using it – but also having a Plan B in case things didn’t work out.

Hendrickson, as quoted in an Engadget article about Hyperion, said the team decided to commit fully to the beta process a little more than a year ago.

The new renderer, according to the Engadget article, handles light – so-called “global illumination” – as it bounces off objects in a scene. Such a process isn’t as simple as using an off-the-shelf third-party brand of software, though, for the intricate complexity viewers will see – but perhaps take for granted – in the film next month.

Hyperion works with the calculations needed to show light, such as when it illuminates a subject from behind or light as seen from through a translucent object, and has to rely on working with a 55,000-core supercomputer that relies on four render farms in different geographic locations.

If you’re wondering what kind of system a 55,000-core computer is, the folks at ElectronicDesign.com put it into perspective: The render farm ranks about 75th compared to other supercomputers with over 55,000 Intel cores, and the system has 400 Tbytes of memory. Check out the site for a lot of other technical specs for the computer system, too.

A final note on Hyperion's name. Most Disney fans probably recognize it, but casual fans might not. In 1925, Walt Disney and his brother Roy bought an empty lot at 2719 Hyperion Ave. in Los Angeles. There, the two built an animation studio that eventually created films such as "Steamboat Willie" and featured characters such as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and, of course, Mickey Mouse.

“Big Hero 6” has a U.S. opening on Nov. 7.

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Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid Closing Feb 2015 for Refurb

Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid to close Feb 2nd. for refurbishment. The schedule has it closed from Feb 2nd. through Mar 6th and the refurb may include new lighting upgrades.

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Disney Animation Officially Announces 2016 Movie Moana

IGN - Walt Disney Animation Studios announced Moana today, a long-rumored project now set for a late 2016 debut. The studio calls Moana "a sweeping, CG-animated comedy-adventure about a spirited teenager on an impossible mission to fulfill her ancestors' quest." It's being directed by the Oscar-nominated team of Ron Clements and John Musker.

Here's the official plot synopsis, as well as the first official piece of concept art for the movie:

"In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore."

The first official concept art from Disney Animation's Moana.

The first official concept art from Disney Animation's Moana. Click for hi-res.

“John and I have partnered on so many films—from The Little Mermaid to Aladdin to The Princess and the Frog,” said Clements in a statement. “Creating Moana is one of the great thrills of our career. It’s a big adventure set in this beautiful world of Oceania."

“Moana is indomitable, passionate and a dreamer with a unique connection to the ocean itself,” added Musker. “She's the kind of character we all root for, and we can't wait to introduce her to audiences.”

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John Lasseter: Disney-Pixar Has No Plans to Localize in Asia Just Yet

THR - While DreamWorks is set to launch its Chinese venture in Shanghai and to collaborate with South Korean animation studios, John Lasseter says Disney-Pixar has no immediate plans for localized projects in Asia.

"At this point in time, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, we have artists from all over the world working for us. We are working on handcrafted films at our in-house studios," Lasseter told Korean reporters on Tuesday in Seoul, where he kicked off the company's Asia tour.

About the growth of other animation firms, he said he welcomes a healthy competition. "I'd rather be a player in a healthy industry rather than a single player in a dead industry."

The chief of the animation giant added, however, that both studios are always seeking inspiration "all over the world, for wonderful legends and stories."

The reason for kicking off the tour in Korea, moreover, he said, is due to the incredible success of Frozen here, which made the Asian country the largest market for the wintry tale outside of the U.S. Grossing over $77 million according to the Korean Film Council's KOBIS data — plus additional profits through IPTV — it became the tenth highest grossing films in Korean box-office history.

"What happened in this country with the movie Frozen is very special. Frozen healed the Walt Disney Animation Studio and made the studio so strong. And the way Korea loved the movie so much meant so much for us," said the executive. "The reason why we chose to start here in Seoul, Korea, for our big Asian tour is to say thank you."

He presented the highlights of Disney-Pixar's 2015-2016 lineup, including Big Hero 6. The film had made headlines in Korea for featuring the voice of Daniel Henney, one of the biggest local stars.

"We were very happy to have Daniel Henney do the voice of Teddy. He was fantastic to work with. It's important to get great actors," said Lasseter, adding that the actor inspired his character.

The executive continues his tour across mainland China, Hong Kong and Japan to promote Disney's Zootopia, Moana and Giants and Pixar's Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur and Finding Dory. The executive said that Disney-Pixar will continue to be a strong, filmmaker-driven studio that produces "stories from the heart" while also showcasing groundbreaking technology that combines the ideals of both 2D and 3D animated visuals.

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James Gunn Talks ‘Guardians’ Sequel, VFX, Crossovers

Variety - James Gunn didn’t shy away from teasing spoilers about his “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel at Variety‘s Entertainment & Technology Summit Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a really surprising open. What happens is all the characters are killed in the first 10 minutes,” Gunn joked. “In really horribly brutal fashion.”

Jokes aside, Gunn confirmed that all five original Guardians will be back, along with unspecified other characters from the first film, and that fans may see the team adding members. Gunn also said the new film will uncover some secrets posed in the first.

“I spent all day on Aug. 1, the day the first movie was released, writing ‘Guardians 2,'” Gunn said. “I was so excited about it and I was finally able to let go of the last one and begin the second one. I always saw this as a universe, not just as one story.”

He also talked about what to expect from the upcoming DVD release of “Guardians,” which will arrive in stores Dec. 9. In addition to a director’s commentary, Gunn promised a number of deleted scenes that he said add to the background and context of the characters rather than distracting from or changing the story. He particularly likes a scene where Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) fakes a laugh at Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) plan.

“In the long version of the scene where Rocket is laughing at Quill, Quill gets very offended by that and takes a vote of the other Guardians to see who thinks that the laugh is fake,” Gunn said. “It’s a pretty fake laugh, and I think Rocket gets hurt that Groot goes against him.”

