Thursday, August 28, 2008

Interview with an Imagineer: Part One

Disney's theme parks are amazing. They are full of fun, excitement, and magic. You have probably visited one of the numerous parks, and, if you have, you most definitely loved it. These parks, as you may know, are created by the Walt Disney Imagineers. These Imagineers have been around since Walt Disney decided he was going to make entertaining attractions for the masses. They develop, revise, construct, paint, and engineer every single piece of the Disney parks. Whether it be a themed restaurant or a parade, a ride or a walkthrough, the Imagineers are the ones who create every single aspect of it.

If you couldn't tell, Imagineers are really awesome. And, just for you, here is the first part of a three part interview between me and an Imagineer, Kevin Brown.

1. How did you become an Imagineer? Was becoming an Imagineer your career goal?

I became an Imagineer by sheer coincidence. My roommate in college was an art major with a great sense of humor and a wide variety of interests. After college he taught art and submitted his portfolio of artwork, and a model as I recall, to Walt Disney Imagineering. He got a job in the model shop and pretty swiftly demonstrated that he could wear many hats - artistic, conceptual, show production, and more.

Cut back to me: while my pal was teaching art, I started working on the entertainment staff of the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire created by Phyllis and Ron Patterson. My major in history and interest in theater was a useful combination and after a while I was busy helping write shows, direct shows, schedule shows and generally coordinate the activities of more than a thousand performers for the Faire weekends.

One day I got a phone call from my college friend (you have to use your imagination here: there were no personal computers to send email, and a phone was a large and clunky plastic thing, generally attached to a wall or sitting on a table.) My friend wanted to know if I would consult with Imagineering about how the Faire was put together, because Disney was considering trying something similar out in front of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. I said "sure." I met with the team working on the idea, and sketched out for them what elements made up the Faire and how the pieces worked together.

That was my fortuitous foot-in-the-door moment, Imagineering now knew I existed, and I knew they could sometimes find me useful. Fast forward a year or two (sorry, memory gets fuzzy) and I got another call from Imagineering: "Would I consult with them on a dining experience that would rotate out different historical themes and entertainment: viking, Elizabethan, Dickensian?" I said "sure." Since it was a complicated idea, it took months of work to conceptualize it, write a trial script for a show, and make presentations to Imagineering management. Towards the end of the process, right after making a presentation to a Disney executive, my friend's boss turned to me (we were standing in a parking lot at the Disney headquarters in Burbank) and asked "Do you want to work with us full time?" I thought for a second, and said "sure."

So there you have it - I never had Imagineering in mind as a career goal, it just ...happened. The reason it happened is part luck, and part something else. Because my college roommate was very talented, Imagineering hired him. Because I had certain talents and skills, my friend "opened the door" for me to Imagineering. What's the moral of this story? Grow your talents and skills ...Find other talented people ...Be ready so when that door opens, you can say ..."sure!"

2. Were you ever involved with Walt Disney, or was he before your time?

Walt died in 1966 when I was 11, so I never met him. Like all kids of my age, I had watched him on TV many, many Sunday nights, as he introduced the show appearing that night on "The Wonderful World of Disney." Shortly after I joined Imagineering in the later 80s, I had a dream that I was at Disneyland, and there was Walt - his mustache and hair snow white, but looking much the same. He was getting ready for some sort of press event at a new attraction at the park: a land of a miniature, scaled-down America circa the 1830s, when railroads first appeared. Walt had a stack of plaques with him, and he briskly motioned me over and had me restack or sort them while he did another task. Then he picked them up and off he went, as little 1830s trains rattled across miniature tracks around us. It was a cool dream - I didn't know it at the time, but Walt was a passionate train buff all his life.

3. What was your favorite part of being an Imagineer?

Being around really intelligent, really creative people. Everybody had something to say - everbody had something to share! We told each other stories about places we traveled to, great experiences we had, and amazing sights we had seen. We waved our hands around a lot. The writers loved jokes and puns, so we would crack each other up endlessly. The artists could talk about color and light the way good chefs talk about food and fine meals - it was hard not to drool! It was great to be around people from so many backgrounds and disciplines, that were all united in one thing - making stories into physical places for people to enjoy. We got to see our dreams get built, and admired.

