THQ Publishing Disney Pixar’s Latest

Ratatouille is the next animated film from Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles, and is due summer 2007. And since no animated movie can go without a videogame tie-in, THQ has announced it will partner with Disney Pixar to publish the game.

The movie follows a rat name Remy who is looking to raise his stature in society and get a taste for the finer things in life. Developed by Heavy Iron Studios, who also translated The Incredibles, the Ratatouille game puts players in control of Remy and allows them to relive many of the film's moments in the form of mini-games and head-to-head multiplayer challenges.

No word yet as to whether or not pronouncing the game's name correctly is one of the mini-games.

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Saudi’s Rotana to bring Walt Disney to Middle East

Saudi-owned Arab entertainment company Rotana Audio Visual Co. will distribute Walt Disney products across the Middle East and North Africa, the company said on Monday.

Rotana, which is wholly owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, signed a three-year deal to sell video cassettes and DVDs produced by Walt Disney Studios, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures in the region, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Rotana did not reveal the value of the deal, which could also include other Buena Vista Home Entertainment products.

"The deal complements (al-Waleed's) international business interests, including The Walt Disney Company and a stake in Euro Disney, France," Rotana President Salem al-Hindi said in the statement.

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The first releases will hit the market before the end of the year, the statement said.

Rotana, which will likely sell shares in an initial public offering in 2007, is expanding its operations in movies, radio and music, pushing aggressively into the entertainment market, which caters to nearly 300 million Arabs in the region as well as those living abroad.

Last year, the company signed an agreement with British firm Virgin for the online sale of music by Rotana's artists in France.

Rotana Home Entertainment, a new company based in Dubai, will be in charge of distributing the Disney films, Hindi said.

Rotana plans to list on one of the three United Arab Emirates stock exchanges rather than in conservative Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are not allowed.

Kingdom Hotel Investments, controlled by Alwaleed, is listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange.

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Disney worries housing project near parks would be eyesore

A plan to put 1,500 condos and apartments within the shadows of Disneyland is drawing criticism from Walt Disney Co. officials, who argue such housing would be an eyesore located that close to the company's amusement parks.

The City Council has embraced the project, which calls for 1,300 condominiums and 200 low-cost apartments, in hopes of easing a housing shortage.

Disney officials agree housing is a pressing issue in the city of 350,000 people, but that it doesn't belong outside the gates to Disneyland and Disney's adjacent California Adventure park.

"It's like owning a wonderful house in a wonderful neighborhood," said Ed Chuchla, Disneyland's vice president of corporate real estate. "You care about the house and what could impact it."

City Councilwoman Lorri Galloway said the debate has highlighted her concerns over the future direction of Anaheim's resort district.

"Disney is looking at a time when you didn't have to make 25 bucks an hour to live in a two-bedroom apartment," Galloway said of the city's largest employer. "Time and society have altered that plan naturally. Disney is just going to have to change with the times."

The area, which increasingly has given way to hotels, restaurants and the tourist-friendly retail district called Downtown Disney, has long been a source of frustration to Walt Disney Co. officials.

Walt Disney himself complained that soon after he opened Disneyland in 1955 the area outside the park became filled with fast-food restaurants, cheap hotels, ugly neon signs and ticky-tack tourist attractions.

"We don't like it, but we get blamed for it," he said in 1965, according to a Disney historian.

Given a second chance when Walt Disney World opened in Florida in 1971, the company persuaded the Florida Legislature to create the Ready Creek Improvement District surrounding the park. That allowed the Disney company to finance, build and oversee development around Disney World without interference.

The district, which now includes four Disney parks, also controls utilities, transportation, and police and fire services.

Disney is Anaheim's largest business with 20,000 employees, and 40 percent of the city's general fund comes from tourism. Anaheim is also home to professional baseball and hockey teams and a large convention center.

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Report: Disney close to cable deals with Comcast, others

A newspaper reports that the Walt Disney Company is close to striking new deals with two of the country's largest cable T-V operators. The Los Angeles Times cites unidentified sources in saying the deals are with Philadelphia-based Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

The report says Comcast could buy Disney's 39.5 percent stake in E! Entertainment. Also, Disney could collect (b) billions of dollars to supply content, including its popular E-S-P-N sports cable channel, to Comcast and Time Warner.

The only one of the three companies to comment on the report is Time Warner — where a spokesman only says his company is in active negotiations with Disney. He declined to elaborate.

