The curious case of the Disney hacking hoax

HACKING movie studios to hold content ransom is a growing trend among cyber criminals but others, it seems, are hoping to get rich by simply pretending to do it.

While it was thought Disney had been hacked, it turns out that those making demands didn’t have anything.

THERE has been a spate of hacking attacks in recent weeks targeted at big movie studios in which cyber criminals try to kidnap content and hold it for ransom.

Netflix’s popular show Orange is the New Black was stolen and prematurely released by hackers a few weeks ago, while shortly after six people were arrested by Indian authorities attempting to hold a major movie to ransom.

Around the same time Disney announced it had been hacked by a group demanding payment or it would prematurely release an unnamed blockbuster movie.

But after making the apparent hack public Disney became very coy about discussing details and refused to talk to the media.

The Los Angeles Times later identified the movie being ransomed as the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film but there was also speculation it could be the new Star Wars movie due to hit cinemas in December.

Disney Chief executive Bob Iger initially held a staff meeting in which he claimed that hackers had been in contact and were threatening to share the film online in several parts. Mr Iger said the hackers would release five minutes of the film and then 20-minute chunks unless the ransom was paid. The company declined to pay the hackers and turned it over to the FBI.

But for some, the story didn’t seem to add up.

Website TorrentFreak dedicated to all things torrent-related including hacking and piracy conducted its own “investigation” and suggested the demand from the hacker group was a hoax.

“Our conclusion was that the ‘hack’ almost certainly never happened and, from the beginning, no one had ever spoken about the new Pirates film being the ‘hostage’.

“Everything pointed to a ransom being demanded for a non-existent copy of The Last Jedi and that the whole thing was a grand hoax,” the website wrote.

And it turns they were right. The whole thing was much to do about nothing.

Following an FBI investigation, the Disney boss said there was no way that anybody had access to the films before they appeared in the cinema.

“To our knowledge, we were not hacked,” Mr Iger told Yahoo Finance over the weekend.

“We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen.

“We decided to take it seriously but not react in the manner in which the person who was threatening us had required.”

Hacking movie studios to hold content for ransom is a growing trend among cyber criminals but others, it seems, are hoping to get rich by simply pretending to do it.


‘Disney Movie Magic’ nighttime projection show makes surprise debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney surprised guests at Hollywood Studios this evening with the debut of a brand new projection show, “Disney Movie Magic.”

This new 10-minute projection show precedes the “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” nighttime show, and celebrates many of Disney’s live-action films and franchises, including “Indiana Jones,”  “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The show also includes a special moment featuring Walt Disney.

Both this show and the Star Wars nighttime show will be shown nightly. No end date has been set for either.

Check out our video of the new nighttime show below:




Dole Whip Fans Discovered a Secret Spicy Seasoning for the Disney Dessert

No trip to Disneyland or Disney World is complete without the purchase of a classic Dole Whip. If you’re not familiar with the Disney-exclusive treat, it’s a pineapple-flavored, soft-serve frozen dessert, and basically, it’s delicious, highly Instagrammable, and ultra refreshing in that Florida and California heat. But just when you thought the Dole Whip couldn’t get any better, it turns out Disney has been hiding a spice that complements the Whip’s flavors perfectly — and the best part is, it’s free.

As pointed out by the Disney Food Blog, free single-serve packets of Tajín Clásico Seasoning are available at the Tropical Imports snack stand in Adventureland. The blog notes that Tajín, which is a flavored with Mexican chiles, lime juice, and sea salt, is known for enhancing the flavors of fruit, making it a natural match for the fruity Dole Whip. After picking up your Tajín, head over to the Tiki Juice Bar (if you’re in Disneyland) or The Magic Kingdom (if you’re in Disney World), purchase your Dole Whip, generously sprinkle the Tajín on, and voilà!

The culinary whizzes at Disney Food Blog are not the only Disney fans to catch wind of the hack — a few photos of other fans’ attempts to spice up their Dole Whips can be found in the corners of the internet.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

so this is a dole whip float with tajin on top and I didn’t know you could get tajin on top but you can and it’s delicious

And while the hack has actually been around for quite some time, the internet is just now catching wind of the trend. Many have taken to Twitter over the past few weeks to express their desire to try the simple food hack during their next visit to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Here’s hoping Disney starts keeping Tajín behind the same counters that serve Dole Whips — goodness knows we could use the extra time saved to wait in line for Space Mountain.