I'd have to say another really nice thing about being an Imagineer was that when you told people what your job was, they smiled.

Those were are all answered by a real Imagineer! Keep checking back for "Interview with an Imagineer" parts 2 and 3 for even more intriguing questions and answers with Kevin Brown, Walt Disney Imagineer.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Michael Keaton to be in Toy Story 3

Briefly: has interviewed Jodi Benson, who has done various different voices for Disney, including Tour Guide Barbie in Toy Story 2. During her interview, she accidentally let loose a little bit of information. She said that Michael Keaton will play opposite her, Barbie, as the popular doll, Ken. I can't wait for the release of Toy Story 3, as well as the true and false "leaks of information" that constantly come up between now and its official release date.



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider: Answer to the Mysteries of the Universe, Or the End of the World?

Right now, there is an unbelievably complex machine with an unimaginable amount of power bordering France and Switzerland. This awesome device is called the Large Hadron Collider. It has a circumference of 17 miles (27 kilometers), and, at its deepest, it goes 175 meters underground.

It contains two adjacent beam pipes and 1232 bending magnets. It requires 1600 superconducting magnets, 90 tons of liquid helium, and a temperature of -456.25 F. This machine's sole purpose is to produce high-energy particle collisions to study subatomic particles' construction. Its kinda like smashing a watch with a hammer to see how the watch was made. Another thing that the LHC may achieve is the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. This is the particle, if discovered, will confirm all of the "missing links" of physics. It can explain how particles acquire mass. The Higgs Boson particle will also help us search for the Grand Unified Theory.

This machine's first major test will begin on September 10 of this year, and the result is sure to be a surprise. Some believe that it has enough raw power to develop a small black hole within the Collider which would quickly eat up the Collider, France, Switzerland, Europe, then onto the world. Others believe it might explode, and others have actually taken legal action. Most, however, believe that it is a vital step that we must take to unlock the secrets of our world, and the rest of the universe. The Large Hadron Collider has passed all safety tests, but that doesn't stop the public from worrying about power which we haven't yet explored.

Here is an awesome picture gallery of this truly amazing piece of machinery:


Sunday, August 17, 2008

'Dark Knight' Steps Down For 'Thunder'

The Dark Knight has been the reigning champ at the box office for almost four weeks. It has broken multiple box office records, and has wowed the critics.

But now, Tropic Thunder has beaten The Dark Knight at the box office! This weekend, The Dark Knight made almost $17,000,000, where Ben Stiller's comedy made approximately $26,000,000.

The only question remaining, is will The Dark Knight beat Titanic's best overall grossing at the box office? Titanic made a total of
$600,788,188 while in theaters. Christopher Nolan's second Batman movie has made $471,493,000, thus far. One can only hope that it will pull through to the top box office champ of all time.

Source: Box Office Mojo


Friday, August 15, 2008

Signed Pixar Sketches, Photos and Letters

I am a huge Pixar fan. I think that their movies are great; they have so much heart, character depth and story. Being such a huge fan of Pixar, I sent letters earlier this year to several people who are very involved with Pixar. I have gotten 4 replies so far: Brad Bird, John Lasseter, Bud Luckey, and Ralph Eggleston (I am still waiting and hoping for a reply from Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton). Here are the stunning scans of sketches, letters, and glossy photographs that I have gotten in return for simply sending a letter:

Ralph Eggleston is a Production Designer, Art Director, and a writer for Pixar. He also directed the Pixar short For the Birds. Here is a quick WALL-E sketch and note that he made for me with a marker. This is the best piece of my collection:

Here is a hand-written note and glossy photo from Bud Luckey. Bud Luckey is the director, writer, narrator, production designer, and composer for the Pixar short Boundin'. Luckey has also done production design, art direction, voice work, and animation for various other Pixar features and shorts. He signed this photo, which has him and Brad Bird standing in front of the original storyboard for Boundin'. Awesome:

This is a glossy photograph of Remy and the ghost of Gusteau from Ratatouille. The photo and letter are signed by Brad Bird, who is huge at Pixar, he has directed and written The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. He has also done voices, production, and animation for various other Pixar movies. Very cool:

Last, but certainly not least, here is John Lasseter. This is a glossy photograph depicting the Toy Story 2 toys, signed by John Lasseter. He is the director of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Cars. He has also produced, directed, written, and animated many Pixar features and short films. One of the most powerful people at Pixar:

Well, there ya go. "Is that your whole collection," you might be asking me. And the answer, is no. I have over 100 pictures, some Disney-related, some Pixar-related, and some related to neither. I will scan and post more pictures about once a month. Keep checking back for the Sherman Brothers, Art Linkletter, Randy Newman, among many other authentically signed pictures, notes, and sketches.


'WALL-E' DVD Art and Release Date Announced

Walt Disney Home Entertainment announced earlier today that the WALL-E DVD/Blu-Ray will be released on November 18 of this year.

The art on the cover features WALL-E, Hal the Roach, MO, and EVE. The Blu-Ray release will have 2-discs. These include the feature film, a digital copy, special features, and BD Live (a way to download updated content via the internet using a Blu-Ray player).

More specifics (price, special features, etc.) will be announced on August 22nd.

Source: Upcoming Pixar


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Film Pushed Back Almost 9 Months

Briefly: The film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was scheduled for release in November of this year. Today, however, Warner Bros. announced that the movie has been pushed back to a release in July of 2009! The 9-month push back was caused by multiple things, including the fact that Warner Bros. is still experiencing setbacks from the writers' strike, and they want to be apart of the summer movie season (which is the most lucrative time of the year for movies). Filming is done, but they just don't feel like this November is the right time to release, I guess. As you know, the preview is already out:

Source: Reuters


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Three Best Things About Ben Stiller's Newest Film: A 'Tropic Thunder' Review

I just went to the midnight showing of Ben Stiller's newest comedy, Tropic Thunder. The premise is that a group of actors won't cooperate with the filming of a big budget war movie, so they are thrown into an actual battlefield to be filmed, but everything goes wrong.

Here are the three best things about this movie:

  1. Robert Downey Jr.: He is the best part of Tropic Thunder. Downey has the best lines, the funniest jokes, and the most genuine and believable character. Some of the monologues he gives to Stiller about acting and movies are uproarious. He plays an academy award-winning Australian actor who underwent a procedure to darken his skin to play the African-American Sergeant. He demonstrates how some actors take method acting to the next level, and he does this flawlessly and hilariously.
  2. Fake Trailers: Before the movie starts, fake trailers play to show you the actors and the types of roles they play. My favorite is Robert Downey Jr.'s trailer, Satan's Alley, which features Tobey Maguire.
  3. Cameos: As stated above, Tobey Maguire makes a cameo appearance in one of the trailers, but many other movie stars make cameo appearances as well: Jason Bateman, Mickey Rooney, Kathy Hilton, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lance Bass, John Voight, Tyra Banks, Amy Stiller, and Tom Cruise. I would never have thought that Tom Cruise would play the hip hop dancing, balding, fat, cursing movie producer that he does in the movie. It is really funny to see him in that role.
Overall the movie was decent, but it could have been much better. It is basically a big budget movie with an all star cast that makes fun of big budget movies with all star casts. It has some funny jokes, but could have used more. I recommend that you see it if you haven't seen The Dark Knight or WALL-E yet. I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

RenderMan Pro Server 14.0 Released by Pixar

Briefly: Today is the 20th anniversary of Pixar's RenderMan software, which many animation and live action studios use as their rendering software. To commemorate the 20th year anniversary of their academy-award winning software, Pixar has announced RenderMan Pro Server 14.0. This new software

"introduces significant performance enhancements including accelerated ray-tracing, faster processing of large polygon datasets, optimized hair performance, faster AOV's, and enhanced threading scalability. New core features that facilitate the development of custom tools include a re-rendering mode for accelerated interactive shading and lighting, a new SDK for easy linking, a Python binding for simplified integration, user-defined structures in the RenderMan shading language, (RSL 2.0) an API for reading brick maps, and a new format for point clouds."
George Lucas remarks on the famous software, "It's notable that 20 years after putting its first pixels on the screen, RenderMan remains the benchmark for all rendering technology."