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Man hurt in Disney parking lot

A 49-year-old man who reportedly jumped off a parking lot tram at Walt Disney World fell and hit his head and was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center on Monday morning.

The man, at Disney with his wife, daughter and grandchildren, leapt off the parking lot tram after a camera that had fallen in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, said Disney spokesman Jacob DiPietre. The incident occurred about 9:30 a.m. The man was taken to the hospital "as a precautionary measure" but did not appear have life-threatening injuries, DiPietresaid.

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Disney donates $5 mn to Childrens Hospital

The Walt Disney Company president and CEO Robert A. Iger presented to the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles a $5 million donation from The Walt Disney Company Foundation.

The funds will go toward the construction of the new hospital building, slated to open in 2009, enabling the hospital to further provide the best care for seriously ill and injured children. The gift, presented to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles president and CEO Richard D. Cordova, is the largest donation ever made to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles by a corporate foundation.

"For all Disney does to brighten the lives of children around the world, helping to better the condition of seriously ill and injured kids is of considerable importance to us, especially here in our hometown of Los Angeles. All of us at Disney hope that this donation for the new inpatient building will help Childrens Hospital Los Angeles' further enhance its already outstanding reputation for providing the best possible care to those in need," said Iger.

"I am pleased to accept this generous gift from Disney on behalf of the children of Los Angeles. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles has been dedicated to serving the children of this City for more than a century, and this donation will allow it to continue its important work. With this generous contribution, Disney sets an excellent example for other corporations to give generously to their communities," said Mayor Villaraigosa.

The Walt Disney Company is a longtime supporter of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. In fact, the hospital's main entrance lobby was designed by Disney Imagineers. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, along with all children's hospitals and pediatric wings across the country, also receives a fun-filled shipment of Disney DVDs, toys, blankets and other merchandise each year. Child Life Specialists share these items with the children who receive treatment. In addition to the company's support of hospitals, The Walt Disney Company donated more than $190 million in cash and in-kind support to worthy charities around the world last year to help children and families in need.

"The Walt Disney Company and Childrens Hospital share a commitment to the well-being of children, each in our own very special way, but it is natural that we work together to benefit the children and families of Los Angeles, and children everywhere. We are enormously grateful to The Walt Disney Company Foundation for its support over the years, and particularly for its latest generosity for the new hospital building, truly a meaningful way to express its confidence in our physicians, nurses and other caregivers, our physician-scientists and researchers, and all who support the important work being done here," said Cordova.

The new hospital building, one of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles' institutional priorities, will be a state-of-the-art 460,000 square- foot inpatient facility. When completed in 2009, it will be one of the finest medical and surgical environments for children in need of care in the US, and it will be a model family-centered environment in which children and their families can heal and learn together.

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Disney Movies on a Tiny Disney Screen

With the recent flurry of devices that play both digital music and movies, it only makes sense that content companies like Walt Disney get into the act, wrapping their branding, or in this case mouse ears, around the gadgets themselves.

The Disney Mix Max Personal Media Player is slightly larger than an iPod Nano and can play MP3 or WMA music files. But the hallmark of this player is the 2.2-inch screen, created especially to display TV-quality Disney videos and movies. The movies, including “High School Musical” and “Ella Enchanted,” are available on specially formatted memory chips that sell for $15 and slip into a side port that also accepts standard SD memory cards.

The device, which will be available next month for $100 at www.disneyshopping.com, is made for Disney by Memorex, and has 512 megabytes of internal memory and a battery that charges through your computer’s U.S.B. port. The navigation buttons form a familiar mousey outline. There is just one audio plug, which makes it hard to share a movie with a friend.

While the ability to play movies on little screens is not new, it has not been as frustration-free as popping in a tiny cartridge. What’s next, miniature popcorn?

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Disney scores sports net

The Walt Disney Co. is in negotiations to buy the fast-growing European sports network NASN, which broadcasts live U.S. sports to several countries across the continent.

Disney reportedly sees NASN's live coverage of Major League Baseball, basketball, ice hockey, football and college sports as a natural fit with its Euro service ESPN Classics, which broadcasts archive material.

NASN is owned by Irish pay TV outfit Setanta Sports and Benchmark Capital Europe, the venture capital fund that owns 40% of Setanta.

Setanta and Benchmark took over NASN only last year, acquiring the controlling stake from American billionaire Paul Allen. They are looking to cash in their investment in order to concentrate their resources on expanding Setanta's business in the U.K. and Ireland.

