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Mythbusters: The Early Years

24 Sep

“We invited top scientists from around the world.

Unfortunately, none of them showed up.”

Jim Hill on Disney’s Muppet Revival Project

30 Apr

BeakerToday’s Jim Hill Media post asks, Will the third time be the charm with Disney’s Muppet revival project? And he doesn’t have any easy answers. Disney fought hard to own the Muppets, but it doesn’t yet seem to know what to do with them. I wince every time I see Kermit shilling for SUVs.

MouseExtra offers some interesting commentary on Jim Hill’s overview and analysis, and asks an important question about what Disney is doing with the results of Guest surveys in response to the Mobile Muppet Lab.

As both articles point out, most young people today do not recognize some of the Muppets whom others cherish most, such as Dr Bunsen Honeydew and his faithful assistant, Beaker (who will soon be rolling through Disney’s California Adventure again as the Muppet Mobile Lab).

I cringe to think that today’s young people may be limiting their Muppet consumption to the obvious (admittedly classic) choices of Kermit, Piggy, and Animal. So, because not every household is lucky enough to have easy access to The Muppet Show on DVD, here’s a classic Beaker moment currently available on YouTube:

Honeydew and Beaker Roam California Adventure

2 Mar

Disney News has the story, reprinted from the LA Times:

In their first appearances at Disney’s California Adventure this week, bumbling scientist Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his meep-meeping sidekick Beaker joked and chatted with guests. The Muppets could see the color of the clothes the kids wore and the lollipops they licked — casting a slight Big Brother vibe over the proceedings. They maneuvered in a silver, egg-shaped roving laboratory outfitted with flashing lights, spinning signs, confetti cannons and smoke and water sprayers.

And joy of joys . . . The Disney Blog has a link to YouTube video! Thank goodness for the interweb.

Unlike Push or Wes Palm (YouTube video link), these animatronics are not controlled by a visible puppeteer, which will not make much of a difference to kids (who don’t notice that man wearing dark glasses, carrying a big bag, and talking into a microphone), but certainly should make the experience a bit more magical for the rest of us.

Walt Disney World to Use Cell Phones in New Attraction, Give Math Tests to Canadians

30 Sep

A September 29 press release from Walt Disney World includes details of several upcoming attractions, and includes this tantalizing bit of information for Monsters Inc fans:

Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Magic Kingdom guests will laugh, joke, sing songs and match wits with the beloved animated characters from Disney-Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” in an engaging and interactive attraction being created by the Disney Imagineers. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club features one-eyed hero Mike Wazowski, who has opened a comedy club to collect laughs that will generate electricity for the monster world of Monstropolis. As Monster-of-Ceremonies, Mike recruits two comedian wannabes whose slapstick humor delights and engages audiences. Guests will even get to text-message jokes on their cell phones for possible use in the show. [emphasis mine]

Disney has in recent years been incorporating more and more interactive elements. The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Anaheim (Disneyland), for example, allows you not only rack up the points when you’re riding it in person, but also to participate through an online component. The Turtle Talk with Crush attraction both at Anaheim (Disney’s California Adventure) and Orlando (Epcot) uses digital puppetry to create a verbally and visually interactive animated character. Disney’s “living character initiative” is creating more emphasis on ambulatory interactive experiences, including the rumored new rolling Muppet Labs. And I could go on.

But what’s different about the use of cell phones in the Monsters’ Inc Laugh Floor is the use of an independant, guest-owned electronic input device to influence the content of an attraction. True, Astro Blasters used the web as an input device, but the space rangers on the actual ride weren’t aware of this input until they got to the pictures displayed in the exit area (if they even noticed then).

I’ll be interested to see the way in which the cell phone input is incorporated. Will the Cast Members receive the information live, and use it in real-time (similar to the experience of Turtle Talk with Crush)? Or will it be dumped into a database for later mining? Receiving the information in the form of text messages gives them more control, more ability to screen out the hecklers and zero in on the funny, Disney-friendly stuff than they’d have if they simply encouraged guests to shout out their ideas. But it also could create an overwhelming crush of data, unless they’re going to restrict text message submission only to those in the attraction itself.

The press release also includes a bit of text about the Year of a Million Dreams prizes, including this note:

For residents of Canada, a mathematical skill-testing question must be correctly answered to win any prize.

Yes, we’re all aware that this is a legal requirement for those giving out sweepstakes prizes to Canadians, but you’ve gotta wonder, how are they going to implement this for the smaller prizes? “Psssst, hey buddy, if you can do this quadratic equation, there’s a free lanyard in it for you!”

Disney Imagineers Developing Beaker “Living Character?”

21 Sep

Jim Hill media reports that Walt Disney Imagineering is working on a semi-improvisational, roving show for California Adventure, starring Doctor Bunsen Honeydew and his much-loved, much-abused assistant, Beaker. The underlying technology would be similar to that currently in use for a number of park attractions/shows, including my personal favorite, the talking trash can sometimes found wandering around in the Tomorrowland sections of both Disneyland and Magic Kindom.

Jim Hill’s article is interesting; even if you’re not convinced about the rumored new Muppet production (not everybody considers Jim Hill a reliable source), there’s an overview of a number of similar, and currently existing, “living character” experiences, including the very popular “Turtle Talk with Crush.”

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