Archive | Interactive Entertainment RSS feed for this section

Disney Acquires Togetherville: Smart, and Maybe Creepy

25 Feb

Togetherville main pageDisney acquired the Togetherville social networking site this week, which is probably a great move for profits, and convenient for parents of young kids. But it also raises all sorts of red flags about potential data-mining privacy violations. From my StudiosCentral Jentasmic! column this morning:

Remember that rumor some time back that characters in the park might someday remember your name and your number of previous visits, based on data stored in a specialized wrist band? Well, if this were integrated with Togetherville and Facebook, Mickey might also happen to know that you hit a new high score yesterday on Pixel Purge, and that your Dad’s sciatica has been acting up.

And of course, let’s not forget that anything ABC or ESPN knows, Disney knows. So, Mickey might want to know what you thought about the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy that you watched last night on your web browser, or the Celtics game.

I remember in the early dot com wave, you could tell who the most powerful person in the room was, because usually he (yes, usually he) would be wearing board shorts and flip flops to the executive committee meeting. Today, I’ll bet you can tell who the most powerful person in the room is by figuring out who has the least (true, personal) information available about them online.

Mash-up: Spirited Away/You’ll Be in My Heart

16 Jul

Kudos to Larkiepants! This mash-up is so good, it almost makes me like Phil Collins. Almost.

Spirited Away is easily one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because ConnectiCon just renewed my obsession with anime (though I can blame ConnectiCon for the fact that my Netflix queue is now full of Bleach and Neon Genesis Evangelion). I’m saying that because Hayao Miyazaki is indeed a master storyteller, and this mash-up reminded me just how deeply touched I was by the story of this little girl finding her courage and strength. And if you’re intimidated by anime, and averse to subtitles, you’ll be relieved to hear that John Lasseter and company did a fine job with the English dub.

Mash-up: Bambi’s Mad world

6 Jul

Haunting, sweet, sad. Big kudos to Alietje2908.

Disney Launches New Cable Content

15 May

Can’t get enough of those Disney Parks specials on Travel Channel? Tivo filling up with old copies of Walt Disney World: Behind the Scenes? Pining for Disney Resort TV, with its insufferable yet oddly-addictive Top 7? Well, Disney’s got something new for you. TechWeb sez: Disney Parks Launches First-Of-Its-Kind Programming For Interactive Cable Networks; Introducing Disney Travel on Demand.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts today announced Disney Travel on Demand, a breakthrough in original programming that combines innovation, storytelling and the power of interactive television to deliver a soup-to-nuts vacation planning and entertainment experience to television viewers, starting on two cable systems nationwide. The program mix will include episodic, reality and special event shows as well as concerts and celebrity hosts, all focused on the magic of Disney’s destinations around the world.

The programs are designed to uniquely engage viewers with a variety of industry-leading interactive and entertaining components that showcase Disney Parks’ innovation, Disney cast members, and the legacy behind all the magic. It will first be made available this month on Cablevision and Time Warner Cable network systems reaching more than nine million viewers.

But wait, there’s more! Operators are standing by:

The hallmark of Disney Travel on Demand is a groundbreaking level of interactivity with audiences. On Cablevision systems, which will carry Disney Travel on Demand on channel 650, viewers will be able to communicate directly with a Disney travel representative from the comfort of their own homes with the new ‘Talk To Agent’ feature. With the click of a button on the remote control, viewers can request to have a telephone call back from a Disney travel representative to make all their travel arrangements at one of Disney’s destinations: Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort in California, and Adventures by Disney vacations.

You know, I can currently access amazingly similar functionality by simply pressing 10 on my cell phone speed dial. And then I get a cute little picture of Mickey Mouse with the caller ID. (Um, I guess you didn’t really need to know that last part, did you?)

The new service will be debuting on Time Warner Cable and Cablevision by the end of May. The rest of us will have to console ourselves with whatever snippets of said new content show up on YouTube, at least for the time being.

DisneyQuest Closing October 2007?

19 Apr

Rumors of DisneyQuest’s imminent demise have floated for years. But I was never so thoroughly convinced as when I heard it mentioned on Episode 245 of WDW Today (at about 10 minutes into the podcast). According to Mike Scopa, DisneyQuest will likely close “anytime after October 1” (but perhaps as late as January 2008) and be replaced (as long rumored) with an ESPN Zone, to open October 2008.

Darn. I do hope they hang onto a couple of the attractions, either incorporating them into the new ESPN Zone or bringing them to the resorts or parks. CyberSpace Mountain works just fine at Disney Studios Paris, and I’ll bet it would fit fairly well at Epcot. I’m sure they could also find a spot somewhere for my son’s favorite DisneyQuest attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold. But I gotta admit, I’ve got no great love for most of the rest of DisneyQuest. If they’re not going to invest further in its development, I agree that it’s time for it to go.

Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor: Notes from a Soft Opening

8 Jan

On Tuesday, December 19, my son and I happened across a soft opening (ie, unscheduled preview) of the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor attraction at Walt Disney World, in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

Monsters Inc Laugh Floor Coming Soon

As you may have already heard, the Laugh Floor had been scheduled to open in January 2007, and feedback from early soft openings led to the opening date being pushed back to some unspecified date in the spring of 07 (the Orlando Sentinel has more on this). In my opinion this was a wise move. The attraction has a lot of potential, but also some serious flaws which I believe Imagineering can address. In its current state, it could be a big hit with the 7-10 year old crowd, but leave adults bored and irritable. With some improvements, it could be even better for the kids, and better tolerated by their parents.

Out of respect for the Imagineers who requested no pictures be taken, I’m omitting photos. However, I can tell you that much of the aesthetic of both the queue and the pre-show are similar to that of the Monsters Inc ride in Disney’s California Adventure, including a replica of the soda machine from the queue in that ride:

Drooler cola

Snacks

The theatre is a decent size, seating a few hundred people in rows of tables, as if you’re at a comedy club styled like a factory (but not, sadly, The Factory of Andy Warhol fame). There are three screens up front, with most of your attention focused on the left screen (where you’ll see Roz) and the main screen, which features a series of comedians vying for your laughs. You see, following up on what they learned in the movie Monsters Inc, the monsters are gathering laughter to power their city.

There’s also an interesting gimmick . . . they’re integrating the use of cell phone text messages into the attraction. While you were in the queue, you had the opportunity to send text messages from your cell phone to the monsters, offering your jokes for the monsters to tell. (And if you happened to be there for this soft opening, you also had the opportunity to give those jokes to Cast Members, running around a bit frantically to gather jokes. Perhaps they don’t yet trust that people can easily text message? Or are they having trouble with receiving the messages?)

As you wait for the show to start, a camera is pointed at random people in the audience, with amusing subtitles below each person (ie, “Is sitting between two aliens,” “Will buy you all churros,” “Doesn’t know you’re looking at him” — though I didn’t take notes so don’t take those as verbatim).

Once the show begins in earnest, there are essentially four acts:

  1. Mike Wazowski and Roz explain why we’re here: The gathering of laugh power, and a contest among three comedians. This part of the show works fairly smoothly, though a bit dry.
  2. The three comedians each perform in turn. Here, we need some real work. The jokes aren’t great, and the audience’s expectations are understandably high. This is the Laugh Floor, after all. Shouldn’t this be side-splitting stuff, since their world’s power supply depends on it? There’s some audience interaction here, much like in Turtle Talk with Crush, and this is the high point — the comedians seem to be at their best when they’re ad-libbing (or, perhaps the writing is best when it’s loose).
  3. The monsters tell another batch of jokes, sent in by text message (or, in our case, Cast Members carrying clipboards). This is hit or miss. Obviously the jokes will be of varying quality, especially if they have very few to choose from. But for the kid who hears his joke read by one of the monsters (or the parent who’s sitting by his side), it’s an instant pixie-dusted memory.
  4. The audience votes with applause for their favorite of the three comedians, and the winner is announced. The show wraps up, and we’re on our way.

Or, if you’re at a soft opening, maybe you’re not on your way quite yet. In our case, the Cast Members asked for our feedback. We were asked to vote by show of hands, responding to a series of fairly detailed questions, most on a scale of 1 to 5. The audience response at our soft opening was fairly positive, but not quite enthusiastic. Few people responded with 1’s or 5’s.

For me, some of the technical issues left me frustrated (and, of course, we were warned that this would be the case — this was of course a soft opening, which one expects to be technically rough). The left-hand screen looks great, but at our preview the main screen seemed less bright, less clear, and with slighly rougher edges on the characters. Looked like a rendering issue to me. Microphone coverage in the theatre was inadequate, which was an issue during the interactive sections of the program. Perhaps that’s just because they’re in previews, and will have more Cast Members running around with handheld mics once the attraction opens?

I also have to wonder where Sully is. Did they leave him out because he’s not a great comedian? Or is his fur just too hard to render on the fly, given the tremendous amount of software work behind that gorgeous mane?

Overall, though, I do believe that this is the next Turtle Talk with Crush, both for its charming interaction (I know they’ll improve the writing!), and for the popularity of some of the main characters. I’m rooting for the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering who are no doubt putting in long hours to make a great show for us.

Disney.com vs. MySpace?

3 Jan

John Frost reports today on a Wall Street Journal article about the upcoming new disney.com web site, and its attempt to position itself as a MySpace competitor.

At first this seemed odd to me, but then I thought back to the now-legendary story of Walt Disney sitting on a crummy bench, watching his daughters ride a mediocre carousel in an ill-kept city park. And he thought to himself, couldn’t we have a place where parents and kids could both enjoy themselves? Seems to me that a MySpace-ish disney.com could be headed for that same sort of conceptual space, though I’m not placing any money on whether they can succeed.

It’ll be interesting to see how they tie Disney Mobile into all this. And the upcoming Monsters Ince. Laugh Floor attraction at Magic Kingdom, where you can send text messages to the monsters from your cell phone. How far will Disney take the potential synergies here?

%d bloggers like this: