Walt Disney World renaming Disney-MGM Studios

So long, Disney-MGM Studios. In a widely anticipated move, Walt Disney World is renaming its movies-oriented theme park, dropping the "MGM" name from the brand. But unlike much of what has been anticipated in Disney-gossip circles, the new name will contain neither Pixar nor ABC.

Disney's Hollywood Studios will debut in January, Disney World officials announced today.

"The new name reflects how the park has grown from representing the golden age of movies to a celebration of the new entertainment that today's Hollywood has to offer — in music, television, movies and theater," Disney World President Meg Crofton stated in a news release.

Disney-MGM studios opened on May 1, 1989, and the original lineup of attractions was weighed heavily toward images and themes drawn from Hollywood's "golden age" of the 1920s-'40s. Since then, however, shows, rides and other attractions have drawn much from Disney's television shows and more modern movies.

In fact, in announcing the name change, Disney also announced several entertainment changes keyed to contemporary shows, to be rolled out at about the same time.

The current "Disney Stars and Motor Cars" parade will be replaced with "Block Party Bash," a higher-energy play, party and dance, featuring the "Disney Pixar Films Pals," which has been a hit at the Disney's California Adventure theme park in California. In addition, a new cast of characters from Playhouse Disney, notably those from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einsteins and Handy Manny, will take over the Playhouse Disney-Live On Stage! show. And this fall's release of the new Disney Channel movie Disney High School Musical 2: School's Out will coincide with a new show to replace the High School Musical Pep Rally street show in the theme park's plaza.

The name MGM was originally adopted for the park through a 1985 licensing agreement with MGM movies company that had its origins as Metro Goldwyn Mayer. However, in the 1990s the two corporations sparred in court several times over Disney's use of the name. In 1992 Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe ruled that Disney retained rights to the name for Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World, but that MGM had rights to the name in most other uses, including a theme park MGM wanted to build in Las Vegas.

Almost ever since, speculation has centered on whether Disney would drop MGM from its name. Officials had long denied that the theme park would be renamed either as Disney-ABC Studios, in honor of the broadcast network owned by the Walt Disney Co., or as Disney-Pixar Studios, in honor of the computer animation movie company that Disney bought last year.

Crofton said the new name, "Disney's Hollywood Studios," reflects the park's present and future.

"As a park all about entertainment, Disney's Hollywood Studios will deliver like never before," she stated in the release. "Now we can say that Hollywood is literally our middle name."

Disney announces another year of a million dreams

As Walt Disney World moved from the millennial "2000 Celebration" to Walt Disney's birthday "100 Years of Magic" celebration to Disneyland's 50th anniversary "Happiest Celebration on Earth" to this year's "Year of a Million Dreams," it seems the celebrations almost never end.

With four major celebration/promotional campaigns spanning most of the past eight years, the obvious question is: what's next?

How about another year of another million dreams.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has decided to extend its popular "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion through the end of 2008, spokesman Rick Sylvain announced. The program is highlighted by daily, numerous giveaways of prizes, which can be as simple as FASTPASS tickets or seats on parade floats, or as grand as around-the-world vacation packages or a night in Cinderella Castle. All are awarded to randomly selected visitors.

Since the "Year" debuted in October 2006, the campaign has been credited by everyone from local park officials to Walt Disney Co. President Bob Iger with helping drive a strong and steady surge in customers at Disney World's four theme parks over the past year or so.

"This has been a huge success with our guests and our cast members. To date, more than 846,000 dreams have been awarded to our guests at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland," Sylvain said. "We expect to hit a magical one million dreams late next month."

"Because it has so resonated with guests, Year of a Million Dreams has helped drive a strong year for Disney Parks and Resorts," Sylvain said.

Word went out earlier this month to Walt Disney World pass holders.

The campaign has garnered Disney widespread, localized publicity from hometown media whenever someone has been selected for one of the big prizes, such as when an Ohio family won the right to have the Magic Kingdom theme park all to themselves one morning.

