Saturday, 19th May 2007

Stitch searches for a new Ohana

Casting has begun for that most prestigious of new roles amongst the upcoming productions at Walt Disney Studios Park. Tower bellhop? Bah! Turtle twister? Don’t get in a spin. This is the big one: the chance to portray a genetic mutation like never before at the Disney Channel Studios – real, live, in front of a studio audience!

Don’t worry, Julie hasn’t returned from the dead – this is Stitch! And for the upcoming Stitch Encounter, some very lucky Cast Members will be spending their days speaking his voice and controlling his movements on-screen, effectively acting out his entire role and interacting with the unprepared – and sure to be quite unexpected – dialogue of the watching audience.

A work position was posted on a French casting website, calling for “comedians capable of imitating the voice of Stitch”. Aware of the strong audience participation in Walt Disney Imagineering “Living Character” show, they’re also asking that applicants be capable of holding an audience and interacting off-script with an audience. You’d need to be between the ages of 20 and 35, fluent in French, English or both. Any additional languages will be a good bonus.

The need for a comedian is particularly highlighted, which already sounds promising for an attraction which relies heavily on the live roles of its Cast Members. The voice of Stitch for each show will need to not only portray the alien’s voice but also control his CGI movements on the giant projection screen and shape the narrative of the show through pre-designed animation rendered in real-time. Another requirement is therefore that the chosen Stitch(es) must be able to work a computer console and joystick.

Image Image

At the attraction itself, work appears to have already begun on transforming the interior of the old Walt Disney Television Studios tour into the new theatre-based attraction. Closed for good on 16th April 2007, the largely unpopular attraction was swiftly surrounded by blue construction fences and stripped of immediate references to the old walk-through attraction.

The layout configuration of the new Stitch Encounter is still unconfirmed. Will it follow the same route as the former tour, passing by hard-working/solitaire-playing Disney Channel video control crew, or could a totally new design be used? With the former Disney Channel CyberSpace postshow closed since January already, this actually gives two perfect spots for the new theatre room, including the Art Attack stage which has been widely rumoured to be the chosen location.

The casting call posted above also throws up more questions about the actual launch date of the attraction.  Originally rumoured for November 2007, the official press release of 1st April 2007 announced it for an ‘Early 2008’ opening.  Strangely, the casting position is for October 2007 to March 2008!

One thing is certain – they’d better have a longer queue line planned out. Julie might have been legendary, but no-one can match the popularity of Stitch. Especially not if he’s appearing live, courtesy of a professional comedian!

Photos by Photos Magiques.

Monday, 9th April 2007

Press Release & Concepts: 15th grows with new attractions

Gathered in the Hotel New York convention centre, the press were told that “the celebration doesn’t end here!” as the resort proudly announced it’s ‘Phase 2’ of the 15th Anniversary, leading from the June debut of Toon Studio right up to Stitch Encounter in early 2008.

On the proud occasion for this new, more confident Disney resort, a special press release was prepared, detailing the new attractions and providing new insight and comment from Walt Disney Imagineers working the various projects. The release is presented exclusively in full here:

Disneyland Resort Paris 15th Anniversary Celebration Grows
As Walt Disney Studios Park Adds Attractions, Entertainment

MARNE-LA-VALLÉE, France (April 1, 2007) – Disneyland Resort Paris continues the 15th Anniversary Celebration with the announcement of even more attractions debuting at Walt Disney Studios Park in the coming year, marking the largest expansion in the last five years for Europe’s No. 1 holiday destination.

“Walt Disney once said ‘Disneyland will always be building and growing and adding new things.’ And in that spirit, we continue to take his mission to heart by designing, developing and creating new experiences that will make our Resort unique, memorable and, most important of all magical,” said Karl L. Holz, chairman and chief executive officer of Euro Disney S.A.S. “We’ve come a long way, and we haven’t finished yet.”

Among projects that are part of the yearlong celebration:

Walt Disney Studios Park Expands
With Toon Studio, 3 New Attractions

Walt Disney Studios Park grows with the June debut of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally as part of the new Toon Studio. This colorful area transforms the Park’s Animation Courtyard into a lively “studio backlot” that playfully pays tribute to the art of animation.

