Sunday, August 12, 2012

Creating ‘Fantasmic!’ for Disneyland Park

What had been a tranquil scene during the day was magically transformed at night by the power of Mickey’s imagination, and when the Sailing Ship Columbia fired its cannon and suddenly appeared as Captain Hook’s galleon during the show, it gave me goose bumps. It still does!

Barnette Ricci, Vice President/Show Director of Special Events for the Walt Disney Studios, who 20 years ago was senior show director for Disneyland park, shared some of her memories of creating Fantasmic!

'Fantasmic' debuts at Disneyland Park in 1992
We had no new attraction opening that summer of 1992, so I was asked to create a show that could be marketed as something really special. I always felt that the [Rivers of America] was a truly unique venue, but I wanted to use it in a new way to create something different for our guests.

We researched all kinds of water-related special effects, and we discovered these water screens in France. We found that projecting animation footage on the water looked absolutely spectacular! By layering the dancing water fountains, special lighting, lasers, pyrotechnics and black light, along with live performers on watercraft and this new way to project animation on water, I was convinced all of these elements combined would create a rather exciting show!

It took months of searching through Disney film footage to find the right clips for the storyline and to create the film elements so they would look great on the water. We spent three months of ‘all-nighters’ out there on the river, programming all the effects and meticulously finessing the timing based on the time code of the film. Every burst of water, pyrotechnic, laser and live element had to be exactly timed and rehearsed to be in sync with what happened on the screen and with the fantastic musical score.

The show was originally called ‘Imagination’, as the title song implies, but everyone felt it needed a stronger title, so finally – and fortunately – it was renamed ‘Fantasmic!’

The first time we performed the show for a real audience, I was thrilled watching and hearing their reaction to the show. Words cannot express how proud I am of ‘Fantasmic!’ and how proud and thankful I am of everyone who worked so hard to bring it to life, and who continue to keep it going strong, night after night.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Remembering Jennings Osborne and the Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Remembering Jennings Osborne at Walt Disney World

posted at the official Disney Parks blog on July 28th, 2011 by John Phelan, Show Director, Disney Creative Entertainment

Jennings Osborne, the creator of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, passed away on Wednesday and we extend our condolences to the family. His creativity has influenced many guests, cast members and fans of Walt Disney World, and that includes me. In fact, I consider the years I worked with the Osborne family the highlight of my career. 

Jennings Osborne and Mickey Mouse

Christmas time and the holiday season at Walt Disney World can be a truly wondrous time, so many sights and sounds to fill you with the Spirit of the Season. Back in 1995, I was part of a creative team charged with developing such a holiday experience for Disney’s Hollywood Studios (called the Disney-MGM Studios back then). I remember sitting in a staff meeting when I was told that a vice president had seen a brief news report about a businessman in Little Rock, Arkansas who had a Christmas lights display so big that his neighbors took him to court to have it turned off. He fought it all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court and lost. I was asked to contact him and find out if he would like to bring his display to the Studio and put it on Residential Street on the backlot. I tracked down his business phone number and gave him a call. Little did I know that was the beginning of a 16 year magical holiday ride for me, the Studio and millions of our guests. 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights has become a holiday tradition to rival any experience at Walt Disney World. The display was the vision and passion of Jennings. In 1986, his daughter, Breezy, asked for some Christmas lights. He put up 1 million. When his next door neighbors complained, he bought their houses and put lights on them, too. With the support of his wife, Mitzi, and to the delight of Breezy, the display was THE holiday experience in all of Arkansas and beyond….until he had to turn it off. And that’s when Disney stepped in and Jennings could say, “I’m going to Disney World!” As it turned out, Jennings, Mitzi and Breezy were huge Disney fans and had visited the parks many times. 

Indeed, they bought the nativity scene that is in the display to this day at the Italian Pavilion in Epcot. All the original icons are still part of the display: the giant globe, the 100 flying angels, the twirling carousels, the flying Santas and reindeer, the red canopy of lights, the 70 foot tree and all the other figurines of elves, snowmen and carolers.

Now, you may think that a man who creates such a spectacular display on his house would be an extrovert and over the top. Jennings was the opposite. He was a quiet man although there was certainly a twinkle in his eye. He and his family came to Disney every year at Christmas time. He would spend hours on the street, talking to guests and chatting with the crew. The local press in Arkansas is calling him a great philanthropist, and indeed, he was. He donated holiday light displays to over 20 towns in Arkansas. He decorated hospitals, museums and the local zoo. He threw giant charity barbecues that fed 2,000 people at a time or more. He was a great proponent of committing “a random act of kindness.” As he used to say to me, “John, I like creating memories that people won’t soon forget.” 

I think that was his driving force, creating memories. I remember standing underneath the red canopy with him one year. I asked him how he came up with the idea for it. He said, “I want the people to feel like they are inside the lights, looking out at the world.” 

May we all be Christmas lights that shine for all the world to see. Thanks, Jennings. I will miss you, big guy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

posted at the Disney Parks blog on May 27th, 2011 by Jim Ames, Manager, Food and Wine Events, Disneyland Resort

Saturday, May 28, marks the anniversary of one of the most endearing attractions to ever open at a Disney park when “it’s a small world” celebrates 45 happy years at Disneyland park.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

When he originally imagined this attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney tasked a talented team of Imagineers, including artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair, to bring his vision of brotherhood and friendship to life. Mary’s concept was that of a “pop-up book” that looked like the children within the story had designed their worlds themselves.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Mary Blair also designed the iconic facade when the attraction was moved to its new home at Disneyland park. With whimsical representations of the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and the Taj Mahal, the exterior is no less impressive than the ride itself.

