MickeyXtreme News Archive July 2004
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                                                          Saturday
July 31, 2004

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Travel Channel to air "Fan's Guide: Walt Disney World" in August
 
The Travel Channel will offer a backstage tour of the most thrilling Walt Disney World attractions, the shortest lines, the best shopping and more in a special titled "Fan's Guide: Walt Disney World," airing on Aug. 1 and 5 at 9 p.m. and on Aug. 2 and 6 at midnight.

The special is one of many the Travel Channel has taped at the resort in the past two years, including "Undiscovered Walt Disney World," "Walt Disney World's Ultimate Ten" and "Secrets of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

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Moore enjoying Disney bosses' 'comeuppance'
 

Director Michael Moore is laughing in the face of Disney bosses, after his controversial film Fahrenheit 9/11 went on to reap more cash then any of the company's movies this year.

The film, which takes a scathing look at US President George W Bush and the war on Iraq, recently became the first ever documentary to cross the $100m (€83m) mark.

And while Moore is elated with the success, he remains aware of the company's move to block subsidiary MIRAMAX from distributing the film - and its recent string of flop films.

He says: "I don't wanna say too much bad about Disney because the film has now made more money than any Disney film this year.

"Most people go to work and you've gotta put up with a lot of c**p and you get screwed every now and then, and you never see the boss man ever get his comeuppance. To have that happen, in this case with me, it is enjoyable."

 
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Who shot Goofy? It's a mystery
 
The scenario was almost laughable – a life-sized, stuffed Goofy laid out on a hospital gurney for a brain X-ray. The medical mystery? Was the Disney cartoon dog the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting in San Diego a few years ago?
 
The X-ray clearly showed a bullet, probably a .22-caliber, lodged in Goofy's cranial stuffing. A story and photo were published July 29 on the front page of The Dominion Post, the primary newspaper in New Zealand's capital city of Wellington. Disney is big in New Zealand. This Goofy is part of a huge private collection that once belonged to a San Diego man. It's on exhibit there Aug. 4-24 in celebration of Mickey Mouse's 75th anniversary.

Goofy was one of several thousand Disney items dating from 1920s into the 1990s collected by City Heights postal worker Sam Aguirre. After he died two years ago, his widow and children sought a buyer for the whole collection. New Zealand Disney enthusiast Andrew McClennan flew to San Diego and bought it. When McClennan first visited the Aguirres' home, he said he found nearly every room packed with memorabilia. "The Aguirres lived 'inside' their collection," McClennan says. He learned about the family's suspicion that Goofy had taken a bullet while watching a TV interview with them.

Little is known of the drive-by shooting except that the Aguirres found a bullet hole in their laundry room window. They never located the bullet, but Goofy was opposite the glass. Before putting him on exhibit, McClennan decided to have Goofy checked out, and, indeed, testing revealed a bullet in the thick foam stuffing of his head.

Goofy's new owner isn't asking doctors to extract the slug – after all, it adds to the item's mystique. One mystery still remains, though:

Who shot Goofy?

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                                                            Friday
July 30, 2004

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Lawyer: Disney wants Tigger costume changed for molestation trial
 
Walt Disney World wants to protect the innocent image of Tigger during an upcoming sexual molestation trial of an employee dressed as the character, and has asked that the orange striped costume be changed for the case, an attorney said.

Michael Chartrand was charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl in February while he was dressed as Tigger at Disney World's Toon Town. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

A Disney lawyer suggested that the orange Tigger costume be dyed black or white and its ears be removed, said Chartrand's attorney, Jeffrey S. Kaufman Jr.

"Disney doesn't want this costume out there," Kaufman said. "They want to protect their copyright. They want to take off everything that would make it look like Tigger."

A Disney spokeswoman confirmed that attorneys expressed concern to Kaufman and prosecutors about using the Tigger costume at trial. But she wouldn't comment about suggestions of coloring the costume or taking off its ears.

"Our hope is that the use of our costume will be handled with appropriate sensitivity so as to preserve the dreams and magic for our younger guests as much as possible," Jacquee Polak said.

Kaufman, who has also played Tigger at Disney and works part-time as a costumed character at the theme park, said he refused to let the costume be "bastardized" because an altered Tigger suit could make his client look demonic or freakish.

Kaufman said he expects jurors to handle the costume, so they can see how difficult it would be to grope a young girl in the bulky outfit.

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"Village" aims to scare audiences

Four major movies enter a crowded market on Friday led by director M. Night Shyamalan's mystery "The Village" which looks to be the weekend's box office champ despite a rash of mostly scary reviews.

"The Village" from The Walt Disney Co. debuts in 3,730 theaters, or 863 more than its next closest rival, Denzel Washington thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" in 2,867 venues, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Inc.

The theater count, plus Shyamalan's strong following and box office history, give "Village" an edge over Oscar-winner Washington's obvious ability to draw crowds.

Comedy "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" is in 2,135 theaters and family film "Thunderbirds" is in 2,057 theaters.

After a rough year at box offices, Disney looks for a hit from Shyamalan, who enjoys a strong following among the young men who make up the core audience of movie-goers. Fortunately for Disney, those audiences rarely listen to critics.

"It's tedious instead of provocative and so unconvincing as to be preposterous," wrote the Los Angeles Times in one of several negative reviews the film received.

The Seattle Times called it "affecting but uneven," while filmcritic.com said "generally excellent filmmaking and clever plot twists redeem things on the whole."

But Shyamalan is, undoubtedly, successful at the box office. "The Sixth Sense" hauled in $294 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices and 2002's "Signs" racked up $228 million.

"If you had to categorize ("The Village"), you could say it is a suspenseful, period love story," he told reporters in a recent interview.

In the film, an isolated farming utopia in Pennsylvania has cut itself off from contact with the outside world and made a deal with creatures living in the surrounding woods: you don't bother us, and we won't bug you.

But when Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) tests this rule, the creatures begin an assault on the town. He, his young lover, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and all the townsfolk are in peril.

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ESPN sets up shop at Disney
 
A little more than a year ago, hardly anyone outside the television business knew Al Jaffe's name. Not anymore.

Thanks to the first season of ESPN's Dream Job, the man responsible for hiring SportsCenter anchors walked into the spotlight when he served as an on-air judge for the show. Jaffe said he'll be in town this weekend to help hold an open casting call for the second season of Dream Job, starting at 9 a.m. today.

"It's been neat," said Jaffe, who's been with ESPN since 1987. "Before the show started, I told my wife I'd probably hear from a lot of old people I haven't talked to for a while. She said, 'Al, all your friends are old. They'll all be asleep when the show's on.'

"Sure enough, one of the first e-mails I got was from my college roommate, who said he was asleep but that his son told him the guy on the show looked really familiar. It's been fun overall."

The Dream Job auditions comprise just a small part of ESPN The Weekend, a grand celebration of sports fans and the network's 25th anniversary at Disney's MGM Studios. Aside from the theme park's normal attractions, fans paying the standard admission price ($55 for a one-day resident pass, though season passes will work as well) also will see:
  • At least 36 sports celebrities, including Rip Hamilton, Joe Namath, Michael Irvin and Orlando Magic top pick Dwight Howard.

    Two dozen ESPN personalities, including Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott and Linda Cohn.

    A number of interactive sports-themed games and challenges, such as an actual SportsCenter desk that fans can sit behind for photo opportunities.

    Interactive forums to ask questions of the sports celebrities in attendance, as well as hourly parades featuring some of those celebrities.

    And a chance to watch a host of live ESPN programming produced on-site such as Baseball Tonight, and -- yes -- SportsCenter.

    Surprisingly, all of this came together rather quickly. Ken Potrock, senior vice president for Walt Disney World Marketing, said the process has been rolling for only about four months, setting a frenetic pace. That wasn't the case of drawing in sports celebrities, though.

    "You'd be surprised how easy it was to get those athletes here," Potrock said. "We've worked with them in the past, they love Disney World and most of them are coming with their families, so it all works out well for everyone."

    Things may not look quite so rosy for most Dream Job contestants, though. In fact, both Jaffe and Carol Silver, co-creator of the show, said very few people make it to New York for the final cut.

    "People are showing up much more serious about this than last year," Silver said. "Last year, we had Hooters girls come in, random city people wandering the streets. We even had a 73-year-old guy who looked like Yogi Berra. Now people have seen the show and know a little more what we want."

    Here's what you can expect if you think you have what it takes to make it all the way to SportsCenter: First, trying out for the show is free. Just show up at the production window at the front of the theme park and you'll be escorted to the proper place. Second, you can't have had more than six months of professional on-air experience on either TV or radio.

    Once you're there, you'll take a tough sports knowledge test. Pass that and it's time to join a group of 10 or so to stand in front of recruiters, such as Jaffe or Silver, and discuss current sports events in rapid-fire succession. This is where your personality comes into play.

    Maybe one of 10 who pass the initial sports test gets a call to return the next day, when more tests await. It's all designed to make sure whoever wins has what it takes to succeed.

    "I don't want another 40-regular," Jaffe said. "I want someone who stands out with substance. Shtick over substance might get you to another round, but it won't get you on the show."

    In other words, living out your Dream won't be easy, but you can still enjoy the rest of the show.

    3-point play: Best of the Rest

    Today

    Boxing: Tyson vs. Williams, 9 p.m., Pay-per-view. The intrigue in this bout hardly centers around watching Mike Tyson in the ring. Heck, we saw his punching-bag impression two years ago against Lennox Lewis. No, two things stand out as curiosities worth watching: the pre-fight presentation (the Tyson-Lewis fight had security personnel cutting the ring diagonally) and any post-fight interview with Tyson (in 2002, he had malapropisms aplenty). By the way, Danny Williams (31-3) hails from London and owns the WBU International heavyweight crown. Showtime's Steve Albert and Al Bernstein will call the fight, and roving reporter Jim Gray will add his normal insanity to a show that costs $44.99 to order.

    Saturday

    Men's basketball: U.S. Olympic team vs. Puerto Rico, 1 p.m., ESPN. Jacksonville gets some additional practice hosting an event of international interest when Team USA begins its Olympics warm-up schedule. Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson and company take on mighty Puerto Rico, with Jim Durham and Bill Walton on hand to call the action. After this game, the team heads overseas to take on Italy, Germany, Serbia and Turkey (twice) before settling in Athens to run for a fourth straight gold medal.

    Monday

    Golf: Battle at the Bridges, 7-8 p.m., ESPN2; 8 p.m.-completion, ABC (WFTV-Ch. 9). The sixth installment of live, prime-time golf comes your way again from San Diego, where no less than five ABC commentators will keep viewers informed of the high-stakes 2-on-2 matchup. This year, Tiger Woods teams with long-driving Hank Kuehne against Phil Mickelson and John Daly. Aside from the main purse, the match also features four holes worth $300,000 to the player smacking the longest drive that stays in the fairway. When asked how he felt about Kuehne taking over his reign as long-driving champ last year, Daly told reporters, "I've played with Hank a lot, but we don't really pay attention to how long we hit it. The game of golf, what matters is your score." Right. That's sort of like saying people noticed Dennis Rodman because of his great defense and team play.

    Channel surfing

    Today, NBC will announce the names of 10 people from the area who will comprise a 22-person field hoping to make their mark in competitive TV viewing. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Kevin Keaveney, whose previous record of 46 hours, 30 minutes and 50 seconds was broken, will be among the people trying to set a new standard in the Guinness Book of World Records. The contest will take place at Universal Orlando, starting with the Opening Ceremonies and continuing with NBC's Olympic coverage. Talk about an Olympic feat.

    Terry Bowden, who hosts an afternoon show on 1080 AM (ESPN Radio) will leave his role on ABC's college football studio show to call games as part of a three-man booth with Mike Tirico and Tim Brant. "Terry's very enthusiastic about this," said Mike Pearl, executive producer of ABC Sports. "He had a lot to say, and you can't always get all that in while you're showing highlights. This should give him a better chance to do that." ABC brings in former Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Aaron Taylor to take Bowden's spot alongside John Saunders and Craig James. The network also hired Jamal Anderson, Mike Golic and Dan Reeves to work as game analysts from time to time.

    Now that most of the NFL training camps have opened, ESPN returns with the 12th season of Monday Night Countdown, starting at 10 p.m. Monday. The usual suspects, such as Stuart Scott, Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson, all come back to talk football and provide segments, such as "Jacked Up!" when Jackson picks his five biggest hits of the weekend. Of course, that won't happen until games actually start. Unless he's talking about music.

    And speaking of music, running classic sports highlights during live performances from bands equals either a talk show or a drippy time-filler like "One Shining Moment" that CBS runs after every NCAA Final Four title game, not current sports news. Got that, SportsCenter? The way that show's going, we'll see a studio audience before long.

    Lance Armstrong's sixth straight Tour de France victory propelled Outdoor Life Network to its best-ever ratings. The Tour's live coverage of the final day brought OLN a 1.63 rating, and overall, live coverage rose from 0.50 last year to 0.62 this year.

    NBC (WESH-Ch. 2) takes over coverage of the U.S. Senior Open from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, sending its top crew (Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller will anchor coverage) to St. Louis to see if Bruce Lietzke can defend his crown. . . . If you're not into old-school golf, CBS (WKMG-Ch. 6) has Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, John Daly and other stars playing at the PGA Tour Buick Open, also 3-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Bill Macatee and Lanny Wadkins anchor CBS' telecast.

    As if DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package weren't enough of a must-have for the NFL fan, the satellite provider plans to offer 100 games this season in high-definition, four times the amount of HD games shown last season.

    And finally, in case you haven't caught Freddy Adu fever yet, ABC will have the 15-year-old MLS phenom and Landon Donovan wearing wireless microphones during the MLS All-Star Game at 2 p.m. Saturday (WFTV-Ch. 9). No mention of an extravagant halftime show, so apparently the league doesn't want to cut the game time to preserve a full halftime, as it did in 2002.
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    More Than 30 Sports Stars and Former Olympians to Join ESPN Personalities for ESPN's 25th Celebration at Disney-MGM Studios

    ESPN The Weekend -- ESPN's 25th anniversary celebration at Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., July 31 and Aug. 1 -- will give fans of all sports the opportunity to see many of their favorite athletes as more than 30 professional sports stars and former Olympians are scheduled to appear, along with more than 25 ESPN personalities.

    The list of Hall of Famers, sports legends and current stars will feature athletes and coaches from Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, NHL, the Olympics and the world of action sports. In all, ESPN The Weekend will mark the largest collection of sports stars ever assembled at one time at the Walt Disney World theme parks. Those scheduled to appear include: Scotty Bowman, Grant Fuhr, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, Michael Irvin, Bruce Jenner, Mike Metzger, Joe Namath, Dave Stewart, Kerri Strug, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Theismann, James Worthy and others.

    Over the two days, ESPN will present live telecasts (spaced through morning, afternoon and evening) from a set in front of the Disney-MGM Studios Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat. On-site programs include a special season-preview edition of College GameDay and live, on-site telecasts of Baseball Tonight (twice daily) as well as SportsCenter and ESPNEWS segments. Park guests can watch the programs live as well as via two large video screens.

    ESPN personalities scheduled to appear include: SportsCenter anchors Linda Cohn, Dana Jacobson, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, Trey Wingo and newcomer Mike Hall, as well as the broadcast teams from Baseball Tonight, Cold Pizza, College GameDay and Fuera de Juego on ESPN Deportes.

    In addition to the ESPN broadcasts, sports celebrities and ESPN personalities will make appearances throughout Disney-MGM Studios during this first-of-its-kind event. ESPN The Weekend will include star motorcades and conversations with network personalities and athletes; sports shows in the ESPN Theater featuring ESPN commentators and athletes; a visit from ESPN The Truck; a special sports edition of the game show attraction "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-Play It!; the ESPN Sports Zone interactive area; a SportsCenter and play-by-play "role play" area; and an exclusive ESPN The Commercials video of blunders and thrills.

    ESPN's reality series Dream Job kicks off ESPN The Weekend with an open casting call for its second and third seasons on Friday, July 30, at Disney-MGM Studios. The weekend will culminate with a final tribute to the past 25 years in sports orchestrated to a Disney pyrotechnics show exploding over the park's 12-story Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat icon.

    Sports celebrities scheduled to appear include (not all personalities will appear both days):

    FOOTBALL:

    Ottis Anderson -- Former NFL running back (New York Giants)
    Mack Brown -- Current college head coach (University of Texas)
    Harry Carson -- Former NFL linebacker (New York Giants)
    Eric Dickerson -- NFL Hall of Fame running back (Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts), former ABC Sports Monday Night Football sideline reporter
    Ralph Friedgen -- Current college head coach (University of Maryland)
    Darrell Green -- Former NFL defensive back (Washington Redskins)
    Desmond Howard -- Former NFL wide receiver (Detroit Lions)
    Michael Irvin -- Former NFL wide receiver (Dallas Cowboys)
    Jim Kelly -- Former NFL quarterback (Buffalo Bills)
    Willie Lanier -- NFL Hall of Fame linebacker (Kansas City Chiefs)
    Karl Mecklenburg -- Former NFL defensive lineman (Denver Broncos)
    Joe Namath -- NFL Hall of Fame quarterback (NY Jets)
    Nick Saban -- Current college head coach (Louisiana State University)
    Lawrence Taylor -- NFL Hall of Fame linebacker (NY Giants)
    Joe Theismann -- Former NFL quarterback (Washington Redskins)

    BASEBALL:

    Gary Carter -- Former MLB catcher (NY Mets, Montreal Expos)
    Jim Morris -- Former MLB pitcher (Tampa Bay Devil Rays), real-life story behind Walt Disney Pictures The Rookie
    Dave Stewart -- Former MLB pitcher (Oakland A's)

    BASKETBALL:

    Greg Anthony -- Former NBA player (NY Knicks, Portland Trailblazers), ESPN NBA analyst
    Rick Barry -- NBA Hall of Fame player (Golden State Warriors)
    Caron Butler -- Current NBA player (Los Angeles Lakers)
    Richard "Rip" Hamilton -- Current NBA player (Detroit Pistons)
    James Worthy -- NBA Hall of Fame player (Los Angeles Lakers)

    HOCKEY:

    Scotty Bowman -- Former NHL coach (St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings)
    Grant Fuhr -- Hall of Fame NHL player (Edmonton Oilers)
    Ken Morrow -- Former NHL player/member of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
    Craig Patrick -- Former NHL player/assistant coach of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team
    John Tortorella -- Current NHL coach (Tampa Bay Lightning)

    OLYMPICS:

    Bonnie Blair -- Former U.S. Speed Skater
    Dorothy Hamill -- Former U.S. Figure Skater
    Dan Jansen -- Former U.S. Speed Skater
    Bruce Jenner -- Former U.S. Decathlete
    Mary Lou Retton -- Former U.S. Gymnast
    Kerri Strug -- Former U.S. Gymnast

    ACTION SPORTS:

    Mike Metzger -- X Games gold medallist (Motocross)

    ESPN personalities scheduled to appear include (not all personalities will appear both days):

    Linda Cohn -- SportsCenter
    Dana Jacobson -- SportsCenter
    Dan Patrick -- SportsCenter
    Stuart Scott -- SportsCenter
    Trey Wingo -- SportsCenter
    Peter Gammons -- Baseball Tonight
    John Kruk -- Baseball Tonight
    Karl Ravech -- Baseball Tonight
    Harold Reynolds -- Baseball Tonight
    Rob Dibble -- ESPN Radio / Baseball Tonight
    Lee Corso -- College GameDay
    Chris Fowler -- College GameDay
    Kirk Herbstreit -- College GameDay
    Luis Omar Tapia -- Feura de Juego
    Diego Balado -- Feura de Juego
    Randy Alvarez -- Feura de Juego
    Carlos Hermosillo -- Feura de Juego
    Thea Andrews -- Cold Pizza
    Jay Crawford -- Cold Pizza
    Kit Hoover -- Cold Pizza
    Mike Hall -- Dream Job winner, SportsCenter
    Aaron Levine -- Dream Job Season One
    Maggie Haskins -- Dream Job Season One
    Sal Paolantonio -- NFL reporter
    Howie Schwab -- Coordinating Producer, Studio Production, Stump The Schwab
     
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    Disney pulls plug on Duluth films
     
    Disney says you can wish upon a star, you just can’t watch movies under them.
    Duluth officials learned this the hard way when they tried to order a copy of “Finding Nemo” for their popular Flicks on the Bricks outdoor family film series. Duluth’s Downtown Manager, Alisa Williams, called Swank Motion Pictures, Inc., a St. Louis-based company that distributes non-theatrical movies for public showings.
    The company had advertised “Finding Nemo” in its catalog, but informed Williams Disney corporate bigwigs recently decided they’d no longer allow their animated films to be shown outside.
    “I guess their reasoning is it would take away from anyone going to the theater and the experience of watching the movie,” Williams said. “I kind of think it’s crazy.”
    Williams said she’s shown animated Disney movies at Flicks on the Bricks every year since the film festival debuted in 2001. The kicker, Williams said, is that Disney will let her show the studio’s live-action films, like “Miracle,” slated to be shown next week.
    The new regulation means two scheduled Flicks on the Bricks movies will be changed — instead of watching “Nemo” on Aug. 6, families will get “Shrek,” and instead of “Monsters, Inc.” on Oct. 23, viewers can watch the Don Knotts film “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”
    Williams said she thinks kids will be pleased with the substitute offerings, but said it’s a shame youngsters can no longer watch Disney flicks under the stars.
    “They just take you back into the past a little bit. There’s no drive-ins anymore, and children have never had that,” she said.
    A Disney spokeswoman, reached by phone Thursday, said, “In regards to releasing our films, we do not comment on our overall business plan or strategy.”
    Officials with Swank Motion Pictures Inc., did not return phone calls by press time. As for Williams, the decision may have cost the company a loyal customer.
    “In the future, I’ll probably think twice before ordering another Disney movie,” she said.
     
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    Disney to open August program at Flyer
     
    A Disney Spectacular, opening on Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances on Aug. 5 and 6 at 10:30 a.m. is only one of the many great shows appearing in the Dennis Flyer Theatre at Camden County College, Blackwood during the first week of August.
    Enjoy a great musical review loaded with songs from most of your favorite Disney movies both new and old.
    Tickets for A Disney Spectacular are $8 for the evening performance and $6 for daytime.
    On Aug. 5 Summer Stage will present Dance Explosion. This evening of dance will showcase a wide range of dance styles and new choreography.
    Choreographer, Suzi Waldie, has worked intensely with a group of dancers sharing her Broadway back round and years of professional choreography. Tickets are $6.
    Stephen Spielberg beware because the next award-winning film artists will premier their work on Aug. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Two six-week programs under the direction of Becky Horvath, graduate of the N.Y.U. Tisch School of Film, will showcase their final film projects. Tickets are $5.
    Then the Summer Stage season comes to an end with the Harmony Show Choir Bon Voyage Concert on Aug. 7 at 7:30 p.m. South Jersey's premier show choir will give a sneak peek at the show they have put together to wow the audiences in Tennessee. Tickets are $10.
    All of the Summer Stage shows are presented in the Dennis Flyer Theatre.
    Tickets for all of these events can be purchased on line at www.mainstage.org/summerstageschedule.html or by calling Mainstage Center for the Arts at (856) 227-3091.

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    Animation Niche's Overdrawn

    With DreamWorks set to spin off its animation studio and promising to ramp up its computer-rendered production, it's going to get crowded at the pixilated multiplex soon. Rick Munarriz takes a closer look at DreamWorks, Disney, and Pixar, and sees the potential for great rewards -- as well as perilous pitfalls.

    If DreamWorks has its way, it won't be just Shrek fans seeing a little green later this year. With Shrek 2 lapping Pixar's Finding Nemo to become the highest-grossing animated feature film of all time this summer, the announcement of DreamWorks Animation to go public couldn't have come at a better time.

    On the surface, it seems like a can't-miss proposition. When rival Pixar went public in 1995, just as Toy Story was making its holiday season debut, it commanded a $1.5 billion market cap, Investors bid up the shares despite the fact that Pixar was a relatively unproven studio and partner Disney had it tied to a Machiavellian pact that found Pixar surrendering the lion's share of the profits as well as the characters it created.

    Now consider DreamWorks Animation. Not only does it have the most productive franchise in theatrical animation history under its belt before tapping Wall Street for greenery, it owns it all -- down to the last slime-covered toadstool. While it is shackled to its parent company as a distribution partner through 2010, it still stands to reap 100% of the profitable fruit of its laborious harvest while retaining complete creative and licensing control of its rendered releases. That's huge, especially when you have a hit on your thick, grubby ogre hands.

    While Pixar has been challenged to produce a new flick every year, DreamWorks has the pipeline stocked with enough productions to release two a year. That's not just rhetoric. Even as Shrek 2 continues to play at a movie theater near you, its fishy-fueled Shark Tale is now just months away from splitting the celluloid curtains.

    And, as if to paint market leader Pixar as an industry slacker, DreamWorks is also putting out a prime-time animated TV series with Father of the Pride debuting this fall on General Electric' NBC.

    With the company looking to raise $650 million, assuming that the firm is ultimately valued in the ballpark of $3 billion, it might appear to be a compelling value if one didn't know any better. Pixar is nearly a $4 billion company today, but it will be splitting profits with Disney through the end of next year, and all of its handiwork up to that point will still have Disney howling out "mine" like a flock of hungry Australian seagulls.

    So even though I ran -- I ran so far away -- I couldn't get away from the financials.    

    NightmareWorks
    While Pixar earned $124.8 million last year on $262.5 million in revenues last year, DreamWorks Animation managed to lose $160 million on $167.9 in operating revenue. While Pixar has been consistently profitable (with fat margins to match), DreamWorks hasn't turned a profit since it milked the last of its Shrek juice back in 2001.

    Naturally, this will all change as the money from the popular Shrek sequel starts trickling in. It's not just the global box-office receipts. In November, Shrek 2 will hit the home video and DVD market. Pixar's last two releases, as well as the original Shrek, moved more than 25 million copies apiece, and this one should shatter those milestones.

    It's obviously fair to say that animation has been taken too kindly in the retail space. Even DreamWorks' five hand-drawn releases, averaging a rather ordinary $72 million at the multiplex, still managed to sell a cumulative 44 million units in the home video and DVD market.

    Once you start tacking on broadcasting rights to the lucrative licensing rights that come from rich characterizations, then you begin to realize how a pure play in animation can truly rock. If you like Pixar's numbers now, just imagine how good they'll look in a couple of years when it doesn't have to share the pie. But in hyping up the prospects for DreamWorks Animation, it seems as if the numbers keep getting in the way.

    Pixar has gone through the cyclical lulls between releases, yet it has always managed to produce healthy income statements. Its hefty net margins have kept the company afloat through thick and thin. So why did DreamWorks Animation report a loss that was almost as wide as the company's top line last year, and is there any hope that it will ever become the lean, green money-printing machine that is Pixar?

    The balance sheet isn't very encouraging. The amount of debt that has been allocated to the company by its parent over the past two years has more than doubled from $168 million to $380 million. Those saddles wear heavy, especially given the bottom-heavy balance sheet that finds the company coming to market with negative book value before the offering's proceeds trickle in.

    Pixar's consistency, efficiency, and potential earned the stock props, but DreamWorks has a long way to go if it wants to get there.

    Some investors might also grimace at the diluted voting power behind the class of shares being offered by DreamWorks Animation. The insiders will retain Class B stock that carries 15 times the voting power of the freshly minted shares. That doesn't bother me as much as knowing that Apple's Steve Jobs owns a controlling stake in Pixar, so it's not as if the shareholders have any material say in that company either. Then again, if you know DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, then you don't want to tinker with his power.

    Katz and dogs
    Katzenberg led Disney's studio through the rebirth of its feature animation division in the 1990s. Pumping out classics like Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, he wanted more and felt cheated when he was passed over for the vacant president position by CEO Michael Eisner.

    He left the company, helped launch DreamWorks, and has been sparring with Eisner ever since. Katzenberg sued Disney to claim his share of the royalties during the animation studio's gravy days -- and won. Katzenberg has also taken his battle with Eisner to the big screen. DreamWorks' releases Antz and the upcoming Shark Tale are suspiciously similar in subject matter to Disney-distributed Pixar flicks. Watch Shrek, and you will fill up a laundry list of salvos flung toward Disney and Eisner.

    Yet success is the ultimate revenge. That's why it has to make Katzenberg's pride swell to see his company ready to take the public markets by storm just as Disney is backpedaling out of animated supremacy.

    There will be computer-rendered collateral in this animation war. My biggest concern is the one that no one sees yet. The same thing that all but killed traditional hand-drawn animation -- Disney's reckless disregard of the standards of excellence -- is threatening to nip computer-rendered features short as well.

    There are some who argue that the days of ink and paint just sauntered toward extinction, but I firmly believe that it was Disney's decision to fill up the distribution channels with substandard direct-to-video releases that sullied the Disney brand as well as the medium.

    Computer-generated features would have been unlikely to create this kind of buzz if Pixar had never existed -- or if Pixar had chosen to color by hand instead of by microchip. Pixar puts out a great product. Period. Delivered on an Etch-a-Sketch, it would still blow the public away.

    But now that Disney is in John Derek mode -- by teaming up with smaller studios to replace the computer animation void that will be left behind when Pixar moves out come 2006 -- and DreamWorks Animation is bent on pumping out two new features annually, you're going to see quite a bit of junk being put out. It will be a lot like Jessica Simpson. Breathtakingly gorgeous on the outside. Disappointingly hollow on the inside.

    Yes, there will be hits -- some of them huge -- but it will be the misses that will ultimately scare away the public from automatically lining up for new releases based on the format alone. That's significant because the average cost of marketing a movie has nearly tripled to $39 million over the past 10 years. That raises the bar on what it takes to succeed, and it should be even more worrisome if the format is about to suffer from the dilution.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    `Nemo Fest' Held Today
     
    When it comes to finding Nemo, Lakeland is the first place to look.

    "Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo," a live ice production scheduled to tour the world, will make its premiere Sept. 3-4 at The Lakeland Center. The facility is celebrating the production by holding a "Nemo Fest" today as tickets for the Disney on Ice spectacle go on sale.

    The kids party takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. and will include a search for prizes hidden in 500 pounds of sand, as well as a coloring contest, balloons, an aquarium and chances to win tickets. Erica Smith, marketing director for The Lakeland Center, says artist Jim Richardson constructed a 5-ton sand sculpture in The Lakeland Center's lobby especially for the event.

    Preparations for the Disney on Ice tour, on the other hand, will be taking place behind closed doors at The Lakeland Center leading up to the premiere performance. Smith says in recent years Disney has used the facility as a staging point while putting together its ice skating productions.

    "Lakeland is the very first area and market ever to see a Disney on Ice production, and then it goes on tour to all the other areas throughout the United States," Smith says. "We get a new show every year because Disney uses The Lakeland Center as their production site. Many arenas are seeing shows we already saw three or four years ago. We're probably the only building that sees new shows every year."
     ________________________________________________________________________________________________
     
    Amid Questions, Gruden Hopeful As Training Camp Opens
     
    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers report to training camp today facing a situation the franchise hasn't faced since 1996.

    They are trying to rebound from a losing season.

    The last time the Bucs finished below .500 (6-10 in 1996), they rebounded the next season in Tony Dungy's second year to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs.

    Today, the Bucs report for their third training camp under head coach Jon Gruden, whose club finished 7-9 last season after winning the Super Bowl the year before.

    As they have done the past two years, the Bucs will be housed at Celebration Hotel in downtown Celebration and will hold daily practices at Disney's Wide World of Sports through Aug. 18.

    The first workouts will be Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

    It's a team with some uncertainties. There are several new faces in camp and some old familiar faces are gone.

    Among the departed are defensive tackle Warren Sapp, strong safety John Lynch and wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

    The newcomers include running back Charlie Garner, wide receiver Joey Galloway and tackle Todd Steussie.

    One of the biggest questions facing the Bucs at the moment is whether wide receiver Keenan McCardell will report to camp. Although he still has two years left on his contract, McCardell wants to renegotiate and has threatened to hold out. He did not participate in any of the Bucs' summer workouts.

    One thing is certain. The Bucs are a much older team. They have 32 players with at least seven years of NFL experience and 18 players who are 30 or older.

    Four years ago, under Dungy, they reported to camp with just 10 seven-year veterans and four 30year-olds.

    This will also be the Bucs' first training camp with new general manager Bruce Allen in charge.

    The McCardell issue aside, Gruden said at last month's mini-camp that he expects his team to be ready for camp.

    "They'll be prepared as long as they take advantage of the hot weather," he said. "You've got to get yourself acclimated to the heat down here, but mentally, I think these guys are ready to go."

    For some of the veterans, training camp will be a transition time during which to learn Gruden's offense, especially for Garner and Galloway. Gruden said the two will add punch to the offense.

    "Galloway gets down the field in a hurry," he said. "Garner is what he is. He's one of the most productive backs in the last five years, rushing and receiving."

    Other significant issues to watch include:
  • The development of the offensive line, with free agent additions of Steussie, Derrick Deese, Matt Stinchcomb and Matt O'Dwyer.

    The health of fullback Mike Alstott (neck) and wide receiver Joe Jurevicius (knee).

    The development of safeties Jermaine Phillips and Dwight Smith after the departure of Lynch.

    The switch of Anthony McFarland from nose tackle to defensive tackle to fill the spot left by the free agency departure of Sapp.

    The competition for the No. 2 quarterback job between veteran Brian Griese and second-year pro Chris Simms.
  •  ________________________________________________________________________________________________
     
    Disney Union Contract Vote Set
     
    At least one group is critical of company proposals on health insurance, pensions.
    Thousands of Walt Disney World employees will vote next week on a new union contract after months of negotiations that failed once before to produce an agreement.

    However, a union leader acknowledged that negotiations likely will continue even if union members vote against the contract.

    Disney and the Service Trades Council -- a group that negotiates for about 20,000 workers from six individual local unions -- head into the latest round of negotiations with at least one union critical of company proposals on issues such as health insurance and pensions.

    The unions represent a wide range of employees, including characters, food and beverage workers, housekeepers, stage technicians, bus drivers and lifeguards.

    (Disney, with a Polk work force of about 5,000 is the county's secondlargest private employer.)

    Disney's existing three-year contract was extended after the two sides failed to reach an agreement before the contract's original expiration date of May 1. The latest union vote is scheduled for Aug. 6.

    Joe Condo, president of the Service Trades Council, said he expects to continue discussing economic issues with Disney until at least mid-August.

    The majority of noneconomic issues, such as work rules and changes to grievance procedures, have already been settled, Condo said. Disney is expected to make its first offers on wages and some other economic issues next week, he said.

    "This vote is so people can understand where we are with noneconomic items and update them on where we are with the first week of negotiations for economic issues," he said.

    There has never been a strike at Disney.

    Jerry Montgomery, a senior vice president for Disney who is involved in the negotiations, said it's too soon to comment on the negotiations.

    "There's still a lot of work to do before we could comment," Montgomery said.

    The Service Trades Council represents The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 631; United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1625; Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, Locals 737 and 362; Teamsters, Local 385; and Transportation Communications International Union, Local 1908.

    Comments posted on two union Web sites reflect frustration with some of the company's proposals so far.

    Disney wants union workers to pay the same weekly costs for health insurance as nonunion workers and executives pay, Local 362 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, or HERE, said on its site. The United Food and Commercial Workers posted the same information.

    The company hasn't yet made a proposal on wages or overtime pay, but Disney is expected to offer bonuses rather than wage increases, Local 362 said.

    "So as the cost of gas, bread, milk, rent, medical insurance go up over the next one, two, three years, workers will have to pay the increased costs out of last year's --- or in the case of topped-out workers, 2000's -- rate of pay," the site said. "This is outrageous!"

    Local 362 said it's also unhappy with a proposal by Disney to increase the number of part-time positions, a move that might reduce the number of full-time positions. Disney also is proposing that workers hired after the contract is ratified would not be covered by the company's pension plan or receive personal time off, the union said.
     
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________
     
    Disney's Play 4 Days is back!

    Walt Disney World Resort treats Florida residents to unlimited park-hopping at all four Disney theme parks on any four days of their choosing between July 30 and Nov. 21, 2004 -- all for only $119* per person, plus tax.

    Compared to buying four one-day one-park tickets at $54.75 plus tax per day, the savings add up to $100 per resident for four unforgettable days of Disney park-hopping magic.

    Here are the money-saving details:

    Good for Walt Disney World theme park visits July 30 through Nov. 21, 2004 (no blockout dates).

    Exclusive to Florida residents; proof of residency for each guest required.

    Provides unlimited park-hopping privileges. That means multi-park visits in one day -- if the guest wishes -- and three more days to do the same thing.

    Purchase at Walt Disney World theme parks and other locations, such as Florida AAA offices and Florida Disney Stores.

    Cost of the Play 4 Days pass may be applied to a resident Annual or Seasonal pass.

    "With a full schedule of fun ahead, the timing couldn't be better for home-staters," said Al Weiss, president of Walt Disney World Resort. "Play 4 Days is their passport to fun -- and savings."

    Play 4 Days ticket holders enjoy a full slate of options, whatever they "elect" to experience ... attractions and events such as:

    Three electrifying first-year attractions --

    Mission: SPACE at Epcot, and "Wishes" and "Mickey's PhilharMagic" at Magic Kingdom.

    The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival with more days and more ways to sample great food, fine wines and workshops, and groove to Eat to the Beat! concerts featuring name acts.

    This year's dates: Oct. 1-Nov. 14.
    Stitch's Great Escape, a new Tomorrowland attraction opening this fall and promising Magic Kingdom guests otherworldly sights, sounds and surprises -- with everybody's favorite six-limbed alien in the middle of the fun.

    ABC Super Soap Weekend Nov. 13-14 featuring more than 30 ABC Daytime stars in a fan-fest coming to Disney-MGM Studios.

    An art safari for culture buffs around Epcot as World Showcase opens its sixth gallery, American Heritage Gallery, with "Echoes of Africa" featuring artwork from the Disney-Tishman collection.

    Floridians can pair up their Play 4 Day savings on park admission with great deals on Disney accommodations. For Florida residents, Walt Disney World's famous resorts are posting great late summer and fall savings on room-only rates. Go to disneyworld.com and click on Florida Residents to find out more.

    For more information on Play 4 Days, guests can visit disneyworld.com/play4days or call 407/WDW-4DAYS.

    *With tax: $126.74
     ________________________________________________________________________________________________
     
    DH to Publish Comic Adaptation of The Incredibles

    Comic Based on the Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film Premiering November 2004


    This November Dark Horse Comics, in conjunction with Disney Publishing Worldwide and Pixar Animation Studios, will publish a comic book adaptation of the Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios film, The Incredibles, a new animated feature about a family with extraordinary powers. The Incredibles premieres in theaters November 5, 2004. Pixar has created and produced five of the most successful and beloved animated films of all time: Academy Award®-winning Toy Story (1995); A Bug's Life (1998); Golden Globe-winning Toy Story 2 (1999); the Academy Award®-winning Monsters, Inc. (2001); and the Academy Award®-winning Finding Nemo (2003).

    During the golden age of Supers, heroes protected the populace from harm. The era’s main champion was the ultra strong Mr. Incredible. But things went awry for Mr. Incredible and the rest of the Supers when they were hit with a series of frivolous lawsuits brought against them by those they once saved. To diffuse the situation, the government created a relocation program for the Supers, who, in exchange for protection from further lawsuits, went into hiding and promised never to use their powers again.

    Fifteen years later, Mr. Incredible is simply Bob Parr, living the quiet suburban life with his wife Helen, and their three children. However, family life and the daily nine-to-five routine aren't enough for Bob, who frequently sneaks out to do "hero work" in the evenings. Bob's inability to move on from past glories soon puts a strain on his home life. But one day things take an unexpected turn when Bob is contacted by a mysterious woman who recruits him for some top secret hero work.

    This four-issue comic book series is adapted from the original film story, which was written by director Brad Bird (Iron Giant) and will feature illustrations by Incredibles storyboard artist Ricardo Curtis.

    The Incredibles issue #1 (of 4) arrives on sale November 24 with a retail price of $2.99.

    ________________________________________________________________

    Scheduled Rehabs in August for WDW

    Epcot

    The Wonders of Life Pavilion in Epcot will operate on a greatly reduced schedule beginning January 5, 2004. Body Wars, Cranium Command and the Making of Me will be available during periods of peak attendance. The quick service dining and merchandise locations in the pavilion will cease operations.

    Magic Kingdom

    Donald's Boat in Toontown will be closed July 12 - August 12, 2004.

    The Jungle Cruise will be closed August 22 - September 5, 2004.

    Tom Sawyer Island will be closed July 25 through September 25, 2004.

    It's a Small World is closed May 2, 2004 and reopen spring 2005 for a rehab of the characters and sound.

    ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter is closed and will reopen fall 2004 as Stitch's Great Escape!

    Carousel of Progress is open while Alien Encounter is being renovated.

    Timekeeper is operating seasonally until August 14, 2004

    Downtown Disney

    Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba will be closed - August 22 to 25

    Boardwalk Villas

    A major pipe replacement project is underway through the summer of 2005. No work is scheduled inside guest rooms, but there may be some noise on the 2nd and 3rd floors between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday through Friday.