Crush’s Coaster is the first coaster-based attraction inspired by the Disney-Pixar film “Finding Nemo”. Guests climbs aboard a turtle shell and plunge into the thrilling world of Nemo and his turtle friend Crush, with sophisticated show lighting, sound effects and imaging technology creating a whimsical whirl through the East Australian current.

“Disney has always been known for creative storytelling, and Crush’s Coaster takes immersive storytelling to the next level,” said Tom Fitzgerald, executive vice president and senior creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. “Imagineers are pushing the boundaries of technology to bring the worlds and characters of ‘Finding Nemo’ to life in incredible, three-dimensional ways.”

Also premiering in June is Cars Race Rally, the first Disney Park attraction based on the Disney-Pixar film “Cars”. Guests of all ages climb aboard for a zany spinning ride on the famous Route 66, created with dimensional movie sets. At each corner of the track, famous faces from the film are waiting to cheer on drivers. As the rocky desert landscape whizzes past and the canyon walls spiral around, your car crosses the finish line.

A third attraction debuts in early 2008 on the Park’s new Hollywood Boulevard — the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, towering 183 feet. Thr thrill ride will dare guests to board a hotel freight elevator — with a faster-than-the-speed-of-gravity drop through 13 floors. Tower of Terror, already a hit at Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, is one of Disney’s most popular attractions worldwide.

“Hollywood Boulevard is a great example of infusing our story into the physical space through a 1950s Hollywood neighbourhood with dimensional movie sets, color and lighting,” said Fitzgerald.

More Interactive Fun — ‘High School Musical On Tour,’
‘Meet The Robinsons,’ ‘Ratatouille’ Meet ‘n’ Greets

The hottest dance moves and the biggest hit songs from one of the Disney Channel’s most popular entainment phenomenon come to life in “High School Musical On Tour,” a new immersive show for the whole family at Walt Disney Studios Park.

Debuting on a rolling outdoor stage June 16 and performing through Aug. 26, a multi-talented team of entertainers brings the students of East High to France for summer vacation, re-creating the world of East High, a place where best friends break into elaborate musical numbers like magic. Theme Park guests may even find themselves shooting basketball or joining in as the whole street turns into a party while great songs fill the air.

Performed in several languages, it’s a showcase of sing-a-long fun that will invite all ages to be part of a new kind of live entertainment inspired by the highest-rates TV movie in Disney history.

Also this summer at Walt Disney Studios Park, guests can meet the characters from the newest animated Disney-Pixar film. Beginning June 16 in Toon Studio, meet the starts of Disney-Pixar’s upcoming animated feature “Ratatouille”: Rémy, an adorable rat who dreams of becoming a great French chef, and Emile, his roguish friend. And this fall in Toon Studio, meet 12-year-old boy genius Lewis Robinson and the mysterious boy named Wilbur Robinson who whisks him away to the future in the comedic “Meet the Robinsons.”

‘Living Characters’ Debut with Stitch Attraction

Utilizing the latest real-life computer graphics animation technology created by Walt Disney Imagineering, a new interactive Stitch Attraction opens in spring 2008 at Walt Disney Studios Park. The attraction lets guests talk, listen, joke and play with the fuzzy, lovable alien first introduced to audiences in Walt Disney Pictures’ hit comedy, “Lilo & Sttich.”

Because of the interactivity and immersion of this new experience, the guests are the ‘stars’ of the production along with Stitch himself,” said Tom Fitzgerald, executive vice president and senior creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering.

As Guests enter the theater, a Space Traffic Controller scans a galactic communications screen for “active” alien traffic. Stitch is quickly summoned to talk, joke and even flirt, engaging the audience in spontaneous conversation. The show is never the same twice — whether Stitch plays his guitar, dances around the bridge of the spaceship or takes digital photographs of audience members. And no matter where guests are seated, Stitch sees and engages them in non-stop banter.

“It’s the latest milestone in Walt Disney Imagineering’s legacy of bringing Disney characters to life,” said Fitzgerald.

