Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fascinating List of Never Built Disney Attractions, Lands, Resorts, and More

Wikipedia is a wonderful wealth of knowledge that can be utilized to both entertain and inform on almost any subject. And Disney Parks are no exception. Wikipedia has a page entitled "List of never built Disney attractions." It is a gigantic list, with details, names, and, occasionally, links, of Disney rides, lands, restaurants, etc. that were once in their planning phases but never made it to their final building stages. The list, of course, is nowhere near exhaustive since there are thousands upon thousands of projects that the public will never even know about. That doesn't mean that this list is meaningless, however, this list makes a great read and makes you wonder about the rides and attractions that could have been. It also makes you feel sorry for the hundreds of Imagineers who slaved away for countless hours on their visions to only have them tossed in the trash can. I recommend heading over to Wikipedia and reading everything from WestCOT to Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers and Mythia to Beastly Kingdom. The above image is concept art for the never-realized Disney park Port Disney, an American version of the Tokyo DisneySea park to be located in Long Beach, California.

Source: Disney and More


Friday, December 18, 2009

'Toy Story 3' to be released in IMAX 3D

In a press release this morning, it was announced that Pixar's next film, Toy Story 3, will be released in the glorious IMAX 3D format. The IMAX system features "unparalleled image and sound." The film will remastered using the proprietary IMAX DMR technology. This will be the fourth film released by Disney to come out in IMAX theaters, but the very first for Pixar. Greg Foster, Chairman and President of IMAX Filmed Entertainment, said that "Pixar's beloved films have changed the way people go to the movies. IMAX is proud to be working with both Pixar and Disney, who like IMAX, strive to transport moviegoers to incredible places that people only dream about visiting. In IMAX 3D and through the power of Randy Newman's incomparable music, audiences will be able to see and hear Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the larger than life characters of Toy Story in a whole new way."

The IMAX 3D version of Toy Story 3 will be released on the same date as all of the other formats: June 18, 2010.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roy E. Disney dies

A day after the anniversary of Walt's death, his nephew, Roy E. Disney, has passed away. Roy was instrumental in the Second Golden Age of Animation during the 90s. He was a strong individual who saw to it that Ron Miller was replaced with Michael Eisner and Frank Wells in order to revive the slowly slipping name of 'Disney.' And, once Eisner turned on Roy, Roy did the same to Eisner and got him ousted. He was a true believer in his uncle Walt and his father Roy's ideals of quality animation and a company that everybody could love. Roy E. Disney will certainly be missed.

Read this wonderful obituary at the LA Times.


New 'Alice' Preview

Above you will find the just-released preview for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. This one reveals much more about the plot and also shows more visuals than the first teaser. This film is looking weirder and weirder, if you ask me. Very Burton-esque. Still, I'd like to see it.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Huge Lego Woody

Briefly: Above you will see a gigantic Lego sculpture of Woody from Toy Story. This is most likely part of a campaign leading up to both the release of Toy Story 3, and the release of the Toy Story line of Lego products. I grabbed it off of Lee Unkrich's wonderful TwitPic page. Very cool.


The Muppets: 'Ringing of the Bells'

Above you will find everyone's favorite group of puppets, the Muppets, performing the classic Christmas tune Carol of the Bells. I don't think there's anything that they can do that isn't really funny.


'The Princess and the Frog' Gives Nod to 'Mermaid,' 'Aladdin,' and Disney Legend

Ron Clements and John Musker are two big names in contemporary animation. They are the directors of the beloved Disney classics Aladdin, Hercules, and The Little Mermaid, as well as The Princess and the Frog. In their recent film about an aspiring waitress, they have managed to sneak in some things that you may remember from their past Disney flicks, as well as Disney history (courtesy of Jim Hill Media):

  • That – as the film’s title sequence is getting underway while Dr. John is singing “Down in New Orleans” – you can clearly see the carpet from Aladdinbeing shaken out by someone who’s standing on a wrought-iron balcony.
  • That – as Mama Odie is quickly digging through a pile of magical objects during “Dig a Little Deeper” – the lamp from “Aladdin” gets tossed to one side.
  • That – during this movie’s Mardi Gras sequence – one of the floats in that parade features a figurehead that is clearly modeled after King Triton from “The Little Mermaid.”
  • What’s more, riding on that King Triton parade float are caricatured versions of John Musker & Ron Clements, the directors of “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and “The Princess and the Frog.”
  • In the film’s finale, Louis can be seen playing with a jazz band at Tiana’s restaurant. The lettering on the bass drum says that this band is called “The Firefly Five Plus Lou.” Which is obviously an affectionate tip of the hat to the Firehouse Five Plus Two, that ragtime band from the 1940s & 1950s which was made up of Disney Animation employees.
  • What’s more, the piano player in the “Firefly Five Plus Lou” is a caricature of Disney Legend Frank Thomas. Who was the piano player for the Firehouse Five Plus Two.
From my one time seeing the film, I only remember seeing the Triton float and the nod to the Firehouse Five Plus Two, but I will certainly be sure to see The Princess and the Frog again and keep an eye open this time.