A rep for Setanta and Benchmark refused to confirm the talks with Disney, saying only that there is "a lot of interest" in NASN. But insiders said, "NASN would be a perfect partner for ESPN in Europe."

NASN recently launched in France, the Nordic countries, Russia and the Baltic states. Its growing popularity in these territories is partly due to the number of Russian and Scandinavian ice hockey players plying their trade in the NHL.

It currently reaches around 1.5 million homes in continental Europe and another 250,000 in the British Isles.

Setanta is emerging as a challenger to BSkyB's effective monopoly of the pay TV sports market in Blighty. It owns the rights to Scotland's soccer league and will expand into English Premier League soccer in 2007 with a three-year deal to screen 46 live matches per season.

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Disney draws up animated live action flick

Disney has bought the rights to ANIMATED AMERICAN, a live-action/animation hybrid that deals with the issue of teens trying to fit in, VARIETY reports. Producers will be Bob Cooper's Landscape Ent. and ImageMovers partners Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke.

Peter Ackerman (ICE AGE) is set to write the screenplay, which will follow an animated outsider, who lives in a live-action world and must deal with his girlfriend leaving him while he’s away at sea.

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“Snow” Flurries Forecast for Disney’s Private Island, Castaway Cay

Holiday magic will deck the halls and add sparkle to the decks for guests who sail with Disney Cruise Line beginning this Thanksgiving and continuing through to the New Year. Both Disney Magic and Disney Wonder will spread an abundance of holiday cheer, from traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts to "snowflake" sightings and seasonal caroling.

A special 10-Night Holiday Caribbean Cruise is planned for Disney Magic from Dec. 16 through Dec. 26. The Eastern/Southern Caribbean cruise will call at ports not typically on the Disney Magic cruise itinerary, including St. Lucia and Antigua.


The spirit of the season will surround cruise guests from the moment they arrive at Port Canaveral, Fla. Disney characters decked out in their finest holiday attire will welcome guests to the lavishly decorated private cruise terminal. During holiday sailings, guests will discover:

— Thanksgiving festivities complete with Thanksgiving Day meal with all the trimmings, craft activities with a focus on pilgrim hats and turkeys, and visits by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse dressed in Thanksgiving costumes.

— A nearly three-deck-tall tree festooned with decorations in the atrium lobby, where "snow" flurries fall and a tree-lighting ceremony occurs.

— A Christmas Day visit from Santa Goofy, with surprises for all the kids.

— International holiday caroling by crew members from around the globe (exclusively on the Christmas cruise).

— Special family time for designing and decorating gingerbread houses.

— A reading of "The Night Before Christmas" by Mrs. Claus.

— Traditional holiday feasts in Disney's three themed dining rooms (Christmas cruise only).

— Multiple faith and interdenominational holiday services (Christmas and Hanukkah cruise only).

— A ship-wide party to ring in 2007 and a New Year's Day tailgate party.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney Magic embarks on a special Western Caribbean journey, during which the ship sails twice to Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. The seven-night voyage departs Nov. 18, arriving first at Castaway Cay for the usual Disney Cruise Line visit. When the ship returns the day after Thanksgiving, the island will be transformed into a Magical Wonderland, where the sandy Bahamian isle becomes a "snowy" holiday hideaway. "Snow" flurries will fall like magic, Christmas trees will glow and carolers will croon. Mr. and Mrs. Snowman, wearing shell noses and tropical attire, will greet guests with a sleigh full of presents. The tram that transports guests across the 1,000-acre island will be reindeer themed, complete with antlers and tail. A four-night Disney Wonder cruise stops at Castaway Cay on Thanksgiving Day.

At the beach, families can learn the art of sand sculpting, and kids can dive into holiday-themed activities that include making candy cane reindeer, paper plate angels and snowflake-mobiles.

The Disney Magic 10-Night Holiday Caribbean Cruise departs Dec. 16, with visits to Key West, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Thomas/St. John and Castaway Cay. The Disney Wonder four-night Christmas cruise departs Dec. 24, with visits to Nassau and Castaway Cay.

To celebrate the New Year, Disney Magic departs on its seven-night Western Caribbean itinerary Dec. 30; Disney Wonder departs Dec. 31 for its four-night cruise.

From Thanksgiving through the New Year, Disney Cruise Line guests will experience a magical holiday to remember. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, guests can contact their travel agent, visit www.disneycruise.com or call Disney Cruise Line at 888/DCL-2500. Travel agents can call Disney Cruise Line at 888/325-2500 or visit www.disneytravelagents.com.

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