All-New Live Entertainment in Disneyland Park

In Disneyland Park, Mickey Mouse and dozens of Disney characters star in the all-new Disney’s Once Upon a Dream Parade, featuring famous dream moments from Disney stories, and for the first time ever, the floats have fragrances that fill the air, matching the themes of each float. Also for the first time, most of the floats have two themes, one on the front and one on the back.

Music is orchestrated and conducted by noted musician Steve Sidwell, who also wrote the music for films including “Moulin Rouge,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Finding Nemo,” and was recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

There are even more opportunities to meet classic Disney characters, including the new Disney Characters’ Express, a specially-designed train that carries the stars down Main Street U.S.A. several times daily. Their musical adventure includes time to meet and greet with guests in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle and at special locations added just for the celebration.

And each evening, the park will come to life during Candleabration on the forecourt stage, featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and friends in a lively song-and-dance finale with the backdrop of Sleeping Beauty Castle, artfully adorned with delicate sculptures of 15 favorite Disney Characters with shining birthday candles decorating the turrets.

—– End Release —–

The new additions weren’t just previewed with words. Press were treated not only to a special preview performance of the new ‘High School Musical On Tour‘ show, but also to a glimpse at two brand new pieces of concept art, captured and presented to the ‘outside world’ for the first time by our partner site WDSfans.com.

The first is a key concept for the new ‘Hollywood Boulevard’ project, showing our own Twilight Zone Tower of Terror surrounded by 1950s Hollywood city buildings, littered with neons, billboards and seating and towering high above the streets below.

Anyone following the project from its first preview at the January Cast Member rendez-vous event may recognise that this is actually one of two concepts designed for the area. As we heard from the Cast Member event, this ‘Bank of Hollywood’ street set development was not the chosen design – the design will instead be more “pueblo deco” and “mediterranean” as the Tower itself, as seen on the new park map.

The new Hollywood Hills tunnel entrance to Studio Tram Tour is also missing, though the concept does certainly give an exciting and atmospheric look at the theme and surprising size of the project – and of course, finally, our first real look at a dedicated concept art created just for this project.

It’s interesting to note also that Imagineers are describing this as a “1950s Hollywood Boulevard”, meaning that, at the time this fictional “film shoot” is set, The Hollywood Tower Hotel would already have been closed for over 10 years (since 1939).

Finally, another concept art – and again, the first one we’ve seen for this particular project. Showing Stitch’s invasion of the current Walt Disney Television Studios building, this concept for Stitch Encounter shows the building decorated with a new, more blue and purple, colour scheme, along with a huge entrance sign featuring the loveable alien himself. A satellite dish is featured atop the current tower, looking like something straight out of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast.

A new, circular information board is also featured in front of the attraction, displaying times listings for both French and English performances and matching the Art Deco design of the building itself. The Imagineers working on the new transformation must be relieved that the slight whimsy and futuristic look of the Art Deco building already lends it quite an “outer space” style.

Interestingly, the Disney Channel branding appears to have remained – both on the huge projection screen embedded into the building and atop the new times board. Also of note is that whilst the concept shows a ‘Stitch Encounter’ entrance sign similar to the original attraction in Hong Kong Disneyland, the press release simply states ‘Stitch Attraction’, suggesting the final name has yet to be decided.

With all this announced and released just one day after the launch events and premieres for the 15th Anniversary, it all adds up to a huge range of new additions – bigger, perhaps, than the 50th Anniversary of dear old Disneyland USA itself.

Karl Holz said it perfectly – “We’ve come a long way, and we haven’t finished yet.”

Concept art © Disney; Captured exclusively by WDSfans.com

Friday, 16th March 2007

Dates confirmed on the Studios’ 5th

Is this an anniversary “just like we dreamed it” ? Surely, it has to be even better! Not only are four new attractions due to open in the next 12 months, but half of the park is currently being transformed with new themeing to form Toon Studio and Hollywood Studio. And if that wasn’t enough, perhaps the one remaining disappointing corner of the park has finally received the final nail in its coffin…

Just last week, our partner site WDSFans.com reported that the final closure date for Walt Disney Television Studios (the Television Production Tour) has now been confirmed to Cast Members. The attraction, which was never a great success (and became a source of both humour and embarrassment for fans), will officially close for good on 16th April 2007 to allow preparations for Stitch Encounter to begin. Farewell Julie… may your glorious singing and unforgettable hairstyles bring great joy to all in Yester-WDS!

