It appears that after decades of providing spa services to guests of the Walt Disney World Resort, the ‘Vacation Kingdom’ may be preparing to part ways with Niki Bryan Spas and go with a partner it may find more agreeable — itself. Thanks to a tipster, we’ve learned that Walt Disney World has begun listing senior-level positions on its job site for titles such as ‘Spa Director,’ ‘Senior Spa Manager,’ and ‘Spa Guest Service Manager,’ suggesting the company is looking to manage the resort spas from the inside, as they are currently doing with Laniwai at Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii.
Currently the Orlando-based Niki Bryan manages the spas at the Walt Disney World Resort exclusively, while Steiner Leisure operates the spas on board the Disney Cruise Line Ships as well as the Mandara spas at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin (a Starwood property) and Disney’s own Grand Californian at the Disneyland Resort.
A representative from Niki Bryan declined to comment on the situation but offered instead to defer to Walt Disney World who has not responded as of this time.
The ’30-year itch’ may not be entirely lost on Niki Bryan, however, as she recently announced the creation of Marilyn Monroe Spas, ‘a company formed to launch Marilyn Monroe branded spas, salons, nail boutiques and more around the globe.’ And in the spa business — like most other industries — it all comes down to who you know. Take for example Bryan’s new partner: none other than ‘immediate past president World Wide Operations, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts,’ Al Weiss, who serves as co-chair.
After presenting its technique for cloning the human face in an effort to produce more realistic audio animatronics at SIGGRAPH, Disney Research Zurich has released this video which takes a closer look at the process, which we began discussing on here last month.
The video starts off by giving an overview of the patent application which we previously described. Essentially the project aims to correct issues with traditional audio animatronics in which the synthetic skin is stretched as actuators contort it to form various expressions. By using an array of high definition cameras to produce marker-less motion capture, the system can accurately determine how a specific synthetic skin material, such as silicone, should be cut in terms of varying thicknesses and attached to the animatronic skeleton so that the desired expressions are replicated precisely, down to the wrinkle level. The video then goes on to give a full demonstration of the process, from scanning the subject, to producing the mold, to comparing the original actor with his audio animatronic counterpart.
While Disney Research Zurich prepares to present its face cloning for audio animatronic use at SIGGRAPH today, Disney Research Pittsburgh is demonstrating its own new technology which allows converting any isolated plant into an interactive experience, allowing computers to detect where a human touches the plant.
Dubbed ‘Botanicus Interacticus: Interactive Plant Technology,’ the technology, which is based on the Touche technology introduced earlier this year, allows a single electrical wire to be inserted in soil. The wire transmits a frequency sweep between .1 and 3 Mhz which allows the area in which the plant is touched to be estimated without causing any damage to the plant itself.
Gestures such as sliding fingers, touching specific leaves, user proximity or amount of touch can be detected and mapped to perform computer-controlled functions. Disney Research hopes the technology (which works equally well with artificial plants) can be used to encourage activity between people and their environments as well as each other by ‘enhancing living, working and social spaces to make them responsive, intelligent and adaptive.’
‘Botanicus Interacticus,’ which is being demonstrated at SIGGRAPH at an exhibit which uses the Pepper’s Ghost illusion to project a computer-generated response to samples including bamboo, orchid, cactus and snake plant with each plant presented it is unique interactive and visual character.
In this day and age in which 3D scans of human faces are turned into exciting keepsakes such as the Disney/LucasFilm Star Wars Weekends experience ‘Carbon Freeze Me,’ in which guests could receive a replica of themselves frozen in carbonite a la Han Solo, and the upcoming ‘I Am A Princess,’ which builds on a previous test in which guests could have a princess doll in their likeness made, technology is becoming a key player in what has been even the most traditional of trades.
Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the pioneering technologies employed by The Walt Disney Company is being updated in a fascinating new way that will attempt to make audio animatronic figures rival the most advanced 3D, high definition screens. The ominous-sounding ‘Physical Face Cloning’ patent application (US 2012/0185218) seeks to improve upon the decades-old theme park experience by using some complicated algorithms to produce the most life-like audio animatronic figures to date.
Based on the listed location of the majority of the inventing team, the project appears to come out of Disney Research in Zurich, Switzerland. Disney Research recently came into the limelight with its technology dubbed touche, allowing users to control devices by gestures.
The problem with today’s audio animatronic figures, according to the patent, is that they require enlisting a team of animators, sculptors and other experts to create a face and skeletal system able to produce a realistic set of human expressions, as relayed through a layer of artificial skin. Taking the guess work out of the process, the new system could simply use motion capture technology to record the human subject’s face making various expressions and, via some very non-simple mathematical formulas, generate the perfect layer of silicone rubber skin (or whichever material is desired) of varying thickness, along with directions for attaching said skin to the skeleton, so that when the skin is stretched and manipulated on the figure to form the desired expressions, it provides the most realistic visuals possible.
UPDATE #1: 7/25/12 – Disney Research will discuss the new technology at SIGGRAPH 2012 on August 9. More information here.
Building on its landmark nutrition guidelines established in 2006, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) today became the first major media company to introduce new standards for food advertising on programming targeting kids and families. This significant undertaking marks the latest step in Disney’s partnership with parents to inspire kids to lead healthier lifestyles. Under Disney’s new standards, all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, and Disney-owned online destinations oriented to families with younger children will be required by 2015 to meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines. The nutrition guidelines are aligned to federal standards, promote fruit and vegetable consumption and call for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium, and sugar.
“We’re proud of the impact we’ve had over the last six years,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. “We’ve taken steps across our company to support better choices for families, and now we’re taking the next important step forward by setting new food advertising standards for kids. The emotional connection kids have to our characters and stories gives us a unique opportunity to continue to inspire and encourage them to lead healthier lives.”
Since 2006 when Disney became the first major media company to establish nutrition guidelines, the company has successfully combined its unique storytelling, beloved characters, and unparalleled reach to make healthier lifestyles for families more appealing and more fun. Disney’s unmatched efforts have received critical acclaim and recognition from moms, nutrition experts, and federal regulators.
“This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is a major American company – a global brand – that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives. With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the U.S. – and what I hope every company will do going forward. When it comes to the ads they show and the food they sell, they are asking themselves one simple question: “Is this good for our kids?”‘
“Mickey Check” Tool
In addition to its new advertising standards, Disney today introduced the “Mickey Check” tool, an icon that calls out nutritious food and menu items sold in stores, online, and at restaurants and food venues at its U.S. Parks and Resorts. By the end of 2012 the “Mickey Check” will appear on licensed foods products, on qualified recipes on Disney.com and Family.com, and on menus and select products at Disney’s Parks and Resorts.
Disney Magic of Healthy Living on Vacation
In 2006, Disney pioneered new, well-balanced kids’ meals served at its Parks and Resorts, which automatically include nutritious sides and beverages such as carrots and low-fat milk, unless parents opt out. Of the more than 12 million kids’ meals served last year at Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S., parents stuck with the healthier options 6 out of 10 times. Now, Disney will enhance its breakthrough efforts by further reducing sodium in kids’ meals and introducing new well-balanced kids’ breakfast meals.
Disney Magic of Healthy Living at Retail
Since 2006, Disney Consumer Products (DCP) has sold more than two billion servings of Disney licensed fruits and vegetables in North America, and has transformed its food offerings resulting in 85 percent of all U.S. licensed products meeting the company’s nutrition guidelines and only 15 percent reserved for special occasion treats. Additionally, Disney will further reduce sugar and sodium in all licensed foods.
Disney Magic of Healthy Living On-Air
Disney’s iconic characters, creativity, and family entertainment platforms offer a unique position from which Disney can help make nutritious eating and physical activity fun and rewarding. Disney Magic of Healthy Living includes online resources for families, live events, as well as informative short-form programming. The on-air spots, which today reach almost 100 million households in the U.S. on Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior, inspire and encourage kids and families to live healthier lifestyles through better eating habits and fun activities.
Disney’s 2006 nutrition policy stipulated that promotions aimed at children 12 years old and under – most notably for films — would meet specific guidelines. Since then, Disney kid-targeted film promotional campaigns feature only healthier food and beverage products.
“Making healthy eating and physical activity fun is central to creating healthier generations to come,” said Dr. James O. Hill, who worked with Disney to develop its nutrition guidelines, and is executive director of the Anschutz Health & Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. “Disney is using ‘magic’ – fun and creativity – to encourage kids and families to make positive changes, and it is working.”
Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced today that Alan Horn has been named Chairman of The Walt Disney Studios effective June 11. Horn will oversee worldwide operations for The Walt Disney Studios including production, distribution and marketing for live-action and animated films from Disney, Pixar and Marvel, as well as marketing and distribution for DreamWorks Studios films released under the Touchstone Pictures banner. Disney’s music and theatrical divisions will also report to Horn.
Horn has been a prominent figure in the film and television industry overseeing creative executive teams responsible for some of the world’s most successful entertainment properties including the Harry Potter film franchise and the hit television series Seinfeld among others.
“Alan not only has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience in the business, he has a true appreciation of movie making as both an art and a business,” said Iger. “He’s earned the respect of the industry for driving tremendous, sustained creative and financial success, and is also known and admired for his impeccable taste and integrity. He brings all of this to his new role leading our studio group, and I truly look forward to working with him.”
“I’m incredibly excited about joining The Walt Disney Company, one of the most iconic and beloved entertainment companies in the world,” said Horn. “I love the motion picture business and look forward to making a contribution as part of Bob Iger’s team working closely with the dedicated and talented group at the studio.”
Horn was most recently President and COO of Warner Bros. Entertainment where he had oversight of the Studios’ theatrical and home entertainment operations, including the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Premiere (direct-to-platform production), Warner Bros. Theatrical Ventures (live stage) and Warner Home Video. During his 12 year tenure, Warner Bros. Studios was the global box office leader seven times.
Among the numerous critically acclaimed films and box office hits released during his tenure are all eight films in the Harry Potter series, The Dark Knight, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Happy Feet, Sherlock Holmes, The Departed, Batman Begins, Million Dollar Baby, the second and third Matrix films and the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy. Horn is also an executive producer of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Before joining Warner Bros., Horn co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment where he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He oversaw the creation of many critically acclaimed and beloved films including Best Picture Oscar nominees A Few Good Men, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile as well as When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, In the Line of Fire and the most successful show in television history, Seinfeld. Horn has also served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and was Chairman and CEO of Embassy Communications.
He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the Museum of Broadcasting. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute; as a Vice Chairman of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); is a co-founder of the Environmental Media Association (EMA); on the Board of Trustees for the Autry National Center in Los Angeles; and on the board of Harvard-Westlake School.
Horn received his MBA from Harvard Business School and served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force.
Imagine walking into a room, running up to and hugging Donald Duck, turning to face an unmanned camera and walking out with a unique QR code stamped in your autograph book next to the ‘Donald Duck #1′ signature, referencing it later to not only access hi-res photos on your phone, but a fully edited video package of your character experience — and not a single Cast Member had a hand in the process.
With motion capture (MoCap) technology setups and video analytic software becoming more and more commonplace and more cost effective, it’s only a matter of time before their applications go beyond the norm of filmmaking and security.
A recently patent application by Disney Enterprises, titled ‘Automated Personalized Imaging System,’ by Christopher James Purvis, Joshua B. Gorin and Cliff Wong, seeks out to do just that. Recognizing that video is becoming more desirable over photography and the amount of human resources required to produce photos, let alone fully edited videos, the patent seeks out to create a completely automated solution.
Using an arrangement of cameras inside the room, the system will be able to identify and track multiple guests as they traverse through a show which includes standard character meet & greets. Such technology was on display from Walt Disney Imagineering at the Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion at last year’s Disney D23 Expo. While The Amazing Destini demonstrated the ability to recognize a single guest’s emotions via facial expressions, an alternate display showed a screen in which all of the guests in the room could be counted and tracked.
With the patent, the system would be able to immediately recognize and track any number of guests as they enter a room and could, as an example, automatically take a photo when it identifies all of the subjects are in frame and posed (i.e., not moving). Once the image is taken, the system can properly crop and edit the photo based on the guests in the photo. Additionally, a series of video clips can be edited together to document the encounter, possibly mixing in stock footage or special templates to enhance the final product, all without the intervention of a Cast Member.
In celebration of National Park Week, the National Park Foundation – the official charity of America’s national parks – today received a $500,000 grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to help connect kids and families to nature through America’s national parks. Disney’s investment will go specifically to the National Park Foundation’s “Ticket to Ride” and “America’s Best Idea” programs, which will help kids explore the outdoors by providing transportation to and supporting community projects at national parks around the country.
“We realize that funding for transportation is one of the greatest barriers preventing children from experiencing a national park field trip,” said Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. “Disney’s support has helped make it possible for us to engage thousands of young people in life changing park experiences, and ultimately inspiring the next generation of park enthusiasts.”
The National Park Foundation launched “Ticket To Ride” earlier this year. Disney is the first corporate partner to join in the program’s mission, allowing tens of thousands of young people to experience America’s national parks this spring. The company’s grant also supports the National Park Foundation’s “America’s Best Idea” program, which connects diverse, underserved and under-engaged populations throughout the country with their national parks through innovative and meaningful experiences.