    _____________________________________________________________________________
                                                             Thursday
    July 29, 2004

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Walt Disney World Resort Announces New "BASS" Fishing Excursions

     
    World-class theme parks and attractions are not the only reasons for visiting Walt Disney World Resort. There's fishing, too, with trophy-sized largemouth bass in the 14- pound range lurking in lakes and canals almost within casting distance of Cinderella Castle. Popular "catch and release" experiences around the Vacation Kingdom promise to "lure" even more guests to the Disney lakes, as Walt Disney World announced a new line-up of BASS fishing excursions with the nation's preeminent authority on the sport of fishing.

    From true beginners to expert anglers, thousands of Walt Disney World guests annually participate in fishing excursions on Bay Lake, Seven Seas Lagoon and other Disney waterways. New BASS excursions will provide guests with access to 100 new Bassmaster rods and reels, as well as depth finders and other professional-grade fishing equipment. Disney's experienced guide staff will sport BASS uniforms and apparel, and the fleet of Disney boats and marina menu boards will also be adorned with BASS marks.

    In addition to having access to some of the industry's best equipment, exceptional guides and Disney's stocked lakes, all BASS fishing participants at Walt Disney World will receive a one-year BASS membership, which includes: 11 issues of Bassmaster Magazine; a membership pack with a personalized membership card, colorful members-only decal, an embroidered patch and member handbook; free Gear Giveaways; a Boat Theft Reward; information on local BASS chapters; eligibility to compete in national events; and other exciting special discounts and benefits.

    "From children to adults, everyone who picks up a rod and reel at Walt Disney World should enjoy an authentic, exhilarating fishing experience, and this relationship with BASS will help ensure that," said Reggie Williams, vice president of Disney Sports Attractions. "As guests learn more about the exciting sport of bass fishing through our new BASS excursions, they are sure to be hooked for the rest of their lives."

    "This is a great way to promote BASS memberships as well as some of the finest bass fishing the country has to offer, which just happens to be in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom," said Dean Kessel, vice president and general manager of BASS. "I can't think of a better way to bring in new members while showcasing the mutual commitment to family activities and fishing education shared by BASS and Walt Disney World. It will also mean a lot to our existing membership that we have a presence at a respected, family-friendly vacation destination."

    The new BASS programs will also bring many of the world's best anglers to Walt Disney World Resort for BASS anglers special events and athlete appearances featuring the likes of 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion Mike Iaconelli, who has fished the Disney lakes on multiple occasions. Iaconelli also served as an unofficial BASS ambassador by presenting a trophy to members of the Atlanta Braves following the inaugural Walt Disney World Spring Training Bass Fishing Classic on Disney's Bay Lake in March 2004.

    Walt Disney World Resort

    Guests with little or no fishing experience can enjoy the thrill of guided BASS fishing excursions on the waterway systems at Walt Disney World Resort, including World Showcase Lagoon, Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. Two-hour "catch-and-release" tours led by experienced fishing guides are offered daily on an advance-reservation basis. Pontoon boats are fully stocked for excursions with rods, reels, fishing gear, beverages and a digital camera. A party of up to five people can participate in tours and no fishing license is required. Prices range from $195-$215 for parties of five, and typical tour hours can be arranged for early morning, mid-morning or early afternoon. Guests can make reservations up to two weeks in advance at 407/WDW-BASS (2277). General BASS tours are also available for children, ages six to 12, for $30 per child for one hour.

    During construction of the Magic Kingdom theme park in the late 1960s, more than 70,000 bass fingerlings were released into Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. Organized fishing tours didn't start at Walt Disney World Resort until 1977, leaving bass to grow and breed undisturbed for years. The heaviest largemouth bass caught and recorded at the Vacation Kingdom was 14 pounds, 6 ounces. Guests routinely catch bass weighing from 2 to 8 pounds -- and guides relate tales of catches in the 12-pound range. Most trips catch five to 10 fish, depending upon time of day, number of people on board ... and luck.

    BASS fishing excursions are part of the menu of options available in various Dream Maker Packages at Walt Disney World Resort, which start at $359 per adult (based on double occupancy) for three nights. Guided fishing excursions can be booked at 407/WDW-BASS (2277).

    BASS

    BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

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    CS Lewis story to roar on big screen

    Oscar winner will play leading role


    OSCAR winning actor Jim Broadbent is putting on his scholarly look today as he plays the Professor in the blockbuster movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the CS Lewis classic fairytale which is being shot for the big screen on location in New Zealand.

    The big budget movie is being filmed 54 years after it was written by the Belfast-born theologian and author - and is being tipped as the next Lord of the Rings-style hit.

    "I spent an absorbing week re-reading the yarn," said the star who won his best support Academy Award for his role as John Bayley in Iris.

    "Smashing stuff and I've got a great part as the Prof - just ask any little boy or girl who has had the story read to them at bedtime."

    Broadbent, who was also in Moulin Rouge and Bullets over Broadway, is joined in the cast of the £70m Walt Disney film by the Vicar of Dibley Dawn French as the voice of Mrs Beaver, Rupert Everett who is in Shrek 2, as the Voice of the Fox and Scottish actress Tilda Swinton as The White Witch.

    "The Lewis story is for all generations," said Miss Swinton who won awards for her role in Adaptation with Nicholas Cage.

    "Imagine, this story by theologian Lewis which he dreamed up first as a little boy in Belfast has sold 65 million copies around the world in 30 languages.

    "I'm going to make a realistic evil witch, just the way CS wanted her to be."

    And for James Cosmo, seen recently on Belfast cinemas as Glaucus in Troy starring Brad Pitt, the film will be a second chance to play a role he loves - Father Christmas.

    Cosmo had the part of Santa in Santa Claws, but will be best remembered as the grizzled warrior Campbell in Braveheart opposite Mel Gibson.

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Chronicles of Narnia first took shape in the family home at Circular Road in east Belfast where CS Lewis played hide and seek with his brother in an old wardrobe in the attic - a piece of furniture which is now a collector's item in Chicago.

    And in later life he would go walking at Craigantlet and dream up the fairytale that was to thrill several generations of children.

    Former Belfast Lord Mayor Dr Ian Adamson, an authority on Lewis, said today: "It's about time this film was shot. The Chronicles, and in particular the wardrobe story, rival anything in the Potter yarns and in The Lord of the Rings saga."

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    '
    Big Daddy' Twins Show Disney Channel the 'Suite Life'

     
    It's been double trouble for the Disney Channel when Dylan and Cole Sprouse star in "The Suite Life," a new comedy.

    The Sprouse twins, best known to viewers from "Big Daddy" and "Friends," will play 11-year-olds who live in the top-floor suites at a swanky Boston hotel. Their mother (Kim Rhodes, "As the World Turns") is a singer at the hotel and the have a series of adversaries in the hotel's gift shop clerk (Ashley Michelle Tisdale), the hotel owner's spoiled daughter (Brenda Song) and the hotel manager (Phill Lewis). Despite the constant supervision, they find a way to get into all sorts of trouble in their upper class playground.

    "We've set the bar high for live-action comedies and on the heels of the successful launch of 'Phil of the Future' and the now sever-days-a-week hit 'That's So Raven,' we have great expectations for this new comedy and we know kids will connect to its cast, especially the telegenic Sprouse twins," says Disney Channel President Rich Ross.

    The series was created by Danny Kallis ("Hangin' with Mr. Cooper") and Jim Geoghan ("Family Matters"). Production is set to begin this summer for a 2005 premiere.

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    Stay in the middle of the magic with Disney

    Canadians will enjoy big savings this fall at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. A new offer available for travel August 29, 2004 to September 29, 2004, allows Canadians to book rooms for as low as $55 US per night at a value resort hotel like the new Disney’s Pop Century Resort — a savings of $22 US per room per night. But hurry! The offer must be booked before August 28, 2004.

    Rates for Disney Moderate and Disney Deluxe resorts are available during this same time period at varying rates and include savings up to $80 US per night. This room offer is a great opportunity for Guests to combine the benefits of staying at an on-site Walt Disney World Resort hotel with the excitement of Disney’s famous theme parks. The benefits include:

    ·        beautifully themed accommodations located in the “middle of the magic”

    ·        legendary Disney Guest service and hospitality 24 hours a day

    ·        exclusive early entry to selected Walt Disney World theme parks and attractions with paid admission

    ·        unlimited complimentary transportation (motor coach, water launches or monorail) throughout Walt Disney World Resort.

    In addition to the incredible convenience of staying within the Walt Disney World Resort, Canadian guests can buy at home and save up to $25 US per Park Hopper Ticket.  Disney’s five- and seven-day Park Hopper Tickets offer unlimited admission to all four Walt Disney World theme parks for the number of days purchased. Disney’s five- and seven-day Park Hopper Plus Tickets offer unlimited admission to all four Walt Disney World theme parks and two additional visits to one of Disney’s themed water parks, Downtown Disney Pleasure Island or Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

    To book this special room-only offer and order theme park tickets, contact your local travel agent or call Walt Disney World Resort reservations at 407-WDW-STAR and ask for booking code BAJ. Visit http://www.disneyworld.ca/ for more information or call 1-888-712-5389 to order a FREE Vacation Planning Kit.

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    Howdy Hey! Walt Disney World Young'uns Can Kick Up Their Heels at Goofy's Country Dancin' Jamboree

    Howdy, partners! Welcome to the world-famous Diamond Horseshoe Saloon at Walt Disney World Resort, where young'uns are in for a rootin' tootin' good time at Goofy's Country Dancin' Jamboree !

    Several times a day, the legendary Magic Kingdom venue in Liberty Square plays host to a fun country music dance party starring Goofy, his pals Chip and Dale, plus the stars of Disney and Pixar's "Toy Story 2" -- Woody, Jessie and Bullseye.

    Young guests are encouraged to mosey on down to sing, play and learn how to country line-dance with some of their favorite Disney characters and Miss Sarah Jo, a true country sweetheart and Goofy's sassy sidekick.

    During each jamboree, Goofy and his pals will teach plenty of kids to kick up their heels and dance up a storm learning such classic country dances as "Boot Scootin' Boogie," "Electric Slide" and the special "Goofy Two-Step." Grown-ups seekin' a special keepsake can head upstairs to the saloon's balconies to shoot photos or video of the action down on the dance floor.

    During the holidays, a special version of the jamboree includes such classic songs as "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

    It's a rip-roarin' good time that'll leave everyone with a spring in their boots and smiles on their faces!

    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS DVD RELEASE

    International superstar Jackie Chan (“Shanghai
    Knights,” “Rush Hour”) stars in the fun, action-packed film AROUND THE WORLD
    IN 80 DAYS
    , Disney/Walden Media’s adventure for the whole family touching down on
    DVD and VHS on November 2. Fabulous adventures, hilarious predicaments and
    exhilarating action await an all-star cast as three unlikely heroes attempt to settle an
    outrageous wager by racing around the world in the most fabulous contraptions
    imaginable.

    On DVD, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS has a host of bonus features,
    including: deleted scenes; director’s alternate opening (with optional director
    commentary); making “Around The World In 80 Days,” a behind-the-scenes, on-location
    look at the film; “Around the World of Jackie Chan” stunt choreography with Jackie
    Chan; cast & filmmaker commentary; and music video “All Over The World” performed
    by Dave Stewart and the Sylvia School Children’s Choir.

    Directed by Frank Coraci. Screenplay by David Titcher and David Benullo & David
    Goldstein. Based on the novel by Jules Verne. Available for $29.99 on DVD (S.R.P.)
    and $24.99 (S.R.P.) on VHS.

    Eccentric London inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan, “24 Hour Party People”) has
    come up with the secrets to flight, electricity, and even in-line skates, but the world has
    dismissed him as a crackpot. Desperate to be taken seriously, Fogg makes an outlandish
    bet with Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent, “Moulin Rouge”), the head of the Royal Academy
    of Science: to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days!

    Joined by Passepartout (Jackie Chan) and femme fatale Monique (Cécile De France), Fog
    heads on a frantic, heart-pounding round-the-world race that takes our heroes to the
    world’s most exotic places by land, sea and air. Along the way, our heroes face many
    adventures and obstacles in an incredible adventure-of-a-lifetime.

    STREET DATE: November 2, 2004
    Rated: “PG” For Action Violence, Some
    Crude Humor And Mild Language
    Bonus materials unrated.
    Feature run time: Approximately 120 minutes
    DVD Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 formatted for 16x9 TV screens
    or separate
    1.33:1 (full-frame) formatted 4x3
    Sound: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound
    THX Certified
    Suggested retail price: $29.99 (DVD), $24.99 (VHS)
    Languages: French audio & subtitles on DVD
    Spanish audio & subtitles on DVD

    With a distinctive mission to recapture imagination and rekindle curiosity by marrying
    popular entertainment and education, WALDEN MEDIA is a multimedia company led
    by Cary Granat, former president of Miramax Films’ Dimension label and education
    entrepreneur Michael Flaherty. The venture, launched in May 2001, focuses on
    educational subject matter presented through the mediums of film, television, live theater
    publishing, and new media ventures.

    Walden Media is a subsidiary of The Anschutz Company. The Denver-based company is
    one of the largest privately owned and operated ventures in the U.S. Its affiliated
    companies are principally engaged in telecommunications and media, natural resources,
    transportation, real estate, sports and entertainment.

    Walden Media in association with The Walt Disney Company, recently released “Ghosts
    of the Abyss,” a 3-D large format James Cameron film and “Holes,” the adaptation of
    Louis Sachar’s Newbery Award-winning novel to critical and box office success. The
    company is making the first full-length live-action film adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ book
    series The Chronicles of Narnia, beginning with “The Lion, the Witch, and the
    Wardrobe,” to be directed by Andrew Adamson (“Shrek”). Walden Media has also
    teamed with renowned television and stage producer Douglas Love to establish the
    Walden Family Playhouse, a live children’s theater in Denver, CO with other locations to
    follow.

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    Creston teen gets to meet Disney cast
     
    Emily Wemhoff of Creston, Neb., volunteered alongside the cast of Disney's "That's So Raven" after being honored for her work with fire safety.

    "Disney Adventures" magazine recognized the 15-year-old as a "Disney Adventures All-Star" for starting Project SAFE (Save A Friend Everyday) in 2002. Emily was one of 6,000 entries.

    As part of the award, she planted flowers in June at a senior care facility in Burbank, Calif.

    "We got to work side by side with the whole cast," she said. "They were all nice, but it was weird because you always see them on TV."

    She also won the all-expense-paid trip for two to Los Angeles, tickets to Disneyland and $1,000. She said she will give the money to Creston's fire department.

    Emily began Project SAFE after hearing about a Lincoln house fire.

    The fire prompted the Wemhoff family to test its smoke alarm. The alarm didn't work.

    Emily then called everyone in Creston listed in the phone book to make sure their fire alarms worked. It took a year to make the 217 calls.

    Using grant money, she put together gift bags with alarms for families who didn't have them.

    Now she is organizing a statewide day for families to practice fire-escape plans at their homes.

    _____________________________________________________________________________ 
                                                            Wednesday
    July 28, 2004 

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    Disney reduces summer blackout dates

    The move could boost business during August, traditionally the slowest month of the season
     
    Walt Disney World is slashing the number of blackout dates for its four-park seasonal-pass holders, a move that could boost business as the region's tourism industry heads into what is traditionally the slowest month of the summer.

    Starting Friday, pass holders will get an extra three weeks to visit Disney's theme parks this summer. With Disney's seasonal pass -- which for Florida residents is about two-thirds of the cost of a full-time annual pass -- visitors can't go to the parks during peak times such as summer, the December holidays and spring break.

    This year's summer-blackout period started June 12 and was scheduled to run until Aug. 19. But pass holders began receiving post cards in the mail this week telling them that the blackout would end Friday and offering them discounts at some Disney resorts. "Like magic, you've just scored three extra weeks!" the headline on the postcard shouts.

    Disney's offer comes as Central Florida's tourism industry prepares for August. Some local tourism experts point to a decline in the number of in-state visitors -- as well as those from other key markets in the South -- as children head back to school in early August.

    "August drops off when you compare it against June and July, but how much of that is in-state and how much of that is because of school starting is a tricky question," said Kelly Repass, research director with Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

    Disney officials could not be reached for comment.

    Students in the Northeast still have several weeks of vacation in front of them. School doesn't start until Sept. 2 in Pittsburgh and Sept. 13 in New York, for example.

    But in Florida and in key Southeast drive markets, summer is practically over.

    School begins next week in Seminole, Lake and Osceola counties. Orange, Volusia and Duval county students go back Aug. 9. Elsewhere in the South, Atlanta children are back in the classroom Aug. 9, and Charlotte, N.C., students start Aug. 16. So it makes sense for Disney to do something to entice in-state travelers -- who are most likely to hold seasonal passes -- to come to the parks and hopefully spend money on parking, food and trinkets, said Abe Pizam, a tourism professor at the University of Central Florida.

    "Maybe it's going to be a little soft and they want to encourage tourists, especially the Floridians, to come," Pizam said.

    Hotel occupancy -- one key measure of the health of the tourism industry -- often dips in August compared to other summer months. Last summer, for example, Central Florida hotels were an average 69 percent full in June, 72 percent in July and 64 percent in August, according to Smith Travel Research.

    Still, Pizam and other tourism officials insist that this summer is shaping up to be the strongest since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, dampened the nation's enthusiasm for travel.

    Earlier this month, several low-cost airlines slashed late-summer and early-fall fares, a move that some travel experts said could provide a boost to Orlando's attractions and hotels.

    Officials at Universal Orlando said Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios have seen double-digit growth so far this summer compared with last year.

    "We've had a great summer," said Tom Schroeder, a Universal spokesman.
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    The Walt Disney Company Increases Presence in China with Sponsorship of Country's First NBA Games
     
    ESPN to Televise Two NBA Preseason Games Live from China in October 2004
     
    The Walt Disney Company will further enhance the presence of Disney in China this Fall through its relationship with the National Basketball Association. Disney will sponsor the first-ever NBA games staged in China when the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings play two preseason games originating from Shanghai and Beijing in October 2004, and ESPN will televise these games. This is part of Disney's overall effort to expand internationally, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
     
    "Introducing the magic of Disney to the world's most populated nation is a truly thrilling and historic undertaking," said Disney CEO Michael Eisner. "While this is an incredible opportunity for our company and our shareholders, it is also an important cultural milestone for the Chinese people, as we open the doors to entirely new worlds of fantasy, imagination and adventure."

    "The combined strength of Disney, ESPN and the NBA makes for a sports-entertainment powerhouse, and we're pleased to bring them together for the first time ever in China," said Bob Iger, Disney president and COO. "Both Disney and the NBA offer experiences that transcend cultural divides, which is why these exciting sporting events are the ideal platform for introducing Disney's newest theme park, Hong Kong Disneyland."

    As part of the sponsorship, Hong Kong Disneyland will work with the NBA on a number of marketing activities to support the event. Hong Kong Disneyland also will have an in-stadium and courtside presence at the NBA games in China, as well as on NBA.com.

    The historic NBA games -- the first staged in China by an American professional sports league -- will be televised live on ESPN Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 a.m. ET from Shanghai Stadium and late Saturday, Oct. 16, at midnight (Saturday at 9 p.m. PT) from Capital Stadium in Beijing. ESPN play-by-play commentator Mike Breen and analyst Bill Walton will call the action. NBA China Games 2004 are part of the league's continuing effort to support the development and growth of basketball in China.

    These games will mark the first time Yao Ming returns to his native country with his NBA team, the Houston Rockets. In addition to the domestic telecasts, ESPN International will distribute the games to 100 countries and territories in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. Additional international distribution is pending. Each game will be reaired: the event in Shanghai will be seen on ESPN2 Thursday, Oct. 14, at 7:30 p.m. and the contest from Beijing will be aired by ESPN Sunday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m.

    Disney's presence in China includes television programming, film, home entertainment products, live entertainment, consumer products, publishing, Internet properties, and in 2005/06 a theme park presence.

    The Hong Kong Disneyland project was announced in November 1999 as a venture between Disney and the Hong Kong SAR Government. With the completion of reclamation for Hong Kong Disneyland Phase I by the Hong Kong SAR Government in December 2002, Disney began construction in January 2003, with the project scheduled to open in late 2005/early 2006. The opening day program for Hong Kong Disneyland will include a theme park in the style of Disneyland Park and two hotels. The Phase I build-out includes a projected 10-million-annual-visitor theme park in the style of Disneyland Park, 2,100 hotel rooms, and an area for retail, dining and entertainment. The project is estimated to create 18,000 new jobs at opening (both Disney and other employment), growing to 36,000 once the first park reaches build-out. The Hong Kong SAR Government estimated that the first phase of the project will generate a present economic value of HK$148 billion (US$19 billion) in benefits to Hong Kong over a 40-year period. For more information, please refer to the Hong Kong Disneyland website at http://www.hongkongdisneyland.com/.

    Hong Kong Disneyland recently announced an agreement with Television Broadcasts Limited to launch a collaborative effort to bring the best of Disney's entertainment to the people of Hong Kong. Under the collaboration, TVB Jade will air three exciting new Disney TV programs -- "Hong Kong Disneyland Fun Time," "Hong Kong Disneyland Viva Club Disney" and "The Magical World of Disneyland," starting from July. The three series will bring Disney stories and magic to children and families in Hong Kong in the period leading up to the Park's opening. "The Magical World of Disneyland" will debut on Saturday, July 31, on TVB Jade, broadcasting classic Disney animated films. "Toy Story" will lead off, making it the first Disney animated movie ever to be aired on TVB Jade. Other upcoming movies will include "Dinosaur," "Monsters Inc.," and "Beauty and the Beast." Prior to the airing of each film, "Magical World of Disneyland" will also take viewers behind the scenes to experience the magic of Disneyland Park, and how Walt Disney's vision created a place that transports guests into a world of fantasy, imagination and adventure.

    In June 2004, ESPN announced plans to launch ESPN The Magazine in China later this year. Working with Vertex Group, ESPN will publish the Chinese-language edition monthly. The magazine will be distributed in Mainland China, including Beijing and Shanghai, and in Hong Kong. The Chinese edition of ESPN The Magazine will offer a mix of original content targeted to the interests of sports fans in China, as well as material from the U.S. edition of the magazine. Editorial is expected to include coverage of international, European, and Chinese soccer; international and Asian basketball leagues, as well as the NBA; professional golf; track and field events; auto racing; action sports; and more. The magazine will be printed in simplified Chinese characters.

    ESPN's joint venture with Star Sports in Asia, "ESPN STAR Sports" (ESS), continues to grow by providing first-class coverage of local and international sporting events most relevant to the markets it serves. Selected ESPN programming is distributed nationally in China via CCTV and other outlets and reaches an estimated 100 million households. ESPN is also available as a 24-hour network in Hong Kong and is transmitted in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.

    Disney Consumer Products entered the China market 12 years ago and has now expanded its retail presence to more than 25 cities to reach 25 million consumers with more than 690 Disney corners in China selling Disney-branded merchandise. The business is growing at a rapid rate and sales in China reached approximately US$128 million at retail in 2003. Disney is one of the leading children's publishers in China and Mickey Mouse magazine is one of the most-read children's comic magazines in China.

    Mickey Mouse animation first appeared on CCTV in 1986. Its continuing popularity culminated in a unique relationship with CCTV1 to feature classic Disney animation, which returned to CCTV1 in 2001. Disney animation on CCTV1 recently obtained a 28% share in recent ratings, reaching more than 91.3 million children. Through close cooperation with CCTV-6, Disney has started to bring big blockbuster titles, including "102 Dalmatians," "Face Off," "Armageddon" and "Shanghai Noon" to Chinese viewers for the first time.

    Disney has launched numerous television ventures across the Asian continent and continues to be on expansion mode. Disney Channel (DC) is now available in 11 countries and regions across Asia, with Japan launched on Nov. 18, 2003, and Hong Kong added in April 2004. There are four separate video feeds/services in the region -- the DC Japan, DC Australian, DC Taiwan (Mandarin) and the DC Asia feed, which also has an English, Mandarin and Cantonese audio feed. In Korea, DC Asia also broadcasts with a Korean subtitling service.

    The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise which includes Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, The Walt Disney Studios, ABC, Inc., ESPN, Disney Channel, Disney Consumer Products, television and radio stations and Internet web sites.

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    Animal Kingdom Rehabs scheduled

    Some new Animal Kingdom rehabs currently scheduled. Adjust your trip planners now

    Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends will be closed for refurbishment Tuesday, September 7 through Saturday, September 11, reopening Sunday, September 12, 2004.

    Festival of the Lion King will be closed for refurbishment Thursday, September 16 through Saturday, September 18, reopening Sunday, September 19, 2004.

    The Boneyard will be closed for refurbishment Monday, September 20 through Thursday, October 14, reopening Friday, October 15, 2004

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    Disney & Co settle patent dispute over synchronized TV & Internet broadcast

    OpenTV Corp., one of the world's leading interactive television companies, and The Walt Disney Company, a diversified, international family entertainment and media enterprise, along with Disney subsidiaries, ABC and ESPN, have settled patent litigation brought by OpenTV's subsidiary, ACTV, against Disney, ABC and ESPN. The patents in suit relate to certain systems and methods for synchronizing Internet content with television programming, enabling television viewers to receive content pertaining to a broadcast program through the Internet.

    Kirkland & Ellis LLP partners Kenneth W. Starr and Daniel F. Attridge along with associate Gregory F. Corbett represented ACTV in this matter.

    As part of the settlement, OpenTV has granted Disney a non-exclusive, royalty-bearing license to use and to exploit the patents in suit. The Walt Disney Internet Group has also entered into negotiations for a non-exclusive, multi-year development agreement with OpenTV for the creation and marketing of enhanced television programming.

    "We are very pleased that we have been able to resolve this litigation with Disney, ABC and ESPN in a mutually beneficial manner," said Jim Chiddix, Chairman and CEO of OpenTV. "Disney's agreement to license these patents and our late stage discussions with Walt Disney Internet Group to work with us to develop enhanced TV programming provides a solid foundation on which we can create exciting television for viewers across the United States."

    About Kirkland & Ellis LLP

    Kirkland & Ellis LLP is a 1,000-attorney law firm representing global clients in complex litigation, corporate and tax, workout, insolvency and bankruptcy, dispute resolution and arbitration, and intellectual property and technology matters. The Firm has offices in Washington, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

    About OpenTV

    One of the world's leading interactive television companies, OpenTV provides a comprehensive suite of technology, content, games, tools, applications, and professional services that enables cable and satellite network operators in over 90 countries to deliver and manage iTV services on all major digital TV platforms. OpenTV has its Corporate Offices in San Francisco, California and regional offices in the United States, Europe and Asia/Pacific. For more information, please visit www.opentv.com.

    OpenTV and the OpenTV logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of OpenTV, Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All OpenTV products and services may not be available in all geographic areas
    ________________________________________________________________

    Harlem lot's set for Bette-r days


    The divine Miss M and Disney worked some magic on a Harlem vacant lot yesterday, touching off its transformation into a neighborhood garden and playground.

    Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Bette Midler, founder of the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), planted a pin oak at 103rd St. and Park Ave. They said the new tree soon will be followed by a new neighborhood gathering spot.

    "It's going to be a world-class park," said Midler, who was joined by some 50 volunteers. "The people of this neighborhood deserve it, and it will help the block come alive."

    The 15,000-square-foot lot, nestled among train tracks and apartments, has held only graffiti and abandoned cars for years, neighbors said. Children in the area have no place to play, they added.

    "Now, kids play in the middle of the street," said neighborhood resident Kareem Omary, 27. "I hope kids can play here soon."

    The park will be finished this summer and will have a basketball court and playground, in addition to shaded benches and a vegetable garden.

    The project began in 2001, when Councilman Philip Reed (D-Manhattan) approached Midler's group, which maintains 55 city gardens. NYRP took over the lot from a defunct youth group, setting the stage for the overhaul that took root yesterday.

    "Before, we were the leader in things that make you sick," said Reed's chief of staff, Geoffrey Eaton. "Now, we can showcase something positive."

    Even Eisner was impressed with the visuals. "Real magic is being created as this park is being transformed from a source of blight to a thing of beauty," he said.

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    FGCU will compete in Disney event

    The Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball team is going to Disney World.

    The Eagles will begin the season with the Disney Division II Tip-off Tournament on Nov. 12-14 at the Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista.

    FGCU, 22-5 last season, will compete in the eight-team, three-game, full-bracket tourney.

    Other teams are the University of North Dakota, Barry, North Florida, Henderson State (Ark.), Clayton State (Ga.), Indiana (Pa.) University and Bentley College (Mass.)

    The Eagles graduated five players from last year's squad, including former Port Charlotte High standout Leighton Bowie, who played one season with FGCU after attending College of Charleston. Another Pirate will be on the roster this season: freshman guard Yavney Neptune, the reigning Herald-Tribune Player of the Year.

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    Talks to bring Indians to Disney continue

    Osceola County officials want to make it clear they are ready to play ball when it comes to making the Cleveland Indians the county's third major-league spring-training team.

    Word surfaced last week that the club is considering a move from Winter Haven to Disney's Wide World of Sports by 2006. This week, county commissioners directed staff to meet with the team and Disney to see what needs to be done for the Indians to share Cracker Jack Stadium with the Atlanta Braves. The Houston Astros' spring home is Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee.

    County Commissioner Paul Owen, who has been helping with a deal, said team officials prefer Disney over Fort Myers and Tucson, Ariz., where talks also have taken place. Owen expects Osceola to have a proposed deal, including whether the county will split the cost, to vote on in about a month.

    "These are serious discussions and it would mean a lot to Osceola County to make this work," Owen said. "I want to know what it will take to bring them here."

    Renovating the stadium for a second team to cover improvements such as new clubhouses and office space is expected to cost about $20 million.

    Feelers already had been put out to the Florida Sports Foundation, a semi-government agency that helps pay for sporting events that attract out-of-state visitors, to help with the cost. The foundation quashed the idea because the stadium is privately owned, spokesman Nick Gandy said.

    But if a city or county does the asking -- and is willing to split the cost -- the answer could be different.

    Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio confirmed that talks have been under way.

    "[The talks] have been very cordial," he said. "We look forward to continuing those conversations."

    Disney spokeswoman Jackie Polak would say only that the company was ready to welcome back the Atlanta Braves in the coming years. A Braves spokesman had no comment.

    The Indians are looking for a new home because of a strained relationship with Winter Haven officials, who want to develop the lakefront Chain O'Lakes Park site. The team, which has played in Polk County since 1993, has committed to stay only through 2005.
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    Finally

    Orange County Performing Arts Center has booked "On the Record," the staged compilation of Disney songs announced last week, as a replacement for the canceled "Wonderful Town" in the center's Broadway series, Sept. 6-18, 2005.

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    Last shot at the 'Beast'

    North Carolina - Flat Rock Playhouse has just one more week of its smash musical "Disney's Beauty and the Beast." Showtimes today are at 2:15 and 8:15 p.m. at the theater on U.S. 25 and Little River Road in Flat Rock. But if you want to see it, better pick up that phone and call right this minute because it's been packing the house for virtually every performance. Call 693-0731.

    On the Net: www.flatrockplayhouse.org

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                                                                Tuesday
    July 27, 2004

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    Affleck on mission for Disney's 'Men'
     
    The Walt Disney Co. knows where Ben Affleck is -- attached to the adventure feature "Nowhere Men." The studio has acquired the pitch for high-six figures for Peter and David Griffiths to pen.

    Based on a treatment by Soren Garcia Rey, a longtime friend of Affleck, and Chris Angulo, the ensemble adventure is described as "Ocean's Eleven" meets "Men in Black." It revolves around a group of people, one of whom will be played by Affleck, who pursue covert missions, aided by their personal extraordinary gifts.
    The Griffiths brothers pitched an expanded take of the treatment to studio brass Nina Jacobson and Jason Reed who bought it in the room. Affleck's partner at LivePlanet, Sean Bailey, will produce, with other producing credits still to be determined.

    The writers and Affleck are repped by Endeavor. The scribes penned "Collateral Damage" and "The Hunted."

    The Disney deal is good news for Affleck, who recently exited the basketball drama "Glory Road." Before that, he was attached to star in the studio's "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," but he fell out of that package as well. He next stars in the holiday comedy "Surviving Christmas." 
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    Series, Movies Slated at Disney Channel
     
    Disney Channel has given the go-ahead to a new live-action series and two movies, all scheduled to air in 2005.

    The series "The Suite Life" stars identical twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse ("Friends") as 11-year-olds who get to live in a swanky Boston hotel.

    The films are "Buffalo Dreams," about boys living on a Navajo reservation, and "World's Greatest Kid Magician," which is set inside a reality TV

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    Euro Disney says no debt deadline set for Prince al-Waleed on debt plan

    No deadline has yet been set for Prince al-Waleed bin Talal and other shareholders in the Euro Disney theme park near Paris to make a decision on the company's debt restructuring plan, spokesman Peter Boterman said on Monday.

    This Saturday, July 31, is the deadline for the company's creditor banks to make up their minds on proposals for revamping Euro Disney's debt of 2.4 billion euros (2.9 billion dollars) and on a plan for a capital increase of 250 million euros.

    Boterman said "I wouldn't say there is no urgency" for Prince al-Waleed to give his view, but he pointed out that the prince did not have to give his view by July 31.

    The first hurdle for the restructuring plan was to win backing from creditors and only then would a timetable be set for shareholder approval, he said.

    Boterman could not say when Euro Disney might make a statement about the progress of the debt proposals nor when the company might issue its sales figures for the third quarter to June, although analysts expect them this week.

    In mid-morning trading, the price of shares in Euro Disney was showing a fall of 0.01 euros or 3.03 percent to 0.32 euros amid investor anxiety about the debt restructuring and the sales figures, dealers said.

    The company, which attracted 12.4 million visitors to its Disney theme park east of Paris last year, suspended debt payments to core shareholder The Walt Disney Co in November and has said it cannot repay its overall debts unless shareholders back the refinancing plan.

    At French brokers Fideuram Wargny, analysts estimate that Euro Disney sales for the nine months to June will be flat at 749 million euros, with revenues from the theme parks showing a gain of 5.4 percent and turnover at its hotels down 4.3 percent to 294 million euros.

    The 250-million-euro capital increase project has been backed by The Walt Disney Co, which will put up 100 million euros in proportion to its 39.1-percent interest.

    Leading creditor Caisse des Depots et Consignations, CDC a quasi-state French investment group, is to provide another 75 million euros and other banks the remainder, according to reports.

    Prince al-Waleed rescued Euro Disney from an earlier financial crisis in 1994 by taking a major stake.

    However, the Saudi Arabian prince reduced his holding to 16.3 percent from 24.7 percent last year. His staff have said he was willing to talk about the latest debt problems, but have given no details of his attitude towards the plan.

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    Fordyce Teachor Honored by Disney

    Pamela Caldwell Vaughan, a high school biology and physical sciences teacher from Fordyce, has been honored by the Walt Disney Company.

    Vaughan is among 39 teachers that Disney officials chose to honor out of a field of 150,000 nominees. The 39 were chosen by a national committee of educators.

    All recipients of the 2004 DisneyHand Teacher Awards received $10,000 each.

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    Premiere of 'The Village' in Prospect Park New York

    Below are photos of the premiere of "The Village" held in New York.

                       
                                               

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    'King Arthur' Fares Better Overseas

    With a batch of big-budget movies playing around the world, the foreign box office thrived last weekend despite a falloff in parts of Europe because of fine weather.

    Highlights of a busy weekend included the early foreign turnaround of Disney's domestic disappointment "King Arthur," the record-breaking top-of-the-market opening of Germany's homemade "(T)Raumschiff Surprise -- Periode 1" (Spaceship Surprise -- Period 1, the unofficial English translation), the ongoing approval of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the holdover power of "Spider-Man 2," "Shrek 2" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

    Japan was the site of a blockbuster shootout, with "Azkaban" holding the No. 1 position for a fifth weekend with a $3.9 million haul in the face of openings from "King Arthur," "Shrek 2" and local film "Pocket Monsters '04," and the third weekend of "Spider-Man 2." A $3.1 million two-day weekend put "Arthur" in second place, followed by "Spider-Man 2," "Pocket Monsters" and "Shrek 2."

    "King Arthur," which will barely break $50 million in North America, came through with a $10.1 million weekend from 14 countries, copping the No. 1 position in six out of the seven markets (excluding Japan) in which it opened. South Korea provided $2.3 million, hailed as a Disney record in the market; Sweden reported in with $1.2 million, Norway with $470,000 and Taiwan $514,000.

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    Moore trumpets earnings, takes shot at Eisner

    "Fahrenheit 9/11" director Michael Moore has responded to news out of Aspen that the CEO of The Walt Disney Co. enjoyed the divisive picture.

    The director held a conference call Sunday to promote the fact that "Fahrenheit 9/11" has now grossed more than $100 million since hitting the silver screen in June. He also took a shot at Disney boss Michael Eisner, who blocked Miramax Films from distributing the film.

    "I'm glad Mr. Eisner has said he liked the film, but I would think that his stockholders might wonder what his fiduciary responsibilities are to them at this point," entertainment magazine Variety.com quoted Moore as saying during the call, which was heard by about a dozen journalists.

    The director was reacting to a story published Saturday in the Aspen Daily News that reported Eisner acknowledged seeing "Fahrenheit 9/11" at FORTUNE magazine's fourth annual Brainstorm conference, co-hosted by The Aspen Institute.

    "The reason it is a hit is it's entertaining," Eisner said. "I thought it was like going to a rock concert. I loved it, but not in a political (sense)."

    Days before "Fahrenheit 9/11" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, Moore revealed Miramax Films, a subsidiary of Disney, would not distribute it for political reasons. At the time, he suggested Disney was fearful of losing tax breaks in Florida because the film critiqued President Bush's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and motives for waging war in Iraq. President Bush's brother is the governor of Florida.

    Eisner has disputed the claim and explained at the Brainstorm conference that Disney's shareholders and customers would not want the company to release controversial political films.

    "We simply don't believe we should be a partisan company," said Eisner, who owns a home in Old Snowmass. "I have no regrets. I think we did the right thing."

    Miramax executives Bob and Harvey Weinstein eventually acquired the rights to "Fahrenheit 9/11" through a company it formed with Moore called Fellowship Adventure Group. Lions Gate Films and IFC Films are distributing the picture.

    Raking in more than $100 million, "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the most lucrative documentary ever made and it has made more money than any Disney film this year.

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    Do lions' roars rattle the cheap seats?

    It's a given that “The Lion King” looks great from the front of the beautifully refurbished Opera House, especially from an aisle seat, where the life-size puppets can easily be touched as they parade by.

    But those seats to this smash hit are next-to-impossible to come by. And for many families their cost - $87.50 - makes a trip to the theater equivalent to a weekend vacation to Disney World. (That's the box office cost for most orchestra seats; special VIP seating is $132.50, and some Web sites are selling tickets this week for up to $220 apiece.)

    However, the producers offer a wide-enough price differential that there are balcony and mezzanine seats available for $22.50, making it possible for a family of four to see the show for less than $100.

    But can you see and hear the love tonight (to paraphrase the show's ballad) from these locations, specifically the last row of the balcony that offers a dodo's-eye-view?

    To find out, I waited some 40 minutes at the box office and picked up a $27.50 seat for last Sunday's matinee that placed me in Row G in the mezzanine on the far right.

    Though marked “limited view,” the seat was better than I expected. Virtually all the visual effects, from the eye-filling opening to the subtle use of shadow puppets, are in full view. There is so much to see, in fact, that the obstructed view hardly mattered, and the sound, though obviously amplified with state-of-the-art technology, is clear and warm.

    For the second half I moved back to the center of the last row, raked high above the proscenium. Yet from this location, where I sat with a family of four, the show appears like a vibrantly colored pop-up book.

    While the facial expressions of the actors could not be seen without the aid of binoculars, it remained an eye-filling spectacle that left the children beside me enthralled. “Wow,” said one when the face of Mufasa, the dead lion, appears like magic against a starry sky.

    The sound, though, lacks the clarity it had from points below, perhaps because the vast hall's natural acoustics create a kind of bellowing effect.

    Part of the show is the Opera House itself, which is not only resplendent to the eye, but provides more than adequate comfort.

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                                                              Monday
    July 26, 2004

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    Disney Experience Drives Katzenberg
     
    When he ran the studio of Walt Disney Co. in the mid-1990s, Jeffrey Katzenberg lobbied tirelessly to become heir apparent to Chief Executive Michael Eisner — prodding, cajoling and pressuring his boss while toiling to turn out box-office hits that included the animated blockbuster "The Lion King."

    Katzenberg wasn't rewarded with a promotion. Instead, Eisner unceremoniously fired him in 1994, putting out the word that his underling was an immature character with an oversized ego.

    The battle scars from those days may well prove the best insurance policy for investors in the publicly traded entertainment company that Katzenberg is now poised to run as CEO.

    "There's no question Jeffrey's got the motivation," said analyst Dennis McAlpine, principle of McAlpine Associates. "He wants to show Eisner what a mistake he made."

    Last week, Katzenberg and his DreamWorks Studios partners disclosed that they were preparing this fall to take public one piece of their enterprise — the computer-animation factory that is home to the biggest animated U.S. box-office hit of all time: "Shrek 2."

    Yet for all of Katzenberg's determination, the gambit may well be the diciest of his career.

    DreamWorks is angling to become the next Pixar Animation Studios, which enjoys an impressive $3.7-billion value on Wall Street, thanks to its flawless record in theaters. But while Pixar boasts a string of five straight hits — among them "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo" — DreamWorks' record outside the "Shrek" franchise has been mediocre.

    "Jeffrey has very good judgment, he's a master communicator and relationship builder and is too smart to make rookie mistakes," said one Wall Street source who knows Katzenberg well. "But a pure-play movie company is a high-risk proposition."

