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Home --> News Archive: May, 2007
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Disney Pirates Sets New Global Box Office Record
From From PR Newswire   Written by: PR Newswire Staff
May 30, 2007

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," landed in the global box office record books and laid claim to the biggest opening in industry history, with an unprecedented global gross of $401,000,000 in its first six days of release. This figure surpasses the previous record of $382 million set by the six-day opening of "Spiderman 3" earlier this month. "Pirates" continues to please audiences around the world with exceptionally strong exit polls.

Domestically, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" raised its weekend estimate to $156 million (including Thursday night showings). The film set a new record for the four-day Memorial Day Weekend with its gross of $142 million (including Monday estimates), surpassing the previous high of $122.8 million set by "X-Men: The Last Stand" last year.

Union Contract Negotiations Continue at WDW
Based on an article in Reuters   Written by: Reuters staff   Edited by: Gary J. Chambers
May 29, 2007

Walt Disney World negotiators and representatives of six unions have agreed to a contract extension so the groups may begin to renegotiate their agreement. A Walt Disney World spokeswoman said Tuesday the groups are in discussion to determine their next steps. The contract was due to expire at midnight on May 21. Members of the Service Trade Council Union voted down Disney's original proposal May 19 by a narrow margin.

The contract would cover approximately 21,000 positions in a variety of job categories, from food and beverage and attractions to merchandise and entertainment at the resort, which employs about 60,000 people. The Service Trade Council Union is hoping to achieve unprecedented benefits for its members including annualized wage increases, health coverage, tic-tacs, and those cute little paper umbrellas that come with the margarita at the Mexico Pavilion.

Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island Re-opens (with pirates!)
From the Orange County Register   Written by: Erik Ortiz
May 26, 2007

Let the lads and lasses loot, plunder and pillage to their hearts' content at Disneyland - if they can get past some scurvy scallywags ready to defend their precious spoils. Now that facets of old Tom Sawyer Island have gotten the heave-ho, the attraction reopens today with a redesigned "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme meant to boost the aging interactive playground and capitalize on the success of the movie franchise.

Disney timed the opening of Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, as it's now called, with the release of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" to theaters. This new take boasts features that are more pirate-specific, while keeping the classic Mark Twain novel in mind. So what would Walt Disney, who personally designed the original attraction, make of Tom Sawyer Island version 2.0? Senior Show Producer Glenn Kelman said, "It's still very much in line with Walt's original vision. We had seen a picture of the original raft design for the island that had a pirate flag on it. Tom and Huck spend a portion of the book pretending to be pirates and we thought, if they live in that fantasy, why not bring it to life here?"

Facing what Kelman calls an "aggressive schedule," crews worked for less than four months to revamp the 51-year-old attraction. Visitors to Frontierland will now find a pirate greeting them at the dock to Tom Sawyer Island. He'll give guests pirate names, teach them pirate etiquette and request that any loot found be conveniently split with him, Kelman said.

The attraction itself has been loaded with special effects, live pirates skulking about and activity areas for visitors to discover hidden treasure. In one cove, guests can maneuver pumps that reveal a sunken ship and skeletal pirates still clinging to what lies beneath. Other new aspects include a "bone cage," taken from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, in which guests can appear as if they're suspended under water; a treasure room dutifully protected by Capt. Jack Sparrow, the movie's hero; and a live action show featuring Sparrow as a swashbuckler.

Disney Interactive Launches New "Pirates" Game
Based on an article in Reuters   Written by: Reuters staff   Edited by: Gary J. Chambers
May 24, 2007

Disney Interactive Studios has set sail with a new video game based on "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" that shipped Tuesday. The game features the likenesses of the entire cast plus Cary Elwes, best known for his turns as the Dread Pirate Wesley in 1989s, The Princess Bride, and as Robin Hood, a man in tights, in 1993. He signed on to play the villain, Black Bart, who appears exclusively in the game.

Many in the cast provided likenesses and spent time in recording studios around the world creating new dialogue for the game. A sound-alike was used for Johnny Depp. It took three months to record the actors in such locations as Los Angeles, Germany, South Africa and Hungary. Disney worked with director Gore Verbinski and his team to ensure that the authenticity of the film world was replicated in the game. Screenwriter Terry Rossio, who worked on all three "Pirates" films, contributed dialogue to the interactive adventure, which encompasses about 12 hours of entertainment.

