April 26 - 30, 2009

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Thursday April 30, 2009

Disney joins Hulu website, taking ownership stake
South Carolina students report flulike symptoms after Disney trip
Orlando theme park hotels sanitizing facilities, making masks available
Disney’s Internal Star Wars Weekends Posters
Hong Kong finance chief to meet executives on Disneyland expansion
The Magical Moments of Disney Are Now Even Sweeter With MY M&M'S
Disney Details and Dates The Jonas Brothers: Concert Experience Blu-ray
Seven theme-park injuries recorded during first three months of '09
Robert Zemeckis ‘Buzzing’ About Second ‘Roger Rabbit’ Movie
Disney layoffs hit nearly 200 back office jobs
Legislature votes to keep theme-park blueprints confidential
Warming to "Earth" — Disney's cinematic lesson about climate change
Horse racing industry could learn from Disney World
Gilbert duo Radio Disney's 'Next Big Thing'
Music Center's suit over sculpture 'Collar and Bow' is settled

Disney joins Hulu website, taking ownership stake

Reuters - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) has reached a deal to become a partner in the popular Hulu video website founded by NBC Universal and News Corp (NWSA.O), the media company said on Thursday.

Disney had been in talks with General Electric Co's (GE.N) NBC Universal and News Corp for some time about joining Hulu, and negotiations had picked up in recent weeks, sources have said. A deal will add full-length episodes of TV shows from its ABC broadcast network like "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Desperate Housewives" to the site.

Disney is the only other media company to join as an equity partner, taking an ownership stake along with NBC Universal, News Corp, Providence Equity Partners and employees. While other media companies provide content to the website, none hold an equity stake.

Disney, which will gain three seats on the Hulu board, has sought to expand viewership of the ad-supported ABC shows offered on ABC.com and Web sites of its local TV affiliates, on AOL.com, and Comcast Corp's (CMCSA.O) Fancast site.

ABC was the first major broadcast network to offer prime time programming online, while Disney also sells movies and TV episodes on Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iTunes.


South Carolina students report flulike symptoms after Disney trip

Orlando Sentinel - Students in a South Carolina high school marching band are being tested for the deadly swine flu virus after showing influenza-like symptoms following a trip to Walt Disney World.

Officials with Greenville County Schools said they shut down Mauldin High School today and are disinfecting the building while they wait on lab results from swabs taken from the 18 students.

The students started showing signs of the flu on Monday, shortly after returning from Festival Disney -- a 4-day event at the Central Florida theme parks for student concert bands, marching bands and other musical ensembles.

A Disney website shows event participants visited Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios, among other Disney theme parks.

"We are doing this as a precautionary step," school district spokesman Oby Lyles said. "These students spent some time in close quarters and started showing symptoms when they returned from Disney."

Lyles said school officials spread a bleach-like solution that acts as an anti-viral inside Mauldin High School. The solution is wiped off in two days.

Parents of students at Mauldin High School in Greenville were alerted Wednesday about their children's increased risk of exposure to the flu. South Carolina school district officials are waiting for the students' test results, which will determine if they contracted swine flu.

Other Greenville County schools are also being advised to closely monitor students and to report any cases of flu-like symptoms to the district's health services officials.

Reports from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control show lab results released today indicate that 10 students from a different school probably have the swine flu virus after a recent school trip to Mexico.

Those lab results have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation, which can take up to 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Orange County Health Department officials said test results on a tourist who had visited Disney earlier this week and also displayed flu-like symptoms are expected sometime today.

That tourist had either recently traveled to Mexico or had close contact with someone from Mexico, which is considered the epicenter of the deadly swine flu virus.

Health officials in Orange County did not say which theme park the tourist with the connection to Mexico visited earlier this week.


Orlando theme park hotels sanitizing facilities, making masks available

Orlando Sentinel - Some of Orlando theme park hotels are equipped to hand out special masks to sick visitors who request them, and each has sanitizing and clean-up plans in place to deal with the deadly swine flu virus, Orange County's top health official said after attending a summit with top business leaders convened this morning by County Mayor Rich Crotty.

"Go to the desk [at the hotels]," said Orange County Health Department Director Kevin Sherin. "The mask is already there to help you."

County officials also upped the local threat level for emergency workers and activated its operation center, although it will be lightly staffed and used mainly to increase the lines of communication between public safety, education and health officials.

Sherin said he's comfortable with how Orlando's major theme parks and hotels are handling the situation, but he plans to send more special masks and more basic swine flu information to some of the smaller tourist hotels and attractions who may not have large plans in place.

However, Sherin and Crotty both said they were not intimately familiar with the prevention and reaction plans of the major park attractions, which draw millions of tourists through Central Florida every year.

"I can't tell you what's on page 37 of Disney's standard operating procedure manual," Crotty said, adding at another point, "frankly, nor should I be."

But Crotty compared the community-wide reaction and mobilization to that which followed the 9/11 terror attacks and 2004 hurricane spree.

"Our citizens need to know we're working as a team to mitigate this situation in the days ahead," Crotty said.

Representatives from Walt Disney Worl, Universal Studios, Sea World and the University of Central Florida, Valencia Community College and the public school district met with other top business, health and public safety officials for about 45 minutes this morning.

The swine flu strategy session was closed to the media, except for a brief few minutes at the end, primarily to allow TV cameras a chance to film the participants. Mobilization plans were discussed, but no added specific information flowed from the theme parks, one attendee said of the private session.

Walt Disney World spokesman Mike Griffin was peppered with questions afterward about how it's handling general precautions and specifically about the report that South Carolina high school marching band students were reporting influenza-like symptoms after a recent trip there.

"We're monitoring the situation," Griffin said. "That's all we can say at this point."


Disney’s Internal Star Wars Weekends Posters

 - StarWars.com has posted four posters created to promote Disney’s Star Wars Weekends among employees at Disneyworld’s Hollywood Studios theme park For those of you who don’t know, Star Wars Weekends is an annual Summer Special event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park that celebrates George Lucas’ Star Wars. Disney presents special shows, presentations, memorabilia, as well as appearances from actors from the Star Wars



Hong Kong finance chief to meet executives on Disneyland expansion

Market Watch - Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang plans to meet with executives at Walt Disney Co. in Los Angeles Friday to discuss Hong Kong Disneyland's expansion plans, the government said Wednesday.

The planned high-level meeting between the two theme-park shareholders follows Disney's announcement last month that it would put the already-delayed expansion of the Hong Kong park on hold after failing to agree with the city's government on a cash injection.

Disney and the Hong Kong government have been in discussions over financing a second phase of Hong Kong Disneyland, which has been criticized for its small size and lack of major attractions since its 2005 opening.

Hong Kong Disneyland, which is 54%-owned by the government, is the smallest of Disney's theme parks; the company also has parks in the U.S., Japan and France.

At stake in the talks is the government's desire to keep its controlling stake in the theme park, given Disney's willingness to inject capital into the joint venture to fund the expansion. Citing unnamed sources, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported Thursday that the government is open to reducing its stake in the park in return for Disney funding that would help expedite the expansion program.

The report said a likely option would be that Disney invests HK$7 billion for the expansion, cutting the government's stake to 51%. Disney said earlier the expansion plans being negotiated involve increasing Disneyland's themed areas by a third of its current size.


The Magical Moments of Disney Are Now Even Sweeter With MY M&M'S

PR Newswire - Looking to add a little character to your celebration and gifts? Mars Direct Inc., a division of Mars Snackfood US, and Disney Consumer Products announced today a collaboration to create MY M&M'S(R) Brand Chocolate Candies MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) blends featuring Disney and Disney-Pixar characters and movies.

From Mickey Mouse to Disney-Pixar's Toy Story, the nine MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) blends feature a range of both iconic and contemporary Disney characters, logos and sayings to help make any special occasion more magical. The new line also meets Disney's food guidelines for the celebrations category and exemplifies Disney's commitment to offer treats responsibly to families. Nine new custom MY M&M'S(R) MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) blends can be purchased online exclusively at mymms.com/Disney.

"Disney has been creating magical memories for generations and we are really excited to share the magic with the introduction of MY M&M'S(R) MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) blends inspired by Disney," said Jim Cass, vice president and general manager, Mars Direct. "From baby showers to birthdays to weddings, these custom blends printed with your favorite Disney characters are sure to surprise and delight someone special."

"This collaboration with Mars and MY M&M'S(R) adds a real fun element to celebrations everywhere in a whimsical way that only Disney can deliver. It also allows us to continue offering families new confectionary products that fall within Disney's food guidelines," said Lance Gatewood, vice president of food, health and beauty for Disney Consumer Products.

A Magical Collaboration

MY M&M'S(R) MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) inspired by Disney are available in nine magical blends including:

  • Mickey Mouse - featuring everyone's favorite mouse, along with Donald Duck and the famous song line "M-i-c- You Know the Rest"
  • Disney Babies - featuring baby Mickey Mouse and baby Minnie Mouse
  • Disney Princess - featuring The Little Mermaid's Ariel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with the expression "Happily Ever After"
  • Disney Princess Wedding - featuring Cinderella and the Prince in silhouette and in a heart, wedding bells and the popular wedding phrase "Dreams Do Come True"
  • Disney-Pixar's Cars - featuring the film's logo, Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater and the catchphrase, "Get In Gear"
  • Disney Fairies - featuring Tinker Bell, Rosetta and Silvermist, with the saying "Believe In Magic"
  • Winnie the Pooh - featuring Winnie, Eeyore, Tigger and the familiar Winnie the Pooh logo
  • High School Musical - featuring the High School Musical logo, an East High megaphone, the East High Wildcat mascot and the phrase "Dive In"
  • Disney-Pixar's Toy Story - featuring Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Alien and the motto "Friends Forever"

Ordering MY M&M'S(R) MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) Disney Blends

MY M&M'S(R) MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) can be ordered by visiting www.mymms.com/Disney or by calling 888-696-6788. They are available in special Disney-themed 7-ounce bags (minimum order: 3 bags) for $12.99 per bag, and in 5-pound bags priced at $140. Share the magic of Disney with friends and family by gifting them with a MY M&M'S(R) Old Fashioned Candy Dispenser featuring their favorite Disney character and filled with their favorite MEMORABLE MOMENTS(TM) blend for $59.99.

About MY M&M'S(R):

MY M&M'S(R) is the personalized brand extension of M&M'S(R) Chocolate Candies, which is owned by Mars, Incorporated, one of the world's leading food manufacturers. The personalized printing option officially launched in 2005, and MY M&M'S(R) Faces launched in summer of 2008. MY M&M'S(R) are available in 22 different colors. Seventeen colors can be customized with Faces and personal messages in a variety of fonts. MY M&M'S(R) can be ordered online at www.mymms.com or by calling 888-696-6788. Favors are also available.

About Mars Snackfood US:

Mars Snackfood US is the United States snack operations of Mars North America. With more than $7 billion in annual sales in the U.S., Mars North America includes food, snack and pet care segments, which are a symbol of excellence for quality brands. Headquartered in Mount Olive, New Jersey, Mars North America employs more than 15,000 associates in the United States, with 72 facilities nationwide. Mars Snackfood US includes some of the world's favorite brands such as M&M'S(R) Brand, SNICKERS(R) Brand, DOVE(R) Chocolate Brand, MILKY WAY(R) Brand, 3 MUSKETEERS(R) Brand, TWIX(R) Brand, and Wrigley's SKITTLES(R) Brand, STARBURST(R) Brand, SPEARMINT(R), JUICY FRUIT(R), and ALTOIDS(R) brands. Additional popular brands in the petcare and food segments for Mars North America include UNCLE BEN'S(R) Brand, PEDIGREE(R) Brand Food for Dogs, and WHISKAS(R) Brand Food for Cats. Please visit mars.com.

About Disney Consumer Products

Disney Consumer Products and affiliates (DCP) is the business segment of The Walt Disney Company that extends the Disney brand to merchandise ranging from apparel, toys, home decor and books and magazines to foods and beverages, stationery, electronics and fine art. This is accomplished through DCP's various lines of business which include: Disney Toys, Disney Apparel, Accessories & Footwear, Disney Food, Health & Beauty, Disney Home and Disney Stationery. Other businesses involved in Disney's consumer products sales are Disney Publishing Worldwide, the world's largest publisher of children's books and magazines, and www.disneyshopping.com, the company's official shopping portal. The Disney Stores retail chain, which debuted in 1987, is owned and operated by Disney in North America and Europe. The Disney Stores chain in Japan is operated under a license agreement with Disney. For more information, please visit www.disneyconsumerproducts.com.


Disney Details and Dates The Jonas Brothers: Concert Experience Blu-ray

HDR - Disney had dated and passed along additional disc specs for the upcoming The Jonas Brothers: Concert Experience on Blu-ray Disc.

As previously reported, The Jonas Brothers: Concert Experience on Blu-ray will span three discs with the second and third disc including a digital copy and DVD version of the film. This version will retail for $44.99.

In addition to this 3-disc set, Disney is planning to release a more reasonably priced single disc edition without the digital copy and DVD pack-in. Pricing is not yet available for this version.

The concert film will be offered on Blu-ray in 2-D and 3-D versions. Each version will include two new songs seamlessly integrated into the theatrical version creating a new extended version. These songs can also be accessed separately from the main feature.

From a technical perspective The Jonas Brothers are receiving the best of both worlds from Disney. Video will be offered in 1.85:1 1080p and audio will be maxed out at 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio 48 KHz/24-bit.


Seven theme-park injuries recorded during first three months of '09

Orlando Sentinel - Florida's big theme parks reported seven significant injuries during the first three months of the year, according to recent stage regulatory filings -- more than half of them in the Magic Kingdom, the busiest theme park in the world.

The injuries at Walt Disney World's flagship park included a 75-year-old woman who felt light-headed and nauseous after riding Space Mountain; a 56-year-old man who experienced chest pain after the Haunted Mansion; a 46-year-old woman who said she lost consciousness after getting off of Snow White's Scary Adventures; and a 40-year-old woman who broke her left ankle exiting Astro Orbiter.

Disney reported two other injuries during the quarter: a 59-year-old man who had chest pain after riding Spaceship Earth at Epcot and a 67-year-old woman who suffered a cervical injury after a collision near the end of the 250-foot Toboggan Racers water slide at Disney's Blizzard Beach.

The state's second-busiest resort, Universal Orlando, reported one injury: a 68-year-old man whose left arm went numb after he rode E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios Florida.

None of the Busch Entertainment Corp. parks -- including SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay -- reported any injuries during the quarter.

The injury filings are part of a deal the big theme parks have with the state that exempts them from ride-safety regulation. Rather than submit to regulators, the parks instead file reports every three months outlining basic details of significant injuries.

Those injuries are typically defined as any requiring an immediate hospital stay of at least 24 hours.


Robert Zemeckis ‘Buzzing’ About Second ‘Roger Rabbit’ Movie

MTV Blog - “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” came out 20 years ago and grossed $330 million worldwide, and for all the talk about another big screen venture for the animated bunny and his voluptuous sweetheart Jessica, nothing over the last two decades moved into production. And it was starting to seem like nothing ever would.

But when MTV News caught up with director Robert Zemeckis recently, he dropped a news bomb that had our eyes popping cartoon-style out of our sockets. “I’ll tell you what is buzzing around in my head now that we have the ability—the digital tools, performance capture—I’m starting to think about ‘Roger Rabbit,’” he told us.

Combing traditional animation with live-action, “Roger Rabbit” was a staggering achievement that employed cutting-edge technology without sacrificing the demands of first-rate storytelling. It won four Oscars, including nods for visual effects, editing and a special achievement award for animation direction. But Zemeckis hasn’t toiled in live-action since 2000’s “Cast Away”, preferring instead to work with performance capture in films like “The Polar Express” and the upcoming Jim Carrey vehicle, “A Christmas Carol.”

