Andrew Stanton’s ‘John Carter of Mars’ Begins Principal Photography in London

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Principal photography is underway in London for Walt Disney Pictures’ “JOHN CARTER OF MARS.” Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton brings this captivating hero to the big screen in a stunning adventure epic set on the wounded planet of Mars, a world inhabited by warrior tribes and exotic desert beings.  Based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Barsoom Series,” the film chronicles the journey of Civil-War veteran John Carter, who finds himself battling a new and mysterious war amidst a host of strange Martian inhabitants, including Tars Tarkas (WILLEM DAFOE) and Dejah Thoris (LYNN COLLINS).

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D23 Announces Schedule of Exclusive Member Events for 2010

janD23: The Official Community for Disney Fans today unveiled a host of special events that have been designed especially for its growing worldwide membership base.

Among the exciting offerings for 2010 are exclusive D23 one-year anniversary parties at the Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort, free “50 and Fabulous” film screenings at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, and a special 40th anniversary celebration event to honor the Walt Disney Archives.

“In our first year, D23 created some truly memorable event opportunities for our members, and this year we plan to outdo ourselves with a mix of all-new events and encores of fan favorites,” said Steven Clark, head of D23. “D23 Members are going to have more opportunities than ever to be part of the Disney magic through the events we have planned in 2010, and we hope they’ll be as excited as we are to experience them alongside their fellow members.”

D23 Members will receive notification of special events and reservation times via e-mail, and all events are offered on a space-available basis. More details on events, and on becoming a D23 Member, can be found at www.disney.com/D23.

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New Contest from Radio Disney Will Leave Winner ‘StarStruck’ with Star Sterling Knight

Radio Disney will give kids the chance to win a family vacation in Hollywood, through local station events beginning SATURDAY, JANUARY 16 through the February 14 premiere of “StarStruck, a Disney Channel Original Movie set in Hollywood.

Events and premiere parties in nearly 40 local markets give kids the chance to enter to win a trip to Hollywood, California, to have lunch with the star of the movie, Sterling Knight (also of Disney Channel’s “Sonny With A Chance”), at a Hollywood hotspot. The winner and his/her guests will also receive a private tour of some of the most famous places in Los Angeles, including Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood. Radio Disney on-air personality Ernie D will announce the winner Friday, February 12.

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Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers, ‘When in Rome’ Stars Among Grammy Presenters

Earlier today, The Recording Academy announced a first-round list of celebrities who will act as presenters during the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards taking place January 31 in Los Angeles.

Disney stars are overwhelmingly represented by way of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Additionally, Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel of the upcoming film When in Rome are included on the list. Even TRON (Legacy) veteran Jeff Bridges is getting in on the act. Other presenters named include Justin Bieber, Norah Jones, Ke$ha, LL Cool J, Ricky Martin, Carlos Santana and Ringo Starr.

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Hyperion Launches Book’s Companion Site to Battle Teen Suicide and Bullying

Earlier this month, By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead Julie Anne Peters was released by Disney’s Hyperion publishing.

In the book, teenager Daelyn Rice, who has faced a life of bullying, decides once and for all that her next suicide attempt will be the last. To ensure success, she turns to a fictitious online website, http://www.through-the-light.com which helps its readers become ‘completers.’

With the pseudo-site obviously bound to gain attention from the web-curious, Peters and Hyperion have debuted a site today under the fictious name, opting instead to use it as a means of invoking discussions in addition to providing information and resources on teen suicides and bullying.

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‘TRON Legacy’ Producer Sean Bailey Named New Disney Studios Production Chief

Rich Ross, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios (TWDS), announced today that Sean Bailey has been named President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production as the segment continues to restructure its operation.  In his new role, he will oversee all aspects of live-action development, film production and physical production for Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone Pictures.  Additional changes to international theatrical distribution, multicultural initiatives, publicity, communications and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment were made as part of the business’ new strategic direction.