Gunn also discussed his passion for making the film in 3D, which he said was a decision he pushed for from the beginning of production. He got his way and he believes that the 3D release is one reason the film continues to see success worldwide. Gunn said it’s that international appeal that drives the decision for a studio to go 3D with a film rather than what a director necessarily wants to do with it.

He said, “3D kind of is a wash in the United States, but in Europe it’s bigger. So it makes much more of a difference than it does here. If it was just 3D in the United States, most people would not do 3D.”

Unlike films that simply apply 3D in post production, Gunn planned the film and its effects for the 3D experience. This meant avoiding things like shaky cam in action shots. He said his special-effects training came on the set of “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” which he wrote, when producer Charles Roven brought him on set presumably to groom him for directing a possible third movie in that series. Gunn said that VFX experience helped him understand what works and what doesn’t with CGI. It also led to his decision to cast his brother, “Gilmore Girls” actor Sean Gunn, as the motion reference actor on set for Rocket Raccoon rather than just using a prop stand in.

Some of the film’s technology, including the use of 3D printing to produce the guns, was a new experience for Gunn.

While not necessarily taken aback by the critical success of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Gunn said he was surprised and enthused by the excitement its generated in fans, especially the ones who have gone to see the movie multiple times.

Despite that excitement surrounding the first film, its planned sequel and Marvel and Disney’s proven success with crossing characters over between movies, Gunn said a crossover with one particular Disney property was unlikely — even if his characters do have the ability to travel to galaxies far, far away.

“‘Star Wars’ was a long time ago,” Gunn said. “It would have to be time travel.”

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Monday October 20, 2014
Glow With the Show Evolves Into Made With Magic This Fall at Disney Parks
2014 Candlelight Processional Lline-up Now Complete
Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro  New flag waving act opens in Italy Pavilion at Epcot
Only Two More Party for the Senses for This Year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Island Supply Shop Closing in Magic Kingdom

Glow With the Show Evolves Into Made With Magic This Fall at Disney Parks

DisneyParks Blog - I have exciting news to share about the next evolution of Glow With the Show. Introduced in 2012 at Disneyland Resort, this ear hat technology allowed guests to become a part of a show by lighting up in time with or in the same color scheme as a nighttime show or fireworks display. Last year, it was added to nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World Resort such as Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Wishes nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park. This fall, we are adding some new merchandise items that contain this interactive technology under a new name called “Made With Magic.”

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Made With Magic items will excite, delight, light up and interact with select Disney experiences at Disney Parks. We will continue to offer the original ear hat first introduced a few years ago. New items will include a new Minnie Mouse-inspired headband, a Mickey Mouse glove and, my favorite, a magical wand that reminds me of Sorcerer Mickey.

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The Sorcerer Mickey wand will have multiple light-up functions and will give guests the ability to change the light patterns of other Made With Magic items. Guests can also place the Made With Magic items in a color-changing demo mode, when they aren’t present at “Made With Magic”-enabled entertainment.

As with the previously released ear hat, all Made With Magic items will interact with experiences at Disney Parks around the world regardless of where the items were originally purchased.

Each item will have a retail of $25.00.

Guests should look for the Minnie Mouse headband to arrive in late October and early November in select merchandise locations at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. The Mickey Mouse glove and the Sorcerer Mickey wand will be introduced in late November to early December at those same locations.

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2014 Candlelight Processional Lline-up Now Complete

Disney News - The 2014 Candlelight Processional line-up has been completed and as always is Subject to change.

Nov 28 to Nov 29: Jodi Benson
Nov 30 to Dec 2: Neil Patrick Harris
Dec 3 to Dec 4: Jonathan Groff
Dec 5 to Dec 6 2014: Whoopi Goldberg
Dec 7 to Dec 8: LeVar Burton
Dec 9 to Dec 11: Edward James Olmos
Dec 12 to Dec 14: Joe Morton
Dec 15 to Dec 17: Chita Rivera
Dec 18 to Dec 20: Ana Gasteyer
Dec 21 to Dec 23: Marlee Matlin
Dec 24 to Dec 25: Isabella Rossellini
Dec 26 to Dec 27: Blair Underwood
Dec 28 to Dec 30: Steven Curtis Chapman

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Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro  New flag waving act opens in Italy Pavilion at Epcot

The New Flag Waving show has started at the Italy Pavilion and is set to perform daily featuring flag waving, dueling and juggling accompanied by live music.

The show will perform daily with show times at 11:20, 12:10pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4:20pm and 5pm.

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Only Two More Party for the Senses for This Year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

DisneyParks Blog - Party for the Senses is a blowout way to end the day at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – an evening of discovery with a roomful of fantastic chefs, good wines, magical entertainment from Cirque du Soleil. All in all, there are nearly two dozen tasting stations with wine, beer and cocktails to pair. You won’t know until you arrive what you’ll be having, but the discovery is part of the fun.

And there are just two parties left in 2014: October 25 and November 1.

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October 25 is an extra-special Party for the Senses, featuring cuisine and chefs from the Disney Parks around the globe – Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

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You can start the evening at the Eat to the Beat concert at America Gardens Theatre and end with a stroll around World Showcase and the IllumiNations fireworks and laser show – it’s a special evening you won’t want to miss. Just come hungry (and leave satisfied).

Price is $149 per person, plus tax. Epcot admission is required. Call 407-WDW-FEST for reservations.

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Another fun way to end the evening at the festival – Thursdays only – is Late Nights LIVE! This after-hours street party. between the United Kingdom and World Showcase Plaza starts at 9:45 p.m. and ends at 1 a.m. Food and beverages from select marketplaces, live music, a DJ and entertainment keep the party going strong. Cost is $79 per person plus tax. Epcot admission required.

This year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival ends on November. 10

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Island Supply Shop Closing in Magic Kingdom

Disney News - The Island Supply shop in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom will be closing October 22 to make way for a new retail store.

The new, as of yet un-named store will be opening later in the year.