Seven versions of the new "Pirates" games shipped across every current gaming platform. The new game incorporates action from both "Dead Man's Chest" and "At World's End" and expands the story beyond those films with new characters, plot twists and locations.

The game studio is also allowing Disney park guests to pillage extra content. At both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Orlando, consumers who bring their Nintendo DS and "At World's End" game to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction can seek out 10 secured wireless hot spots to download free exclusive game content that won't be available anywhere else. The gaming stations will be marked with a Pirates "X" at different areas through Labor Day at both parks.

There will be three different downloads available around the theme park ride, including one that gamers can access while standing in line for Pirates. Players will be able to unlock bonus items such as unlimited health, new costumes, new weapons, and characters and locations for the online dueling mode. One lucky downloader may even discover if Al Gore will at last put in his bid for President.

Disney Disney Travel Channel Launches
May 16, 2007  

From Media Post - by Wayne Friedman

In an effort to perk up two business categories--travel and theme parks--Walt Disney is launching a video-on-demand channel, Disney Travel.

Two cable systems will be part of the initial launch, Cablevision Systems and Time Warner Cable, which will reach more than 9 million viewers. The channel will include reality, special-event content and concerts, all focusing on Disney parks worldwide.

"Consumers are multi-channeling all the time," says Michael Mendenhall, executive vice president of global marketing for Disney Parks & Resorts. "And 86% of our guests use the Internet."

Unique to this channel is its interactivity, which will include letting viewers talk to a Disney travel agent. "Before, you would have to enter all this information on the Disney site," says Mendenhall. "Now, within five and 15 minutes, we will call your home." For a long time Disney has had it own travel agency business--an effort to push its theme-park business.

Disney got the hint that a travel channel might work, given the strong response to its vacation-planning DVDs. Mendenhall says there is a lot of entertainment on the DVD, and people were screening it as regular TV content.

Disney will start with four programs: "Making the Magic," "Disney Fact or Fiction," "Dream Makers" and "Disney Travel Insiders." Joey Fatone, from "Dancing With the Stars," and Michelle Kwan will host "Dream Makers," which give its guests surprise gifts, such as spending the night in a new royal-size suite.

Disney Backs Orlando Amphitheater Rehab
May 15, 2007  

Walt Disney World pledged $12.5 million Monday afternoon toward a proposed $389 million Orlando Performing Arts Center, putting heft behind the promise for help that new Disney President Meg Crofton offered to community leaders four months ago. Crofton announced the donation at the Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando during festivities that included Mickey and Minnie Mouse, singers, dancers and fireworks.

Crofton also announced donations to rehabilitate the amphitheater itself, and to support more than three dozen local charities in what Disney officials promoted as "Disney magic at the lake, bringing Disney dreams to our community." Orlando's arts community and downtown players have been trying for more than a decade to rally support and raise money for the center. A deal last fall to set aside tourism tax money appears to have created momentum toward their goal of $100 million in private money.

In recent months, the center -- to be called the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center -- received pledges of $25 million from Dr. Phillips Charities and $10 million from the Orlando Magic.

Disney World also provided details of the amphitheater's $1 million rehab -- sponsored by the company -- to update the location with a Lake Eola Fountain-inspired theme and new sound and lighting equipment.

Disney to Offer Video On Demand
May 15, 2007  

From the Associated Press - by Staff Writer

Some cable TV customers could soon be able to book a trip to a Disney theme park with the click of their remote controls. The Walt Disney Co. later this month is launching an interactive video-on-demand travel channel on cable systems served by Time Warner Cable Inc. and Cablevision System Corp., the companies said Tuesday.

The channel will include original programs, including reality shows, episodic programs, concerts and special events highlighting Disney's domestic theme parks in Florida and California as well as its adventure travel business. The shows will be offered free to viewers and will include interactive features, including the ability to request more information using buttons on the TV remote control.

The programs will reach more than 9 million people nationwide. Although the deals with Time Warner and Cablevision are structured differently, Disney will create the programming and pay the cable companies to air it. On Time Warner systems, viewers can use their remote to request brochures, DVDs and other information through the mail or via e-mail.

Cablevision subscribers can use a remote control to trigger a phone call from a Disney travel representative within 15 minutes, Disney said.