For months now, the opening date of Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally has been thrown around all over, from an originally confirmed 10th June opening to the more recent rumours of a 17th June opening, as Disneyland Resort Paris sat quietly in the corner and laughed… But perhaps there was a reason – since today, on the 5th birthday of the park, they have finally broken the wall of silence and announced a final, confirmed opening date… 9th June 2007!

The announcement comes from the official anniversary website, Disneyland15.com, though it appears the previously confirmed press event of 16th/17th June 2007 will still go ahead. The reason for this week delay is perhaps the grand opening of TGV Est on 10th June 2007, a new high-speed line to Eastern France that will open up many new destinations to both Paris and the resort itself. To ensure maximum possible coverage for these two incredibly important new attractions, then, the press will have to wait a week longer than guests for their grand premiere.

So – birthday popcorn all-round! This production is finally coming together, and with all the style and grace you’d expect from a tribute to the magic of the movies.

Thursday, 15th February 2007

Lost in CyberSpace

CyberSpace Mountain and its Disney Channel Cyberspace environment opened in late 2002 as a new post-show for the poorly performing Television Production Tour itself. The area was previously an additional soundstage for the Disney Channel Studios, but was given up in an attempt to improve the attraction. Props and decorations were added along with countless arcade games and activities relating to Disney Channel shows, with the key draw being CyberSpace Mountain, imported from the defunct Disney Quest in Chicago.

After designing their own virtual roller coaster using a special booth, guests could board one of four two-person simulators to experience the loops, twists and dives for real, with their reactions relayed live via plasma screens to guests watching in the CyberSpace area.

The post-show feature was often given a special mention in the Park Guide and, when the new official website launched in late 2006, it was given a prominment place throughout. Given its own page, listed amongst the “Big Thrills” attractions and highlighted as a must-see, the sudden disappearance of these mentions is therefore even more noticable. The page itself is still there, but all links to it within the rest of the website are gone.

Reasons for its closure are numerous, spanning from poor accessibility for disabled guests and a horribly low throughput to a large floorspace and, crucially, very high maintenance costs. For guests, queueing three times (for the TV Tour, for the build-a-coaster monitors and then for the simulators) almost guaranteed a low satisfaction at the end of the ride. The final nail in the coffin is reported, by member La Rouquine on Disney Central Plaza forum, to have been some guests becoming stuck in one of the simulators, leading to the temporary closure which has now become permanent. (Obviously the guests in question aren’t still stuck in there, don’t worry!)

With Crush’s Coaster soon to fill the gap for family-friendly thrills, and Tower of Terror being prepared to provide the park’s second Big Thrill attraction, the need for CyberSpace Mountain to fill these roles is no longer there.

Right now, the CyberSpace post-show area itself is currently fully closed to guests, as the photos above from Mateo on Disney Central Plaza forum show. Even the signs pointing to the area have been removed, as work is starting on the removal of the CyberSpace Mountain simulators and a rethink of the area inside.

Of course, there is a light at the end of the tunnel here, and a very bright one at that. The soundstage next to Disney Channel CyberSpace, currently housing Art Attack exhibits and activities will become the home of a second version of Hong Kong Disneyland‘s Stitch Encounter in “early 2008”, finally giving Walt Disney Television Studios a reason to exist, some might argue. Currently, guests enter and leave these two post-show soundstages through individual, single doors. It has been reported, however, that automatic doors (like those at Art of Disney Animation) will lead from the new Stitch Encounter video theatre space directly into Disney Channel CyberSpace, and so the removal of the bulky simulators would help this – and improve guest glow and capacity – no end.