All of which had us desperate for any more info Zemeckis could provide about a new “Roger Rabbit.” When pressed, however, he demurred.


“I can’t give you more details,” Zemeckis said, letting us down gently.

Okay, then, we’ll air our questions here. How exactly will performance capture factor in? When we spoke recently with Michael Lantieri, the special effects supervisor on the original “Roger Rabbit,” he talked about how very soon filmmakers will be able to combine performance capture with outdoor, real-time photography. Might the new “Roger Rabbit” employ this technology? Will the story be lifted from the long-rumored, never-produced “Roger Rabbit” sequel script? Or will Zemeckis commission a new screenplay? And casting! Will the man who voiced, Roger—Charles Fleischer—reprise his role? And might Bob Hoskins as private investigator Eddie Valiant return?

So many questions that shall, alas, remain unanswered for the moment. You’ll just have to, er, stay tooned…

What do you most want to know about the new “Roger Rabbit? Will all the major players return? And what if—gasp!—they don’t?


Disney layoffs hit nearly 200 back office jobs

OC Register - The Walt Disney Co. has identified the first group of about 200 people being laid off in Anaheim as part of a companywide downsizing.

In a notice filed with the state Employment Development Department, Disney listed 66 layoffs at Disney Destinations LLC at 700 W. Ball Rd.  Specific positions were not identified but the layoffs will be completed by May 26, according to the state filing.

An additional 96 people with Walt Disney World Co. at 700 W. Ball Road also are losing their jobs by the end of May.  They include operations managers, finance managers, human resource professionals and information technology professionals, according to the state filings.

Disney officials announced earlier this month that 1,900 people would be laid off at its parks. The largest layoffs were at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Officials said about 200 of the jobs would be eliminated at Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort but gave no details except to say they would be executive, management and administrative jobs behind the scenes.  An additional 100 vacant positions in Anaheim will not be filled, they said.

In other Disney job news, spokeswoman Betsy Sanchez acknowledged that Disneyland Resort has not scheduled one of its popular job fairs this year.  They typically have one in the spring.

One Orange County Register reader said it marks the first time since the Disneyland Resort expansion in 2000-2001 that no annual job fair was being held. Sanchez said she was unsure if they had one every year since then.

“Because we’ve experienced an excellent flow of high-caliber applicants, we haven’t needed to operate job fairs so far this year,” Sanchez said. “We hold job fairs as deemed necessary, not on an annual basis.”

Questions also have been raised about whether a backlog of several thousand job applications at the Disneyland Resort Casting Center has prompted Disney officials to stop conducting interviews for incoming applicants.

“We interview applicants based on qualifications, skill, and experience and have not automatically granted interviews for years,” Sanchez said.


Legislature votes to keep theme-park blueprints confidential

Orlando Sentinel - The Florida Legislature just voted unanimously to ensure that theme-park blueprints on file with government agencies remain confidential.

The measure, approved by a 40-0 vote minutes ago in the Florida Senate, continues a five-year-old public-records exemption for building plans, blueprints, schematic drawings and diagrams that depict certain attractions or recreation facilities, entertainment or resort complexes, industrial complexes, retail and service developments, office developments or hotels or motels.

The "entertainment or resort complex" category is designed to cover the big parks: Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Check out the definition of the category in the law: "A theme park comprised of at least 25 acres of land with permanent exhibitions and a variety of recreational activities, which has at least 1 million visitors annually who pay admission fees thereto, together with any lodging, dining and recreational facilities adjacent to, contiguous to, or in close proximity to the theme park, as long as the owners or operators of the theme park, or a parent or related company or subsidiary thereof, has an equity interest in the lodging, dining or recreational facilities or is in privity therewith." ("Close proximity" means within five-mile radius of the theme park.)

Boosters say the public-records exemption helps protect the parks and other high-profile or high-traffic businesses from acts of terrorism.

The bill (HB 7017) passed the Florida House of Representatives earlier this week by a 114-0 vote. It now heads to the governor, who will no doubt sign it into law.


Warming to "Earth" — Disney's cinematic lesson about climate change

Seattle Times
 - I took my 8-year-old son to see "Earth," the cinematic version of the Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" series so he could grasp the threat of global warming even as many adults appear to struggle with the concept.

He did. "Earth" used stunning visuals, adorable animals and poignant narration in the rich baritone of actor James Earl Jones to show my son what his generation must fight for. The phrase "global warming" is never uttered but the link between the warming of the air we breath and the perilous plight of polar bears and other animals is clear, as is the rigorous science behind it.

A polar bear dad, unable to hunt for seals because of melting ice, is forced to attack sea lions armed with razor-sharp teeth. A herd of elephants staggered through the parched African plains in search of water once plentiful.

Nature's circle of life is vicious. But humans add a dose of cruelty by using Earth's resources without giving back.

The movie didn't follow each catastrophe to its grisly end but it showed enough of climate change's impact on the wild to make my son ask me later, "How can we help?"

Disney pledged to plant a tree in the Brazilian rain forest for every ticket sold last week. Disney ought to be held to its promise.

My agenda was education. Kids learn best when the lesson comes to them and not the other way around. My son doesn't care about the political debates between politicians, some who deny global warming; he cares even less about those arguing over greenhouse-gas levels. He's interested in saving the beautiful species he watched cavorting across the screen. He's willing to start small.


Horse racing industry could learn from Disney World

Guelph Mercury
 - It's almost a cliché to say businesses the world over could learn a thing or two from Mickey Mouse Inc. In the middle of a weeklong trip to Walt Disney World with kids in tow, the thought occurs to me that the horse racing industry in particular should take a trip to the Orlando theme parks with notebooks in hand.

The most obvious difference between the mouse world and the horse world is the level of planning and detail at Disney -- even during a recession.

Buses, unlike races, run on time. Customers, unlike bettors, are king. Cleanliness, unlike the state of most grandstands, is a fixation. Friendliness and politeness, unlike the attitude of most part-mutuel tellers, is a job requirement. Food quality and options, unlike most track food, is impressive.

We haven't even talked about the main attraction yet, the theme parks themselves.

It all adds up to a sweet experience for visitors and a pile of green for Disney. But at least most Disney visitors feel they get a decent return on their investment. Ask the average bettor at the average track how they feel and you're likely to hear they were fleeced.

Now, that's the standard lament of a losing gambler, but ask Las Vegas losers how they feel and, for the most part, you'll hear they had a blast and were at least treated with respect while they lost their money. Is it any wonder Vegas is often called Disney World for adults?

So, what can the horse racing industry learn from Disney and Vegas? To start with, class and commitment. Fortunately, in this area, we're blessed. Both Grand River Raceway in Elora and Toronto's Woodbine Entertainment Group understand this better than most. It probably explains why live betting on Grand River Raceway's first card of the year, earlier this month, was up 25 per cent over the opening card of 2008. It also helps explain why Woodbine betting is up some 17 per cent year-to-date compared to this time last year.

Both groups operate drastically different racing plants. Grand River, thanks to the intelligent leadership of general manager Dr. Ted Clarke and wacky marketing director Kelly Spencer, has put the fun back into a night at the track.

The Woodbine experience is more corporate, but also more Vegas.

This is professional harness racing at its very best and the entire operation is a reflection of a group that still has horse racing as its core business -- not slot machines.

Despite dark years and scary times, tonight in particular is a cause for optimism for Canadian harness racing as Woodbine Entertainment Group's live circuit returns to Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville after a dreary winter at Woodbine Racetrack.

Neither Mohawk nor Grand River are Disney World -- and both could learn a lot from the mouse -- but they also could teach the rest of the harness world a thing or two.


Gilbert duo Radio Disney's 'Next Big Thing'

East Valley Tribune - The next pop sensation to cause a Hannah Montana-esque clamor among tweens could hail from Gilbert.

The teen pop duo Jonnie and Brookie have been named Radio Disney's "Next Big Thing" after a listener poll that tabulated nearly 9 million online and text-message votes. The contest spotlights young recording artists and allows them to get their music heard on a national level.

"It's a pretty big deal. We're pretty excited," says Jonnie Allen, 16. Her sister, Brookie Allen, 14, makes up the duo's other half.

"One of the prizes is that we get to open for a big artist. We don't know anything about the specifics yet, but that's really exciting. And they played our song on the radio; that was the first time we'd ever heard our music on the radio," she says.

The sisters sing and play guitar, bass and keyboards. Their latest CD, "For Better," features the songs "Missing Me Crazy" and "Hey Boy," which have garnered a combined 73,000-plus plays on MySpace Music. They also have music videos posted at YouTube.com, and they've been featured in a spot on DarynKagan.com, the inspirational online news site produced by former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan.

The pair have recorded six CDs and written three children's books, and they are currently on tour, playing shopping malls, festivals, amusement parks and community events across the nation. They also visit public schools, putting on 45-minute musical assemblies aimed at building kids' character.

The sisters donate a portion of proceeds from CD sales to food banks and other charities, and they've used their concerts to collect 100,000 cans of food for the hungry.

Jonnie and Brookie edged out three front-runners in the Radio Disney contest: AllStar, Bre Morgan and Comic Book Heroes. The contest ran for 22 weeks and featured 11 unsigned young artists or acts.

"We have a lot of fans out here in Gilbert, and we had a lot of people voting for us. We were confident we'd do pretty good, but we weren't sure we could beat out Push Play. They have something like 100,000 fans, and we have more like 10,000," says Brookie Allen.

Young performers that have launched careers after exposure on Radio Disney include Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Raven-Symone and The Cheetah Girls.

Radio Disney is a 24-hour radio network devoted to children and families. Its current playlist includes Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, David Archuleta and Jordin Sparks.


Music Center's suit over sculpture 'Collar and Bow' is settled

Los Angeles Times
 - Perhaps the least glorious chapter in the creation of Walt Disney Concert Hall has finally ended in a confidential settlement of the 2-year-old lawsuit over "Collar and Bow," the gigantic sculpture that architect Frank Gehry envisioned extending a lighthearted greeting from the concert hall's doorstep -- until it literally began to fall apart during fabrication.

Gehry started the ball rolling for the 65-foot-high depiction of formalwear seemingly tossed casually aside on the sidewalk at 1st Street and Grand Avenue, after learning in 1993 that his friends Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen had been considering festooning some landscape or other with a vastly oversized bow tie. The married couple is famed for their giant, playful, site-specific sculptures.

Six years ago, the artists signed a $2.2-million contract with the Music Center, Disney Hall's landlord. "Collar and Bow" was to be delivered by August 2004. But the initial fabrication company, Carlson & Co. of San Fernando, had trouble keeping the collar's aluminum skin attached to its steel-and-composite bones, according to court papers; the cost ballooned to $3.8 million, the timetable for delivery was pushed back to August 2006, and new fabricators were hired.

The second deadline passed, and it all ended in contention in February 2007, when the Music Center, L.A.'s hub of the performing arts, took the unusual step of suing the Pop Art eminences it had commissioned.

The suit accused Oldenburg and Van Bruggen -- who by then was fighting the metastatic breast cancer that took her life in January of this year at age 66 -- of negligence, breach of contract and unjust enrichment; it added an allegation of fraud against Carlson & Co., which had worked with the Dutch-born Van Bruggen and Swedish native Oldenburg on past projects. The Music Center also made claims against Englekirk & Sabol, the project's consulting engineers, and Westerly Marine, an Orange County custom-boat builder that had been brought in to help solve the problems with the collar.

The total damages to the Music Center came to more than $6 million in payments to the artists and other expenses, its attorney, David Lira, said in an interview last year. Cross-complaints among the defendants ensued.

All claims were dismissed earlier this month, according to the final entries in a Los Angeles Superior Court case file that's five volumes thick.

A document dated Jan. 30 said the "parties have agreed to a settlement . . . the terms of which are confidential." It added only that the settlement "is not an admission of any fault, wrongdoing and/or liability" by any of the parties.

A spokeswoman for the Music Center said Tuesday that its president, Stephen Rountree, would not comment because he is prohibited from discussing the settlement.

But Oldenburg, reached at his New York City home, said he felt vindicated.

"We were not at all penalized in any way, and did not have to pay any money," he said.

"It wasn't really our fault that all these things happened. It was very logical that we not be held responsible."

Oldenburg, 80, said he's glad Van Bruggen lived long enough to know that the case was being settled, with no blame accruing to them or their design. "She was aware . . . that we would be exonerated, and that mattered a great deal to her. She felt she had done her very best, and didn't deserve to be persecuted for it."

Oldenburg said he had been to Disney Hall since the project died, and gets a twinge when he sees the celebrated building without the sculpture he feels would have been not overkill, but a grace note.

"It was intended to harmonize and play with the forms of the building. I think it would have done that and intensified the forms. It wouldn't have been a stranger to the building. We'll never know."

Under the settlement, "Collar and Bow," or the 65% of it that was finished, will be destroyed, Oldenburg said. It had lain forlorn and exposed to the elements in the yard of a big warehouse in Irvine.

"It had to be [at Disney Hall] or nowhere else. We select the site, and the sculpture belongs only there. Coosje felt, and I do too, if the site is taken away from us, the sculpture ceases to exist."

Next month, Oldenburg said, he will travel to a sculpture park near Oslo and oversee the installation of "Tumbling Tacks," the last of his huge pieces with Van Bruggen. He said he would continue as an artist, but not on a monumental scale.

"I feel it's something I did with Coosje, and this may be the last one. We had a way of working together on the large-scale projects that was very satisfying."


Wednesday April 29, 2009

Disney to plant 2.7 million trees for 'Earth'
Could 'Flash Mountain' return, in light of Disneyland job cuts?
A Spoonful of Sherman - Richard Sherman Chats About His Remarkable Career
Disney Records Releases Walt Disney and The 1964 World's Fair
'Idol,' `Dancing' dominate prime-time ratings
Disney's The Little Mermaid Companion Book Now Available
Disneyland doesn't lose what's familiar
Zagat’s New Insider’s Disneyland Guide
Disney headhunts 'Boss' script
How to survive Walt Disney World with grandparents and kids in tow
Disney Channel #1 Among Tweens for April

Disney to plant 2.7 million trees for 'Earth'

AP - Walt Disney Studios is turning box-office cash from its nature documentary "Earth" into seed money to plant trees in the rain forest.
Disney had announced it would plant one tree in Brazil's endangered Atlantic rain forest for every viewer who saw the movie during its first week. According to Disney, the box-office tally hit $16.1 million, which translates to 2.7 million trees.

The trees are being planted by the Nature Conservancy, which is trying to reforest 2.5 million acres in the rain forest.

"Earth" is narrated by James Earl Jones and follows a year in the lives of three families of polar bears, elephants and humpback whales.


Could 'Flash Mountain' return, in light of Disneyland job cuts?

Los Angeles Times - Call it an unexpected consequence of the bad economy: A recent round of staff reductions at Disneyland could result in the return of embarrassing episodes of public nudity at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Way back in 1997, a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times chronicled a scintillating Internet phenomenon involving the Anaheim theme park's Splash Mountain log ride: Photos of women flashing their breasts at an automatic camera that snapped souvenir photographs during the final 50-foot drop were "unzip-a-dee-doo-dahing" their way around cyberspace, earning the ride the dubious nickname "Flash Mountain."

At the time, Disneyland officials blamed a rogue employee for leaking the obscene pictures of topless women onto the Web and instituted tighter photo editing procedures to prevent further breaches. (NSFW websites dedicated to Flash Mountain still exist — we'll let you do your own Google search.)