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Sunday October 19, 2014
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Friday October 17, 2014
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Thursday October 16, 2014

Hiro and Baymax Are on Their Way to Disney Parks This Fall

DisneyParks Blog - After Disney’s new animated feature “Big Hero 6” hits theaters in 3D in November, the stars of the film are heading to Disney Parks to greet their fans.
 
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At Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios guests can step inside The Magic of Disney Animation attraction to tour the lab from the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, and then meet Hiro Hamada and his huggable buddy Baymax in Hiro’s garage workshop.
 
When Hiro and Baymax fly west to Disneyland park in California, they’ll find a home-away-from-home in a recreation of Hiro’s robotics workshop near the Starcade in Tomorrowland. Disneyland guests can also get an exclusive preview of the film at the “Special Extended Sneak Peek of ‘Big Hero 6,’” now playing in Tomorrowland’s Magic Eye Theater.
 
With all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Big Hero 6” is an action-packed comedy-adventure about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who’s catapulted into the midst of a dangerous plot and must transform his closest companion—a robot named Baymax—and a diverse group of friends into a band of high-tech heroes.

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Orlando Sentinel - he developer of the first two hotels at Disney's Flamingo Crossings said Thursday he plans to build seven hotels on the property within the next four or five years.

"In several years, this will look vastly different around here," John Rubini told a crowd gathered for groundbreaking on the project's first two hotels.

TownePlace Suites, Marriott's extended-stay brand, and SpringHill Suites, another Marriott brand should open by January 2016. Between them, they will have 500 rooms.

Flamingo Crossings, about half a mile from Walt Disney World's western entrance, is aimed at budget tourists and teams participating in events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Rubini said he would like to announce plans for two additional hotels within a year and have them open by 2017.

That way, four hotels would be open to take advantage of Avatar land opening at Animal Kingdom, he said.

Rubini's Alaska-based company, JL Properties Inc., has until now specialized in offices and multifamily housing. Rubini said the company has only developed one other hotel before – a SpringHill Suites in downtown Alaska. Rubini said he was intrigued by the possibilities that Flamingo Crossings presents.

Rubini said he did not have details to share about the other hotels but said there would be a range of brands at the development.

Flamingo Crossings hotels will be what Rubini called "limited-service flags" – name-brand but relatively inexpensive hotels with fewer frills than Disney's other on-property lodgings.

"We see a role here that will serve a different segment of the market," he said. "It's obviously not the same as a full resort hotel."

To attract athletes, the first two hotels will feature a shared recreational area with two batting cages, a basketball court and a multipurpose practice field.

The development is "just a natural expansion of the west side of the property now that the infrastructure has caught up," said Duncan Dickson, associate professor at UCF's Rosen College of Hospitality Management, in an email.

Visitors from the south and west don't have to become "caught up in the whole I-4 morass," he wrote. "Interestingly, staying on the west side of Disney makes a trip to SeaWorld or Universal that much more difficult. We will have to see if those guests venture over to the I-4 corridor."

Disney first announced the Flamingo Crossings project in 2007 but it stalled in the economic downturn that struck Central Florida and the rest of the country.

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Why Walt Disney (DIS) Stock Is Falling Today

The Street - Shares of The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) are lower by 2.25% to $80.23 in early market trading after analysts at Guggenheim downgraded the worldwide entertainment company to "neutral" from "buy" this morning, with a lowered price target of $87 from $96. 

On Monday, Disney announced Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed joined a 420 million euro rescue of Euro Disney, after visiting its French theme park last week.

The company said it will bail out its loss-making subsidiary Euro Disney with about a $1.3 billion funding deal, which could give the U.S. group total control over Europe's biggest tourist attraction. 

Separately, TheStreet Ratings team rates DISNEY (WALT) CO as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate DISNEY (WALT) CO (DIS) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, revenue growth, notable return on equity and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

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America’s Cutest Pet – Howl-O-Ween Special Airing October 18

DisneyParks Blog - In my thirty years of working in television, the one thing I never wanted to hear anybody say is, “Well, his career has gone to the dogs.” But in this (one and only) instance, I’m really glad it did!

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After reviewing hundreds of pet clips, and experiencing a never-to-be-forgotten day at Magic Kingdom Park, when we were visited by 101 dogs, each showing their Disney Side … we’re excited to share a brand new special! Animal Planet’s “America’s Cutest: Disney Side Howl-O-Ween” comes chock full of pets disguised as your favorite Disney characters, promising animal fans one of the kookiest, spookiest hours of television — maybe ever.
 
Hosted by actor and pet aficionado John O’Hurley, the one-hour pet-acular premieres Saturday October 18 at 9 p.m. Eastern on Animal Planet.
 
Watch America’s Cutest Pet – Howl-o-Ween Special Airing October 18
 
This show was fantastic to work on. In addition to that magical Disney Side Dog Day at Magic Kingdom Park, during filming we had more than 30 of your favorite Disney characters drop in and get into the act. It seems they love cute pets just as much as you and I do – and they have a LOT to say about them!
 
It was great to work with long-time Disney fan John O’Hurley and his family. We shot with them in all four parks, so you’ll get to share in their Disney Side, as well. There are lots of other surprises in store – and with Halloween right around the corner, you might get a few costume ideas from these playful pets, too!
 
As you know, I always promise some good behind-the-scenes info – but this time, it’s show, not tell! Check out the cool behind the scenes video … and tune in on Saturday night for a howling good time! (See what I did there?)
 
 

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THR - A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The accepted wisdom in showbiz is that theater is small potatoes compared to film or television. That's generally true, but the exceptions can be massive. Take Disney Theatrical Group's The Lion King, which this summer became the top entertainment property of all time, with a global yield of $6.2 billion, $1 billion of it from Broadway.

It's a sweet stroke of destiny that a show featuring groundbreaking puppetry should be presided over — like every stablemate out of Disney's 120-employee stage division in the past two decades — by Thomas Schumacher, who put himself through college working as a puppeteer. Schumacher, 56, was a "theater kid" recruited by Disney during the late '80s to produce The Rescuers Down Under. He became president of Disney Animation, overseeing 21 films, including The Lion King and Tarzan.

