Boasting the Magic Kingdom’s tallest fairytale castle and longest musical parade, Walt Disney’s Shanghai park is already its biggest overseas outpost. But even as gates open to the public this week, it is still building to keep customers keen.
Disney’s largest overseas investment at US$5.5 billion, the park is a bet on China’s middle class and its booming domestic tourism. The US firm hopes it will offset an otherwise lacklustre international theme park business, better known for cash-burning sites such as Euro Disney.
Calling Shanghai Disney the firm’s greatest business opportunity since Walt Disney bought land in the central Florida in the 1960s, the company has been at pains to woo the home crowd in a country where competition from a plethora of local theme parks promises to be fierce.
Main Street has been replaced by Mickey Avenue to reduce the feel of Americana while attractions include a Chinese-style Wandering Moon tea house, a Chinese Zodiac-themed garden and a Tarzan musical featuring Chinese acrobats.
The park’s seven square kilometre plot of land means there is plenty of space to expand, the Disney chief executive Bob Iger said ahead of the official opening tomorrow.
“There is actually construction going on this week. When we open we will continue the construction to expand what’s on the opening day menu,” he said.
“We have plenty of space to do that and we believe we’ve got willing partners … We think we will probably do that sooner rather than later.”
Mr Iger, who scouted the Shanghai site in 1999, said China had incredible potential given its size. Disney estimates there are 330 million people within a three-hour radius of Shanghai, the country’s financial centre, who would be able to afford to come to the park.
Shanghai Disney could also help lure more consumers to its films. Zootopia, Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book and Star Wars: the Force Awakens are among the 10 most-watched movies in China of 2016, reaping more than $690 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Characters from those films will feature at the Shanghai resort.
Disney, though, is facing intense competition from billionaire developers building homegrown parks and from domestic cartoon characters. It also faces a deeply ambivalent attitude to its products in China.
On one hand, Mr Iger received a presidential welcome from Xi Jinping in May, and Disney has been granted “special” trademark protection. But China’s main military newspaper has also warned that Zootopia, a story about a rabbit police officer in an animal city, was a tool for spreading US propaganda and ideals.
Disney is also not set to reap all the rewards. The resort is a joint venture with state-owned Shendi Group, which has a 57 per cent stake – a concession agreed during lengthy negotiations.
Shendi is a consortium controlled by four large government-owned companies: Shanghai Media Group; hotelier Jin Jiang International, controlled by the city of Shanghai; the supermarket-to-department store operator Bailian Group; and the property developer Lujiazui Development Group.
Since launching in November 2013, Disney’s Frozen movie remains hot. After shattering box office records with over $1.2 billion on its way to the all-time pinnacle of animated movies, Disney has been able to market everything from video games to t-shirts to an upcoming line of Playmation toys aimed at young girls.
Now, beginning on June 21, fans will be able to step into the kingdom of Arendelle at the Norway Pavilion in Epcot, part of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
This is part of a bigger push to integrate Disney’s biggest brands and franchises, such as Star Wars and Marvel, into the company’s theme parks, cruise ships, and resorts.
Disney is also integrating a cast of new big screen characters into its Orlando theme park. Ahead of the record-breaking $136 million launch of Pixar’s Finding Dory, Destiny the whale shark (voiced by Kaitlin Olson), Bailey the beluga whale (voiced by Ty Burrell), and Hank the “septopus” (voiced by Ed O’Neill) joined Epcot’s Turtle Talk with Crush attraction.
Disney’s first Latin princess (Princess Elena of Avalor) who debuts in the new Disney Channel animated TV series, Elena of Avalor this June, also will reside at the Magic Kingdom this August. (She’ll debut at Disney California Adventure this fall.)
All of these tie-ins are an effort to boost attendance at the parks. Revenue for Disney’s entertainment unit generated $2.1 billion in the second quarter, a 22% rise, thanks to hits such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Zootopia. And those numbers don’t include recent blockbusters The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, and Finding Dory.
Banking on bringing in more visitors
Disney’s parks and resorts unit generated $3.9 billion in the second quarter, a 4% gain. The parks saw a 10% rise in income ($624 million) thanks to higher ticket prices, including the new peak hours pricing, and customers spending more on food, beverages, and merchandise.
But Disney CEO Bob Iger told analysts during a second-quarter conference call that park attendance was modestly down as a result of the new pricing strategy that implements surge pricing for tickets. For the first time in five years, earnings per share missed analysts’ forecasts.
S&P Capital analyst Tuna Amobi expects Frozen Ever After to have a meaningful impact on Epcot attendance in particular, and to Disney World overall.