Over the ensuing decade, objectionable pictures of breast-baring women were "washed away" by Splash Mountain photo editors before they were projected on preview screens at the end of the ride, according to David Koenig, author of "More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland."

Now, flash forward to 2009. Starting in May, the Splash Mountain photo editor positions will be eliminated as part of cost-cutting measures at Disneyland, according to MiceAge columnist Al Lutz. "Admittedly the numbers of young ladies (term used loosely in this case) who lift their tops for the cameras for their shot at Flash Mountain infamy has lessened over the years," wrote Lutz, who reports that the photo editing positions were eliminated months ago at the Splash Mountain ride in Florida.

Of course, a lot has changed since 1997. The advent of Internet-enabled camera phones means theme park visitors who snap photos of the souvenir pictures on the preview screens can now spread the lewd and obscene images instantly across the Web at the speed of Twitter. "Once word gets around that naughty photos are once again popping up on the projection screens, more guests will want to see what they can get away with," Koenig said.

Disneyland officials confirmed that Splash Mountain photo screeners would be redeployed to other positions as of May 3.

"In evaluating the ride photo moderation role and process, we have determined that actual inappropriate behaviors by guests are rare," Disneyland spokesperson Betsy Sanchez said in a written statement. "Ride photos will continue to be monitored by cast members at the point of sale. In addition, the current screening system will remain intact to provide the option for management to initiate image monitoring if necessary."

As always, Disneyland reserves the right to remove any visitor from the park who exhibits offensive or inappropriate behavior, Sanchez said.


A Spoonful of Sherman - Richard Sherman Chats About His Remarkable Career

Disney Insider -
"Chim Chim Cher-ee." "I Wanna Be Like You." "It's a Small World." They're the songs that we all grew up with, the classics — and they were all written by Richard and Robert Sherman. The Sherman Brothers were truly a legendary Disney creative force, writing songs for TV, Theme Park attractions, and films — whatever Walt Disney required. And in 1990, they were formally inducted as Disney Legends, acknowledging their many accomplishments.

Now "the boys," as they were known to their colleagues, are the subjects of a new documentary film by the same name. "The Boys" was a labor of love for filmmakers Jeff and Greg Sherman — cousins, and the sons of Robert and Richard respectively. In it, the cousins remember their fathers' careers, and the distance between them in later years. It's a wonderful and touching movie that has taken years to make the journey to the big screen at last.

In honor of "The Boys" — and "the boys" we sat down with Richard Sherman to discuss his amazing Disney career. Appropriately enough, we met in the very soundstage on the Walt Disney Studio Lot where some of the songs for "Mary Poppins" had been recorded, as Richard recalled.

He remembers Walt Disney well, as a remarkable boss to work for. "You had to be good — you couldn't just be ordinary, you had to be incredible!" Richard laughs. "And everybody knew that, and everybody broke their butts to get stuff as good as they possibly could. And he'd look at it, and he'd say 'Okay, that'll work.' "It was the highest form of praise any Disney employee could hope for — then later they might hear from a colleague that Walt absolutely loved what they did.

It was a demanding environment that pushed everyone to perform at the very highest level, but it was also a highly rewarding one. Richard recalls, "It was a great big brotherhood. Everybody cared about everybody, and we all wanted the projects to succeed. We all loved and respected Walt. We'd have our disagreements, but basically it was a very warm environment."

As with every detail of his Studio's creations, Walt was very hands-on with the songs created by the Sherman brothers — and knew what he wanted to hear. "Walt was very appreciative of music," Richard says. "He could hear a finished product from what I played for him — that's an amazing talent! If it was a song that a young woman would be singing to a little boy, and I sang it with my husky baritone, he'd hear the woman singing to the little boy." Often on Friday afternoons, he would ask the brothers to come to his office and Richard would perform "Feed the Birds," Walt's favorite song.

The creative partnership between the Sherman brothers and the Studio began in the late '50s, as Richard recalls. "We began at Disney because of Annette Funicello. She was the star of the Mouseketeers and she had some big hits with some of our songs, like 'Pineapple Princess" and "Tall Paul." We were asked by the Studio to come up with a song that she could sing in a film — we didn't know that Walt Disney himself had asked for this!

"We wrote a little tune called 'Strummin' Song.' We brought it up to the Studio and played it for Jimmy Johnson, head of music publishing at the time, and he said, 'That sounds great — we've got to play it for Walt.' And we said, 'Walt who? You're kidding me!' But he said, 'Walt OK's everything.'

"Then when we met Walt, he started describing the wrong picture to us. He said, 'This picture is about two girls who meet in summer camp,' [Walt must have been working on 'The Parent Trap' at the time, and gotten his films mixed up] and we were dying because we had written the song for Annette's picture, 'The Horsemasters'! But we played it for him and he said, 'Yeah, that'll work.' Then he gave us the script for 'The Parent Trap,' and we wrote songs for that film as well. Eventually, we wound up writing songs for six different films. And that's when he got the confidence to let us come up with some ideas for this book called 'Mary Poppins' — and that's how it began."

The brothers realized that "Mary Poppins" was truly going to be a unique musical opportunity. "We did songs for about 12 Disney films and TV projects before 'Poppins.' We did songs for the television shows, for the Parks, everything. But all the while we were working on 'Poppins' ideas and 'Poppins' songs." In fact, in addition to writing the unforgettable songs for "Mary Poppins," the brothers were instrumental in helping to adapt the disconnected stories in the "Mary Poppins" books into a movie with a strong storyline, along with screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DeGradi.

But another film — Walt's last as a hands-on creative force — just might be Richard's favorite to recall. As he says, "'The Jungle Book' was the most fun we ever had working on a movie. We had Louis Prima, Phil Harris, and Sterling Holloway — all these wonderful talents!"

And yet it was a movie that almost wasn't a Sherman brothers project at all: "We came in late to 'The Jungle Book,' because the picture was rejected when it was done, except for one really fine song — 'Bare Necessities.' All of the rest — well, put it this way, Walt didn't like it!" Richard chuckles. "And he didn't like the storyline. So we came in because they needed a new score except for the one song. So we did it, and it was fun! Louis Prima's rendition of 'I Wanna Be Like You' was definitely a high point."

Songwriting has truly been Richard's life — as his son Greg says, "Growing up, we had a piano in every room!" and he is still ever-willing to tickle the ivories.

"I've loved music ever since I was a little boy. And if you need something Japanese, I know how to write the flavor of Japanese — it won't be Japanese, but it will feel like it. If it's India, I can hear how it will sound," he tells us. "That's what I do! I can't do much of anything else, but I can write songs."

And from "Strummin' Song" through "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," "The Happiest Millionaire," "The Tigger Movie," and dozens more, those songs have made us all richer — and a little more tuneful.


Disney Records Releases Walt Disney and The 1964 World's Fair

Walt Disney and the 1964 World's Fair is a rare behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney's contribution to the 1964 World's Fair.

It was here where Walt unveiled several unique attractions and exhibits that would forever change not only Disneyland, but greatly influence the future of Disney Theme Parks yet to be imagined. This 5-CD Set includes a 24-page full color booklet and more than three hours of recordings from the classic attractions and exhibits Walt Disney and his team of artists created for the 1964 New York World's Fair including Progressland, It's A Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyway.


'Idol,' `Dancing' dominate prime-time ratings

AP - Singing and dancing again dominated prime-time television.
Two nights each of Fox's "American Idol" and ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" easily had the biggest audiences of anything last week. No scripted show drew even 15 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said.

That's a disturbing sign for TV networks heading into the May ratings sweeps, although executives also caution that more people are recording these shows for later viewing.

CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," with 14.6 million viewers, was the most popular scripted show.

For the week, CBS had an average of 9.2 million viewers (5.9 rating, 10 share). Fox averaged 8.6 million (5.2, 9) and won among the 18-to-49-year-old audience it concentrates on. ABC had 8.1 million viewers (5.3, 9), NBC 6 million (3.9, 7), the CW 2 million (1.3, 2), My Network TV 1.5 million (1.0, 2) and ION Television 590,000 (0.4, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with 3.8 million viewers (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura 640,000 (0.3, 1) and Azteca 150,000 (0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.1 million viewers (5.5, 12). ABC's "World News" was second with 7.4 million (5.1, 11) and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.7 million viewers (4, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,145,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.5 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of April 20-26, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 23.96 million; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 23.95 million; "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 20.53 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 14.73 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 14.64 million; "Criminal Minds" special, CBS, 13.72 million; "Desperate Housewives," ABC, 13.64 million; "Grey's Anatomy," ABC, 13.51 million; "NCIS" special, CBS, 12.65 million; "The Mentalist" special, CBS, 12.46 million.

ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by General Electric Co. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.


Disney's The Little Mermaid Companion Book Now Available

Broadway World
 - Disney Theatrical Productions and Disney Book Group jointly announced today that The Little Mermaid: From the Deep Blue Sea to the Great White Way (Disney Editions, $40.00), a companion book to Disney's hit Broadway musical, is now available wherever books are sold. The 176-page book written by Michael Lassell is richly illustrated with drawings by the show's set and costume designers, archival images from the Disney vault, never-before-seen shots of the rehearsal process, and dozens of dazzling full-color photographs of The Little Mermaid that gives readers a front-row seat for the creative process from beginning to end.

Broadway's The Little Mermaid, now in its second smash year, recently welcomed Tony® Award-winner Faith Prince, who assumed the role of Ursula, the Sea Witch. Disney's sparkling musical tells the tale of Ariel, a young mermaid princess who longs for a life above the sea. Author Michael Lassell was given unrestricted access to rehearsals and design meetings leading up to opening night of The Little Mermaid in 2008. The Little Mermaid: From the Deep Blue Sea to the Great White Way features dozens of interviews with cast, crew and designers and gives readers and fans of the show a comprehensive picture of all that went into the creation of this sensational Disney musical.

The Little Mermaid: From the Deep Blue Sea to the Great White Way is now available wherever books are sold. The book is also available at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, home to The Little Mermaid. On May 7, a book signing event with author Michael Lassell and featuring a special performance starring cast members from The Little Mermaid will take place at Barnes & Noble on Broadway and 66th Street in New York City.

Lassell has written three previous books about Disney's Broadway shows: Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida: The Making of the Broadway Musical, TARZAN®: The Broadway Adventure and most recently, Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It. He holds degrees from Colgate University, California Institute of the Arts, and the Yale School of Drama, and is currently the features director of Metropolitan Home magazine.

For the past 15 years, DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS (DTP) has been a leading producer of live stage entertainment on Broadway and around the world. Currently under the direction of producer and president Thomas Schumacher, DTP has produced six award-winning Broadway musicals: Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida, TARZAN®, Mary Poppins, a co-production by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, and The Little Mermaid. In total, these six shows have been seen by over 21 million people in New York alone and, cumulatively, over 82 million people worldwide. Thanks to the tremendous appeal of the Disney brand and its beloved characters, DTP has for 15 years brought new audiences to Broadway, many of whom have never been to the theatre before. Additionally, DTP produces and licenses its Broadway musicals around the world reaching a global annual audience of more than 10 million people in over 40 countries. DTP licenses musical titles for local schools and community productions through a partnership with Music Theatre International. Through its educational outreach department, DTP partners with New York City schools to bring young audiences to Broadway and DTP has donated regularly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, among other charitable organizations.

Disney Book Group (DBG) is a unit of Disney Publishing Worldwide, the world's largest publisher of children's books and magazines, with over 400 children's magazines published and 120 million children's books sold each year. DBG's vertically integrated imprints include Disney Editions, Disney-Hyperion, Disney-Jump at the Sun, and Disney Press. Headquartered in White Plains, NY and Milan, Italy, Disney Publishing Worldwide publishes books and magazines in 85 languages in 75 countries, reaching more than 100 million readers each month.


Disneyland doesn't lose what's familiar

Canada.com - Disneyland will never be complete. It's a statement the amusement park's creator, the late Walt Disney, was fond of mentioning when talking about the future of Disneyland.

There will always be a change to be made, or new technology to add to the California theme park, Disney predicted.

More than 50 years after Disneyland's opening, the phrase continues to ring true.

On Monday, the Disneyland Resort is celebrating the opening of one of its biggest new attractions of 2007 -- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. And the submarine launch follows on the heels of the recent revamp of Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

"Disneyland is a place of change," observes Disney fan and blogger Phillipe Manion.

"You can always see something a little different or new each time you visit," says Manion, who has visited the theme park 41 times.

"I'm predicting the Nemo submarines will be great, just like the Pirates relaunch was."

The reviews for the Nemo attraction will begin circulating next week, while Disney is still riding high from the success of reworking the Pirates ride and by last month's opening of the third instalment of the movie inspired by the attraction (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.)

"Welcome to the world of pirates," Walt Disney Co. Imagineering executive Bruce Vaughn said recently, while describing the ride to journalists.

A "world" is how he conceives of the ride. Elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom, Vaughn could say of the Haunted Mansion, "welcome to the world of ghosts," and at Space Mountain, "welcome to the world of space travel." None of those attractions follows a clear narrative with beginning, middle and end. Instead, each of them leads a Disneyland visitor through a world of dramatic scenes and surprising sights.

They share a "welcome to my world" format that's not new, but has become increasingly important in modern culture, from the YouTube.com website to online games.

One key to the popularity of such websites and games is they attract people by offering variety within a familiar setting, whether that's the SecondLife.com virtual world, the Grand Theft Auto game, or the MySpace.com online community.

To innovate successfully in a "welcome to my world" format, the trick is to add novelty without losing what's appealingly familiar.

"There's lots of nostalgia" about the scenes in Disneyland rides, says Vaughn, vice-president for research and development at the Imagineering division in Glendale, where 1,000 employees, called Imagineers, develop attractions for Disney theme parks.

"But audience expectations have been raised by (special effects in) movies."

To achieve that at Haunted Mansion, last year's innovative changes included more elaborate special effects for the ghostly bride.

She now has a bouquet that slowly turns into an axe, replacing her illuminated beating heart that was "not so great," says Eric Jacobson, Imagineering's senior vice-president for creative development. Similarly, the disembodied head of fortune teller Madame Leota now flies instead of remaining stationary.

Both those effects depend on still-confidential technology from Imagineering's R&D department, Vaughn says.

When the Imagineers start planning a new ride or new features for an old ride, they call a "storyboarding" meeting. It's similar to a brainstorming session, named after the movie-makers' technique for planning scenes.

At that meeting, Imagineers from various departments call out ideas about what the experience should be like for guests.

"It would be green." "It should be tall." "It should be fast." Each idea is written on a card, which is pinned on a cork board.

"From time to time, the cards are organized into major categories . . . such as, 'What it should look like' and 'What it should sound like,' " Jacobson says. After the meeting, people most interested in a proposal tend to join the project team, he says.

"Usually, some people get excited and want to work on it, while some are ready to leave it to others," Vaughn says.

New technology isn't always necessary to refresh the appeal of revisiting worlds, such as Disney attractions. A "welcome to my world" format sometimes just needs new, appealing variations to its usual offerings.

That's what Imagineers did last summer in response to the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies -- they added the character of Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

The ability to weave new elements into a familiar fabric is also behind the success of Disneyland Resort's current Year of a Million Dreams celebration.

The promotion involves giving prizes to visitors who are in the park, ranging from special Mickey Mouse ears to exclusive stays in the special Mickey Mouse penthouse at the Disneyland Hotel.

The celebration has come at the same time new immersive experiences have been introduced.

Visitors can dance along with a High School Musical pep rally. Or, they can duel with Darth Vader at Jedi training camp, play with Disney princesses, or join in the fun at Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island.