Following Disney's initial success on Broadway with Beauty and the Beast, the com­pany's then-CEO, Michael Eisner, approached Schumacher and fellow executive Peter Schneider to create a theatrical division in 1994. Now, two decades later, the offshoot manages multiple productions on Broadway, on tour and internationally as well as licenses shows for regional, amateur and school presentation. Disney doesn't break out theatrical revenue, but Schumacher says, "Seven years ago it was 43 percent of what it is today, so it's more than doubled in seven years."

A fourth-generation Californian, Schumacher lives with husband Matthew White, an interior designer and former Los Angeles Ballet dancer, in Manhattan and their farm in upstate New York, along with their dachshund Holden, 22 laying hens, a white rooster and 12 head of cattle.

The assembly-ready bronze body parts are by New York sculptor Sabin Howard. “I have a number of pieces by Sabin,” says Schumacher. “I have this constructed, but this is a version he had in his studio. I move them around; I change the pieces.”

With only two commercial failures out of eight shows, Schumacher can make a fair claim to being the most successful Broadway producer of the past 20 years. He sat down with THR to discuss the Lion King milestone, the successful launch of Aladdin and the huge expectations around Frozen. That project and The Princess Bride are the biggest items in a pipeline that includes a Father of the Bride musical and a possible Broadway transfer of the play adapted from Shakespeare in Love, which opened in London this summer.

Is a Frozen Broadway musical at the top of your to-do list?

Before the movie came out and the hubbub began, we had a midnight screening with about five people from this office. I came out at 1:30 in the morning, and I texted John Lasseter and said, "When do we start?" Within about 60 seconds my phone rings, and it's John screaming because he's always wanted to try something onstage. There's something purely theatrical about the relationship between these two women [characters, Elsa and Anna]. You can see it. My job is to corral the writers of the movie. I'm already talking to directors, and I have a design concept, and we have to begin to fashion this idea. It doesn't need to be fast. It needs to be great.

Among prized possessions in Schumacher’s office above the immaculately restored New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street are Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, the ventriloquist dummies from Paul Winchell’s popular 1950s act. “These guys were my best friends when I was a child,” says Schumacher. “You’re in the room with legends!”

Is it daunting to have every Disney stage project measured against Lion King?

Well, when I look at that number, $6.2 billion, what's impressive to me is the sheer count of people [more than 75 million] who have come to see the show. It's not on the shoulders of the movie anymore, it's its own entity. Is it daunting? It's a responsibility to maintain it. You're endlessly figuring how to position it, change it. The expression I love, since I've established my pathetic farming abilities, is: "The best fertilizer is the farmer's shadow." You have to be there; you have to be vigilant and supervise your field.

Was it a natural leap to start taking animated movie musicals to the stage?

It was very natural that Beauty and the Beast would make that transition. But then I'd argue it's probably not very obvious that Lion King would make that leap. For the most part, what has separated us from others who have tried to adapt film titles is that we're starting with something built around the idea of music, whether it's Beauty and the Beast or Mary Poppins. You're not trying to think how to musicalize it; you try to figure out [whether] it would be appropriate for the stage. Aladdin took 22 years from the time the movie opened to tell that story theatrically.

“These are Japanese doll heads. I love puppets,” says Schumacher, who has other bunraku figures and a 19th century Punch. “These are probably ’40s.”

How do you evaluate which properties in the library to turn into stage vehicles?

It's the hardest question. You have to sort of listen to your gut. You have to say, "Do the events in the film feel like they would be enhanced by seeing them happen in front of you?" You're always looking for the theatrical "in," as opposed to just putting a film onstage.

When such movies as Tangled and Enchanted open big, do people suggest those are slam dunks?

Many people have come to us about Enchanted. But Enchanted has a fundamental narrative hook, which is they live in the world of animation and then they step into live action. I've thought about 20 different versions of how to do it, but I don't know what's so fun about that if they're never actually animated. John Lasseter and I have spoken so many times about Toy Story. But the fundamental joy of Toy Story is that Buzz and Woody are absolutely authentic toys. If Andy has to be 20 feet tall and we just see him from the knees down as a puppet, is that fun?

With Lucasfilm and Marvel now under Disney, are there theater plans for those vaults?

I have been talking with Marvel about theatrical opportunities. I have a very cool idea, but it would not be what you're expecting. There is a very interesting Lucas-oriented live event that could happen, but there's no rush on that.

You've bristled in the past at Disney shows being categorized as family entertainment. Why?

We just did a bunch of surveys, and whether you look at Aladdin or Lion King, 30 percent of the people who buy tickets — pairs, fours, whatever — 30 percent of sales are for clusters that include a child. Seventy percent are for people not intending to come with children. This is not a business of creating shows for children. So you have to figure out, what is my grown-up idea at the core of this? There's a great Walt Disney quote: "If I depended on critics and children to make a living, I'd go broke.

This wind-up Texas Ranger toy was one of two Valentine’s Day gifts from Schumacher’s old pal Ann Richards. “Look at that! Ain’t that a kick?” he says, doing an affectionate impersonation of the late Lone Star State governor.

How has developing a show changed now that everything in previews is scrutinized online?

We opened Lion King in Minneapolis in the summer of 1997, and we could barely get the show to run. Today, the Internet would have been all over us. If we knew then what we know now, we probably would have been afraid of it.

Aladdin has made a splash, grossing more than $40 million in seven months on Broadway. What kind of durability are you forecasting?

We';ve announced the first international production in Japan. And we have four more international productions on deck that we haven't announced yet. As for Broadway, it's too soon to tell. It's been in the top five for the past several months. But I don't know yet because I haven't gone through a full-season cycle. I have to see how big the holidays will be, then see what winter's like. I have to get through my second summer, and sometime around December next year I'll have a sense of how long it will run.

We're coming off a season with four major flop musicals based on movies. Looking at that and your own commercial underachievers on Broadway, The Little Mermaid and Tarzan, what went wrong?

