Monday, March 29, 2010

Ricky Martin a 'Gay'

Ahhh, DUH!

Ricky Martin came out on his website Tuesday.

The singer, whose sexuality was the source of much speculation in his "Vida Loca" heyday, posted a long statement that ended with, "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."

Martin welcomed twin sons via a surrogate in 2008 and has largely stepped away from the limelight to be a dad.

Close Encounters of the first kind for WDI Imagineers during the construction of Disneyland Paris ?

Today's article is about the strangest case ever to happen at Disneyland Paris, and probably in any Disney theme park. Two months ago I was talking with my good friend Jeff Burke from California, who was Disneyland Paris' Frontierland show-producer when Jeff suddenly said to me, "Have I ever told you the strange things that happened when we built DLP, in the early 90's? We had really strange encounters... I mean, CLOSE Encounters." I said, "What are you talking about, Jeff ?!?" to which Jeff replied, "Let me find the pictures, you'll be amazed". Days later, looking at these pictures I was indeed amazed, as WDI Imagineers obviously experienced for one month in August 1991, some really close encounters "of the first kind" with unidentified flying object which appeared over the park and vanished in less time than it takes to explain it.

The first picture above was shot by Jeff Burke himself, while standing in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West, which was not yet filled with water. He recalls, "I was there, in front of Big Thunder, shooting pictures that I was supposed to send to Mickey Steinberg in Glendale who, as Executive Project Manager, wanted to check the work's progress.
I took three pictures from different angles. On the first two there was nothing, and suddenly, when I shot the last picture, these three objects came out of nowhere over BTM. They weren't moving, nothing. No noise, either, as far as I remember. And suddenly they disappeared, instantly. The whole experience, or "encounter" as we may call it, lasted less than two minutes, but I had time to alert Pat Burke and some of Big Thunder workers who were just as amazed as I was".

Two weeks later the same group of UFOs appeared again, this time over Fantasyland. This time the pictures were shoot by Eddie Sotto who was in front of the castle. "I had stopped to shoot a series of pictures, as I wanted to do a panoramic of the works on Central Plaza and the Castle," recalls Eddie. "The Plaza Gardens restaurant was already finished at that time, and I was standing on the roof over Victoria's Home-Style restaurant. When I saw these three UFOs in the clouds on the right of the castle, I had just enough time to take out my camera again and shoot two pictures before they disappeared. On the second one you can see them much better, emerging from the clouds".

Around mid-August it was Imagineer Bill Gorgensen's turn to have a close encounter. Bill, at that time show-designer on Pirates of Caribbean, was walking through Adventureland towards POTC to meet Chris Tietz. Bill recalls, "I'm not the one who shot the picture. I was walking quite quickly through Adventureland with Imagineer Chaz McEwan, and I remember that we were late for an important meeting with Chris. Suddenly, Chaz stopped me and said "Bill, do you see what I see?". We couldn't believe our eyes. The UFO stayed stationery for a few minutes on the west side of Swiss Robinson Tree before disappearing at an incredible speed.

Bill continues, "The workers who were on that side of Swiss Robinson Tree saw it, everybody could see it for at least two minutes. If you enlarge the picture you can even see one of the workers standing on the tree, almost hypnotized by the scene".

This UFO didn't reappear over DLP for the next three weeks, but early September it was Tom Morris' turn to see it while he was in front of Toad Hall in Fantasyland. "To tell the truth, I was checking the pavement work and I didn't noticed anything. It's only when I got back the prints some days later that I saw it on the picture, and I was stunned," recalls Tom.

"The weather was pretty cloudy that day, and the UFO was partly hidden by the clouds. I had to scan the picture and raise the contrast to get a perfect image of the UFO".

Tom continues, "I think it was the last time they appeared during the daytime, but I know that shortly before the park opened, when we were shooting promotional pictures at night, it reappeared again. Try to find the photographer who did the marketing pictures, he'll tell you about it."

It took me some time to find the photographer who did the shooting 18 years ago (by the way, all my thanks to DLP photo library which was very helpful to find this photographer), but I'm happy he still had the pic as it is probably the best one, as you can see below.

Allan Hynek was organizing the photo session in Discoveryland - at that time Space Mountain was not yet built - and he remembers perfectly what happened: "It was amazing, we had dozens of extras standing still in Discoveryland for this big panoramic promotional picture, all waiting for me to shout "nobody moves!" as we were shooting at sunset, and it was already pretty dark. And suddenly the UFO was there. Nobody saw it coming, it stayed in the sky less than one minute, with flashing lights but no noise except a strange vibration, something like a high-frequency sound... and then it disappeared. Vanished would be a better word as it was just like somebody who switch off a light. In fact, it gave everyone who had seen it the feeling that the object, UFO, space ship, call it whatever you like, vanished in another dimension".

Allan Hynek continues, "Some months later i was reading a book written by Jacques Vallée (Note: the most serious UFO specialist who was Steven Spielberg's inspiration for the character played by François Truffaut in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind") in which Vallée talks about his encounter with a brahman in India who told him: "They are not coming from another planet, they are coming from another plane, another dimension". And it's exactly the feeling we all had during this incredible night".

Of course, I asked Jeff Burke why we never heard about these amazing encounters before: "Well, first, there were only a few of us who saw them, who were at the right place at the right time" says Jeff, "Thousands of workers were working on the park at that time but considering each UFO's appearance lasted no more than two or three minutes and that everybody was doing their job which was not to look at the sky, only a few saw them. We informed Mickey Steinberg at Glendale that strange things were happening, but Mickey told us to not talk about it. At that time, the opening of Disneyland Paris was almost considered in France as a U.S invasion, so if we had added a UFO invasion it would have been the icing on the cake! (laughs) Frankly, i think it was a good idea to keep it secret at that time".

Amazing story, wasn't it? Your thoughts?

Learn how this article was done in the "making-of" HERE.

All my thanks to all Imagineers and Allan Hynek who kindly agreed to deliver their testimonies on this mysterious case.

Pictures: copyright Disney

Many thanks to Nate Walz for the text editing.

" Knott's Preserved " From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm

How could one place have the world’s best boysenberry preserves, world-class roller coasters, and Independence Hall, too? Where does a Ghost Town exist alongside a two-hundred-foot Sky Jump, while people wait three hours for a chicken dinner? "Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm" has all the answers— and many, many more.

Original art for the cover of the 1950 souvenir guidebook by Paul von Klieben.

Walter Knott and Paul von Klieben - the second, and most influential art director of Ghost Town in 1947. Von Klieben has responsible for most of Ghost Town as we know it - he served as art director at Knott's from 1943 until 1953.

From the earliest days of the Farm, when Walter Knott, his wife Cordelia, and
their kids were serving up baskets of berries “as big as a man’s thumb” and berry pies that weighed in at three pounds, to the advent of themed rides, Camp Snoopy replete with the Peanuts gang, and the arrival of the fastest coasters the coast had ever seen — it’s all in this great Knott’s Preserved book.

Flyer - circa. 1939. The Farm begins to become a roadside attraction, with the addition of the Volcano and Rock Garden.

A view of Knott's Berry Farm Ghost Town. © David Eppen 2010

Written by Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler with a foreword by Tony Baxter Knott’s Preserved have 200 images — most of them never-before published — and reveals exactly how the Knott family turned a berry business into one of the major theme parks in the world. The two authors display—the how-it-happened of Knott’s from the earliest days. The berries and fried chicken were just a yummy lead-in to what would become a majot theme park with thrills attractions. Plus, it’s a story of how a man and a woman remained true to their values, sharing profits and credit whenever they could.

So, for everybody who ever put their arms around Whiskey Bill and Handsome Brady, screamed in terror at Knott’s Scary Farm, or marveled at the Calico Mine, this is the book that’s filled with as much nostalgia as the Farm itself. Knott’s Preserved is definitely a must for every theme park lover and all those kids at heart.

Original art for the Bird Cage Theatre by Paul von Klieben - c. early 1950s.

Among the great creative people who created Knott's attractions there was Eddie Sotto who kindly answered my questions and share his memories about Knott's.

D&M: You worked at Knott's before you enter WDI, what did attract you in the fact to design rides for Knott's? Were you going there often when you were younger and what did you liked as a kid?