People often want to have an experience when they travel, as opposed to just going somewhere, explains John Hamilton, vice-president of WestJet Vacations, a one-year-old branch of WestJet that offers vacation packages to travellers.

"We are trying to develop experiences for people . . . and Disneyland fits well as a superior vacation experience."

Those experiences keep visitors coming back to Disneyland, explains Manion. "It's great fun for the young and young at heart, no matter what your age."


Zagat’s New Insider’s Disneyland Guide

Disney Blog - Zagat’s, a name with years of respect in the fine dining field, has released its first “Insider’s Guide to the Disneyland Resort.” More than just dining, the guide covers attractions, shops, food, and hotels.

Part of the Zagat’s Survey system will reveal guest preferences and rankings. For instance, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain Rank as park favorites, Tower of Terror provides a perfect thrill,
Blue Bayou and Napa Rose wweep the restaurant competition, and
Disneyana and World of Disney set the shopping pace.

It is available now at the Disneyana store in Disneyland, Compass Books in Downtown Disney, and Amazon.

The full press release and some of the rankings are below the cut:

Zagat Survey recently released its first Disneyland Resort Insider’s Guide, a comprehensive overview of 279 rides, attractions, dining, shopping, hotels and amenities throughout California’s renowned Disneyland Resort. Based on 3,122 avid Disney-goers, the guide offers advice on how to spend your time and money, as well as how to beat the lines, while enjoying the magic at Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, the Downtown Disney District and the hotels of the Disneyland Resort. Because Disney appeals to all ages, attractions are separately rated for their “Adult Appeal,” “Child Appeal” and “Thrill” on Zagat’s signature 30-point scale.

“Our goal is to give consumers access to a variety of information to help them make smart decisions and take action,” said Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey. “Through this guide, our 3,000+ surveyors, who are frequent visitors to the Disneyland Resort, are sharing their experiences to help newcomers better navigate all the parks have to offer.”

Thrilled to Perfection: The top thrill in the Disneyland Resort, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, has earned itself a perfect 30 rating from surveyors – a rare honor in Zagat’s history. Following closely behind are Space Mountain and California Screamin’, which both earned “extraordinary” thrill ratings of 29.

Disney Fever: Most Disney visitors first experience the magic while still young. A full 60% of surveyors report their first visit to a Disney theme park before age five – and 30% say before age three. Still, Disneyland Resort appeals to all ages. In fact, 89% of our surveyors have visited the Resort as an adult without children along. Echoing the Resort’s remarkable popularity, the vast majority say they plan to visit again within six months.

Top Rides: This year, 65% of surveyors report spending almost all their time in the parks visiting rides or attractions. Surveyors’ favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean, the swash-buckling pirate adventure. The Tower of Terror earned the top spot for Adult Appeal, while the dazzling “Remember … Dreams Come True” fireworks won top Child Appeal.

Most Popular Overall:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean - New Orleans Square, DL
2. Space Mountain - Tomorrowland, DL
3. Soarin’ Over California - Golden State, DCA
4. Indiana Jones Adventure - Adventureland, DL
5. California Screamin’ - Paradise Pier, DCA

Adult Appeal:
1. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (DCA)
2. Space Mountain (Disneyland)
3. California Screamin’ (DCA)
4. Soarin’ Over California (DCA)
5. “Remember … Dreams Come True” (Disneyland)

Child Appeal:
1. “Remember/Dreams Come True” (Disneyland)
2. Toy Story Midway Mania! (DCA)
3. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Disneyland)
4. Turtle Talk with Crush (DCA)
5. Fantasmic! (Disneyland)

DL = Disneyland Park; DCA = Disney’s California Adventure Park; DD = Downtown Disney District

Disney Dining: Like all Zagat Surveys, the Disneyland Resort Insider’s guide separately rates restaurants for their Food, Décor, Service and Cost. This enables visitors to make informed dining decisions and stay within any budget. Special indexes such as Buffet, Quick Bites Romantic Places and Teen Appeal, also helps visitors tailor any meal to meet their needs.

Surveyors are definitely passionate about Disney dining as 38% of them say they spend quite a bit or almost all of their time dining out. Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa swept the competition, earning top honors for Food, Décor and Service, as well as ranking #2 in Popularity. Blue Bayou, set inside Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park, was named Most Popular.

Most Popular
1. Blue Bayou (Disneyland)
2. Napa Rose (Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel)
3. Rainforest Cafe (DD)
4. Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port (Disneyland)
5. Storytellers Cafe (Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel)

Top Décor
1. Napa Rose (Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel)
2. Steakhouse 55 (Disneyland Hotel)
3. Blue Bayou (Disneyland)
4. Hearthstone Lounge (Grand Californian Hotel)
5. Rainforest Café (DD)

Shop ‘Til You Drop: With a plethora of toy, clothing and jewelry shops, shopping in Disneyland Resort is a popular pastime. A staggering 92% of visitors report purchasing apparel and an equally impressive 82% seek sweets. Disneyana, located in Disneyland Park, tops the list for Quality, and Downtown Disney’s World of Disney wins for Most Popular.

Top Quality (overall)
1. Disneyana (Disneyland)
2. Silhouette Studio (Disneyland)
3. Off the Page (DCA)
4. Jewel of Orleans (Disneyland)
5. China Closet (Disneyland)

Most Popular (overall)
1. World of Disney (DD)
2. Emporium (Disneyland)
3. Build-a-Bear Workshop (DD)
4. Disneyana (Disneyland)
5. Candy Palace (Disneyland)

Downtown Disney and the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort: The Downtown Disney District is home to retail shops, restaurants and live music venues, and is within walking distance of all three hotels of the Disneyland Resort: the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Disneyland Hotel. Visitors can experience live entertainment at the House of Blues or Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. Some opt for more moderately priced dining at Rainforest Cafe and ESPN Zone, while others enjoy catching a flick at nearby AMC Theatres.

The Guide in Detail: Zagat Survey’s Disneyland Resort Insider’s Guide is loaded with helpful top lists and indexes. Attractions are broken down by type (Simulator, Roller Coaster, Animatronics) and by special features (Toddlers, Educational, Rainy Day Appropriate). Dining and Shopping are also included in indexes, such as Cuisine, Special Features, and Merchandise.

The Disneyland Resort Insider’s Guide was edited by John Deiner, with consulting by Laura Randall. It is available at the Disneyana store in Disneyland, Compass Books in Downtown Disney, and Amazon.


Disney headhunts 'Boss' script

THR - Disney has picked up "Boss," a spec script from Tony Lord and David Cohen with Scott Rudin on board to produce.

The script is a wish-fulfillment comedy about a 21-year-old becoming his dad's boss when the young man gets promoted over his father.

Mark Roybal brought the project to Disney on behalf of Rudin. Disney's Kristin Burr is overseeing.

Lord, who was a co-producer on DreamWorks' "The Heartbreak Kid," and Cohen previously sold "Head Games" to Universal and "Black Sabbath" to Summit. In addition, they have written pilots for NBC and Fox this year. The duo is repped by ICM.

For Rudin, "Boss" marks a rare dip of a toe in the pool of lighthearted family fare as the producer is more known for his prestigious adult-oriented book or stage adaptations.


How to survive Walt Disney World with grandparents and kids in tow

Vancouver Sun
 - The elderly lady with the Mickey Mouse hat announced her mission on her T-shirt: "I'm at Walt Disney World to celebrate my granddaughter's 10th birthday."
She wasn't alone in wanting some fun time with her children and grandchildren at the planet's most ambitious and most popular amusement parks. We, too, were among many multi-generational families who trek to Orlando each year to join 47 million other people who jam Walt Disney World's four theme parks -- Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom.

With our daughter, her husband and their two boys ages 6 and 8, we settled into the lushly landscaped Polynesian Resort (one of 20 Disney-owned properties on site) to see if our stamina could match our determination to keep up with the youngsters and enjoy as much of the 110-square-kilometre park as possible in five days. We asked for and obtained connecting rooms, a definite advantage with little ones.

The Disney monorail is a major convenience for guests staying at the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian or the Contemporary resorts. We took it to the Magic Kingdom, opened in 1971 as the original attraction and still the heart of the Walt Disney World complex. On the busiest days of the year (between Christmas and New Years and around Easter), upwards of 90,000 people a day visit the Magic Kingdom, but May (when we were there) and the fall are much better choices, with just 30,000 visitors a day. Even on the busiest days, Disney's clever Fastpass system (where, at no cost, you get a ticket for the most popular attractions enabling you to return at a specific time for priority boarding) makes long waits a rarity.

We ran into several other multi-generational families at the Magic Kingdom, including Lonna and Doug McKay of Calgary who travelled to Walt Disney World with their four children, spouses and five grandchildren.

"Walking in here was very emotional," Lonna McKay said. "I've often thought it would be awesome to bring the whole family here and we finally realized we could do it." Doug McKay added that the biggest challenge would be to make sure all 14 of them had a good time and that nobody got lost.

Other families agreed that the key to a good time was advanced planning and a slow pace. As one Toronto area grandfather told us, "We're here to relax and enjoy our grandchildren. Wherever the kids want to go, we go."

We read several Walt Disney World guidebooks for their recommendations on what to see first and what to avoid (the most useful book we found was the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World). The best advice in all of them was to start early, head for the most popular attractions before the park filled and then take a noon break back to the hotel for lunch, a swim and some quiet time. As the crowds started to thin in mid- to late afternoon, head back to the parks.

On the first two mornings, we took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom just as it opened at 9 o'clock. Trying not to show our years (and our growing timidity with fast rides) we joined our grandchildren on the two major Frontierland adventures: Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Then to Adventureland and the venerable Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride with its swashbuckling adventures (now updated to include Capt. Jack Sparrow in several scenes). In Tomorrowland, our eight-year-old grandson was keen to experience the Magic Kingdom's top attraction, Space Mountain, a fast and dark indoor roller-coaster.

We deferred until he and his dad emerged with a huge grin and said, "Let's do it again!" and grabbed John's hand. John kept his eyes closed throughout, fearful of a heart attack.

One Disney feature we all enjoyed was Mickey's Philharmagic in Fantasyland. This was a zany 3-D movie (we wore special glasses) starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in which objects pop out of the screen and special effects (fake smoke, sprinkles of water, various odours) assault the audience. All four theme parks at Walt Disney World have brilliantly conceived 3-D movies, but this and It's Tough to be a Bug in Animal Kingdom were our favourites.

On the first afternoon, we headed to the Disney Hollywood Studios (using the efficient Disney bus service) where the grandkids had a ball at the imaginative Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground (bugs and plants are giant sized). Later we joined 10,000 other guests in a huge outdoor amphitheatre for Fantasmic, a spectacular mixed-media show starring Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Lasers, fireworks, flaming water and amazing special effects (images are projected on a wide spray of water) contribute to a dazzling 25-minute show.

Epcot, the second Disney theme park in Orlando, still draws huge crowds to its unique combination of education, entertainment and World's Fair ambiance. On our second afternoon, we all enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Morocco pavilion (including entertainment by a belly dancer) and took in two new attractions -- Mission: Space, a realistic flight simulation to Mars, and Soarin', an airborne tour of California with Imax-quality images projected all around your hang-glider. Great fun for all ages.

Ten years ago, Walt Disney World opened its newest and most intriguing theme park, Animal Kingdom. With more than 1,000 live animals and exotic replicas of African and Asian architecture, the park combines nature trails, outback excursions, formal gardens and thrill rides (including a high-speed roller-coaster through a realistic looking Mount Everest). We broke our noon-nap rule and spent all of one day there and could have easily stayed longer.

The family highlight at Animal Kingdom was the Kilimanjaro Safari, a 25-minute truck ride through a realistic African landscape. We saw giraffes, hippos, tigers, elephants, crocodiles and many other species in their "natural" habitat. There are also several walking trails where animals are easily spotted and guides answer any questions.

Part of our last day at Disney World was spent in one of its two huge water parks, where the grandkids and the parents enjoyed the slides and tube rides. After a noon break, we headed toward a section of the park called Downtown Disney, where Canada's own Cirque du Soleil built a permanent theatre to perform La Nouba, described by many as the best show in Cirque du Soleil's repertoire. Combining drama, humour, circus thrills and emotion, the 90-minute performance mesmerized young and old alike.

Looking back on the five days in central Florida, we realized that a three-generation visit to Walt Disney World is an ideal plan. Not only do grandparents get to spend quality time with their children and grandchildren, but there's usually someone to watch over little ones while parents and older kids enjoy the more challenging rides.

As the McKays of Calgary told us, "We never brought our four kids here as children, but we can now see that child in them. People are so goofy and so happy here. You just want to click your heels together."


Disney Channel #1 Among Tweens for April

AWN - Home to the month's No. 1 TV telecast with HANNAH MONTANA and the No. 1 TV movie with the debut of 75th original movie, HATCHING PETE, Disney Channel ranked as TV's No. 1 network in Total Day in Tweens 9-14 (478,000/2.0 rating), a position held each week throughout the month in the key demo.

In addition, Disney Channel generated its largest audience in the daypart in 8 months (since August 08) in Total Viewers (1.5 million), Kids 6-11 (564,000) and Tweens 9-14 (478,000), making this month the network's most-watched April ever in the key targets. Year to year, the net improved by hefty double-digit percentages: +15% in Total Viewers (vs. 1.3 million), +21% in Kids 6-11 (vs. 465,000) and +25% in Tweens 9-14 (vs. 381,000).

Disney Channel delivered the month's No. 1 TV telecast in Tweens 9-14 with HANNAH MONTANA, as its original outing on Sunday, April 19 (2.1 million/8.4 rating) overshadowed both first run airings of Nickelodeon's ICARLY for the month (4/11/09 - 1.9 million/7.9 rating; 4/22/09 - 1.7 million/6.9 rating) and all 8 AMERICAN IDOL telecasts on Fox. In Kids 6-11, HANNAH MONTANA was the month's No. 2 live-action telecast on all of TV (2.0 million/8.0 rating), also surpassing every telecast of American Idol during the month.

In Prime, April 09 wrapped as Disney Channel's most-watched month in target kid demos in 6 months (since October 08), ranking No. 1 for the 50th consecutive month in Kids 6-11 (953,000/3.9 rating) and for the 49th in Tweens 9-14 (804,000/3.3 rating).

Also impressive, driven by hit series MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE and newest entry SPECIAL AGENT OSO, the net's preschool targeted Playhouse Disney block recorded the largest Total Viewer (1.3 million) and Kid 2-5 (504,000) audiences for an April ever in the daypart, climbing by a considerable 24% over year-ago levels in both categories.

Program Highlights

-- The premiere of the net's 75th original movie, HATCHING PETE (4/24/09, 8:00-9:40 p.m.) stood as the month's No. 1 TV movie in Kids 6-11 (1.7 million/7.0 rating) and Tweens 9-14 (1.6 million/6.4 rating), and cable's most-watched movie in Total Viewers (4.1 million).

-- In Tweens 9-14, on an all-play basis, Disney Channel was home to the months' Top 2 scripted TV shows with SONNY WITH A CHANCE (1.2 million/4.8 rating) and Wizards of Waverly Place (898,000/3.7 rating), and 4 of the Top 5 with HANNAH MONTANA (No. 4 -- 822,000/3.4 rating) and THE SUITE LIFE ON DECK (No. 5 – 810,000/3.3 rating) added to the mix.

-- In Kids 6-11, among all regularly scheduled series, Disney Channel delivered TV's No. 1 scripted TV series for the month with SONNY WITH A CHANCE (1.2 million/5.0 rating), 3 of the Top 4 when including WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE (No. 3 -- 982,000/4.0 rating) and HANNAH MONTANA (No. 4 -- 968,000/4.0 rating).

