The Secret Life of the Animatronic Dolphin

For five days at Epcot in 1999 and for an equally short time in Castaway Cay, guests from around the world had the chance to meet with one of the largest accomplishments in audio animatronic technology: the DRU-1 (Dolphin Robotics Unit). Created by Edge Innovations in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering, DRU-1 wowed the crowds but was ultimately decided to not have the potential of being an every-day attraction in the theme parks.

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Meet the Crew of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch at Epcot July 31 – August 2

The crew of The NorthwesternThe Norway pavilion in Epcot® is pleased to host Northwestern Captain Sig Hansen, Edgar Hansen, and Matt Bradley — three of the featured stars on the popular reality series on The Discovery Channel, Deadliest Catch – for an in-park appearance July 31 – August 02, 2009. Sig, Edgar and Matt will appear inside The Puffin’s Roost, the Norway Pavilion’s merchandise location, each day. They’ll be appearing from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm and 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm.

Fourth generation fishermen, Sig Hansen is the Captain of the Northwest, Edgar Hansen is the Deck Boss and Matt Bradley is a Deck Hand for the crab-catching vessel. Captain Sig Hansen and Edgar Hansen and Norm own and operate the Seattle, WA based Northwestern.

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Vinylmation Mickey: The New $40 Autograph ‘Book’

Vinylmation Mickey Blank Turned Autograph Book

Vinylmation Mickey Blank Turned Autograph Book

While I make it a hobby to track down and photograph characters, I am no autograph hound. In fact, I don’t recall ever obtaining a single Disney character autograph on purpose — until now that is. After several days on site, I needed a new way to occupy my time and when something caught my eye at The Animation of Disney shop in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it was love at first sight. Or a new hobby anyway. There on the counter was a 9″ Vinylmation blank decked out with several character signatures. I fought the urge for a while but there was just no walking away from it, I had to try it.

So for $39.95, I walked away with a Vinylmation blank and a fine-point sharpie given to me by the cast member at the store (they really ought to sell sharpies there too). And over the next two-and-a-half days, as time allowed, I tracked down every single character I could find and got them to sign my Mickey. Even Mr. Incredible, who normally uses a rubber stamp, signed him.

The idea itself really is novel, if not awkward, and I think it should provide a really good springboard for new )and hopefully less-expensive) autograph-related products. Let’s face it, we all (well, not me) do the autograph books and for most who manage to keep them around, they sit on the shelf for most of the time. Here we have a three-dimensional, tangible object that does its best work when it does the exact same thing and sits on a shelf.

So after two-and-a-half days and gathering a total of 61 autographs, I learned a few things that might help the next poor unfortunate soul who follows suit.

First, the fine-point sharpie (or even a ball-point pen) is a must. Especially when dealing with face characters who can be very nimble, particularly with signing in dwindling spaces and have intricate autographs. Characters with bigger hands didn’t seem to have as much an issue with the fine-point itself, but were challenged when it turns out the first sharpie I had was about to die. Which leads to the next tip:

Make sure the sharpie (or whatever) is in amazing shape. If it is, writing on the vinyl figure will be smooth and dark. You can use the bottom of the feet to test the autograph pen (unless you have other plans for his normally not-visible bottom).

There seemed to be an issue with touching him, particularly when signatures were fresh. They wouldn’t be immediately affected, but over time, areas that got touched a lot seemed to fade really fast and would sometimes smudge. For this reason (and the next), I recommend physically handling him as little as possible. When toting him around, don’t flaunt him, put him in a bag (or at least flaunt him in a clear bag).

People (and characters) will love him. Kids will become downright obsessed with him and won’t think twice about picking him up if he’s left vulnerable and checking him out.

A semi-tip: The eyes pictured on my Mickey were courtesy of Pluto. It seems you can get away with decorating the face a little bit as characters seemed hesitant to ‘tattoo’ it anyway (although the eyes made that situation even more clear) and still have room for autographs.

Bottom line, despite the imperfections that accumulated during the process, I’m proud of my Autograph Mickey and the slightly smudged memories that come with it.

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Report: Bus Collision Near Contemporary Resort Sends At Least 8 to Hospital

WESH is reporting that two Disney Transportation buses collided this afternoon near the Contemporary Resort. They report eight to fourteen guests have been sent to Celebration Health for treatment but that all injuries appear to be minor. You can read their coverage here.

Also tweeting live from the scene was Disney Moms Panelist Erin Foster.

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‘Blueprint’ Surfaces of (Big Gulp) Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland Makeover – It’s Huge.

