‘Star Wars’ hotel, Epcot upgrades coming to Disney theme parks

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Reuters) – An immersive “Star Wars” hotel, a new “Ratatouille” attraction and the first ever Mickey Mouse ride are just some of the high-profile features coming soon to Walt Disney Co’s theme parks revealed on Saturday.

Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will house the hotel where guests can live out a multi-day adventure within the intergalactic universe of the “Star Wars” film franchise, parks and resorts Chairman Bob Chapek told attendees gathered at Disney’s annual D23 fan convention in Southern California.

Two new “Star Wars” themed lands coming to Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida, will be called “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” he said.

A model concept of the expansive new lands was unveiled on Thursday, showing pavilions set in rough, rocky terrain and uneven buildings that will house attractions. The lands will include a Millennium Falcon ride.

Disney plans to open a “Star Wars” land first in its California park and then in Florida in 2019. At 14 acres each, they will be the largest-ever single-themed land expansions, Disney said.

Theme parks, Disney’s second-largest division, posted $1.9 billion in operating income for the six months ended April 1, according to its latest earnings report.

Disney has been investing in new attractions at its U.S. theme parks as it faces competition from Comcast Corp’s Universal Studios.

In May, Disney opened a land based on the movie “Avatar” at the Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, and a ride based on Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” at California Adventure in Anaheim.

Ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021, Chapek announced new upgrades to Disney’s futuristic Epcot park in Florida that will include a new “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction and a “Ratatouille” ride, based on the popular one at Disneyland Paris. A new theme restaurant will offer views of outer space.

Florida’s Walt Disney World will introduce the first-ever ride starring company mascot, Mickey Mouse. “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad” will allow guests to enter an animated adventure with the characters.

A high-speed “Tron” ride is coming to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the world’s most popular theme park with about 20.4 million visitors in 2016, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.

Chapek also said a new “Pixar Pier” attraction would replace “Paradise Pier” at Disney’s California Adventure, a new home for Pixar’s animated characters.



Wreck-It Ralph 2 Is Bringing Back All The Disney Princesses, And Making Them Wickedly Funny

image: https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/t_original/i0ktvxpgmxnnlg8i08m9.jpg

The next film from Disney Animation will bring back every single Disney Princess — voiced by all of the same actresses who played the original parts who are still living. That’s exciting in its own right, but the odd thing is that this grand reunion happens in Wreck-It Ralph 2.

Wreck-It Ralph 2 concept art courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 opens in the US 21 November 2018. At the D23 Expo, it was revealed that the plot revolves around Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and Ralph (John C. Reilly) having to go into the internet to get a missing piece for Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush. A clip from the film was shown, and here’s what happens:

Once Ralph and Vanellope make it into the internet, they meet Yesss (that’s right), voiced by Taraji P. Henson. Ralph tells her he wants to “go viral” and she explains that the internet is very segregated; it’s a place where everyone hangs with people who share their same thoughts. But there is one place where everyone shares all the same likes: OhMyDisney.com, the happiest place online.

And then we’re basically in the internet version of Disneyland. Iron Man is flying around. The Millennium Falcon is docked nearby. Tinkerbell flits by Ralph and he says, “I’m going to call you Stinkersmell” — so she throws some pixie dust on him. There’s a booth called Marvel Yourself where avatars go in and then pop out as Gamora, Iron Man or even Stan Lee. (“Excelsior,” Lee says.) Another place has a kid pressing the buttons on a Buzz Lightyear model. Just mashing away. Buzz is not happy about it.

Ralph and Vanellope realise that this place is bonkers and Yesss agrees. She said the place has everything, including food and merch — and then someone runs and screams, “Tsum Tsum,” a real-life popular stuffed toy, which Vanellope calls “little furry sausages”.

Just then there’s a scream, and things get next-level insane: It’s fans going crazy because the Disney Princesses have arrived. They’re being escorted around by Force Awakens stormtroopers. Vanellope wants to mess with them, but Yesss says they are off limits. So she and Ralph walk away but Vanellope doesn’t. She wants to raise some hell. So she glitches past the stormtroopers into the princesses’ room.

And they’re all there: Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, all the way up to Anna, Elsa and Moana. They are just hanging out and jump when Vanellope barges in. They’re ready to kick her arse when she explains that she’s a princess too. So the girls go around the room to ask how she’s a princess, and they each give their own slightly crazy story: “Did you get kidnapped?” “Did you get poisoned?” “Did you make a deal with a witch to exchange your voice for a pair of human legs?” And so on. And finally, “Do people assume your problems were solved because a man showed up?” (or something like that, I didn’t get the quote 100 per cent right). “Yes,” says Vanellope, and they instantly accept her as a princess.