In addition to the grant, Disney’s Friends for Change – a program that inspires kids and families to make a positive impact on their world by helping people and the planet – developed a public service announcement (PSA) that will launch during National Parks Week and air on Disney Channel and Disney Online. The spot features Disney Channel star Caroline Sunshine (“Shake it Up”) and encourages kids and families to explore the outdoors, whether at a local, state, or national park. Disney Friends for Change also created an online action kit that helps families plan a park visit in four easy steps and provides ideas on park activities ranging from hikes to wildlife exploration.
“The more kids are exposed to the great outdoors, the more they appreciate and understand the beauty and value of our natural resources, from our national parks to our own backyards,” said Leslie Goodman, senior vice president of Disney Corporate Citizenship. “Disney is proud to work in collaboration with National Park Foundation to make a park experience possible for tens of thousands of young people. We hope that these outdoor adventures inspire lifelong conservation values.”
For more information on “Ticket to Ride,” “America’s Best Idea” or any of the National Park Foundation’s programs, please visit www.nationalparks.org.
Today at the 2012 annual shareholder’s meeting in Kansas City, MO, Disney CEO and President Robert Iger announced a new program designed to support America’s military called ‘Heroes Work Here.’ The ‘Heroes Work Here’ initiative intends to employee and train 1,000 United States military veterans at positions across The Walt Disney Company.
Beginning soon, the company will begin promoting the new campaign in unscripted advertisements that feature veterans employed by the company which Iger hopes will inspire other companies to do the same to support the military and their families. The campaign will air on Disney owned networks such as ABC, ESPN and other media platforms.
In addition to providing career opportunities for veterans, Disney will also invest in select non-profit organizations that provide training and other support services. Through the Disney VoluntEARS program, employees will also engage in service projects with veterans’ organizations in communities around the country. The public awareness campaign, featuring veterans currently employed in various businesses across The Walt Disney Company, will highlight their value, encourage companies to hire these highly skilled men and women, and direct them to the Joining Forces initiative for more information.
One of the advertisements, which was previewed to the shareholders, can be watch below:
“As a new generation of America’s military men and women transition into civilian life, we are increasing our commitment and support for these modern day heroes,” said Mr. Iger. “It’s a measure of our respect for how much they have sacrificed on our behalf, and our sincere gratitude for their extraordinary contributions to this country.”
He added, “The military values of honor, integrity, commitment, and courage, along with the skills and experience they’ve gained through their service, make veterans incredibly valuable employees for any company.”
Heroes Work Here includes recruitment efforts across all segments of The Walt Disney Company, including ESPN, the Disney-ABC Television Group, Disney Consumer Products, The Walt Disney Studios, and Disney Parks and Resorts. The company will host career fairs and participate in events designed to showcase opportunities for returning military personnel.
Pictured here is a diagram taken from a recent patent application for a new breed of carousel from Disney Enterprises. At first glance, you’ll notice some interesting deviations from what we’ve come to known as a carousel, standard fare for any amusement park, even parks such as the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
What you may not notice at first, however — and it may not in fact be intentional in the drawing — is that the horses are backwards — at least for this side of the Atlantic. Traditionally speaking, American carousels travel in a counter-clockwise direction whereas European travel in a clockwise direction. So while you will generally see the horses face to the right at Disney theme parks (even at Disneyland Paris), these horses are facing the opposite direction.
Why that is, however, is not as important as the rest of the rest of the patent. The intent behind the new carousel design is to actually address what it sees as current problems with the existing, popular design as well as to plus the guest experience while on the attraction.
One problem that the patent defines with existing implementations has to do with the horses being configured to move up and down while the carousel is in motion. This means that when the ride cycle ends, the horse can be in any position along its y-axis, making it difficult for children and many adults to unload and load from the carousel, particularly when the horse is at its highest point. The new design addresses for this by ensuring that all of the horses are always at their lowest point between cycles, making the loading and unloading process easier.
But an even bigger change to the design is breaking the attraction up into a series of two or more concentric circles that can move independently of each other — not just in speed, but in direction as well. This means that not only can the horses effectively ‘race’ each other, but they could perhaps even spin around and travel in the opposite direction of the horses next to it, creating a ‘Dueling Dumbo’ effect.
The patent application goes on further to describe variations of attractions that can also leverage this technology. Pictured here is a different kind of attraction in which there are three rings. Vehicles are placed on the outer rings, facing each other, with the middle ring used as a transport for obstructions. By varying speeds and directions on all three rings, a classic shoot’em up type attraction receives a whole new spin.