“Building upon a strong foundation with the company, Sean brings great creative instincts and considerable filmmaking experience to his new role at The Walt Disney Studios.  His close relationships throughout the creative community and industry at large make him an ideal leader to set the direction of TWDS’ future film slates,” said Ross. “Sean’s talent, energy, and commitment to delivering quality content will help us achieve our goals of producing and distributing Disney-branded movies that entertain audiences worldwide.”

“I am honored and thrilled to join a company with the history and tradition of The Walt Disney Studios,” said Bailey.  “Working with the strong team that has been assembled under Rich’s leadership, I look forward to working with the Studios’ impressive array of talented filmmakers to create entertaining, inspiring films that uphold the legacy and quality of classic Disney movies and capture the imagination of our global audiences.”

Bailey’s feature film producing credits include Matchstick Men, Gone Baby Gone and the upcoming Disney film, Tron Legacy. He is the founder and president of the production company, Idealogy, Inc. He also co-founded the integrated media firm, LivePlanet, with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore and was the executive producer of several high profile television programs including LivePlanet’s three-time Emmy-nominated Project Greenlight. Sean wrote the screenplay Liberty for The Walt Disney Company and co-wrote the screenplay Solace.

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Disney May Be Seeking to Limit Starz Control Over Online Distribution of Films

Bloomberg reports that Disney and Starz are in negotiations concerning future exclusivity the network has to upcoming releases from Walt Disney Studios. Currently, the Starz cable network has first rights to live action films from Disney and wishes to continue the option for as long as five years, but at dispute is the digital rights to the films which Starz would would be able to farm out to online services such as Netflix, whereas Disney is reportedly looking to prevent Starz from having such capabilities.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise, however, as Disney has been generating news lately with Iger constantly promoting Disney’s own subscription-based services, not to mention the forthcoming Keychest technology.

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Chuggington Set to Thrill on Playhouse Disney January 18 (Video)

Global television hit Chuggington is racing its way into American families’ homes this month. Kids and families can tune into Playhouse Disney, Disney Channel’s preschool-focused programming block, on January 18, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. ET/PT for Chuggington’s U.S. premiere.

The train-centric series invites preschoolers to follow the humorous and educational adventures of three young ‘trainees’ as they learn to ‘ride the rails’ of life. Following the series premiere, Chuggington will air Tuesdays through Fridays at 10:30 a.m. ET/PT and weekends at 7:30 a.m. ET/PT.

Using feature-quality CGI animation, Chuggington’s fast-paced, kid-centric stories highlight a colorful, modern cast of characters and are designed to teach simple, yet important, social-emotional lessons that help preschoolers ‘ride the rails’ through their learning years. Throughout each episode, children climb aboard and follow the trainees as they embark on different adventures where they learn to explore Chuggington, an exciting and safe world.

Chuggington was created by Ludorum, a London-based company whose founders and principals have extensive backgrounds in building and managing some of the most beloved children’s entertainment properties including Bob the Builder, Barney and Thomas the Tank Engine. Continue reading…

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WDW Refurb Update: HISTK Playground to Remain Open; Bibbidi Bobbidi and Sunshine Tree Terrace

A few changes to the Walt Disney World refurbishment schedule:

First, the official list from Disney that once listed the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure removed it a few days ago and there are no signs of it coming back, so I removed it from the list here.

Second, we have two additional, unverified additions: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Downtown Disney Marketplace to be closed from January 18 through March 6 and the Sunshine Tree Terrace quick service location in the Magic Kingdom, from January 17 through February 12.

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The Walt Disney Company to Contribute $100K to Red Cross Efforts in Haiti

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) announced today it will contribute $100,000 in humanitarian aid to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The donation will be provided to the Red Cross International Fund to support Haiti’s relief efforts.

“We at the Walt Disney Company are deeply saddened by this tragedy and send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Haiti and their loved ones, which include our Cast Members and employees,” said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company.

“We hope this donation will help the Red Cross to provide immediate aid and relief to the thousands of people affected by this terrible tragedy,” Mr. Iger added.

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