In the case of our two shows that didn't succeed originally, I didn't get it right the first time. [Mermaid and Tarzan have been reworked since Broadway for international runs.] You set out to do something that works, and then maybe you make a handful of critical errors. So to blame anybody else when it doesn't work is disingenuous, because if there's anybody else in the room, you picked them.

Do you abandon many projects that are not working in development?

Everything sounds interesting when you start talking about it. It's as you get deeper in, sometimes things aren't worthy. Maybe the failure is people don't pull the plug. We've developed three or four things that never saw the light of day. It might be that the material's not working or it might just be marketplace.

A curtain-call photograph of The Lion King at the New Amsterdam during Bill Clinton’s second term in office; the performance had been bought out as a fundraiser.

Are there producers who ignore the signs when things aren't working and go ahead regardless?

I don't know what other people do. We work with the money that we make. I spend that money on staff and development and I return the rest to Disney, and they're getting a great return. If you have scratched together your last bit of money on something that's not working, you have to try to make that work to get out of it — particularly if you've taken other people's money, because then we're in the Max Bialystock game.

Harvey Weinstein is bringing in his first musical as lead producer in the spring, Finding Neverland, after replacing the entire original creative team. Any advice for him?

Having been out of town with something that was going really well and then came to Broadway and flopped, and having been out of town with something that was not going well, like Aladdin in Toronto &hellip

You've got to work on your show and get it right. Having had both versions of out-of-town, all you can do is try to produce the best way you know how. Harvey is really smart, really passionate, and based on his beaming smile when I saw him last week, he's loving this.

Other Hollywood studios have tested the Broadway waters with varying impact, but none has established the foothold of Disney. What's the secret?

I think a few things. One is the juice of our properties. They were inherently musicals and in many cases were created by theater people. These are theatrical things at their core. The second piece is that we genuinely committed to work on it. I live here full-time, like every other real producer on Broadway. The Walt Disney Company made it very possible for us to actually build a business here. And then look at the people we've worked with. Look at this array of directors and designers, the caliber of artists we work with. We try to give them the best resources we can, and then we sit here as good shepherds every day. And Disney, whether starting with Michael Eisner or obviously with Bob Iger today, is deeply dedicated to the quality of this business, not just the economic return.

Stage insiders used to gripe about the "theme-parkification" of Broadway. Has that changed?

One of my dearest friends is a very old-guard producer, who said to me the first time she took me to lunch, "You know, I really want to hate you, but I just can't." I think there was an idea that this hose of money was going to somehow be dropped on Broadway, just artificially keeping things alive. Once the real theater community — I mean the real theater-makers, not just anybody who ever invested in a show — realized that all our shows lived and died on their own merits, and we could succeed or fail and took our slugs like anybody else, I think that changed things.

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First Look at Menu for New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk

DisneyParks Blog - Opening day is set for December 18 for Trattoria al Forno, the new restaurant at Disney’s BoardWalk that will showcase classic Italian cuisine including handcrafted mozzarella made daily, fresh cavatelli pasta and pizzas baked in wood-burning ovens.
 
Uncle Pats Pickled Peppers at New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk Meatball Cannelloni Basil at New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk
Lasagna Bolognese at New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk Chicken Parmesan at New Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk

Open daily for breakfast and dinner, with reservations starting October 21, Chef Dee Foundoukis and her team in Trattoria al Forno’s kitchen are creating a true taste of all of Italy’s diverse regions.
 
We’re so excited to finally share the menu with you – in upcoming posts we’ll be sharing details from Walt Disney Imagineering about the décor and more as we get closer to opening. And some delicious recipes for you to try at home!
 

 
Trattoria al Forno will be open 7:30-11 a.m. for breakfast, 5-10 p.m. for dinner, and accepts the Disney Dining Plan. For reservations, call 407-WDW-DINE or isneyworld.com/dine.

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Wednesday October 15, 2014

Newly renovated Grand Deluxe Guest Rooms at Walt Disney World Swan

Disney News - The newly renovated Grand Deluxe Guest rooms are now available for booking at the Walt Disney World Swan hotel, with approximately 500 of the 756 rooms expected to be completed by the end of 2014. Beginning in 2015, a similar renovation project will begin at the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel.

 
New rooms feature completely renovated interior of whites, blues and grays, with new furniture, fixtures and all of the latest technology including large Flat screen HD TVs.
 
Bathrooms have also been updated with two separate vanities and a back-lit mirror mounted on iridescent glass tiles.

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Forbes - When someone asks me what it takes for brand success, I tell them, “go back to the future.” The fact is, success today calls for the same framework that was required to build brands in the olden days (olden being pre-hashtag life).  You need to establish a differentiated meaning for your brand that the consumers you want to really care about, and you need to be able to deliver on this idea brilliantly and consistently. In other words, you must do what it takes to keep your promise, keep it relevant, and meet consumer expectations wherever they touch your brand.
 
While establishing a differentiated meaning for a brand is tough, perhaps the greater challenge facing marketers today is the growing number of places consumers touch a brand. It’s become incredibly more complicated to execute a brand promise. This is what we call bringing the brand to life. Consumers are interacting with brands in myriad new ways, but brand organizations have to move much faster, with greater agility and responsiveness to consumer actions and reactions, which can be at warp-speed in this rapidly changing environment.
 
Obviously, the greater the number of ways it’s possible for a consumer to interact with any given brand, the greater the challenge for the organization to keep its promise consistently. So, when I heard “11.2 billion possible combinations of how you can experience the product,” I was all ears. Mouse ears, as it were. For this was the number stated by Tom Boyles, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Managed Relationships at Disney Parks and Resorts, who was among the speakers at the recent Hub Brand Experience Symposium. And, no, he wasn’t referring to the entire Disney brand relative to these “11.2 billion ways.” He was referring only (only?) to the ways a guest can interact with the Disney brand at its Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, be it through major attractions, restaurants, characters, hotels or transportation, just to name a few points of touch.  I wanted to hear what this iconic company has been doing to stay differentiated and relevant in an increasingly complex, fast-moving market. And, how they ensure all experiences reflect its promise.
 