There may be new wrinkles coming. Sylvain said he couldn't yet provide details of the next Year of a Million Dreams, but said they had "plans for exciting new awards in 2008."

Disney snuffing out smoking in its films

Los Angeles – Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Walt Disney Co. will be the first major Hollywood studio to ban smoking in its Disney-branded films and curb smoking depictions in the company's Touchstone and Miramax films, the company said Wednesday.

Also, Burbank-based Disney stated that any film from Disney that will have smoking will have an anti-smoking public service announcement included on DVD releases, and the company is working with theater owners to include a similar announcement before theatrical screenings.

The anti-smoking initiative was announced in a letter from CEO Robert Iger to Republican Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee. Markey recently has held hearings on images of smoking in entertainment, and how those images impact young children.

"The Walt Disney Company shares your concern regarding deaths due to cigarette smoking. We discourage depictions of cigarette smoking in Disney, Touchstone and Miramax films. In particular, we expect that depictions of cigarette smoking in future Disney branded films will be non-existent," the letter stated.

Markey replied in a statement that the Disney initiative is "groundbreaking."

Vintage Mickey: Disney, Seeking Adults, To Market Wine

June 25, 2007: 03:43 PM EST

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Walt Disney Co. (DIS), aiming to be more than a Mickey Mouse operation, is branching out into furniture, linens and even wine.

Starting in the fall, Disney will unveil a line of home goods such as lighting products made by the Minka Group. Disney also plans to market a fashion bath and bedding collection with Dan River, and outdoor table tops and entertaining products with Zak Designs next year.

Next up: Disney is launching a wine label via Costco Wholesale Corp. that is based on its upcoming animated film "Ratatouille," the tale of a rat who wants to become a French chef. The chardonnay, from the Burgundy region in France and bearing the Ratatouille name and likeness, will sell for $12.99.

The licensed products, targeted at adults and devoid of mouse ears, underscores Disney's push to gain a deeper foothold on more sophisticated consumer products. Last fall, the company partnered with Drexel Heritage on an upscale furniture line based on the decor of Walt Disney's home and office during the 1930s and 1940s.

Marketing items based on Disney characters "is the biggest part of our business because that's our heritage. But the non-character (segment) is growing very, very quickly," Jim Fielding, executive vice president of global retail sales and marketing for Disney's consumer products, told Dow Jones Newswires.

He said the company projects that its non-character branding will be between 10% to 15% of Disney's licensed business over the next five years. Disney's consumer products arm also said last week said it expects its retail sales by the company and its licensees to rise 13% to $26 billion in fiscal 2007, double the level seen five years ago.

"If we truly want to double the business again…which is what our goal is in the next five years, we need to branch into different parts of the market that we're currently not…in, and that's where non-character" comes into play, Fielding said.

In the apparel arena, Disney recently launched a line of bridal gowns designed by Kirstie Kelly, and the company is in final negotiations with a major retailer to launch Disney Jeans in the U.S., probably by fall 2008. Disney Jeans was first launched in 2005 in France, Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe. The line, designed for kids and teens, is also sold in Mexico, Japan and China.

"I think that the private label arena in denim wasn't as developed overseas as it was here in the U.S.," Fielding said. "So the market for Disney non-character jeans was just more apparent in the European market than it has been in the U.S."

Fielding said the company is also looking to launch a sporting line in 2008 in Europe for kids, which will have a combination of character and non-character branding.

"When you look at the corporate structure it's a natural extension for Disney to look to other avenues of growth beyond characters," said Tony Lisanti, editor-and-chief of License! Global magazine.

"Their character business has been so strong for so many years. As their consumers…continue to get older, this creates pockets of new markets" for the company, he said.

Disney shares currently trade at $34.08.

Disney’s ‘Tarzan’ Announces Broadway Close

NEW YORK, June 23, 2007 – "Tarzan" will take its last swing through the Broadway jungle on July 8.

The lavish Disney stage version of its 1999 animated film will close after 486 performances and 35 previews, Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatrical Productions, announced Friday.