Eddie Sotto: Knott's was free admission till the late 1960's, so as a kid my mother would take me often and I loved it. Very warm and folksy. You walked slower there, nothing to run off to, you're at the farm! Chickens running under your car in the grassy parking lot. Not corporate, like going to your grandparents house and you feel welcome. Truly unique and it had SOUL. Unlike Disneyland, Knott's had memorable food. Boysenberry Juice and the famous Chicken. We'd ride the Steam Train, the Calico Mine Ride, visit the petting zoo and seal feeding, and a visit to the Model Train store was truly magical. Full of antiques, Knott's transported you back to the old west in a way that was must and rust. Knott's was gritty reality, splinters and all. Big Trains, loud Guns and Robbers in the streets. Disneyland was white enamel fantasy and you rushed to get it all in.

Silver Dollar Saloon - Nov. 1949. Les Jones working at the bar.

Ghost Town and Buena Park Fire Departments - c- 1950.

E.S: In 1979, I joined the Knott's Design and Planning Department (asst. Project Designer) and presented a ride that never got built, but instead ended up redoing an existing attraction into the "Soap Box Racers" Ride. It was very popular as kids competed against each other in small orange crate looking "Soap Box" cars on a closed track (Imagine "Spanky and Our Gang" meets "NASCAR"). We called it the first "outdoor dark ride". It was finally removed after running for a decade or more. I was at Knott's just over 3 years and also worked on "Camp Snoopy" before heading elsewhere.

D&M: I've heard that because Knott's Berry Farm opened before Disneyland it should be considered as the first theme park...

E.S: I know that is what has been said, and there is an argument for it, but it's a matter of opinion. Places like Greenfield Village in Michigan came first in the 1920's. The funny thing about that designation is that the places that came earlier never set out to be a "theme park" per se, they organically grew from another intent. Knott's added the Ghost Town to entertain the Dinner line at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, and as a themed roadside attraction certainly came first, as Walt would go out there and inspect it. The emphasis on adding rides was post Disneyland. Chris tells us how Walter Knott was inspired by a Western themed "land" at the San Diego Exposition done by Set Designer Harry Oliver called "Gold Gulch", so it's a bit hard to give that first theme park prize out that easily. Coney Island's "Dreamland" and "Luna Park" had their own unique, themed architecture that immersed you in another world, so to me they are themed in that way. Disneyland invented the industry as the term "theme park" did not exist until Disneyland came about, and so I will always consider it to be the first true theme park.

Above, Calico saloon - 1960s.

Above, Calico Saloon interior - c. 1952.

D&M: Did Knott's served as inspiration for Disneyland and/or Disneyland attractions, and if yes, which one? For instance, can we say that the Calico Mine ride inspired Big Thunder Mountain?

E.S: Tony Baxter will be the first to tell you how much the Calico Mine inspired certain aspects of BTM. It even played a role in the layout of Indiana Jones. We used to talk about how the Calico Mine Ride has an amazing spiraling track plan and shared the same large interior set, but it was viewed from differing angles, so we did the same with Indy's Temple. Walt used to step off the distances of the streets and watch the crowds. Bud Hurlbut, who built the rides at KBF knew Walt as well. The story I heard was that Walter Knott and Disney were friends till he hired the Indians away. Don't know if that is true.

Above, Calico Mine Ride, Cavern scene - c. late 1960.

D&M: Now, in 2010, what makes the charm of Knott's Berry Farm? what is the park's legacy?

E.S: Today Knott's is positioned very differently than it was back in the day with an emphasis on Thrill Rides and the Haunt. Times change. What I love about Knott's is it is a story about a sharecropper who opens a berry stand and because he does not give up, let's his better product lead him in new and bold directions. He "surfed the waves he got". When there was a huge line to buy dinners in front of his house, he adds an attraction to entertain them. When they want more he finds a way to build it. Why? Because he is passionate about the message in his "Ghost Town". He wants to tell us of his success and encourage others to follow their dreams. Like Walt Disney, he does not want future generations to forget the "hard facts that have created America". I think that today there can be too much emphasis on giving the guests "happy meals" in the form of rides that are just primal thrills or franchise based entertainment, and not enough attention to feeding them a better diet of reassurance. I'm thrilled that Chris has done this book, because it serves as a reminder of how passionate people, not a business plan, are what brought us these great places and why those success stories are important to our future.