A big tip o’ the ears to our lovely friends at the Disney Report who have obtained and posted a very highly detailed blueprint of a long rumored upgrade to Fantasyland (now removed). Personally, I don’t take too much stock in rumors and I think I have a talent for knowing what’s likely and what’s not and while I would never believe anyone if they told me what this design foretells, it does have some key elements that I’ve been ‘aware’ of myself. Most notably the fact that something big was coming to the Magic Kingdom alas the upper crust felt the park was being neglected so they started to shift focus to it, that the Little Mermaid was coming to Magic Kingdom (reportedly one of the conditions of being able to bring it to Disney’s California Adventure was to be able to replicate it in the Magic Kingdom to reduce costs) and that it (and/or something big) was finally going over the huge plot of land that once was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and now hidden by lots of trees).

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Mother of Monorail Victim Denied Evidence Discovery Request

Several outlets reported today that the mother of Austin Wuennenberg, the Disney Monorail operator who was killed in a tragic collision on July 4, had filed a petition earlier in the week for a Pure Bill of Discovery. The petition, filed on behalf of Christine Wuennenberg, requested she have access to evidence that Disney may be in possession of in regards to the incident including video of the Monorails, audio communication and ‘black box’ data. Wuennenberg’s lawyers also requested access to the complete list of witnesses, employees involved in Monorail operation and logs of said employee’s whereabouts for months leading up to the crash. The petition cited a concern that evidence ‘may be destroyed, erased and/or altered.’ An alternate request to insure that Disney did not destroy any potential evidence was also made.

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Disney Celebrates Rare White Rhino Birth in Uganda; Mom Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Uganda’s first white rhino born in 27 years has a family tree with Disney roots. First-time mother Nande, a 10-year-old female white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, gave birth June 24 to a healthy male calf at the Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda after a 16-month gestation period. © Disney

Uganda’s first white rhino born in 27 years has a family tree with Disney roots. First-time mother Nande, a 10-year-old female white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, gave birth June 24 to a healthy male calf at the Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda after a 16-month gestation period. © Disney

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., July 13, 2009 — Uganda’s first white rhino born in 27 years has a family tree with Disney roots.

First-time mother Nande, a 10-year-old female white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, gave birth June 24 to a healthy male calf at the Ziwa Sanctuary in Uganda after a 16-month gestation period.

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Report: Dining with a Disney Imagineer at The Hollywood Brown Derby

After many trips to Walt Disney World contemplating the idea, I finally bit the bullet and invested into the Dining with an Imagineer program which takes place during lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby. Offered only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the program which costs $60.99 + tax and 18% gratuity per adult (bringing the per adult total to about $75) and $34.99 (or about $45 total) per child, brings the group (maximum of eight guests) face to face with a bonafide Disney Imagineer at Walt Disney World.

Booking proved to be a bit of a challenge as, if I recall correctly, the 90 + 10 didn’t work too well. After a few days of trying, however, I was able to secure my reservation. A credit card is required at time of booking (there is a 48 hour cancellation policy), but you are not charged. Instead, you are presented a bill at the end of the event as with any dining. For booking purposes, it also appears to help if the Cast Member starts looking at The Hollywood Brown Derby moreso than for the experience itself.

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Walt Disney World’s Extreme Makeover: Character Edition

Mr. Smee, we thought we knew you. There was no doubt that once the Pirates League moved into town and started offering pirate makeovers that major changes would be afoot. Consider the following photo that compares Mr. Smee’s old look to his new look. Seams a bit different, don’t it? And who knew Mr. Smee lacked a belly button? He must have lost it in a battle with Peter Pan. He now also sports a more texture/plasticized set of eyebrows, a completely different mouth and all over has a more cartoony look, particularly with his eyes (and I think he might have had a nose job too). I might be going overboard when I suggest I think he even shrank a bit considering the height of his eyes compared with Hook’s nose (even more dramatic when it appears that Hook is even leaning forward in the old look photo while he’s standing upright in the new look photo).

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Magic Kingdom’s ‘The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains’ Tour On Hold Until October

A photo taken backstage during the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. © Brad K. All Rights Reserved.

A photo taken backstage during the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. © Brad K. All Rights Reserved.

For reasons unspecified, although presumably because of the proximity of the Monorail barn during the tour, ‘The Magic Behind our Steam Trains’ tour has been canceled through at least October 12, after which it will resume a Monday – Saturday schedule.

Guests who have already booked the tour are currently being notified of the change by Disney.

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