-- A consistent Top 10 player each week, in April 09 MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE ranked among TV's Top 10 programs in core Kids 2-5 demo (No. 8 -- 711,000/4.4 rating).

-- Launched at the top of the month, SPECIAL AGENT OSO ranked No. 1 versus all TV in its time slot in Kids 2-5 (619,000/3.8 rating, M-Su, 8:00-8:30 a.m.), towering over runner-up Nickelodeon by 31% (454,000/2.8 rating -- PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, SPONGEBOB and FAIRLY ODDPARENTS).

Source: Nielsen Media Research, April 09: 3/30/09-4/26/09 -- Live+7 blended with Live+SD unless otherwise noted. Telecast rankings based on Live + Same Day. Ratings based on national rating unless otherwise noted. All rankings sorted on 000s, then rating.


Tuesday April 28, 2009

No confirmed swine flu in Orlando, Florida Hospital says
A sneak peek inside Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
Walt Disney World Resort Now on the iPhone & iPod touch
With 20-year anniversary, take our Disney Hollywood Studios quiz
ABC's `Lost' marks 100th episode this week
Bestselling Tokyo Disneyland book used passages from publication without permission
Disney woos Warner Bros exec for Iberia
Marvel X-Men: Volume 1 on DVD
Marvel X-Men: Volume 2 on DVD
Euro Disney SCA H1 net loss 85.4 million euros
Eden Espinosa Set to Sing New Disneyland Fireworks Spectacular 'MAGICAL' Theme Song
Keeping the Disney magic fresh

No confirmed swine flu in Orlando, Florida Hospital says

Orlando Sentinel - An e-mail sent by one of Florida Hospital's top doctors sent health officials into a flurry today because he incorrectly confirmed the first case of the deadly swine flu in Orlando.

In the e-mail, Dr. Loran Hauck, Chief Medical Officer at Florida Hospital said, "a case was diagnosed here in Orlando today on a tourist from Mexico who came to Disney attractions two days ago to visit."

At a rushed press conference, Florida Hospital's vice president Dr. Scott Brady said there are no confirmed cases of swine flu in Orlando.

"In this case, if it was implied that it was swine flu, that was a misstatement," Brady said. "We have not had any confirmations from the CDC. We've had two or three cases of positive influenza. We should know about these in 48 hours."

Moments later, Florida's Surgeon General Ana M. Viamonte Ros spoke at a press conference in Tallahassee and refuted the confirmation of swine flu in the state.

"There is no confirmation of any positive swine flu cases at this time in Orlando or anywhere else," Ros said. "We are ready and our health-care providers are ready to receive these patients."

Ros said a tourist in Orlando was tested and the results are not back from the labs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the only agency that can test for the particular strain of influenza that develops into swine flu.

Officials at Walt Disney World would not comment and referred all calls to the health officials.

Swine flu has killed 152 people in Mexico and thousands are hospitalized with influenza-like symptoms, the latest reports show. Mexico is suspected of being the center of the outbreak.

Dr. Nancy Cox of the CDC said a sample taken from a 4-year-old boy in Mexico's Veracruz state in early April tested positive for swine flu. She thinks the earliest onset of swine flu in the U.S. was on March 28.

There are 64 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States, mostly in New York.

Brady said the tourist met the criteria of being at risk because he had been in Mexico or had contact with someone from Mexico. State health officials are looking into the connection with Mexico.

So far, Florida Hospital Centra Care clinics have sent three swabs to the CDC labs in Jacksonville, officials said. They wouldn't say if it was from same person or three different people.

It will take about 48 hours to determine if the sub-type of influenza is the swine flu.

State health officials have sent some local influenza cases to state labs.

"We have released one suspect case that was sent to a state lab for testing and we're waiting to see what that is," Orange County Health Department spokesman Dain Weister said. "There may be more than one [case]. Any influenza-like cases are being sent and being looked at."

According to a Monday afternoon update posted by the CDC, there were no confirmed human cases of the swine flu infection in Florida.


A sneak peek inside Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Orlando Sentinel - Fans of Jiko-The Cooking Place and Boma-Flavors of Africa have a new reason to dine at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge as Sanaa debuts May 1 in the resort's new Kidani Village expansion.

The menu in the 150-seat, family-oriented restaurant reflects the art of African cooking with Indian flavors. Pronounced "Sah-NAH," the restaurant boasts interiors inspired by African art and remarkable views to a savannah of free-roaming animals. Kidani Village, a Disney Vacation Club property, is the newest resort addition to Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Sanaa's cuisine is a melting pot of tastes from the islands of the Indian Ocean that all are part of Africa – Zanzibar, the Seychelles, Comoro Islands, Mauritius and Madagascar. "These islands were on important trade routes with influences from French, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Arab and Chinese traders," says Chef Bob Getchell. "The diverse spices and flavors give us an endless array of options for Sanaa."


Walt Disney World Resort Now on the iPhone & iPod touch

Time Stream - Now guests of Walt Disney World Resort can access a powerful new vacation planning and in-park guide on their iPhone or iPod touch.  At over 200 pages, including over 150 photos, they now can have all of Walt Disney World Resort in the palm of their hand wherever they go and whenever they want.

Portland, OR – TimeStream Software announces the release of the powerful new “Walt Disney World” Notescast for the iPhone and iPod touch. 

With over 200 pages of information, over 150 photos, and rich in-depth content, the new Walt Disney World Notescast is a comprehensive vacation planner and in-park guide covering nearly every aspect of the entire resort and all four theme parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and more.

Now available from the Apple App Store, the new Walt Disney World Notescast contains a wealth of categories, including

*  118 Walt Disney World Attractions

*  Walt Disney World Annual Events

*  Walt Disney World – Explore the Magic

*  Walt Disney World Parades

*  Walt Disney World Resorts

*  Walt Disney World Tickets

*  Walt Disney World Phone Numbers

*  Walt Disney World Tips

*  Walt Disney World Tours

*  Walt Disney World Vacation Packages

*  Disney's Magical Express

*  How to Plan Your Vacation

*  Hidden Mickey Tours

*  The History of Walt Disney World

*  Find Disney Characters

*  Guests with Disabilities

*  Vacation Planning Tips

*  What's New

*  What's Coming

*  And much more!

“This Notescast contains a phenomenal amount of valuable information.”, said Mike Westby of TimeStream Software.  “From in-depth descriptions of every attraction and the history of Walt Disney World, to phone numbers and even Hidden Mickey tours, I think users will be very pleased with the quality and value we included in this Notescast title.”

The Walt Disney World Notescast for the iPhone and iPod touch is available at the App Store.

The Walt Disney World Notescast is also available for the iPod Classic, iPod 5th Generation and iPod nano at www.Notescasts.com.


From 200 page interactive Notescast titles for Walt Disney World Resort in Florida to a complete Notescast guide to the Sheraton Maui Resort in Hawaii, TimeStream Software is the leader in the development of iPhone and iPod Notescast titles for both businesses and individual users.

Today global brands have discovered using TimeStream Software’s Notescasts to extend their marketing and sales message, as well as web site content, beyond the PC and out into the mobile lives of an all new customer channel of over 135 million iPhone and iPod users. 

Learn more about mobile marketing with Notescasts at www.TimeStream-Software.com.


What the App Store is for the iPhone, www.Notescasts.com is to the iPod Classic and iPod nano.

Individual Notescast titles are available for posting, as well as downloading at www.Notescasts.com.  iPod owners will find such Notescast titles as Walt Disney World Notescast, Walt Disney World Secrets Notescast, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Hidden Mickeys Notescast, Disneyland Park Notescast, Glacier National Park Notecast, Sheraton Maui Resort Notescast and more.

To learn more, visit www.Notescasts.com


With 20-year anniversary, take our Disney Hollywood Studios quiz

Theme Park Rangers - Disney's Hollywood Studios marks its 20th birthday on Friday. Walt Disney World's third theme park emphasized the studio tour and production facilities, but has added notable thrill rides and shows over the past two decades. Here's a pop quiz — 20 questions, if you will — about the attraction formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios.

1Name the month and year that its name change took place.

2True or false: The Star Tours gift shop is named Star Wares.

3What actress appears with members of Aerosmith in the taped pre-show of Rock 'n' Roller Coaster?

4In Sid Cahuenga's One of a Kind Antiques and Curios store, a jacket worn by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins is for sale. Is the posted asking price more or less than $12,500?

5Before the big Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat was added in 2001, what was considered the architectural icon of the park?

6The concept for the Great Movie Ride initially was pitched for what theme park?

7What three characters are elevated at the climax of Block Party Bash?

8The park's Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant serves an entree created at the original Brown Derby in Hollywood, Calif. Name it.

9At the entrance to Toy Story Mania, Scrabble letters form what six-letter word?

10In the One Man's Dream attraction, what entertainer is seen being filmed while dancing for a Walt Disney project? (Hint: He's an Orlando high school graduate.)

11The Hollywood Tower Hotel — which houses Tower of Terror — was built in what year (according to the date on the gate) — 1917, 1923 or 1945?

12In MuppetVision 3-D, which character says "It's called 'A Salute to All Nations but Mostly America.'"

13Whose bronze bust is currently not seen in the A.T.A.S. Hall of Fame area: Walt Disney, Bob Mackie, Mary Tyler Moore or Oprah Winfrey?

14In 1995, the Earffel Tower was altered to honor which NBA player?

15What area of the park was demolished to make room for the "Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show"?

16What major retailer was contracted to sponsor a store at the park, but the deal was dropped before opening?

17What musical stage show was performed in the space now behind the San Francisco backdrop of Streets of America?

18What is the name of the body of water that's home to the dinosaur-shaped ice-cream shop?

19American Idol Experience was preceded by what stage show in that space?

20On opening day of Disney-MGM, what was the one-day, one-park admission price for adults at Disney World parks?


1. January 2008.2. False. It's Tattoine Traders. 3. Illeana Douglas. 4. More — $65,000. 5. The Earffel Tower and/or Chinese Theater. 6. Epcot. 7. Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone. 8. Cobb salad. 9. Midway. 10. Buddy Ebsen. 11. 1917. 12. Sam Eagle. 13. Mary Tyler Moore 14. Big blue goggles were added to salute Horace Grant of the Orlando Magic. 15. Residential Street of the Backlot Tour (Home of the Golden Girls house and others). 16. Sears. 17. "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." 18. Echo Lake. 19. "Doug: Live!" 20. $29 plus tax. (Bonus: Parking was $3.)


ABC's `Lost' marks 100th episode this week

AP - "Lost" marks its 100th episode Wednesday, an achievement its producers consider as surreal as the TV drama's mind-bending plots.

Executive producer Damon Lindelof, one of the series' creators, recalled meeting with ABC executives four years ago to pitch the idea of plane crash survivors stranded on an island of mystery and danger.

They were asked where the "Lost" saga would stand at, say, episode No. 74.

"I said, `We're probably not going to get past episode 13. Let's all be honest about that upfront," Lindelof recalled, adding, "If I traveled back in time to tell myself after that meeting that we were going to make it to 100 and still have a season beyond that, I would have laughed in my face."

Fans will appreciate the notion of time-skipping, since the current season has reveled in just that. "Lost" has flung major characters across decades, leaving them -- and the audience -- feverishly attempting to keep events straight and the end game in sight.

"It was always part of the master plan that the time-travel elements in the show would become more overt," said executive producer Carlton Cuse. He recalled an early episode in which Sayid (Naveen Andrews) is fiddling with a radio and hears 1940s music.

"That was a signpost we were planting early ... that this island was not in the same place and space time as the real world. We knew that in season five we were going to deploy this and the show would become more overtly a genre show, and we were OK with that," Cuse said.

"We've always felt we had to make bold choices," he said, and the audience has responded.

In Wednesday's episode, titled "The Variable" and airing at 9 p.m. EDT, viewers will get a few more pieces of the puzzle.

"We're not promising any big whiz-bang flash pyrotechnics," said Lindelof. But it does serve as what he calls "a companion piece" to another memorable episode, last season's "The Constant," in which Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) endured vicious, turbulence-caused side effects.

"This season has really been about the rules of time travel as explained by Daniel Faraday," Lindelof said, referring to the brainiac played by Jeremy Davies. "We've never done a flashback story for Faraday, so he's very mysterious. Some of those mysteries will be answered in this episode."

Viewers also check in on Desmond, wounded in the April 8 episode as he defended his beloved Penny (Sonya Walger) from vengeful, gun-toting Ben (Michael Emerson).

"We find out whether it's fatal," said Cusick, his tone carefully neutral. The "Lost" cast is trained to avoid disclosures, but he concedes the show's penchant for killing off characters does take a toll.

"Every season it's, `Am I here, or not? Do I pack?'" Cusick said. "Ever since Penny and I were reunited, I feel like Desmond's story could easily be done. ... He found what he wanted."

But then Cusick suggests there may be more to come. Desmond has yet to confront the guilt of leaving others behind on the island, Cusick said, and perhaps he's among those who must journey back as part of a grand reckoning.

Or not. The actor isn't 'fessing up.

Neither are Lindelof and Cuse, as the two-hour May 13 season finale draws near. But there will be answers someday, they promise.

"Lost" is set to wrap after one more season, a decision the producers made to allow for a carefully plotted finale. According to Lindelof, it will be a "very cool ending, and enormously satisfying."

ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.


Bestselling Tokyo Disneyland book used passages from publication without permission

The Mainichi Daily News -  bestselling book about Tokyo Disneyland includes passages taken from an official Disney publication without permission from park operator Oriental Land Co. (OLC), it's been learned.

Sanctuary Publishing, the Tokyo-based publisher of "The Last Parade -- Heartwarming True Stories from Tokyo Disneyland," has admitted using the work without consent, and has released an apology.

The passages used come from "Making Dreams Come True -- This is Our Job", an anthology of 55 employees' experiences at the company published last April by OLC.

According to Sanctuary Publishing, the editor of the book chose to include five or six stories almost word for word, with author Masaru Nakamura adding short comments to each. The company says it's still investigating the reprinting.

"We saw the similarities. The copyright belongs to our company, and we didn't authorize the use by the author or publisher," said an OLC spokesperson.

The author of one episode about a seriously ill girl said: "It stains her memory. It's tragic."


Disney woos Warner Bros exec for Iberia

Hollywood Reporter - DISNEY-ABC-ESPN Television has hired Warner Brothers executive Juan Mayne to be its vice president of program distribution in Iberia, it was announced Tuesday.

He will lead Disney's distribution teams in Spain and Portugal across free to air, terrestrial, pay-per-view, cable/satellite and all technologies such as VOD, broadband and mobile and build new revenue streams.

Mayne, currently Warner Bros International Television Distribution VP, sales for Southern Europe, joins Disney's Madrid office. He will report to Francesca Tauriello, SVP program distribution, South EMEA, effective June 30.

Disney-ABC-ESPN Television's channel distribution team license 24 Disney-branded Channels, 8 ESPN channels and Jetix Europe's 15 channels, in the region.


Marvel X-Men: Volume 1 on DVD

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment - Experience the classic Marvel legacy as the X-Men animated series finally explodes onto DVD for the first time.

Featuring stories adapted directly from the original comic books, this collection is a piece of Marvel history and a must-have for every X-Men fan.

Discover the origins of your favorite characters and uncover the secrets of Magneto and more of the world's most diabolical villains in X-Men: Volume 1. Relive the first 16 episodes of the series, beginning with the 2-part "Night of The Sentinels."


Marvel X-Men: Volume 2 on DVD

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment - Prepare for more electrifying action as the X-Men return in Volume 2 of the classic animated series!

