The holidays at Hogwarts were pure magic in the original novels by J.K. Rowling. The massive tree, the decorations in the Great Hall, the delectable treats, the Yule Ball. How I wished I could have stepped into that world.
If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting Paris, and wished upon a star to walk through Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle), this is the year to do it. Disneyland Paris – the sparkling European jewel in the Disney crown – celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2017. And they have been diligently preparing for you to ‘Be Our Guest.’
Park improvements progressed throughout 2016 to prepare for “It’s Time to Sparkle” the Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary celebration starting March 26, 2017.
This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on April 7, 2017.
The path wasn’t always sprinkled with pixie dust. “Euro Disney” – the fourth Disney castle Park – opened on April 12, 1992 to much controversy. There were protests against this invasion of American culture in France, including a one-day train strike that effectively cut off the Disney resort to anyone without a car.
Star Wars Celebration Europe (SWCE, July 14-17, 2016) ended with a much-anticipated panel featuring the upcoming Star Wars films, Star WarsEpisode VIII and Han Solo.
Pablo Hidalgo hosted a panel featuring Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm President) and Kiri Hart (Head of Story, LFL). First up: writer-director Rian Johnson discussed the filming of Episode VIII (code named: Space Bear).
(This article was initially published on LaughingPlace.com after Star Wars Celebration Europe, on September 20, 2016).
A New Look from Lucasfilm: Star Wars Episode VIII delves deeper into character
Kathleen Kennedy is very happy with their choice of director. “Rian moves the camera as well as Steven Spielberg.” And she doesn’t say that lightly.
Rian Johnson’s goal was to “tell a story that feels alive right now.” Writing for Episode VIII corresponded with principle photography for Episode VII. Johnson spent six weeks working on Story at Lucasfilm, watching ‘dailies’ of Episode VII with Kennedy and Hart to ensure continuity of story details.
Pablo Hidalgo’s hint: to impress leaders at Lucasfilm, bring homemade ice cream (Rian Johnson did).
Johnson was influenced deeply by classic Hollywood films such as Bridge on the River Kwai,Twelve O’Clock High, Letter Never Sent, Three Outlaw Samurai, and Sahara (Humphrey Bogart version). He had the Episode VIII story team (Kathleen, Kiri, and Pablo) watch these films together ‘like a film camp’ for inspiration developing Story on VIII.
This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on July 25, 2016.
Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 is in the books, but the shockwaves are still resonating like an ion cannon. Lucasfilm shared their latest news with fans from around the world who congregated in London July 15-17, 2016 for a Celebration to be remembered.
Rogue One was certainly THE highly-anticipated panel, and Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm and Rogue One Producer) did not disappoint. Accompanied by Gareth Edwards (Director), Kiri Hart (Head of Story, LFL), and John Knoll (Executive Producer), Kathy welcomed us to the new world of stand-alone Star Wars films.
Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma, and our host for this panel) opened with a moment of silence for the lives lost the night before in the terror attack in Nice, France.
Rogue One, the first stand-alone Star Wars film.
The production team was initially concerned about whether there needed to be more introduction for Rogue One. It is the first of the planned “stand-alone” Star Wars stories (not part of the saga trilogies Episodes IV-VI, Episodes I-III, Episodes VII-IX).
From early screenings, Lucasfilm realized that fans understood immediately where Rogue One fit into the Star Wars timeline. This is the story of how the first Death Star plans were stolen; many lives were lost to get this intel to the Rebel base, to set up Luke Skywalker’s mission in Episode IV.
John Knoll (Executive Producer) developed the idea for Rogue One as a Mission Impossible-style story during the filming of Episode III in Sydney. While this story did not fit in with the live action Star Wars TV series planned back then, an opportunity arose when Disney announced a whole new set of Star Wars films.
Kathleen Kennedy described her visits to the set during the filming process of Rogue One. When she looked for director Gareth Edwards, she consistently found him with “a camera on his shoulder” trying to capture “different angles.” His style creates an “immersive” experience for the viewer unlike any other.
First published on LaughingPlace.com on July 7, 2016.
With the Grand Opening of Shanghai Disneyland, you literally can ride Soarin’ around the world. From Disneyland, to Disney World, and now to Shanghai Disneyland: we compare the three versions of this attraction.
The Original Soarin’ over California at Disneyland Resort
Soarin’ Over California debuted on February 8, 2001 with the Grand Opening of Disney California Adventure (DCA). The unique ride system, designed by Imagineer Mark Sumner, was inspired by an Erector toy set. It was an immediate success.