Of course it is the playful music, by legendary songwriting team Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman that keeps us humming long after we have exited the attraction. Walt asked the duo to write a simple piece that could be repeated and sung in different languages. The Sherman Brothers succeeded creating quite possibly the catchiest Disney attraction theme song of all time.

In 1966, Walt Disney presided over the opening ceremonies of the attraction in its new home at Disneyland park. Children representing countries from around the world came together to pour water from all seven continents into the “Rivers of the World.”

Since that moment, more than 233 million Disneyland park guests have joined “the happiest cruise that ever sailed” – enough to circumnavigate the Earth more than 190 times. “it’s a small world” has opened in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland park, Disneyland Resort Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, proving that “though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 1975 - Carousel of Progress Final Scene

This is how Christmastime looked like back in May 1975 in the final scene of Carousel of Progress (Believe it or not, that final scene is actually set on New Years Eve).

And this is today:


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Honoring ‘Attraction Moms’

Mad props to you Mom from the 1983 version of Spaceship Earth for never getting tired of watching television with your daughter every night before bed. (Not to mention letting millions of guests peer into your nightly routine.)

Honoring 'Attraction Moms' for Mother's Day Featuring a Spaceship Earth Mom at Epcot

World of Motion Mom, kicking it in the front seat, joining her family, and sharing in their joy of watching new flying machines take to the air.
Honoring 'Attraction Moms' for Mother's Day Featuring a World of Motion Mom at Epcot

Finally, thanks Horizons Mom for always making sure your child never floated away.
Honoring 'Attraction Moms' for Mother's Day Featuring a Horizons Mom at Epcot

A big Happy Mother’s Day to all of the great moms of this world – real or Audio-Animatronic.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New Orleans Square Officially Opens - One of the Last Times Walt E. Disney was on Film

The footage you are about to see is bittersweet. It shows one of the last times Walt was on film enjoying his park. The day was July 24, 1966 (Walt died later that year). Walt and New Orleans Mayor Victor Schiro officially opened New Orleans Square. It was the first time since opening day in 1955 that a new land had opened. It was also the only area at the park named after a real city. Guests enjoyed shopping, dining and music, and Pirates of the Caribbean opened the following year.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy 1986 Easter

Back in March 1986, Mickey and Minnie (look at her Easter bonnet!) took some time out from their busy schedules to join Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny in Magic Kingdom Park.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Disneyland Guest Count

The 1 millionth guest to Disneyland in California was on September 8, in the year of 1955. The name was Elsa Marquez.

10 Millionth Guest: Leigh Woolfenden December 31, 1957

25 Millionth Guest: Dr. Glenn C. Franklin April 19, 1961

50 Millionth Guest: Mary Adams August 12, 1965

100 Millionth Guest: Valerie Suldo June 17, 1971

200 Millionth Guest: Gert Schelvis January 8, 1981

250 Millionth Guest: Brook Charles Arthur Burr August 24, 1985

300 Millionth Guest: Claudine Masson September 1, 1989

400 Millionth Guest: Minnie Pepito July 5, 1997

450 Millionth Guest: Mark Ramirez March 15, 2001

“I’m completely stunned and speechless!” said Mark Ramirez of Texas, Disneyland’s 450 millionth guest to pass through the turnstiles and step into Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom. “I’m so excited, I’m shaking!” he laughed. “This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us.” Ramirez was on vacation with his wife, Donna and their three daughters Nina, Ariana, and Alexandria when his milestone entrance granted him a celebration ceremony, a lifetime pass to the Disneyland Resort, a stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and a merchandise gift pack. And the best gift of all was that he became a part of Disneyland history. Ramirez got to officially change the attendance sign on the Disneyland Train Station from 400 million to 450 million.

500 Millionth Guest: Australian Bill Trow January 12, 2004

Friday, March 02, 2012

Disney Studio Store

Following the success of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney saw a need to increase the size of his studio. Using the profits from Snow White, Walt made a deposit on 51 acres of land in Burbank, California in 1940 and began work on a modern studio specifically designed for the making of animated films. 
Original Walt Disney Studios
Walt was personally involved in every aspect of the studio’s conception and he ensured that the studio would be a self-sufficient facility that provided everything his team would need for the entire production process.

Article about new Disney Studio

There was the Animation Building in the center, which housed the artists and animators, the Inking and Painting buildings across the way, and the Camera buildings next door, where the completed artwork was photographed. Walt had a number of the buildings linked together by an underground tunnel so that even in bad weather, the production process would not be interrupted.

Walt Disney Studio
Walt Disney Studios in 1956

This new Burbank studio would be the production site of several of Disney’s most prominent animated features, including Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan.

Walt and Team Designing the Studio
Original Disney Animators

On October 15, 1995, Walt Disney Studios welcomed its very own Disney Store to the lot, named the Studio Store. This Disney Store was created with the intention of providing Cast Members with a home store to purchase the exclusive and unique products Disney offers in Stores everywhere. Located next to the Hyperion Bungalow, an original building from the studio’s first location in Hollywood, the Studio Store was redesigned in 2011 to display a beautiful new interior design of a Disney historical timeline, featuring the major milestones and famous characters that define the extensive history of the Walt Disney Company.

Disney Studio Store Interior
Disney Studio Store Timeline
Disney Studio Store Product Displays
Studio Store Exterior
To learn more, visit Liz, the Official Disney Store Blogger:
 Walt and Mickey Statue
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