    Certainly, others have found that to be true. Imagine Entertainment went public in 1986, only to be taken private again seven years later by its two principles, producer Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard. They created little value for investors or themselves, and failed in their attempts to expand beyond the volatile movie business.

    Even Pixar's stock has been on a roller coaster ride, in part because of the long fallow periods of more than a year between its movies, when the company must rely on DVD releases and its shallow library for revenue.

    DreamWorks cannot comment because of the quiet period required by regulators before a public offering. But analysts say the company is looking to level out the inherent volatility by pumping up the volume, issuing two computer-animated movies a year, even though few rivals have been able to pull off such a feat.

    Pixar, the gold standard for the genre, is still striving to raise its output to one movie every year but has struggled because of what it claims is a lack of talent. And with the major studios also looking to compete in computer animation, analysts say it will be hard for DreamWorks to churn out high-quality pictures as swiftly as it wants.

    Much of the pressure, meanwhile, will fall squarely on the 53-year-old Katzenberg, the creative force behind DreamWorks' animated fare.

    "Lots of DreamWorks' success will be tied to Jeffrey," McAlpine said. "I know he only sleeps two hours a night, but how far can you spread one guy?"

    There are bound to be other challenges, too. By issuing its stock to the public after producing the highest-grossing animated movie of all time ("Shrek 2" has taken in $429.5 million to date in the U.S.), DreamWorks' future films may disappoint investors whose expectations may have been unduly inflated.

    Indeed, the stock offering is expected to be held sometime around DreamWorks' next computer-animated release in October of "Shark Tale." Though the film is highly anticipated, it has little chance of generating "Shrek"-sized business, industry watchers say.

    Katzenberg also will have to figure out how to balance his time between the public company and the privately held parent, which he previously ran and that will distribute the animated movies and continue to produce live-action features. Katzenberg will control the public company along with his partner, David Geffen, while Steven Spielberg, their other partner, remains at the parent.

    "There is a built-in conflict and he'll have to sort it out in a way that is perceived to be fair to shareholders," the Wall Street source said.

    Then there's the issue of disclosure. Executives who have run private companies — as Katzenberg has done for the last decade, along with his partners — can find it jarring to suddenly face the scrutiny of the public market.

    In past interviews, Katzenberg has been vague about DreamWorks' financial strength, declining to disclose specific numbers while simply claiming that its movies have been profitable.

    In a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, DreamWorks revealed that its animation unit lost $189 million in 2003 and has been in the black in only two of the last five years.

    "When you're a public company, you have to live by the quarterly declaration of your actual performance," noted one veteran Hollywood executive.

    In fact, sources say, DreamWorks is largely resorting to a public offering because of the need to pay back one of its main investors, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Under a 10-year agreement that expires next year, Allen has the right to force DreamWorks to buy out his $660-million stake if he has no other way to cash out.

    "This deadline has been looming for two years and has led to merger talks that never went anywhere because DreamWorks priced itself so aggressively," said one person familiar with the deal. "The IPO is a fail-safe because DreamWorks doesn't have the money to pay Paul off."

    Katzenberg, of course, has had more than a taste of life at the upper level of a public concern.

    As Disney's studio chief, he resuscitated the company's animation franchise, overseeing a run of profitable movies including "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." Katzenberg also had early success in reviving Disney's live-action business with such films as "Good Morning Vietnam" and "Pretty Woman."

    "I think Jeffrey is one of the best … executives in the business and has all the skills and abilities to lead any company," said Dick Cook, who worked for Katzenberg at Disney and is now chairman of Disney Studios.

    But Katzenberg's relationship with Eisner soured when he unsuccessfully pressed for the No. 2 job at Disney after the company's president, Frank Wells, died in a helicopter crash.

    The animosities erupted into one of the biggest legal disputes in Hollywood after Katzenberg sued Disney in 1996, contending that the company breached his employment contract.

    During court testimony, Eisner sought to portray Katzenberg as overly demanding and greedy. At the same time, Eisner was confronted with disparaging statements that he had made about Katzenberg, including most infamously, "I hate the little midget." The case was settled in 1999, with Katzenberg walking away with an undisclosed sum estimated to be at least $250 million.

    Eisner painted a particularly unflattering portrait of his one-time protege in his autobiography, "Work in Progress."

    "My deepest concerns about Jeffrey had to do with the way he conducted himself, and the degree to which he focused on his own agenda rather than the company more broadly," Eisner wrote.

    The Disney board shared Eisner's assessment that Katzenberg was not ready to step into Frank Wells' shoes, said a source familiar with the directors' thinking at the time. The board's view was that, despite his undeniable creative talents, Katzenberg lacked both the experience and the temperament needed to run a multifaceted company such as Disney.

    Some who know Katzenberg say that he has softened his abrasive style, at least a little bit, over the last 10 years.

    "Since leaving Disney, he's made a concerted effort to realize he needs to conduct himself in a different way," said one industry executive. "At least he's changed the veneer."

    Ultimately, though, it will be Katzenberg's ability to make money — not friends — that determines how he fares as DreamWorks' CEO.

    To that end, he has at least some advantages over Pixar. A big one, industry executives say, is that DreamWorks owns 100% of the movies it makes. By contrast, Pixar's movies are, at least for now, 50% owned by Disney.

    That gives DreamWorks — and Katzenberg — a lot of upside potential and, some believe, a real shot at becoming a Wall Street darling.

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    Snowbird couples work seasonal jobs at Disney

     
    Andy Anderson retired in 1973 as a senior master sergeant after a 26-year career in the Air Force. Anderson and his wife, Doris, supplemented his pension with a number of odd jobs, including managing an apartment complex and working at a ski resort.

    Now in their 70s and married for more than half a century, the Andersons could be living in quiet retirement.

    Instead, they have spent the past 10 winters working at Walt Disney World, returning to their home in Portage, Wis., for the warmer months.

    "We would have started earlier (at Disney) if we had known about it," says Doris Anderson. "It's so much fun to meet people from all walks of life, from different states, different countries. Every day is a different day."

    The Andersons, who live in a travel trailer near Davenport, Fla., from October through March, are among dozens of retired and middle-age couples who work at Disney World and other area theme parks during the winter as "seasonal casual" employees.

    For instance, SeaWorld currently has 80 seasonal employees among its 55-and-older staff, including 17 couples. The couples typically work two to four days a week, from November through April, with their schedules arranged so they can travel to and from the park together, says Dawn Garrett, SeaWorld's manager of employment.

    Universal Orlando does not keep tabs on the number of snowbird couples who work in its parks. However, of the roughly 500 retirees who work there during the winter and spring months, most are couples, spokesman Tom Shroder says.

    When it comes to recruiting seasonal employees, Universal advertises at assorted Central Florida retirement communities, while SeaWorld relies mostly on word of mouth.

    Disney, which would not reveal how many seasonal casual employees it has, recruits at recreational-vehicle conventions and advertises in RV publications. It also depends on people, such as Andy and Doris Anderson, to spread the word. The couple, honored as official "Casting Scouts" by Disney, estimates they have recruited more than a dozen couples.

    The Wisconsin snowbirds spend three days a week ferrying guests between Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios, stopping at assorted hotels along the way. On the Friendship boats, which hold up to 100 passengers, one of the Andersons pilots the launch while the other serves as a tour guide.

    "I generally drive over to the (MGM) Studios, and coming back she takes the wheel," explains Andy Anderson. "I don't want to lollygag around a pool or sit in a clubhouse playing pinochle. I like to stay busy. At my age, it keeps me young. It keeps me active. I really and truly love it."

    So do Jerry and Brenda Carter, who retired in 2001 from their respective jobs, rented out their house in Waynesboro, Va., and began to reside full-time in their 38-foot motor home.

    Since then, they have spent their summers working in national parks and their winters working at Disney.

    "We had been planning on doing this for years and years," says Brenda Carter, 59, a former beauty-shop owner. Her husband, three years older, was a tool-and-die maker. Die-hard Disney fans, "we wanted to know the inner workings of Disney, how they created the magic," Carter says.

    They landed what they consider a dream job at Disney. As "character greeters" they usher costumed characters in the Magic Kingdom and other Disney parks.

    "We're on the happy end of it. We get to experience smiling kids," Brenda Carter says. They rarely work together, but they're usually scheduled in the same park at the same time, so they can drive to and from Disney together.

    "If Jerry works an hour or two later than me, I just put on my street clothes and enjoy the park."

    The Carters typically work six-hour shifts, two or three days a week, although as casual employees, they can work as many as 60 hours in a busy holiday week and as few as zero hours during slow periods.

    No problem. "When we're off, we spend a lot of time in the park," Brenda Carter says.

    "I love to walk down Main Street, stop at the bakery, get a cup of coffee and watch people go by. It's a busman's holiday."

    Not all of Disney's seasonal casual employees are retirees. Paul and Sandy Bailey left their demanding jobs in Phoenix, Ariz., for a less-stressful lifestyle. "The pay was great, but we thought, 'There's got to be more to life,'" says Paul Bailey, who is 58. Since 2000, he and Sandy, 49, have lived, traveled and worked as "full-time RVers." They get by on their savings as well as earnings from jobs they find in RV campgrounds throughout the country.

    They spent last summer at a campground in Ocean City, Md., and came south for the winter. They didn't plan to work at Disney but jumped at the opportunity when they heard about it. Since November, they have worked together as counter workers in the park's quick-service restaurants, such as the Pinocchio Village Hause in Fantasyland.

    They would prefer to work outside - Bailey says he would love to drive the monorail or the train that circles the Magic Kingdom - but they're not complaining. They get to work together and meet lots of people. Bailey says the odds are "better than 50-50" they'll return next winter after spending the summer at a New Jersey campground.

    "It's a big country, and normally we wouldn't want to do the same gig twice," Bailey says. "But there are not that many places to go in the winter where it's warm and you're able to work."

    Unlike the Baileys, Lenny and Marilyn Erb have no doubts about where they will spend next winter.

    After taking their 38-foot Dutchstar motor home to either the Smoky Mountains or the Pacific Northwest this summer-they spent the past two summers in Maine-they have definite plans to return to Central Florida come October for their seventh consecutive season at Disney.

    "We dreamed our whole married life we'd work at Disney. We thought it was the happiest, cleanest place in the world," says Marilyn Erb, 59, who retired in 1998 after a 35-year career as a medical secretary in Lewiston, Pa. Her husband, 67, was a Ford technician and retired on the same day.

    Erb says their work as convention guides and special-event helpers gives them opportunities to learn, and keeps them active and together. They like the routine of working at Disney for eight months a year and traveling in the summer.

    At some point, however, the couple plans to live in Florida year-round. "Then," Marilyn Erb says, "we'll work for Disney full time."

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    Help Countdown The Days Until Christmas At Disney World

    If you love Christmas and have been to the Downtown Disney Marketplace at Disney World you are sure to be familiar with Disney's Days of Christmas. The shop is filled with an amazing assortment of Disney Christmas items to make your Holiday Season a magical Disney one.

    Each day at the shop a Cast Member randomly chooses someone to change the numbers on the shops "Countdown to Christmas" Calendar to reveal the number of days remaining until the big day’s arrival.

    Barbara Tyink, the retail manger of the shop said, "The children are happy to help and are excited because there is one less day until Christmas." Tyink added, "The children are so happy, and they feel special when they get their certificate. It’s fun for everyone. It’s Christmas here all year long."

    So the next time you are at Disney World, go in and change the "Countdown to Christmas" calendar for them, or at least ask if no one else has already.

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    Disney's Fairy Tale Wedding Engagement Packages At the Disneyland Resort

    This is a magical, evening to remember in Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom after hours. Upon arrival, the couple is invited by the Royal Coachmen to enjoy a fairy tale ride in Cinderella’s Crystal Coach along Main Street, U.S.A. As the coach approaches Sleeping Beauty Castle, Herald Trumpeters perform a welcoming fanfare.

    The couple is then escorted by the Fairy Godmother to Snow White’s Wishing Well where a romantic table is adorned with a bouquet of roses and a glass slipper containing the couple’s engagement rings sitting atop a velvet pillow. The evening is entranced by musical arrangements of a strolling violinist at which Mickey and Minnie Mouse arrive to lead the couple to the Castle Garden for a romantic, five-course dinner under the stars served by a Royal Butler. For a sweet ending, Cinderella’s Crystal Coach waits for the couple with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries and a return down Main Street, U.S.A. A professional photographer is on hand to capture the evening’s magical moments.

    Sleeping Beauty’s Royal Engagement $7000.00

    Includes all features of the Castle Garden Engagement Package (listed below) and adds a romantic picnic basket filled with wine and assorted cheeses accompanied by a romantic serenade of a solo violinist. The couple is then joined by Mickey and Minnie Mouse in formal attire who present them with a beautiful Sleeping Beauty Castle keepsake and a photographer to capture the event’s special moments. To conclude the evening, the couple is presented with a chilled bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to toast their new beginning.

    Prince Charming Engagement $4500.00

    Offers a private, romantic setting in the specially-reserved Magic Kingdom Castle Garden, near Sleeping Beauty Castle during park hours. A bouquet of roses lies next to a bottle of champagne chilling in a silver bucket. The newly engaged couple is then awestruck with a private viewing of the night sky lighting up with the perfect magical backdrop: the Disney's Imagine ... "A Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks extravaganza! The couple is then presented with Mickey and Minnie Mouse Wedding ears and a keepsake glass slipper with a tray of chocolate truffles.

    Castle Garden Engagement $2000.00

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    Expected weak Euro Disney sales seen adding to debt deadline woes
     
    Third quarter sales figures expected this week for France's Euro Disney theme park are expected to reveal slower growth in visitor spending and add to its woes as it struggles to restructure its 2.4-billion-euro (2.9-billion-dollar) debt, analysts predict.

    One week before the July 31 deadline for shareholder approval, Euro Disney's second biggest shareholder, Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, has yet to formally signal support for the debt rescheduling plan as well as a proposed capital increase of 250 million euros.

    The company suspended debt payments in November and has said it cannot repay its debt unless shareholders back the refinancing plan.

    "We expect a slowing in the rise in theme park revenues in the third quarter," Fideuram Wargny analyst Virginie Blin predicted.

    "We are very worried about attendances at the (theme) parks as first half figures gave no convincing signs of a very favourable impact from the new commercial and marketing policy," Blin said.

    Euro Disney's resort east of Paris is Europe's most popular tourist attraction but the 12.4 million visitors last year were nowhere near enough to put the company into profit, Blin said.

    Attendance levels are the beacon towards which all eyes will be turned, she said, adding that Euro Disney has been faced with an inadequate return on assets since the March 2002 opening of a second theme park, the Walt Disney Studios.

    "The current attendance level (12.4 million in 2003) is far below the profit threshold estimated at 16-17 million vistors," the Wargny analyst said.

    Wargny estimates Euro Disney sales for the nine months to June will be flat at 749 million euros, with revenues from the theme parks up 5.4 percent and turnover at its hotels down 4.3 percent at 294 million.

    For the six months to March, Euro Disney announced sales of 473.8 million euros, boosted by a six percent increase in theme park revenues.

    But average spending per visitor in that period rose largely because of a decision to scrap a reduction in entry tickets during the low season, Blin said.

    The 250-million-euro capital increase project has been backed by Euro Disney's core shareholder, The Walt Disney Company, which will put up 100 million euros in proportion to its 39.1 percent stake.

    Leading creditor Caisse des Depots et Consignations will provide another 75 million euros and other banks the remainder, according to reports.

    The rights issue will be carried out by March 31 next year if creditors back the scheme.

    In addition, the company would obtain a new 10-year 150-million-euro line of credit from Walt Disney, reducing to 100 million euros after five years.

    A Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Walt Disney and CDC provides for conversion of 290 million in payments due to Walt Disney into a minority equity position in a subsidiary that would hold substantially all of Euro Disney's assets and liabilities, the company said.

    Other proposed terms include deferral of interest and repayments on various debts, with payment of amounts owed to Walt Disney and CDC delayed until 2017 or later.

    Valerie Carriere of CAI Cheuvreux said the "first condition" for a successful rescheduling had been met, as agreement by lenders to renounce some of their financial obligations for a while is one of the requirements for starting the financial restructuring of the group.

    Andre Lacroix, Euro Disney's chief executive, said the restructuring was necessary "in order to enable us to execute our strategy of adding exciting new rides and attractions to fuel long-term growth."

    The latest crisis stems directly from the failure of Walt Disney Studios to attract enough extra visitors to the Marne-la-Valle resort to enable the company to pay off the 610-million-euro cost of building the second park.

    Euro Disney hoped it would add another four million people to the 12.2 million visiting Disneyland Paris every year.

    Instead, attendances edged up only to 13.1 million in 2002 and fell back to 12.4 million last year.

    Branded a "cultural Chernobyl" by French opponents when the original theme park opened in 1992, Euro Disney hit financial difficulties as early as 1994, when Alwaleed rescued Euro Disney by taking a major stake.

    But the Saudi prince reduced his holding to 16.3 percent from 24.7 last year. His staff said he was willing to talk about the latest debt problems but have given no details of his attitude towards the plan.

    For stock market investors, Euro Disney has long ceased to be a major attraction.

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    ABC launching 'News Now' on digital cable

    US network ABC News is today launching its 24-hour presidential election service on digital cable, the internet and mobile phones.

    The venture, ABC News Now, offers viewers gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic National Convention, presented by veteran anchorman Peter Jennings.

    The service will compete with rivals on multiple platforms, and offer some local programming.

    ABC News president David Westin said: "We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't suspect there was a business for us in the long run." It is understood that some broadband internet service providers, such as America Online, will offer ABC News Now for free, though the broadband offering is otherwise priced at $4.95 per month.

    ABC conceded it had no idea how many viewers and internet users would be attracted to the service. "I am eager to find out," said Westin.

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    Briggs Takes To The Molecular Level Darwin's Findings On Plants Sensing The Direction Of Light

    US National Academy of Sciences member and Stanford Professor Winslow R. Briggs will speak at the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) annual meeting July 24, 2004 in Orlando, Florida about findings in his studies of how plants sense the direction of light.

    Most casual observers have likely noticed that seedlings on a windowsill will grow toward the light. This phenomenon, known as phototropism, is a manifestation of a sensitive system plants have for detecting light. This light sensing system guides seedlings through the soil and has profound influences on their development during the critical stage of seedling establishment and later as the leaves adapt to changes in the light environment.

    Briggs's research group has discovered the two-member family of protein molecules that serves as the detector and decoder of the blue photons on which the seedling cues to determine the direction of light. The molecule, known as phototropin, is now being intensively studied because of its unique properties by chemists and biophysicists as well as plant biologists.

    Professor Briggs began experimenting on how plants detect the direction and intensity of light in the 1950's, but he certainly was not the first to be drawn to this fascinating example of sensory biology. For example, Charles Darwin and his son were drawn to the phenomenon and performed some classic experiments that paved the way for further studies, including Briggs' successful approaches. The Darwins could not have imagined that the topic would in the 21st century be studied at the molecular level as it is now.

    Professor Briggs will present his group's latest findings on the topic at the ASPB Annual meeting during the Major Symposium on Tropisms 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 24, 2004 in Coronado Ballrooms L-T at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort & Convention Center.

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    Champions Crowned at the 2004 US Youth Soccer National Championships

    US Youth Soccer National Champions were crowned today at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. Champions in the Boys and Girls Under-14 through Under-19 age groups from each regional event met to battle for the US Youth Soccer National Championship.

    The Far West Region took home top honors on the day with seven National Championships, the Midwest Region followed with two and Region I earned one. The California South State Associations won four National Championships, followed by California-North and Missouri with two each. Michigan, Illinois, Maryland and Hawaii each take home a National Championship.

    In Under-19 action, the HSC Bulls ’85 of Hawaii won the island state’s first-ever US Youth Soccer National Championship, defeating CASL Elite of North Carolina 3-2.

    “I’m extremely proud of these players and they deserve all the credit,” said HSC Head Coach Phil Neddo. “A little island in the middle of the Pacific just won a National Championship, and the name Hawaii will never be taken off the James P. McGuire Cup.

    The Pleasanton Rage take home the Under-19 Girls Championship, shutting out Georgia’s GSA Phoenix Red 2-0. adidas Golden Boot winner Christina Estrada netted the first goal for Pleasanton Rage at 62:00, with teammate Jennifer Tuttle following with the insurance goal at 86:00.

    “I’ve coached them for seven years and this is their 2nd National Championship,” said head coach Jay Fischer. “This is an incredible way to end their US Youth Soccer career.”

    The Michigan Hawks won the Under-18 Girls title, by a score of 3-2 over the San Diego Surf. The Surf’s Amy Epsten opened scoring at 10:00, to be followed by Michigan’s Melissa Dobbyn at 33:00. Epsten came back with another tally at 63:00 and was answered twice by the Hawks’ Nicole Cauzillo at 67:00 and 81:00

    “It’s unbelievable. Our hard work has gotten us here and its very rewarding,” said Michigan Hawks captain Maureen Pawlak “We’ve been together for 10 years and its good to go out like this.”

    Missouri took home another National Championship, with a victory in the Under-18 Boys group. Busch SC shutout the Sereno ’86 White (Arizona) 2-0. Busch’s Zachary Przybeck tallied the first goal at 68:00, followed by teammate Kyle Smith at 76:00.

    In Girls Under-17 action, So Cal United (California South) downed the Windy City Pride (Illinois) 4-1. So Cal’s Kristina Loucks tallied a hat trick on the day, with goals at 3:00, 43:00 and 90+, teammate Alex Fries added one for good measure at 29:00. Windy City’s Crysti Howser showed signs of a rally, finding the back of the net at 82:00, but the So Cal defense minded their territory and took home the US Youth Soccer National Championship.

    Host state Florida’s Weston came up short in overtime, loosing 2-1 to Scott Gallagher of Missouri in the Under-17 Boys final. Weston’s Juan Guerra scored on a 25-yard bomb from center but Scott Gallagher’s Timothy Walters was too much, scoring both goals, including the overtime-game winner.

    The Casa Mia Bays of the Boys Under-16 group defended their 2003 US Youth Soccer National Championship. Maryland’s Casa Mia defeated FC United (Washington) 3-0, with two goals from adidas® Golden Boot winner Xavier Rock.

    “They may not be the best team on paper, but on the field these guys are super,” said Casa Mia Head Coach Stephen Nichols. “These guys respond to pressure - they have all year.”

    The Eclipse Select (Illinois) downed the Slammers FC (California South) 2-1 in Under-16 Girls Championship action today. Down two-goals, the Slammers tested the Eclipse defense late in the game with a goal at 68:00, but the Eclipse defense held strong and claimed their national championship.

    “This team is all about character. We began as a piece of paper, pages of notes on player identification when the girls were 13 and 14 years old,” said Eclipse Select Head Coach Mike Nesci. “The goal was simple - to win the National Championship. Today we’ve met our goal, and in less time than we originally thought possible.

    “All year, the girls showed desire and I believe their character is what got them here today. Character always prevails,” added Nesci.

    It took only one goal for California North’s Mustang Blast to win the Under-15 Girls trophy and defeat the Michigan Hawks. Heather Vandevanter found the back of the net at 31:00 and that proved to be enough.

    California South’s Arsenal FC downed the Chicago Magic 2-1 in the Under-15 Boys final. Chicago netted one goal at 65:00 but Arsenal’s defense kept them at bay through the final seconds of the match.

    In Under-14 Girls action, the Eagles (California South) downed the ESC ’90 Black (Oklahoma) 2-1. The teams played evenly for 64 minutes until the Eagles’ Kelsea Smith netted her first goal. Six minutes later, Smith followed up with the insurance goal. ESC pushed the issue with a tally in extra minutes, but the Eagles defense proved strong enough to win the US Youth Soccer National Championship.

    “In the last ten minutes, they took their effort to a whole new level,” said Eagles Head Coach Vince Thomas. “We’ve said to ourselves all along that we need to take responsibility for winning. Kelsea showed guts getting that last goal – and that’s how she’s been all week.”

    The Under-14 Boys crown went to another California South team, the Celtic Harps downed the Rockford Raptors (Illinois) 3-1, finding the back of the net twice in the first half. According to team officials, some of the Celtic Harps have already been playing together for six years, while Head Coach Matthew McDonagh claims his first National Championship after 25 years of coaching.

    Complete Game Results are available at www.usyouthsoccer.org.

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    Sunday July 25, 2004 
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    Tours Take Guests Behind the Scenes For a Closer Look at Walt Disney World Magic

    The Walt Disney World Resort most guests see is the picture postcard one. Many-splendored Cinderella Castle. Colorful parades. Busy ferryboats plying Epcot’s waters with distant Spaceship Earth looming like a silver moonrise.

    But guests with more than a passing interest in what makes it all tick can choose from a variety of expert-led tours -- onstage and backstage. The creative magic of Disney Imagineers, the world-class skills of Disney horticulturists and animal care specialists, and the wonders of Walt Disney World Resort are shared on these fascinating and fun-filled tours. It’s the magic behind the magic.

    The newest tour offering is Epcot Seas Aqua Tour, which provides guests who don’t have an open-water scuba certification an in-the-water experience with the animals of Epcot’s The Living Seas. Guests use scuba-assisted snorkeling equipment during the 2½-hour program.

    Real Disney aficionados can get their fix on Backstage Magic, a comprehensive, daylong guided tour which calls at three of the four major Disney theme parks and treats guests to special surprises along the way. In seven hours (including lunch) guests peek behind the curtains at Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Magic Kingdom -- areas strictly off-limits to regular guests.

    There are 12 themed tours offered throughout the year plus a Yuletide Fantasy offering during December. Information about themed tours is available by calling 407/939-8687.

    And for guests who’d like the ultimate customized experience, there’s a custom guided tour service which can plan and lead a personalized itinerary. To plan a custom guided tour, guests may call Disney Special Activities at 407/560-4033.
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    Disney concert excites Cal Phil

     
    Violinist Elizabeth Blake, like every music lover in Southern California, has long anticipated her first visit to Disney Hall, the shiny new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in downtown Los Angeles.

    But her busy schedule as a professional musician and teacher has left her little time for concertgoing. This weekend, she will get her first chance to experience the glories of the new hall. She'll be performing there Sunday with the California Philharmonic Orchestra under Music Director Victor Vener.

    For Blake -- and for Vener and the Cal Phil -- the chance to perform at Disney is an important milestone. "(Playing at Disney) adds a lot of credibility to your reputation," Blake said. "People are looking at me and saying, ‘You are playing in Disney Hall,' and are very impressed, and these are people who know that I am a musician and that I have played professionally for many years, but this is something very special."

    Special for Vener and the orchestra, too, a way for them to establish themselves critically and professionally after eight successful years of performing summer concerts at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Arcadia (the orchestra performs there Saturday) and in venues around the San Gabriel Valley. Both concerts, featuring music by de Falla, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel and Rodrigo, will feature soprano Suzanna Guzman in works by de Falla and guitarist Adam del Monte in Rodrigo's beloved "Concierto de Aranjuez." The orchestra will perform two more times at Disney Hall this summer.

    Blake has been a member of Cal Phil since 1999, when she joined the orchestra as violinist. But she has been a member of the orchestra's extended family much longer. When she was 11 years old, Liz and Sabina Vener Harvey, Maestro Vener's daughter and now a member of the Cal Phil, were practice partners and performed together in the Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra. Cal Phil violinist Janita Keck is also part of Blake's musical family: "She was my elementary school orchestra director," Blake said.

    Blake has medium-length blond hair and a bright smile, and she seems to be much too youthful to have as much musical experience as she does, but, then, she began playing the violin in her native Pasadena when she was only 3. "I was watching Isaac Stern on television when I was 3 years old," Blake explained. "When I saw him playing the violin, I said to my mother ‘I want to do that.'

    "That was back when the Suzuki violin program had just been introduced to the United States. I was watching television because my mother had a friend over for tea. The friend had five children who were all involved in the Suzuki program, and one daughter had outgrown a tiny violin. When she heard me say I wanted to play, she gave my mother that violin. It was a little bit accidental that the friend was over for tea at just the right moment for me."

    Blake performed early in her life, with youth orchestras in Pasadena, and went to Northwestern University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in violin performance and also in German. But from the moment she picked up that tiny violin, she always knew that that was what she wanted to do.

    She returned to Los Angeles after college and began a career in local orchestra, including the San Bernardino Symphony and the Riverside Symphony, and then moved to Knoxville, Tenn., where she performed for nine years in the Knoxville Symphony and met her husband, David. He joined the symphony the same year she did, and is a Knoxville native. They moved back to the Highland Park section of Los Angeles in 1997, and Liz spent most of 1998 touring with Michael Crawford. "That was fun," she said. "But I can't imagine myself spending my life on tour."

    She joined Cal Phil in 1999 and also became the orchestral director for the student orchestra at Los Cerritos Middle School in Thousand Oaks, where she has 51 students in two separate sections of orchestral music. Again, the assignment is a family operation: husband David is the band director at the same school (he's a trombonist).

    Blake faces the concert Sunday with a combination of awe and expectation, mixed with the professional calm of decades of professional experience, but you can hear the excitement in her voice when she talks about it.

    "Playing at Disney Hall is a validation," she said. "People are in awe when you mention it."

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    Radio Disney hopes to transform show tent into a magic kingdom

    As if there weren't enough attractions to interest kids attending the Washington County Fair, a new event has been added this year.

    Radio Disney, a station geared to kids ages 6 to 14 and their mothers and heard locally at AM 540, will be at the show tent at the fair from 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 19 with a variety of activities.

    Two DJs, Magic Marker and Rockin' Renee, will host activities that will test kids' Disney IQ and let them show off their cool dance moves and air guitar skills. Radio Disney promises a fun family event with popular music, interactive games and great prizes.

    Radio Disney broadcasts in 56 markets spanning 61 percent of the U.S.

    The station has joined forces with the Pennsylvania Beef Council for the event.

    Making its first appearance in Pennsylvania during the festivities will be the National Beef Council's Beefmobile, a van painted with can't-miss pictures of beef on the grill.

    Paul Slayton, executive director of the Pennsylvania Beef Council, said his organization is trying to reach some of the same group as Radio Disney, namely teenagers and teenage girls in particular.

    "We have a really good story to tell and that is an audience of ours we have a hard time reaching," Slayton explained.

    Beef representatives will be cooking up hamburgers and handing out materials about the benefits of eating beef.

    "We hope that it is a raging success," Slayton said.

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    Disney Characters Roaming The Streets Of New York

    The World of Disney is opening this fall in the place most recently occupied by the now closed Disney Store on Fifth Avenue. This store will be a part of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise team just like the World of Disney stores that are located at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

    This is the first location outside of a Disney theme park or Disney Cruise Line to offer the character meet-and-greet experience on a daily basis. This will allow for the Disney fans in New York the ability to visit with some of their favorite Disney characters without having to visit one of the parks.

    Jay Rasulo, the President of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is thrilled to bring Disney storytelling, entertainment and a taste of Disney’s world-famous theme park experience to the Big Apple. The shop will be stocked with a wide range of traditional Disney items as well as items for the trendy New York shoppers. Items ranging from cashmere sweaters and vintage T-shirts, Buena Vista games and music to a Disney book library.

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    Expected weak Euro Disney sales seen adding to debt deadline woes

    Third quarter sales figures expected this week for France's Euro Disney theme park are expected to reveal slower growth in visitor spending and add to its woes as it struggles to restructure its 2.4-billion-euro (2.9-billion-dollar) debt, analysts predict.

    One week before the July 31 deadline for shareholder approval, Euro Disney's second biggest shareholder, Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, has yet to formally signal support for the debt rescheduling plan as well as a proposed capital increase of 250 million euros.

    The company suspended debt payments in November and has said it cannot repay its debt unless shareholders back the refinancing plan.

    "We expect a slowing in the rise in theme park revenues in the third quarter," Fideuram Wargny analyst Virginie Blin predicted.

    "We are very worried about attendances at the (theme) parks as first half figures gave no convincing signs of a very favourable impact from the new commercial and marketing policy," Blin said.

    Euro Disney's resort east of Paris is Europe's most popular tourist attraction but the 12.4 million visitors last year were nowhere near enough to put the company into profit, Blin said.

    Attendance levels are the beacon towards which all eyes will be turned, she said, adding that Euro Disney has been faced with an inadequate return on assets since the March 2002 opening of a second theme park, the Walt Disney Studios.

    "The current attendance level (12.4 million in 2003) is far below the profit threshold estimated at 16-17 million vistors," the Wargny analyst said.

    Wargny estimates Euro Disney sales for the nine months to June will be flat at 749 million euros, with revenues from the theme parks up 5.4 percent and turnover at its hotels down 4.3 percent at 294 million.

    For the six months to March, Euro Disney announced sales of 473.8 million euros, boosted by a six percent increase in theme park revenues.

    But average spending per visitor in that period rose largely because of a decision to scrap a reduction in entry tickets during the low season, Blin said.

    The 250-million-euro capital increase project has been backed by Euro Disney's core shareholder, The Walt Disney Company, which will put up 100 million euros in proportion to its 39.1 percent stake.

    Leading creditor Caisse des Depots et Consignations will provide another 75 million euros and other banks the remainder, according to reports.

    The rights issue will be carried out by March 31 next year if creditors back the scheme.

    In addition, the company would obtain a new 10-year 150-million-euro line of credit from Walt Disney, reducing to 100 million euros after five years.

    A Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Walt Disney and CDC provides for conversion of 290 million in payments due to Walt Disney into a minority equity position in a subsidiary that would hold substantially all of Euro Disney's assets and liabilities, the company said.

    Other proposed terms include deferral of interest and repayments on various debts, with payment of amounts owed to Walt Disney and CDC delayed until 2017 or later.

    Valerie Carriere of CAI Cheuvreux said the "first condition" for a successful rescheduling had been met, as agreement by lenders to renounce some of their financial obligations for a while is one of the requirements for starting the financial restructuring of the group.

    Andre Lacroix, Euro Disney's chief executive, said the restructuring was necessary "in order to enable us to execute our strategy of adding exciting new rides and attractions to fuel long-term growth."

    The latest crisis stems directly from the failure of Walt Disney Studios to attract enough extra visitors to the Marne-la-Valle resort to enable the company to pay off the 610-million-euro cost of building the second park.

    Euro Disney hoped it would add another four million people to the 12.2 million visiting Disneyland Paris every year.

    Instead, attendances edged up only to 13.1 million in 2002 and fell back to 12.4 million last year.

    Branded a "cultural Chernobyl" by French opponents when the original theme park opened in 1992, Euro Disney hit financial difficulties as early as 1994, when Alwaleed rescued Euro Disney by taking a major stake.

    But the Saudi prince reduced his holding to 16.3 percent from 24.7 last year. His staff said he was willing to talk about the latest debt problems but have given no details of his attitude towards the plan.

    For stock market investors, Euro Disney has long ceased to be a major attraction.

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    The Fan's Guide to WDW -- Travel Channel

    The travel channel will be premiering a brand new show on Walt Disney World titled "The Fan's Guide to WDW"

    The show will premiere Sunday, August 1st at 9:00 PM est. time.

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    Saturday
    July 24, 2004
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    Disney's 2004 Holiday Gift Guide Video Section


    Below are scans of the video section of Disney's 2004 Holiday Gift Guide. Click the picture for a larger view.
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    Small Disney World Update


    In Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom the X-S Tech signs are starting to come down. 2 small signs are still up, but the biggest is gone.

    A large piece of land has been cleared at Typhoon Lagoon, it is not known what will fill the empty space but, the biggest rumor going is a Water Coaster/Flume Raft Ride. This is just a rumor and should be taken as just that.

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    Body of work on Disney


    Pennsylvania man is drawn to Walt's magic, and it shows all over, with tattoos from his neck to his toes.

    George Reiger Jr. claims to be Disney's No. 1 fan.

    If you want to challenge him, you'll have to beat this: 1,643 tattoos of Disney characters from the base of his neck to the tops of his toes; a 4,200-square-foot house in Bethlehem, Pa., with 19,000 Disney collector pieces, and six honeymoons at Walt Disney World in Florida.

                     

    And when he finally leaves it all behind, his will calls for his ashes to be spread in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

    Nothing is more important than Disney, says Reiger, in Anaheim this week for the National Fantasy Fan Club convention, a gathering of Disney collectors. Many have devoted their vacations and paychecks to Disney memorabilia; Reiger has devoted most of his skin - and his life - to the Magic Kingdom.

    "My love for Disney comes first – that's why I've been through so many wives," he said this week at the Crown Plaza Anaheim Resort, headquarters for the NFFC meeting. "Both my daughters (ages 18 and 25) have moved out, too. They got tired of everything Disney."

    Like the Mickey Mouse waffle iron, Mickey Mouse teapot and cookie jar, and the Little Mermaid-themed bathroom.

    Reiger strolled the convention rooms in shorts and a tank top, showing off his tattoos. A decade ago, there were 300 and his goal was 500. Now, he keeps squeezing them in, adding 47 Disney rides, 111 cast members and 13 hidden Mickeys to the characters.

    Monstro, the whale from Pinocchio, yawns across his belly. Beauty and the Beast dance on his left shoulder. Alice in Wonderland fills his upper arm, surrounded by menacing playing cards.

    On his back you can count 101 Dalmations, plus two. Yeah, he and his tattoo artist got carried away.

    On his forearm is Reiger's first and favorite, the one he got at 18 - Mickey Mouse as the apprentice in the film "Fantasia." There are 28 more in places "only wives can see."

    Each tattoo is drawn by Sam Snyder of Easton, Pa. It's part of the deal Reiger made with Disney to wear the copyrighted characters on his body. He also agreed not to appear in a tattoo magazine or to make money off his display.

    Reiger admits that it's odd for a 50-year-old man to be obsessed with characters created for children. But he says the magic created by Walt Disney filled the voids of his childhood. He grew up with his grandmother and Disney television shows. He visited his first theme park, Disneyland, at age 8.

    "Disney raised me,'' he said. "It's my family."

    He has visited theme parks on three continents, including Walt Disney World 379 times, and figures he pours $50,000 a year into the company cash registers. It's most of what he makes as a postal maintenance worker and magician. He says it makes him happy.

    "It makes hundreds of thousands of us happy," he said. "That was Walt's dream."

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    Friday July 23, 2004
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    Found Disney Fireworks Shell Prompts Investigation

    Disney has reportedly launched a formal investigation this week after a company fireworks shell was discovered miles away from theme park property, according to Local 6 News.

    Officials said someone found the shell at the East Orange County landfill off Young Pine Road. Law enforcement and Disney now want to know how the shell ended up at the landfill.

    Disney officials told Local 6 News that they are very concerned because of the tight control they have on their fireworks.

    Officials said they work closely with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives to make sure all regulations are followed.

    They said a fireworks security breach is highly unusual.

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    “Gold Medal Resort”

    For the fifth time, the Walt Disney World Resort has been rated by Golf Magazine as a “Gold Medal Resort.” This year, 25 resorts won the award, which rates course excellence and the overall resort experience as judged by readers and the magazine's own raters. Walt Disney World Resort is home to five championship courses.

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    Jungle tale is Disney's summer hope

    Two Brothers

    Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

    Cast: Guy Pearce, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Freddie Highmore, Oanh Nguyen

    Cert: 12.

    When a couple of tigers out-act the humans - and here they really do - then you know Disney must be involved somewhere.

    They are, and this charming if fluffy slight tale of the jungle is their big summer hope; hope fades already.

    Well, OK, so the kiddies will love it since you simply could not dislike the antics of Kumal and Sangha, two Indochina tigers, who have been separated at birth and brought up under vastly different circumstances.

    As with most Disney films the sugar is so-so sweet and the animals are laden with human characteristics in an attempt to make them more accessible; but, hay, they're animals, big wonderful-looking tigers, they come with more natural charisma than most of the humans and they don't need the Burbank treatment.

    But they are lovely to behold; burning bright!

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    Me, me, me: the Disney gospel

    Disney may have colonised the imagination of the world's children for the best part of 80 years, but - remarkably in one of the world's most ostentatiously Christian countries - it has done so without the aid of God.

    The latest book by the author and journalist Mark Pinsky shows the film industry's most family-oriented entertainer rarely mentions God, and that such religious figures as there are in its animated films are almost entirely bad.

    The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust argues: "In the more than 35 animated features Disney has released since 1937, there is scarcely a mention of God as conceived in the Christian and Jewish faiths shared by most people in the Western world and many beyond."

    The first ordained character to have a big part in a Disney cartoon was Frollo, the villainous priest in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and he did not appear until 1996, nearly 60 years after the studio's first feature film.

    Americans appear to have scarcely noticed that none of the Disneyland theme parks - replete with every other aspect of US main street culture - has a church. The company's cruise liners do not have a chapel. The reason, the book says, was Disney's determination not to offend anyone in a way that would hamper the making of money.

    Instead, it has quietly subverted the Christian gospel with unChristian themes: belief in magic, that good people are handsome and that what you wish for really can come true.

    "The Gospel of Disney is all about me," Pinsky writes. "My dreams. My will. 'When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.' The Disney bible has but one verse and that's it. Walt's religion was built on the unfailing American belief that virtue and hard work will make all your dreams come true."

    Pinsky notes that even in the earliest films the company shied away from religious symbolism. When Geppetto, the woodcarver in Pinocchio, falls to his knees to ask for his puppet to be given life, he does not pray to God, even though his eyes are raised heavenwards, but to a blue fairy. In Fantasia, the finale may be Schubert's Ave Maria but instead of showing a stained glass window, as planned, the film ends with trees forming a gothic arch through which the sunset can be seen.