The amazing mutant heroes are back for 2 discs full of spine-tingling battles with Mr. Sinister, Omega Red and more of the most fiendish villains on earth!

Viewers will be a part of Marvel history with these stories adapted directly from the original comic books. Experience 16 thrilling episodes, including the 5-part amazing epic "Phoenix Saga," in this must-have collection!


Euro Disney SCA H1 net loss 85.4 million euros

Forbes - Euro Disney SCA:

* H1 net loss 85.4 million euros vs 2007 loss 43.4 mln

* H1 resort revenues down 4 percent to 554 million due to lower guest spending and a 3 percentage point decrease in occupancy

* Says it will repay 43.2 million euros of its borrowings in the last six months of fiscal year 2009, consistent with scheduled maturities


Eden Espinosa Set to Sing New Disneyland Fireworks Spectacular 'MAGICAL' Theme Song

Broadway World - Magical is a new Disney fireworks spectacular created especially to celebrate Summer Nightastic! at Disneyland. Powerhouse vocalist Eden Espinosa, a longtime signer at Disneyland who starred in the Broadway production of BKLYN and also played Elphaba in Wicked, sings Magical's theme song as well as classic Disney tunes like "Baby Mine." Other songs included in this extravaganza include "Second Star to the Right" from Peter Pan, "Hi-diddle-dee (An Actor's Life for Me)" from , "Jolly Holiday" from Mary Poppins and "So This is Love" from Cinderella. Longtime Disneyland composer Greg Smith supplies the score.

Press notes state that, "Tinker Bell is once again your host, waving her wand to ignite the brilliant color, stunning special effects and charming music. But she won't be alone in the sky this summer. Dumbo will make his surprise airborne debut in the new show. Tink's sparkling touch awakens a fantastic array of Disney's most magical characters, from Pinocchio to Mary Poppins to Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, and the Three Good Fairies from Sleeping Beauty (wait 'til you see Flora and Merryweather engaged in colorful overhead battle between their signature colors pink and blue!)."

Espinosa is best known for her starring role as Elphaba in the Broadway, Los Angeles and San Francisco runs of WICKED. Espinosa's other Broadway credits include the title role in Brooklyn, as well as her starring role as Maureen in the final Broadway company of Rent. She also recently appeared in the title role of Flora, the Red Menace for Reprise Theatre Company in Los Angeles. She can be heard on such recordings as Hair (Actor's Fund Benefit recording), The Maury Yeston Songbook, Bright Lights, Big City, John McDaniel Live at Joe's Pub and Scott Alan's Dreaming Wide Awake.

Eden Espinosa will make a triumphant return to Southern California with Eden Espinosa-ME on Friday, July 24, 2009 as part of Upright Cabaret's Wicked Summer Nights at the Ford Amphitheatre. With special guest Audra Mae (singer/songwriter, Judy Garlands grand-niece).


Keeping the Disney magic fresh

 - Being known as one of the most magical places on earth means the magic needs to stay fresh.

It's a prerequisite Walt Disney World Resort has no problem meeting and its latest array of new attractions celebrates the magic in everything from birthdays to Barack Obama.

You say it's your birthday

For visitors looking to make a special celebration truly "special," Disney offers new promotions to mark any noteworthy day. First and foremost, on your birthday you can gain free admission to any Walt Disney World theme park (or Disneyland) in 2009. Preregistration can be done online, and proof of your birthdate is required when you arrive.

You can arrange for a personal birthday cake, party favours, birthday hats or even a birthday scrapbook kit as a souvenir of the special day.

"Birthdays are the one occasion that we all share every year," notes Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We thought a free birthday ticket would be the icing on the cake as we extend this new 'celebration vacation' trend to Disney Parks. . . . Sharing a milestone at Disney connects families, friends and generations." In addition to birthdays, Disney offers packages and suggested activities for people celebrating everything from anniversaries, honeymoons, weddings and proposals to reunions and personal triumphs, such as graduations and new jobs.

Who says there's no free lunch?

Over the years, the dining choices at Walt Disney World's four theme parks have become plentiful and sometimes a bit confusing. To ensure visitors have reservations at the restaurants of their choice, and to help families economize, Disney introduced a dining plan. The plan, which includes one table-service meal, one snack and one quick-service meal daily, is now available free for visitors who purchase a five-night/six-day room and park ticket package. The offer is limited; it must be booked by June 21 and used between Aug. 16 and Oct. 3, 2009. Details are at disneyparks.ca or at 407-939-7696, package code KEX.

Another highlight of the Disney World food scene is the recent announcement that celeb chef Cat Cora will be opening a Mediterranean-style family restaurant at Disney's Boardwalk Resort. Cora was the first female Iron Chef on the show of the same name.

The new "picnic in the park" at the Animal Kingdom theme park is also a refreshing and relaxing option, for those looking for a less structured meal.

Living the american Idol dream

American Idol is still one of the most popular television shows on the air, so it's no surprise that its creators have partnered with the folks who run the world's most popular theme park. The result is an attraction called The American Idol Experience, which allows some visitors to test their vocal chops in front of a live audience.

Guests 14 years of age and older can audition for one of several singing slots on the day they visit. (Go early if you want to secure one of the audition spots.) Audience members vote for their favourite singers and the best of the day appear for a finale evening show at the attraction, at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The shows take place in a 1,000-seat theatre with a set that is reminiscent of the real American Idol stage and includes a confetti-filled moment for the day's top singer.

"Disney parks are all about making dreams come true, and that's exactly what will happen at The American Idol Experience," says Rasulo. "Whether they are onstage singing or in the audience cheering on their favourite performer, our guests will feel immersed in a world of instant stardom."

Up, up and away

At Florida's Downtown Disney, it's easy to get carried away by a new"ride" that sees visitors board a tethered balloon and soar up to 120 metres into the sky.

The 360-degree view is magical, at either day or night, during the six-minute adventure. Up to 30 people at a time can board the gondola underneath the 30-metre-high balloon.

Cost is $16 US each for riders aged 10 and up, and $10 US for those aged three to nine.

Another newer attraction at Disney World is a "mild but wild" thriller called the Crush 'n' Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon. At this water park feature, a rider boards a one-person raft that is propelled through dips, drops and turns by jets of water.

Also on the "new" list is Finding Nemo--The Musical at Animal Kingdom. Big puppets, live actors and original music will entertain family members of all ages during this 30-minute show.

Obama-mania hits disney

One of the Disney attractions that's proven to be educational, as well as entertaining, over the years is The Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom.

In this audio-animatronics attraction, talking/moving replicas of American presidents take centre stage to discuss and celebrate the history of the United States.

A number of the show's elements are now being updated, including the addition of an audio-animatronic Barack Obama. July is the scheduled date for the reopening of this show.


Monday April 27, 2009

Disneyland recycles old shows into Summer Nightastic
Disney Gets Ready–Finally–to Hold Hands With Hulu
Man accused in bank robbery caught at Disneyland
Star sighting: Katy Perry, Hayden Panettiere at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney To Plant Almost 2 Million Trees Thanks To EARTH Opening Week
Scenes from Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration set-up
Disney's nature documentary "Earth" premiered in fifth place with $8.6 million
Garden Club brings Disney to Lecompte
With earnings around the corner, analyst lowers Disney projections
New Disney encyclopedia out tomorrow
Having a blast at Disney's Storm Struck exhibition
Hugh Jackman Spends Some Quality Time With Wife and Kids At Disneyland

Disneyland recycles old shows into Summer Nightastic

Los Angeles Times - With no new major attraction to promote this year, Disneyland has strung together a series of existing nighttime shows under the banner of Summer Nightastic - in the hope visitors will ignore the giant construction site next door that is Disney's California Adventure.

With a heavy sprinkling of pixie dust, Disney has transformed what is normally regarded as periodic maintenance and "plussing" into a smorgasbord of "all new" offerings. A look at the what's-old-is-new-again lineup:

  • The Tomorrowland Terrace stage, which first debuted in 1967, gets redubbed TLT Dance Club, with live bands and DJs.
  • Tinker Bell's Pixie Hollow, added in 2008, gets a LED lighting upgrade and sees a return of the area's old pop-jet fountains.
  • The 17-year-old Fantasmic gets a new 40-foot-tall animated dragon and a pair of eels to accompany Ursula the Sea Witch and high-definition video projectors.
  • The circa-1972 Electrical Parade brings back three old floats (including Snow White and Pinocchio) and swaps in Tinker Bell for the traditional Blue Fairy lead float, which is sure to irk Disney purists.
  • Continuing a half-century nighttime tradition, the "Magical" fireworks show (I wonder how long it took to come up with that name?) marks the most dramatic change from past seasons — with the addition of a flying "Dumbo" character and a magic theme featuring music and audio clips from "Pinocchio," "Mary Poppins," "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty."

To paraphrase Uncle Walt: Disneyland will never be complete as long as old shows can be repackaged as new again.

Summer Nightastic runs from June 12 through August 23.


Disney Gets Ready–Finally–to Hold Hands With Hulu

All Things Digital - Is a deal between Disney and Hulu, which has been the works for many months, finally ready for primetime? Yes, say multiple people familiar with the matter, who tell me an announcement should be coming in the next few days.

The arrangement will add Disney (DIS) programming–primarily television shows from ABC like “Lost,” although it will also include some of the company’s movies–to the joint venture between GE’s (GE) NBC and News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox. In return for giving Hulu exclusive access to some of its content, but not for some high-profile programming like ESPN, Disney will get an equity stake in the joint venture and seats on the company’s board.

It’s a big deal for Disney, which until now has been focused on driving Web traffic to its own properties. And it’s a big deal for Hulu, which has now locked up three of the four broadcast networks.

Does all of this sound familiar? It should. It’s pretty much where things stood nearly a month ago when I was told a deal was going to be struck “any day.”

So what was the hold up?

Just the tedium of i-dotting and t-crossing, I’m told. In this case, it comes in the form of haggling over programming decisions: Which shows and movies will appear on Hulu, how quickly they appear after their offline debut, how long they will stay on the site, etc.

A week ago, an executive involved in the negotiations told me the deal was “down to the short strokes.” By the end of last week, the four companies involved were massaging language for press releases, I’m told.

The long gestation period has led some observers to wonder if other players with a stake in online video–like Comcast (CMCSA), Google (GOOG) or CBS (CBS)–had been able to convince Disney’s Bob Iger not to go forward with the pact.

“Everyone’s been trying to tell Iger how stupid this deal is,” a TV executive tells me. The nuance of the critiques differs depending on who’s making them, but all of them make the same point: Throwing in with Hulu will strengthen the joint venture, which also includes investor Providence Equity Partners, but it won’t provide Disney with significant upside.

But the complaints seem to have fallen on deaf ears. While Google was able to get a deal with Disney to run excerpts of some of its programming on YouTube–a consolation prize, basically–it’s been unable to cobble together a deal for long-form programming.

Earlier this month, YouTube unveiled a new Hulu-like section for movies and television shows. But its inventory of TV shows and movies remains paltry, and it doesn’t have any of the first-run shows that the TV networks highlight on their own sites (and on Hulu).

One thing to watch for going forward, regardless of when the Disney/ABC deal gets done, is how much access to those first-run shows Hulu users get.

Hulu is a hit with viewers, but its network backers are still wary of training viewers to expect to watch their favorite shows on the Web, whenever they want to watch them.

Which is why many of Hulu’s first-run TV shows have particularly short shelf lives. You can only see about half of this season’s run of NBC’s “The Office,” for instance. And if you want to watch new episodes of “Rescue Me,” which airs on News Corp.’s FX, you’ve got to be patient, then act fast. New episodes don’t show up on Hulu until eight days after they premiere on the cable channel, but they don’t last there for more than a couple of weeks.

In TV parlance, this now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t programming is called “windowing,” and casual Hulu users tend not to notice or complain about it. A small dust-up in January about “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” a disappearing FX sitcom, is the exception that proves the rule.

But what happens if NBC, Fox and ABC shows start taking longer to get to the Hulu site and leave sooner? We may find out. An executive at one of the joint venture’s network backers tells me to expect more restrictive windowing in the future as the TV guys try to get a handle on the Web.

Which means that just as the Disney deal pumps more content into Hulu, it may end up becoming harder to find it.


Man accused in bank robbery caught at Disneyland

KSL - Disneyland is known as the happiest place on earth, unless you're the guy who was arrested there Friday for robbing a Utah bank.

It has been a long nine months for Curtis Cordery's parents and family, but they say they're relieved to know their son is alive.

"I just went into tears. It was something we didn't ever know if it would happen in this life. We didn't know if we would ever see him again, and just knowing that he's OK is such a big relief. It's an answer to prayers," said Marilee Cordery, Curtis' mother.

Her son was finally found at Disneyland, of all places, after months of waiting and wondering.

"Before, we didn't know where he was, if he was safe or alive, for that matter. Now we know, we can deal with it and go on from here," said Brad Cordery, Curtis' father.

Curtis was spotted by a patron of the park, a visitor who just happened to be an old neighbor.

"He did the thing that we ask people to do. Instead of confronting Mr. Cordery, he contacted the security detail and police, which made the arrest," said Salt Lake FBI Special Agent in Charge Tim Fuhrman.

Federal authorities had been looking for Cordery since July. He even made the FBI's Most Wanted List. They believe he is the man seen robbing a South Jordan credit union on the credit union's surveillance video.

"This is one of those almost one-in-a-million type cases that you see on TV," Fuhrman said.

Curtis' parents haven't talked to him yet. "We actually got a call from a pay phone from a 714 area code; we missed the call," Marilee said.

They hope to soon, and when they do, Marilee says she wants to let him know how much they still love him. They know he'll have to pay the consequences for what he did, but they say they'll be there to help him through it.

"He'll have to pay the consequences, but we want to help him get through it," Marilee said.

"And he needs to," Brad added. "But he also needs some help, and we want to help him in any way we can."

Cordery was booked into the Anaheim Detention Facility Friday afternoon. It could be a couple weeks before he returns to Utah.


Star sighting: Katy Perry, Hayden Panettiere at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney News - Wearing Minnie Mouse ears, singer/songwriter Katy Perry (left) and actress/singer Hayden Panettiere (right) strike a pose April 25, 2009 with Minnie Mouse herself at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The duo was enjoying the theme park prior to their evening performance for the Disney Grad Nite, an annual, in-park celebration for high school seniors. Panettiere stars on the hit NBC series “Heroes.” Perry is a multi-platinum recording artist who hit #1 on the “Billboard” charts with two singles from her latest album, “One Of The Boys.” Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort.


Disney To Plant Almost 2 Million Trees Thanks To EARTH Opening Week

Ecorazzi - With weekend box office numbers pouring in, we now have a fairly clear picture of just how many trees Disney may end up planting thanks to people flocking to see the movie EARTH. As you may recall, as part of launching the flick on Earth Day, the media giant pledged to plant a tree for every person that bought a ticket opening week. By our estimates, that may mean almost 2 million new trees.

The film did quite well for a nature documentary — raking in over $14 million (estimated $14,201,000) since Wednesday. Coupled with foreign takes,  it’s box office draw reaches an amazing worldwide gross of $94,120,799! We’re pretty sure, however, that the tree tie-in was for the domestic U.S. count. Either way, planting 2 million trees is no easy task and Disney has yet to explain fully what organization will help them achieve this goal. Stay tuned for official numbers and info…

[Note: Our "almost 2 million trees" estimate is based on the average price of a movie ticket.


Scenes from Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration set-up

Theme Park Rangers - My weekend trip to Magic Kingdom was my first time to see the construction walls down around the home of Stitch's SuperSonic Celebration, set to open May 6 in Tomorrowland.
The stage. Screen was touting Tomorrowland's features.