Great job Pixar!

Source: AWN


Monday, August 11, 2008

The Dark Knight... Simpsonized

Here is a gallery I found. They are really awesome pictures of some of the characters from The Dark Knight if they were "Simpsonized":

These are from the blog Springfield Punx. Be sure to go there if you liked these, there are other "Simpsonized" characters such as Neo from The Matrix, James Bond, Pee Wee Herman, the Spiderman villains, among other pop culture icons.

Great stuff!


Rare 'Walt Disney Magazine' Illustrations

Kevin Kidney has compiled vintage illustrations drawn in the 1950s for the publication Walt Disney Magazine. They are very cool and can be found at this Flickr virtual gallery. The pictures were auctioned off some years ago, and, until now, were rarely seen unless you owned one of the hard-to-find magazines or pictures. The pictures are numerous and were drawn by such greats as Herb Ryman, Art Riley, Paul Hartley, and Al Dempster, among others. Here's Kevin's blog, which has more information on this great photo gallery.

Source: Cartoon Brew


The Homer Simpson Euro

A sweetshop owner in Spain was counting the day's take when he stumbled upon a very curious coin. It was a Euro, but it did not have Spanish King Juan Carlos on the front. In his place was Homer Simpson. The sweetshop owner has been offered 20 euros for the 1 euro coin.

Source: FOX News


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Vintage-style 'Up' Poster

Briefly: Eric Tan has designed several posters for Pixar. His style involves a vintage-type look. Well, after doing posters for The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and WALL-E, Eric Tan has just completed his vintage poster for Pixar's next release, UP. Here it is on the right.

Source: Pixar Planet


Happy Birthday, 'Haunted Mansion'!

It was 39 years ago today that The Haunted Mansion opened at Disneyland. It was a big deal. There were thousands of people wanting to ride and hundreds of journalists trying to cover the event. There were “I Scream” sundaes being sold, as well as other promotional items and events put on by Disney. I'm sure that an event similar to that will be put on one year from today when The Haunted Mansion celebrates its milestone 40th year in operation.

Here are some interesting facts about the famous dark ride from New Orleans Square:

  1. Madame Leota, from the Seance Room, is modeled after Imagineer Leota Toombs (aka Leota Thomas). The figure at the end of the ride that reminds you to bring your death certificate is also supposed to be modeled after her.
  2. Some think that the singing bust (2nd in from the left) is modeled after Walt Disney. It isn't supposed to be Walt Disney, however. It is supposed to be Thurl Ravenscroft, who sings Grim Grinning Ghosts.
  3. The Haunted Mansion is actually located outside of the limits of Disneyland. The elevator brings you below ground and the first hill that the Doombuggies carry you up leads to a soundstage outside of Disneyland's borders.
  4. On top of The Haunted Mansion there are chess pieces - a couple of pawns, rooks, kings, queens, etc. - decorating the roof like mini-towers. The chess pieces are there because the building's architect and attraction's chief designer loved chess. The reason there is no knight chess piece on the roof of the mansion is because it is always "night" inside The Haunted Mansion.
  5. The Hitchhiking Ghosts you see are full, real, solid figures. The mirrors you look through are one-way mirrors, In a pitch black chamber beyond the mirrors, at the exact distance away are the figures themselves, who are lit dimly.
  6. Look for a hidden Mr. Toad inside the Pet Cemetery.
Now that you know some of the trivia and opening day information of The Haunted Mansion you can now successfully celebrate The Haunted Mansion's 39th birthday!