“Just as Star Wars attractions have infused new life into Disney’s Hollywood Studios park since last fall, Frozen should help Epcot attract more kids this summer,” Amobi says. “Epcot traditionally skews older than other Disney parks, and this franchise caters to young girls.”
Frozen Ever After has new tech
Frozen Ever After is a new boat ride that’s part of an expanded Norway Pavilion area, which was once home to the Maelstrom boat ride that ran from 1988 through 2014. Frozen Ever After serves as an unofficial sequel to the feature film (which has its own theatrical sequel in the works for a reported 2018 release).
Composers Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez created new lyrics to the classic Frozen film songs, which you likely have memorized if there are little girls in your house. And the entire cast of the film, including Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), and Josh Gad (Olaf), have returned to provide dialogue and songs for this new ride. (Bell and Menzel are also confirmed for the movie sequel.)
According to Wyatt Winter, project manager and producer with Walt Disney Imagineering, the ride’s story takes place after the first film. “It’s really a happily ever after story,” Winter says. “Every year Elsa has frozen over the kingdom as part of the ‘Summer Snow Day’ celebration.”
What makes the four-minute ride unusual is that it employs advanced projector technology behind characters such as Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven, and Marshmallow to have more lifelike animation as the log boats travel through Arendelle.
“We have taken the audio animatronics and pushed it to the next level, so you’ll see the characters coming to life in this Frozen Ever After,” Winter says.
The new opening comes in the wake of the tragic death of a two-year-old boy by an alligator outside of Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel, which overlooks the Magic Kingdom. Disney has since changed its signs to warn of alligators.
This sequel to “Finding Nemo” is less of an assault on the tear ducts, but the laughs and thrills more than compensate
Over the years, we’ve come to expect Pixar features, at their best, to function as delivery systems for laughs, tears and adrenaline. And even if “Finding Dory” is less of an assault on the tear ducts than some of its predecessors — I’m still not ready to talk about Bing Bong’s selfless act in “Inside Out” — it more than compensates in the other two departments.
Sequel-wise, that puts this follow-up to 2003’s “Finding Nemo” leagues ahead of “Cars 2” and “Monsters University” if not quite at the level of the second and third “Toy Story” entries. Still, the studio has figured out an organic reason to bring back the forgetful fish voiced so memorably by Ellen DeGeneres, and they’ve crafted a story that puts her comfortably front and center.
In the time since the last movie, Dory(DeGeneres) has moved in next door to her crotchety pal Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence); it’s on one of the young fish’s field trips to the stingray migration that she begins having memories of her own family. Raised by Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy), who did their best to keep little Dory (Sloane Murray) safe and to show her how to find her way home, the small fry suffering from “short term remember-y loss” accidentally made her way into the undertow, taking her away. And the further from her parents she got, the less she remembered them.
Suddenly flooded with recall — and determined to find the mom and dad she assumes must still be worrying about her — Dory sets off with a reluctant Marlin and an excited Nemo to track down her parents. Their journey takes them to a seaside theme park and research center where Dory grew up. (There’s a great running gag about the actress who can be heard on recordings everywhere in the facility — as voices of god go, it’s a pretty great one.)
Naturally, our search party gets split up, but they all find allies: Dory gets help from Hank (Ed O’Neill), a grouchy octopus who wants nothing more than a solitary glass tank away from grabby hands, while Marlin and Nemo befriend a pair of slacker sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) who hook them up with a seen-better-days seabird who can provide bucket-in-beak transport for the two fish.
The screenplay (by Victoria Strouse and director Andrew Stanton) is packed to the gills with close calls, ticking clocks and unexpected strategies – it’s a recurrent motif that Dory isn’t just forgetful, she’s also a master of thinking outside of the fishbowl, to the point where Nemo helps Marlin negotiate their way out of a jam by simply asking, “What would Dory do?”
Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane augment the hilarious characters — which also include a pair of bickering whales played by Kaitlin Olson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Ty Burrell — with visual grandeur (who knew there were this many shades of blue?) and comedy, particularly from Hank’s chameleonic and contortionist skills. It’s a sequel, an origin story, and a celebration of what author Armistead Maupin would call “the biological family, and the logical family” all in one.
DeGeneres finds the well of loneliness within this jokey sidekick character, and her yearning for the home she forgot she had is palpable, but “Finding Dory” never quite hits that sweet spot of sadness. The film definitely pushes our buttons as it portrays loss and separation, but it never slows down enough to let us ache.