How Disney fit a Guardians of the Galaxy space age power plant into a theme park

The new Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride set to open Saturday at Disney California Adventure looks like it was dropped from outer space into the middle of the Anaheim theme park. And that’s by design.

Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of the company, re-skinned the 2004 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror indoor elevator drop ride with a back story loosely based on the original 2014 “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie and its sequel. The films feature a mismatched team of intergalactic misfits who band together to save the universe.

Imagineer Joe Rohde, who led the renovation project, says the imposing Guardians building was designed to make an “abrupt, powerful appearance” out of nowhere, surrounded by “torch marks where this thing burnt itself into our reality.”

“It’s not a fantasy world,” Rohde said in an interview with The Times. “It is an alternative reality world. It appears in our world and transforms it.”

The polarizing exterior facade has drawn the ire of some Disney fanatics. One fan in a MiceChat forum described the renovated tower as a “half-roasted turkey.” Others were less kind. The positive comments tend to fall into the “wait and see” or “give it time” categories.

The renovated building is now home to an alien museum, where the Collector character from the first film stores his vast extraterrestrial collection. The structure — combining an industrial power plant with an imposing fortress — is intended to reinforce the notion of the power-hungry Collector’s vast energy consumption.

“If you look at the building, we had to draw from not only the filmic universe, but also the comic book universe,” Rohde said. “Make nods to Jack Kirby and to old, established comic book style in order to get that building to feel like it comes from the universe without necessarily being a copy of anything that you’ve seen in a film.”

To say the wild new exterior sticks out in the meticulously designed Disney theme park would be a vast understatement. Disney Imagineers purposely designed the Guardians facade to contrast with the Art Deco surroundings of the nearby faux Hollywood Boulevard.

The renovation transformed the exterior of the haunted hotel into an imposing space age fortress covered in power plant-like piping and shimmering earth tones. The effect is shocking. It looks like someone dropped an industrial oil refinery in the middle of the park. The 183-foot-tall building is visible throughout the park and even from the Santa Ana (5) Freeway.

The Collector’s fortress was inspired by gothic influences, art nouveau design and even Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, Rohde said.

“We want your eye to flow up that building,” Rohde said. “Make your eyes lift up and look up, up, up at this thing and feel that you want to go inside. Ultimately, the building has to make you want to go inside.”

The design of the Guardians ride building drew upon Renzo Piano’s inside-out Pompidou Centre in Paris, which Rohde described as an industrial building with “high romantic feeling.”

“Ultimately our product needs romanticism,” Rohde said. “It needs to be picturesque. It needs to be beautiful.”

The controversial renovation raises the age-old question Disney fans have been asking for decades: What would Walt think?

Walt Disney famously rejected early designs that called for a decrepit Haunted Mansion, refusing to build a ramshackle haunted house in the middle of his immaculately maintained theme park.

Imagineers followed Walt’s lead when plans called for a “junkyard” at the entrance to Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is the cleanest, most orderly and well-manicured garbage dump you will ever find.

We will have to wait to see how the new Guardians attraction eventually fits into Imagineering’s larger vision for a Marvel-themed land already in the planning stages.


Circle with Disney raises $10 million for its parental control device for families

Circle Media, the company behind Circle with Disney – a device that helps parents enforce their home’s internet rules and restrictions – has raised $10 million in Series A funding, the company announced this morning. The round was led by early stage venture fund Relay Ventures. There was another private equity investment in the round, but the parties didn’t want to be named.

The Portland-based startup had previously raised $800,000 in startup capital and $3 million in convertible notes. We had reported $1.5 million raised in November 2015, while fundraising was ongoing.

The A round included $7 million in new money from Relay and others, as well as the $3 million in convertible notes that changed from loan to stock. Counting this as additional new money, Circle has raised $10 million to date.

The idea behind Circle with Disney is to offer parents a simpler way of managing the devices on their home network, including when family members are allowed to be online, and what content they’re able to access. This is not a novel concept, to be fair – numerous companies have offered internet control software in the past, and several makers of network-attached hardware exist today that can do much of what Circle with Disney can, too.

For example, Circle’s device competes with newer kid-safe routers like Torch, as well as modern routers that include parental control features, like Orbi, Eero, Luma, and others. It also takes on services like OpenDNS’s family shield or even the newer parental control applications rolling out from larger companies, like Comcast’s new Xfinity xFi app, Amazon’s FreeTime, or Google’s Family Link.

Like many of these devices and services, Circle with Disney allows parents to set device time limits, device “bedtimes,” configure internet and app filters, track web usage, and pause the home’s internet.

In fact, Apple’s failure to address some of these parental concerns – like being able to disable internet access, or setting screen time limits – within its iOS software has left a hole in the market, allowing companies like this to emerge.

In addition to the basics, Circle with Disney offers ways to reward kids with screen time for doing chores, turn off distracting apps while teens are driving, and more through a “Connections” platform that works with third-party apps and services.

Circle with Disney’s other advantage – as you can guess by its name – is its partnership with Disney for use of its brand name and select assets. The device includes access to short-form Disney content, like trailers, video clips, games, social media postings, GIFs, emojis, promos and more. Dozens of pieces of content are added daily, so there’s always something new to see.

The $99 device is sold through Amazon, Best Buy, Target,, and Circle’s website, and it recently hit 3,700 Walmart stores in the U.S.

Circle founder Jelani Memory, a former creative consultant, photographer, and videographer, declined to say how many Circle devices have been sold to date, but noted that the expansion in Walmart doubled its retail presence.

Beyond the upfront purchase price, Circle Media also makes money by upgrading customers to its Circle Go subscription. This extends Circle’s feature set outside the home, including to mobile devices on cellular networks, for $9.95 per month.

However, for this to work on iOS, it requires the installation of a profile on the iPhone. This can be a little tricky to set up. And, because it connects the device to a VPN in order to work, some services may be unavailable or partially disrupted when it’s installed, including Netflix, Hulu, Pokémon Go, and Ticketmaster, the company says. Others may also perform inconsistently, like iMessage, Snapchat and Instagram.

This can make for a difficult upsell, obviously, and speaks to the broader issues with not having better iOS parental controls available from Apple directly. (Memory also declined to share details about conversions from device owners to subscribers.)

The company says it plans to use the new funding to continue to develop the product, expand to new markets, and pursue growth.

“With our current headcount at about 30 people, we have plans to double that in the next 12 months across all departments, specifically in our development teams,” notes Memory. “We’ll also be continuing to work on new product offerings that will be debuted later this year, as well as scaling into additional regions across the globe. We have currently availability in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden and seek to expand that. We’ll also seek to deepen our marketing spend,” he adds.

“We live in an era where parents need solutions to help manage their family’s persistent access to the internet,” said Kevin Talbot, managing partner, Relay Ventures, in a statement about the firm’s investment. “As a happy Circle customer I proactively tracked them down and decided to invest because their product simply works exactly as advertised.”


Your guide to Pandora, Disney’s new ‘Avatar’-inspired land

The wait is almost over. Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom opens to the general public Saturday. Walt Disney World’s newest land was inspired by the characters, mind-set and lush planet of the 2009 film “Avatar,” directed by James Cameron. Our guide to Pandora should help visitors navigate the largest expansion in the theme park’s history.

WHERE ARE WE? Theme is everything to Disney’s Pandora. The story line of the land is that visitors are traveling from Earth to the far-off planet of Pandora, home of the Na’vi people. (the elongated, blue-skinned beings you’ve seen.) The setting is years after the conflict in the film, so you’re not entering a war zone. Enough time has passed that the Na’vi are ready to show Earthlings a part of their world, the Valley of Mo’ora.

WHAT WE WILL SEE? It’s an extraordinarily green space, loaded with Pandoran vegetation. Green moss and other colorful growths are taking over, obscuring structures left by the land-raping villains in the film. But what you’ll likely notice first are the floating mountains, sort of inverted pyramid-shaped mounds looming above the land. (They provide some shade too.)

WHAT WE WILL NOT SEE? The Na’vi are not walk-around characters at Disney’s Pandora, which would be an awesome photo op but, let’s face it, a casting challenge. These guys are like 12 feet tall. However, you will spy the big blues in both rides and, of course, in the gift shop.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE RIDES? There are two: Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage. The first is a boat ride for all ages, not so much scary as very dark, broken up by bursts of bioluminesence. The adventure builds up to the reveal of the shaman of songs, a very blue, very large (though not Yeti-sized) animatronic.

On Flight of Passage, the idea is that you’re riding your very own banshee, a flying predator with which the Na’vi have personal connections. They take visitors on a (simulated) trip above Pandora, which looks remarkably like the new Disney World land only it keeps going and going, eventually reaching the sea. The attraction is like a reconfigured version of Soarin’, but with more multisensory effects and no dangling feet.

In a departure from usual Disney practices, there is no signage indicating the two rides. Walk toward the FastPass+ indicators.

WHAT TO BUY, WHAT TO BUY … Windtraders, the main gift shop, is attached to the exit of Flight of Passage. All the products are Pandora-driven, including robotic banshees that perch on your shoulder, various T-shirts featuring natural scenes, mugs, jewelry, beaded key chains and Na’vi translation trading cards. You might also munch from a bag of blue-tinted blueberry almond popcorn. Or you can take home a 10-inch Na’vi action figure that looks like you in an elongated, blue way.

A smaller outlet includes face-painting and items such as an attachable Na’vi tail (Disney sells a Tigger version elsewhere), glow-in-the-dark percussion and Na’vi-inspired headbands, the Pandora version of mouse ears.

WHAT TO EAT: Satu’li Canteen has set up shop in an abandoned Quonset hut. The fare is Na’vi-esque: Natural and low-fat. It’s a counter-service restaurant, but visitors can work around that by ordering through the My Disney Experience app. This is new to the resort and will be spreading out from Satu’li to other WDW outlets. A drink stand called Pongu Pongu (translation: Party Party) serves up green beer and multicolored frozen drinks.

WHEN TO GO: Pandora debuts Saturday, but Disney has no ceremony or “ta-da” moment scheduled. (Even daytime pyro might wreck the theme, no?) The park opens at 8 a.m. Saturday. Of course, it’s Memorial Day weekend, so all attractions should be busy. Despite the soft openings and passholder previews, first day of a Disney land is likely to draw a crowd. What’s the Na’vi word for “perfect storm”?


Disney’s Live-Action Pinocchio May Now Be Directed By Oscar Winner Sam Mendes

For some reason, everyone wants to make a new Pinocchio movie. Guillermo del Toro tried. Robert Downey Jr tried. And, of course, Disney is trying, building off the growing success of its live-action remakes of classic animation. Now there’s been a significant update to the Disney version of the tale with Oscar winner Sam Mendes currently in talks to direct.

Mendes, who directed the last two James Bond films and won an Oscar for American Beauty, had been attached to remake James and the Giant Peach for the company but has now moved onto Pinocchio. He hasn’t stated a reason why, but an educated guess would be some combination of two things — Beauty and the Beast‘s incredible success pushing all of these movies into overdrive being the main one, as well as the emergence of a more advanced script. When the movie was first announced, Peter Hedges (About a Boy) was writing the film. Whether or not that’s still the main draft is unclear.

Pinocchio joins a long (very, very long) list of properties that Disney is currently targeting for live-action remakes. Mulan is likely to be the next one in theatres; directed by Niki Caro, it’s due out in November 2018. Mary Poppins Returns will be after that at Christmas 2018, and Jon Favreau’s Lion King will be out July 2019. In between, Disney has several other dates slotted for potential “Live Action Fairy Tales”, and among the contenders are Tim Burton’s Dumbo and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin.

As for those other Pinocchio movies… I’d be lying if I said there was news.

Disney Seeks Dismissal of ‘Zootopia’ Copyright Lawsuit

The studio tells a judge that its hit animated film is nothing like the one pitched by the writer of "Total Recall."
The Walt Disney Company is looking to cage a high-stakes lawsuit that accuses the studio of copying work to create the Oscar-winning animation film Zootopia. On Monday, Disney brought a motion to dismiss a complaint from Esplanade Productions and characterized the lawsuit as “just another example in a long history of plaintiffs coming out of the woodwork after a motion picture has achieved critical and financial success to claim credit — and proceeds — where none is due.”

A California federal judge will decide whether Esplanade gets to move forward on its claim that Gary L. Goldman pitched work to defendants only to have his treatment, synopsis, character descriptions, character illustrations and other materials misappropriated. Goldman is represented by the prominent law firm of Quinn Emanuel and his credits include writing Total Recall and Next and producing Minority Report. Disney’s view of the Zootopia suit as “just another” money grab is somewhat belied by its choice of Daniel Petrocelli, a power litigator at O’Melveny, to lead the defense.

Disney is treating the case seriously, although Petrocelli takes a rather straightforward approach in seeking dismissal by arguing that Esplanade’s complaint hasn’t plausibly demonstrated enough substantial similarity between Zooptopia and Goldman’s work, dubbed Looney. Disney’s lawyer ignores Goldman’s alleged contacts with Disney executives — which is important, because where a high degree of access is shown in copyright cases, a lower standard of proof of similarity is necessary — and instead faults the plaintiff for not attaching its synopsis, treatment or copyright application, “thereby preventing both the Court and Defendants from performing a complete side-by-side comparison.”

In light of this absence, Disney reads into the complaint, for example “deduc[ing] from the sparse allegations that Looney‘s hero is actually a human animator.”

Petrocelli attempts to emphasize dissimilarity.

Looney is a treatment and synopsis for a live-action picture about the struggles and growth of a male human animator who creates a world of animated characters,” he writes. “Zootopia is an animated motion picture about a bunny protagonist who interacts only with anthropomorphic talking animals. There are no humans, and there is no live-action component.”

The dismissal motion (read in full here) also looks to knock Esplanade for merely pleading “similarity of high-level ideas” (as copyright protects expression, not ideas).

“Plaintiff’s allegations really only describe a buddy movie that features two contrasting protagonists who partner to solve a problem in the face of adversity, precisely the kind of ‘basic plot idea’ that courts have consistently dismissed as unprotected,” states the motion.

Disney also aims to undercut allegations regarding the similarity of characters, both on a broad level (“the mere use of animated animals in motion pictures is unprotected by copyright law and cannot sustain a claim of substantial similarity”) as well as on a granular one: “Judy [from Zootopia] is a rabbit; Mimi [Goldman’s creation] is a squirrel. Judy is shown wearing a police officer’s uniform; Mimi wears no clothing at all. Judy is a complex three-dimensional, full color, computer-animated character; Mimi is a two-dimensional hand drawing. No reasonable juror could view these two characters and conclude that they are substantially similar.”

Then, there’s the fact that the complaint alleged that in some fashion, Goldman used or pitched “Zootopia” for his own work.

Disney considers precisely how Goldman used the word to be vague. Notwithstanding this, the defendants say that “Zootopia” has been applied in other real-world contexts.

“For example, since at least 2012, the name ‘Zootopia’ has been associated with a zoo in Denmark,” states the dismissal motion. “And it has been used since 1999 as the name of a New York area radio station’s annual concert series. Plaintiff’s insinuation that it alone created and coined the term is flatly wrong. Anyway, as Plaintiff readily admits, ‘[t]itles…[are] not independently copyrightable.”

Such might be true, although in light of other associations highlighted by Disney, it bears noting that the studio earlier this month was granted a trademark registration certificate on “Zootopia.”

As for copyright registration (copyright protects authorship while trademark protects the sourcing of goods and services), Disney says that Esplanade’s failure to register until Feb. 10, 2017, after Zootopia was released, bars the plaintiff from recovering its attorneys’ fees and statutory damages. That might be a moot point anyway because with Zootopia commanding more than a billion dollars in box-office revenue, the plaintiff may elect actual damages instead.