They talk about how much they love her outfit, so the ladies decide to order some comfortable clothes. Now they’re all just hanging out and lounging. Snow White admits she can’t really see and needs glasses. Jasmine is allergic to cats. Ariel says she loves her new thingamabob (“What’s that word again? Shirt!”). She says she’s so happy, in fact, she wants to sing, and starts to. But all the other princesses stop her. Then Merida from Brave starts to talk about something in a very thick Scottish accent. Vanelope asks what she said, and one of the princesses says, “We don’t understand her, she’s from the other studio,” a reference to Pixar.

Just then, C-3PO comes in and tells the princesses they have a show in a few minutes. “Thanks R2,” one says. “Oh, you know he doesn’t like that.” “Oh, I’m sorry BB-8.” And 3PO leaves all mad. “‘You love princesses,’ they said,” he mutters. “I miss Captain Solo.”

“Too easy,” the princesses say about their jokes, and exchange fist bumps.

The scene played fast and loose with all of Disney’s brands and really had a kind of mean, funny, modern-internet feel to it. It was frankly kind of shocking to see the princesses not just in three dimensions, but being so… human.

Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 opens in the US 21 November 2018. An Australian release date has not yet been confirmed.


Disney finds its Aladdin, Jasmine with Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott

DISNEY has found its Aladdin and Jasmine.

Disney production President Sean Bailey said this morning that newcomer Mena Massoud will star as the scrappy Aladdin.

Mena Massoud has been cast as Aladdin. Picture: Twitter

Mena Massoud has been cast as Aladdin. Picture: TwitterSource:Supplied

Aladdin in the 1992 Disney movie. Picture: AP

Aladdin in the 1992 Disney movie. Picture: APSource:AP

Naomi Scott will take the role of Jasmine in the live-action adaptation.

Scott played Kimberley in Power Ranger.,

Naomi Scott has been cast as Jasmine in Aladdin. Picture: Twitter

Naomi Scott has been cast as Jasmine in Aladdin. Picture: TwitterSource:Supplied

Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. Picture: Supplied

Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

Will Smith has already been cast as the Genie, the role made popular by Robin Williams when he lent his voice to the 1992 animated feature.

US actor Will Smith will play the Genie. Picture: AFP

US actor Will Smith will play the Genie. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Robin Williams was the voice of the Genie in the 1992 movie. Picture: Supplied

Robin Williams was the voice of the Genie in the 1992 movie. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia

The film will be directed by Guy Ritchie.



Hamill, Fisher honoured as Disney legends

Mark Hamill says he can’t believe that he has been bestowed one of Disney’s highest honours and Carrie Fisher wasn’t there to see it.

Hamill and Fisher were named “Disney Legends” during a ceremony on Friday at the company’s biannual fan convention, the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.

The 65-year-old actor says Fisher would likely have been showing him the middle finger, just out of sight of the cameras. It was one of her favourite gestures, he said.

“I really wish she were here,” Hamill said.

“But, she would also want us to be having a good time and not be sad.”

Fisher died unexpectedly in December.

The “Star Wars” star says even on Friday morning, he hadn’t wrapped his head around receiving the honour, which was also bestowed to Oprah Winfrey and Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.

Hamill, 65, reprises his role as Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which will be released in December. Disney is expected to reveal new details about the film during a D23 panel on Saturday.

Fisher also appears in the film having completed her work on it before her unexpected death.

Hamill said he has seen only bits of “The Last Jedi” while doing some additional voice recordings for the film, and those were in black-and-white.

“It looks wonderful in black-and-white,” he said.



Disney Unveils ‘Cars’/’Planes’ Spinoff That Will Go to Space

The stars of 'Frozen 2' also stopped by to tease their sequel.
Disney is heading to space.

After an emotional ceremony honoring this year’s Disney Legends, D23 continued in earnest Friday with the company’s animation panel — where it announced the next chapter in its Cars universe.

John Lasseter came onstage, using a merch gun to whip the crowd into a frenzy, and he showed off footage from a new Disneytoon project he dubbed “the speed test.”

The footage was something akin to Top Gun on steroids, with planes that go all the way into space. The planes had faces, like those seen in the two installments of Cars spinoff Planes, which hail from the Disney division, although Lasseter made no direct mention of that franchise.

In the footage, after showing two planes zooming through a desert landscape, a third plane rocketed down from above, showing that no matter how fast that duo was flying, it was no match for this plane.

And as that plane hurled through the stratosphere, a title card came up, reading, “SPACE.” But that proved not to be the title of the film, as other words came up around it, saying that “this SPACE will be filled with a title in the future.”

The film will be released theatrically, with Lasseter revealing a debut of April 12, 2019.

Next up during Friday’s animation panel, Frozen stars Kristen Bell and Josh Gad teased the new short Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, with Gad (Olaf) singing a song from the project live.

The pair also revealed Frozen 2 will get a new title, but they aren’t yet ready to reveal what it will be, although Lasseter, Bell and Gad had fun onstage going through possibilities such as Frozen AssetsFro-Yo andThawed, among numerous others. Then Disney showed off a sizzle reel demonstrating the research the team was doing to get ready for the sequel’s release, including a trip to Norway.

Idina Menzel is also returning for the project, and once again, co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee are at the helm.

Frozen 2 is scheduled for a Nov. 27, 2019, release.


Disney offers a first look at Star Wars land

Disney unveiled the 50-foot-wide model at the D23 expo in California.
 Image: Disney

Disney has finally given a first glimpse into its highly anticipated Star Wars lands currently being built in California and Florida, unveiling a 50-foot-wide 3D model of the area that will eventually cover about 14 acres. The Star Wars-themed attractions are due to open in 2019 at Disneyland in Anaheim, and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disney World in Orlando.

In a blog post, the company said both Star Wars-inspired lands will take guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port, and “one of the last stops before Wild Space.” The unveiling came at the D23 expo, currently being held in Anaheim, California, where the models are on display through the weekend.

There will be two main attractions: one that lets guests captain the Millennium Falcon on a secret mission, while the other places thrill-seekers in the middle of a “climatic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The images released show rugged terrain, lush forests reminiscent of scenes on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and metal cantina structures. According to Bloomberg, the new Star Wars lands will cost about $1 billion each.

View image on Twitter

The @DisneyParks -themed land model is OUT of this world and you have to see it at 

“This is the most ambitious land we’ve built to date,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney’s parks division at the unveiling. Plans for Star Wars lands were announced two years ago and promised “total immersion” that would see guests walk around and interact with random characters.

The new section also boasts a never-before-seen planet and a remote trading port.
 Image: Disney

“As you move through the areas, you might be recruited to join one side or the other,” he said. “Are you a spy? Are you part of the Resistance or willing to join the First Order? It’s up to you. And your role inside of that will be defined by how you choose,” Scott Mallwitz, ‎executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering, told the Orange County Register.

Earlier this year, Disney also ramped up its expansion, and opened an Avatar-themed land in Orlando based on the movie’s feature planet Pandora.


Disney’s search for a diamond in the rough to play Aladdin hits a snag

Casting the lovers in a live-action Aladdin has proved difficult for Disney. Photo: Disney

Casting the lovers in a live-action Aladdin has proved difficult for Disney. Photo: Disney

Wanted: one street urchin, with the profile of a prince, and a physique that matches, beneath the dirt and patches, a diamond in the rough.

The role? Prince Ali, fabulous he, Ali Ababwa, someone who can make the crowds in Agrabah genuflect, show some respect, down on one knee.

Easy, right? Apparently not. The US studio Disney has, according to reports, hit a snag in its pursuit of a star for the planned live action version of Aladdin.

Released as an animated feature in 1992 and based on the story Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin is the story of a poor street urchin who finds a magic lamp, releases a genie and is granted three wishes.

According to a report in The Hollywood Reporter, the studio Disney and director Guy Ritchie have been searching for months for the right actor to play Aladdin but have so far come up empty handed.

Among those considered were actors Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, The Night Of) and Dev Patel (Lion, The Newsroom).

The report states the studio is looking for someone of “Middle-Eastern or Indian descent” to play Aladdin and Jasmine (both Ahmed and Patel are British actors – Ahmed’s parents were born in Pakistan while Patel’s parents were born in Kenya and are of Indian descent).

In total more than 2000 actors have now read for Aladdin and Jasmine, the report says.

As a result, filming has been delayed.

A planned start date in July won’t be met, which means production in the film will be pushed in the second half of 2017.

Finding a Jasmine has been slightly easier – The Hollywood Reporter says Naomi Scott (Power Rangers, Terra Nova) and Tara Sutaria (The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir) – are possible contenders, but because of chemistry the two lead roles have to be cast together.

To put some context onto why it’s important to get it right, imagine watching a Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Tom Selleck was playing Indiana Jones?

That very nearly happened, until Harrison Ford was cast in the part; the rest, of course, is cinema history. (And about $US2 billion in box office.)

How about Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly in Back To The Future? Stoltz was cast and filmed about half of the movie until he was replaced with Michael J. Fox.