"I am disappointed that the Broadway production of `Tarzan' will close earlier than any of us had hoped, and I would have loved for it to have been as successful in New York as it now is in Holland," Schumacher said.

The show, which received mostly negative notices on Broadway, has been a big hit in the Netherlands, opening there in April 2007 to good reviews and a sold-out summer at the Circustheatre in The Hague. Other productions are planned for Germany and possibly Japan, Schumacher said.

Although "Tarzan" will have played for more than a year by the time it ends its run at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre, the production will close at a loss. Disney executives won't reveal an exact figure.

Last week the show grossed $516,251, playing to about 75 percent capacity at the Rodgers.

"It (the closing) is completely a business decision – I have to run this (`Tarzan') like a business," Schumacher said in a telephone interview. "If I look at how we have been selling through the spring, if I look at our advances … I can tell that I am going to have a summer where I am going to be losing a substantial amount of money. … And I don't artificially keep shows going.

"But `Tarzan' is not just one production," Schumacher added. "I have multiple productions of `Tarzan' coming and I have a big successful one running. This production is a loss. But the title of `Tarzan' within our catalog and within the Disney franchise will do just fine."

On Broadway, the musical, which features a score by pop star Phil Collins, stars Josh Strickland as the ape man and Jenn Gambatese as his loyal mate Jane. It was written by David Henry Hwang, author of "M. Butterfly" and directed by Bob Crowley, who also designed the show's sets and costumes.

"Tarzan" isn't the only Disney musical closing this summer on Broadway. "Beauty and the Beast" ends its more than decade-long run July 29 after 5,464 performances. It will be replaced at the Lunt-Fontanne by Disney's next Broadway show, "The Little Mermaid," which opens Dec. 6. Preview performances begin Nov. 3.

"Mermaid," directed by Francesca Zambello, will play an out-of-town tryout in Colorado at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, which is part of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Preview performances begin July 26 with an opening set for Aug. 23.

Meanwhile, Disney's two other Broadway musicals – "The Lion King" and "Mary Poppins" – keep chugging along, pulling in grosses of more than $1 million each week.

Disney To Stop Making Direct-To-DVD Sequels To Animated Films

LOS ANGELES (AP)–In a major strategy shift, the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) said it will stop making lucrative direct-to-DVD sequels of such classic animated films as "Cinderella," a move that reflects the growing influence of former Pixar Animation executives John Lasseter and Steve Jobs, who once called the films "embarrassing."

The change comes with a shake-up at the company's DisneyToon Studios, including the removal of longtime President Sharon Morrill, who will continue with the company in another capacity, Disney said Friday.

DisneyToon Studios will become part of Walt Disney Feature Animation and report directly to Animation President Ed Catmull and Lasseter, who assumed roles there after Disney bought Pixar Animation Studio last year for $7.4 billion in stock.

That deal made Jobs – the former Pixar chief executive who also runs Apple Inc. (AAPL) – Disney's largest shareholder and got him a spot on Disney's board.

DisneyToon will now only produce original DVD films, including an upcoming film starring the fairy Tinkerbell. It isn't clear whether sequels already in production will continue.

Disney has been a leader in the direct-to-DVD category, selling millions of copies of such films as "Lion King 1 1/2" and "Bambi II."

Although those DVDs were moneymakers for the studio, Disney purists scoffed, including Lasseter and Jobs.

In a 2003 conference call with financial analysts, Jobs said how much he hated the DVD sequels.

"We feel sick about Disney doing sequels," Jobs said. "If you look at the quality of their sequels…it's pretty embarrassing."

When Disney bought Pixar, it put former Pixar President Catmull and Lasseter in charge of its own animation efforts. Lasseter has made no secret of his disdain for sequels in general, although he is working on "Toy Story 3." That movie is planned to be released in theaters, however, scheduled for 2010.

Walt Disney named top ‘art hero’

American animator Walt Disney is the most respected artist among 18-25 year olds, beating the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, a survey suggests.

