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Desktop Retro: Wet Paint

8 Aug

Need a little Donald to brighten up your desktop?2719 Hyperion’s got you covered.

1943 Walt Disney Cartoon: “Education for Death”

15 Jun

This haunting 1943 cartoon is among those featured on the DVD Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines. More details and commentary can be found on Wikipedia and IMDB.

Also currently available on YouTube is the 1942 cartoon Der Fuehrer’s Face, which features Donald Duck as a Nazi. I find some of the imagery too disturbing to include for viewing on my blog (for example, there’s a hideous stereotype of a man apparently of Asian descent). You might recognize the main song from the cartoon, as Spike Jones and his City Slickers rather famously covered it later on. Check out this Wikipedia article if you’re hungry for more info.

Happy Birthday Donald Duck!

9 Jun

Donald turns 73 today! So, here’s a little Saturday morning entertainment:

(And once again I ask, what the heck is a radio cartoon?)

Donald Duck fans in India can celebrate by watching a birthday special on their mobile phones, according to DIS News:

The Walt Disney Internet Group, that is focused on digital media platforms is ringing the special occasion through a ‘Birthday Special’ designed to engage and provide an entertaining experience for all the Donald Duck fans across the country on their mobile phones. A unique ‘Donald Zone’ has been created on Reliance mobile world, Planethutch and Airtellive for mobile users across India. Consumers can get access to interesting downloads of wallpapers, animations, ringtones, games and trivia on the http:// wap.disney.in on their GPRS enabled phones.

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?

A Gift for Mary Poppins: The Umbrella Photo Browser

25 Sep

Check out this new invention, from Keio Media Design OKUDE Laboratory: the Pileus Umbrella, which will make rainy days fun by both capturing and displaying photos and videos, and connecting to services such a YouTube or Flickr to share more.

Pileus Umbrella sketch, from OKUDE Labs

The Pileus Umbrella web page shows a prototype, including some images taken by the umbrella.

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