Some trivia provided by


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pete Docter's Treehouse

Pete Docter, director of Monsters, Inc. and UP, is planning his dream house. This house will be located in Lafayette, California. It will be built on 15-acres of land, and consist of 3 treehouses, a suspension bridge, a two-story house on a hill, and an underground garage. Here are the plans:

As you can see, this is quite the house. In fact, one of the architects helping out has helped Disney. The house will be camouflaged and secluded from many other houses with a 500 foot-long driveway. I hope that this project goes through, it will be an amazing home.

Source: The Pixar Blog


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is There a Batman Curse?

Everyone is aware of the supposed Superman curse, which involved Christopher Reeves, George Reeves, and possibly others. When I went to see The Dark Knight again, I started thinking about whether a Batman curse has started to emerge. The evidence of this curse can be found in the fact that Christian Bale was arrested, Heath Ledger died, and Morgan Freeman was in a car accident. All of these people, as you probably know, played major roles in the new Batman movie. In addition to that, a special effects expert was killed on the set of The Dark Knight in a Batmobile-related accident. I know that its probably not a curse and just a big coincidence (as is the Superman curse, I'm guessing), but its still something to think about.

Watch out Aaron Eckhart!


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

'UP' Still Leaked

That is the first still from UP. You're probably asking yourself, "What about those UP pictures from Comic-Con?" Well, those are just rendered photos, they're not from the actual movie. This picture is (although cropped and enhanced) the first actual still from UP. It is taken from an Italian magazine, so it isn't the best quality.

Source: (Foreign)


Darth Mater: 'Cars' Meets 'Star Wars'

This awesome combination of Mater and Darth Vader is going to be auctioned off on October 25, 2008 at '08 Dream Halloween. It is signed by John Lasseter and George Lucas. Here is the video from Comic-Con 2008, as well as the source link which contains more photos and information:


Monday, August 4, 2008

Box Office Updates: 'WALL-E' Still Strong, 'Dark Knight' Beats 'Mummy'

The summer is starting to wind down, but the summer movies are still going strong. The top grossing movie over the weekend was 'The Dark Knight'. This may have surprised some people, because The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was expected to have a very strong start, as the other 2 Mummy movies did. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor grossed $40,457,770, and The Dark Knight grossed $42,664,219, just a little more than The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Number eight over the weekend was WALL-E. Number eight may not seem great, but after being in theaters for over a month, eighth isn't too shabby. Pixar's newest movie has just crossed the $200,000,000 mark, and has grossed a total of $204,078,076! Hopefully WALL-E will be able to beat Pixar's current box office champ, Finding Nemo, which earned $864,625,978 while in theaters.

In the coming weeks, however, will moviegoers trade the action of The Dark Knight and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for the R-rated comedies Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express? We'll see...

Source: Box Office Mojo


Friday, August 1, 2008

Toy Story 3 Now In Production

Briefly: has recently changed its "Pre Production" status to the "In Production" status for Toy Story 3. This means that Pixar is done with the script and other pre-production stuff, and has moved on the next step of your favorite toys' next animated feature!

Just as a reminder, here is the plot outline as given by IMDb Pro:

Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college.
It is set to come out June 18, 2010, and features the usual gang of actors doing voice overs: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, as well as the other voice actors from the first two Toy Story movies.

I'll let you know when they start "filming" (recording voices and animating).

Source: (subscription required)


The 30 Best iPhone Applications

The App Store is great. It adds so much more functionality, depth, and fun to the already awesome iPhone. One thing that the App Store is without, however, is a “try before you buy” demo-type system. Due to the lack of this, a list of my favorite free and paid apps will be listed here so you won’t need to waste your money or time on bad apps. There is a link after each app description, this link leads directly to the iTunes Store.

My 15 favorite free iPhone apps:

Shazam- A truly great song recognition application. If you hear a song playing that you enjoy, hit the “tag now” button, it takes about 20 seconds, then you get the album art, artist, and album. You are also given a direct link to watch the YouTube video and a link purchase the song in the iTunes Music Store. It works great for me, perhaps my favorite app for the iPhone. Get it.