Above, Souvenir fun map - 1971.

Knott's Preserved book signing and all-day ticketed event:

Before we end this article i want to let you know that a not-to-be-missed event will take place on Sunday, April 18: Authors Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler along with introduction author and legendary WDI Imagineer Tony Baxter will be at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant to sign limited-edition, hardback copies of Knott's Preserved. The book signing is open to everyone but there will be too a wonderful ticketed event planned for guests who would like to learn more about Knott's history.

Also during the event a panel discussion with former Knott's designers: Guests include Rolly Crump (Knott's Bear-y Tales), Chris Crump (Knott's Bear-y Tales), Dean Davisson (public relations 1958-1976), John Waite (Halloween Haunt) and Eddie Sotto (Wacky Soap Box Racers)! You will find on this link more infos and the PDF file that you need to register for this memorable event: Knott's Preserved Event.

If you're living in California, don't miss it, and most of all don't miss this great book, Knott's Preserved is available at starting $26.40 only!

Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this article on D&M english forum on Mice Chat

All pictures: copyright Knott's

Sunday, March 28, 2010

WDS Toy Story Playland Update and DV World of Disney Megastore

Here is a new Toy Story Playland update and we will discover too the concept-arts for the awaited World of Disney megastore. Let's begin by Toy Story Playland. As i said yesterday this mini land should open mid-August. DLP Imagineering have a commitment to have everything operational for August 5th so from that date soft-openings might happen. But if you're planning to come to the park next summer and want to see Toy Story Playland you better come after August 15th to make sure it'll be open.

Anyway, one thing is sure, you can't miss the land and the Parachute Drop tower as you see the high green tower even before you enter the park as you can see on the picture above. I've already told you about TSP visual intrusion in WDS other areas and nothing is better than a picture to see how real is the problem. On the picture below, shoot at the exit of Studio 1, guests can see clearly the tower emerging between the art-deco buildings of Hollywood Blvd and the Art of Animation.

One could say that it's no big drama but there is another place where the visual intrusion is more important and it's in the Tower of Terror street where, depending where you stand, you can see either the orange half-pipe coaster of RC Racer...

...or the green tower of Parachute Drop. And, frankly, guests should not be able to see these two structures which have nothing in common with the art-deco architecture all around.

Imagineers will probably be able to hide them when Hollywood Blvd will be expand, but i'm sorry to say this will not happen anytime soon and the visual intrusion will stay for years to come.

Anyway, right now the only thing that guests can see at the exit of Toon Studio is the parachute tower and a bit of the RC Coaster track...

...but on the other side of the fences we can clearly see that the construction is still going on and, although the main infrastructures are now finished, the next four months won't be too much to end the construction of the land.
Please note that because the next picture is a patchwork of pictures what you'll see is not perfectly accurate with reality.

On the next picture, where you can see these wooden decorative structures, the white building on the right is the Costuming building for DLP's cast members which of course will be hide thanks to the giant vegetation of TSP. But the grey road in front of it will be a path located on the right side of TSP.

In two years from now WDS guests will walk through this path to access the future Ratatouille dark ride which will be build behind the Costuming building. The path itself will have a Parisian theming which is natural as it will be a way to introduce the french theming of the Ratatouille area. So far the Ratatouille project have a "go" from DLP management and works on the ground should begin more or less in six months from now.
Here is two videos about TSP, the first one shows Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald presentation of Toy Story Playland two weeks ago at the stockholders meeting.

Making of Toy Story Playland Disneyland Paris
envoyé par Disney_Central_Plaza. - Evadez-vous en vidéo.

And the next one is a time-lapse video of the construction of TSP, also shown at the stockholders meeting.

Time-lapse construction Toy Story Playland Disneyland Paris
envoyé par mouetto. - Explorez des lieux exotiques en vidéo.

The huge World of Disney store is awaited by DLP fans since a while, and the building permit which was granted recently to DLP is at Chessy city hall where everybody can see it. Disney Central Plaza forum has posted this morning some pictures from the permit, including concept-arts of the future store.