Son of Disney Legend Helps Create "Lilly Belle" Model Train
May 9, 2007  

Michael Broggie, a man with lifelong ties to Walt Disney's magic is helping to market the first model-train replica of the backyard railroad that was part of the inspiration for Disneyland. He knew Walt Disney and spent much of his childhood on the Disney studio lot and his business partner got the Disney family to license production of the scale model electric train.

It went on sale at Disneyland last month and will be available nationwide in late June. The train is a replica of the "Lillybelle," a five-car freight that Disney named for his wife and had built in the early 1950s at his Carolwood estate in Hollywood's Holmby Hills.

Dubbed the Carolwood-Pacific Railroad, the track encircled the grounds, transporting passengers through a tunnel, over a trestle and up and down hills. Broggie called it the Mickey Mouse creator's first thrill ride.

With a locomotive, a tender, two gondolas, a boxcar and a yellow caboose, the toy is an HO-scale model, which means it was built exactly 1/87th as big as the original. Disney's train was about one-eighth the size of the real thing, Broggie said.

A model train buff, Broggie wrote "Walt Disney's Railroad Story," a 1997 book that chronicled the Disneyland creator's lifelong fascination with trains. He also founded the Carolwood-Pacific Historical Society, which, along with Disney's family, maintains some of his trains at a barn workshop in Los Angeles' Griffith Park as a way to preserve and promote his legacy.

Once perennial Christmas toys, the popularity of electric trains waned in recent decades, but Broggie believes it is growing again because children enjoy doing things with their hands. "The great thing about trains with children is it teaches teamwork, layout design, architecture, history and electricity," said Broggie, 62. "All of that is encompassed within the idea of a train layout, and the beauty of H.O.-scale is you can do it on a tabletop."

Under development for more than a year, an initial order of 2,000 "Lillybelle" electric trains was manufactured by Bachmann Trains Inc., a 134-year-old Philadelphia company that is the world's largest model train producer. Production was licensed by the nonprofit Walt Disney Family Foundation, which will be paid an undisclosed percentage of sales as a royalty.

A popular idea

The foundation will use the money to help finance construction of the Walt Disney Family Museum, a 60,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the founder's life. It is scheduled to open in mid-2009 at the San Francisco Presidio.

Broggie and his partner, Michael Campbell of Livermore, convinced foundation members to license the trains' production, saying it will raise funds for the museum while bolstering Walt Disney's legacy. Though the Walt Disney Co. strictly controls the rights to most Disney products, the family owns the original "Lillybelle" train and the rights to the use of Walt Disney's name and likeness.

Exclusive rights

The Disney family liked the idea almost from the moment Broggie and Campbell proposed it. "Well, it's a wonderful little train," said Walter Miller of Woodland Hills, a Disney grandson and the foundation president. "My grandpa loved trains. We like this because it's a product that highlights part of his legacy, and it was a great opportunity. This puts a little bit of his past out there so that kids can enjoy trains and this promotes railroading."

Sales began at the Disneyanna store there April 21, with its entire initial supply of 150 snapped up by model railroading hobbyists in about two hours, Broggie said.

Bachmann's suggested retail price is $200, but Disneyland is charging $150. Broggie and Campbell are not being paid, but will become retail distributors for Bachmann in June. The trains also will be available on the Carolwood Society's Web site, http://www.carolwood.com. Miller, who was 5 when Walt Disney died in 1966, never rode on the "Lillybelle." He said Disney had it dismantled after about two years because he was too busy to accommodate all the people asking to ride it.

The original train is stored at the San Francisco Presidio, a red-brick barracks built in 1897 that is being retrofitted to meet earthquake safety standards. The museum will include an extensive railroad exhibit along with a Disney cultural study and research center, as well as archives encompassing the many facets of Disney's work.

"You never knew exactly what my grandpa was thinking because he just kind of had a way of coming up with ideas," Miller said. Interest in the original "Lillybelle" was among many factors that convinced his grandfather to build Disneyland.

Trains run in the family Bachmann Trains is the world's largest producer of model trains in terms of units built, said Doug Blaine, the company's marketing vice president. The privately held firm dates back to 1833, but didn't begin producing electric trains until 1969. It makes detailed models for hobbyists as well as toys sold by mass marketers.

In its early days, Bachmann made ivory handles for canes and umbrellas, along with women's combs and other items. The company switched to tortoise shell and plastic materials after the Civil War. Blaine declined to release sales or revenue figures, but said it expects the "Lillybelle" project to be profitable, even though the Walt Disney Family Foundation is getting a share of the revenue.