Now, Disney’s core promise, the simple idea on which it was launched, hasn’t changed since Walt Disney made clear that it was to create happiness through magical experiences. As Boyles told his audience, “Disney Parks and Resorts exist to make magical experiences come alive.” It was what he said next, though, that was the key to this on-going success story. “A good part of doing this is knowing your guest well enough to be relevant to them. In 2010, we set the goal to be relevant to every guest, every day, every time they interacted with our brand. We wanted to stay the most trusted provider in the space.”
 
As Boyles went on to explain, understanding what is relevant to a guest can only be achieved if you listen to these guests. That’s why, among the first things the Disney organization did to meet its goal was to make the switch from what is commonly known as Customer Relationship Management, to Customer Managed Relationships. It put into place initiatives that put the guests in control of telling Disney what was important in a Disney experience. Doing so made it possible for the company to create solutions that would enable guests to optimize their personal Disney experience across multiple points of touch. Disney promoted customer engagement with an emphasis on meeting a customer’s needs at a time and in a manner preferred by the customer. What’s more, in answer to a question raised by one of Walt Disney World’s 75,000 employees, “Who owns the guest?” it was communicated that no one owns the guest. However, someone, in every case, “owns the moment.” Boyles explained that the Customer Managed Relationship way of doing business generated energy and enthusiasm with employees. “We knew that it was each one’s role to connect the moments.”
 
A critical element in this umbrella effort was not magic, but the magic of technology. Everyone knows Disney has always focused on innovation in entertainment. In this case, it’s been a focus on innovative technology and a maximum utilization of this technology to enhance the customer experience. Or as Boyles put it, “the next generation guest experience.” Among the tools and resources now available to guests as a result is a vacation-planning system called MyMagic+, which was introduced in 2013. Part of this inventive system includes MagicBands, which are equipped with radio frequency identification chips that interact with scanners throughout the park. These MagicBands allow guests to gain access to everything from their hotel rooms to rides and attractions. In addition, MyMagic+ makes it easier to book an appointment with Cinderella, book and order dinner at the park’s restaurants, and preselect FastPasses before you leave home for V.I.P. seating at parades, fireworks, and character met-and-greets. These, and many more guest-friendly tools, are all part of MyDisneyExperience.com, an online resource created to help visitors have more fun with the greatest of ease.
 
No waiting in line. No stressing about what to see when. No worries about whether the kids will get to have breakfast with Goofy or get onto Space Mountain before the end of the day. This is not Fantasyland, but Disney’s real world result of engaging with consumers to determine what matters most and to keep the experience consistent, whether it’s made up of 100 or 10,000 interactions. While many companies are struggling to keep up with three years ago, Disney is making the kind of investments that will enable it to continue to keep its brand promise. Anyone can say they want to deliver magic. What makes Disney such a powerhouse brand is that they can see what’s required to get to infinity and beyond. Or as mere mortal, Tom Boyles, says, “to ensure that the most magical place on Earth, remains that way.”

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ABC - Ten companies, 15 weeks and $120,000. Three components of Disney Accelerator, a mentorship and investment program designed for tech startups with a focus on media and entertainment.

The program brings together ten companies for 15 weeks to incubate their ideas. Each company chosen gets up to $120,000 investment from Disney and access to Disney mentors and networks.

Codarica is one of the companies hand-picked to take part in the Disney Accelerator this year, which began June 30 and ended Oct. 14. They create games that teach kids how to code.

"We've developed the whole app during our 15 weeks in the Accelerator and Disney does entertainment for kids the best," Codarica CEO Sanna Nilsson said.

Executives like Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and other entrepreneurs in the industry served as mentors throughout the process.

"We have a lot of executives at this company who are pretty good at identifying opportunities that can really be big," said James Pitaro, president of Disney Interactive Media Group.

But the Accelerator program is no charity. Disney is hoping some or all of these companies will take off.

"We are investors in these companies, so if they explode that's great for us as an investor. They can actually add value to the Walt Disney Company from a partnership perspective," Pitaro said.

The first class included Chore Monster, Jogg, Naritiv, Sidelines, Smart Toy, SnowShoe, Sphero, Twigtale and Tyffon.

Although this year's class has been chosen, the Accelerator will be back again.

"This is the first time, but it will not be the last. We plan on doing it again next year," Pitaro said.

For more information, visit disneyaccelerator.com.

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Tuesday October 14, 2014
Civil War' Is The Only Logical Choice For The Marvel Universe
Disney World attractions and shows we miss

Civil War' Is The Only Logical Choice For The Marvel Universe

Forbes - If Variety is to be believed, there’s trouble coming to the world of Marvel. According to Marc Graser, Robert Downey Jr. is in the process of closing the deal that make him and Tony Stark, essentially, the villains of Captain America 3, bringing the fan favorite “Civil War” storyline to the big screen. So when Downey Jr. said that he had no plans to do Iron Man 4, it would appear that he meant that only in the most literal sense. It’s not confirmed, but it would be the right move. And not just because this particular rivalry will bring in audiences when it hits theaters. Remember, Marvel plays the long game.

Scott Mendelson talked a little bit about how this is a perfect move for the summer of 2016, when Captain America 3 is going to have to go to head to head with Batman vs. Superman. He’s right: in that instance, Civil War is the perfect way to leverage the idea of our favorite superheroes fighting each other using its own powerful arsenal. But Marvel and Disney aren’t just trying to make $1 billion off of one movie. They’re trying to repeat that, in theory, forever. That’s why Civil War is truly important, not as a way to establish dominance in a hotly contested summer of superheroes, but as a way to ensure that the Marvel Universe as a whole stays vibrant for years.