Guests love the sensation of flight as they are raised skyward into the 80-foot domed projection screen, while safely seated in a theater. The original attraction highlighted California landmarks such as the Golden Gate bridge and Yosemite National Park.
Soarin’Over California ran on IMAX HD film until its refurbishment in 2015 with digital projectors. The attraction building resembles a large aircraft hangar, built in homage to California’s record-setting aviation history. As you enter, you pass commemorations of historic aircraft – the SR-71 Blackbird, the Bell X-1 – and notable aviators: Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, and Amelia Earhart.
This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on June 15, 2016.
Questions and rumors about Shanghai Disneyland abound. As Disney’s newest theme park prepares for its debut June 16, 2016 there are so many questions still unanswered.
I was privileged to preview SH Disneyland in May during Trial Operations, and was truly impressed with the scope of this park (even after seeing all the other Disney castles). Opening with five noteworthy E-ticket attractions and three stage shows, SH Disneyland is poised to be a key player among Disney parks.
Here, I answer 10 essential questions about Shanghai Disneyland.
1. Why is there no Main Street USA? When is the next Train?
Shanghai Disneyland is distinguished by many record “firsts.” First Disneyland without Main Street USA. First Disneyland without a train. (Yes, in this spacious park, the train station was built only as a nod to tradition). First to substitute Tron for Space Mountain. And that castle!
The local population in China has not had the same exposure to Disney characters that the Western world has. Many Disney films were never released in China.
As you may know, I have been publishing articles on LaughingPlace.com. This article was published June 13, 2016, for the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. I am also posting it here to keep all my articles in one place. I have included a link to original publication.
Around the world, people are eagerly awaiting news about Shanghai Disneyland, set to open on June 16, 2016. Will Pirates live up to the rumors? Can TRON replace Space Mountain in Tomorrowland? What about that massive Castle?
I just returned from an exclusive preview visit to Shanghai Disneyland during Trial Operations, and this park will live up to expectations. SH Disneyland will be opening with five impressive E-ticket attractions and four stage shows, many unique to this Park.
Attendance and expectations are anticipated to be high, and SH Disneyland is prepared. Wide thoroughfares and carefully trimmed gardens make exploration enjoyable. Ride queues are extensive and covered. Soaring Over the Horizon (boasting a new film that also debuts stateside June 17, 2016) easily swallowed up over 2 hours’ worth of queue from the rest of the park.
We were privileged to preview Shanghai Disneyland in May 2016, before its official opening June 16, 2016. With an impressive collection of opening attractions — many of them unique to Shanghai’s park — the top prize is claimed by “Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure” for its jaw-dropping cinematic beauty on an epic scale.
Having now seen all six Disney castles (Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai), Shanghai Disneyland’s “Pirates” is one of the most impressive rides ever built.
The following is our first-hand perspective, taking you moment by moment through the attraction.
Winding through the queue, details in the rock work transport you to another time… Jack Sparrow’s “Wanted” posters are printed in multiple languages.
Reaching the launch area, you load onto boats with five seats across and a total of 30 guests on board. A very small drop with a splash….and the adventure begins…
0:03 The Jolly Roger talking skull, a definite nod to Pirates’ tradition. Everything is in Mandarin Chinese, but the tone is clear. Warnings for those who dare ride.
0:23 The boat goes past a water-front restaurant with lights, very reminiscent of the Blue Bayou in Anaheim and Tokyo Disneyland. In Shanghai Disneyland, this is “Barbossa’s Bounty,” a quick service restaurant with several food bay choices, and a nest of pirate-themed rooms to enjoy your meal.
0:37 Pirate skeletons come into view. The first one’s been run through.
0:56 The Brethren Lords sit at the Pirate Council — as skeletons — fighting over Pieces of Eight. Scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean, at World’s End.”
1:04 The jail scene, a definite tribute to all preceding “Pirates” rides. Only this time, all have joined the skeleton realm, including the dog.
1:40 Impressive transformation scene (not caught on this shot)… A talking skeleton re-animates to become Jack Sparrow, a full Audio Animatronic. He wishes you good luck…
2:10 …As you descend into the realm of Davy Jones. The onboard audio soundtrack is as moving as the imagery in this segment. Vast projection screens transport your boat deep into the depths of the ocean following the path of a large shark. Your boat glides through the ship graveyard and past other members of Davy Jones’ crew. It is beautiful, almost peaceful as you catch your breath under the water. Until…
2:34 The Kraken awakens. It is a giant octopus-like creature, ‘with an aura of foreboding.’
2:49 You follow the Kraken through the ribs of a shipwreck in the graveyard. How many ships have met their doom here?
3:20 Large crabs battle over something shiny (remember the crabs from “Finding Nemo”?)