BubbleWrap- A fun little game where you get to pop bubble wrap. Great sound effects. Get it.

Cookie Bonus Solitaire- Just normal solitaire for the iPhone. Pretty flawless for being free. (Screen shot is that of desktop version, no chat in iPhone platform). Get it.

Cube Runner- A game where you are simply an arrow flying through a 3D world of cubes. You steer around the cubes using the accelerometer. Multiple difficulties. Very fun. Get it.

The Dark Knight: HaHaHa- Add Joker make-up and phrases to your pictures. This app could use some work, but, afterall, it is free. Get it.

iPint- The little “bonus game” on this one is the most fun. Turn your iPhone into a mug, fill it up, and make it seem like you are actually drinking out of it! Really neat app to show off your iPhone. Get it.

PhoneSaber- A lightsaber for your iPhone. Multiple color choices, awesome sound effects, and an excellent use of the accelerometer. One of my favorites. Get it.

Pandora- A great radio for the iPhone. Plays songs based on your favorite artists and styles. Get it.

More Cowbell!- This app is really funny. It is based on the SNL skit with Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell. There is a picture of a cowbell, and then Walken yells, “I need more cowbell!” you touch the cowbell, it makes noise, and when you stop, Walken yells some more. Pretty dumb, yet awesome. Get it.

Remote- Awesome app that allows you to control your iTunes library from your iPhone. Get it.

Google Mobile- Quick searching, as well as other features, all optimized for the iPhone. Get it.

Jott- I used this long before I got an iPhone. Speak into the mic, select a contact, and then that contact receives your voiced message as text. Includes other features as well. Awesome. Get it.

Talking Spanish Phrase Book- What more can I say?... Get it.

Yelp- Uses your location to find businesses near by. Includes reviews, descriptions, etc. Get it.

- A simple tool to turn your iPhone into a flashlight, strobe light, and multi-colored light. Get it.

My 15 favorite paid iPhone apps:
Lumina- $1.99. ‘Simon Says’ for the iPhone. Good UI and sound effects. Very fun and cheap. Buy it.

Crash Bandicoot Nitro Cart Racing- $9.99. A fun cart racing game. It may be a bit pricey, but the fact that it has Crash makes up for that. Buy it.

de Blob- $7.99. A fun game that has a lot of depth. It combines the accelerometer and multi-touch flawlessly. Buy it.

Labyrinth- $6.99. A maze with obstacles. You navigate through it using the accelerometer, very fun, and very smooth game play. Buy it.

Texas Hold’em- $4.99. Just what you’d expect. Texas Hold’em Poker with great graphics and multiple levels. Buy it.

Tic-Tac-Touch: FS5- $1.99. One or two player Tic-Tac-Toe. Easy and fun with multiple difficulties. Buy it.

Touch Tennis: FS5- $1.99. Like a modern version of ‘Pong’ with good sound effects and smooth game play. Buy it.

Quordy- $2.99. A Boggle-type game for the iPhone. Utilizes the accelerometer and the wide touch screen. Has a vast dictionary of words and is very fun. Buy it.

Trism- $4.99. A puzzle game that reminds me of Bejeweled, but is better. Uses the accelerometer and the touch screen. Multiple modes and levels. Buy it.

Super Monkey Ball- $9.99. A bit pricey, but has great graphics, lots of levels, and uses the accelerometer very well. Buy it.

Band- $9.99. Multiple instruments for your iPhone. Buy it.

Sketches- $7.99. Drawing app, add shapes, lines, etc. to existing pictures or a blank canvas. Buy it.

Scrabble- $9.99. Classic Scrabble game made by EA Games. A bit too expensive, though. Buy it.

South Park Imaginationland- $9.99. Help Butters get through Imaginationland! Pretty expensive and simple, but you gotta love South Park! Buy it.

Etch-a-Sketch- $4.99. Drawing app. Use your fingers or knobs, and shake to erase. Buy it.

Now you know what apps are worth your time and money. If I come across any other truly great apps I will write a brief post about it so that you can make sure you have all of the highest of quality apps available.