Even so, “Finding Dory” is rousingly entertaining, with side-jokes and supporting characters that will take their place in the pantheon alongside the “Mine! Mine!” seagulls and surfer-dude turtles (both factions turn up briefly here) from the original. In a year full of sequels nobody really wanted, this is one that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the first one; for that alone, it just keeps swimming against the current.
(CNN)Such is the size of Iceland’s population, it was estimated that one in every 33rd Icelandic person was inside the Stade Geoffroy Guichard supporting their team against Portugal.
And for those present, just shy of 10,000, it was a night they will surely remember for a lifetime
As recently as four years ago, Iceland was ranked 133rd in the world but now sits inside the top 35.
Faced with the daunting prospect of overcoming a team full of household names, including three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, it recorded a historic point in its first ever appearance at a major international tournament.
But Iceland has overcome the odds to even reach this stage; with its outdoor pitches being unplayable for the majority of the year and with a population the same size as Leicester — less than 330,000.
Far from being overawed by the occasion, the minnows came out fighting. With the game less than three minutes old, Iceland almost took a surprise lead.
Read: How tiny Iceland reached Europe’s pinnacle
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s subtle feint took him past veteran defender Ricardo Carvalho, but the Swansea star tried to beat Rui Patricio at his near post and only contrived to shoot straight at the Portugal keeper.
But it didn’t take long for Ronaldo and co. to exert their dominance on the match. First, Vieirinha’s swerving strike stung the hands of Iceland keeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson, before Nani and Ronaldo both fluffed gilt-edged chances.
However, just after the half hour mark, Portugal finally took the lead. A wonderful, flowing move culminated in Andre Gomes squaring the ball for Nani to calmly divert past Halldorsson.
Portugal then started the second half as they ended the first and Ronaldo’s half-volley had Halldorsson scampering across his goal.
But then, five minutes into the second half, Iceland began re-writing the script.
Portugal’s makeshift full-back Vieirinha was caught out of position and Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s pinpoint cross was expertly swept home by Birkir Bjarnason.
In truth, either side could have stolen the three points. Ronaldo was guilty of heading straight at Halldorsson when free inside the six-yard box, before Iceland substitute Alfred Finnbogason saw his shot saved by Rui Patricio.
Portugal dominated throughout the three minutes of additional time but Iceland held on for a point that will surely go down in Nordic folklore.
Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ has crossed the $1 billion mark. One animated flick may gross even more this year.
Their own mammal metropolis isn’t the only place Nick Wildeand Judy Hopps have won over; the bunny-and-fox duo have also dominated the world, with Disney’s Zootopia reaching the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office earlier this week.
It’s the top-earning animated feature of 2016 thus far, well on its way to making twice as much as Kung Fu Panda 3, which is at #2 among animated films this year.
Will Zootopia be king of the 2016 jungle? Or can another animated flick top it?
Box office experts agree: Finding Dory is likely to surpass Zootopia’s $1 billion+ to become the top-earning animated movie of 2016.
A small, unscientific poll of mine also shows that for parents, Finding Dory is the most-anticipated animated film yet to be released this year. It is the most-often mentioned movie from the handful of parent bloggers I emailed asking what animated film they and their kids are most looking forward to. “My family and I are eager to see Finding Dory this month because Finding Nemo is one of our favorites, including just about every Disney Pixar movie too,” Amy Bellgardt, creator of MomSpark.net and mother of two boys told me via email.
Outside of superhero fare, 2016 has thus far been a rough year for franchises, with audiences turning rather anti-sequel, or perhaps having no tolerance for sequels that just aren’t much good. Zoolander 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and Divergent Series: Allegiant have all flopped. Kung Fu Panda 3 wasn’t a total failure, but it has somewhat underperformed, earning less than each of the two other films in the franchise.
But as David Mumpower of Box Office Prophets told us via email, “2016’s anti-sequel consumer behavior shouldn’t impact Finding Dory.”
For seven years, Finding Nemo reigned as Pixar’s highest grossing film, until Toy Story 3 came along. Last year’s Inside Out is the only other film from the studio to surpass Nemo’s box office tally. It still stands as the seventh highest-grossing animated movie of all time at the worldwide box office.
Finding Nemo remains one of Pixar’s most beloved films, frequently topping or nearly topping both fan and critic rankings of the studio’s movies, so Finding Dory will bring the solid established audience not only of Pixar devotees but also fans of Nemo especially.