    The book quotes Disney's daughter Sharon as saying that her father was very religious. "But he did not believe you had to go to church to be religious. He respected every religion."

    The films' generally wholesome messages have been used by clergy for decades to teach children about self-reliance, compassion and loyalty.

    The films have also portrayed less positive ideas - in the casual racism of the early pictures: the black crows in Dumbo; the obsequious black female centaurs in early versions of Fantasia; and in occasional anti-Semitism.

    The book argues that since Disney's death, the company has branched out into animism in Pocahontas, feminism in Beauty and the Beast and Mulan, adventure capitalism in Atlantis and even Hinduism's great circle of life tradition in The Lion King, set in Africa.

    It got its fingers burnt when Aladdin, made a decade before the World Trade Centre attacks, prompted complaints of Arabophobia. All the film's villains have large noses, dark complexions, facial hair and heavy accents.

    It is only in the past few years that one of the United States' most influential religious lobbying organisations has complained - and then because of the corporation's off-screen activities.

    The 16 million-strong Southern Baptists launched an unsuccessful boycott of Disney products in the mid-'90s after Disney introduced equal rights for gay employees and their partners.

    The book says the Baptists also complained about a one-second sequence in the marriage ceremony of The Little Mermaid, which, they said, showed the officiating minister in a state of sexual arousal. Closer inspection showed that the offending picture actually showed the minister's knee.

    "Walt Disney created his animated features to entertain people and to make money, not to evangelise," Pinsky says. "If in the process Disney made the world a better place, that was a fine but unintended byproduct. His company was never a philanthropic undertaking."

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    DreamWorks' IPO, Disney's Nightmare

    The last thing the Mouse House needs is another well-heeled competitor, but that's what it's likely to get


    The hits just keep on coming for Michael Eisner -- and not necessarily the good kind. The Disney  chief executive, under fire for apparently driving away Steve Jobs's Pixar Animation unit, now has to watch his one-time studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg take dead aim at Disney's animation stronghold. Katzenberg, who in 1994 left Disney to form DreamWorks SKG with fellow moguls David Geffen and Steven Spielberg, will head DreamWorks soon-to-be spun-off animation unit, which filed its initial public offering on July 21.

    The announcement that Katzenberg will head the publicly traded company is just DreamWorks' latest shot across Disney's -- and Eisner's -- bow. DreamWorks' Shrek 2, released in late May, has grossed more than $410 million at the U.S. box office, pretty much trampling prospects for Disney's animated Home on the Range, which has grossed a dismal $49 million. With its IPO, DreamWorks intends to raise $650 million, of which it says it will retain $175 million to make two computer-generated films a year.

    Disney has said that it's gearing up its own animated-film unit to make computer-generated flicks, having determined that the market for traditionally hand-drawn films has begun to wane, but DreamWorks clearly has a headstart.

    KEEPING PRIVATE.  Insiders have been saying for months that an IPO was coming, in large part so that Katzenberg and his fellow moguls could reward employees who have largely worked without bonuses as the company has suffered intermittent dry spells with its live-action films and TV series. (To read how BusinessWeek broke the story in May, see.) Even last year, DreamWorks' animated unit lost $189 million, the IPO says, as hand-drawn films Sinbad and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron flopped at the box office.

    DreamWorks says it has six computer-generated films in various stages of development through 2006, including one that sources say is Shrek 3, slated to open Christmas, 2006. Later this year, it will release Shark Tale, which features the voices of Will Smith and Robert De Niro. DreamWorks has said it, too, will likely no longer produce hand-drawn movies.

    DreamWorks officials declined to comment on the IPO, because they're in a quiet period. The IPO is expected to go to market sometime later this year. But filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission say Geffen and Katzenberg will both sit on the board, with Katzenberg acting as president and CEO. The chairman will be Roger A. Enrico, the former chairman of PepsiCo Spielberg won't sit on the board or have the ability to designate a board member, according to the offering. Those with knowledge of the situation say the director opted out of a board seat, not wanting to make public the amount of money he receives for directing DreamWorks' films.

    DISNEY'S BIND.  Dreamworks' S-1 filing doesn't spell out exactly what Spielberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen would each receive from the spin-off, but it does indicate that Geffen and Katzenberg, who will have voting Class B shares that are worth 15 times Class A stock, would control the company. Spielberg is expected to receive an equal number of shares, but the filing doesn't spell out what type of shares. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who owns a 24% stake in DreamWorks, will be issued special Class C stock that will give him a board seat, but his stock doesn't carry any more than a single vote per share.

    What does this all mean for Disney, which now could face a well-financed competitor in DreamWorks as well as Pixar, which at last count had more than $740 million in cash, investments, and receivables on its own books? If Pixar walks, as its contract with Disney allows it to do sometime next year, Disney will be in a bit of a pickle. You have to think the folks in the Magic Kingdom are looking for some way to restore the animation franchise that once ruled the industry.

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    Disney 2004 Holiday Gift Guide

    Disney has released their 2004 Holiday Gift Guide, which previews some of the major Disney DVD releases coming later this year and early next. The Holiday Gift Guide includes information and photos from these highly-anticipated DVDs.

    From this, we learn that the Wonderful World of Disney's 2003 telemovie Eloise at Christmastime will be making its way to DVD on November 16. No word on bonus features, but SRP will be $24.99. Meanwhile, the direct-to-video Mulan II, originally slated for this fall, has been pushed back to February 8, 2005, which rings in the the Chinese New Year.

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    ESPN The Weekend to Feature an All Star Line-Up of Sports Celebrities July 31-Aug. 1

    ESPN's 25th anniversary celebration at Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., July 31 and Aug. 1 -- will give fans of all sports the opportunity to see many of their favorite athletes as more than 30 professional sports stars and former Olympians are scheduled to appear, along with more than 25 ESPN personalities.The list of Hall of Famers, sports legends and current stars will feature athletes and coaches from Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, NHL, the Olympics and the world of action sports. In all, ESPN The Weekend will mark the largest collection of sports stars ever assembled at one time at the Walt Disney World theme parks. Those scheduled to appear include: Scotty Bowman, Grant Fuhr, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, Michael Irvin, Bruce Jenner, Mike Metzger, Joe Namath, Dave Stewart, Kerri Strug, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Theismann, James Worthy and others.

    Over the two days, ESPN will present live telecasts (spaced through morning, afternoon and evening) from a set in front of the Disney-MGM Studios Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat. On-site programs include a special season-preview edition of "College GameDay" and live, on-site telecasts of "Baseball Tonight" (twice daily), as well as "SportsCenter" and ESPNEWS segments. Park guests can watch the programs live as well as via two large video screens.

    ESPN personalities scheduled to appear include: "SportsCenter" anchors Linda Cohn, Dana Jacobson, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, Trey Wingo and newcomer Mike Hall, as well as the broadcast teams from "Baseball Tonight," "Cold Pizza," "College GameDay" and "Fuera de Juego" on ESPN Deportes.

    In addition to the ESPN broadcasts, sports celebrities and ESPN personalities will make appearances throughout Disney-MGM Studios during this first-of-its-kind event. ESPN The Weekend will include star motorcades and conversations with network personalities and athletes; sports shows in the ESPN Theater featuring ESPN commentators and athletes; a visit from "ESPN The Truck"; a special sports edition of the game show attraction "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-Play It!"; the ESPN Sports Zone interactive area; a "SportsCenter" and play-by-play "role play" area; and an exclusive ESPN The Commercials video of blunders and thrills.

    ESPN's reality series "Dream Job" kicks off ESPN The Weekend with an open casting call for its second and third seasons on Friday, July 30, at Disney- MGM Studios. The weekend will culminate with a final tribute to the past 25 years in sports orchestrated to a Disney pyrotechnics show exploding over the park's 12-story Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat icon.

    Sports celebrities scheduled to appear include (not all personalities will appear both days):

    FOOTBALL: Ottis Anderson - Former NFL running back (New York Giants) Mack Brown - Current college head coach (University of Texas) Harry Carson - Former NFL linebacker (New York Giants) Eric Dickerson - NFL Hall of Fame running back (Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts), former "ABC Sports Monday Night Football" sideline reporter Ralph Friedgen - Current college head coach (University of Maryland) Darrell Green - Former NFL defensive back (Washington Redskins) Desmond Howard - Former NFL wide receiver (Detroit Lions) Michael Irvin - Former NFL wide receiver (Dallas Cowboys) Jim Kelly - Former NFL quarterback (Buffalo Bills) Willie Lanier - NFL Hall of Fame linebacker (Kansas City Chiefs) Karl Mecklenburg - Former NFL defensive lineman (Denver Broncos) Joe Namath - NFL Hall of Fame quarterback (NY Jets) Nick Saban - Current college head coach (Louisiana State University) Lawrence Taylor - NFL Hall of Fame linebacker (NY Giants) Joe Theismann - Former NFL quarterback (Washington Redskins) BASEBALL: Gary Carter - Former MLB catcher (NY Mets, Montreal Expos) Jim Morris - Former MLB pitcher (Tampa Bay Devil Rays), real-life story behind Walt Disney Pictures "The Rookie" Dave Stewart - Former MLB pitcher (Oakland A's) BASKETBALL: Greg Anthony - Former NBA player (NY Knicks, Portland Trailblazers), ESPN NBA analyst Rick Barry - NBA Hall of Fame player (Golden State Warriors) Caron Butler - Current NBA player (Los Angeles Lakers) Richard "Rip" Hamilton - Current NBA player (Detroit Pistons) James Worthy - NBA Hall of Fame player (Los Angeles Lakers) HOCKEY: Scotty Bowman - Former NHL coach (St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings) Grant Fuhr - Hall of Fame NHL player (Edmonton Oilers) Ken Morrow - Former NHL player/member of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Craig Patrick - Former NHL player/assistant coach of 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team John Tortorella - Current NHL coach (Tampa Bay Lightning) OLYMPICS: Bonnie Blair - Former U.S. Speed Skater Dorothy Hamill - Former U.S. Figure Skater Dan Jansen - Former U.S. Speed Skater Bruce Jenner - Former U.S. Decathlete Mary Lou Retton - Former U.S. Gymnast Kerri Strug - Former U.S. Gymnast ACTION SPORTS: Mike Metzger - X Games gold medallist (Motocross)

    ESPN personalities scheduled to appear include (not all personalities will appear both days):

    Linda Cohn - "SportsCenter" Dana Jacobson - "SportsCenter" Dan Patrick - "SportsCenter" Stuart Scott - "SportsCenter" Trey Wingo - "SportsCenter" Peter Gammons - "Baseball Tonight" John Kruk - "Baseball Tonight" Karl Ravech - "Baseball Tonight" Harold Reynolds - "Baseball Tonight" Rob Dibble - ESPN Radio / "Baseball Tonight" Lee Corso - "College GameDay" Chris Fowler - "College GameDay" Kirk Herbstreit - "College GameDay" Luis Omar Tapia - "Fuera de Juego" Diego Balado - "Fuera de Juego" Randy Alvarez - "Fuera de Juego" Carlos Hermosillo - "Fuera de Juego" Thea Andrews - "Cold Pizza" Jay Crawford - "Cold Pizza" Kit Hoover - "Cold Pizza" Mike Hall - "Dream Job" winner, "SportsCenter" Aaron Levine - "Dream Job" Season One Maggie Haskins - "Dream Job" Season One Sal Paolantonio - NFL reporter Howie Schwab - Coordinating Producer, Studio Production, "Stump The Schwab" A FAN'S CHANCE TO AUDITION FOR DREAM JOB JULY 30

    Fans visiting Walt Disney World on Friday, July 30, will have the opportunity to try out for seasons two and three of ESPN's reality series "Dream Job."

    The second season of "Dream Job" will debut Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. ET. The one-hour show will be aired Tuesdays at 7 p.m. for 10 weeks with the winner being named the newest "SportsCenter" anchor. The third season will search for a play-by-play announcer and will be aired beginning February 2005. Contestant hopefuls can visit ESPN.com Search: Dream Job for eligibility rules and city-specific audition details. ESPN will not accept video entries. 

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    Disney Pixar Make up?

    Hollywood is gearing up for an unlikely reunion.

    Steve Jobs' Pixar Animation Studios is likely to renew a lucrative movie-making partnership with Disney, according to sources familiar with the matter.

    Despite publicly backing out of talks with Disney in January and making the rounds of other Hollywood studios looking for a partner, Jobs has come to believe that the best home for Pixar is at Disney after all, sources said.

    A reunion would mark a significant victory for Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who has long had an acrimonious relationship with Jobs.

    Pixar's decision earlier this year to end discussions with Disney over an extension of their deal became a focal point for angry shareholders looking to oust Eisner.

    But it appears Eisner called Jobs' bluff when he dug in and refused to renew the deal on the significantly less lucrative terms that Pixar had been proposing.

    Under the current deal, which expires at the end of 2005, Disney and Pixar split the profits on the movies evenly; Disney also receives a 12.5 percent distribution fee. By some estimates Disney and Pixar could split some $1 billion from their most recent hit, "Finding Nemo."

    Pixar had been seeking a new deal that would pay Disney only a distribution fee — which some have said was as low as 10 percent. Pixar had also sought to alter the terms of the existing deal.

    After bailing on Disney, Pixar held preliminary discussions with other studios, including MGM, Sony, Warner Bros. and Fox. (Both Fox and The Post are owned by News Corp.)

    Now, executives at those companies have all but given up hope of striking a deal with Pixar, sources said.

    Pixar had also been wooed by Comcast after the cable giant attempted a hostile takeover of Disney. Comcast had sought to bring Jobs to its side in the hopes of convincing Disney shareholders that a merger with Comcast would come with a renewed Pixar deal.

    Representatives for Pixar and Disney declined comment.

    In March, when Eisner's job seemed to be in jeopardy amid a backlash from dissident shareholders, Jobs told Hollywood associates that he would go back to Disney only if Eisner left.

    Now he appears to be changing his tune, sources say, and is likely to stick with Disney regardless of how long Eisner remains as CEO.

    If Jobs were to leave the Disney fold, he would be leaving behind a film library that includes hits such as "Toy Story" and "Monsters Inc." He would also lose the rights to make sequels.

    "He'll probably give Disney a shot again because it doesn't make sense to split the library," said a source.

    Still, a new deal between Pixar and Disney is not likely to be completed soon. Before the current expiration date, the companies have two more movies to make: "The Incredibles" and "Cars."

    "Jobs really doesn't have to do anything today," said a source. "He can wait."

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    No fairy tale: Indians give Disney a look

    The baseball team is considering sharing the complex with the Braves, beginning in 2006.

    Eager to get out of their spring-training digs in Winter Haven, the Cleveland Indians are eyeing a move to Disney's Wide World of Sports by 2006.

    The Indians would share Cracker Jack Stadium with the team that beat them in the 1995 World Series, the Atlanta Braves. A deal would mean revamping the ballpark to handle two teams, including adding minor- and major-league clubhouses.

    However, the estimated $20 million price tag on a renovation, a possible three-way split between Osceola County, the state and Disney, could be a deal-breaker. To keep options open, the Indians also are chatting with Fort Myers and Tucson, Ariz.

    "There have been discussions but nothing definitive," Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio said. "Winter Haven wants the [current spring-training] property, so we are trying to get out of the way ASAP."

    The team has called Winter Haven its spring home since 1993, after Hurricane Andrew destroyed its stadium in Homestead.

    In the past year, the Indians have had a strained relationship with Winter Haven officials who want to develop the valuable lakefront Chain O'Lakes Park site. The team has committed to stay in Polk County for 2005.

    While acknowledging speculation that the Indians might play at Disney, spokesman Bill Hofheimer said he was unaware of any conversations on a deal. Hofheimer said Disney has no structural changes planned for the stadium.

    "The only plans we have are for the Braves to be here in '05 and beyond," he said.

    A spokesman for the Braves had no comment.

    Talk was more abundant in Osceola, where a deal would give the county three major-league teams. The Houston Astros have trained in Kissimmee since 1985.

    "There is clearly an appeal to northern teams because they are our source markets," said Tim Hemphill, director of the county's convention and visitors bureau. "That's where we get our visitors."

    This isn't Cleveland's first flirtation with Osceola. The county wooed the Indians in 2001 in case the Astros didn't extend their pact to play at Osceola County Stadium.

    The Astros finally signed a new deal to play at the stadium after the county and state paid for an $18.4 million face lift. But the team was disappointed there wasn't enough land for the work to include adding space for a second team to share costs, Hemphill said.

    Space isn't a problem at Wide World of Sports. Disney will unveil four more baseball diamonds and four multisports fields for amateur athletes next month.

    But the county and state might be reluctant to put up money on a deal if only Disney's hotels and attractions benefit from a move.

    "It would certainly be interesting for Kissimmee to become the spring-training mecca of Florida," County Commissioner Atlee Mercer said. "If it's in the best interest of the county, we would certainly entertain talking to them to help them come."

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    Firm opens animation studio
    A Massachusetts start-up firm that's developing a family-friendly, interactive game for release next year has opened asmall animation studio in Orlando.

    Cecropia Inc. of Lexington has hired seven former employees of Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, which closed in March, and plans to hire as many as 20 more by the end of the year, said Ann-Marie Bland, Cecropia's president and chief executive officer.
    The Disney alumni are now working out of their homes, but Cecropia plans to lease office space in the Dr. Phillips area by Sept. 1, Bland said.

    "There's a gold mine of talent in Orlando," she said. "We've been developing our new interactive game for three years, and the addition of the new staff will help us greatly."

    The ex-Disney workers will focus on creating artwork and animation for the company's as-yet untitled game.

    Cecropia's goal is to unite storytelling and video gaming in a way that hasn't been tried previously, said Omar Khudar, the Boston-area company's founder and creative director.

    The intent is to create personality animation in an interactive story that lets players participate in the actions and emotions of the characters, he said.

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    $55 a Night at a Disney Resort? Gawrsh!

    There are many reasons to visit Walt Disney World in September. For example, the summer crowds are gone, and the weather is a bit more moderate. Here is another: Disney is offering some goofy prices during its "Dog Days" promotion. Value hotels, like the new Pop Century Resort, start at $55 and are available most nights between August 29 and September 29, 2004. That's nearly half the price Disney charges during the peak season.

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    Disney trumps AOL, Viacom for Fox Family

    The Walt Disney Co. showed itself to be in a very family way over the weekend by snatching Fox Family Worldwide from erstwhile suitors AOL Time Warner Inc. and Viacom Inc. in a deal valued at $5.3 billion.

    "Disney's got it," a source familiar with negotiations among the various parties said Sunday afternoon about the Mouse House's first major acquisition since buying Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion a half-decade ago. The agreement reached with Disney, expected to be announced July 23, was said to bring a halt to talks that had been continuing with an "interested" Viacom and "even more aggressive" AOL.

    Details of the deal, which has Disney paying $3.2 billion in cash and assuming $2.1 billion in debt, are remarkably close to those put forth when Haim Saban, the chairman and CEO of Fox Family, exercised an option at the end of last year to sell his 49.5% stake to News Corp. But there was fine-tuning, such as News Corp.'s giving Disney rights to a couple of weekly major league baseball games in addition to its 49.5% stake of Fox Family.

    The remaining 1% of Fox Family, owned by investment bank Allen & Co., is going to Disney as well. Also "traveling with the deal," a source said, is the obligation to air "The 700 Club" that Fox Family assumed on acquiring the basic cable channel from televangelist Pat Robertson in 1997.

    In contrast, Fox Kids Network, which feeds weekday and Saturday-morning kiddie programs to News Corp.'s Fox broadcast network, will stay behind with News Corp. and Saban. But a separate buyout of Saban's remaining interest there is expected, thus making Fox Kids available to the TV network about to be buttressed by 10 more stations from Chris-Craft Industries Inc.

    That means Disney is shelling out $5.3 billion for:

    * Fox Family Network's reach of 81 million U.S. homes (estimated by Merrill Lynch & Co. in late May to be worth $3.7 billion);

    * Fox/Saban's 75% stake in publicly traded Fox Kids Europe (estimated by Merrill at $574 million); and

    * Fox Kids programming library (estimated by Merrill at $1.5 billion).

    The above's total value -- $5.8 billion as estimated by Merrill -- nearly matches the $6 billion Saban's financial adviser, Morgan Stanley, had been seeking for Fox Family from the get-go. News Corp. received financial advice from Bear, Stearns & Co. throughout the process, and is believed to be obtaining legal assistance from New York law firm Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Sheinfeld llp. Disney was said to have negotiated the deal on its own.

    Interestingly enough, News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch was foremost among those who originally scoffed at the initial figure thrown out by Morgan Stanley, which it modeled on Viacom's $3 billion deal last year for Black Entertainment Television. But Murdoch, who intimated Saban may have been seeking a price too high by half, was positioning News Corp. as a buyer of Saban's shares back then.

    The company's transformation into a likely seller didn't occur until May, once Murdoch's year-long quest for a merger between News Corp.'s Sky Global Networks and the DirecTV assets of General Motors Corp.'s Hughes Electronics Corp. finally showed signs of quickening. That deal has yet to be reached, although both sides are reporting progress at more frequent intervals than ever before.

    Meanwhile, considering economic changes since Saban first exercised his option to sell the business, even Murdoch can rejoice in Morgan Stanley's early optimism. "They pretty much nailed the price from Day 1," a source said of the bank's valuation, once discounted for the Fox Kids Network that stays behind.

    News Corp.'s share of the Fox Family sale can now be counted on to help Murdoch satisfy the heavy cash component expected to be a part whatever deal he strikes with Hughes, without jeopardizing News Corp.'s credit BBB- rating. The sale to Disney also spares News Corp. and Saban of continuing complicated valuation maneuvers established as part of each other's exit strategy when they went into business together four years ago.

    Disney didn't return calls seeking comment on its plans for Fox Family, while News Corp. and Saban could not be reached.

    Yet a person with a broad view of negotiations for the assets ultimately won by Disney attributed AOL's interest as part of the company's expressed desire to expand in Europe via Fox Kids Europe. Viacom, meanwhile, was said to go through the exercise in search of a complement to its Nickelodeon children's cable channel.

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    Comcast and Disney sign internet content deal

    Walt Disney and cable telecommunications company Comcast have signed an agreement to offer news and children's entertainment programming from Disney through Comcast's high-speed internet service.

    Comcast, the largest cable company in the US, will offer the programming to its 21 million cable subscribers and its 5.7 million broadband subscribers.

    The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal, although sources said the agreement is for five years.

    Comcast.net's Internet News Channel will use content from Disney's ABC News, including ABC News Live, which provides live breaking news events, hourly news briefs and reports from ABC News correspondents specifically designed for broadband customers.

    ABC News already has deals with other DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) providers in the US, including America Online and the SBC Yahoo DSL service from Yahoo and SBC Communications, and reaches about 35 million dial-up and broadband internet users, according to Julie Summersgill, an ABC News spokeswoman.

    ABC News will not provide any exclusive content to Comcast, she said, cconfirming that the deal is a "multiyear" agreement.

    Later in the year, Comcast plans to launch an online Kids Channel, which will provide Disney Connection, comprising broadband content aimed at children between the ages of 3 and 11. Disney content will include children's games, activities and video shorts for the broadband service.

    When Comcast originally attempted to buy Disney in February, it pointed to its desire for content as one of the primary reasons behind the acquisition move. Comcast has been facing stiff competition from companies offering DSL service and sees content as one of the best ways to woo customers to its cable broadband services.

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    Effort to Overturn Pooh Dispute Denied

    An Orange County Superior Court judge has denied an attempt to disqualify the judge who ended the long-running dispute over Winnie the Pooh royalties in favor of The Walt Disney Co.

    The family that owns the merchandising rights to Pooh to Disney said Thursday they will appeal the ruling.

    In March, Judge Charles McCoy threw out a lawsuit against Stephen Slesinger Inc., ruling that the company unlawfully obtained confidential documents from Disney offices and trash.

    The ruling ended the 13-year-long lawsuit, which alleged that Disney had not paid millions of dollars in royalties for Pooh movies released on DVD.

    McCoy dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that SSI could not sue again on the same claim.

    The Slesinger family asked McCoy to recuse himself and order a new hearing, saying one of Disney's legal consultants on the case is a member of the judge's former law firm.

    On Monday, Judge Nancy Wieben Stock rejected SSI's arguments, saying they were without merit.

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    Thursday July 22, 2004
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    Disneyland to woo Guangzhou families


    Efforts by Hong Kong Disneyland to help bolster visitor numbers during the predictably less busy weekday period are likely to include setting up a sales office in Guangzhou to better target mainland customers.

    ``We are looking at having a small office in Guangzhou,'' said Don Robinson, group managing director of the theme park.

    He added that discussions to co-operate with the tour, travel and hospitality trade would include marketing the world's 11th Disney Park to weekday holidaymakers.

    ``We're not worried about attendance on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays but we do need to make sure that attendance continues Monday through Friday,'' Robinson said.

    Hong Kong Disneyland is sticking to its original attendance forecast of 5.6 million customers in the first year of operation with the opening slated for late next year or early 2006.

    The theme park said its first phase, which includes two hotels providing some 2,100 rooms, has a projected annual target of 10 million visitors. Work on phase two is expected to commence when this target has been reached, although Robinson predicted this is still ``a long way away''.

    The Walt Disney Company derives almost one-third of its revenues from theme parks. In the US, the slump in attendance at theme parks that started with the September 11 terrorist attacks continued through to last year.

    But expectations are growing that this year will end on a positive note with analysts looking at Disney to report some very strong theme park results in the third quarter.

    The rosy outlook has also made some theme park operators in the US bold enough to raise admission prices this summer to more than US$50 (HK$390). Others have disguised price hikes in ingenious marketing ploys that give the ticket holder so-called ``front-of-the-line'' privileges for almost double the regular price.

    Universal Studios Hollywood sells a front-of-the-line pass for US$89.75 while a regular adult ticket costs US$49.75.

    Likewise, Lego Group's Legoland California offers front-of-the-line access for US$100 compared with the US$43.95 adult ticket.

    The queue-jumping innovation was first introduced by Disney with FastPass, a service that basically allows customers to make an appointment for a ride.

    Robinson declined to speculate on the pricing of tickets to Hong Kong Disneyland.

    To promote the theme park in Hong Hong, Disney on Thursday unveiled the appointment of Canto pop star Jacky Cheung as its celebrity spokesman. Known as one of the ``kings'' of Hong Kong's music industry, Cheung will host a new Disney television program, Magical World of Disneyland.
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    Disney igniting "Hover Car Racer"
     

    Variety reports that Disney is set to put the gears to the techno thriller "Hover Car Racer" in motion. The studio bought the script penned by Matthew Reilly and will be produced by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the duo behind "Shanghai Knights" and also TV's "Smallville."

    The film is set in the future where hover car racing becomes the sport of tomorrow. A 15-year-old boy who qualifies for the famed International Race School fights it out in races on the international circuit, including a white-knuckle super-race that winds through New York City.

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    Waters to helm "Bob the Musical"

    Variety reports that Disney has purchased the rights to "Bob the Musical" as a vehicle for Mark Waters ("Freaky Friday," "Mean Girls") to direct.

    The film is written by Mike Bender and tells the story of a man trapped inside a musical tuner.

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    The Disney Magic Cruise Ship Introduces More Age-Specific Spaces Than Ever Before

    Aboard a ship best known for kids and characters, adults and teens now have three new venues of their own in which to play.

    Disney took the opportunity to add age-specific spaces during the Disney Magic cruise ship's regularly scheduled dry dock last fall. The refurbishments support the line's commitment to find new ways to provide cruise vacations that suit the unique needs of every member of the family.

    Cove Café, open daily from 10 a.m. to midnight, provides a quiet spot for adults to escape to daily. The café neighbors the already-popular adult areas on Deck 9, including Quiet Cove pool, Vista Spa and Salon and an outdoor bar. It features comfortable furniture, large screen televisions, paperback books and magazines, four Internet stations and portholes for enjoying outdoor vistas. Cove Café offers an alternative location in which to provide refreshments with an array of gourmet coffee, specialty teas, cocktails, pastries and desserts. The café replaces Common Grounds, the former teen club.

    Diversions, a traditional sports pub, provides guests a broad range of evening entertainment options with the addition of nightly themed activities. Here, the Pub Master hosts guests for sporting events, trivia-based game shows, piano sing-along entertainment and talent competitions. The décor includes multiple satellite television screens and specialty game tables for backgammon, checkers and chess. The pub joins an already popular line up of spaces on Beat Street, the nighttime entertainment district reserved exclusively for adults, and it replaces the nightclub formerly known as Off Beat.

    Both locations capitalize on the line's growing need to accommodate the interests of adults who find themselves with free time to explore adult activities aboard Disney cruise ships. Today, more than a third of all guests sailing with Disney are adults without children and those who do bring the kids find little ones immersed in structured activities designed for the 12-week to 17 year-old set--activities staged in dedicated spaces which span nearly an entire deck.

    For teens, Disney introduces The Stack. This all-new space is designed with the varied and often hard to please interests of teens in mind, and is located in the ship's forward (faux) funnel atop Deck 11. The Stack replaces ESPN Skybox and achieves an isolated space, which teens crave. It allows for a wider range of activities to be hosted in the teen-dedicated area, including dancing, watching multiple televisions, accessing the Internet or snacking with friends. This new location allows for multiple activities to be staged simultaneously and serves as the backdrop to an already stellar line up of teen-friendly programs.

    Together the spaces join the ship's full complement of age-specific areas including:

    For Children...

    Flounder's Reef Nursery (ages 12 weeks to 3 years), an under the sea-themed nursery for toddlers

    Disney's Oceaneer Club (ages 3-7), an adventureland fit for Peter Pan, Wendy and younger cruisers

    Disney's Oceaneer Lab (ages 8-12), Buzz Lightyear's galactic, space-age station designed for curious cruisers

    Scuttles Cove (ages 3-12), a super-sized sandbox located on Castaway Cay, complete with an authentic whale dig site, archaeology tools and beach toys

    For Teens...

    The Teen Beach at Castaway Cay is complete with sand volleyball, soccer and build-your-own-raft challenges.

    For Adults...

    Beat Street, an adults-only entertainment district, features three unique venues and provides nightly live entertainment tributes to the 60s, 70s and 80s.

    Vista Spa and Salon, an 8,000 square-foot escape, which allows adults to indulge in a wide variety of treatments and relax in the only tropical rainforest at sea

    Palo, Disney's signature restaurant at sea, serves adult guests sweeping ocean views and northern Italian specialties nightly and hosts champagne brunch and traditional high tea on sea days.

    Serenity Bay, a secluded beach at Castaway Cay, provides cabanas for massages, a lighter-fare lunch alternative set-up, cocktail bar and beach respite

    In addition to offering seven-night cruise vacations to the Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line offers three- and four-night itineraries to the Bahamas and land/sea vacation packages which include a stay at the Walt Disney World Resort. During the summer of 2005, Disney Cruise Line will offer its first-ever seven-night cruises to the Mexican Riviera departing from the Port of Los Angeles. With a pre- or post- stay at the Disneyland Resort, guests can combine the fun and excitement of the Disneyland Resort with the enchantment of a Disney cruise. The repositioning of the Disney Magic to southern California also includes two 14-night Panama Canal cruises, nicely blending exotic ports of call with leisurely days at sea.

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    Pay up or else the duck gets it, Disney warned

    Moviemaker Disney has until August 12 to notify the Pretoria High Court whether it intends defending a R15-million claim for damages for allegedly infringing the copyright on the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

    Disney Enterprises, Nu Metro Home Entertainment, the David Gresham Entertainment Group and David Gresham Records all received summonses and the particulars of the claim last week, South African lawyer Owen Dean said yesterday.

    The estate of the late songwriter Solomon Linda is seeking an interdict restraining the four companies from continuing to use the song, and damages totaling R15-million.

    A total of R10-million is being sought against Disney and New Metro and another R5-million against the David Gresham companies.

    A version of the song was used in the Disney smash hit The Lion King.

    Dean said Disney had until August 12 to give notice of its intention to defend the proceedings or not. Nu Metro and the David Gresham companies had until July 28 and 30 respectively.

    "If any of the parties fail to give notice of their intention to defend the action by the respective due dates, judgment will be entered against such party by default," he said in a statement.

    "Once having given notice of their intention to defend the proceedings, the defendants are required to file formal answers with the (Pretoria High) court within three weeks."
    http://red01.as-eu.falkag.net/red?cmd=url&&rdm=69706418&dlv=631,17576,114266,64418,281973&kid=64418&chw=964418-&tcs=&bls3=000000B&bls4=000001114262&uid=1&dmn=cache-rr01.proxy.aol.com&scx=1280&scy=1024&scc=32&jav=1&sta=,,,,7,,,,en-us,&iid=114266&bid=281973&dat=http%3A//

    None of the parties had given any notice to date of an intention to defend the action, Dean said.

    He also announced that the registered trademarks of Disney Enterprises Inc in South Africa - about 240 in total - have been attached in favour of the executor of the Linda estate. These included names like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Disney itself.

    This was done in terms of a Pretoria High Court order obtained last month to secure South African jurisdiction over the case.

    Should judgment be granted against Disney in the copyright case and the awards granted are not paid, the executor of Linda's estate would be entitled to sell the trademarks.

    The original melody for the song The Lion Sleeps Tonight was composed by Linda, a migrant mine worker, more than half a century ago. He sold the melody to Gallo for 10 shillings in 1952.

    The tune, originally entitled Mbube, has since reportedly been modified by more than 150 artists and generated more than $15-million in royalties.

    Linda's three surviving daughters and 10 grandchildren still live in Soweto. They sought legal help after realising they had lost out on millions of dollars in royalties.

    Under the provisions of a Commonwealth law in force at the time the song was first recorded, the rights to a song revert back to the composer's heirs 25 years after his death.

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    Disney Movie Ranch Aids Firefight

    Narrowly averting disaster itself over the weekend, The Walt Disney Co.’s Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon continued to aid the firefighting effort Monday as a steady stream of helicopters scooped water from a man-made lake familiar to fans of “Little House on the Prairie.”
        
    On Saturday, in the first hours after the outbreak of the blaze in the Newhall Pass, flames crossed onto the ranch property immediately north of Placerita Canyon Road. Trees that normally obscure the movie sets from the road were obliterated, but fire crews managed to keep the fire well away from the Western movie town Walt Disney built shortly after he bought the property in 1959.
        
    The ranch’s history as a movie location actually dates back farther, to the genesis of Hollywood Westerns. In 1922, pioneer producer Trem Carr and set designer Ernie Hickson, unknown to each other at the time, came out West. By 1926 they were making motion pictures together in Placerita Canyon. Hickson initially erected a Western movie town to the east of today’s state Route 14; in 1936, after oil was found nearby, Hickson moved the buildings to the current location of Melody Ranch, west of SR 14.
        
    Gene Autry bought Melody Ranch after Hickson’s death in 1952. When Disney bought the easterly portions of Carr and Hickson’s old movie ranch a few years later, he created a new Western town almost precisely where Hickson had built his first one nearly four decades earlier.

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    Hong Kong pop singer Jacky Cheung may be spokesman for Disney theme park

    The Walt Disney Co. has picked a local star to be the celebrity spokesman for its Hong Kong theme park, and the smart money is on veteran singer Jacky Cheung. 

    Disney remained tightlipped ahead of a news conference set for Thursday afternoon, but Cheung's production company manager said the 42-year-old star will be there. 

    The manager, Doris Chu, told The Associated Press that Cheung has signed a promotional deal with Disney but she provided no other details. 

    Cheung is renowned as one of the four "Heavenly Kings'' of Hong Kong's music scene along with the singers Andy Lau, Leon Lai and Aaron Kwok. 

    Cheung's mellow voice and clean image have won the hearts of fans in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan and in overseas Chinese communities. 

    Once a clerk, Cheung won a singing contest in 1984 and went onto to become a mega-star who has toured across the world with hits such as "Love You More Each Day'' and "Moonlight Romance.'' 

    The Disney park is expected to open by late 2005 on outlying Lantau Island. Disney hopes to attract throngs of visitors from mainland China and elsewhere in Asia.

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    Feel the love: `The Lion King' gets royal treatment in restored Opera House

    "Lush'' and ``breathtaking'' hardly seem descriptive enough for last night's official reopening of the Opera House with hometown girl Julie Taymor's version of Disney's ``The Lion King.''

    From the moment the audience stepped into the lavishly restored theater, atmosphere was everything. Every detail of the 1928 house has been lovingly restored, from the beautiful ceiling paintings to the bust of the theater's original namesake, B.F. Keith.

    The same can be said for Taymor's lush production of the animated Disney favorite. From the jaw-dropping opening that included a burnished sunrise and a awe-inspiring animal parade, Taymor's vision - along with that of her collaborators, choreographer Garth Fagan, scenic designer Richard Hudson and lighting designer Donald Holder - honors the Disney story while giving it a richer, more layered texture. The greatest gift Taymor has given Disney is the audience's imagination. Because her stagecraft is so transparent, we see a dancer on stilts in a costume, and then we see it's a giraffe; we know dancers are wearing headdresses, but we believe we are in the grasslands of Africa.

    Taymor is unintimidated by the geographical challenges of the storyline, offering up a waterfall complete with snapping alligators, a wildebeest stampede, and an eerie elephant graveyard.

    Taymor anchors the action very definitely in Africa with the help of music by Lebo M, in addition to the familiar songs by Elton John and Tim Rice.

    The Pridelands, we discover, are home to some serious sibling rivalry between King Mufasa (a stately Thomas Corey Robinson) and his nasty brother Scar (an intimidating Dan Donohue). With masks that move menacingly downward when needed and then back atop their heads when they're calm, the line between the mask and the man becomes easily blurred.

    The technique is even more effective for the story's two clowns, the warthog Pumba (Ben Lipitz) and the meercat Timon (an agile John Plumpis), who sing the carefree ``Hakuna Matata.''

    But Taymor's rich imagery enhances, rather than detracts from the story of the young Simba (Brandon Kane) whose curiosity gets him and his pal Nala into lots of trouble (``I Just Can't Wait to Be King'') despite the efforts of the king's major domo, Zazu (Mark Cameron Pow, who manages to manipulate a bird puppet while staying distinctly in character). When Simba runs away from home, Taymor shifts scenes from the grassy plains to the verdant jungle, with an array of costumes and vibrant pinks and greens that are astonishing.

    This touring company is vocally strong, with the ensemble nearly outdoing the principals. Futhi Mhlongo as the baboon Rafiki is amazing, and Alan Mingo Jr. as the grown-up Simba and Adrienne Muller as Nala make a charming duo for ``Can You Feel the Love Tonight.''

    With percussionists positioned in boxes on either side of the stage, the production gives the sense of reaching out into the audience. But the orchestra is limited to two programmed keyboards, flutes and the percussion (two in the boxes, marimba and drums), which flattened the sound and seemed an unfortunate shortcut in a show with such depth everywhere else.

    But, with some quibbling aside, the opportunity to see this creative version of ``The Lion King'' is not to be missed.

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    News Corp., Disney Expected to Lead Earnings Parade

     
    Second-quarter financials for major entertainment companies will show solid year-over-year revenue and cash-flow gains driven by growth in the cable network business, but filmed entertainment results will in many cases be flat because of tough year-ago comparisons, according to Wall Street analysts.

    As Viacom Inc. kicks off the latest quarterly earnings parade for the major media conglomerates Thursday, investors will also look for hints on advertising market trends and other possible drivers for entertainment stocks, which have had a sluggish year so far.

    In addition, mergers-and-acquisitions chatter will be on Wall Street observers' minds, with sector investors particularly looking for a possible update on how talks are going for the sale of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where both Sony Corp and Time Warner are reportedly kicking the tires.

    Overall, Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto projects 8% second-quarter revenue growth on average for large-cap media companies with filmed entertainment businesses, which should leave operating income 11% above year-ago results on average.

    This growth puts the group ahead of other sectors of the media economy, "reflecting the benefits of diversification driven by a combination of network subscriber fees, DVD, theme parks and mid- to upper-single-digit ad growth," Noto said in a research report last week.

    News Corp. and its Fox Entertainment Group unit will bring in the strongest operating-income growth for the quarter at 14%-15%, followed by the Walt Disney Co. at 12% and Time Warner at 9%, the analyst predicts.

    Despite solid trends, Prudential Equity Group analyst Katherine Styponias warns that second-quarter results are unlikely to blow media investors away. "Second-quarter trends across various businesses continue to chug along, but not at a pace that suggests substantial upside surprise to second-quarter estimates -- and probably not raised guidance," she said.

    Most on Wall Street share Styponias' expectation that Disney, driven by its broadcast business, and Fox, driven by possible out performance of its film unit, are the likeliest big entertainment players to beat analysts' estimates for the quarter.

    And most agree with Styponias that results will not be so significantly above expectations that they will boost stocks. "First-quarter results were strong, and the stocks didn't react at all," Tradition Asiel Securities analyst Paul Kim said. "I expect similar things this time around."

    However, Fulcrum Global Partners managing director Richard Greenfield believes that sector stocks may be buoyed by the latest earnings season.

    "The combination of strong (second-quarter) results, a bullish tone to management conference calls, the continued acceleration in advertising and the realization that many of the stocks in the group have become attractive from a traditional valuation perspective" could drive improved stock performances during the balance of the year, he said.