The store will have a surface area of 4788 square feet (1438 square meter) and two giant domes on the top of the stor, including one which will be a "Earth" dome with Tinkerbell on the top of it. As you can see on the renderings the store have a art-deco style that should fit well with the back facade of the Gaumont theatres. Looks great to me.

The store will be located at the entrance of the Disney Village and will hide the other and not-so-interesting part of the Gaumont theatre facade. Once the World of Disney store will be open the other Disney Store currently inside the Disney Village will probably close and we can expect merchandise changes in others Disney Village shops. As for the opening date of this World of Disney megastore nothing was announced yet, but i won't be surprised if its opening was part of the 20th Anniversary celebration in 2012.

Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this article on D&M english forum on Mice Chat

Pictures: copyright Disney and more, and Disney for the World of Disney store pictures

World of Disney store pictures from Disney Central Plaza Forum

Videos: copyright Disney

DLP New Generation Festival Grand Opening

It was the New Generation Festival Grand Opening yesterday, with lot of VIP guests and press people and DLP marketing dept had the difficult mission to "sell" a new season with the main new attraction not opening before mid-August.

The high season is beginning early April and until the opening of Toy Story Playland the park's visitors will have only a new show on Central Plaza, a new Ratatouille car in the WDS parade and a new Princess with her prince on the Princess float of the DL parade. I forget a happening at the WDS Monsters Inc photo location, but even with that it's not a lot of new stuff.

We begin the tour by the WDS and the new car in the Stars and Cars parade. The front lot of the park have now New Generation banners, including the main shop at the entrance.

WDS guests can of course see the New Generation characters in the Stars and Cars parade, but also some from the old generation as you'll see in these next shots.

Then arrived the new Ratatouille car with Remy and Emile characters on it.

As usual with this parade all the cars went to the Production Courtyard rotunda where a little show happen during ten minutes. But this time there was a new part dedicated to Ratatouille with dancers dressed as cooks, etc...

Then the cars went back to the entrance/exit...

...but two cars turned on Hollywood Boulevard for a special photo-shoot with the Toy Story car...

...and of course the new Ratatouille car.

It was a good idea as it gave us the opportunity to have some close shots of the cars, with the driver but without the characters.

We went then to the Disneyland Park where a special meeting was organised for the web masters of DLP fans websites and Philippe Gas, DLP CEO, was there and very kindly answered to all questions. After a series of questions about the park's food Philippe answered other questions about merchandise and how the park could create special collectibles for the fans. It seems that the park is aware of the need and is working to deliver merchandise products for the fans which is indeed a good idea.

On Main Street, facades of two shops - Town Square Photography and Disney Clothiers - are under refurbishment and the park had the good idea to "print" a real size picture of each facade on a canvas instead of having the opaque white fabric they put usually during these kind of works. They did it last year on the Emporium and the effect is more esthetic and pretty cool as you can see on the pictures below.

The small train going from Main Street to the Castle was repainted once again and New Generation characters will now take place on it, as you'll see on these DLP marketing shots.

But it's on Central Plaza that DLP guests will discover the new show, with a brand new music and all New Gen characters. Is it better than the previous show? Yes it is, and it was not difficult as last year's show was a bit disappointing. This time it's not the case and the music is better too so if you come at the park, have a look at it!

Here is a two-part video of the show filmed by MrL4nd

As i've told you Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen now appear on the Princess float of the parade, here is two shots of them.

Because Toy Story Playland was not ready to show to the event special guests, DLP did a big big show last night, which was located at the stunt show arena. No cars stunts, though, but a show with projection effects, hundreds of extras, and some really artistic moments. I've been told that the park spent a lot of money on this show and the show had a standing ovation last night. Pictures below and the one at the top of this article are DLP official pictures.

And here is the official video of the show. After the video, don't forget to check my Disneyland Paris book offer below, i don't want to hurry you to order the book, but i don't have a lot of copies left, really!

Thanks to leave a comment or discuss this article on D&M english forum on Mice Chat

Pictures: copyright Disney and more, Matthieu Bernet / or copyright Disney, depending of the pictures.