Consider what we have to work with at the moment: we have our initially reluctant band of heroes who came together to fight what is understood as the beginning of a larger fight against Thanos, and we have the distant but still very much connected and profitable Guardians of The Galaxy. We have the impossible charm of Robert Downey Jr., which has served as the focal point for the Marvel Universe since Iron Man 1. We have the unifying thru-line of S.H.I.E.L.D and the Avengers. These extant plots have room to support a good number more movies, but they won’t last forever. Marvel is going to need some new blood and, more importantly, a new central conflict to make sure that the universe moves forward while holding together, and that’s where Civil War comes in.

Fracturing the world by pitting heroes against each other is the perfect way to re-invent the universe while keeping every character’s momentum intact. Captain America 3 will likely stay close to the Iron Man vs. Captain America conflict, but the concept of fighting superheroes also gives the opportunity for a whole suite of characters old and new to get involved, all with the potential for alliances and rivalries. It allows Chris Evans to take the reigns from Robert Downey Jr., at least until his contract  his up.  Most importantly, it gives us a new central conflict that can serve as a foundation for any number of spin-off movies, not to mention the possible integration of the X-Men and Spider Man, Sony willing.

The Marvel Universe has done very little but expand since its inception, and Civil War offers the perfect way to keep doing that while giving the audience the context in which to keep it all straight. Disney and Marvel will have to figure a way to shake things up again in eight years or so, but by then, this storyline will have given them the opportunity to introduce some new heroes to do just that.

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Disney World attractions and shows we miss

Orlando Sentinel - you've been following along, you know that 2014 has brought some major changes to Walt Disney World Resort. 

May brought the addition of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in the Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom, but the theme this year has been more subtraction than addition. 

You could say it's out with the old and in with the new.

Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot are the two parks experiencing the most significant changes. 

Hollywood Studios bid farewell to The American Idol Experience and the Studio Backlot Tour, one of the park's longest-running attractions.

In August, Disney officials announced some major changes to Epcot's World Showcase Entertainment lineup. Four shows -- Off Kilter, Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps, Mo’Rockin’ and the World Showcase Players ended in September. 

A lumberjack show at the Canada pavilion was the first of several new acts at the World Showcase. 

Maelstrom, the long-running Viking-themed attraction inside Epcot's Norway pavilion took its final voyage Oct. 5. 

The ride opened in 1988 and will be renovated for a new attraction based on the film "Frozen." The attraction is scheduled to open in early 2016.  

Changes at Walt Disney World are no a new occurrence, however. 

In 1998, fans of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride came out in force with signs and T-shirts to protest the closing of one of the Magic Kingdom's original rides.

Like Maelstrom, The Living Seas attraction at Epcot was renovated and renamed after a popular Disney animated film -- The Seas with Nemo & Friends. The popularity of Nemo led way to the end of Tarzan Rocks, a musical show that was closed Jan. 21, 2006 to be replaced by Finding Nemo: The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  

Horizons, a popular future-themed attraction at Epcot, closed in 1999 to make way for Mission: SPACE, while The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction at Magic Kingdom was closed in 2003 and replaced by Stitch's Great Escape! 
 

In honor of the changes at Disney World this year, we asked our readers and Disney fanatics for their favorite closed rides and attractions at the "Happiest Place on Earth." 

View the gallery above for the 11 most mentioned attractions, along with some honorable mentions and some closed entertainment options (Pleasure Island, Adventurers Club, etc.) that don't fit into the "closed attractions" guidelines. 

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Monday October 13, 2014
How Will Disney (DIS) Stock Be Affected Today by Saudi Prince Euro Disney Investment?
Maker to Produce Themed Highlight Specials for Disney's TV Channels
Disney Pins Hopes on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Show
Disney's New Store in Florida Likely to Attract Shoppers

How Will Disney (DIS) Stock Be Affected Today by Saudi Prince Euro Disney Investment?

The Street - The Walt Disney Co.  (DIS) will see Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed join a 420 million euro rescue of Euro Disney, after visiting its French theme park last week, according to the Sunday Financial Mail.

Disneyland Paris, which draws more than two million British visitors a year, secured a rescue deal from its biggest share holder, the Walt Disney Co., last week that will see new shares issued and some of its crippling debt written off.

Alwaleed is already a 10% shareholder, but has until now remained silent on whether he would continue to back the French operation.

The Walt Disney rescue could have seen his stake cut dramatically unless he invested extra cash himself. His expression of support is seen as a crucial vote of confidence in the ailing French venture.

In an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday, Alwaleed said: 'We will fully subscribe to the rights issue because we support France and we support Disney."

Shares of The Walt Disney Co. closed up at $86.27 on Friday.

TheStreet Ratings team rates DISNEY (WALT) CO as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate DISNEY (WALT) CO (DIS) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth, revenue growth, notable return on equity and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

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Maker to Produce Themed Highlight Specials for Disney's TV Channels

Mashable - In a reversal of the poles between YouTube and television, Maker Studios announced Monday that it is creating a branded block of specials that will air on parent company's Disney Channel and Disney XD.

The alpha YouTube multichannel network, which Disney paid nearly $1 billion for back in March, also is working on TV-first content for Disney Channels Worldwide.

The unscripted specials will be hosted by Maker's YouTube stars as well as the Disney channels' talent, and will showcase clips of top Maker content around specific themes. The first of its kind is expected this month as part of Disney Channel's annual "Monstober" programming block, and will highlight Maker's best Halloween-themed content.

The first Disney XD block from Maker will feature the MCN's best pranks.

Though it's hardly the first time that YouTube content has appeared on TV — Phoenix-based RightThisMinute has had its viral-video roundup in syndication for some time now, for instance — it does appear to be the first time an MCN is purpose-producing a show for linear television. It's also surely the kind of synergy that Disney had in mind when it purchased Maker, from which it expects big returns.

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Disney Pins Hopes on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Show

New York Times - Rocket Raccoon and his fellow “Guardians of the Galaxy” are getting their own television series.