    One of the businesses that will once again be in the spotlight this quarter are cable networks, analysts predict. "We anticipate robust cable-networks results sector-wide, driven by continued ratings success and a strong scatter market," Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said. And broadcast TV units should post "moderate" growth, she predicts.

    Meanwhile, film results will be mixed because of tough year-ago comparisons, according to Reif Cohen. She predicts that Viacom and News Corp. will report 2% improvement in film revenue.

    The stronger 8% revenue gain she projects for Time Warner is driven by the summer box office success of "Troy" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" as well as a larger number of TV series released on DVD. However, the marketing costs for tentpole movies will drag down TW's film cash flow 4% year-over-year, Reif Cohen forecasts.

    For Viacom, analysts predict strength at its cable networks and broadcast units, while radio results will remain sluggish. They also expect the conglomerate to incur severance charges related to the recent departures of president and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin and Viacom Entertainment Group chief Jonathan Dolgen.

    Time Warner will see improved film revenue and continued improvements in some of America Online's key metrics, though analysts believe that AOL lost at least 450,000 dial-up subscribers during the second quarter.

    Disney's results for its fiscal third quarter will see positive momentum in theme parks, which are "recovering faster than we had anticipated," Greenfield said. But Disney's film operation has released mainly weak box office performers of late. "Without another big hit this summer, we believe Disney's studio profits will fall substantially in 2005," with the drop possibly as steep as 20% as the company's home video pipeline stutters, Greenfield said.

    News Corp. and its Fox unit, meanwhile, are set to post solid fiscal fourth-quarter figures driven by continued gains at cable networks like FX, analysts say. But the Fox broadcast network remains a mixed bag, and film comparisons are once again tough this quarter, meaning results could come in below last year, they add.

    But pointing to the recent success of "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," Noto said such projections "could be conservative" in the end.

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    Wednesday July 21, 2004
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    Fantasyland Skyway Station no more

    It seems to be the final farewell to Skyway as the removal of the Fantasyland Skyway Station has begun. No word on what, if anything will replace it. Speculation has it that perhaps with "it's a small world" under rehab, room is being made for a more larger and elaborate Small World facade, along with an out of the way stroller parking, and yes , another meet and greet location.
      
     
     
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    Comcast tunes into Disney for broadband

    Comcast struck a deal to offer children's entertainment from Walt Disney and streaming media from ABC News to its broadband subscribers, the companies said Wednesday.

    Under the deal, the Philadelphia-based cable television and high-speed Internet service provider will begin offering streaming media and on-demand video from Disney's ABC News. Comcast also announced plans to launch an online channel for children later this year with programming from Disney Connection, the entertainment company's broadband destination for children ages 3 to 11, as part of the effort.

    The content-sharing agreement underscores the reason behind Comcast's unsuccessful $66 billion bid to buy out Disney earlier this year. With that bid, which was launched in February and officially withdrawn in April, Comcast hoped to add brand name content such as ABC News to power its next generation of services, including video on demand, high-definition TV and streaming media.

    The proposed merger was ultimately scuttled when Disney's executives refused to negotiate with Comcast and when Comcast became concerned that the bid indicated to shareholders that it had lost confidence in its existing cable business.

    Comcast said it will immediately begin offering on-demand programming from ABC News broadcasts on Comcast's own Internet news channel, including content from "World News Tonight," "Good Morning America," "20/20" and "Primetime Live." Comcast is also offering ABC News Live, a streaming-video application that delivers breaking news in real time, to its broadband customers.

    Based on the agreement, the Comcast Kids Channel will offer Disney Connection's online games, activities and videos, in addition to content derived from Disney Blast, a portal site for children, and Toontown Online, the entertainment company's site for preschoolers. Comcast said the deal will include access to a new premium version of Toontown scheduled to arrive next year.

    "Delivering content from well-known and well-trusted brands over a true broadband network is key to providing our customers the best possible broadband Internet experience," Greg Butz, senior vice president at Comcast, said in a statement.

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    Comcast and Disney in High-Speed Internet venture

    The Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal with Comcast Corp. to provide news and children's Internet programming as part of the cable company's effort to distinguish its high-speed Web product, the companies said.

    Disney will launch its Disney Connection suite of kids Internet games and features in the United States with the deal, while Disney's ABC unit will provide its streaming broadband Internet news station.

    Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Comcast, aiming to maintain high-speed Internet prices above competitors' by offering unique content, has been rolling out music, news and other features on its Comcast.net portal, the home page built for subscribers.

    ABC News has deals with a number of DSL providers in the United States, while Disney's Internet Group has already launched its "Connection" product outside the United States.

    The ABC/Disney deal follows others with the likes of CBS, Foxsports.com and Major League Baseball.

    Comcast has 5.7 million high-speed Web subscribers.

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    Experience Walt Disney World through pop-up book

    A visit to Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., is more of an experience for its young visitors than a trip, and "Popping Up Around Walt Disney World" is more of an experience than a book. Five "scenes" from the theme park pop off the pages, with the Magic Kingdom standing almost 12 inches high.

    Meanwhile, some two-dimensional tidbits in the book, published by Disney Enterprises, include:

    • Pirates of the Caribbean was the last theme park attraction personally supervised by Walt Disney. The burning city effect was so realistic that the original ride was almost closed before it opened. The fire department chief who inspected it thought the flames were real.

    • Big Thunder Mountain is currently the tallest "mountain" in Orlando, Fla., with its main butte topping off at 197 feet, 6 inches above sea level.

    • It takes three tons of food a day to keep the 1,000 animals at The Animal Kingdom well fed.

    • The Igbo Ijele mask in the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only one of its kind to exist outside the sub-Saharan region.

    Protect children from mosquito bites

    People aren't the only ones who love summer's warm weather. Mosquitos, the season's most prevalent insect, love the high temperatures and humidity.

    KidsHealth.org, a Web site devoted to children's health, suggests these steps for keeping the pests at bay:

    • Stay indoors at dusk and dawn when summer's most prevalent insects, mosquitoes, are most active.

    • Use screens on doors and windows.

    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

    • Use insect repellents. The most effective and long-lasting ones contain DEET; products with 10 percent to 30 percent DEET provide about 3 hours of protection.

    However, check with your doctor when it comes to using repellents on very young children.

    • Remove standing water from gutters, old tires, wading pools, tarps, potted plants, and other outside buckets and pails, which can become mosquito-breeding areas. Also, be sure the water in pet dishes and birdbaths is changed regularly.

    "Playing outside is a lot of fun -- bugs or no bugs. Fortunately, most bites and stings are relatively harmless," says Dr. Neil Izenberg, a pediatrician and editor-in-chief of KidsHealth. "The two greatest risks from most insect stings and bites are an allergic reaction, which rarely may be fatal, and infection -- also rare but with potentially serious consequences."

    He adds: "Education and supervision are the best preventive measures that parents can take toward protecting their child. With a little bit of care, you can have fun even when the insects come marching in!"

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers Announce Training Camp Plans

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will conduct their 2004 training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex July 31-Aug. 18. The Buccaneers, who trained at Disney's 200-acre sports complex in each of the last two years (2002-2003), were the first NFL team to conduct training camp at Walt Disney World Resort.

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    'Lion Sleeps' lawsuit awaits Disney response

    U.S. entertainment giant Disney has three weeks to respond to a $1.6 million compensation suit filed by a Soweto family that says it lost royalties from the hit song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a family lawyer said Tuesday.

    The song, popularized in the long-running theater production and cartoon movie "The Lion King" was originally written in 1939 by Solomon Linda, a Zulu migrant worker turned songwriter.

    Disney has denied liability, but it has not filed a legal response to the suit filed in the Pretoria High Court earlier this month.

    Owen Dean, the family's lawyer, said in a statement that Disney has until August 12 to give notice of its intention to defend the matter in court.

    Dean said the summons and particulars of the claim were served on Disney Enterprises Inc. in the U.S. on July 13 and to South African entertainment groups shortly afterward.

    "If any of the parties fail to give notice of their intention to defend the action by the respective due dates, judgment will be entered against such party by default," Dean said.

    The Africa manager for Burbank, California-based Disney, Christine Service, declined to comment, saying the matter was being dealt with by the group's lawyers.

    Linda died penniless in 1962, having sold away the rights to the song, originally titled "Mbube," to a South African publisher. It went on to generate an estimated $15 million in royalties after it was adapted by other artists, including the American songwriter George Weiss, whose version is featured in Disney's "The Lion King."

    The song has been covered by at least 150 artists, including The Tokens, George Michael, Miriam Makeba and The Spinners.

    Linda's three surviving daughters and 10 grandchildren, living in poverty in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, have received only a one-time payment of $15,000.

    The action is based on laws in force in Commonwealth nations at the time the song was first recorded. Under its provisions, the rights to a song revert to the composer's heirs 25 years after his death

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    The World Chapter, NFFC Salutes Ralph “The Kid” Kent


    A Very Special Event to Remember Ralph’s 40+ Years at Disney

    We are excited to announce that we will be having a Very Special Event on Saturday, August 21, 2004 at the Vista Del Lago Clubhouse.
     
    As you know, Ralph Kent joined the Walt Disney Company back in 1963, and is retiring after a decades-long career with The Walt Disney Company, Ralph Kent, Corporate Trainer for Artist Development at Disney Design Group. Ralph has always been very good to our little chapter and in return we want to honor him and show him our appreciation for his many years of fine and memorable service.  So this is our way of thanking him.
     
    It will be a night to remember with many special speakers and guests, and due to an unprecedented demand for attendance, we need you to RSVP your attendance.  There will only be space for about 150 attendees and we are sure that you will want to be one of them!
     
    We are asking all club members to bring a Main Dish, Salad or Appetizer (enough to feed 8 adults).  Please DO NOT bring a dessert since the club will supply that.  Also, due to this Special Event, there will be an admission fee for all attendees, Club Members $3.00 - Guests $5.00  This cost is to offset the additional food and beverages and the club’s gift to Ralph.
     
    There will not be an Auction or any Special Raffles (except for our 50/50 raffle) so that we may have the most time to dedicate to Ralph.
     
    Doors will open at 6:00pm, food and soft drinks will be available at 7:00pm, and our Special Event will start at 8:00pm.  You don’t want to miss this so please RSVP via e-mail at worldchapter_nffc@hotmail.com or by snail mail BEFORE August 1st.

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    Disabled Ask Disneyland to Restore Passes for Rides

    The park's new system for giving handicapped access is arbitrarily applied, petitioners say. Officials say it's now tailored to each visitor.

    Kelsey O'Maley, 9, can't feed herself. She can't walk by herself. She can't even sit up in her wheelchair without effort.

    On a roller coaster, though, Kelsey can do what any other kid does: have fun.

    So when she and her mom arrived this summer at Disneyland and discovered that the park no longer gives disabled patrons special access to rides, they were reminded of what Kelsey couldn't do.

    "For these kids, they don't get to be on swim teams or soccer teams. They're always watching other kids do what they don't get to do," said Kimberlee O'Maley, Kelsey's mother, of Indianapolis. "Disneyland was probably the one place they could have a positive experience."

    Other park patrons are voicing the same complaints. Critics have collected 14,700 signatures on an Internet petition that asks Disneyland to again offer "special assistance passes" that allowed disabled guests and those accompanying them to enter rides through the exit, often bypassing long lines.

    Many complain that a new system for the disabled is inconsistently applied or not applied at all at the Disneyland Resort's two theme parks. The O'Maleys, for example, said they spent much of their time during a recent visit trying to figure out the new rules and arguing with Disneyland employees.

    The park discontinued the special assistance passes in March because able-bodied people — many of them teens — were cheating, park officials say.

    Some took advantage of the system by renting a wheelchair, requesting a pass and using it to cut to the front of the line. Park officials said the program was so abused that sometimes the handicapped line was longer than the normal one.

    Under the new system, Disney employees talk with park visitors to determine the level of assistance they may need, said Disneyland Resort spokesman Bob Tucker.

    The employees might then issue a "guest assistance card" that is customized to the type of assistance needed.

    A guest with a hearing or visual disability, for example, is assigned a code that alerts employees to give them front-row seating.

    "The previous program applied the same solution to all guests regardless of their needs," Tucker said. "Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we now tailor our assistance to each guest on a case-by-case basis."

    The new system was developed with the help of disabled advocacy groups, and Tucker said it has been "very positively received."

    Rebekah McIlhenny of Garden Grove's Dayle McIntosh Center, which helps disabled people live independently, helped Disneyland revamp its procedures. She says the park is making an honest effort to accommodate the disabled.

    "I don't think there was any way that they were going to be able to put a policy in place that wasn't going to have a lot of kinks," McIlhenny said.

    "We know there are concerns. I think the [employees] still need additional training…. But I've been really pleased with their willingness to discuss things and hear the complaints. I think they are taking it very seriously."

    But Sarah Demarco said that when she took her five children — four of whom have disabilities including cerebral palsy and Down syndrome — to Disneyland a few weeks ago, the kinks were still far from worked out.

    As she had in the past, the Tucson resident went straight to the park's City Hall, carrying paperwork documenting her children's disabilities. Employees first told her they no longer had disabled passes to give her. When she complained, they gave her a pass that allowed her to use her specially fitted triple-seat stroller as a wheelchair, which allowed her to take it in lines for rides. Normally, strollers are parked outside the lines.

    DeMarco said she struggled to wind the stroller through long lines and often had to lift it to fit through the queues. And when she complained to ride operators, they told her to go back to City Hall to request a different pass that gave her more access.

    "I understand that people were taking advantage," DeMarco said. "But now the people that really are handicapped are paying the price."

    Camarillo resident Marcus Anthony, 43, has spina bifida and severe arthritis. He said park workers would not give him a pass because his disability was so obvious it was unnecessary. But once he got to the attraction he wanted to ride, he was told he needed a special card.

    "It seems there's confusion among employees," Anthony said. "I don't think everyone's getting the message on what the actual policy is."

    Critics complain that decisions about access are being left to young, sometimes inexperienced, employees.

    "They have taken federal law, and they're allowing it to be applied at the discretion of [employees]," O'Maley said.

    The best solution, she and others said, is to reinstate the special assistance pass but distribute it only to people who prove their disability.

    "Most people with a real disability don't mind having to prove it" and routinely carry paperwork, O'Maley said.

    This approach is used at some other amusement parks. At Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, for example, officials say they also see abuse of their special assistance pass but limit it by requiring a doctor's note. The pass, according to the Knott's policy, is to help accommodate wheelchairs and not to bypass the line.

    Maryland attorney R. Wayne Pierce, who frequently represents amusement parks, said that for the industry, it's a balancing act between safety and access.

    "In many ways, it amounts to a no-win situation," Pierce said. "There's no way for an owner-operator to make a risk-free choice."

    The disabled patrons said they are simply asking for accommodation and compassion.

    "Do you know how many things we can't do that we accept?" O'Maley said. "It's in your face every day what you're shut out of…. This was one of the few breaks people with disabilities got."

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    Disney contract offer rejected

    Security workers at the Disneyland Resort soundly rejected a contract offer Wednesday, union officials said after counting the vote.

    This is the third time the Independent Employee Service Association has rejected Disney's proposal. Negotiations could reopen next week.

    The IESA, which represents about 575 employees, wanted a multiyear contract after its agreement expired May 1. Disney offered to extend through March 31, 2005.

    Union officials said they were puzzled why Disney would not propose a three- or four-year contract, similar to other union agreements signed this year. Negotiator Dave Cox said the talks kept coming back to a law that mandates health-insurance coverage for employees, set to go into effect in 2006.

    Disney officials said they are continuing to study potential effects of the health insurance law, which could be repealed by voters in November, and "other business issues."

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    Michael Eisner on Talk Radio

    Radio vet Michael Jackson who virtually invented talk radio in Los Angeles, has joined Infinity-owned KNX-AM. He will conduct interviews with major newsmakers for the station, which plans to air the chats twice a day -- beginning Thursday with Disney topper Michael Eisner.

    Jackson, whose erudite style and more liberal viewpoint stand out in an age otherwise ruled by right-wing talk radio, has been off the air for more than a year. He lost his show on KLAC when the Clear Channel-owned station flipped to an AM adult standards format at the end of 2002.

    "I painfully missed it, particularly when all of my radio colleagues are lackeys for the Bush administration," Jackson said.

    "I'm ecstatic that I get to reinvent myself. The station is all news, so I will not be doing the kind of call-in talk radio that I've done for past 40 years," he said. "It's a chance to meet anyone who fascinates me. (KNX execs) said that if you think it's interesting, then we think it's interesting."

    Jackson was recruited by David Hall, Infinity's newly installed VP of AM programming in Los Angeles. The two have been discussing a possible collaboration ever since Hall helped induct Jackson into the Museum of Broadcast Communication's Radio Hall of Fame in October.

    Jackson and Hall last worked together at KLAC, back when Hall was with Clear Channel.

    Jackson's decision to kick off his gig with Eisner comes with a dose of irony: The Briton spent 32 years at Disney-owned KABC-AM, where he was first demoted to weekends and then booted altogether by 1999.

    But Jackson said he has remained friends with Eisner, despite his less-than-ceremonious departure from the station (and Jackson's displeasure with that move, about which he was very vocal at the time).

    KNX's move to hire Jackson is the latest in a series of changes at L.A.'s two news radio outlets since Hall took over at the end of last year. The addition of Jackson likely will add to criticism that the station is moving away from its all-news identity.

    Jackson said he has already lined up Robert Reich and John Kerry as future guests; only Johnny Carson has turned him down so far. Upcoming interviews include Michael Moore, Bill Press, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson.

    He also hinted that the synergistic minds at Infinity's parent, Viacom, may have other things in store for him as well.

    The host said he's still frustrated by the combative state of talk radio and believes there just isn't room for regular discourse over the airwaves anymore.

    "This is a different format for myself," Jackson said. "Maybe one day I'll go back to talk radio -- but not in its current state, that kind of hard-edged, one-sided approach.

    "If (talk radio hosts) are as influential as they trumpet themselves to be, how come fewer Americans vote? Maybe they don't turn us on, they turn us off."

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    Tuesday July 20, 2004
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    Animal Kingdom Everest Update

     

      

                                   
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    Playing happily ever after


    Girls' princess fantasies indulged by toys, books, films

    It started when her daughter was about 1, Mary Bailey says.

    Claire's playing dress-up soon evolved into playing princess, and the princess paraphernalia quickly began to accumulate.

    An umbrella. A tea party set. Books and videos. Underwear. A pink, cone-shaped princess hat, a gift from friends who visited Walt Disney World. A talking pink wand with pictures of Disney's Cinderella, Snow White and Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."

    The allure of the sparkly, pastel princess products is hard for little girls to resist, Mary Bailey says. And it's relatively inexpensive, for how much fun she has playing with it all, she says. More often than not, she's happy to indulge her now 3-year-old daughter's desires. "It's fine with me," she says. "I had two boys."

    With a slew of princess-themed toys, books and movies, it's never been so easy for girls to live out their princess fantasies. Mattel's Princess Barbie dolls and Disney's princess-themed products are hugely popular. Disney reported sales jumped from $100 million in 2000 to $1.3 billion in 2003 after the company decided to package its most popular princesses together to sell everything from fruit snacks to bedroom sets.

    Princesses can charm older girls, too. The fifth volume of Meg Cabot's "The Princess Diaries" series - "Princess in Pink" - rides high this year on The New York Times Best-Seller List of Children's Books.

    The fourth volume, "Princess in Waiting," and "Ella Enchanted" Gail Carson Levine's Newbery Medal-winning book that is now a movie from Disney-owned Miramax, are also among the top sellers.

    The princesses portrayed in today's movies are a far cry from the passive fairy-tale princesses of old, as Levine, author of six princess books, points out.

    All Cinderella does is wish her troubles away, and she fails at her one task - to leave the ball before midnight, she says. Snow White pricks her finger and is out cold while all the action happens.

    "There's fairy tale after fairy tale like that," Levine says. "For me, in my takes on fairy tales, I don't want the prince to fall in love with the maiden because she's pretty and compliant."

    In "Ella Enchanted" - essentially "Cinderella" with a few key differences - Ella tries to rescue herself from a curse that forces her to obey every order, rather than wait around for a prince to save her. (There is a prince, but he's far from perfect.)

    But Levine also says she's not writing to make a point: She's writing to tell a good story. And her stories resonate with many girls.

    Even with their newfound independence, though, princesses in most modern-day tales still end up living happily ever after. Such portrayals of princesses give pause to some.

    Yasue Kuwahara, a professor of communications and the director of popular culture studies at Northern Kentucky University, says the image of the pretty princess is overemphasized in the Disney movies and the Princess Barbie dolls. "In that sense, I think it's problematic," she says. "The focus is on the looks."

    Dr. Kathy Burklow, a clinical child psychologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says it's typical for girls to try out different roles - princesses, brides, housewives - that are consistent with their gender.

    That kind of play can provide parents an opportunity to teach their daughters that they're capable of doing anything they want and don't need to be rescued, Burklow says. "You can be on the softball team and still wear a crown," she says.
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    Here's a look at the Aladdin: Collector's Gift Set

    You get the movie in the same exact set as the Platinum edition" (so don't buy both thinking you are getting different bonuses on the DVDs), a book on the making of "Aladdin," some small prints of charcter sketches, and supposedly a single frame of the actual film.

                                  

    Also noteworthy. . . well for some. This has not been announced for Region 1 DVD's (USA) but for the Region 2 (Europe), they are also getting the option of buying the trilogy of Aladdin films together as a set on the same day that "Aladdin" is released. They can also purchase the gift set of "Aladdin" with "The Return of Jafar" and "Aladdin and the King of Theives." We'll have to wait and see if those come here too.

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    Top Ten Good Things About Visiting Disney's California Adventure


    From SaveDisney.com 

    1. No pesky crowds to block your way.

    2. Your delicate stomach won't be upset by extreme thrill rides.

    3. Southern California residents won't run into anyone they know and have to explain why they're there.

    4. You won't have to hurt your back by constantly taking the kids out of the stroller to load them into rides.

    5. You'll never get lost because it's so small.

    6. You'll be totally grounded in reality (like your shrinks want you to be).

    7. You won't be far from The Happiest Place on Earth.

    8. If you're at DCA, you probably have a Disneyland Annual Pass in your wallet.

    9. You'll be able to focus on your conversation as you walk between rides, cause there are no attractive visuals to distract you.

    10. You'll still have time to go to the beach when you're through.

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    Disney Promotes Online Catalog in Print Catalog for Multi-Channel Success

     
    Disney has all its ducks in a row in the retailing giant's 2004 Back to School catalog. Directly on page two, Disney communicates the ability to shop the catalog online with RichFX's Rich Catalog -- a true best practice to help bridge the multi-channel gap. With a picture to help illustrate the feature, the catalog text reads, "Shop Our Catalog Online -- Flip through the pages and click on your favorite items. It's that easy to shop for summer at DisneyStore.com."It's no secret that online catalogs support a seamless multi-channel strategy by providing consistency across offline and online channels. But what about print catalog-only shoppers that are not aware of this familiar shopping experience online? Effectively communicating this comfortable page- flipping tool is critical for persuading traditional catalog shoppers to try online purchasing. Catalog shoppers may only remember where they saw an item and how it was featured -- only the online catalog replicates this experience on the website.

    Disney is setting the standard for many best practice trends in multi- channel retailing. The company started bringing their catalogs online with RichFX in January of 2004 and they are timed perfectly with the print catalog drop. They have had tremendous success -- several online catalogs receiving close to 50,000 unique visitors, with an average of 2,000 per day.

    Paul Gainer, Vice President of Merchandising and Creative, at DisneyStore.com explains, "As a multi-channel retailer, we identified the Rich Catalog as an effective tool to improve the online shopping experience for our catalog guest. This tool also allows our catalog guest to shop at DisneyStore.com and experience a breadth of assortment that is a great point of differentiation for the online channel."

    In a recent white paper called "Shop the Catalog," Lauren Freedman, President of the e-tailing group, agrees that the online catalog is a success, helping reach broader audiences. "For the merchant, it [online catalog] can leverage existing catalog investments in photography while simultaneously offering the consumer a comfortable transition from the catalog experience which may be integral to their current shopping behavior. Merchants can also reach a much broader audience online that would be financially unfeasible in the print world, increasing new customer opportunities."

    Now that the online catalog is a standard, the next step is discovering best practices to maximize the investment. Leading retailers like Disney will continue to try different ways to effectively communicate the presence and function of the online catalog to ensure customers have an optimal multi- channel experience.

    To learn more about RichFX or Rich Catalog, please go to http://www.richfx.com/.

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    2004 NFFC Show


    This is just a quick reminder that the NFFC will again be hosting the World's Largest STRICTLY Disneyana Show & Sale - on Sunday, July 25, 2004 at the spacious Crowne Plaza Resort Hotel in Garden Grove, California (about 1½-miles South of the Disneyland Resort on the Southwest corner of Harbor Boulevard and Chapman Avenue). 


    We'll have 150+ tables covered with every imaginable © Disney-themed collectable - old and new.  From classic toys to Litho art and PVC action figures to Walt Disney Art Classics pieces - paper and buttons and mini-bean-bag plush and clothing and plates and books and decals and videos and DVDs and music and promotional items and PINS!  Something for every Disney collector!


    The entry price for the Show & Sale is $5 for NFFC members (with valid NFFC membership card) – $6 for the general public – $5 for Disney Company Cast Members (with valid ID card) and $5 for LaughingPlace.com readers (who print this information and brings it along to the show!!)  There is also a $25 early-bird entry for those wishing to enter the show at 10:30am.
         
    The Show & Sale hours are:


    9:00am - for attendees of the NFFC's National Convention ‘04


    10:30am - for NFFC members not attending this year's National Convention


    Noon - 5:00pm - for the general public.


    The show and sale closes promptly at 5:00pm so come early.

                                    
                                      Mickey’s All-American Pin Festival 2 Saluting the American Olympic Team


                                                           

    The NFFC's good friends in the Disneyland Resort's Merchandise division have arranged for another pin opportunity for us - ONLY NFFC 2004 “20 Years – Keeping the Magic ALIVE!” Conventioneers will be able to purchase this wonderful pin - created for the second annual Mickey's All American Pin Festival (MAAPF) - as will only be sold to those attending the event.

    The pin is back-stamped “Mickey's All American Pin Festival, NFFC Member Exclusive, Limited Edition 1,000” and has the 2004 Disney Pin Trading logo.   This is the ONLY MAAPF Olympic pin in this limited an edition – only 1,000 pins.  And the ONLY pin in this promotion that will be released to a private organization – how cool is that?

    Mickey is featured on this 2 by 2-inch pin dressed in classic Greek attire shaking the victorious Donald’s hand with the 2004 USA Olympic logo across the bottom. Aside from being a very collectable triple collectable – Olympics, Disney and NFFC – it’s also a great way to support America’s team as portion of the Original sale price of this pin has been donated by the Walt Disney Company and the NFFC to support America’s Olympians as they participate in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

    Sales will begin - on a voucher only basis - on July 21st at the NFFC's Convention Registration/ NFFC Club table at the Crowne Plaza Resort Hotel, and will continue throughout the remainder of the week - or until the edition of 1,000 is sold out. This very exclusive pin will sell for $12.00 and will be limited to three pins per registrant.

    Any pins available after July 24th will be sold at the NFFC’s Strictly Disneyana Show & Sale on July 25th for $15.00 each.
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    A Picture from Disneyland's 49th Birthday


    In a visually spectacular kick-off ceremony the morning of Disneyland's 49th Birthday in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Resort President Matt Ouimet joined over 1,000 Disneyland Cast Members, plus their friends and families, in formally launching an exciting new program that will be a major part of the global celebration of the 50 th anniversary of Disneyland next year. More information on news page 2 "Say Cheese" article.

                                                

     

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    Monday July 19, 2004
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    Disney in Marvel's Legal Web

    Marvel Enterprises is having a nice little summer for itself now that Spider-Man 2 has firmly proved to be a box-office supernova; Sony is pretty happy, too. But, as Peter Parker himself found out, for every good thing, there must be a balancing event in the opposite direction. Perhaps the thorn in Marvel's side is the lawsuit it just filed against Disney

    Disney acquired the Fox Family cable station from NewsCorp  a few years back (it is now called ABC Family) for more than $5 billion. With that purchase came several deals already in place, including the subject of Marvel's contention: The cartoons based on such intellectual properties as Spider-Man and X-Men run on the network, and certain royalty arrangements are expected to be met. It is Marvel's opinion that those obligations have not been satisfied, and the company accuses Disney of not keeping competent records.

    Lawsuits are a way of life on Wall Street; I recently wrote about one involving McDonald's. Disney receives a lot of them, and Marvel certainly has no problem getting involved. The company has to; protecting the cash flow its characters generate from forces that might want to skim a little off the top is its prime directive and its ultimate promise to all the little-guy shareholders who are pumping portions of their hard-earned paychecks into the concern sounds a bit superheroic, doesn't it?).

    I don't see this as a major event for Disney, as I'm sure a comfortable settlement will be reached -- it wouldn't be in the media conglomerate's interest to prolong this legal affair. Marvel shareholders would be the bigger beneficiaries in this case, but still, I wouldn't purchase stock on such a speculative thesis. There actually are better theses out there to support an investment in this entertainment brand. For one thing, W.D. Crotty laid out a marvelous report on the company's earnings and financial situation back in May; plus, Seth Jayson wrote about the company's recent buyback plans.

    Marvel is a stock I wish I owned. All you Foolish long-termers out there must be having a ball adding to your positions with the opportunities being handed your way by the market volatility. Short-term noise on the chart of a quality holding is essentially tantamount to riches down the road

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    Beijingers to embrace Disney on ice

    People in the Chinese capital Beijing can take a break from the summer heat to enjoy a Disney ice road show from Tuesday to Saturday.

    The show commemorates the 100th birthday of Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company, who was born on December 5, 1901, in Chicago, the United States.

    The man who made Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck the most famous animated characters in the world died in 1966 aged 65. He is remembered as a pioneering animator.

    Over 60 stars from 12 Disney cartoons, including Mickey, Pinocchio, Snow White, Lion King, Mulan, Aladdin and Toy Story, will appear in the Beijing street show.

    The show will be staged in the Capital Gymnasium.

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    How Disney bypassed God

    Disney may have colonised the imagination of the world's children for the best part of 80 years, but -- remarkably in one of the world's most ostentatiously Christian countries -- the entertainment company has done so without the aid of God, a new book points out.

    The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust, by Mark Pinsky, an American journalist and best-selling author of a similar book about The Simpsons, shows that the film industry's most family-orientated entertainer has rarely mentioned God, and that such religious figures as there are in its animated films are almost entirely bad.

    Pinsky, the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel, argues: "In the more than 35 animated features Disney has released since 1937, there is scarcely a mention of God as conceived in the Christian and Jewish faiths shared by most people in the Western world and many beyond."

    The first ordained character to have a big part in a Disney cartoon was Frollo, the villainous priest in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and he did not make his appearance until 1996, nearly 60 years after the studio began making feature films.

    American Christians appear to have scarcely noticed that none of the Disneyland theme parks -- replete with every other aspect of US main street culture -- has a church. The company's cruise liners do not have a single chapel on board.

    The reason, the book says, was Disney's determination not to offend anyone in a way which would hamper the making of money.

    Instead, it has quietly subverted the Christian gospel by substituting some decidedly unchristian themes: belief in the power of magic, that good people are handsome, and that what you wish for really can come true.

    "The Gospel of Disney is all about me," Pinsky writes. "My dreams. My will. 'When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.' The Disney bible has but one verse and that's it.

    "Walt's religion was built on the unfailing American belief that virtue and hard work will make all your dreams come true."

    Pinsky notes that even in the earliest films, the company shied away from religious symbolism. When Geppetto, the woodcarver in Pinocchio, falls to his knees to ask for his puppet to be given life, he does not pray to God, even though his eyes are raised heavenwards, but to a blue fairy.

    In Fantasia, the finale may be Schubert's Ave Maria but instead of showing a stained glass window, as originally planned, the film ends with trees forming a gothic arch through which the sunset can be seen.

    The book quotes Walt Disney's daughter Sharon as saying that her father, who died in 1966, was a very religious man. "But he did not believe you had to go to church to be religious. He respected every religion. There wasn't any that he ever criticised. He wouldn't even tell religious jokes."

    The films' generally whole some messages have been used by clergy for decades to teach children about self-reliance, compassion and loyalty.

    The films have also portrayed less positive ideas: in the casual racism of the early pictures -- the black crows in Dumbo, or the obsequious black female centaurs in early versions of Fantasia -- and in occasional anti-semitism.

    The book argues that since Disney's death, the company has branched out into animism in Pocahontas, feminism in Beauty and the Beast and Mulan, adventure capitalism in Atlantis, and even Hinduism's great circle of life tradition in The Lion King, which is set in Africa.

    It got its fingers burnt when Aladdin, made a decade before the attacks on the World Trade Centre, prompted complaints of Arabophobia. All the film's villains have large noses, dark complexions, facial hair and heavy accents.

    It is only in the past few years that one of the US's most influential religious lobbying organisations has complained -- and then because of the corporation's off-screen activities.

    The 16-million-strong Southern Baptists launched an unsuccessful boycott of Disney products in the mid-90s after Disney introduced equal rights for gay employees and their partners.

    The book says the Baptists also complained about a one-second sequence in the marriage ceremony of The Little Mermaid, which, they said, showed the officiating minister in a state of sexual arousal.

    Closer inspection showed that the offending picture actually showed the minister's knee.

    "Walt Disney created his animated features to entertain people and to make money, not to evangelise," Pinsky argues.

    "If in the process Disney made the world a better place, that was a fine but unintended byproduct. His company was never a philanthropic undertaking."

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    Disney town sets urban trend

    Celebration creates neighborly feel from scratch; Michigan cities follow on smaller scale

    A ride into this central Florida community begins at a quaint water tower, continues along white fencing reminiscent of Kentucky horse country and ends at a pristine lake in the middle of town.

    The water tower is fake, the fence is made of hollow plastic and the lake is manmade.

    Residents are so uniformly friendly that they seem no more genuine than the fixtures, but they insist they’re sincere. What’s more, they attribute some of the good cheer to the town’s layout, where homes are close together and near stores, restaurants and public parks.

    Whether geography can affect social behavior is a question at the heart of an urban-planning movement influencing the appearance of communities in Michigan and the rest of America.

    Developers see the so-called new urbanism as an antidote to a half-century of suburban sprawl, which has turned neighbors into strangers and rush-hour commutes into marathons.

    Residents like it, too.

    “It’s nice to know my neighbors, to go to the coffee shop and have them say, ‘Hey, preacher,’” says the Rev. Patrick Wrisley, 44, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration.

    “People value community and neighborliness. That’s something that we’ve lost in this culture. People want it and miss it.”

    In southeast Michigan, two dozen neighborhoods use or plan to use various neotraditional tenets, such as building lots of sidewalks or turn-of-the-century architecture.

    Westwood Commons in Beverly Hills has tightly clustered pastel houses with large front porches. The homes are near a public square where residents can gather.

    In downtown Howell, the houses at Town Commons are close to the street with expansive porches out front and garages in the rear. Stores are just a short walk away.

    With the exception of Cherry Hill Village in Canton Township, none of the Michigan communities has tried what Celebration has done: Build an entire town from scratch based solely on new urbanism principles.

    And that’s why so many developers are following the travails of the Florida development, which was conceived by Disney a decade ago.

    Not everyone is sold on the idea.

    Some suggest that, no matter how good the plans of architects and urban planners, a sense of community has to evolve from the residents themselves.

    They also wonder about heavy-handed attempts by the town to control every facet of community life. Ironically, controversies sparked by those efforts have done more than anything else to bring residents together.

    Celebration grows

    Celebration, which is 20 miles southwest of Orlando, has 8,500 residents spread over eight square miles.

    It has 16 shops, six restaurants, four office buildings, two public schools and a golf course. Home prices range from $200,000 to $2.3 million, with the average being $300,000.

    It’s a town of narrow streets, wide sidewalks and hidden cars.

    Celebration has been popular ever since selling its first 500 houses and apartments in a one-day lottery in 1995. About 1,200 people plunked down $1,000 deposits for homes, sight unseen, that cost 25 percent more than comparable ones in the area.

    Despite the poor economy, homes continue to sell briskly, breaking sales records the past three years. The town has sold a half-billion dollars’ worth of homes since 1999.

    Some moved to Celebration because they’re self-professed Disneyphiles, mad about the mouse. Others are trying to recapture a simpler time from their childhoods.

    While residents aren’t always sure what they’re coming to, they know what they’re running from: a deep-seated unhappiness with the American suburb. Living in virtual isolation for so many years have made residents like Diane Musick, 60, yearn for more contact with neighbors.

    “After retiring, I wanted certain things: education and health opportunities, a vibrant community where people were friendly, helpful, neighborly,” the retiree says about her search for a new home. “When I walked in here, they had literally every thing on my list.”

    New urbanism communities promote contact between neighbors by getting them out of their cars.

    Modeled after 1930s towns in the Southeast, such as Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., they conjure a period before malls and highways.

    They’re traditional small towns where the pedestrian, not the car, is king. Most things are within walking distance. And those strolls take walkers past front porches that are close enough to the street to encourage conversations between neighbors.

    Parks, pools and other community facilities beckon residents to leave their homes and mingle with others.

    Sense of community created

    On a recent afternoon in downtown Celebration, residents sat on wooden rocking chairs in a pavilion along the man-made lake. The air filled with easy-listening music from ground-based speakers. A flat-bottom fountain continuously spewed water.

    Part of the lake is bounded by a series of outdoor cafes and a cream-colored movie theater, whose stunning facade evokes the 1950s.

    The nearby shopping district is a series of upscale gift shops and clothing stores along a brick road. Think downtown Birmingham, drenched with year-round summer.

    “It’s a beautiful place,” says Anna Lauren Long, a clerk at Village Mercantile clothing store. “They work hard to maintain it.”

    The rest of the community also is pleasing to the eye.

    The clapboard homes sprout pastel colors and gingerbread detailing. They have columns, balconies, bay windows and massive doorways.

    Garages are tucked behind the homes, accessible by paved alleys. That’s also where garbage cans are collected.

    The homes and manicured lawns are fussed over by a small army of service workers. One of the lawn care firms is named AAA Perfection.

    The streets are shrouded by oaks and sycamores. The rear entrance to the community takes one past 800 stately pines that line both sides of the road for two miles.

    “I was yelling at the developer for making the streets so narrow, but he explained that was done to slow down the cars,” says real estate agent and resident Sonny Buoncervello, 61. “The lots are so small, but that helps you meet all your neighbors.”

    So what’s being celebrated in Celebration? The good life.

    This is a community that hears fireworks every night, courtesy of nearby Disney World, and the jingle of an ice cream truck 12 months a year. It has hosted the Great American Pie Festival three years in a row.

    According to the March issue of the town newsletter, the two biggest safety issues among residents were skateboarders using a downtown bridge abutment as a ramp, and youths driving gas-powered scooters recklessly.

    Every need is cared for, no matter how small, like ensuring that all outdoor basketball rims have nets.

    Town creates tourist draws

    From the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, it snows every night in Celebration. Also, during two weekends in October, oak leaves fall from palm trees downtown.

    The “snow” is soap bubbles and the 2 1/2-inch “leaves” are tissue paper.

    Such events, intended to draw tourists to local shops, give the impression that the town is just another Disney theme park in central Florida.

    Visitors have asked residents whether they’re actors and if they can tour their homes.

    The somewhat defensive denizens of Celebration are sometimes compelled to remind people that they’re authentic.

    “We Celebrants are most certainly real and our numbers are growing,” resident Scott Almond, 34, harrumphed in a letter to the local paper.

    The town is marked by contradictions that contribute to the sense of unreality.

    Celebration has a town hall, sitting behind 28 columns, a veritable white forest, but no government. It sits on a swamp but, because of heavy spraying, has few mosquitoes. The town has little history but a multitude of “traditions,” which were invented by Disney.

    Some residents say the town likes the idea, but not the reality, of having traditions and a history and democracy. It doesn’t like the messiness of real life.

    “Disney is good at handling crowds at amusement parks,” says resident Alex Morton, 71, who owns and edits the weekly newspaper, Celebration Independent. “But building a community is not like building an amusement park. You can control crowds but you can’t control people.”

    A three-day visit to Celebration found no poor people, little litter, few blaring car horns or raised voices. But it also yielded few minorities and no blue-collar workers, except for those working there.

    The town had banned for-sale signs, fearing it would send the wrong message. It eventually relented, allowing oval “Home Available” signs as long as their width is no more than two feet.

    Rules rule town

    In Celebration, messiness is prevented by myriad rules that seem to cover any contingency.

    The appearance of homes and lawns, alone, are governed by a 70-page pattern book.

    Among the rules: Curtains that face the street must be white or off-white. The color of a home, unless it’s white, can’t be duplicated within three homes on the same side of the street. At least a quarter of the front and side gardens must have something besides grass.

    One of the casualties of all the restrictions was a University of Michigan scarecrow that Jim and Marita Siegel put up every fall. The Siegels, who moved from Plymouth in 2002, now must wait until October. They can hoist their school flag only on game day.

    But the Michiganians are fans of the strict code.

    “I don’t want someone putting their car on blocks in the front yard,” says Jim Siegel, 59, a longtime Ford executive. “We’re buying more than a house. We’re buying a lifestyle and a sense that this town will not change.”

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    FGCU: Eagles to tip off in Disney Classic

    The Florida Gulf Coast University men's basketball team might be going to Disney World, but there's no guarantee it'll be a Magic Kingdom for the Eagles.

    FGCU opens the 2004-05 season at the eighth annual Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic at the Milk House in Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex from Nov. 12-14 against a handful of Division II's top programs.

    The tournament features eight teams from various parts of the country who went a combined 136-83 last season. It will be a stern early-season test for FGCU, which lost five major contributors from a team that went 22-5 last year.

    "It's a real challenge," said FGCU head coach Dave Balza, who coached in the Tip-Off Classic in 2000 when he was at St. Joseph's College (Ind.). "It'll give us a chance to see where we are early in the year."

    FGCU opens the tournament against the University of North Dakota at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 12.

    North Dakota returns four starters from a team that went 14-14 last year and lost six games by a total of 14 points.

    "They're a perennial power," Balza said. "They host the Division II national championship next year. They've got four starters and 10 of their top 11 back.

    They've got really good talent, they're very big and very well coached."

    The tournament won't make or break FGCU's season, but it comes just four weeks after practice begins. That's not a lot of time to put together a team that almost its entire frontcourt to graduation.

    "It's a chance to build chemistry in terms of our kids getting to know each other," Balza said.

    "You stay five days in Orlando away from everything and it gives you a chance to feel your team out."

    The tournament will also be a homecoming for senior center Michael Anderson, who is from nearby Celebration.

    Other schools in the tournament include Clayton State (Ga.), Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Henderson State University (Ark.), all of which qualified for the NCAA tournament last year.

    The games are considered "exempt" games by the NCAA, meaning they don't count against FGCU's 27-game limit. And because the field is compromised of several elite Division II teams, it will help FGCU's strength of schedule regardless of how the Eagles fare.

    "It's not an end of the world thing if you lose all three," Balza said. "Last year (Pittsburgh State) went 0-3 and then won 17 straight games."

    Strength of schedule will be crucial for the Eagles this winter now that FGCU is eligible for the Division II postseason after becoming a full-fledged member of Division II last week.

    NCAA Tournament berths in Division II are determined by regional rankings. Team record and strength of schedule are major factors in gaining a spot in the postseason.

    "We'll see where we stack up early and what we need to improve on," Balza said. "I don't think it'll impact your seed."

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    Disney buoyed by response to West Coast cruises

    Buoyed by the popularity of its Caribbean cruises, the Disney Cruise Line will sail into West Coast waters for the first time next year, offering seven-night cruises between Los Angeles and Mexico.

    The cruise line, which features Disney characters and themed entertainment onboard, has been one of the biggest success stories in the cruise business since it launched in 1998. As the company's theme park operations have suffered during the recession and post 9-11 travel downturn, the Disney Cruise Line -- which offers three-, four- and seven-night sailings from Port Canaveral, Fla., to the Bahamas and the Caribbean -- has remained a bright spot for the Burbank-based Walt Disney Co.

    Like virtually everything Disney-related, Disney cruises have a loyal following among families and those who simply love the Disney style of entertainment. So when the company announced in May that it was adding a limited-time West Coast cruise in 2005 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, interest was high.

    The 877-stateroom Disney Magic is scheduled to leave from the Port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) on Saturdays at 5 p.m. beginning May 28, and will stop at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas before returning to port. Twelve cruises of these seven-night excursions are scheduled.

    Days ahead of the official announcement, travel- and Disney- oriented Internet chat boards were buzzing with the news that the company was about to announce the itinerary. According to booking agents, many cabins -- particularly the largest and most expensive ones in categories 1 through 3 -- were sold out almost instantly when reservations were opened on May 5.

    A Disney spokeswoman said a number of people contacted the company weeks or months ahead of May 5, expressing an interest in seven-night cruises for 2005 (the line will have no seven-night cruises from the East Coast next year). These folks got dibs on the relatively spacious and pricey category 1-3 suites, which number 22 on the Magic.

    Top Disney executives have crowed repeatedly in recent weeks about the fact that the West Coast cruises are on track to sell out faster than any other set of Disney cruises. As of late June, Disney had taken specific pricing information about the cruises off its Web site ( www.disneycruise.com because so many of the cruises and stateroom categories were selling out. Those interested in getting information or booking directly through Disney are now asked to call the company at (800) 951-3532.

    Will Disney make the Los Angeles/Mexico route permanent? The company isn't saying. But seeing the response to the route so far, many would be surprised if Disney didn't decide to make more Magic on the West Coast in the future.

    Two companies specializing in Disney travel that advertise online said they had received more requests than they could fill for the cruises, particularly for the most luxurious cabins. Several Los Angeles-area travel agents said they're guessing that the bulk of travelers booking the Los Angeles-to-Mexico cruises are from the Midwest and Western states -- Arizona and Washington, for example. They said they had only booked one or two of the cruises each, even though Southern California has one of the largest concentrations in the country of rabid Disney fans.

    One agent pointed to the fairly hefty price tag of the West Coast cruises as one possible reason.

    A phone representative for the cruise line recently quoted a price of $3,403 as the lowest available for a standard inside stateroom for the May 28 sailing from Los Angeles.

    That price is for two adults sharing a stateroom, and includes meals, entertainment and taxes. With two young children, the price rises to around $5,000.

    The highest category stateroom available on the May 28 cruise, a category 4 "family stateroom with verandah," was going for $6,263 for two adults, or close to $7,000 with two young children aboard. The Web site lists rates for a standard inside stateroom on a Caribbean cruise starting at just $829, with the price for a category 4 room ranging from $1,749 to $3,199.

    But a Disney spokeswoman said the prices for the West Coast cruises are actually "in line" with the seven-night Caribbean cruises. She pointed out that the Web rates are per person, do not include various taxes and fees and reflect seasonal pricing variations. Because the West Coast cruises are occurring during the summer high season, she said, they are priced higher than comparable cruises at other times of the year.

    The imperative for those wanting to cruise with Disney next year: Book immediately if you want a West Coast sailing. If you prefer to leave from the East Coast, you will be limited to a three- or four-night cruise to the Bahamas next summer.

    Another difference next year will be the two 14-night Panama Canal sailings that Disney has added as special repositioning cruises. The ships make the westbound voyage in May and return to Florida in August, and those who can't get enough of the Disney Magic get to join Mickey, Goofy and friends for two weeks of sailing to or from California.

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    Disney donates $100,000 to United Way

    Walt Disney World Resort has given a $100,000 check to Heart of Florida United Way to help improve the lives of Central Florida children.

    The donation was generated by the proceeds of last October's Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort. The event is sponsored by Funai Electric Co., a consumer electronics maker in Japan.

    Disney targeted its donation to 10 United Way member agencies that provide health and human services to local children.

    The 10 agencies to receive funds are:

    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida
    • Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida
    • Central Florida Police Athletic League
    • Central Florida YMCA
    • Edgewood Children's Ranch
    • Girl Scouts of Citrus Council
    • Orlando Day Nursery Association
    • Quest Kids
    • Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
    • Welbourne Avenue Nursery and Kindergarten

    Examples of services to be provided with the funds include youth mentoring, after-school programs, services from troubled youth, children's food programs and child care.

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    Miramax negotiates future with Disney

    No Hollywood figure is generating more intrigue these days than Harvey Weinstein, who's turned his musings about his future into daily grist for industry gossips and news hounds.

    In a highly public spat, the Miramax Films co-founder recently became so fed up with parent Walt Disney Co. that he said he was ready to break free from a partnership that produced such Oscar-winning hits as Chicago and Shakespeare in Love. The boiling point came last month when Disney chief Michael Eisner blocked Miramax from releasing Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.

    But behind the battle lines it is the other Weinstein -- Harvey's younger brother Bob -- who may be the biggest dog in this fight. Disney does not want him straying.

    Unlike some of the pricey and risky movies now favored by Harvey, Bob has produced a string of lower-budget money-makers at Miramax's Dimension Films unit, including the Spy Kids, Scary Movie and Scream franchises.

    Then there's the added boost Bob brings to Eisner, who has been criticized for alienating key creative partners.

    If Eisner were able to keep him in the Disney family, the CEO might avoid a public relations fiasco similar to what happened after his company failed to reach a deal with longtime collaborator Pixar Animation Studios. Although the financial impact of losing the men behind Miramax's successes pales in comparison, analysts said their departure would be embarrassing because of the Oscar prestige they've brought to Disney.

    "Miramax is highly visible, even though it's a small division," said Merrill Lynch's Jessica Reif Cohen.

    Disney executives declined comment, as did Harvey Weinstein. Through a Miramax spokesman, Bob Weinstein said: "As always, Harvey and I are working closely together in trying to reach an amicable resolution with Disney."

    Given the tensions and rhetoric, which recently reached an all-time high, most observers think a resolution could come within weeks. In the meantime, Harvey has tried to calm his troops. During a meeting with his senior executives Friday, he downplayed rampant rumors he was heading for the Miramax exit. He said he intends to remain at least until his and Bob's employment contracts expire in September 2005.

    There is, of course, a chance that nothing will change and that both brothers will continue to work at Miramax under Disney's direction.

    A source close to the Weinsteins said recent discussions with Disney have become less strained. "The temperature from Fahrenheit has cooled down," the source said.

    The Weinsteins have feuded with Disney for more than a year over the amount of production and marketing money the conglomerate gives Miramax. They also have clashed over the brothers' compensation. The two sides have not even been able to agree on exactly how much Miramax has contributed to Disney's bottom line.

    Eisner recently said Miramax was profitable in just two of the past five years, a contention disputed by the Weinsteins. Last year, according to a source familiar with the studio's finances, Disney recorded an $87 million profit at Miramax. The Weinsteins pegged it at $211 million. From Disney's perspective, Miramax's real value is in its library, valued at an estimated $2 billion by Wall Street media analysts.

    On top of the financial disputes is the personal animus between Harvey Weinstein and Eisner, propelling the conflict beyond the normal give-and-take between a parent company and its subsidiary.

    As a result of all this, Weinstein has been exploring ways to leave the company he and his brother -- both college dropouts from Queens -- founded 25 years ago and that they named after their parents, Miriam and Max. In 1993, Disney paid about $75 million to buy the scrappy independent movie outfit, the most influential purveyor of art-house films.

    The many arrangements now under discussion all have one thing in common: Harvey Weinstein wants the kind of autonomy that can come only from escaping Disney's direct financial and creative control. This would mean setting up an independently financed production company that potentially would pay Disney a fee to distribute its movies.

    Sources said that in a best-case scenario, the brothers would be allowed to buy the Miramax name -- something they hold dear because of its sentimental and marquee value. By most accounts, however, that possibility is a long shot.

    More likely, Harvey, 52, would launch his own independently financed production company while Bob, 49, would continue to run Miramax's Dimension Films, remaining in the Disney fold.

    "From Disney's perspective, it's a great compromise," said Reif Cohen. "Having one Weinstein is better than having none."

    For Eisner, the structure removes a thorn in his side. Harvey, who wants to make bigger movies and is attracted to controversial projects, has chafed under Disney's tight controls. At the same time, Eisner would be able to preserve ties with Bob, whose movies are largely profitable and are more in sync with Disney's sensibilities.

    "Bob is a supremely successful producer, filmmaker and businessman," said agent Robert Newman, who represents Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez and years ago worked for the Weinsteins at Miramax.

    Those who know the brothers say that whatever shape their future working relationship may take, nothing will come between them.

    Said Newman, their longtime friend and business associate: "Their loyalty to each other supercedes anything else in business."

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    Halloween events grow at Magic Kingdom

    Disney's Magic Kingdom is expanding its annual Halloween festivities this fall from 10 nights to 13.

    Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party -- a G-rated alternative to Universal Orlando's popular Halloween Horror Nights -- is scheduled to take place on select nights between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31.

    Disney and Universal have steadily expanded their Halloween events in recent years to keep up with demand. Universal recently announced that it would expand this year's Halloween Horror Nights to include both of its theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.

    Disney's event includes trick-or-treating throughout the park, costume parties, storytelling and Mickey's Boo-to-You Halloween Parade.

    Tickets are $34.95 for guests age 10 and older and $28.95 for children age 3 to 9. Toddlers younger than 3 are free.

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    Disney Musical `Aida' to Be Performed

    ``Aida a classic love triangle story about enslaved African princess, Aida, her royal mistress Amneris and Radames, the soldier they both love, will be back on stage in August 2005. This time however, there will be no elephants or camels roaming around the stage as there were in ``The Great Opera Aida 2003 performances back in September 2003, which remained one of the largest opera productions ever to show here and also one of the biggest financial failures of the genre.

    Instead, this one will be full of contemporary energies generated by dazzling, modern, MTV-styled dances and modern pop music by Elton John and Tim Rice. It¡¯s Walt Disney¡¯s timeless love story of Aida, but it¡¯s musical.

    ``Original Egyptian fable is our source, not the opera, Marshall Purdy, executive producer of Disney Theatrical Production said during last Tuesday¡¯s media event at Seoul Plaza Hotel, emphasizing the shows originality. ``We were very pleased to discover the wealth of talent in the musical market here, he added, anticipating an all-Korean cast to perform the show.

    Often grouped together with ``Beauty and the Beast and ``Lion King as Disneys three major musical productions, ``Aida, costing $15 million in production costs opened at Palace Theater, New York, in March 2000. Wining four Tony Awards in the very first year, including Best Score (Elton John & Tim Rice) and Best Leading Actress in a Musical (Heather Headley), it still remains the only musical to be shown in Broadway among those debuted during the 1999-2000 season.

    Since then the show has toured 53 North American cities with success. Its Japanese, Osaka debut in December 2003 also garnered some enthusiastic reviews, proving that Disney is now a major player in the global performing arts industry.

    Its final Broadway stage is scheduled for Sept. 5, after 54 months and 1,852 regular performances at the Palace Theatre. After that, all the original sets for the show will be sent here to prepare for the 10 months of local staging to be held at the LG Arts Center, southern Seoul.

    ``Those days of mega musicals running extremely long periods of time has gone, the Disney producer said. ``By any standards, it has run long enough. The auditioning process, supervised by Disney staff, will be in January next year, and set-up and rehearsal will follow in June and last for eight weeks.

    While local musical production Seesee Musical Company purchased the exclusive right to stage the show here until 2007, film industry giant CJ Entertainment join the three-way partnership to help the shows marketing and promotion. The company recently joined the promotion and distribution of such well-known Broadway musicals local productions as ``Cats, ``Mamma mia! and ``Cabaret. Under the three-year contract with the musical production, CJ will take charge of marketing for all the shows produced by Seesee. ``In the long run, the partnership will be focused on producing and promoting shows of our own, Choi Pyung-ho, executive director of CJ said.

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    Walt Disney World  Resort Specials Announced

    Disney has released resort specials for room-only rates and Disney-Dream Maker packages for travelers vacationing at Walt Disney World between 8/29/04-9/29/04. Room-only rates range from $55+ per night for Value Resorts, $85+ per night for Moderate Resorts and $119+ per night for Deluxe Resorts. Rooms are subject to availability. Call 407-W-DISNEY

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    Disney Looks to Rework Family Channel

     
    When Disney chief executive Michael Eisner announced the purchase of Fox Family Worldwide Inc. in 2001, he called it a deal "we had been fantasizing about for maybe three years." But the fantasy has been tougher to fulfill than many had hoped. Critics have said that the company, which laid out $3 billion in cash and assumed $2.3 billion in debt, overpaid by as much as $2 billion, making the purchase a prime example of Eisner's mismanagement.

    "When Disney bought them, we thought, 'Here is nirvana a family content corporation buying what we think is one of the premier channels,'" said Laura Caraccioli-Davis, senior vice president at Starcom Entertainment, a division of the advertising firm Starcom MediaVest. "We expected positive changes immediately."

    So did Disney executives, who predicted the purchase would increase advertising revenue for its media networks division by 50 percent within two years without a substantial increase in programming costs. The Fox Family Channel, now renamed ABC Family, would achieve the ambitious goal by showing news programs from ABC, sports programming from ESPN and comedies and dramas from ABC a strategy called "repurposing."

    Instead, the channel has struggled to define itself, adopting and then abandoning a slate of reality shows and behind-the-scenes peeks at such ABC shows as "The Bachelor."

    The channel has turned a profit, in part because advertisers have few choices available to reach its target audience, 18-34-year-old men and women. And ratings in prime-time, which dipped last year, have improved on the strength of shows it bought from the WB network.

    Still, the channel has many problems to overcome.

    "Their struggle has really been having to rework a network that has already been reworked so many times from the Family Channel to Fox Family to ABC Family, which is almost like ABC II to some degree," said Stacey Lynn Koerner of Initiative Media, a media buying firm.

    The deal for Fox Family Worldwide also included children's cable networks in Europe and Latin America, the rights to such characters as the Power Rangers, and a library of more than 6,500 episodes of kid's shows.

    Disney executives have acknowledged they paid too much. That has only increased the ire of critics, including former board vice chairman Roy E. Disney, toward Eisner.

    The task of turning ABC Family around has fallen to Paul Lee, a 44-year-old programming executive who previously served as president of BBC America, a cable channel that launched such hits as "The Office."

    Lee, on the job only a few weeks, told The Associated Press in his first extensive interview that embracing a definition of "family" broad enough to include 18- to 34-year-old men and women is crucial.

    "If there's something that's an emotional touchstone for everybody's life, it's got to be family," Lee said. "There are plenty of networks out there trying to make people care, and we've got a subject that is the most important thing in my life and it's the most important thing in a lot of people's lives."

    Lee said he is glad to have the younger audiences attracted to such WB shows as "7th Heaven." ABC Family will also begin airing episodes of WB shows "Smallville," and "Gilmore Girls" in the fall.

    "My job is to take that strength and build on it, take the consistency that has been settled in, very quietly, without anyone noticing, and make sure we can solidify it and use it to launch some originals over the next two to three years," Lee said.

    Lee said he feels the channel's identity is also broad enough to embrace the dysfunctional families portrayed in such Fox shows as "Arrested Development" and "Malcolm in the Middle."

    "We don't plan to take any risks with things like sex and violence," Lee said. "But we do plan to take a lot of risks with storytelling."

    Some of ABC Family's problems come from the tenure of former ABC daytime chief Angela Shapiro, who failed to remake prime time on ABC Family with new reality shows and made-for-television movies. She tried to make the channel more "hip," inserting one-minute films with pop culture references between shows.

    Shapiro's task was harder than many thought, Disney officials say, because the channel's former owners loaded the schedule with shows aimed at younger children.

    "We were building off of virtually nothing," said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney's Media Networks division. "Few, if any, of those shows worked. We were starting at a much lower point than anybody realized."

    Advertisers want the channel to succeed in part because there are few channels that reach younger teenagers and young adults. The Disney Channel, which is in more than 80 million homes, does not accept advertising.

    "They never seem to have a consistent strategy from year to year," Caraccioli-Davis said of ABC Family. "It will help the whole landscape when they figure out who they are and make it more competitive for us."

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    Stinky plant at Walt Disney World has visitors holding noses

    Something stinks at Walt Disney World.

    It happens to be 5-foot-1 plant with a banana shape and the smell of a dead fish.

    The Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan Arum for short, began blooming at Disney's Animal Kingdom on Friday when the plant's sheath began to unfurl, revealing its frilly, purple interior. The bloom was expected to last through Sunday.

    When it was planted recently near a walkway between the Africa and Asia sections of the park, the Titan weighed 40 pounds. Some can grow to 170 pounds.

    The titan debuted in several European cities and arrived at New York Botanic Garden in 1937, causing a sensation.

    Its most impressive feat is its putrid odor, which is Mother Nature's way of attracting pollen. The stench - often compared to rotten eggs - can be overwhelming.

    By Friday, its spire had nearly doubled its height in a week, growing from 37 inches to 60.5 inches. The energy required for that growth spurt produces a temperature of about 95 degrees, close to that of a human body, said Jim Thompson, a Disney horticulturist.

    "It's amazing how it grows so quickly," said Richard Neal, a Disney visitor from Leichester, England. "It smells like a big garbage bin."

    The female flowers are receptive to pollen from male flowers from another Titan. In the wild, the pollen is carried by insects to female flowers in other blooming Titans. Thompson did the honors Saturday by lightly dusting the Titan's female flowers with a pollen-covered cosmetic brush taped to a long stick.

    Because there aren't any others blooming nearby, he imported the pollen from Texas.

    "It takes the seeds nine months to gestate," Thompson said. "That's a very long time for a plant to go, living on its tuber. It takes a lot out of the plant."

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    Disney tops family spots

    The top-rated family attractions in the U.S., from Zagat Survey/Parenting magazine:

    1. Disney's Magic Kingdom, Orlando

    2. Discovery Cove, Orlando

    3. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, Calif.

    4. St. Louis Zoo

    5. Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.

    6. Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio

    7. Grant's Farm, St. Louis

    8. San Diego Zoo

    9. National Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

    10. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, Orlando, Fla.

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    If One Weinstein Stays, Disney Hopes It's Bob

    No Hollywood figure is generating more intrigue these days than Harvey Weinstein, who has turned his musings about his future into daily grist for industry gossips and news hounds.

    In a public spat, the Miramax Films co-founder recently became so fed up with parent Walt Disney Co. that he said he was ready to break free from a partnership that produced such Oscar-winning hits as "Chicago" and "Shakespeare in Love." The boiling point came in May, when it was disclosed that Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner had blocked Miramax from releasing Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" because of its political bent.

    But behind the battle lines it is the other Weinstein — Harvey's younger brother Bob — who may be the biggest dog in this fight. Disney does not want him straying.

    Unlike some of the costly and risky movies now favored by Harvey, Bob has produced a string of lower budget moneymakers at Miramax's Dimension Films unit, including the "Spy Kids," "Scary Movie" and "Scream" franchises.

    Then there's the added boost Bob brings to Eisner, who has been criticized for alienating key creative partners.

    If Eisner were able to keep him in the Disney family, the CEO might avoid a public relations fiasco similar to what happened after his company failed to reach a deal with longtime collaborator Pixar Animation Studios. Although the financial effect of losing the men behind Miramax's successes pales in comparison, analysts said their departure would still be embarrassing because of the Oscar prestige they had brought to Disney.

    "Miramax is highly visible, even though it's a small division," said Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen. "It's not something they can sweep under the carpet."

    Disney executives declined comment, as did Harvey Weinstein. Through a Miramax spokesman, Bob Weinstein said: "As always, Harvey and I are working closely together in trying to reach an amicable resolution with Disney."

    Given the tensions and rhetoric, which recently reached an all-time high, most observers think a resolution could come within weeks. In the meantime, Harvey has tried to calm his troops. During a meeting with his senior executives Friday, he downplayed rumors that he was heading for the Miramax exit. He said he intended to stay at least until his and Bob's contracts expired in September 2005.

    There is, of course, a chance that nothing will change and that both brothers will continue to work at Miramax under Disney's direction. All parties agree the situation is fluid.

    A source close to the Weinsteins said recent discussions with Disney had become less strained. "The temperature from 'Fahrenheit' has cooled down," the source said. "The talks have become more amicable than in the past."

    The Weinsteins have feuded with Disney for more than a year over the amount of production and marketing money the Burbank conglomerate gives Miramax each year. They also have clashed over the brothers' compensation.

    The two sides have even been unable to agree on how much Miramax has contributed to Disney's bottom line.

    Eisner recently said Miramax was profitable for two of the last five years, a contention disputed by the Weinsteins. Last year, according to a source familiar with the studios' finances, Disney recorded an $87-million profit at Miramax. The Weinsteins pegged it at $211 million. From Disney's perspective, Miramax's real value is in its library, valued at an estimated $2 billion by Wall Street media analysts.

    On top of the financial disputes is the personal animus that has developed between Harvey and Eisner, propelling the conflict beyond the normal give-and-take between a parent company and its subsidiary.

    As a result of all this, Harvey has been exploring ways to leave the company he and his brother — both college dropouts from New York — founded 25 years ago and that they named after their parents, Miriam and Max. In 1993, Disney paid about $75 million to buy the scrappy independent movie outfit, the most influential purveyor of art-house films.

    The many arrangements now under discussion have one thing in common: Harvey wants the kind of autonomy that can come only from escaping Disney's direct financial and creative control. This would mean setting up an independently financed production company that potentially would pay Disney a fee to distribute its movies.

    Sources said that in a best-case scenario, the brothers would be allowed to buy the Miramax name — something they hold dear because of its sentimental and marquee value. By most accounts, however, that is a longshot. Disney would not want to create public confusion over ownership of the brand, given that it intended to retain control of the lucrative Miramax film library.

    More likely, Harvey, 52, would launch his own production company while Bob, 49, would continue to run Miramax's Dimension Films, remaining in the Disney fold.

    Such a scenario appears to benefit all sides.

    "From Disney's perspective, it's a great compromise," Reif Cohen said. "Having one Weinstein is better than having none."

    For Eisner, the structure removes a thorn in his side. Harvey, who wants to make bigger movies and is attracted to controversial projects, has chafed under Disney's tight controls. At the same time, Eisner would be able to preserve ties with Bob, whose movies are largely profitable and are more in sync with Disney's mainstream sensibilities. What's more, he has not personally clashed with Eisner and has not been creatively constricted, sources close to the brothers say.

    Eisner recently praised Bob at Allen & Co.'s annual media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, calling him a talented executive running one of the more successful businesses in the industry.

    In contrast, Eisner has said Harvey is at his best when he is focused on smaller movies, rather than on projects that are too expensive and return too little. Those have included such star-driven films as "Cold Mountain" and "Gangs of New York."

    Bob's films at Dimension, meanwhile, have generated some of the highest returns in the industry. The company claims that 45 of its 54 movies have been profitable — an extraordinary run in such a hit-or-miss business.

    "Bob is a supremely successful producer, filmmaker and businessman," said agent Robert Newman, who represents "Spy Kids" director Robert Rodriguez and years ago worked for the Weinsteins at Miramax.

    A Miramax without Harvey would dismantle one of the most successful studio partnerships in history — and fundamentally alter a unique Hollywood relationship that began 25 years ago.

    Always working within shouting distance of each other, the brothers revolutionized the independent movie world. From their cramped Manhattan offices, they turned inexpensive art-house movies into mainstream hits through savvy marketing. Bob was happy to run the less-glamorous business aspects of Miramax, while his brother took the creative lead.

    But in 1994, Bob began calling his own shots with the formation of Dimension. The company hit pay dirt with its release "The Crow," about a rock guitarist who returns from the dead on Halloween eve.

    Bob's triumphs moved him out from the long shadow of his older brother, whose charismatic and larger-than-life personality differed dramatically from his own. Unlike Harvey, known as a heat-seeking publicity missile, Bob has always shunned the spotlight.

    Given his increased importance, any new deal that Disney might strike to keep Bob at Miramax could be expensive and complicated for the Burbank company. Undoubtedly, he would try parlay his clout into more cash.

    Unwinding Harvey's deal could be equally difficult. If Disney decides to end the infighting by releasing him before his contract expires next year, the company would have to pay him a negotiated settlement. By March, Disney must let the brothers know whether their deals will be extended for four years.

    Those who know the brothers say that whatever shape their future working relationship may take, nothing will come between them.

    Newman, their longtime friend and business associate, said, "They're loyalty to each other supersedes anything else in business."

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    EleKtroPop Parade music exclusive on DVD

    The fans of the music from Main Street Electrical Parade will find a very special song on the new DVD. Jean Jacques Perrey, who is the composer of the Main Street Electrical Parade Music, wrote EleKtroPop as a proposal to Disney for a possible new Electrical Parade but Disney was already working on Fantillusion and other parades and did not need another piece of music. So EleKtroPop was never released and never published.
    After the documentary was made Jean Jacques offered this original, "never heard before" music as a gift to MediaDreams for use in the documentary. It is therefor a full exclusivity on the DVD and the only way to discover this music is to get the DVD! The music is used during the end credits.

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    Southmoreland teacher wins Disney Honor

    Janey Layman, a 9th-12th-grade information science teacher at Southmoreland High School in Alverton, will soon be on her way to Disneyland in California for a free vacation.

    Well, it's not really a vacation. It's one of the rewards she will receive since being recognized out of more than 150,000 nominees as a 2004 DisneyHand Teacher Awards Honoree in April.

    But that's just one of the rewards

    Layman also received $10,000 for herself and $5,000 for her school and will have the chance to win another $15,000 for herself and another $5,000 for the school if she is chosen by her peers, the other 38 honorees, as the High School Teacher of the Year or the Outstanding Teacher of the Year at the Awards Gala held while at Disneyland.

    In addition, she will get an all-expense-paid trip to Disney World in Florida in October for herself and for the principal of the school, Dr. Carolyn Adams, to attend a workshop/seminar.

    Other rewards include being honored by Mickey Mouse at a ceremony at Disneyland, appear in a parade down Main Street and receive a new glamour look from Ret Turner, "costume designer to the stars."

    The journey began in January when Adams told Layman she had been nominated for the honor and asked her to fill out the packet of information.

    "I had to respond to four questions, and there were two pages of pretty strict guidelines that I had to follow," said Layman. "At first I thought it was nuts, because what were the chances of me getting chosen, but then I thought, 'this is so me,' so I completed the application."

    It actually cost her approximately $28 to participate, because the application had to be in by a certain date and she was still working on it the day before the due date, so in order for it to arrive on time, the shipping costs were very high.

    "I literally had to stop typing on the last question so I could send it in," said Layman.

    The months passed and she almost forgot about it until one day at the end of April, Layman came home to find a message on her answering machine from a Disney representative.

    "She said she had some good news and that I was to call her back," said Layman. "I was just blown away when I found out I was chosen."

    The honorees were actually chosen by a selection committee made up of representatives from the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Council for American Private Education, Council of Chief State School Officers, Council for Exceptional Children, Council of Great City Schools, The Galef Institute, Harvard University's Project Zero, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Education Association, National Middle School Association and National PTA.

    After she found out she had won the honor, Layman was told she was to write a completely new biography of herself other than the one she submitted with her application, and she was also to give a three-minute speech, which was also to have different information other than that written in her application.

    So far she has received her $10,000, which she has used to go on a cruise and to pay off some bills. The Disney Channel also came to videotape her classes for one whole day. The producer who showed up was the same person who does the Golden Globes, she said.

    Layman hopes the money for the school can be used to purchase some type of motivational tool.

    "In my opinion, we don't do enough for the top students to motivate others to get to their levels," said Layman. "But I do want the money to benefit the whole school if at all possible."

    Her parents, John and Nancy Christner, are extremely proud of Layman.

    "We're just very proud," said Nancy Christner. "Last year she won the Radio Shack Teacher of the Year award."

    Layman said she will be a little nervous when she has to stand up in front of her peers and give her three-minute speech.

    "I will be nervous, but I am very confident in who I am and at public speaking, so I'll be excited, too," said Layman.

    She and her husband will be in Disneyland from July 22 to 26.

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    Theme Parks' Squabbling Could Kill Bullet Train Project

    There always has been fighting between Mickey Mouse, Shamu the killer whale and Universal's superheroes over tourists' dollars. But that cutthroat capitalism now threatens a potential solution to booming Florida's traffic problems.

    The SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando theme parks believe it's best for Florida if a bullet train network was derailed before it ever leaves the station. High-speed rail is too expensive and more roads would better solve the state's smothering gridlock, they say.

    However, many question whether the parks' big-dollar contributions to an anti-train petition drive reflects anger the line bypasses their properties and delivers visitors seven miles away directly to rival Walt Disney World.

    One civic leader believes a shortsighted war could have long-term consequences.

    "The tourist corridor is our bread and butter for not only the region, but the state," said Rep. John Mica, R-Altamonte Springs, the senior Floridian on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. "At some point, they're going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs for the economy."

    This fight became an inevitability four years ago, when the state's voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring the construction of a high-speed rail network. The first leg would run from Orlando International Airport to Tampa, with a cost currently estimated at $2.3 billion.

    Ten miles west of the airport via the Bee Line Expressway is the International Drive tourist district, home to SeaWorld, Universal and the Orange County Convention Center; seven miles beyond, near the Central Florida GreeneWay toll road's end, is Disney.

    Both areas can lay claim to massive traffic, so making arguments that a nearby stop would get people out of their cars and off the roads. Between the two tourist draws, Interstate 4 sees a daily average of more than 150,000 vehicles, according to 2003 figures provided by the Florida Department of Transportation.

    The Florida High Speed Rail Authority decided on a route in October by looking to who could deliver the most passengers. It wasn't close, according to ridership studies: Disney offers 2.2 million riders annually, more than four times what I-Drive can deliver.

    The station, if constructed, be located on 50 acres of Disney land at the confluence of three major traffic arteries: I-4, U.S. Highway 192 and the Osceola Parkway.

    "The GreeneWay is the best route for high-speed service, considering the interests of the state, the region and the success of that service in Florida," Disney spokesman Bill Warren said.

    Even a longtime Disney critic admitted it would make more sense to put the station at Disney.

    "When you try to make mass transit work, you have to make the trains go to where the people want to go," said Rollins College political science professor Rick Fogelsong.

    Stung by Disney's victory, SeaWorld and Universal have turned their lobbying efforts toward killing the train. The parks have combined to contribute $470,000 to DErail the Bullet Train (DEBT), which wants to put an amendment repeal before the voters in November. That's nearly one-third of the $1.48 million DEBT has collected.

    SeaWorld's parent company wrapped its money in the rhetoric of a good corporate citizen.

    "Because of the negative economic impact on the state of Florida, the taxpayers and businesses in the state, Anheuser-Busch does not support the high-speed rail project," the brewery said in a statement. "The taxpayers of the state will be required to subsidize a losing proposition when better, more economically sound alternatives exist."

    That position is closely aligned with that of Gov. Jeb Bush, who has opposed high speed rail for years. One of his first acts when taking office in 1999 was to kill the proposed Florida Overland Express.

    The man who has made bullet trains his crusade questions SeaWorld's motives.

    "SeaWorld was lobbying for a stop at I-Drive," said C.C. "Doc" Dockery, who spent $3 million to get high speed rail on the 2000 ballot. "Their opposition surfaced only after the authority voted for the GreeneWay location. There's nothing principled about that."

    Universal, unlike their I-Drive counterpart, acknowledged its actions were partially motivated by self-interest. "We believe the Florida High Speed Rail Act is not good for Florida, its taxpayers, the entire International Drive tourism community, Orange County - and Universal Orlando," spokesman Tom Schroder said.

    Neither theme park would comment on their position had the FHSRA voted to run the train down the Bee Line.

    "It's the hyenas here, not the lion, who are exposed as engaging in blatant political maneuvering to serve their interests," said Fogelsong, the author of "Married to the Mouse," an expose of Disney's growth into a regional power broker. "I'm sure Disney likes that to take the attention off them and make them look like the good guys."



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                                                               Sunday
    July 18, 2004

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    Disney Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments 2004


    Hallmark has released the 2004 Dream Book with pictures of all this years ornaments including the Disney ornaments pictured below. The Keepsake Ornament Premier was July 10th-11th with the release of Affection for Confections ($18.95 USA/$27.95 Canada) it's a two piece ornament one of Mickey and one of Minnie baking cookies (not pictured)

    During the Keepsake Ornament Debut October 2nd-3rd more than sixty ornaments will be released including Sneaking a Treat! ($18.95 USA/$27.95 Canada) and that ornament is Pluto sneaking some cookies of a table (not pictured)
    Here are the Disney Ornaments for 2004:

    The Sorcerer's Apprentice
    Snow Sculpture
    Pocket Watch
    Welcome Sound (miniature)
    World-Class Shoppers
    Candy Cane Trio (miniature)
    A Sticky Situation
    100 Acre Express
    Baby's First Christmas
    The Winning Bounce
    Wings For Eeyore
    Friends Forever
    Amigos Por Siempre (spanish)
    Stocking Stuffers
    Bambi and Friends
    Oddball, Little Dipper, and Domino
    Pinocchio Marionette (miniature)
    Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    Small World
    Amazing Number 53
    Mr. Incredible
    Tinker Bell
    Three Beautiful Princesses
    Stanley and Dennis
    Ariel
    Buzz Lightyear and the Claw

                    
                    
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    Historic Walt Disney Barn to Celebrate Five Years of Magical Memories Sunday, July 18


    The Walt Disney Family Foundation and the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Walt Disney's Barn at the LA Live Steamers facility in Griffith Park, Los Angeles on Sunday July 18th from 11a - 3p. Free admission and parking.

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    Disney's Robin Hood

    The timeless tale of Robin Hood meets the animal kingdom in Disney's classic animated masterpiece by the same name, released on Disney Gold Classic Collection DVD.

    The story, narrated by a singing rooster, tells of the great King Richard (a lion), who was hypnotized by the snake Sir Hiss and left his kingdom to go on the Crusades. With no one to look after the crown and the kingdom, his bad brother, Prince John, took over and began to overtax the good people of Nottingham until they were poor, with the help of the equally bad Sheriff of Nottingham (a wolf).

    It is up to the handsome and good-hearted Robin Hood (a fox) and his best friend Little John (a bear) to save Nottingham from Prince John. He's got all the townspeople on his side, including Friar Tuck (a badger) and an adorable family of rabbits, and also has his true love, (and niece to King Richard) Maid Marion, in his heart. She happens to be friends with wild Klucky (a hen) who lets no one get in her way!

    With all this help, will Robin Hood save the day? Will he and Maid Marion live happily ever after? Hold on as you witness fun and adventure with Robin and his friends as they try to restore happiness once again to Nottingham.

    Besides featuring a spectacular movie, this special DVD also has plenty of extras, including a sing-along, trivia game, DVD storybook and a cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse and the gang. This is truly one of my favorite Disney films and one that will certainly make you laugh while warming your heart.

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                                                              Saturday
    July 17, 2004

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    HAPPY 49TH BIRTHDAY DISNEYLAND 

    Click Mickey for “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album.” Info

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    Disney hires California homeland security chief to lead company's security operations


    The Walt Disney Co. has hired California's director of homeland security to head the company's worldwide security operations.

    Ronald L. Iden, 57, will join Disney as a senior vice president in charge of security for the corporation's holdings, including theme parks, cruise ships and the ABC and ESPN television networks, company officials said.

    The company has reinforced security measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the discovery of al-Qaida documents that listed Disneyland as a potential terrorism target.

    Iden will be responsible for creating "an even higher level of security standards for Disney guests and employees," ABC President Robert A. Iger said.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Iden in January to oversee homeland security in California. In a July 9 letter to Schwarzenegger, Iden proposed a departure date of Aug. 1 but said he will stay until a successor is named.

    A 25-year-FBI veteran, Iden headed the bureau's Los Angeles division for two years after working as a special agent responsible for investigations involving terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, financial crimes and civil-rights violations.
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    Theme parks allow visitors to cut to front of the line

    With beepers, special tickets and hand stamps, amusement parks these days are actually encouraging visitors to cut in line.

    Front of the line privileges for popular rides cost extra at some parks and are free at others. The parks benefit because less time standing means visitors can spend more money in shops and restaurants.

    "Standing in line for two or three hours is just not going to cut it," said Tim O'Brien, author of "Amusement Park Guide." "Things have to be done to avoid long lines and long waits."

    O'Brien imagines that someday guests will reserve rides through hand-held computers even before entering the park.

    Bypassing lines is more than just a guest service. It's expected by some visitors.

    "No matter where you are people are generally impatient," said Chris Knauf, assistant manager of ride operations at Cedar Point amusement park, which gives out hand stamps that allow visitors to skip ahead later.

    The trend began five years ago with the FastPass reservation system at Walt

    Disney World's Animal Kingdom, and has trickled down to regional theme parks. Complaints about long waits had been at the top of the list of what people didn't like about visiting, said parks spokesman Dave Herbst.

    So the park came up with a solution. Visitors can avoid standing in packed queues for 26 of the top attractions, including The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Space Mountain.

    Guest surveys show that those who use FastPass have a much better experience at the parks and are able to see 25 percent more attractions and shows.

    "We're hitting at the one thing they dislike," said Todd Evans, manager for attractions at the Florida parks.

    While the Disney system is free, Six Flags parks charge a fee for getting to the front.

    Six Flags, with 28 theme and water parks nationwide, sells front of the line tickets at most of its parks. Five parks rent an electronic device that works like a pager.

    The costs vary at each park. At Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Over Georgia it costs $10 to rent the device and another $10 for each person using it.

    Guests insert the palm-sized device at a sign near the ride and reserve their time to come back and get on a roller coaster with little or no wait. The device, called a Q-Bot, vibrates and beeps when it's time to ride.

    The system, developed by England-based Lo-Q, is used at Six Flags parks in New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Missouri and Georgia.

    Leah Moss, director of Lo-Q's U.S. operation based near Atlanta, said more people would visit amusement parks if they knew they could cut to the front of the line.

    "We're looking at people who work really long hours and don't have much leisure time," she said. "People have more money than time these days."

    The Q-Bot also allows the parks to directly communicate with guests through text messages that can be changed throughout the day.

    "It can let them know when they're near an area that has a special on drinks or food," she said. "It can suggest a hotel to stay at when they're leaving or tell when a show is about to start."

    Not everyone thinks it's fair that some guests can buy their way to the front, especially when the have-nots see the haves bypassing them in line.

    Sean Flaharty, a roller coaster enthusiast from Columbus, said some parks do a poor job of merging those two lines, resulting in clashes.

    He said the system also can produce longer lines. Some parks reserve coaster seats for only those with the front of line passes, and those seats sometimes go unfilled.

    "I can see why people get angry because that makes the line actually go slower," said Flaharty, who estimates he'll visit 70 parks this year.