With Finding Dory coming out 13 years after Nemo, it’s not quite at the point where there’s a sizable number of people who saw it as kids who now have kids of their own to take to the movies — as was the case with The Lion King’s massively successful 2011 re-release — but “it’s pretty close,” Bruce Nash, founder and publisher of The Numbers, pointed out.
Finding Dory topping Zootopia’s gross would make the Pixar sequel the fifth animated movie to cross the $1 billion mark after Toy Story 3, Frozen, Minions, and Zootopia.
The creators of those animation box office champions all have new films coming out this year: Disney’s got Zootopia and Moana. Disney•Pixar has Finding Dory opening a week from now. And Illumination Entertainment, the makers of Minions and the Despicable Me movies, will release The Secret Life of Pets next month.
Secret Life is a kind of Toy Story for dogs and cats and bunnies, showing us what goofy antics our pets are up to when we’re not looking. Zootopia proved that another non-sequel, original concept could join Frozen in the $1 billion club, albeit with the proven brand recognition of Disney.
“Secret Life of Pets can also be a success mid-summer, although $1 billion is too much to expect from it,” Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru said via email.
Just how much will Secret Life’s family relations to Minions boost its box office success? It’ll help, though the box office experts I consulted have divergent thoughts about just how much it’ll help.
Secret Life’s invocation of the film’s connection to Illumination’s uber-popular little yellow guys with the words “from the humans behind Despicable Me” is, according to Mumpower, “one of the strongest marketing slogans imaginable right now. Putting that note in the trailer spikes the box office dramatically.”
Meanwhile, Pandya said, “Tapping into the Minions fan base is a smart starting point,” and Nash said efforts to make mainstream audiences aware of the Minions connection “won’t make a huge deal of difference.”
Nash also noted that DreamWorks Animation wasn’t able to translate the popularity of its Shrek films into success for the movies that followed the first couple of Shrek installments. How to Train Your Dragon and the Madagascar franchise is where DreamWorks later found box office success, though the four Shrek movies still top the animation studio’s list of highest grossing films.
Though Mumpower has confidence in the power of Secret Life’s link to Minions, he added, “I suspect that Secret Life of Pets would have succeeded if it had come first [among Illumination’s films]. The attachment humans have for their pets fosters continued interest in such concepts, and this movie in particular has a terrific ad campaign. The prim [poodle] rocking out to heavy metal is a perfect animated comedy gag.”
Universal Studios, which is distributing the film, is tapping into that dog-lover and cat-lover audience with a huge partnership with PetSmart.
Looking back at Zootopia, what accounted for its success? It was a film praised by both critics and audiences, and it had a long stretch of time without any competition from other family movies.* Moana has the strong potential to find success for similar reasons, along with the Disney brand recognition. It hits theaters on Thanksgiving weekend, following Trolls’ early November opening and ahead of the Christmas week premiere of Sing, Illumination Entertainment’s movie about animals in an American Idol-esque competition. So Moana doesn’t have quite as much space to itself as Zootopia did, but it’s safe to bet it’ll be the reigning animated movie of the holiday season. Moana, ostensibly introducing the House of Mouse’s first Polynesian princess, features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Nash does not expect Miranda’s involvement to be a box office boost in and of itself, despite the massive popularity of Miranda’s Hamilton. Disney musicals are already recognized for their quality tunes, so the film already has its draw for the music (which we may be hearing for the first time in the trailer set to hit the web this Sunday).
Donald Duckwas born – in Walt Disney’s cartoon The Wise Little Hen – 80 years ago. Here are 10 facts about the cartoon superstar
• DONALD DUCK was created by Walt Disney when he heard Clarence Nash doing his “duck” voice while reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb. Disney wanted a character that was more negative than Mickey Mouse, so the bad-tempered Duck was born. Nash voiced the character from 1934 to 1983, training Tony Anselmo to take over. “Donald, I can’t understand a word ya say,” Mickey Mouse says.
• HIS MIDDLE NAME is Fauntleroy (first revealed in the 1942 film Donald Gets Drafted), and he is reportedly the only major Disney character with an official middle name. He has a twin sister named Dumbella. In the late Thirties, Donald was joined by his perennial girlfriend, Daisy Duck, and by his three mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
• RAY DAVIES of the Kinks namechecks Donald Duck in the opening lines of his 1968 song We are the Village Green Preservation Society, with the lyrics:
We are the Village Green Preservation Society,
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
• A SPECIAL microphone, The Neumann TLM-170, was used to record Donald’s voice. Preferred for its warmth, this microphone also rounds out the high tones and smoothes the “splat” in Donald’s voice.