Expanding an effort to put its XD cable network on the ratings map, Disney will introduce an animated show next year based on its film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which has taken in $324 million at the domestic box office, by far the No. 1 movie of the year to date.

The animated show, produced by Marvel, will join another prominent new series made by a corporate sibling for Disney XD: Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars Rebels” begins its run on Monday. “We have more exciting collaborations in the pipeline,” said Gary Marsh, president of Disney Channels Worldwide.

The goal is to find Disney XD’s first true hit. While defending the lightly watched channel as an overall success, Mr. Marsh conceded that some programming efforts had fallen short. “I don’t think we have yet found our defining show,” he said.

Disney XD, now available in about 81 million American homes, represents a five-year effort by the world’s largest entertainment company to reassert itself as a cultural force among boys, particularly on television. Disney Channel, with its sparkly “Hannah Montana,” became a TV headquarters for preteenage girls. Could Disney XD, programmed with rowdier cartoons, be the male equivalent?

A few months after Disney XD arrived in 2009, the company spent $4 billion for the boy-centric Marvel Entertainment. Cars Land, a $450 million addition to Disneyland Resort in California, arrived in June 2012. Disney paid another $4 billion for Lucasfilm, the studio behind “Star Wars,” in the fall of that year.

At least for Disney XD, the going has been tough, a reflection of the rapidly changing way children watch television and the ever-increasing competition from video games and televised sports. The animated series “Tron: Uprising” was a particular disappointment for the channel, in part because it came on the heels of “Tron Legacy,” a heavily marketed action movie.

Disney XD has had better luck with shows like “Lab Rats,” about teenagers with bionic powers, and the self-explanatory “Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil.” New episodes of “Phineas and Ferb,” an established Disney Channel hit, moved to Disney XD in March. Another Disney Channel show, “Gravity Falls,” also moved.

Patti McTeague, a Disney spokeswoman, noted that, “despite headwinds,” the target audience for Disney XD — boys 6 to 11 — had increased 42 percent; she compared Nielsen data for recent months with ratings for the same period in 2009.

Ms. McTeague said that Disney XD’s programming strategy shifted last year to focus especially on boys 6 to 8, “an age when we see boys get especially keen on animation and adventure stories.” Ratings for that demographic slice, she said, increased 20 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period last year.

Even so, Disney XD has a tiny audience. Among boys 6 to 8 in the third quarter, for instance, the channel attracted an average of 44,000 viewers each day, according to Nielsen data. Competitors like Nickelodeon, owned by Viacom, attracted hundreds of thousands more.

Like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network — and notably unlike Disney Channel, which only sells limited sponsorships — Disney XD is supported by advertising. In other words, Disney has a serious business incentive to make the channel thrive. Advertisers annually spend about $1 billion on children’s television in the United States, analysts estimate, with Disney now taking a 10 percent nibble.

Starting a new children’s channel is grueling work, even if you are a global media conglomerate. Just ask Discovery Communications, which is abandoning the Hub, a struggling four-year-old network intended to sell Hasbro toys. The Hub will become Discovery Family starting Monday.

But with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Disney has the year’s top-grossing movie on its side. In addition to the movie’s domestic box office tally, it sold $330.4 million in tickets overseas, where 30 Disney XD channels operate. A sequel is planned for 2017.

The animated series “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” will feature the same characters as the film: Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax. Disney declined to say whether the movie’s stars would participate in the series.

Stephen Wacker, Marvel’s vice president for current animation, emphasized in an interview that the series would strive to replicate the movie’s offbeat sense of humor. The show’s plot, he said, would pick up where the movie left off. The purple-skinned Thanos, a Marvel supervillain, will figure prominently.

Mr. Wacker said he hoped “Guardians” would reflect what he called “Phase 2” of Marvel Animation, which already supplies a programming block to Disney XD. “This is a new look for us,” he said. “We’ve learned what works on TV and what doesn’t.”

One lesson is “not to underestimate the audience,” Mr. Wacker said. “You can’t be afraid to go deeper, to explore stories and characters with some depth. This audience may be young, but it can spot a stinker a mile away.”

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Disney's New Store in Florida Likely to Attract Shoppers

Yahoo - The Walt Disney Company (DIS) recently announced the opening of its latest outlet in Jacksonville, FL.

This new store at the city’s St. Johns Town Center mall, opened on Oct 11, offers an exclusive range of superior-quality Marvel, Disney and Star Wars products. The interior of the store includes a ceiling with classic Disney features, local landmarks and magical storytelling moments. The store is likely to attract traffic from all age groups as these storytelling elements will enable guests to meet their favorite Disney characters while presenting a memorable shopping experience.

Also, among other lucrative giveaways, the first 500 visitors to the store were entitled to a free gift on the opening day. Moreover, guests had the chance to meet and take photographs with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in Phase lll Plaza.

The new store also houses Marvel, Disney and Star Wars costumes and accessories specially designed for Halloween, which is less than a fortnight away. Additionally, this store and other stores in the country will present an array of products associated with Disney’s upcoming film, Big Hero 6. These products include apparel, action figures and electronic accessories, representing an all-new lineup of characters from the movie.

Apart from being available at the store, these products will be available online 24/7, easing shoppers’ experience.

Disney’s first animated production featuring Marvel characters, Big Hero 6, is a superhero-comedy movie, slated to release on Nov 7.

Disney closed the buyout of Marvel Entertainment Inc. in 2009, where it purchased the latter in a cash and stock deal for approximately $4.24 billion and thus, acquired its strong global brand and world-renowned library of more than 5,000 characters, including iconic characters such as Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, The First Avenger: Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor.

Disney is a leading diversified media and family entertainment enterprise with five business segments – media networks, parks and resorts, studio entertainment, interactive media and consumer products.

The company currently holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other stocks worth considering in the consumer discretionary sector include  Eros International Plc (EROS), with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), while Care.com, Inc. (CRCM) and Cablevision Systems Corporation (CVC), each carry a Zacks Rank #2.

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Sunday October 12, 2014
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