Or David Schwimmer as Agent J in Men In Black? (The role eventually went to Will Smith.) Leonardo DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho? (That went to Christian Bale.) Or even Dougray Scott as Wolverine? (Hugh Jackman eventually got the part.)

So what’s at stake? Money, and lots of it.

Disney dipped its toe in the genre in 2014 with a live action film Maleficent, based on the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. It pulled $US758 million at the box office.

Then the studio produced a live action remake of Cinderella in 2015, directed by Kenneth Branagh. It pulled $US534 million at the box office.

It might have seemed like an investment of diminishing returns, were it not for the recent animation-to-live-action adaptation Beauty and the Beast, which cost $US120 million to make but has so far pulled in $US1.26 billion at the box office.

That of course, changed everything.

How much of that pivoted on Emma Watson playing Belle and Dan Stevens the prince-turned-beast who is redeemed by winning her unconditional love is anyone’s guess, but in a town like Hollywood casting has always been the key.

Dev Patel was reportedly considered for the role of Aladdin. Photo: Getty Images

Dev Patel was reportedly considered for the role of Aladdin. Photo: Getty Images

Having tapped a new vein of revenue, Disney has plans for almost a dozen animation-to-live-action remakes, with titles such as The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Mulan on the list.

Using some loose mathematics, we could even build an algorithm that says the live action remakes have about three times the box office potential of their animated forebears.

Beauty and the Beast, for example, pulled $US425 million in animated form and has taken in roughly three times that as a live action feature.

So Aladdin, having pulled around $US504 million the first time around, could be looking at something in the $US1.5 billion range at the live action box office.

Which means there is an even bigger payday on the horizon for Disney, and its name is Frozen.

With the original was worth $US1.3 billion in animated form, could Disney be dreaming of a US$3.6 billion payday?


Legal push to have State Government reveal payment to Disney

THE public has a right to know how much government money was paid to a US company to film Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Men Tell No Tales in Queensland, the man at the centre of a legal appeal said today.

Screen Queensland claims there are strong confidentiality reasons for not making public the amount the State paid to lure US company Disney to make the film on the Gold Coast in 2015.

Actor Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow arrives at Raby Bay to film Pirates of the Caribbean in 2015. Picture: Mark Calleja

The film and television body wants to keep secret its dealings with Disney over State Government financial incentives for it to film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales.

Gerard Sammon, counsel for the Department of Premier and Cabinet, has also opposed disclosure of the amount of incentive, claiming the information was a Cabinet decision and exempt.

A Right To Information request was made by Christopher Boyd, of Gold Coast company Glass Media Group, who asked for access to documents showing the amount of the incentive payment.

He was granted access to a one page document, apart from one sentence describing the structure and value of the incentive payment, and appealed.

On August 19 last year, the Office of the Information Commissioner decided the document detailing the amount paid to Disney by the State Government should be made public.

“There is a strong and compelling public interest in ensuring that government decisions which result in the transfer of significant quantities of public funds to private interests are made with the utmost transparency and accountability,” the Information Commissioner said.

Christopher Boyd of Glass Media Group wants the State Government to reveal how much they paid Disney to have Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales filmed in Queensland. Picture: Kate McKenna

Taxpayer-funded Screen Queensland (SQ), which negotiated the financial agreement, appealed the decision in Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“I believe that the Queensland people should know how much money is gifted to US corporations to make feature films,” Mr Boyd said, after today’s tribunal hearing.

“A lot of this information in other industries is available to people.

“In the film industry, for some reason, they don’t want to tell us exactly what the story is and we’ve been just asking a very simple question, can’t get the answer, still waiting for the answer.”

Counsel for SQ, Jonathan Horton QC, today told the tribunal that disclosure of the amount paid to Disney would be a breach of confidence and detrimental.

Mr Horton said there was a very clear case of commercial in confidence information being exchanged between organisations for the benefit of the Queensland public.

He said that information was exchanged “to attract business to the State of Queensland to facilitate economic activity”.

Mr Horton said by keeping the amount confidential it avoided a bidding war that might result in even higher payments.

He said the enticement of business to Queensland was a competitive business and other States might be willing to outbid Queensland.

A scene from Pirates of the Caribbean is filmed at Raby Bay. Picture: Mark Calleja

Mr Horton argued that the Information Commissioner erred by applying the wrong test in her decision.

SQ is a company with one shareholder, the State of Queensland, represented by the Premier and Arts Minister, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Mr Horton said the Information Commissioner had wrongly decided Screen Queensland was a public body, when it was a proprietary body.

He also said it was improper to say all information held by a government body was government information.

The Information Commissioner said the amount of the incentive paid was in a briefing note created after the Cabinet Budget Review Committee’s approval of the grant paid to Disney.

However, Mr Sammon said the information at issue reflected a Cabinet decision and disclosure of the amount would therefore reveal a decision of Cabinet, and it should be exempt.

Screen Queensland chief executive Tracey Vieira. Picture: Kate McKenna

“Queensland competes to attract international production,” Screen Queensland Chief Executive Tracey Vieira said outside the tribunal.

“We want to be competitive to make sure we really maximise the benefits for Queensland when we secure these productions to the State.”

She said Pirates of the Caribbean injected $220 million into the Queensland economy and generated 2142 Queensland jobs.

There were over 161,000 bed nights generated from the production in Queensland.

“This is about our industry, our community, our cultural benefits and our tourism benefits and we want to make sure Queensland has the opportunity to continue having these come to our State,” Ms Vieira said.

Screen Queensland also did not want to show its hand to other States competing for film productions, she said.



China’s richest man gives up on plans to beat Disney

China’s richest man is selling hotels and theme parks worth more than $9 billion as he steps back from plans to beat Disney.


Dalian Wanda Group announced plans Monday to sell a 91% stake in more than a dozen tourist attractions to Sunac China Holdings. The $9.3 billion deal also includes 76 Wanda hotels.

Wanda and Sunac said in a joint statement that the deal will be finalized by the end of July.

The move comes a year after Wanda founder Wang Jianlin vowed to crush Disney’s (DIS)business in China, comparing his theme parks to “a pack of wolves.”

China Wanda theme park
One Wanda theme park — Hefei Wanda Culture Tourism City — opened in September 2016.


“Disney really shouldn’t have come to China,” he said in May 2016. “Its financial prospects don’t look so good to me.”

Theme parks were a key part of Wang’s plans to turn his firm into a major player in real entertainment, tourism and sports. In its 2016 annual report, Wanda said that the success of two new parks — in Nanchang and Hefei — had inspired it to export the model abroad.

While Wanda is giving up its controlling stake in the parks, they will continue to use the firm’s branding. Wanda will also operate the parks.

Wang said Monday that the sale should help improve Wanda’s balance sheet, which has been weighed down by debts after years of aggressive expansion.

“The group’s debt-asset ratio will drop dramatically,” Wang told Chinese business magazine Caixin.

Wang, who is the China’s richest man, has long been bullish about investing in entertainment — especially in the U.S.

Wanda bought U.S. theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC) in 2012, and it snapped up Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment last year for $3.5 billion.


Wang has also repeatedly expressed an interest in buying one of the “Big Six” studios in Hollywood. As recently as January, he told a European conference that if one of those big studios came on the market, he would be “a happy buyer.”

But a broader Chinese government crackdown on overseas investments may have curbed Wang’s ambitions. To rein in capital outflows, China has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up its currency, and restricting investments and acquisitions overseas.

In March, Wang $1 billion bid to buy Dick Clark Productions was terminated. Eldridge industries, the production company’s owner, said that it killed the deal after Wanda “failed to honor its contractual obligations.”


Will Disney’s HERCULES Go the Distance to Broadway? Alan Menken Reveals Stage Version in the Works

In a recent interview, composer Alan Menken, revealed plans for a stage version of his 1997 Disney hit, Hercules.

Discussing his appreciation for some of his lesser known works, Menken told The Orange County Register, “I love Quasimodo (from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”). I thought it was a powerful stage show with a very complex protagonist. I’ve loved all of our protagonist: Aladdin, Belle and Jasmine, and Hercules. I have a very strong belief like “Newsies,” “Hercules” is going to have a moment that will surprise people. Actually, I’m working on a stage version of “Hercules.”

There is no current word as to the future of the adaptation of the heroic hit, but with Aladdin and The Lion King dazzling audiences nightly and the mega-hit Frozen preparing for its Broadway run, could Herc be far behind? Stay tuned!

Menken is also gearing up for an appearance at the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center this Sunday where he will share personal reflections and behind-the-scenes intel about his music and creative process.

Alan Menken‘s music and lyrics have become an integral part of the fabric of our lives since his first works were produced nearly 40 years ago. His stage musicals include Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies, Sister Act, A Bronx Tale, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy, Real Life Funnies, Kicks, The Dream on Royal Street, A Christmas Carol, Weird Romance, King David and Leap of Faith. Song and score credits for film musicals include The Little Mermaid, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Animated), Newsies, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Enchanted, Tangled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, The Shaggy Dog, Home on the Range, Mirror Mirror and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Live Action).



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