• DONALD DUCK first appeared on the silver screen on June 9, 1934, in the animated short film, The Wise Little Hen, dancing to the Sailor’s Hornpipe. He has gone on to star in seven feature films–which is more than any of his Disney counterparts. He is six years younger than Mickey Mouse.
• HE WON AN OSCAR for the 1943 animated short Der Feuhrer’s Face, which was originally titled Donald Duck in NutziLand. The anti-Nazi cartoon begins with music from Wagner’s comic opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and also features Groucho Marx’s singing.
• FINNISH voters who want to register a protest vote mark their ballots with the name Donald Duck.
• DONALD DUCK, who usually wears a sailor shirt, cap, and a red or black bow tie, but no trousers, is the only popular film and TV cartoon character to appear as a mascot for the sports team of a major American university, namely, the Oregon Ducks at the University of Oregon.
• WALT DISNEY said of the character: “One of the greatest satisfactions in our work here at the studio is the warm relationship that exists within our cartoon family. Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, and the whole gang have always been a lot of fun to work with. But like many large families, we have a problem child. You’re right, it’s Donald Duck.”
• THE renowned early illustrators of Donald Duck were Al Taliaferro, Carl Barks, and Don Rosa. Donald Duck first appeared as a drawing in a May 1934 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine promoting the June film The Wise Little Hen. The magazine is sought after by collectors.
The new “Lego Movie 4-D: A New Adventure” film coming to Legoland theme parks around the world in early 2016 will seek to replicate the off-beat humor and firecracker wit that made the original animated movie a hit with both critics and moviegoers.
The 12-minute Legoland movie brings back everyman construction worker Emmet Brickowski for a new story that combines 3-D animation with wind, water, fog and lighting effects.
“Lego Movie 4-D” finds Emmet invited to a Legoland-like theme park where all the rides are based on adventures from the original movie. But the fun soon ends when Emmet and his friends are thrust into the middle of an “evil secret plot” concocted by new villain Risky Business, the brother of Lord Business. Emmet’s nemesis will be voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt, best known for voicing Remy in “Ratatouille” and playing Spencer Olchin on “The King of Queens.”
The theme park movie reunites some of the celebrity voice talents from the original theatrical release, including Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle), Alison Brie (Unikitty), Nick Offerman (MetalBeard) and Charlie Day (Benny).
“Lego Movie 4-D” will be directed and co-written by Rob Schrab, who is also slated to direct the “Lego Movie” sequel set for a 2018 release. Schrab’s resume includes directing stints on “The Mindy Project” and “Community” as well as writing work on “The Sarah Silverman Project” and “The Monster House.”
Notably missing from the Legoland 4-D movie credits are the screenwriting wizards Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as well as the celebrity voice talents of Will Ferrell, Will Arnet, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman. It has yet to be determined if Chris Pratt — the voice of protagonist Emmet Brickowski — can squeeze the voice-over work into his busy schedule, Legoland officials said.
The new Legoland movie will be created by North Hollywood-based Pure Imagination Studios, which worked on the Angry Birds 4-D experience at the United Kingdom’s Thorpe Park and the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis 4-D interactive dark rides at Six Flags parks.
“Lego Movie 4-D” debuts at Legoland Florida on Jan. 29 and at Legoland California on Feb. 6 (a.k.a. Super Bowl weekend). Legolands in England, Germany, Denmark and Malaysia will get the 4-D film in March when the parks open for the season. The 11 Legoland Discovery Centers in North America, Asia and Europe will also screen the movie.
In California, the new Lego movie replaces “Legends of Chima 4-D” and “Clutch Powers 4-D.”
Disney World visitors have two new places to meet three characters at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Olaf, the comic-relief snowman from “Frozen,” are now receiving guests in new digs at the theme park.
The area designated “Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams” is off the park’s Commissary Lane, across from the entrance to Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. Its waiting area is primarily outdoors and covered, but a basic back-and-forth queue. (At one point, this was an entrance area for auditions for the American Idol Experience attraction.) The theming is minimal at this point: Mickey-fied movie posters and piped-in swing music.
Our wait was advertised as 30 minutes, but it was more like 45 minutes before we got into the air-conditioning on Sunday, the first day that Red Carpet Dreams was open to Hollywood Studios guests. It only seemed longer than 45 minutes because the 4-year-olds among us had mid-afternoon meltdowns in rolling fashion. It’s like when one person yawns, then another one does. Then another. Only with inconsolable, undecipherable crying.
Soon, we were greeted by Minnie Mouse, who has discarded her usual polka-dot motif for a pink, flowing starlet look (with matching bow, naturally).