Source: Jim Hill Media


Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Toy Story 3' News: The 'Art Of' and a New Still

(At Toy Story 3 Director Lee Unkrich's request, I have taken down a portion of this post so that all of you can enjoy the film even more. Sorry about that, Lee!)

The Art of Toy Story 3 page is up on Amazon. The list price is $40.00 and it's up on Amazon for $26.40. The release date is scheduled for May 26, 2010. The product page states that the book "includes an extended introduction showcasing the art and story development behind the first two films, a special gatefold of Toy Story 3 color scripts, as well as a gallery of over 250 pieces of concept art. This deluxe volume provides a memorable narrative of the entire Toy Story trilogy." The book includes a preface by John Lasseter and a foreword by Director Lee Unkrich and Producer Darla K. Anderson.

And, the final piece of Toy Story 3 news is a brand new still image from the film. Judging by the background, I'm guessing this still is when the toys first enter the (eventually terrifying) daycare center.

Toy Story 3 will come out on June 18, 2010, and I cannot wait a second longer...


Review of 'The Princess and the Frog'

Disney's return to hand-drawn animation is a welcome ray of light in a sea of 3D and motion capture. While I love Pixar-produced films and everything that comes out of Walt Disney Animation Studios, I will always hold a special place for the world of classic animation, made in the style of the films I grew up with: Pinocchio, Aladdin, and Lady and the Tramp. The Princess and the Frog certainly deserves a seat among these animated greats, and I am very glad that this style of animation has made its comeback after over 5 years of absence. (Spoiler Alert!)

The Princess and the Frog is the tale of Tiana, a girl from New Orleans, who dreams of owning her own restaurant. Her philosophy is that you can't just dream on the evening star to get what you want--you have to work hard. Her dream, however, takes a turn for the worse when she is greeted with a talking frog that want to be kissed. The frog is actually Prince Naveen, a worthless layabout who came to New Orleans to marry a wealthy girl after his parents kicked him out. The prince and Tiana's adventure to become human again is one of great New Orleans atmosphere, a very scary villain, an amazingly animated, trumpet-playing crocodile named Louis, and a Cajun firefly named Ray.

The animation is beautiful. The animators captured the perfect style to achieve the feeling of New Orleans during the Jazz era. The characters' exaggerated features make them true works of art, and I especially loved the landscape scenes in the Louisiana Bayou. I cannot imagine how Disney, at one time, vowed to never make this type of film again. CG has its place, but so does the warmth and style of hand-drawn animation--after all, Disney wouldn't exist today were it not for hand-drawn animation.

Another way that the filmmakers really nailed the style of New Orleans was in the music. And the music is great. While there aren't any songs I'd consider equal to the soundtracks of Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin, I love the jazz style that emanates from Newman's score and soundtrack.

Academy Award-winner Newman, as you know, has composed music for the Toy Story series of films, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and plenty of other great films. He certainly has another winner on his hands with The Princess and the Frog. With a score that sits in the background but subconsciously makes the action have more impact and the emotion more deeply felt and a soundtrack of tunes that are both catchy and make for glorious scenes, I'll most definitely say that I loved the music of The Princess and the Frog.

Although it is a great movie, there are some things about it that I am less than thrilled about. First, the plot seemed very formulaic. It was almost as if the story guys sat down in a room with a generic outline of fairy tale films and just plugged in character names and locations, occasionally having to come up with plot devices to keep things interesting.

In addition to feeling very cliche, I think that the plot was also somewhat rushed. There are parts in the movie (like when the two frogs fall in love) when you think "How and when did that happen? They've known each other for about a day and they've already fallen in love? Tiana hated him in the beginning..." That being said, I didn't realize any of this until I looked back on the film. And, after all, most of the original Disney films are very formulaic, but, I guess what makes Disney uniquely Disney is how they hide their formulaic plots with stunning animation, original and great soundtracks, pitch-perfect scores, and wonderful characters.

In fact, The Princess and the Frog did several things plot-wise that I thought were very good and unexpected. I am glad, first off, that they get the message across that you need to do more than just wish upon a star to make your dreams come true--you have to work hard. It's an important lesson, and, surprisingly, it goes against almost all other Disney films that preach the practice of wishing upon a star, then sitting back to let the magic happen.

Another lesson that gets across (due to a song sung by Mama Odie) is that you have to think hard about what you want and what you need--these things are different, and it's important to focus on what you need. The other unexpected twist in the plot was the death of a sidekick (the firefly Ray). Disney rarely kills the characters that are created for comic relief and that we become emotionally invested in through the course of the movie, but it was a welcome plot twist since it offered more emotion to the audience.

The Princess and the Frog is a great film. It perfectly captures the style of New Orleans during the height of Jazz with its swingin' score and soundtrack, beautiful Bayou landscapes, and stylized, well-animated characters. The animation is gorgeous, the character acting is hilarious, and the humor is very funny and fitting for the plot. I'd place The Princess and the Frog in the same category as the original Disney classics. I will certainly watch it again and again and even buy the soundtrack. Directors John Musker and Ron Clements made the return to hand-drawn animation and fairy tales wonderful, and have made me excited to see just what classically-animated film will come next.