The sandwich board on stage

The control booth?

Of course, Space Mountain is in rehab. "Flights wil resume in Winter 2009" says this sign. Note the Tomorrowland Transit Authority trains are visible ... but not moving.


Disney's nature documentary "Earth" premiered in fifth place with $8.6 million

AP - Audiences were in the mood for some fatal attraction action at the box office.

Beyonce Knowles and Idris Elba's "Obsessed" debuted as the top weekend movie with $28.5 million in ticket sales. The Sony Screen Gems thriller stars Knowles and Elba as a couple whose ideal marriage lands on the rocks after a psychotic temp played by Ali Larter begins stalking the husband.

The strong opening for "Obsessed" helped maintain Hollywood's hot streak, with overall revenues at about $112 million, up 23.5 percent from the same weekend last year, according to box-office tracker Media By Numbers.

The busy summer season starts Friday with 20th Century Fox's spinoff "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," starring Hugh Jackman in the title role he played in three "X-Men" blockbusters.

Studios head into summer on a box-office tear, with receipts running at a record pace. Revenues for the year are at $3.06 billion, up 17.4 percent over last year. Factoring in higher ticket prices, movie attendance is up 15.7 percent.

"We have never been in this strong a position heading into the summer season, ever," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.

Zac Efron's "17 Again" and Channing Tatum's "Fighting" were neck-and-neck for the No. 2 spot. With Sunday estimates of $11.7 million, the Warner Bros. comedy "17 Again" had the edge. After debuting in first-place a week earlier, "17 Again" raised its 10-day total to $40 million.

Rogue Pictures' "Fighting," starring Tatum and Terrence Howard in the story of a rising star in New York City's underground bare-knuckle fight circuit, debuted with $11.4 million.

The two movies were close enough that rankings could change when final numbers come out Monday.

Paramount's drama "The Soloist" opened at No. 4 with $9.7 million. It stars Jamie Foxx as a schizophrenic music prodigy living on the streets of Los Angeles and Robert Downey Jr. as a reporter who befriends him.

Disney's nature documentary "Earth" premiered in fifth place with $8.6 million, bringing its total to $14.2 million since opening Wednesday.

"Obsessed" was not screened in advance for critics, and those who reviewed it generally trashed the movie as a lame retread of 1987's "Fatal Attraction," which starred Glenn Close as a demented woman pursuing a married man, played by Michael Douglas.

But "Obsessed" had the lure of singer Knowles stepping out from her pop star image and duking it out with the crazy lady threatening her home and marriage.

"There's something about wanting to see Beyonce kick butt. She's taking on one wacked chick, played very well by Ali Larter," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "Let's face it, everyone loves Beyonce, and to see her in this role is a treat."

Documentaries rarely open in nationwide release or break into the top 10, but Disney aimed for a wide audience with "Earth," which traces families of polar bears, elephants and humpback whales over the course of a year.

Disney pledged to plant a tree for every viewer who sees the movie in the first week, with the number climbing to more than 2 million after five days. The film was tied to Earth Day and was the first release of the studio's Disneynature label.

"We just felt like if we make an event out of this, tied it to this whole plant-a-tree effort, tied it to Earth Day, maybe we could break the mold and come up with the kind of opening that you'd be satisfied with on a regular film," said Mark Zoradi, president of Disney's motion-picture group.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Obsessed," $28.5 million.

2. "17 Again," $11.7 million.

3. "Fighting," $11.4 million.

4. "The Soloist," $9.7 million.

5. "Earth," $8.6 million.

6. "Monsters vs. Aliens," $8.5 million.

7. "State of Play," $6.9 million.

8. "Hannah Montana: The Movie," $6.4 million.

9. "Fast & Furious," $6.1 million.

10. "Crank: High Voltage," $2.4 million.


Garden Club brings Disney to Lecompte

The Town Talk - If you've ever visited a Walt Disney theme park, you likely noticed the whimsical topiaries and flower creations scattered throughout the park, all styled after famous characters.

Well, on Thursday, you can see similar creations without the long trip or the expense of hotel rooms and park tickets.

"A Salute to Walt Disney" is the theme to the Lecompte Garden Club's 2009 Standard Flower Show, which will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at historic Smith's Landing at the intersection of Hardy and Water streets.

Admission to the show is free, and refreshments are provided.

Club members will show their entries in five classes, each with a well-known Disney theme. The classes are Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Pocahontas and, of course, Snow White.

Entries in the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo class all will include luminaries, while the Little Mermaid entries all include water.

"Each contestant will create a floral design that artistically interprets the associated Disney movie, within strict technical parameters for the respective classes," reads a press release issued by the club, which has just under 40 members.

In addition, other floral designs and horticulture specimens will be on display.

The club won the National Garden Club's Standard Flower Show first-place Achievement Award for its 2007 show. That showing followed the club's first-place win for the same show at the Louisiana Garden Club Federation's 2008 awards ceremony.

The Lecompte club also competes with other garden clubs, within Louisiana and across the United States, that have between 21 and 49 members.


With earnings around the corner, analyst lowers Disney projections

Tourism Central - With the Walt Disney Co. to report second-quarter results next week, a stock-research firm has again downgraded his earnings projections for the company.

In a note to investors this morning, Pali Capital's Rich Greenberg said he now expects to Disney's operating profit to fall 32 percent for the company's second fiscal quarter, which covers roughly January through March. Greenberg had previously projected Disney's quarterly earnings would fall 22 percent. 

The analyst also lowered his full-year earnings estimates for Disney.

Among the soft spots: Disney's broadcasting and movie studios, and its theme parks, where Greenberg expects only modest declines in attendance thanks to discounts but "mid-single-digit-plus" declines in guest spending.


New Disney encyclopedia out tomorrow

This is Scunthorpe - Get ready for kick-off and learn about all your favorite sports this week, with the Scunthorpe Telegraph.

Part 13 of Disney's Wonderful World of Knowledge encyclopedia is available for £2.95 with a special token in your newspaper tomorrow.

The book, called Sport, gives a full overview of all our favorite pastimes, whether that is running, swimming, kicking a ball or riding a horse.

World-famous events like the Olympics and the World Cup have their place in the encyclopedia, while the sports played by the stars are explained so they can be enjoyed at home or at school.

Starting with athletics, the encyclopedia runs through a range of different sports and shows you how to play them.

All of the lines on the athletics track are there for a reason, whether it is the start line for the 100 metres, the staggered starts of other races or the all-important finish line.

The playing areas of all the featured sports are shown and simplified to make them easy for children to understand when watching their favorite action.

There is also plenty on the history of different games, such as the origins of gymnastics among Ancient Greeks wanting to show their strength and skills.

Football is one of the oldest sports in the world, with the Ancient Chinese and Mexicans known to have played a similar game thousands of years ago.

Football World Cups are held for men and women, as well as youth players. The encyclopedia tells us which countries have been most successful in bringing the trophies home.

The origins of the game of rugby come next, with the story of the boy who picked the ball up and ran with it.

English games such as rugby and football helped to establish sports like American Football.

The encyclopedia explains the American version of the game, with information on the field of play, key players and the measures stars must take to protect their bodies from the hard, physical knocks.

Cricket, racket sports like tennis and badminton, hockey on grass and ice, combat sports and winter sports all have their place, alongside many more.

And there is a special section devoted to the greatest show on Earth, the Olympic Games.

Every page of the encyclopedia is packed with clear, fully-labeled images and diagrams alongside the text.

As ever, the pictures are a bright and colorful mix of drawings and photographs that bring all our favorite sports to life.

And your favorite Disney characters are there every step of the way too, bringing their own unique brand of fun to proceedings.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto can all be found in amusing activities throughout the book, taking part in as many games as possible, with varying success.

The amazing fact boxes on most pages tell us about some of the incredible achievements by sportsmen and women through the years.

Did you know, for example, that Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff did not concede a single goal in 12 international football matches between 1972 and 1974?

Or that the largest number of points scored in a single game of international rugby union was the 50 registered by Ashley Billington for Hong Kong against Singapore in 1994?

Another amazing fact is that the world record for the pole vault is 6 metres – higher than even the tallest giraffe.

The magic of this 24-volume encyclopedia will continue to educate and entertain youngsters and their parents for the next 11 weeks with the Scunthorpe Telegraph.

Titles still to come include Children of the World, Famous People and Birds.

So don't forget to buy your Scunthorpe Telegraph tomorrow to expand your children's Wonderful World of Knowledge – as well as your own.


Having a blast at Disney's Storm Struck exhibition

Royal Gazette - Watching through the windows of your home as a hurricane wreaks destructive havoc outside is quite fun - when the destruction is not actually real.

That is the experience awaiting visitors to Disney's Storm Struck exhibit, which is co-sponsored by Bermuda reinsurer RenaissanceRe.

Thousands of people have endured the virtual storm since Storm Struck opened last summer, with the aim of raising public awareness about the dangers of severe weather and what can be done to mitigate the risks.

With the Risk and Insurance Management Society Conference being staged just up the road at the Orange County Convention Center, some of the delegates ventured to Storm Struck to join the massed ranks of tourists.

Those waiting in the queue outside Storm Struck see a video showing RenRe's 'Wall of Wind' at work. The storm simulation machine, fitted with six engines, each driving counter-rotating sets of 80-inch propellers, can generate windspeeds equivalent to a category three hurricane.

The video shows the machine subjecting a full-scale component of a residential building being subjected to hurricane conditions. The Wall of Wind is based at Florida International University in Miami and is also backed by the International Hurricane Center.

Storm Struck visitors are handed 3D glasses as they enter a small movie theatre. The impression is that you are sitting inside watching the storm through the window. As the wind gains strength, sparks fly from electric wires, the garden furniture takes off and airborne debris hurtles around.

The three-dimensional pictures and the noising of the howling wind create a sense of reality, which is further enhanced by the blasts of air and light spray that occasionally hit viewers in the face.

After the mayhem and destruction, everyone gets a chance to vote on steps to best ensure survival of homes and outbuildings in a re-run of the storm.

The consensus on each step, whether it be what shape of roof to fit or whether to leave windows slightly open or completely shut, is fed into the computer, implemented and then visitors get a chance to see how those choices impact what happens. The show takes about 12 minutes.

Outside, the theatre, interactive displays and devices allow guests to understand the weather perils that affect their own areas. And there is more advice on storm mitigation, as well as a game to keep young children entertained, involving what things you need in your emergency storm kit.

While Storm Struck is based in a state used to severe storms, most of its visitors are from outside Florida.

Hence those who have never witnessed a hurricane get an opportunity to appreciate the forces involved.

Seeing homes blown apart in such a way can only encourage people who might be at risk from any natural catastrophe of taking whatever steps they can to protect their properties and families.

Other backers of the exhibit are the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), construction company Simpson Strong-Tie and US insurer State Farm.


Hugh Jackman Spends Some Quality Time With Wife and Kids At Disneyland

BabyChums - Just recently having to deny that he was gay in an interview, Hugh Jackman put that all aside and decided to spend some time with his wife and two children at Disneyland.

Jackman has been married to his wife Deborah for 13 years. They have two adopted children, Oscar, 8, and Ava, 3.

The family seemed to be enjoying themselves as the rode rides and played around in the park. They even stopped to take pictures with Mickey!


Sunday April 26, 2009

20 Secrets of Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's 'Sonny With a Chance' is betwixt and be-tween
The Jonas brothers to star in their own Disney sitcom
Young chef wins trip to Disney World

20 Secrets of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Chicago Tribune - Hooray for Hollywood! Disney's Hollywood Studios, that is. Why?

Celebrating its 20th birthday Friday is Disney's Hollywood Studios, the third theme park created at Walt Disney World, that tourism behemoth that rates among Chicagoans' top year-round destinations.

But the brainstorm that blossomed into Disney's Hollywood Studios dates back much further. Walt Disney first dreamed of a park that would showcase filmmaking more than 40 years ago; a park where guests could readily take back-lot tours and learn how TV shows and movies are made. With available land sorely lacking in California and an abundance of land in Florida, the initiative shifted to the East Coast Disney property.

Here's the rub: Walt Disney Imagineering was preparing all its wondrous filmmaking and Hollywood ideas in planning a new pavilion for Future World in Epcot. But there proved to be too much to contain in just one pavilion.

That small kernel evolved into an entire theme park based on the golden age of Hollywood. In 1989, Disney-MGM Studios (later to undergo the name change) opened with an enticing premise. Unlike its sister theme parks, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, which built their names on the magic and wonder of the illusions they spun, this new theme park promised to undo all that tantalizing mystery. It would be a sort of "anti-theme park" that wouldn't elaborately layer on magic and fantasy. Instead, this park would unveil the secrets behind television and movie production.

You might not think that a theme park that has built its reputation on extensive revelation would harbor any secrets of its own.

Think again.

Just like any Disney theme park, there are secrets all around you. From hidden Mickeys to underground utility corridors to recessed rooftop lighting, Walt Disney World has amazed and delighted guests for almost 38 years. Disney's Hollywood Studios wouldn't be a true Walt Disney World park if it didn't possess its very own special brand of mystery.

So, in honor of the Studios' 20th anniversary, we throw open the padlocked doors to bring you 20 secrets of Disney's Hollywood Studios.

1. One of the most famous architectural devices that Disney Imagineers use in their construction is forced perspective, where the scaling of buildings decreases the higher up you go. Forced perspective creates the illusion that buildings are larger than they are. In the Magic Kingdom, the buildings along Main Street as well as Cinderella Castle are built using forced perspective. Of course, it's no different at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The facades along Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard incorporate forced perspective, making the thoroughfares appear grander in scale.

2. Disney also is renowned for a meticulous attention to detail that gives its architecture its famous authenticity -- such as the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom, a to-scale replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and the Temple of Heaven in the China pavilion in Epcot, a half-size replica of the Beijing original. Likewise, the buildings that line the Studios' Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard are replicas of Hollywood buildings constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. Walt Disney Imagineering used the original 1927 blueprints from Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood to construct the exact replica in the Studios, with a façade built to full scale. And the Carthay Circle Theater building on Sunset Boulevard is an exact replica of the original Carthay Circle Theater in Beverly Hills, where "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" premiered in 1937.

3. Speaking of attention to detail, when the Imagineers decided to create an attraction based on the "Toy Story" movies, they knew they wanted to build something special. So rather than build just one building, they created an entire district, Pixar Place, based on the Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif., the studio behind "Toy Story," "The Incredibles" and so many Disney-Pixar classics. So the Imagineers exactly matched the color of the brick and mortar from the original Pixar Studios building in the construction of Toy Story Midway Mania. When Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs came to Toy Story Midway Mania and saw how much it looked like "home," his eyes welled with tears.

4. You can't get any more realistic and authentic in detail than the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The back story of this ride states that the Hollywood Tower Hotel was populated by the glitzy and glamorous elite of yesteryear. As always, Disney Imagineers went to extreme lengths to make sure the props, furnishings and decorative items in the lobby accurately reflected that time. But meticulous attention to detail in the Tower has been conjured by an even higher power. As the legend goes, one night while some guests were taking the elevator to the top of the hotel, the building was struck by lightning, sending the elevator zooming to the bottom of the shaft and its riders into the 5th dimension. That's the story every guest learns before riding the attraction. Something that all riders should know: While the Tower was being built, it actually was struck by lightning. How's that for authenticity?

5. And what is it about the mystical, ghostly forces inhabiting the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror? They grab your elevator and send it reeling up and down, back and forth, over and over again. Truth be told, there is more at work here than the force of gravity. The reason the drops are so thrilling is that the elevator falls faster than free fall, faster than the force of gravity. The Tower actually pulls the elevators up and down giving the ride its out-of-this-world thrill.

