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Woody’s Roundup 10-19-2008

More links and tidbits for your weekend perusal:

Ryan at the Main Street Gazette bids farewell to Pocahontas and her Forest Friends, which ended its ten-year run at Animal Kingdom last month. The show, tucked away into a small theater on the park’s periphery, was never a blockbuster attraction, but it had a decidedly low-fi charm and its personal scale allowed guests – especially kids – to get close to the action. I won’t pretend the show was ever on my must-do list, but it had a nice ecological message for young people and, as both linked articles mention, it provided a nice showcase for its single, multi-talented female lead.

Disney remains mum on future plans for the area, but some sources say that the site will be used as part of an upcoming E-ticket expansion for Animal Kingdom. All recent rumors have centered around a Jules Verne-themed attraction much like those in Tokyo’s DisneySea park, but I have yet to hear an explanation as to how this new area could possibly be reconciled with the theme of Camp Minnie-Mickey, or if that entire area would be altered. Several sources have said that dirt would begin moving on this expansion next year, although that information came before the recent economic collapse. In any case, Animal Kingdom can’t afford to lose any guest capacity, even if it is just a small show, so one would think the logical explanation for this closure is that Disney has some plans for expansion.

While you’re on Main Street, check out this neat little detail that I had never heard of from Universe of Energy.

Alain Littaye has a nice collection of photos and artwork from California Adventure’s Blue Sky Cellar, which opens to the public on Monday. Note that many of these models are from Imagineering’s original pitch for the park’s makeover, and do not necessarily represent what will finally emerge as the finished product.

To coincide with Disney’s recent re-release of Sleeping Beauty on home video, here are some excellent character development sketches from Michael Sporn’s blog. The scans include art from Tom Oreb, Bill Peet, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Some preview videos of the DVD’s extras are viewable here.

While we’re on Sleeping Beauty, the L.A. Times has an interview with Tony Baxer about the history and renovation of the soon-to-reopen Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, as well as a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown of the new show scenes.

FREAKOUT!

Game designer Warren Spector is working on a new videogame project in cooperation with Pixar and Walt Disney Feature Animation. Disney Interactive purchased Spector’s Junction Point Studios last year, which I somehow missed, and which is notable if also very unexpected. Spector is a legend of computer game design, developing several historically significant titles such as Ultima Underworld I & II (1992/93), System Shock (1994) and Thief: The Dark Project (1998). His Deus Ex (2000) remains one of my top-ranked games of all time. The purchase of Spector’s studio indicates that Disney is getting serious about entering the interactive market and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

Warren Spector, designer of distinction

The Adventurer’s Club might have closed last month, but it’s still not too late to voice your displeasure to the powers that be.

More from the fancy writin’ department: Passport to Dreams Old & New brings us a comparison of Warner Brothers’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1935, Fantasia, and Michael Powell’s 1949 The Tales of Hoffman. And someday I’ll write something as cool as this musical history of the Country Bear Jamboree. Meanwhile, EPCOT Central gives this excellent breakdown of the unfortunate loss of EPCOT’s unifying theme. The true shame of this is how relevant EPCOT’s original message still is to the world and how easily its many problems could be fixed if anyone in management had the courage and commitment to think it through.

Finally, a bit of late-breaking good news – on Tuesday, Disneyland Paris will announce that the resort has made a profit for the first time in five years. This is good news for European park fans, as it proves to management the rather obvious fact that adding new attractions will drive attendance. The resort had once been headed for profitability after a rocky first decade, but the opening of the shamefully executed Disney Studios Paris left it once more in the red. An emergency infusion of cash from the Walt Disney Company allowed the resort’s French parent company to add some attractions to the Studios and – surprise! – people actually started to visit the new park. Now that the resort is in the black look for more new attractions, including a Ratatouille-based trackless dark ride and a trio of Toy Story themed kiddie attractions. There might even be a new E-ticket for the long-stagnant Disneyland park itself. All in all, it’s great to see EuroDisney turn things around.

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