Comedian Peter Kay took second place in the poll, which asked young people to name the artists who most inspired them in film, music, dance, TV and art.

Jane Austen was the only author in the top 10, which also included Will Smith, Bob Dylan and guerilla artist Banksy.

The poll was commissioned by the Arts Award, a new qualification for artists.

TOP 5 ART HEROES (18-25)
1 Walt Disney
2 Peter Kay
3 Banksy
4 Leonardo da Vinci
5 Bob Marley
Source: Arts Award

One thousand 11-25 year olds have now achieved the accreditation, which recognises young people's development through the arts.

Culture Minister David Lammy will present the 1,000th award to Sophie Skyring, who has achieved a silver award in writing and performance work, on Monday.

Influential
Although the young people's poll threw up a few surprises, the overall survey painted a more traditional picture of the arts.

Amongst all age groups, Leonardo Da Vinci was named the most influential artist, with Bob Dylan in second place and Andy Warhol third.
    
TOP 5 ART HEROES (All ages)
1 Leonardo da Vinci
2 Bob Dylan
3 Andy Warhol
4 Walt Disney
5 Peter Kay
Source: Arts Award

Spanish painter Pablo Picasso also made it into the overall top 10, having been ignored by 18-25 year olds.

More than 6,000 people were questioned for the survey.

"The results show that young people are inspired by a range of artists who they feel are relevant to their lives today," said Diana Walton, head of the Arts Award.

The Arts Award is administered by Trinity College, London, working in partnership with the Arts Council England.

It is supported by celebrities including actor Richard E Grant, artist Sam Taylor-Wood and TV presenter Graham Norton.

Norton said: "In today's society where young people are often stereotyped as aggressive and anti-social, the Arts Award is a great way to see so many of them are channelling their creative energy in a positive way."

Disney-BigPond pact on Video on Demand

By VICKI ROTHROCK
HONG KONG — International TV distribution arm of The Walt Disney Company, Disney-ABC Intl. Television (Asia Pacific) has signed a video-on-demand movie agreement with Australia's BigPond Internet service provider, the Mouse House's first such deal in Oz.

Customers of BigPond's Movie Downloads service will be able to download-to-rent current and library pics from Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films.

BigPond Movies was launched a year ago as Australia's first legal movie download service. Members also have access to TV shows, sports, short films and music videos.

Pixar Exhibition Event Details

As most people will know, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will be hosting a wonderful exhibition titled "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation" at the ACMI Screen Gallery, Federation Square Melbourne, between Thursday 28 June and Sunday 14 October 2007.

The ACMI have now published their program of special events that will coincide with this exhibition on their website.

The exhibition home page is : [http://www.acmi.net.au/pixar.jsp]

And the links to their special events are below:

[http://www.acmi.net.au/pixar_premiere_talks.jsp]

[http://www.acmi.net.au/pixar_special_tours.jsp]

[http://www.acmi.net.au/pixar_family_activities.jsp]

[http://www.acmi.net.au/pixar_kids_activities.jsp]

[http://www.acmi.net.au/pixar_education_programs.jsp]

 A very special thanks to club member Julie for pointing out these links!! Laughing

 

Kali River Rapids Injuries

May 31 2007 – AFP

Five visitors and an employee were injured after a water ride at Walt Disney World malfunctioned, according to a spokeswoman for the Orlando, Florida theme park. All six were taken to a nearby hospital with ‘non-emergency’ injuries, said Kim Prunty.

She did not give further details of their condition. The visitors and the Disney employee were injured as they were evacuating the ‘Kali River Rapids’ after a malfunction caused the ride to come to a sudden stop. “One of the ride system sensors caused the ride to stop … which required the evacuation,” said Prunty. “Our investigation has shown that the mobile evacuation platform disengaged and slid,” she said. The ride, inside the ‘Animal Kingdom’ section of the theme park, simulates a raft trip down a turbulent river in an Asian rain forest.

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