Disney, Warner: Merchandise Up as DVD Sales Tank

With DVD sales tanking in a world of streaming content, major film studios, including Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. and The Walt Disney Co. are picking up the pace of merchandising on everything from toys to home décor.

The move on the part of film companies comes at a time not only when DVD sales are in a quickening state of decline but also as box office revenue around the globe is slowing. With increasing profits the name of the game, consumers should expect to see more products tied to movies this year, reported The New York Times. The paper, citing data from Bloomberg, reported that in 2017 film companies will roll out 25 movies that have toys tied to them. That’s up from eight per year in the past.

A Sony Corp. executive told the Times it will be “jumping headfirst into the space” when “The Emoji Movie” hits movie theater screens in July. Meanwhile, Warner Bros., under the charge of Pam Lifford, who became president of Warner Bros. consumer products in January 2016, has picked up the business of merchandising in a big way. Prior to Lifford’s appointment, the merchandising unit had no growth, but in 2016 profits increased 47% over 2015. Sales from licensed products hit $6.5 billion last year, marking an 8% rise. Lifford had spent 12 years at Disney Consumer products before leaving in 2012, noted the report.

Disney as No. 1

With a slew of movies slated for the summer, consumers should expect to see a ton of merchandise from the likes of “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Cars 3,” “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Despicable Me 3.” Meanwhile, “Justice League” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” toys and other products will hit store shelves in the fall.

While the other studios are playing catch-up when it comes to merchandising, Disney has been doing it for years now and it has paid off. The Times reported that during the past five years operating income at the consumer products and video game unit increased to $2 billion from $1 billion thanks to blockbuster hits like “Frozen.” More recently Disney has been rolling out products tied to the live-action remake of “Beauty and The Beast,” among other films. Disney currently holds the title of No. 1 licenser, not only with toys, home décor and apparel but also its massive theme parks around the globe. The theme parks brought the entertainment giant $56.6 billion in retail sales in 2016, noted the report.


Former Disney CEO Eisner close to buying Portsmouth

  • (Reuters)
 LONDON (Reuters) – American billionaire businessman Michael Eisner is poised to take control of Portsmouth after the ex-Premier League club’s Supporters Trust (PST) voted to sell its 48.5 per cent share on Monday.

The decision paves the way for the former Walt Disney CEO to complete a summer takeover of the largest club under fan ownership in England, adding another colourful chapter to one of football’s most famous old names.

“This is true fan ownership and democracy at work,” PST chairman Ashley Brown said in announcing the result of the vote.

“We believe he (Eisner) understands the importance of the custodianship of Pompey and will be an owner all fans will be proud of.”

Portsmouth, who were founded in 1898, have a gold-plated heritage, winning the title twice in 1949 and 1950, and the FA Cup in 1939 and 2008.

They have always enjoyed strong local support but a series of financial problems under foreign owners culminated in relegation from the Premier League in 2010, administration and further tumbles down the divisions.

With the club’s future under threat, the PST took control in 2013 alongside 12 “presidents”, nine of whom also now support selling to Eisner, after raising enough money from 2,750 members to secure a 48.5 per cent stake.

Eisner and his Tornante investment group have offered 5.57 million pounds ($7.25 million) for Portsmouth, matching the amount the supporters originally raised.

“Hoping to complete acquisition process (due diligence and all that stuff) this summer,” California-based Eisner said on Twitter on Monday.

The decision to revert to outside ownership now has been controversial with not all supporters in agreement. But the 75-year-old Eisner topped up his bid with the promise of £10 million more investment, with at least £5 million earmarked for the repair of Fratton Park, Portsmouth’s tumbledown ground on England’s south coast.

“It seems to me that this would be an investment my children and grandchildren could participate in,” Eisner said on a visit to the club earlier this year. “We are not doing it to have a failure financially, obviously, but that is not the only reason why we are doing it.”

Around a third of English clubs are under foreign ownership. Premier League clubs Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United Swansea City and recently relegated Sunderland are all under the control of Americans, who increasingly regard English football as an attractive investment.

In 2015, Forbes magazine estimated Eisner’s net worth at $1 billion.


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