    To make sure there aren't problems, some Six Flags parks station employees in the lines to explain how Q-Bot works.

    "The program is fair because people are still waiting for rides," said Kristin Siebeneicher, a spokeswoman for Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. "They just can do other things while they wait."

    The park typically rents 250 of the devices on an average day.

    Cedar Point has a low-tech solution to long waits. Its hand stamps allows guests to bypass the lines on six of the park's 16 roller coasters.

    The stamps are free and available to anyone willing to wait from a few minutes to a half-hour. Lines start forming early, and a day's supply of stamps for the two top coasters can be gone in half an hour.

    "We're waiting in line not to wait in line," said 12-year-old Corey Bodenbach, laughing at the thought while waiting to get a stamp to ride Millennium Force, the park's 310-foot tall roller coaster.

    The Bodenbachs, a family of five from Oshkosh, Wis., shaved several hours off their waits over three days, allowing them to ride more of the less popular rides.

    "We were able to sit down and eat, and we did some of the things that a lot of people say is a waste of time," said Corey's mother, Jennifer Bodenbach.

    Right behind in line, Greg McNeely, of Lafayette, Ind., said his family can't wait in long lines because their son has diabetes and needs regular snacks and two insulin shots each day.

    "This allows us to plan our day and make sure he has everything he needs," McNeely said.

    Park operators say the front of the line systems don't bring in a lot of money but are popular.

    At Disney, at least half of all visitors use FastPass on a typical day. The number of Q-Bot users at Six Flags doubled last year to about 750,000.

    Many of the big theme parks place a priority on ensuring that their lines move quickly.

    Cedar Point sometimes rewards efficient ride operators with breakfast, and there's an annual trophy that goes to the best group. "Everybody wants to win it," Knauf said.

    At Disney parks, any employee with access to a computer can tell a guest where the shortest lines can be found.

    Paramount's Kings Island near Cincinnati offers season pass holders timed tickets for five of its most popular rides on the weekends, and opens select areas an hour early for "Waterpark Wednesday and "Thrill seekers Thursday."

    The park is working on other ways of making the lines move faster, replacing low-capacity rides with big attractions that hold 50 or 60 people at a time.

    "If we can manage all of the lines to where it's a minimal wait," said park spokesman Jeffrey Siebert, "there's no need for a ride reservation system."

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    Hidden Mickeys: Inside Joke has Become a "Guest Quest" At Walt Disney World Resort

    As millions of guests scurry throughout Walt Disney World Resort to see Mickey Mouse, little do they realize they may be passing him right by.

    And though the Mickeys they miss are not the life-sized, two-legged and three-fingered variety, they are "Hidden Mickeys" -- silhouettes and abstract images of Mickey Mouse cleverly hidden by Disney Imagineers across the 47-square-mile Vacation Kingdom.

    Hidden Mickeys began as an inside joke among Walt Disney Imagineers, the artists and engineers who design Disney parks and attractions. As word spread of these subtle tributes to Walt's famous mouse, guests sought to find them all.

    That search continues today.

    Like Easter eggs, Hidden Mickeys have been placed secretly (and not so secretly) by Imagineers at locations across Walt Disney World Resort. Imagineers include Hidden Mickeys when designing, building or putting the finishing touches on a new attraction or hotel, hiding silhouettes, profiles and other images of Mickey Mouse in murals, queue areas and even golf course sand traps.

    "The popularity of Hidden Mickeys has just snowballed with guests," says Dave Smith, founder and main archivist for Walt Disney Archives, and author of Disney: A to Z. "Many will almost use a magnifying glass through the parks to find as many as they can."

    No one knows how many Hidden Mickeys exist throughout Walt Disney World Resort, since Imagineers have never kept an official roster documenting their existence.

    In fact, no one knows when the first Hidden Mickey even appeared. And, since attractions are renovated and updated periodically, many have appeared and disappeared through the years.

    Where the next Hidden Mickey will appear is anyone's guess.

    Here are some hints to start your quest for Hidden Mickeys at Walt Disney World Resort:

    Magic Kingdom

    • While the Haunted Mansion boasts "999 Happy Haunts," it also has one "mouse" -- a Hidden Mickey formed by an arrangement of dishes on the table in the attraction's banquet scene.
    • A Hidden Mickey enjoys a lazy day on the river in the final scene in Frontierland's Splash Mountain. A pink cloud floating high above the "Zip-A-Dee Lady" paddlewheeler bears a striking resemblance to a profile of Mickey lying on his back.

    Epcot

    • Mickey goes around the world in Norway, Gateway to Scandinavia. A burly Viking sports a pair of Mickey Mouse ears on the mural above the queue line for Maelstrom, the pavilion's boatride attraction.
    • Mickey Mouse has always been the brightest of stars. And at Spaceship Earth in Epcot Future World, Mickey is actually hidden in his own constellation just beyond the attraction's loading area.

    Disney-MGM Studios

    • A subtle Hidden Mickey can be found in the supernatural realm of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The young child actress who vanishes from the Hollywood Tower Hotel one stormy night is clutching a Mickey Mouse doll in the attraction's pre-show.
    • Mickey rocks his way into Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Two Hidden Mickeys were placed in the tile floor in the attraction's rotunda area.

    Disney's Animal Kingdom

    • Mickey can be "spotted" in the Pizzafari restaurant in the park's Discovery Island. His silhouette can be found on a wall mural, cleverly hidden among leopard spots.
    • Mickey really digs The Boneyard in DinoLand U.S.A. In the woolly mammoth dig site, Mickey has been formed with a fan and two hard hats.
    • There are more than 25 Hidden Mickeys at Rafiki's Planet Watch, with Mickey found hidden in murals, tree trunks and paintings of animals.

    Resorts

    • Mickey is remembered by golfers around the world for his contribution to the sixth hole of Disney's Magnolia golf course. A Hidden Mickey forms a giant sand trap that looms ominously next to the green. (Many golfers have not been too happy to find this Hidden Mickey, however, especially when they discover their golf ball has found it, as well.)
    • Golfers at Disney's Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge golf courses may hone their skills on another giant Hidden Mickey. Mickey's head is used as a putting green at the courses' clubhouse area.
    • Mickey always knows the right direction at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where a Hidden Mickey is found on the weather vane atop the convention center.
    • At Downtown Disney Marketplace, a Hidden Mickey provides its share of splash-tastic fun. Interactive fountains at the entrance of the shopping, dining and entertainment district form Mickey's familiar silhouette -- providing a waterful time for children (and a surprising number of adults) who frolic in the leaping waters.

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    Disney Animation tour rehab at MGM Studios

    The Magic of Disney Animation will be closed for refurbishment Monday, September 13 through Friday, September 24, and will reopen Saturday, September 25, 2004.

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    Disneyland Celebrates Another Birthday on Saturday, July 17th
     
    On Saturday, July 17th, Disneyland will celebrate it's 49th birthday with a brief ceremony on Main Street at 10:00 a.m.

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    Say “Cheese!”

    Disneyland Resort Invites The World To Be A Part Of “The Happiest Faces On Earth…A Disney Family Album”

    In a visually spectacular kick-off ceremony in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland in Southern California, Disneyland Resort President Matt Ouimet will join 1,400 Disneyland Cast Members, plus their families and friends, on Saturday, July 17 in formally launching an exciting new program that will be a major part of the global celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland next year.

    “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album” is an unprecedented invitation to people around the world to send in their cherished Disney memories (especially their favorite Disneyland memories) in the form of photographs, snapshots or digital images (both old and recent). The hundreds of thousands of anticipated submissions will be woven together to create “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album,” a series of extremely unique photo collages of classic Disney characters and images from the last half century.

    By contributing their favorite Disney photo memories to the oversized photo collages of “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album ,” people the world over will become active participants in the milestone “The Happiest Homecoming on Earth” 50 th anniversary celebration of Disneyland , officially launching on May 5, 2005 . The collages will then be on exhibit throughout the Disneyland Resort, remaining on display for 18-months throughout the entire duration of the celebration.

    “Starting July 17, 2004, on the 49th anniversary of Disneyland and extending through December 31 of this year we invite everyone in the world to send us their most treasured and special Disney photos, especially those of their unforgettable visits to Disneyland,” said Ouimet. “This is an amazing program that will allow everybody to become part of this one-of-a-kind tapestry of memories during our upcoming milestone 50th anniversary.”

    To visually demonstrate the collage concept, “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album” program will be launched via the unveiling of an enormous photo collage of Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle . Each of the 1,400 participants will hold a square, 3'x3' color Disney image over their heads and when properly arranged and combined, create a gigantic smiling image of Mickey Mouse. The impressive visual will be produced to accurately illustrate the photo collage technique that will be utilized in creating “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album.”

    Everyone is encouraged to submit their color or black and white photos beginning today 8:00am via information available at www.disneyland.com/photos . All photos must be received by December 31, 2004 to be considered for use. A photo release form is available online and must be included with all photo submissions, along with appropriate contact information (name, address, email and phone number). Participants in the program are encouraged not to send original photos. Not all photo submissions will be used for various reasons. Confirmation emails and letters will be sent in spring 2005 to all participants confirming receipt of photo and, if the photo is used, notification of the general placement of the photo in the collages.

    Photo imagery can also be sent via the following mailing options:

    U.S. Postal Service
    Happiest Faces on Earth
    PO Box 30464
    Salt Lake City , Utah 84130-0464

    FedEx/UPS
    Happiest Faces on Earth
    c/o Data Services Direct
    2481 S. 1560 West
    Woods Cross, Utah 84087

    Premiering on May 5, 2005 “The Happiest Homecoming on Earth,” an extraordinary celebration of the 50 th anniversary of Disneyland, will pay tribute to the millions of guests and cast members who have contributed to the rich legacy of “The Happiest Place on Earth” over the past five decades. The 18-month long occasion represents the biggest event in the history of The Walt Disney Company and is the first truly global Disney celebration (with commemorative events planned at each of the Disney theme parks around the world in an international salute to Disneyland ).

    To learn more about “The Happiest Faces on Earth . . . A Disney Family Album,” please visit www.disneyland.com/photos . For general Disneyland information, or information on “The Happiest Homecoming on Earth” 50 th anniversary celebration, please visit http://www.disneyland.com/
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    2004 Food and Wine Festival Details Announced

    Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival doesn't begin until October 1, but the phone lines will be buzzing on July 20 (1-407-WDW-FEST) as folks make their reservations for all the special events that are part of the festival.

    The Festival Welcome Center will be located at Innoventions Plaza. Be sure to stop here first to find out about all the activities planned during your visit. There will be free wine seminars, KitchenAid equipment to dream about and a Champagne and Sparkling Wine Bar.

    Around World Showcase will be over 25 booths featuring food and wines from around the world, a la appetizer portions, costing from $1.00 to $4.50.

    The Eat to the Beat Concert Series returns to the American Gardens Theatre with three shows nightly from groups such as the Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, Chubby Checker and more.

    Special Exhibits include Valencia Spain, Australia, South Africa, the Tortilla Cocina (which may be familiar to those who have visited Disney's California Adventure), Peru, New Zealand, Celebrate the Harvest, New England Fair, History of Beer, Backyard BBQ, Oktoberfest, Great Beers of the World and Time for Tea.

    Family fun includes Epcot's Jr. Chef Program and Pumpkin and Melon Mania, both at the Land.

    The Odyssey will feature complimentary culinary demonstrations and the Terrace will offer wine seminars.

    Ticketed events include:

    Party for the Senses - Begins with VIP seating at 5:45 p.m. for Eat to the Beat, followed by a tastebud feast with 23 chefs and over 50 wines and beer at the World ShowPlace pavilion (formerly Millennium Village); $95 per person

    Food and Wine Pairings - Three wines tasted and paired with three foods; $35 per person

    Brewer's Dinners - It's all about beer; $55 per person

    Lunch and Learn - At the Odyssey, enjoy an appetizer, entree and dessert with wines to complement the dishes; $75 per person

    Sweet Sundays - Also at the Odyssey, you can enjoy three pastry treats and a dessert wine; $55 per person

    Exquisite Evenings at Epcot - Includes a six course meal and wines, live entertainment and private viewing for IllumiNations. Takes place at World ShowPlace; $185 per person. This is the only event you do NOT need admission into Epcot.

    Signature Dinners - Five course dinners at select restaurants; $125 per person

    Vertical Tastings - At the Beach Club featuring 10 vintages from $95-$150 per person.

    Wine Schools - Banfi Italian, Bordeaux, Napa Valley and Australian wine schools are daylong programs featuring winemakers; $125 per person

    Citrico's Dinners - Australian cuisine and wine at $125 per person.


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    Disney with a difference

    When Disney gave permission for North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly to be one of the first in the country to present "Beauty and the Beast" while it is still running on Broadway, they also asked the theater to make it a substantially different production from the Broadway version. The theater folk in Beverly have more than met this challenge, and the result is a joyously original version that brings the audience to its feet several times, whistling, clapping and screaming bravos.

    Don't worry, it's still the same story, and the beloved Alan Menken music is all still there. A rich and satisfying orchestra surrounds the audience with those great hit songs in the overture, and several of the leads in this production sing them with glorious and powerful voices.

    What is new are the sets, costumes, makeup and choreography, and one couldn't ask for better. The sets, designed by Dex Edwards, are wildly imaginative as they seamlessly appear and disappear. Miguel Angel Huidor's costumes are gorgeous beyond description in some cases, downright hilarious in others, and perhaps too realistic in the case of Cogsworth the clock, whose glassy tummy distractingly reflects a blinding white spotlight at some points.

    Dazzling athletic choreography by John MacInnis brings the audience to its feet after "Be Our Guest." This invigorating number features a surreal performance by Peyton Royal as a carpet capable of seemingly physically impossible feats. Add an excellent ballet number by Radio City Rockette Jacquelyn Dowsett as a corkscrew to cancans, tangos and general mayhem performed by enchanted silverware, plates, salt and pepper shakers and a Kleenex box, and you have a happy audience.

    This show-stopping number, led off by a sophisticated vocal by Ron Wisniski as Lumiere, received such an enthusiastic mid-show standing ovation last Thursday that the performers finally had to just get on with the show before the audience was willing to sit down again.

    As for the lead performances, this production is blessed with some major vocal and acting talents. Gaston, as performed by Brian Noonan, is infuriatingly smug without overdoing. Noonan knows just how far to take this outrageous character, performing Gaston with a hilariously deep and resonant speaking voice, topped off with an operatic baritone singing voice and a wonderfully comical face.

    Beautiful Nikki Renee Daniels as Belle has a voice that can seemingly do anything, from light comic numbers to the large dramatic solos. She is impressive during the dramatic and defiant "Home," and throughout the show her singing is equally clear and effective as she ranges high to low, powerfully loud to lyrically soft.

    There is much engaging comedy to enjoy between Belle and her captor, that beastly enchanted prince who is first seen as a looming spotlighted monster standing in the aisle. Brad Little plays the beast with gusto and poignancy, making the most of his fine operatic baritone and powerfully resonant speaking voice.

    Linda Wolverton's humorous script has the Beast endlessly coached by his enchanted servants on how to court Belle so she will fall in love with him. This would break the spell that is increasingly robbing all of them of their last shreds of humanity. Little is convincingly frustrated by the chore of holding his animal fury in check as he clumsily tries to win the heart of his feisty and initially unwilling houseguest. His faithful servants, in their deliciously eccentric costumes, are ever at his side, coaching him on the niceties of courtship.

    As Lumiere, Wisniski seems quite the continental gentlemen despite having candles for hands. He also gets to deliver outrageous puns like "Ah cherie, you cut me to the wick."

    His cherie is the shapely and beguiling Babette, transformed into a feather duster, expertly played and danced by Jessica Leigh Brown.

    Jeanne Lehman performs enchanted teakettle Mrs. Potts with engaging warmth and a charming voice. Her little son, transformed into a teacup on top of a traveling table, is brought to sprightly life by Ari Shaps.

    Gina Ferrall is divinely hilarious as Madame de la Grande Bouche, the portly opera singer whose vanity remains unchecked now that she has been transformed into an actual vanity. Her convincing costume features drawers from which she can extract clothing to offer Belle.

    Dick Decareau is briskly in charge as the animated clock who is becoming "a little more tightly wound" each day. And as Gaston's hapless servant Lefou, Jeff Skowron delivers as much physical comedy as one of the three stooges.

    Portraying Belle's eccentric inventor-father Maurice, George Merritt uses his well-known baritone voice to great advantage, and delivers the lyrics of Tim Rice and Howard Ashman with crystal clarity and conviction.

    Some rather odd blocking for "No Matter What," his first number with Daniels, results in something seldom seen at North Shore's expert arena stage performances. People in some sections of the audience can't see anyone's face during most of this statically staged song. Daniels sings with her back to them for an annoyingly long time, blocking Merritt, and when she finally turns in their direction, she is in turn completely blocked by him and all they see is his back.

    Moments like this turn some people off to arena theater, but moments like this are easily avoided, and this one comes as a real surprise. Fortunately it is not repeated anywhere else in the expertly mounted show. By evening's end it is some enchanted audience, standing at the beginning of the curtain call to give every member of the gifted cast a well-deserved standing ovation.

    Interested?


    "Beauty and the Beast" continues through Aug. 1 with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Performances on Tuesday, July 27 and Thursday, July 29 will be at 2 p.m. only, with no evening performance. Other matinees are at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The July 31 matinee will be ASL interpreted.

    Tickets are priced from $63 to $30, and available by calling the box office at 978-232-7200, visiting in person at 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, or logging onto www.nsmt.org.

    Out at the North Shore, an evening for the Gay and Lesbian Community with a post show reception is on July 22. "Meet the Theatre" after the 2 p.m. matinee on July 24 will feature a post-show audience discussion with the artists.
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    Bob Lambert Named Senior Vice President, Worldwide Media Technology And Development, The Walt Disney Company

    Bob Lambert has been named senior vice president for worldwide media technology and development, The Walt Disney Company, it was announced today by Peter E. Murphy, senior executive vice president and chief strategic officer of The Walt Disney Company.

    In his expanded role, Mr. Lambert will work closely with business unit and corporate executives on the development and coordination of a number of Disney's digital initiatives, including new media technology strategies, technology planning, and interface with other media companies on technical matters. He will focus on strengthening Disney's overall relationships in the technology sector to advance the deployment of new businesses. Mr. Lambert will also act as the company's senior technical executive in new media, standards, regulatory, and rights management work.

    In announcing Mr. Lambert's expanded role, Mr. Murphy said, "We expect advances in digital technology to provide great opportunities for all our businesses going forward. Bob has been intimately involved in some of the most forward-thinking work in our industry for a number of years, including the initial launches of the DVD format, digital cinema, digital production, rights management technologies, and next generation media. His technical depth and diplomacy is well-respected both in and outside our company. Bob's understanding of the technical, business, and inter-industry landscape make him ideally qualified to represent Disney in our interactions with technology partners, and in our business planning"

    Mr. Lambert will continue to lead the Disney New Technology and New Media group, and provide corporate guidance for the Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development unit and the Studio New Technology area. He is a senior member of Disney's Media Technology Board, having served as its 2003-04 chair, which comprises Disney's senior technology executives from across the company's business segments.

    Mr. Lambert has been corporate senior vice president for new technology and development for Disney since January, 1996, and prior to that he was senior vice president of technology for The Walt Disney Studios. He has also served as director and vice president in Disney's studio and animation businesses, overseeing the conversion of production processes to digital in the 1990s and creating a companywide new technology program. Before joining Disney, Mr. Lambert was executive director of new project development for Paramount Pictures. He serves on the boards of USC and the American Film Institute, and has served as an advisor to the National Academy of Science, the Entertainment Technology Center, and the US FIRST program.

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    Marvel sues Disney over royalties

    Marvel Enterprises said Friday that it has filed suit against Walt Disney Co. over royalties stemming from animated shows that run on Disney's ABC Family Network.

    Marvel is accusing Disney of improperly accounting costs and royalty distribution on three animated series based on its Spider-Man, X-Men and Incredible Hulk characters. The suit was filed late Thursday.

    Disney has been inadequately accounting income on the three series since it bought the cable network from News Corp. in 2001, according to the suit.

    As a result, Marvel alleges it has missed out on $6 million in royalties and that Disney is improperly accounting costs by roughly $16 million, working against Marvel's favor.

    "To be fair, Disney inherited properties that it never controlled or produced," said Marvel attorney Carole Handler. "[But] it was given short shrift. It's a breach of duty."

    Disney representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

    Shares of Marvel  were unchanged at $15.99 in recent action. Disney was off 44 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $23.43.

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    Peter's Upgrade

    Since last Saturday Peter Pan's Flight has reopened with some major changes to the queing system and the Load/Unload-Station. Some of the expected major changes did not show up - e.g. the exit is still at the same location, just as the entrance for the stand bye line is still between the "tower" at the buildings corner and the FastPass distribution machines. The FastPass entrance on the other hand was moved to the same Tower, just on its left side (so not toward Toad's Hall but toward the main facade of Peter Pan's Flight). The tower received a little add-on roof to cover the CM in the greeter position, which got nicely themed and fits perfectly into the look of the building. The location of this greeter position between the two different entrances (stand bye and FastPass) also indicates how confident Imagineering is, that the stand bye line will not regularly grow so long that it would spill onto the main walkway. This confidence stems from the quite long way the line can take, when it makes us of all options in the open space between the Peter Pan building and the terrace of Toad's Hall (so behind the FastPass machines) - and from the new load/unload station set up. While the ships still stop for loading and unloading, the parties can now be assembled for boarding more easily, as station gates have been added (as e.g. in the Rock'n'Roller Coaster) behind which the guests line up. Also no longer just one ship can be loaded, but two boats at once, as e.g. at Pirates of the Caribbean. For this the appropriate number of station gates has been set up and the "loading section" of the station prolonged accordingly.

    The new set up already seems to proof successful, as reports from last weekend indicate that the lines were moving more fluent and faster - which also results in easy misconceptions. E.g. at one point the CM at the greeter position upon guest request as the official waiting time sign was out of order estimated a waiting of 50 minutes based on the length of the queue, when it was 25 only actually.

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    Disney's Sweeney, Dodging a Mouse Trap


    Anne Sweeney showed the stuff she's made of during her first press tour appearance in her new exalted mega-position of co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television.

    Sweeney, a seasoned Disney executive, is one of those perfectly poised masters of corporate speak. The kind of woman you just know received training at an early age on the proper way to get out of a low-slung sports car in a short skirt and heels.

    The executive who spent the previous eight years running all of Disney's non-sports cable networks opened ABC's two days at Summer TV Press Tour 2004 on Monday with one of her trademark shareholders' meeting speeches: "Cable or broadcast, I think the important thing to know is that the formula for success is really the same. It is about delivering strong and consistent creative and economic results. That's what I built my career on and that's what I'm bringing to this new opportunity."

    On either side of Sweeney were two giant screens displaying the logos of the many Disney cable and broadcast networks now under Sweeney's watch. Just as Sweeney was getting to the good stuff -- "I started my career as a page in New York City and when I left for graduate school I had every intention of returning to ABC, but no one sent the note to ABC saying I was coming back, so I ended up starting my career at Nickelodeon and I have to tell you that it was really, personally as well as professionally, rewarding . . . " -- suddenly, on the big screens, up popped an episode from the first season of the FX plastic surgery drama "Nip/Tuck" -- which by the way, is not owned by Disney -- in which model Kimber Henry has tied Dr. Christian Troy to a bed and is sitting on top of him, dressed in a black lace bra and panties, brandishing a very, very large shiny dagger with which she appears ready to fillet him.

    "Some of my new friends," Sweeney said, without missing a beat. "And none of them appearing on the Disney-ABC Television group of networks." Really, it was very impressive. And although we think there may be something to one critic's observation that the incident was "deeply symbolic of what a [Dick Cheney's word] mess ABC is" these days, we must admit it contributed mightily to our understanding of why Disney chief Michael Eisner and Eisner's chief yes-man, Robert Iger, decided in April that Sweeney was exactly the right person to head their sixth or seventh stab at figuring out how to fix the fourth-place network.

    Critics couldn't wait to ask Steve McPherson, ABC's new entertainment division president, about Fox's piracy of the concept behind ABC's fall reality series "Wife Swap." ABC announced in May that "Wife Swap" would be on its fall lineup, after which Fox decided to rush "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy" into its summer lineup. About the same time, NBC announced a new boxing reality series, "The Contender," for its fall lineup, after which Fox announced it's rushing the start of "The Next Great Champ."

    It's interesting how critics, who for years have spit on reality as a genre, are now getting all sentimental about the sanctity of reality series concepts. Reality series piracy has become the big issue at Summer TV Press Tour 2004. Anyway, it was the first question lobbed at McPherson, who appeared before critics via satellite from his honeymoon in Paris.

    "If I was a member of the creative community, it would be incredibly disconcerting to me that if you take a show, a pitch, into Fox and they can't, don't or decide not to buy it, they will steal it. I think it's really upsetting, I think it's bad for the business, I think it's bad for the broadcast network and I don't think it's right."

    He said he didn't know if ABC planned to pursue legal action. Sweeney said she hadn't spoken to her legal department about it yet.

    Critics also couldn't wait to ask McPherson the "CSI" Question. Before McPherson was named head of ABC's entertainment division, he ran Disney's television production outfit, Touchstone TV, and one of the shows he developed for ABC was "CSI." When the Mensa boys at ABC decided to take a pass on "CSI," McPherson sold it to CBS. After that the Mouseketeers at Disney decided it didn't make sense for them to pay to produce the show, and ABC now has no stake in one of the most successful television franchises in recent history. Critics wanted to hear his version of what happened.

    "We developed it and put it on CBS. And, at the time, the company decided that, for financial reasons, it didn't make sense to continue to be a deficit entity on that. And the decision was made and we've moved on," he said, sitting in Paris with the Arc de Triomphe behind him.

    "Did you agree with that decision at the time?" one critic asked.

    "No," he responded. Then McPherson rolled his eyes, which, had he been there in person, nobody would have noticed. But because he was appearing via satellite on those two giant screens that played such an important role in Sweeney's opening speech, his head was about six feet high and his eyes about four feet across. It was as if you were visiting Mount Rushmore and George Washington suddenly rolled his eyes. And with that, we're just guessing, McPherson's honeymoon at ABC was probably over.

    ABC News will offer gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions to all its TV stations to transmit over their digital television signal, ABC News President David Westin announced at Summer TV Press Tour 2004. Peter Jennings will anchor the convention coverage, which is available in about 80 percent of the country, though it's unclear how many homes actually have digital receivers.

    "We've been talking with affiliates for about a year now about the possibility of this digital service going on," Westin told critics. "We're in the process of working out all the details and there will probably be further announcements coming out later."

    Westin told critics the idea was Jennings's, which he came up with while flying back from Iraq.

    "He showed up at my office first thing the next morning and said, 'Okay, this is what I want to do. I want to cover the conventions gavel-to-gavel and you figure out the best way to get that distributed. But I'll come in and I'll be the anchor and we'll have the ABC News team in and we'll do it the old-fashioned way.' "

    The digital service will continue through the presidential election, Westin said.

    ABC News will also provide the same coverage of the conventions on its 24-hour high-speed Web channel. Both CBS and NBC will also provide gavel-to-gavel coverage on their Web sites, cbsnews.com and msnbc.com. Meanwhile, it's business as usual for the ABC network as well as its broadcast competitors with regard to convention coverage. ABC, CBS and NBC have all put out news releases saying they plan to cover the Democratic convention in Boston in two weeks for just three hours: one hour on Monday, when former president Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak; one hour on Wednesday, when vice presidential choice John Edwards is scheduled to speak; and one hour on Thursday, when presumptive presidential nominee John Kerry is scheduled to speak. None of the three broadcast networks has plans to cover live the speech that will be delivered at that convention by Ron Reagan, younger son of the late president, the man the current administration most loves to compare itself to. Reagan's speech is expected to be delivered on Tuesday, though the party has not confirmed that.

    All three networks have also said they plan to cover only three hours of the Republican convention in New York the week of Aug. 30, including one hour that Tuesday, when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak, one hour on Wednesday to cover Vice President Cheney's speech and one hour on Thursday to cover President Bush's speech.

    Paramount Domestic Television officially announced Monday that Pat O'Brien will host its new "Entertainment Tonight" spinoff "The Insider," set to debut Sept. 13.

    The announcement comes a month after NBC Universal said it was replacing O'Brien as host of its tabloid show "Access Hollywood" with Billy Bush.

    O'Brien told The TV Column in June that NBC was forced to announce his replacement as a "preemptive strike" because he was preparing to join the soon-to-be-rival "Insider." "Access Hollywood" executive producer Rob Silverstein countered days later in the trade publication TV Week that Bush was to be O'Brien's successor "sooner or later" and that O'Brien's expiring contract made the decision "inevitable."

    Bush will debut as "Access Hollywood" co-anchor with Nancy O'Dell on Aug. 12 from the Summer Games in Athens.

    NBC also announced Monday that it has renewed Silverstein's contract as "Access Hollywood" executive producer. He will remain with the show "well into the eight-year-old newsmagazine's second decade," according to a statement.

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    DVDs that commit suicide are also murder on the environment

    Next time you’re visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, making sure to slather on sunscreen to protect you and the kiddies from the shrinking ozone layer, you ought to stop at Epcot. While gaping at sure-fire attractions such as “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” and “Mission: Space,” you might also unearth a short film called “The Circle of Life.” It’s Walt Disney World’s token tribute to ecology.

    According to Disney World’s website, “The Circle of Life” features The Lion King’s laissez-faire meercat Timon, who, true to form, “wants to open a non-ecological resort.” Hakuna matata not!

    Fortunately, Pumbaa and Simba convince him to “realize how important the different kinds of plants and animals are to the health of the planet. After all, they’re part of the Circle of Life.”

    Back in Burbank, Disney execs have overlooked this lesson.

    They’ve cooked up a new marketing scheme that ought to be illegal. I like to think of it as Disney’s little Circle of Trash: a round disc of disposable plastic called an ez-D.

    The ez-D is a DVD with a full-length movie. In addition, using espionage tech that would sic the entire Kim Possible team on its parent company, it’s coated with a chemical layer that turns black in 48 hours. Two days after you slash the shrink wrap, the flick commits suicide.

    The geeks at New York’s Flexplay Technologies (www.flexplay.com) concocted the ez-D, but it’s the geniuses at Disney subsidiary Buena Vista Entertainment who are promoting it.

    Last year, marketing trials began in Peoria, Ill.; Kansas City, Mo.; Charleston, S.C., and Austin, Texas, at groceries and convenience marts. Recently, Disney expanded the test to larger cities: Phoenix, San Antonio, Denver, and even Orlando, home of Disney World’s ecology lesson. During the new campaign, folks can pick up a disposa-flick at quickie stores such as those run by Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc.

    Many of the 52 current Buena Vista ez-Ds are anything but disposable, including high-caliber titles “High Fidelity,” “Chicago,” “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and “The Quiet American” (see video.movies.go.com/ez-d/). It’s a shame they’re destined for a chemical version of a censor’s black magic marker.

    So what possessed the execs to sell these things? The ez-D website explains, “Never pay late fees again.” Flexplay calls its invention “the no return, no late fee movie rental.” Apparently, marketers believe there’s an untapped market of people who hate returning movie rentals so much they’ll pay $5.99 — slightly less than the average rental plus a late fee — to avoid that hateful chore.

    If that logic is making your head spin worse than Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist,” consider this: A Buena Vista suicidal DVD is identical, except for the extra chemical coating, to a brand new disc that won’t off itself. Yet it’s up to four times cheaper than one that doesn’t decay outside the shrink wrap. This proves what everyone suspected: DVDs are overpriced.

    Knowing that shovelfuls of black discs would make environmentalists turn green over ez-Ds, Buena Vista didn’t dare release them without a recycling plan. Mulching old DVDs into new jewel boxes is being supervised by GreenDisk (www.greendisk.com). Fill out GreenDisk’s web form with up to five UPC product codes and the company will instantly e-mail you a postage-paid return label. To test GreenDisk’s claim, I Googled a UPC code for an ez-D movie (“The Rookie,” UPC 786936240993), plugged it into the form, and sure enough, in seconds my printable mailing label arrived. I’ll be using it to send them this column.

    Because ... well, rewind a few paragraphs and refresh your memory: ez-Ds are being marketed as a way to avoid returning them (one press release calls them “the disposable rental”).

    Therefore, the target consumers aren’t likely to take the trouble to recycle them, are they?

    And who needs GreenDisk anyway? Wasn’t renting already recycling, before ez-D came along? After the rental chains are through promoting them, they recycle them again as used product.

    Eventually, they’ll turn up for a third incarnation in secondhand shops.

    Mark Steiner, manager of Louisville’s Great Escape, one of several area stores that buys and sells previously owned movies, knows the difference between a deal and a deal killer. “It doesn’t look like what they’re offering is a bargain,” he says of the ez-D. “Those are disks you can get on the secondhand market for a lower price, and they’ll last forever.”

    So a big thumbs down to ez-Ds, a product that charges a late fee to future generations, so to speak, an idea so wasteful it ought to be illegal, brought to you by the corporation that teaches kids about “The Circle of Life.” Pumbaa and Simba would be disappointed.

    That’s this week’s Technicalities.

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                                                            Thursday
    July 15, 2004

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    Walt Disney's Failures Could Inspire Entrepreneurs


    You are a struggling entrepreneur and sometimes it feels like you are pushing a 3 ton boulder up a steep hill. Costs keep mounting and you are considering giving up. Well before you do, check out these 10 setbacks that Walt Disney had, some were financial nightmares that put him millions of dollars in the red:

    1) Walt formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921. He made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. Flushed with success, he began to experiment with new storytelling techniques, his costs went up and then the distributor went bankrupt. He was forced to dissolve his company and at one point could not pay his rent and was surviving by eating dog food.

    2) Walt created a mildly successful cartoon character in 1926 called Oswald the Rabbit. When he tried to negotiate with his distributor, Universal Studios, for better rates for each cartoon, he was informed that Universal had obtained ownership of the Oswald character and they had hired Disney's artists out from under him.

    3) When Walt tried to get MGM studios to distribute Mickey Mouse in 1927 he was told that the idea would never work-- a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.

    4) The Three Little Pigs was rejected by distributors in 1933 because it only had four characters, it was felt at that time that cartoons should have as many figures on the screen as possible. It later became very successful and played at one theater so long that the poster outside featured the pigs with long white beards.

    5) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was sneak previewed to College Students in 1937 who left halfway during the film causing Disney great despair. It turned out the students had to leave early because of dorm curfew.

    6) Pinocchio in 1940 became extra expensive because Walt shut down the production to make the puppet more sympathetic than the lying juvenile delinquent as presented in the original Carlo Collodi story. He also resurrected a minor character, an unnamed cricket who tried to tell Pinocchio the difference between right and wrong until the puppet killed him with the mallet. Excited by the development of Jiminy Cricket plus the revamped, misguided rather than rotten Pinocchio, Walt poured extra money into the film's special effects and it ended up losing a million dollars in it's first release.

    7) For the premiere of Pinocchio Walt hired 11 midgets, dressed them up like the little puppet and put them on top of Radio City Music Hall in New York with a full day's supply of food and wine. The idea was they would wave hello to the little children entering into the theater. By the middle of the hot afternoon, there were 11 drunken naked midgets running around the top of the marquee, screaming obscenities at the crowd below. The most embarrassed people were the police who had to climb up ladders and take the little fellows off in pillowcases.

    8) Walt never lived to see Fantasia become a success. 1940 audiences were put off by it's lack of a story. Also the final scene, The Night On Bald Mountain sequence with the devil damning the souls of the dead, was considered unfit for children.

    9) In 1942, Walt was in attendance for the premiere of Bambi. In the dramatic scene where Bambi's mother died, Bambi was shown wandering through the meadow shouting," Mother! Where are you, Mother?" A teenage girl seated in the balcony shouted out, " Here I am Bambi!" The audience broke into laughter except for the red-faced Walt who concluded correctly that war-time was not the best time to release a film about the love-life of a deer.

    10) The sentimental Pollyanna in 1960 made Walt cry at the studio screening but failed at the box office. Walt concluded that the title was off-putting for young boys.

    Walt was human, he suffered through many fits of anger and depression through his many trials. Yet he learned from each setback, and continued to take even bigger risks which combined with the wisdom that experiencing failure can provide, led to fabulous financial rewards.
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    Wicked Star Chenoweth Up for Disney's "Rapunzel" with Tesori Songs

    Wicked witch Kristin Chenoweth is up for a role as another fairy tale diva in the upcoming Walt Disney animated film "Rapunzel: Unbraided," possibly featuring songs by Caroline, or Change composer Jeanine Tesori, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

    The trade magazine purports that the Broadway blonde would voice the long-locked, tower beauty opposite film's "Legally Blonde" actress Reese Witherspoon. Glen Keane (supervising animator "Tarzan" and "Beauty and the Beast") is set to direct the project.

    "Rapunzel: Unbraided" reportedly follows the modern-day fairy tale of a girl (Witherspoon) and boy thrown into the world of the title character filled with ogres, fairy tale characters and, yes, witches.

    Chenoweth ends her reign as Glinda the Good in Wicked July 18. The actress will be seen on the big screen in the upcoming films "The Pink Panther" and "Bewitched." She has previously appeared on Broadway in Steel Pier, Epic Proportions and her Tony Award-winning turn in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Her television movie turns include the ABC musicals "Annie" and "The Music Man."

    Composer Tesori, who penned Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie and Caroline, or Change, previously worked with Disney on the yet-to-be-released sequels to "Mulan" and "Lilo and Stitch". She has also teamed with Chenoweth on the NBC series "Kristin" and the song "The Girl in 14-G" featured on her solo album, "Let Yourself Go With Rob Fisher and the Coffee Club Orchestra."
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    ABC Fall Series Premiere Dates

    -The Benefactor: Monday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m. ET - premiere
    -Monday Night Football: Sept. 13, 9 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -My Wife and Kids: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -George Lopez: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 8:30 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -According To Jim: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 9 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Rodney: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 9:30 p.m. - premiere
    -NYPD Blue: Tuesday, Sept. 21, 10 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Lost: Wednesday, Sept. 22, 8 p.m. ET - premiere
    -The Bachelor: Wednesday, Sept. 22, 9 p.m. ET - season premiere (two hours)
    -Extreme Makeover: Thursday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -life as we know it: Thursday, Sept. 23, 9 p.m. ET - premiere
    -8 Simple Rules: Friday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Complete Savages: Friday, Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m. ET - premiere
    -Hope & Faith: Friday, Sept. 24, 9 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Less Than Perfect: Friday, Sept. 24, 9:30 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Wonderful World Of Disney: Saturday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -America's Funniest Home Videos: Sunday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: Sunday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET - season premiere
    -Desperate Housewives: Sunday, Sept. 26, 9 p.m. ET - premiere
    -Boston Legal: Sunday, Sept. 26, 10 p.m. ET - premiere
    -Wife Swap: Wednesday, Sept. 29, 10 p.m. ET - premiere
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    The Walt Disney Company Executives To Discuss Fiscal Third Quarter 2004 Financial Results Via Webcast

    Senior executives of The Walt Disney Company will discuss fiscal third quarter 2004 financial results via a live webcast beginning at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 (results will be released at 4:01 p.m. EDT).

    To listen to the webcast, point your browser to www.disney.com/investors. The discussion will be available via re-play through August 17, 2004 at 4:00 p.m. PDT.
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    Affleck ends talks to be in 'Glory Road'

    Ben Affleck has ended negotiations with Walt Disney Pictures to play Texas Western basketball coach Don Haskins in the movie "Glory Road."

    "He's not going to do it," Ken Sunshine, a spokesman for Affleck, said Wednesday. "We're not going to get into any details. ... It will be a good project for somebody."

    Haskin's 1966 team was the first ever to win a national title with five black starters.

    "We're looking for other actors," said Claire Cooper, the movie's unit publicist. "We still plan to start production in August."

    Haskins, who coached 38 years at the school now known as the University of Texas at El Paso, said last week he'd heard Affleck had yet to sign his deal.

    "I'm disappointed, but I know they'll find the right person," Haskins said.

    Haskins has always been a reluctant hero about his role in changing sports history, saying he simply picked the best players for the 72-65 win over Kentucky's heavily favored and all-white basketball powerhouse.

    After the victory, universities all over the country increased their recruiting of black players.

    Trade journals reported Wednesday that Disney is considering Josh Lucas, who has appeared in Ang Lee's "Hulk," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "A Beautiful Mind. Cooper said she couldn't confirm that Lucas is under consideration. 
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    Kim Possible 2: Drakken's Demise Review

    Generally when you get a package from a game company that touts the success of their product to kids 6-11 yrs old, you just have a feeling you’re going to hate the next few hours of your life. So when I got Kim Possible 2: Drakken’s Demise I shuddered at the time I had to spend in order to review the title, and even though I could never recommend it to anyone outside the target audience, I swear to you I actually had fun playing the game.

    We’re not talking Splinter Cell kind of fun, but if you happen to turn on your GBA and find this title already in it (say your little sister was playing it), don’t immediately turn it off. Spend a few minutes playing – you might find yourself enjoying the time you wasted.

    Kim Possible is a hugely popular Disney brand, that reaches hundreds of millions of kids in North America alone, and in Quarter 4 2003 managed to reach 60% of ALL kids in America between 6-11. That’s the age group this game is targeted at, and I can’t think of any world in which a female 6-11 yr old wouldn’t absolutely love this game.