"The whole story of Walt Disney and his love of trains, we wanted to commemorate that and represent that as best we could for the people who appreciate the Disney story," Blaine said. "We envision this as a win-win situation for everybody."

When he was a child, Broggie often went to work with his father Roger, a Disney employee for more than 40 years. Roger Broggie headed Disney's machine shop and built many of Disneyland's best-known rides, including Pirates of the Caribbean.

A locomotive named for Roger Broggie still powers trains at Florida's Walt Disney World, and a window overlooking Disneyland's Main Street USA was recently dedicated in his memory. Michael Broggie vividly recalls riding aboard the "Lillybelle" a few years before Disneyland's opening in 1955.

Bachmann's Blaine said the popularity of the "Thomas the Tank Engine" stories and films such as "The Polar Express" are sparking renewed interest in model trains.

Broggie agreed, saying he is trying to get schools to use electric trains as a fourth-, fifth- or sixth-grade teaching tool. He believes playing with them can be better than clicking a mouse. "Today's children are not learning tactile skills. They spend too much time on the computer," Broggie said. "When I was a kid, we always built models, model planes, model cars, what have you. We could build things with our hands and put them on a shelf. It was something you could point to. Virtual reality doesn't provide that opportunity. ... I have never yet met a child, boy or girl, who didn't look at a train set and get excited."

Walt Disney's Last Written Words?
May 8, 2007  

From the Star Pulse Blog

Actor Kurt Russell has confirmed the last two words movie mogul Walt Disney wrote before he died were the "Sky High" star's name.

It has long been rumored that Disney penned 'Kurt' and 'Russell' just before he passed away in 1966. Russell was a child actor signed to the studio at the time. During a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the 56-year-old Russell confirmed the urban legend as fact. He said, "It's true. I don't know what to make of that. I was taken into his office one time after he died and I was shown that."

Rumors abound that the aging actor will reprise his Escape from New York character, Snake Pliskin, in a new sequel, Trapped in Hell: Escape from Journey into Imagination.

Disney Version of 'Myspace' for Kids
May 7, 2007  

From the Mouse Lounge Podcast - by Gary Chambers

Parents leery over letting their kids set up a MySpace or FaceBook page now have a safe venue for kids who want to be cool online thanks to Mickey Mouse.

Disney has launched its own social network site called Disney Extreme Digital, or Disney XD. The site is aimed at kids under 14 years of age and allows parents to have control over their children's internet activities.

Online chat features will require parental approval to keep personal information private and keep users from using profanity. The site also allows users to watch and share Disney videos, television shows and music, and create their own personal play lists.

Kids can also access a number of games including the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Club Jenna multiplayer games, which will be launched later this year.

Disney Dropping Buena Vista Name
May 5, 2007  

From the Mouse Lounge Podcast - by Gary Chambers

The Disney Company announced last week that they will be dropping the name of Buena Vista Entertainment within 2 weeks. CEO Bob Iger is looking to simplify their marketing and reduce costs. They are narrowing their brand names to Disney, ABC, and ESPN.

The Buena Vista name dates back to 1953 when Walt and his brother Roy founded the company to sell their live action and animated films. Buena Vista was the third largest domestic film distributor in 2006 and had $1.52 Billion in sales. Touchstone, Pixar and Miramax will continue to be used by the company, and according to Jim Hill, Hyperion books may be given the Disney name as well.

Disney Bans Smoking in all East Coast Resorts
May 3, 2007  

From the Orlando Sentinel - by Staff Writer

In what company officials are calling the largest single-site resort complex to institute such smoking restrictions, Walt Disney World announced today it will ban smoking in all guest rooms, indoor public areas, balconies and other locations at all company-owned and -operated hotels, and all Disney Vacation Club resorts at Disney World, 20 properties altogether. Smoking will be allowed in designated, outdoor smoking areas only.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts initially banned smoking at Disneyland's three hotels in California last year but allowed smoking to continue at Disney World hotels because there was more demand from guests for smoking rooms at the Florida resort than at Disneyland. But apparently there was not enough demand.

During the last five years, guest demand for smoking rooms at the Walt Disney World Resort has been declining steadily. Currently, less than 3.5 percent of Walt Disney World's 24,000 resort rooms are smoking optional.

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