Walt Disney Studios might have one of the most interesting and dramatic first five years of any Disney Park, but the Television Studios alone will already need a whole history timeline just to itself!

Wednesday, 10th January 2007

Stitch Encounter: confirmed

Once again, it’s La Rouquine who brings the confirmation, with additional details adding that shows will be presented alternately in both French and English (Spanish is no longer mentioned as earlier). The show will take place in the current Art Attack stage of the “tour”, with the two preceding backstage rooms presenting the background story to the extraterrestrial encounter on the existing plasma screens and through small themeing additions.

The popular Disney Channel CyberSpace post-show of interactive games and CyberSpace Mountain will remain. No opening date has been announced, but the addition is currently scheduled for early 2008 – a perfect family-orientated companion to Tower of Terror, perhaps. The attraction was reported some time ago to have been confirmed already to most Cast Members at Walt Disney Studios Park, but this resort-wide announcement finally gives a bold confirmation. This brings a fourth new attraction to the 15th Anniversary’s already impressive line up.

If you’re new to Stitch Encounter and not sure what it entails, you can find out everything here.

Saturday, 7th October 2006

Stitch’s -Walt Disney Studios- invasion!

The attraction in question is Stitch Encounter, an attraction which opened on 13th July 2006 at Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. It uses the same technology as Turtle Talk with Crush at Disney’s California Adventure and Epcot (a video of which can be seen here), which allows an audience to interact in real time with Stitch through a highly advanced computer animation system. After a question or respose from the audience, Stitch’s animation and (mostly alien) speech is then generated and selected by a hidden Cast Member.

The following quote from Wikipedia describes the Hong Kong attraction, which is presented in Cantonese, English and Putonghua:

Guests are invited to visit Space Traffic Control for a tour. Space Traffic Control (or STC) is the nerve center for this quadrant of the galaxy and where all space traffic is closely monitored. The tour goes as planned until the host is interrupted by Stitch, a fluffy blue mischievous alien known also as “Experiment Number 626” in a ‘borrowed’ space ship. Stitch interacts in real time with the guests, plays games with the kids and even teaches everyone how to speak Hawaiian. Ultimately, Stitch’s nemesis, Gantu shows up and wants his ship back. It is up to the guests in the audience to help Stitch escape! The show is a combination of action and comedy, and never the same show twice.

And the location of this new attraction for Walt Disney Studios Park? Not Toon Studio as you might guess, but instead the old Zapping Zone production stage of Walt Disney Televison Studios Tour, which has been occupied by an interactive Art Attack exhibit for the past two years. La Rouqine on Disney Central Plaza forum confirms the rumours, which originated with this forum post, by stating there will be 4 shows per hour, presented in French, English and Spanish. A budget of 5 million euros will apparently be required to complete the installation.
Largely criticised since its opening with the park on 16th March 2002, the Walt Disney Television Studios attraction quickly lost some of its excitement when the actual, live Disney Channel production stage for Zapping Zone closed in its first year of operation. In late 2002, however, the Disney Channel CyberSpace area opened, offering interactive computer arcade games and the popular CyberSpace Mountain, allowing guests to create their own simulated roller coaster ride.

With the opening of a second attraction-within-an-attraction at this location, it would seem possible the attraction will become similar to Disney Animation at Disney’s California Adventure or The Living Seas at Epcot, which both feature Turtle Talk with Crush in a free-roaming attraction experience, allowing guests to choose which section of the attraction they wish to experience. Currently, the Walt Disney Television Studios gives guests a very brief “tour” through the “backstage” of the Disney Channel before they are allowed to enter either the CyberSpace or Art Attack stages. It remains to be seen whether this tour section will still be included in the updated attraction.

Whilst only an “attraction-within-an-attraction”, though, Stitch Encounter could definitely be marketed by Disneyland Resort Paris as a full new attraction, and will bring yet another highlight to the incredible lineup for the resort’s 15th Anniversary. With Toon Studio getting its first luscious greenery and Walt Disney Television Studios rumoured to be finally getting something worth seeing, it looks like the Imagineers are well on their way to ticking off every box on their “How to Improve Walt Disney Studios” checklist…

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