6. The high -peed, indoor Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was the first Disney roller coaster -- in any of its theme parks in the United States -- to invert riders during the ride. The dark interior, rock-concert lighting and thundering soundtrack from Aerosmith pumps up the excitement and ambience of the ride. But the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster was once an outdoor coaster. Many people think the coaster was constructed inside the building that houses it. Actually, the coaster was built first, in the great outdoors, and then the building was assembled around it.

7. The high-speed launch of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is one of the attraction's great rushes. There are three inversions in the ride -- two rollover loops and one corkscrew. As riders enter the first inversion, they are feeling a G-force between 4 and 5, more than astronauts feel.

8. Of course, size and statistics play a big role in Disney's Hollywood Studios. Perfect example: the Sorcerer's Hat. The Studios' main icon, dedicated on Dec. 5, 2001, to commemorate Walt Disney's 100th birthday, is a giant showpiece based on the hat worn by Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice in "Fantasia." The hat sits on a foundation made from enough concrete to cover a football field. The Sorcerer's Hat is painted with a custom technique called "chameleon paint" that shifts color as guests move around it. The fiberglass hat stands 122 feet tall and has an interior space of 60,000 cubic feet. That converts to a hat size of 6067/8.

9. Even a former Disney-MGM Studios icon has a hat tale to tell. Before the Sorcerer's Hat was built in the main plaza of Hollywood Boulevard, the Earfell Tower served as the Studios' official icon. The 130-foot water tower doesn't actually contain any water. But the picturesque black mouse ears (hat size 3423/8) instilled the tower with landmark status from Day One.

10. Fantasmic! the laser, fireworks and water-animation extravaganza, proved to be such a smash at Disneyland that a 6,900-seat amphitheater (with room for an additional 3,000 standing guests) was constructed at Disney's Hollywood Studios. A mountainous island stage surrounded by water serves as the setting for the 50 performers in a multimedia show that brings to life scenes from many Disney animated classics. But in true theatrical form, the part of the stage that you see is only what they want you to see. That mountaintop setting is actually 571/2 feet tall, housing six levels plus a basement.

11. When it comes to sheer size, nothing beats the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. In its quest to reveal filmmaking special-effects secrets, the attraction replicates the famous opening sequence from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," in which Indiana must outrun a huge stone ball. To re-create that scene, the cavernous space of the Studios' attraction is transformed into the Mayan temple -- the heaviest piece of moving scenery on the planet, tipping the scales at 100 tons. The giant rolling ball alone weighs 440 pounds.

12. Let's move from the heaviest to the largest. One of the legendary aspects of all Disney theme parks are the hidden Mickeys, the mouse head-and-ears shape that the Imagineers concealed inside attractions, on vehicles, in restaurants -- just about everywhere. The largest one ever created was once very prominent, but earthbound guests couldn't even see it. The entire main courtyard of Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Chinese Theatre once formed Mickey Mouse's face. Echo Lake formed one ear, the roofs of Playhouse Disney and the Brown Derby formed another ear, the eyes were gray ovals in the pavement, and the mouth was the courtyard in front of the Great Movie Ride. Over the years, certain aspects have been altered or disappeared -- for example, the Sorcerer's Hat obliterated the nose. But the remainder still exists in the plaza.

13. Stroll down Hollywood Boulevard any afternoon, and you'll be able to enjoy the explosive energy of the Block Party Bash, a party and dance interactive traveling parade. But did you know that Block Party Bash is the sixth full-fledged parade presented by the Studios in its 20-year history? The first was Aladdin's Royal Caravan, which debuted Dec. 21, 1992. The longest-running Studios parade was Disney Stars and Motor Cars, which ran for 61/2 years, winding up on March 8, 2008.

14. In 1995, the Studios presented the Osborne Spectacle of Lights, an extravaganza of millions of holiday lights donated by Jennings Osborne, a businessman from Arkansas who had designed the light display for his home. In 2006 the Imagineers took the next step by unveiling the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, in which lights flicker and dance to the beat of various holiday songs. The light display consists of more than 5 million lights, 35 miles of electrical cable and 10 miles of rope lights.

15. During planning for the high-speed thrill ride Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, the Imagineers knew they needed to select one of the world's greatest bands around which to build the back story for the attraction. They decided Aerosmith would be the perfect fit. But initially the Imagineers were unable to reach Steven Tyler and Joe Perry because they were vacationing with their families at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

16. Every Walt Disney World theme park icon contains some type of attraction or facility. So what's inside the Sorcerer's Hat? Nothing. It's the first WDW theme park icon void of any special attraction.

17. The Great Movie Ride immerses guests into famous sequences from some of Tinseltown's classic movies, from Gene Kelly's dance routine in "Singin' in the Rain" to an alien attack sequence from "Alien." But it's all capped off when guests become part of "The Wizard of Oz" and are transported to Munchkinland, where they face the Wicked Witch of the West. Just before guests enter the scene, they are treated to a scene from "Fantasia." But what's with all the wind? Actually, the room originally was designed to house the Kansas tornado that would whisk guests over the rainbow and into Munchkinland.

18. For Disney, the back story is the backbone of each attraction. Nothing propels the story along like a show with big character or perhaps a show with larger-than-life characters. The Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a breathtaking retelling of the classic movie. The audience is plunged under the sea through the use of lasers, smoke, showering water and bubbles. More than 100 black-light puppets musically welcome guests "under the sea." But even they are dwarfed by the villainous Ursula, who at 12 feet high and 10 feet wide is just about the largest Ursula ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering.

19. Speaking of larger-than-life characters, Disney also is renowned for its trademarked Audio-Animatronics characters, the electronic wizardry that makes U.S. presidents, various historical figures and classic movie stars come amazingly to life. But the Mr. Potato Head figure at Toy Story Midway Mania represents significant advances in Audio-Animatronic technology. Mr. Potato Head is the first such figure whose mouth appears to form actual words when he's talking. It's also the first Audio-Animatronic figure than can remove a body part and then reattach it (his ear).

20. So exactly how complex is Toy Story Midway Mania? The smash-hit attraction takes guests on a raucous 3-D ride through virtual-reality carnival games. Guests wear 3-D glasses and use a spring-action shooter to break plates, play ring toss, burst balloons with darts, hit moving bull's-eyes, among other virtual games. For the attraction to respond to every pull of every guest's shooter while shuttling trams through the Midway course (as well as propelling virtual 3-D objects that pop out of the screen and whir past guests), there are more than 150 computers communicating over multiple networks.


Disney's 'Sonny With a Chance' is betwixt and be-tween

Los Angeles Times
 - How is there not an "Oh No You Di'nt!" awards show in real life? It exists on "Sonny With a Chance," the new Demi Lovato vehicle on the Disney Channel (Sundays at 8 p.m.), and like many things on this sitcom, which sends up Young Hollywood in ways only Old Hollywood might appreciate, it's modern and funny and knowing and, ultimately, true.

For Lovato, a rising Disney talent, "Sonny" is an uncomplicated retreat from what's become an increasingly complicated public life, the latest in a long line of Disney Channel cleanses. Lovato's BFF Selena Gomez stars in "Wizards of Waverly Place," occasional Lovato/Gomez antagonist Miley Cyrus is the star of "Hannah Montana," and the Jonas Brothers, for whom Lovato has opened on tour, debut this week with their own Disney Channel series, "Jonas."

All of these young actor-singers have already transcended the tween base with which they made their names, but here they remain. It's not so much a nod to the increasing sophistication of children as it's a concession to the managers and handlers who would like to keep these stars infantilized, trapped in a barely pubescent amber, for as long as possible.

On "Sonny," Lovato plays Sonny Munroe, plucked from the Internet to join the cast of "So Random!," a kids-only sketch comedy show. She's a Disney Channel archetype -- savvy and plucky brunets are often the heroes at the center of the action here. Lovato, with a sharp grin, an abundance of poise and no apparent need to take herself seriously -- thus far, she's been on the receiving end of food-in-face gags at least twice -- is a winning lead.

There are rules for the supporting cast too. For example, blonds may be popular, but they're also conniving. Here, Tawni Hart (Tiffany Thornton), the star whose authority Sonny usurps, is a pretty girl doing unpretty things: shredding other cast members' fan mail and telling Sonny's friend Lucy, who is visiting from out of town, "You must be the best friend I've heard just enough about."

Chad Dylan Cooper (Sterling Knight), a well-practiced narcissist in the Zac Efron and Chad Michael Murray mold, is the star of a rival show, "McKenzie Falls," a mature teen melodrama. At his birthday party, he serves Chadaccinos and Shish-ka-Chads, and brushes off a conversation by announcing, "Excuse me, I've gotta go schmooze the Bonus Jonas." That would be Frankie, who is 8. And in fairness, probably worth schmoozing.

Knight plays the part with self-satisfied derision. "Let's just get this over with," he tells Sonny before their rival casts square off in a game of musical chairs. "I've gotta get my teeth bleached in 20 minutes. Did you know there are 80 shades of white?"

Also, there's Nico and Grady (Brandon Mychal Smith and Doug Brochu), a black-white comic duo, and Zora (Allisyn Ashley Arm), the youngest cast member, who sleeps in a prop room sarcophagus and often eavesdrops on other cast members while hiding in an air shaft, simultaneously the cast's id and its ego. (In one scene soundtracked by creepy violin, a curtain is pulled back to reveal Zora, fiddling away.)

"Sonny" bears many of the burdens of shows aimed at children: gags that privilege sights over words, plain camerawork, jokes about food and excretion, characters playing aggressively to type. But here, at least the types are clever.

Much as "Hannah Montana" before it unraveled fame in a manner savvier than its target audience could fully appreciate, there are glimmers here of grown folks grappling with how young people navigate the transition to fame -- or, more broadly, adulthood. In interviews, Lovato has called the show " '30 Rock' for kids," but really it's "Kids Incorporated" with range and back story.

And often, there are genuine laughs, especially for the "So Random!" sketches-within-the-show. In one, Nico and Grady play grandmothers squaring off in a boxing ring, competing in bouts of moaning about old age and boasting about their grandchildren. In another, less funny but more bawdy, Grady plays Dolphin Boy, who spouts a stream of water every time he gets excited or nervous about a girl.

The best, though, is the Check It Out Girls, a conceit in the spirit of great "Saturday Night Live" sketches -- Adam Sandler and David Spade's Gap Girls, or Kristen Wiig's Target Lady -- and played by Lovato and Thornton as if in a reverie. Dressed in matching outfits and working (in the loosest sense) a register at a supermarket, they banter back and forth -- check this out, check that out -- oblivious to the world around them, shrugging off responsibility, and reminding how not all kids have to juggle identities.


The Jonas brothers to star in their own Disney sitcom
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
 - Pop music stars The Jonas Brothers -- Kevin, Joe and Nick -- are about to become TV stars.

Not that TV is new territory for them. Disney Channel is largely responsible for their success -- through music videos and an appearance in last summer's "Camp Rock" -- so it makes sense that the cable network will be the home of their first weekly TV series, "JONAS" (8 p.m. Saturday).

In the program, the brothers play a fictional fraternal rock band just trying to live normal lives despite their fame. Their TV characters have the same first names, but their last name is Lucas. Executive producer Michael Curtis said the band is called JONAS because in the show the boys live on Jonas Street

"We've tried to create a fusion of a sitcom and a music video and use original Jonas Brothers songs as the foundation to glue it together," said Gary Marsh, entertainment president of Disney Channels Worldwide.

At the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January, Marsh described "JONAS" as a cross between "The Monkees" and "Flight of the Conchords;" producers compared the show to The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night."

During one rainy beach trip, the brothers watched episodes of "The Monkees" and "The Partridge Family," so they had some idea of what to expect from "JONAS."

"I think for us, we were excited to incorporate our music into this process," Kevin Jonas said. "It adds a whole other element for us. That's where our passion is in our hearts."

The littlest "bonus Jonas," Frankie, will also appear along with their real-life head of security, Big Rob Feggans, who plays a similar role in the fictional universe of "JONAS."

The show's original concept had the brothers playing spies.

"Their cover was blown by Dick Cheney," executive producer Curtis joked. "The spy concept was very big and very ambitious and it started to not feel quite right. As the band got bigger and bigger, doing a show that captured more of their real lives and trying to turn that into a more grounded, real version of what they might be doing became more interesting to do and more fun to do."

During the Disney Channel press conference in January, Nick was the quickest to answer questions on behalf of the brothers. He also said he's had the most difficult time transitioning to acting.

"I'm kind of a perfectionist. I'm very hard on myself when it comes to the acting," Nick said, adding that it's been difficult to translate his own personality to the TV character that's loosely based on him. "In real life I have a very dry sense of humor and sometimes I can't master that on camera. I'm still learning."

As for how they keep grounded, the brothers said they could go wild and trash their guitars on stage but then "it would be on YouTube," Joe said.

The Internet is clearly on their minds when they were asked about rumors that surface, like the notion that one of the brothers might go solo.

"I don't think so," Joe said, looking at his brothers, "unless one of you guys wants to lay it out here."

"Rumors are always out there," Kevin said. "I just joined a wrestling club in Asia is a new one."

"Are you serious?" Joe joked. "That's just awesome."

"You just roll with it," Kevin said. "You know who you are and what's true and you just laugh about it."

"Sometimes comedians will make jokes about you at an awards show," Joe said, referring to Russell Brand at the MTV Video Music Awards last year, "and you have to laugh it off because that's their job. It's kind of flattering. It's like, wow, they used me as their prop."


Young chef wins trip to Disney World

The Olympian - At age 10, Macall Prengel is already a veteran cook.

She’s also an award-winning one.

The Olympia girl is one of seven young bakers from across the country who will travel to Walt Disney World in May to compete in a contest sponsored by Easy-Bake, the toy light-bulb-powered oven that’s been introducing kids to cooking since 1963.

The oven, which Macall received as a birthday gift several years ago, helped get her hooked on food creation.

“I like making desserts, like cakes and cookies,” says Macall. “I like eating it, and just the fun of making it.”

Easy-Bake offers mixes that include all the ingredients a young cook needs to get started.

“There’s these little cupcake things that are about that big,” she says, holding her fingers in a circle the diameter of a nickel. “There are all the frostings you can make with it.”

But for her contest entry, Macall built on a timeless kid favorite: s’mores.

Her recipe for S’mores Snacks/Chocolately Peanut Butter combines an Easy-Bake mix with ingredients she found in her family kitchen.

Macall especially loves peanut butter.

“During the salmonella outbreak, it was hard to do without it,” she says. “I thought it would never end.”

Fortunately for her contest entry, it did.

She’s nervous about having to recreate her recipe in front of contest judges next month. But she’s confident she’ll be able to pull it off, with help from her mom, Danelle. Parents serve as sous chefs for contestants.

As a finalist, Macall has already won the trip to Florida, a $500 gift card and a supply of Easy-Bake mixes. If she earns the grand prize at Disney World, she and her mom, with two other family members, will get a culinary-inspired trip to San Francisco to visit food-related attractions, including the Ghiradelli chocolate factory.

Even if Macall is not the top prize-winner, her mom is happy that she got started in the kitchen with Easy-Bake.

“It inspired her and made her want to cook more,” says Danelle. Macall is now using her mom’s big oven as well.

Snickerdoodles are one of her specialties, along with muffins made from mixes from the grocery store.

“You just mix it with water and vegetable oil and put it in the oven,” Macall says.

She urges other kids to try cooking.

“If you’re really into it, start asking your parents if they could help you with real recipes,” she says. “Maybe when you grow up, you could be a real cook.”



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