    Despite the fact the combat system is beyond easy to understand (done by simply pressing B button), even experienced players may find little nuggets on each level that require a little bit of timing, and precision gaming. In Kim Possible 2: Drakken’s Demise you use B button to attack, A to jump, L to switch between special gadgets, and R to use your special gadgets. Not exactly hard to master, but trust me when I say you’ll get flashback of the old Aladdin game on the Genesis, that was so widely loved back then. It’s not that good a game, but you’ll find glimpses of that in Possible 2. You’ll play through 16 levels, and do battle with 5 new enemies, while getting help from your TV friends.

    I’m not going to spend one page worth of time intricately reviewing this title, because quite frankly the title isn’t even aimed at a crowd that would read through such a thing. Rest assured though, if you’re a parent looking to buy something for your kid aged 6-11 yrs old, and you happen to see they’re watching Kim Possible on Saturday mornings (and you SHOULD be keeping tabs on what your kids are watching!!!), this is well worth the purchase. They’ll love the fact they’re playing as Kim Possible; they’ll love the fact it’s based on one of their favorite shows; and you’ll be happy knowing it’s aimed squarely at your little one.

    Stay away from this title if you’re older then 11, but for anyone else I can’t recommend it enough. The review score by the way reflects the age it was targeted at – if you are outside of the 6-11 age group, check the low part of the range, because that’s how this game will score for you.
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Memorial Services for Legendary Disney Imagineer Sam McKim Announced

    Sam McKim, the legendary Disney Imagineer who drew the first souvenir maps of Disneyland in 1954 and went on to a spectacular 32-year career with Disney lending his artistic vision to many popular theme park locations and attractions, died of heart failure on Friday July 9th at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 79 years old. In addition to his Disney career, McKim started out as a child actor who appeared in films with John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Gene Autry.

    Commenting on McKim's passing, Marty Sklar, vice-chairman and principal creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, said, "Sam's early sketches for Disneyland's Main Street and Frontierland are inspirational to Imagineers -- among the very best ever drawn for Walt Disney theme park attractions. He was the quintessential researcher; you always knew he would dig out the real gems for our stories, especially for historical subjects. He had incredible talent and was as fine a gentleman as you would ever want to know."

    McKim joined WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) as an illustrator in 1954, six months before the opening of Disneyland. His initial assignments included sketches for attractions, shops, and restaurants for Main Street and Frontierland, including the Golden Horseshoe Revue. His early work as a Disney artist also touched several of the Studio's films, including "Zorro," "Johnny Tremain," "The Shaggy Dog," "The Gnome-Mobile," and "Nikki, Wild Dog of the North." He went on to play a key role at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, for which he contributed sketches for all four Disney attractions ("Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "It's a Small World," "Carousel of Progress," and "Magic Skyway.") His paintings also helped introduce the public to the "Haunted Mansion" and the Monorail at Disneyland, and the "Hall of Presidents" at the Magic Kingdom. Later, his artwork contributed to the story development of Epcot pavilions, including the Universe of Energy, and the Disney-MGM Studios, including "The Great Movie Ride."

    John Hench, the late great Disney Imagineer who passed away earlier this year, once observed of McKim, "Sam was the greatest to work with. He loved Disney, and his enthusiasm was always contagious. Once he got involved in anything, no matter how problematic, you always knew everything was going to be okay. If I ever needed to hear the truth about something, I always went to Sam."

    Born in Canada on December 20, 1924, McKim came to Los Angeles as a young boy and became a child actor, working with many of the top stars of the day. In fact, he didn't get the first Disney position he wanted, after auditioning for the voice of Pinocchio in the 1930s. After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, McKim enrolled in Art Center College of Design. The day after he graduated, he was called back to the Army to serve in Korea, where he earned several medals and honors, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Bronze Star. Upon returning to the States, he took acting roles as well as advanced art classes at the Chouinard Art Institute.

    McKim recalled, "John Ford offered me a supporting lead in 'The Long Gray Line' with Tyrone Power, Maureen O'Hara and Ward Bond. Would you believe I turned it down to become an artist? I started at 20th Century Fox, then moved to Disney for a temp job, and didn't leave until I retired 32 years later."

    As one of a select group of Disney theme park cartographers, McKim's "fun maps" charted the layouts of Disneyland (several editions), the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Tom Sawyer Island," and Disneyland Paris.

    Following his retirement from Imagineering in 1987, McKim remained connected with WDI and Disney. In addition to appearances at Disney fan events and consulting work, his two sons both worked for Disney -- Matt for Imagineering, and Brian for Feature Animation. He also continued to be active in the arts. His work can be found in the U.S. Air Force and L.A. County Sheriff Department Collections, as well as in private collections.

    McKim is survived by his wife, Dorothy; son Matt; son Brian and his wife, Dorothy, and their two children, Tyler and Natalie. A graveside service will take place this Friday (7/16) at 2:30 at Pierce Brothers Valhalla (10621 Victory Boulevard) in North Hollywood. A memorial service will follow at 4:30 at First Christian Church of North Hollywood (4390 Colfax Ave.) in Studio City. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in McKim's name to the American Heart Association (Gift Processing Dept., 1710 Gilbreth Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or online at www.americanheart-donate.org).
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    Sam McKim's Artwork to Be Exhibited in Anahein July 18th

    Louis Garcia's Just for Fun Disneyana Show & Sale will feature a tribute to Sam McKim by Blaine Gibson, Harriet Burns and Bob Gurr on Sunday, July 18th. In addition, Sam's son Matt will be bringdown a lot of Sam McKim's artwork for the tribute. The show and sale will be held at the Coast Anaheim Hotel in Anaheim, California (1855 South Harbor Blvd) from 10a to 4p. Admission is $3. For additional information, call 714-835-3617.
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    Muppet Site to Relaunch Fall 2004

    Go check out Kermit displaying his Disney spirit.

    http://muppets.disney.go.com/
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    Hidalgo: Available on DVD August 3rd

    Hollywood superstar Viggo Mortensen (“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”) stars in the action-adventure tale HIDALGO, coming to DVD and VHS on August 3 from Touchstone Home Entertainment. This rousing film is based on the incredible true story of Frank
    T. Hopkins, who with his horse Hidalgo defy all odds as they attempt the impossible and compete in the legendary “Ocean of Fire,” a grueling 3,000 mile race across the Arabian Desert. On DVD this riproaring thrill ride also uncovers the secrets behind the movie’s amazing special effects.

    Available on DVD in separate widescreen and fullscreen versions for $29.99 (S.R.P.) and on VHS for $24.99 (S.R.P.).

    On DVD, HIDALGO’s bonus materials include “Sand & Celluloid,” a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the film; and “America’s First Horse,” a historic look at the Spanish Mustang.

    HIDALGO is an epic action-adventure and one man’s journey of personal redemption. Based on the life of Frank T. Hopkins, his legend comes to life when one of the greatest riders the American west has ever known is pitted against the world’s finest Arabian horses and racers. Onetime cowboy Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) was once billed as a living legend, but in fact the glory days for Hopkins and his beloved horse, a mustang named Hidalgo, are past. Outcasts from their own land, Frank and Hidalgo both have something to prove when Hopkins becomes the first American invited to enter the Ocean of Fire, a grueling 3,000-mile survival race across the punishing terrain of the Arabian Desert. With his competitors vowing victory, the race becomes not only a matter of pride and honor, but a fight for survival as they attempt the impossible. This spectacular adventure also stars Omar Sharif (“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Doctor Zhivago”).

    HIDALGO is written by John Fusco. Directed by Joe Johnston (“Jurassic Park III,” “Jumanji”).

    STREET DATE: AUGUST 3, 2004
    Direct prebook: June 8, 2004
    Distributor prebook: June 22, 2004
    Suggested retail price: $29.99 (DVD); $24.99 (VHS)
    DVD aspect ratios: 2.35:1 formatted for 16x9 presentation size
    or 1.33:1 formatted for 4x3 presentation size
    Total run time: Approximately 136 minutes
    Rating: “PG-13” For Adventure Violence
    And Some Mild Innuendo
    Bonus Material Not Rated
    DVD Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
    DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
    THX Certified
    French subtitles: On DVD
    French language track: On DVD
    Spanish subtitles: On DVD
    Spanish language track: On DVD
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Princess Diaries Special Edition: Available on DVD August 3rd

    Walt Disney Home Entertainment presents THE PRINCESS DIARIES in a 2-disc SPECIAL EDITION DVD available August 3. This deluxe version of acclaimed director Gary Marshall’s (director of "Pretty Woman," "Runaway Bride" and more) hilarious, hip and heartwarming modern day Cinderella story includes bonus materials that go behind-the-scenes and give audiences a backstage pass for this enchanting film. This Special Edition includes both full-screen and widescreen viewing formats; outtakes and bloopers; "Livin’ Like A Princess" featurette; deleted scenes with director introductions; two audio commentaries (with stars Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway; and director Garry Marshall); the "A New Princess" featurette; Myra and Krystal Harris music videos, and more. (Please see attached for bonus material details.)

    The story of a shy San Francisco teenager who suddenly learns she’s a real-life princess, Disney’s THE PRINCESS DIARIES features a sparkling cast starring Academy Award. winner Julie Andrews (Best Actress, 1964, "Mary Poppins"), Anne Hathaway (upcoming "Ella Enchanted"), Hector Elizondo ("Tortilla Soup"), Heather Matarazzo ("Welcome to the Dollhouse"), popular recording artist Mandy Moore, Robert Schwartzman ("The Virgin Suicides") and Erik Von Detten ("Recess: School’s Out"). Screenplay by Gina Wendkos, based on the novel by Meg Cabot.

    THE PRINCESS DIARIES SPECIAL EDITION 2-disc Disney DVD is available for $29.99

    DISC ONE

    • Full Screen Version of the film
    • Eight deleted scenes, with introductions by director Garry Marshall
    • A New Princess – behind the scenes featurette
    • Miracles Happen – Myra Music Video
    • Supergirl – Krystal Music Video

    DISC TWO

    • Widescreen version of the film
    • All-new Outtakes and Bloopers
    • All-new "Livin’ Like A Princess" – a look at the lives of real princesses and what it really takes to be a royal
    • All-new Enhanced Computer Features –screensavers, door signs, and more
    • All-new exclusive sneak peek behind the scenes look at the upcoming feature film, "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement"
    • Audio commentaries:
    The Ultimate Tea Party with Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway Commentary with director Garry Marshall
    • Royal Engagement: A Princess Diaries 2 sneak peek

    Veteran producer, director and writer Garry Marshall is one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood. His many filmmaking credits include the hit comedies "Runaway Bride" and "Pretty Woman," both starring Julia Roberts. Some of Marshall’s other films include "The Other Sister," "Frankie and Johnny," "Beaches," "Overboard," "Nothing In Common" and "The Flamingo Kid." Marshall has created and executive produced some of the longest-running, most celebrated and award-winning comedies in American television history, including "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," "The Odd Couple" and "Mork and Mindy."

    In THE PRINCESS DIARIES, socially awkward yet bright San Francisco teenager Mia Thermopolis (Hathaway) is thrown for a loop when, from out of the blue, she learns the astonishing news that she’s a real-life princess. As the heir apparent to the crown of the small European principality of Genovia, Mia begins a hysterical journey toward the throne when her strict and formidable grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Andrews) arrives to give her "princess lessons." It’s a comical transformation toward princess-ness when Mia finds herself in the middle of a media storm, jealous schoolmates and a takeover plot of her country in this funny, uplifting and affirming comedy classic.

    STREET DATE: August 3, 2004
    Direct Prebook: June 8, 2004
    Distributor Prebook: June 22, 2004
    Rated: G
    Bonus features unrated
    Feature Run Time: Approximately 115 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 1.85:1 formatted for 16x9 screens and Fullscreen 1.33:1 formatted for 4x3 screens
    Sound: Dolby. Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
    Suggested Retail Price: DVD $29.99 SRP
    French Language Track: Available
    French Subtitles: Available
    Spanish Subtitles: Available

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    Wednesday July 14, 2004
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    ASIMO visit to Epcot a good time

    ASIMO the robot built by Honda put on a great show at Epcot's World Showplace. The little robot had several shows a day from July 1st - 11th and some lucky kids got to meet and even dance with ASIMO.

     
     
     
     

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    Latest Everest Photos


    Here are the latest photos of Animal Kingdom's Everest. The top photo shows the scenery changing to the far left is the top of The Tree of Life and to the far right the current top of Everest. both looking just about even in height but of course Everest will soon surpass that height.







      
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    Disney counting on Shyamalan success
     
    The Walt Disney Co. is counting on spooky film master M. Night Shyamalan, a crooning Julie Andrews and a family of aging superheroes to rescue it from a cold streak that even the legendary King Arthur couldn't slay.

    The studio, which last year produced a record $3 billion US in worldwide box office revenue, has yet to have one film hit the $100 million US mark domestically -- despite high hopes for movies such as The Alamo, Home on the Range, and Hidalgo.

    And with a first weekend take of only $15.2 million US, it doesn't look like the historic epic King Arthur, a Jerry Bruckheimer film starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, will make it either.

    "We're in a slump," Disney head of distribution Chuck Viane said Tuesday. "We're not pleased with our performance in the first half of the year."

    King Arthur cost about $150 million US to make and market, according to analysts, and may never turn a profit, despite its expected international appeal.

    The slump will not affect Disney's profits this year, thanks to huge profits generated by home video sales of last year's hits, including Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

    Disney's studio has already produced more operating income in the first three quarters of this year than it did in all of fiscal 2003, fuelled mainly by DVD releases.

    But without a big box-office hit, Disney will be left with little to fill next year's home-video pipeline.

    "It will leave a gap in the first quarter of 2005," said Harold Vogel of Vogel Capital Management. "That's where the pain will probably be most felt."

    Things could conceivably turn in the second half for Disney, which will release the supernatural thriller The Village, from Sixth Sense director Shyamalan in two weeks.

    Disney is also counting on the sequel Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement, in which Julie Andrews sings on screen for the first time in years.

    Other films this year include Ladder 49 with John Travolta and the animated The Incredibles, from Pixar Animation Studios, about a family of superheroes past their prime.

    "I'm about to be on a hot streak," Viane said.

    Still, the slump comes at a critical time for Disney and its chief executive, Michael Eisner, who has pledged the company will increase its profits by more than 50 per cent in the fiscal year that ends in September and by double digits each year through 2007.

    Dramatic revenue and profit growth at Disney's theme parks is expected to offset the falloff in profits at the film studio, analysts say. And growth at Disney's cable networks and at ABC could also help the company's profit outlook.

    But the disappointing studio results leave little margin for error.

    "The company is under a lot of pressure," said Paul Kim, an analyst at Tradition Asiel Securities. "It's not necessarily going to be a rosy 2005."
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________
    Give Disney Some Credit

    It seems only months ago that credit rating agencies were threatening to downgrade Comcast if it went through with its proposed acquisition of Disney From sandbag to free bird, Standard & Poor's is now upgrading Disney's corporate credit rating.

    While the tweak may not seem like much -- going from negative to stable -- it's a step in the right direction. However, the timing may at first appear peculiar. 

    • Interest rates are rising, spiking the borrowing costs of such leveraged companies as Disney.

    • Just last week CEO Michael Eisner suggested that Disney should hike its dividend, pleasing shareholders but creating an even larger payout burden for the company's cash flow.

    • This past weekend's dismal opening for King Arthur indicates that the company will need to lance a lot to keep pace with last year's theatrical successes.

    So, are the S&P folks looking to make creditors more poor than standard? Of course not. S&P knows all about Eisner's words and, yes, it remembers The Alamo. But Disney is humming along nicely with plenty of leeway to overcome plumper yields and box-office duds. An improving economy will make the turnstiles click faster at its theme parks and a healthier advertising market will work wonders for its network business.

    While Disney is looking to earn just $0.98 a share this year -- near the $0.97 a share it earned three years ago -- it sees double-digit earnings growth from here on out.

    While there are plenty of long-term concerns, like how it will fill the Pixar void with a skeletal animation crew come 2006 or how the company's recent wave of celluloid turkeys will fare in the home video and DVD market, the near term is encouraging.

    Just as significant is that the two live-action movies that may prove to save Disney's summer -- M. Night Shyamalan's classy The Village and the feel-good Princess Diaries 2 -- are still weeks away from their curtain calls.

    So give Disney some credit. S&P apparently thinks the company has earned it.
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    Witherspoon in talks on Disney pic

    'Legally Blonde' star Reese Witherspoon is in talks to voice a new animated movie from Disney called 'Rapunzel Unbraided'.

    Variety says that the all-CGI film is described as a new version of the fairytale, but with a twist.

    Disney has not set a release date for the film.

    Witherspoon has previously voiced the animated movie 'The Trumpet of the Swan'.
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    Disney PJs face test 

    A MAJOR high street store is carrying out its own independent tests on Disney kids' pyjamas at the centre of a health scare.

    And the store says it will remove the PJs from its shelves if the fears of two Ulster MPs, Iris Robinson and Lady Sylvia Hermon, prove correct.

    The two Ulster women are among 38 British MPs who have signed a House of Commons motion, which claims the pyjamas contain "highly toxic" chemicals.

    As Sunday Life revealed last month, the motion claims the "extremely dangerous" chemicals could damage kids' livers, kidneys and testicles.

    Debenhams is currently conducting scientific tests on the items, and will urge all stores to remove them if the results are positive.

    Said a Debenhams' spokeswoman: "The company's head of quality assurance is currently investigating this issue.

    "Our product complies with current legislation, but they could be removed from stores if results prove they are not up to safety standards."

    Disney insists its products could NOT damage children's health.

    The Commons motion follows claims by Greenpeace that scientific tests had found toxic chemicals in cartoon motifs on the pyjama tops, which feature the characters Buzz Lightyear, Piglet and Tigger.

    But a Disney spokeswoman said: "The Walt Disney Company takes all matters related to product safety very seriously.

    "Disney requires that Disney products - including pyjamas - are tested to, and conform to, safety standards set by the European Commission and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission."

    Lady Hermon, Mrs Robinson and leading Liberal Democrat, Simon Hughes, are among the MPs who have backed the Early Day Motion by Sussex Lib Dem MP, Norman Baker.

    The motion states: "This House condemns the use of highly-toxic chemicals in Disney's children's pyjamas."
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    Disney digs deep

    The Walt Disney Company declined to distribute Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11, but it will decide which charities benefit from its success.

    When Bob and Harvey Weinstein purchased the controversial film from Disney subsidiary Miramax for $US6 million ($A8.27 million), Disney said it would donate any profits from the movie to charity.

    Those donations could be substantial as the film passed $US80 million ($A110.32 million) in box office sales this week. Disney is slated to get about 60 per cent of the net profits, after Moore and film distributors get their shares, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    To date, Disney has not specified which charities will benefit from the movie that criticises President George W Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

    Based on its past giving, it's likely that Disney will choose nonprofit organisations involved with children, the environment or the arts. The Fortune 500 company regularly gives to groups like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund.

    Another possible beneficiary would be the Points of Light Foundation - a Washington, DC-based charity founded in 1990 by former President George Bush to promote volunteerism. Last year, Disney gave the nonpartisan group more than $US250,000 ($A345,000).

    And what is Moore's view on his movie possibly benefiting a Bush-related charity?

    Moore's spokeswoman Sarah Greenberg referred questions to Disney. A Disney spokeswoman did not return calls made today.
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    French officials seize fake Disney panties

    French customs officials in Nice seized counterfeit underwear carrying the Walt Disney Co. brand. Had they been genuine, the goods would have been worth $1.1 million, a customs official said.

    The 101,460 items of women's underwear, with pictures of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, were discovered in a truck driven by two Bulgarian nationals who are now in police custody. The truck was headed to Italy.

    Counterfeit goods frequently arrive in France from East Asian countries and Turkey and are shipped to Eastern Europe and South America.

    Last week, 100,000 pairs of counterfeit Chanel eyeglasses were seized near Paris.
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    TRON 2.0: Killer App for Xbox Rocks With Adrenaline-Pumping Music From Breaking Benjamin

    Game Soundtrack to Include Songs From Breaking Benjamin's New Smash CD WE ARE NOT ALONE

    Aiming to deliver gamers with one of the most explosive multiplayer gaming experiences, Buena Vista Interactive, a publishing label of Buena Vista Games, Inc., today announced that the soundtrack for its highly anticipated title TRON 2.0: Killer App for the Xbox® video game system from Microsoft will feature songs from the popular rock band Breaking Benjamin. Scheduled for release this fall, the game's specially-created Xbox(TM) Live multiplayer levels will offer 11 tracks from the band's just released, chart topping CD WE ARE NOT ALONE and debut CD SATURATE for gamers to enjoy while battling opponents in traditional online combat modes and distinctive TRON game play modes including overRIDE and squad-based combat.

    Tracks slated for inclusion consist of the new hit single "So Cold," as well as "Simple Design," "Follow Me," "Break My Fall," "Breakdown" and "Away and Believe," all from WE ARE NOT ALONE. "Wish I May," the smash hit "Polyamorus" and "Skin" from the band's debut album SATURATE are also included.

    "I'm a huge Xbox fan and love playing video games while I'm touring on the road. Having the opportunity to have our music featured in TRON 2.0 is a very cool thing, and I can't wait to play the game with the rest of the band," said Ben Burnley, lead singer of Breaking Benjamin.

    "Music is such an important part of video games, so when planning TRON 2.0: Killer App's Xbox Live multiplayer levels, we knew the soundtrack had to feature music that reflects the energy of the game play," said Bob Picunko, director of product marketing at Buena Vista Games. "With its raw, hypnotic, edgy vibe, Breaking Benjamin's music plays perfectly into the TRON 2.0 experience."

    About Breaking Benjamin

    Breaking Benjamin's new album WE ARE NOT ALONE entered Billboard's Top 200 at #20 fueled by impressive first week sales of 48,000. Released on June 29, WE ARE NOT ALONE is the eagerly awaited follow-up to their successful 2002 debut SATURATE that featured the band's first radio hit, "Polyamorous." Breaking Benjamin's new single "So Cold" has been exploding at active and alternative rock radio. The video is in regular rotation at Fuse and MTV2. WE ARE NOT ALONE features three ambitious tracks co-written by the band's Ben Burnley and ex Smashing Pumpkin's frontman Billy Corgan.

    Signed to Hollywood Records, the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania-based quartet is comprised of Ben Burnley - vocalist/guitar; Aaron Fink - guitar; Markus James - Bass; and Jeremy Hummel. Breaking Benjamin will join Evanescence on a North American tour, starting July 11 in Chicago, Ill. For more information on the band, check out http://www.breakingbenjamin.com/.

    About TRON 2.0: Killer App for Xbox

    Players are digitized inside the world of a war-ravaged computer system on the verge of collapse from a seemingly unstoppable army of corrupt programs lead by the evil "user" Thorne. As Thorne's relentless army grows, it infects helpless programs, converting them into savage digital mercenaries aimed at spreading viral agents throughout the system. The security forces in the system struggle to quarantine the corruption, but they are hopelessly outnumbered by the mounting army of infected programs. Only a human "user" inside the computer world can even the odds. Armed with an arsenal of powerful digital weapons, players face off in epic, action-packed warfare along side security forces and against legions of horribly mutated programs as you fight to stop the corruption from spreading and bringing down computer systems worldwide. Currently in development by Climax's Los Angeles studio, TRON 2.0: Killer App will feature new, exclusive Xbox(TM) Live multiplayer combat, specially designed to deliver gamers a state-of-the-art online multiplayer gaming experience.
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    Disney: July Exhibits Posted at Disney Family Museum Online

    The Walt Disney Family Museum July exhibits include several tributes to Mary Poppins, including the insights of British writer and documentarian Brian Sibley.

    http://disney.go.com/disneyatoz/waltdisney/whatsnew.html

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    The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe stars finally revealed

    The four young stars in Andrew Adamson's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe have finally revealed themselves to the world.

    All four were involved in a cricket game being filmed in the grounds of Monte Cecilia House in Hillsborough when Prime Minister Helen Clark visited the set today.

    Their names have been a closely guarded secret despite working around Auckland for the past month.

    The actors are: Georgie Henley, 9, from West Yorkshire, who plays the lead character Lucy; Skandar Keynes, 12, from London, who plays Edmund; Anna Popplewell, 15, also from London, who plays Susan; and William Moseley, 17, from Gloucestershire, who plays the eldest brother Peter.

    Popplewell, the veteran of the group, has appeared in five previous movies, including Girl with a Pearl Earring and Mansfield Park, as well as three television series. Keynes has played a young Enzo Ferrari in an Italian biographical movie.

    These are the first movie roles for Moseley and Henley, who despite her youth, has been a regular participant in England's Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts.

    Nine-year-old Henley said she was tired, but is very excited to be involved in the movie.

    "It is quite tiring and it was a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone is doing everything they can to help, so it's cool."

    She said her father and sister have been in Auckland for the past three weeks and her mother will be staying with her throughout the filming.

    Moseley said he was enjoying the work, but was feeling a little homesick for his village near Stroud in the Cotswolds. "You don't know what you have until it's not there anymore," he said.

    The Hillsborough location will serve as the grounds of the country mansion where Lucy finds the wardrobe portal to the Kingdom of Narnia. The mansion which will seen in the movie will be computer generated.

    Helen Clark said it was always fun to visit a film set and meet the talent, "especially when it means a great deal to the New Zealand economy and our film industry. We are obviously looking at possibilities for getting some leverage out of it, as we did with Lord of the Rings. It's all good for the country."

    Production manager Tim Coddington said everything is on schedule and they have another ten days of outdoor shooting to get through in Auckland before the crew moves to the South Island in mid-October. Most of the filming has been conducted on the indoor set built in the old Hobsonville air force base.

    James Cosmo, who played Campbell in Braveheart and Mr Renton in Trainspotting, has been confirmed for the role of Father Christmas.

    He will join the other cast members so far named: Tilda Swinton (the White Witch), Dawn French (the voice of Mrs Beaver), James McAvoy (Mr Tumnus) and Rupert Everett (the voice of The Fox).

    A spokesman for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe denied all reports that Australian actor Nicole Kidman will be involved in the movie.
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    Young Peter Pans Have Plastic Swords Confiscated by Customs

    Two-year-old twins had their dream Disneyland holiday ruined – when French airport customs officers swooped on them for carrying plastic swords.

    The Luton girls, dressed in Peter Pan outfits, were making their way home through Charles de Gaulle airport when they were stopped for 'posing a security threat'.

    At the security check, Olivia and Eva Ryan proudly walked up wearing their outfits, bought at Paris's Disneyland Parc France and bearing the plastic swords which are part of the outfit.

    A stern "Non" from the customs and security men met with a flood of tears from the youngsters, and anger from their father, Luton photographer Pete Ryan.

    The swords were confiscated with the grim warning that they are replica swords and there was no way they would be permitted on the aircraft back to Britain.

    His amazement at the entire episode was underlined for Pete, when after the swords had been confiscated by the French "jobsworths" he saw vicious looking metal spikes for sale just yards away in the duty free shop.

    Pete, who works for Luton Borough Council, the Herald&Post and a number of major organisations in town, said: "I was furious. It really upset the twins, and it was particularly bad since we had a really bad time at Disney, which we thought was a total rip-off. It was just a final insult when we walked through the airport and these people decided that the youngsters were a security threat.

    "Nobody in their right mind would think that the swords that went with their outfit were real. It's security gone mad."

    Pete, of Cranleigh Gardens, said he didn't get angry with the security men. "I just rubbed my eyes in disbelief. They just said basically that rules are rules. If we go again it will be to Disney World in Florida."

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    The Great Disney Toy Exhibition in New Zealand

    Michael Fowler Centre 
    August 4-24  2004

    The Great Disney Toy Exhibition is the largest collection of toys and memorabilia ever to be seen in public. Anytime! Anywhere!
    Starting in 1927 and running right through to Toy Story and beyond and reflects the history of the 20th century. This exhibition is about life, colour, families, fun, education, experience a visual and sensory overload! This exhibition is for all age groups, from toddlers to grandparents and is part of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of Mickey
    This may be to one and only chance to ever see this rare New Zealand owned collection. A worlds of Wellington Trust and Old Tin Toy Shop Event.

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    Second Narnia movie already planned

    The folks behind Andrew Adamson's upcoming The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe are obviously confident it'll be a big success because they've already started work on the sequel.

    It's rumoured that the next movie will be Prince Caspian, the fourth in CS Lewis's series of seven.

    Filming on Disney / Walden Media's live-action adaptation of the classic book started two weeks ago in New Zealand and is due to continue there until October before moving on to the Czech Republic.

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    Licensing Narnia: A Look Inside the Plans

    A few highlights from an article about the Licensing plans for the new Chronicles of Narnia films:

    With 85 million copies sold in 29 countries, nearly 6 million copies annually, indeed, reader expectations will be high on a worldwide basis. Producer Johnson believes expectations will be met: "When audiences see this movie, they will have never seen anything like it in their lives."

    "Projects of the scope of The Chronicles of Narnia are few and far between," reveals Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. "This is well beyond a single movie."

    With HarperCollins as worldwide publisher of "The Chronicles of Narnia," opportunity to cross-promote between the books and the movie is a natural, according to Mooney, and HarperCollins already has implemented some marketing tactics and agreed to republish the books to coincide with the first film. Asked what would be the marketing spend for the film, Cook says coyly, "The nature of the biggest marketing spend ever for a film."

    As The Chronicles of Narnia has a broad fan base, Mooney reveals the target age groups are "still being defined, and may change over time." He continues, "Historically, the books have skewed more girls than boys. But translating the movie to product with the environments, characters, and the Narnia world, merchandise may skew more boys than girls." Mooney speculates a 60-40 ratio, particularly where toys are concerned as they may have more boy appeal. In addition, he points to an older avid reader fan base, and believes collectibles would be in the merchandise mix. "We are treating this as a long-term franchise, analogous to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars," Mooney asserts. "We would rather have the market be short on product than long on product." At this stage in development, answering pointed questions relating to product is no easy feat, as Mooney and the Disney Consumer Products team are in the beginning phases, and are headed to Licensing 2004 International Show this month to showcase opportunities for The Chronicles of Narnia.

    Walden Media-50/50 partner with Walt Disney Pictures on The Chronicles of Narnia-which originally brokered the deal with the C.S. Lewis Estate, secured the merchandising and licensing rights to an education project, which includes educational publishing, school workshops, and teacher training. The entertainment company, in its negotiations with the C.S. Lewis Estate, cinched the deal when it outlined its plans for education, and forged a relationship to work closely with the C.S. Lewis Estate on the development phase of the project.

    Mooney concurs, "We will be very careful about how we embellish merchandise, whether toys, video games, or board games, and will work in conjunction with the C.S. Lewis Estate. The consumer products are an extension of the movie, but we will work to remain true to "The Chronicles of Narnia" original intent and content."

    With The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe slated for holiday '05, timing for the next film in the series has yet to be determined, although License! attempted to pry.

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    No reindeer for Narnia

    It is reported in the Sunday Star-Times that Disney and Walden Media were denied use of reindeer in New Zealand for pulling the Ice Queen’s sled in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    It is likely that Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop’s special effects department will take on the task of creating these animals, which will also be seen pulling Santa’s sled in one scene.

    It seems that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry denied the filmmakers permission to use reindeer but gave the green light for wolf cross-breeds.
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    Tony Danza Promises Talk Show Bonanza

    Tony Danza on Monday promised television critics that his upcoming talk show will be lively and unpredictable.

    Speaking during a session at the summer Television Critics Assn. press tour, Danza said he plans to keep viewers of "The Tony Danza Show" entertained with the unexpected when it premieres Sept. 13.

    "They hired me to be an entertainer," said the former star of "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss." "I might break out in song or tap dance, but that won't be a big part of it. I want to explore what interests me about people and see if it interests the audience. I'm ready for anything, and I'm willing to try anything."

    Danza said he's not worried about the challenges of hosting a live talk show five days a week. He said such experiences as guest-hosting "Live! With Regis & Kelly" and appearing in his own live touring act have prepared him for the unexpected.

    The Disney-distributed show will be topical, Danza said, adding that he'd like to feature a mix of guests who are well-known as well as those "off the beaten path." Cooking segments also will be a significant part of the show -- a kitchen has been built into the set, he added.
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    Mickey and gang now ready-to-wear

    The images of Tinker Bell, Peg Leg Pete, Simba and other Walt Disney characters from the past are being given new life in a creative licensing deal. Also available will be the changing looks of perennial favorites Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck over the years.

    Disney is opening its vault of artwork on DisneyInkShop.com, where people can use their favorite image to create customized apparel.

    Visitors to the Web site can select from 2,500 character images and from an assortment of phrases associated with that character to create T-shirts, sweat shirts, nightshirts and other tops for $19 to $26 in sizes for adults, children and infants.

    A marketing expert thinks this is smart online retailing by Disney.

    "It is a low-cost way for Disney to give people a choice," says Erik Gordon, professor of marketing at Johns Hopkins University. "If there are a small number of people who like what Mickey looked like in the Steamboat Willie days (the original Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1928) and want a shirt, the company doesn't have to make a lot of them, store them in warehouses or ship them to a lot of different stores around the country. It's a classic good use of the Web to aggregate demand."

    Computer mouse pads and posters will be available in time for back-to-school season. Disney also plans to add accessories and other products. The move by Disney's consumer products division is a major effort to gain value from the Disney archive.

    "Disney has always been protective of its artwork because of piracy concerns," says Patrick Haley, manager of new business development for
    the division. "But technology has allowed this."

    Although Disney has a strong presence with licensed merchandise in mass-market retailers, the stores tend to avoid merchandise tied to older characters in favor of capitalizing on broader demand for items from a recent hit.

    In addition to historical characters, DisneyInkShop.com hopes to generate sales from goods related to movies re-released on video and DVD, especially classics such as Snow White.

    Currently, about $15 billion in Disney products are sold each year. (About $1 billion in sales come from the Disney Store chain, which the company is in talks to sell to The Children's Place.)

    Though Warner Bros. and DreamWorks are among Disney's fiercest competitors in animation, neither has opened the doors of its art treasury to sell customized merchandise tied to archival characters.

    "A lot of companies are sitting on intellectual property, and it's not current. There are still people who remember the older stuff fondly, and this is a way of gathering stuff that's gathering dust to get income out of it," Gordon says.

    Disney and embattled CEO Michael Eisner are under shareholder pressure for results. Disney's net income nudged up 2.4% last year to $1.3 billion on sales of $27.1 billion. Animated films from Disney's Studio Entertainment unit gained 10% in sales to $7.4 billion last year. The consumer products unit licenses the Walt Disney name, characters and visual and literary properties.

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    Disney Hoping for a Happy Ending to 2004
     
    The company is counting on strength outside its faltering film unit to bump up earnings for the year.
     
    It's a long way from the ticket line to the bottom line.

    That's the case for Walt Disney Co., whose feature-film division has had a rocky first half of the year after setting industry records in 2003. The latest disappointment came with the premiere of "King Arthur," the $120-million summer action movie from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It was in third place Sunday — behind "Spider-Man 2" and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" — with an estimated ticket take of $15.2 million over the weekend and $23.6 million since it opened Wednesday, according to Disney.

    With that kind of start, there's little chance that "King Arthur" will live up to the success of Bruckheimer's last summer movie for Disney, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl." And the studio, No. 1 at the box office last year, is in sixth place now, tracking firm Nielsen EDI said.

    But Disney nevertheless may meet projections that its earnings will grow this year by 50% or more. Even as the studio sputters, the company is firing away on other cylinders, giving Chief Executive Michael Eisner breathing room as he seeks to shore up investors' faith in the Burbank-based entertainment company. And executives expect the film division itself to have better results in the second half of the year.

    Underscoring his confidence in Disney's outlook, Eisner said Friday that management probably would recommended a dividend increase for shareholders this year.

    Disney shares rose 25 cents Friday to $24.60 on the New York Stock Exchange.

    There have been gains across various businesses, including theme parks, which are recovering from a three-year slump. Home-video sales of last year's box office hits have been solid, and a strong advertising market has helped Disney's owner-operated TV stations. Operating income in the cable TV group, which includes the ESPN sports powerhouse and the Disney Channel, is expected to grow 20% in the third fiscal quarter.

    All that gives the company a cushion to absorb financial hits elsewhere in the empire, notably at the struggling ABC-TV network and the studio.

    "Disney, like other media conglomerates, benefits from having a diverse portfolio of businesses where potential risks and losses from one area can be offset by gains in another division," said Tim Wallace, managing director of investment research for UBS Securities.

    That doesn't mean Disney is off the hook when it comes to box office returns. Many investors are particularly concerned about the spotty record of the animation division. Their anxieties were heightened this year after Pixar Animation Studios, creator of the successful "Toy Story" franchise and the blockbuster "Finding Nemo," ended talks to extend its longtime lucrative partnership with Disney.

    Box office duds in the second half of the year could undercut Eisner's argument that Disney's worst days are behind it and provide more fuel to his fiercest critics, Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold. The former Disney board members led a campaign against Eisner that culminated in a 45% protest vote against his reelection to the board in March. Eisner subsequently gave up his chairman's title.

    "While poor performance may not undermine management's expectations, it could have an impact on investor sentiment about the company," Wallace said. "The studio has to come up with decent films this year."

    Disney faces a tough time living up to its performance in 2003. The smash hits "Pirates" and "Finding Nemo" each amassed more than $300 million in ticket sales in the U.S. alone.

    By this time last year, three Disney films had opened in the $30-million-plus range. In fact, the combined box office openings of all of its movies so far this year total less than what "Pirates" made in its first two weeks.

    This year, the lackluster performers or outright flops include "Hidalgo," the historical epic "Alamo" and the animated barnyard tale "Home on the Range." Disney was forced to take write-downs for the latter two.

    A more recent letdown has been "Around the World in 80 Days." The remake cost more than $110 million but took in only $22 million in the U.S. Disney spent tens of millions of additional dollars to market the movie. The studio's financial exposure was minimized, however, because the movie was financed by billionaire Philip Anschutz.

    Disney's biggest 2004 opening weekend haul was $19.4 million for the Olympic hockey drama "Miracle," which hit theaters in February.

    The studio was hoping "King Arthur" would crack the $20-million mark during its inaugural weekend, but it suffered heavy competition and mixed reviews.

    "Maybe there's a little bit of epic ennui," said Nina Jacobson, Disney Studios' production chief.

    Disney executives are expecting "King Arthur," which stars British actors Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, to fare well overseas and ultimately generate brisk home-video sales. "The international market is going to be terrific for us," said Chuck Viane, the studio's president of domestic distribution.

    The studio's upcoming slate includes "The Village," a thriller from "The Sixth Sense" director M. Night Shyamalan, due this month. Next month comes "Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," the sequel to the hit romantic comedy. Bruckheimer's "National Treasure," an action-adventure offering with Nicolas Cage, opens in November. And Disney is expected to do well with its November release of Pixar's upcoming animated movie "The Incredibles." Disney splits profits with Pixar and gets a distribution fee.

    "We do have hopes for the second half of the year," Jacobson said. "We're confident that we can turn things around." Meanwhile, she said: "We're grateful that the aftermarket life of last year's movies has given us shelter during the storm."
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    'King Arthur' Showing Keeps Pressure on Disney
     
    Walt Disney Co.'s lost quest to rule the box office with "King Arthur" only slightly disappointed Wall Street, although one analyst on Monday warned that the studio's poor year at the box office would hurt DVD sales in 2005.

    "Arthur," which cost between $110 million and $120 million to make, sold $23.6 million in tickets over its first five days and was beaten from Friday to Sunday by both "Spider-Man 2" and the Will Ferrell comedy "Anchorman."

    Goldman Sachs called the performance "modestly weaker than expected" and said Disney could ultimately lose $20 million, or about one-half cent per share, on the film.

    But analyst Anthony Noto left his estimates for earnings for the rest of the fiscal year intact, and a penny per share ahead of the Wall Street consensus.

    General expectations for the movie had been modest, although the studio had hoped "Arthur" would be the beginning of a turnaround after a frustrating year of mediocre box office performance. One executive called the weekend "decent."

    Disney has not had a breakaway hit this year and "Arthur" was to be its "tentpole" summer release that would restore the luster to the studio which set box office records in 2003.

    Morgan Stanley analyst Richard Bilotti said the pain of a weak 2004 movie slate would come later. He cut his fiscal 2005 outlook for Disney on Monday, arguing that the weak box office this year would cut into high-profit-margin DVD sales next.

    DVDs have become a gold mine for Hollywood and last year's record box office performance by Disney hits like "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Finding Nemo" drove DVD sales this year which made up for many of the problems with new releases.

    "It is becoming increasingly likely that the weak fiscal 2004 theatrical release slate will translate into significantly lower home video and TV distribution revenues in fiscal 2005," Bilotti wrote in a research note, cutting his earnings forecast for fiscal 2005, beginning in October, to $1.15 from $1.19.

    The Wall Street average was $1.16, according to Reuters Estimates.

    Shares of Disney fell 25 cents or 1 percent to $24.35 on the New York Stock Exchange.
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    PhotoshopWorld attendees get Disney World discount

    The National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), a sponsor of the upcoming PhotoshopWorld Conference & Expo, has arranged for significant savings off the price of Walt Disney World theme park tickets for conference attendees. Starting immediately through Aug. 17, PhotoshopWorld attendees can purchase admission tickets at a special price not available at theme park front gates. The conference takes place Sept. 1-3 in Orlando.
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    Drama builds for underdog network ABC
    Back