3:23 The sweet siren call of mermaid’s song… and here are the mermaids themselves. The ship gathers speed and turns.
3:42 Talking heads — two members of Davy Jones’ crew are in the stocks having a lively conversation. It would be interesting to have this interpreted into English.
3:54 Mounds of sunken treasure…
4:01 You pass a twisted pirate ship with skeleton figurehead. The impressive movie projections extend all the way to the ceiling. You truly feel under water, deep in the ocean, watching the light and waves ripple far above your head.
4:15 Maccus, (the hammerhead First Mate of Davy Jones), has something funny to say (ha ha ha…).
4:23 The caverns echo with passionate organ music leading into the Flying Dutchman. This can only mean one thing….
4:33 Davy Jones is revealed as the mad musician. Sitting at his organ, he talks about explosions (the only Mandarin words I can make out). The Kraken slips away in the window beyond.
4:41 Jones pivots around, tentacles twitching, uttering more warnings about the treasure.
4:53 You sail down an underwater hall as the ship turns…
5:00 Watery images shimmer on the wall, as if an optical illusion.
5:01 The screens pull open to reveal…
5:04 A scene of epic proportions. A graveyard of ships that dwarf your own are resurrected — and you with them. Being pushed up from the depths of the ocean floor, you catch your breath…
5:16 And gasp at the reality of what just happened. Back from Davy Jones’ locker, bathed in a flaming sunset. You realize you have just made it past World’s End to the land of the living.
5:22 Your relief is brief, as Davy Jones surfaces in the Flying Dutchman with a giant splash, and nearly rams your tiny vessel.
5:32 You realize his battle is with Jack Sparrow, aboard the Black Pearl… and you are now caught in the middle.
5:39 With fierce cannon fire between Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow in their massive ships, you maneuver between them, immersed in one of the most cinematic scenes in ride history. The ships sinking before you are real on these vast projection screens.
5:48 You see a blast hole in the Black Pearl
5:58 Davy Jones disappears in a puff of putrid green smoke to battle Jack Sparrow
6:05 (sounds of sword fighting follow Jones and Sparrow as they battle on the upper deck, not quite visible on this video)
6:16 You sail backwards, spinning to witness Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow sword fighting in the hold.
6:22 Jack swings, rocking a net in the foreground.
6:30 The battle continues in typical Jack Sparrow style with swords and chickens flying, ensuing cannon fire, and massive flooding. Your ship is backing away, but not fast enough…
6:44 The explosion propels you up a small lift and waterfall drop through pitch darkness. You recover your thoughts. What did you just witness?
7:11 You drift slowly past a small sailboat, and hear the voice of Jack Sparrow… interrupted by Davy Jones.
7:23 A wall of pirate treasure glitters with gold and jewels…
7:28 …and turns to dust before your eyes, cursed by Davy Jones. Jack Sparrow is devastated.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure” is an A+ attraction. A completely immersive experience, you will feel like you stepped into a Jerry Bruckheimer “Pirates” film.
The genius ride vehicle design, stunning visuals, moving musical score, and the brilliant cinematic presentation of this “Pirates” attraction exceeds all others to date. (And we include Spiderman, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Escape from Gringotts, and Fast and Furious Supercharged).
Add this to your Bucket List.
Special thanks to our Disney friends for this exclusive access!! We are so blessed by you for this special opportunity!
Yearning for the perfect getaway, but not sure where to go? Whether you seek exotic destinations, extreme adventure, or indulgent beach retreats, you’ll find your answers at the Travel and Adventure Show.
The Travel and Adventure Show is the nation’s largest travel show, and promises fun for the entire family.
Growing over the last 12 years, the Travel and Adventure Show has helped over 1.1 million travelers connect with over 2,800 top travel brands to find their dream vacation. And they can help you too.
Showcasing over 500 exhibitors, the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show returned to Long Beach Convention Center February 27-28, 2016.
Still need some convincing? Here are the Top 5 Reasons why you should plan to go to next year’s Travel and Adventure Show.
1. Learn first-hand from Expert Travel Speakers
Get meaningful advice. Get your questions answered. I’ve traveled the world extensively, but I always learn from these experts.
This year, the Show featured A-list speakers such as:
Samantha Brown (Travel Channel host and ‘Girl with the Best Job in the World’)
Rick Steves (PBS travel host of “Rick Steves Europe,” guidebook author, leading authority on European travel)
Peter Greenberg (Emmy Award-winning CBS News travel editor)
Pauline Frommer (editorial director of Frommer Guide books, and publisher of Frommers.com)
Samantha Brown always brings fresh travel tips and new stories.