Disney Consumer Products announced today that its Disney Baby Facebook page has reached and surpassed more than 1 million Likes in just fourteen months, making Disney Baby the fourth most popular baby brand on Facebook. To celebrate this social media landmark, Disney Baby will release a special tribute video to thank its Facebook community and after much demand is also launching a new Facebook sweepstakes series with coveted Disney Baby products as prizes. To further engage its loyal Facebook community, Disney Baby also announced the addition of its new Disney Momgineers tab, making the Disney Baby Facebook experience more interactive, conversational and informative.
“I am so excited to see our social media community thriving,” said Jeannine D’Addario, Vice President, Disney Moms and Babies for Disney Consumer Products. “As a mom, I know how important it is to be part of a community that celebrates life with baby at every stage.”
The new Disney Momgineers Facebook tab is designed to expand the Disney Baby experience by sharing practical advice and tips, and hosting a forum to discuss a variety of topics relevant to new and expectant parents. The Disney Momgineers are employees of The Walt Disney Company who are also proud parents with the special mission of helping create the best baby experience possible. Knowing how precious moments with baby are and how important it is to feel good about the choices a parent makes, the Disney Momgineers bring a valuable source of experience and insight to Disney Baby from sharing real-life advice to providing input on new products.
The Disney Baby social media community continues to grow not only on Facebook, but also on Twitter, YouTube, and DisneyBaby.com. At the heart of its social media experience is Disney Baby Magical Moments, an easy-to-use tool that helps parents easily upload their baby photos and videos, adding to a dynamic collection of shared family experiences from other parents. The photos appear on DisneyBaby.com and the Disney Baby Magical Moments tab on Disney Baby’s Facebook page. From silly smiles to Sunday afternoon strolls, Disney Baby Magical Moments add to the community and create a warm and inviting place that online moms are responding to.
The new tribute video will be a compilation of these magical moments posted by fans that emphasize the joys of parenthood. The new weekly Disney Baby Magical Moments Sweepstakes offers fans the opportunity to win unique, feel good products from Disney Baby’s growing collection organized around key moments of the day, including Getting Ready, Baby’s Firsts, In the Nursery, Dressing Baby, Mealtime and Bathtime.
For more about the weekly prizes and video, please visit http://www.facebook.com/DisneyBaby.
‘We’re here to talk about “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two,” clearly the best kept secret in video gaming,’ jokes Warren Spector, Creative Director and Vice President of Disney Interactive’s Junction Point Studio in Austin, TX at an after-hours media event held earlier this week at the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History.
Before he takes the stage, however, he is introduced by Brenda Gunn, Associate Director at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas. Gunn speaks on Austin’s role in shaping the video game industry beginning in the 1970s and commends Spector who — along with Richard Garriott, George Sanger, and Bill Bottorff — inspired the University to create and maintain its massive collection of thousands of video games, consoles and development materials including concept art, design documents, game proposals and internal correspondence.
When it’s his turn to address the small crowd, Spector offers a refresher course on the first ‘Disney Epic Mickey’ via a trailer and stats. ‘Disney Epic Mickey was — and remains — the best selling single platform game in Disney Interactive’s history,’ he notes,’ So obviously we appealed to players.’
He continues on to explain that their objective with the first game was to create a game ‘that had the same broad appeal as a Pixar film or a classic film from Disney.’ Not intended to reach any specific demographic, he says, but to reach every one. Recapping the results of survey Disney administered to ‘Epic Mickey’ players, Spector says, ‘We really did make a game that appealed to everyone. Over half of our audience around the world was made up of adults. So I think on that score I’d have to say the game was pretty successful.’ So successful in fact, that according to the survey, Spector reports that over 90% of participants in every territory worldwide were interested in a sequel.
But tooting the company’s horn only goes so far as Spector owns up to what he felt could have potentially been handled better in the first game. He explains, ‘The first time out, creating a studio, creating a team, creating a tech base, creating a world, figuring out who these characters are, creating new game play patterns and new game systems, you never get everything right.’ He announces three things he seeked out to change in the sequel: camera, voice and persistence.
It’s of little surprise that the issue of the camera comes up as it is easily the feature from the first title that receives the most complaints. Seemingly defiant to the cause, Spector has famously defended the camera’s team and continues to do so, although he admits changes were needed. ‘The reality is we made a game that allowed players to determine whether the game felt like a platform game or an action-adventure game and those two genres require very different game camera systems… I think the team did an amazing job on the first game but we knew we could do better,’ he says. He then goes on to explain that in anticipation of the sequel, he dedicated the team from the beginning to work on improving the system. As a result, more than 1,000 specific changes were made to the automatic game camera system with the objective of the player never needing to touch the manual camera controls if sticking to the main story path.
When it comes characters speaking, Spector explains the reasoning behind choosing what they call ‘bark text’ in the original ‘Disney Epic Mickey.’ ‘We did that for two reasons,’ he says, ‘both of them really dumb and both of them my decisions.’ He explains that although the team was inspired by Disney for the original game, they also found inspiration in old Nintendo games and Japanese RPGs. His idea is then solidified when he decides that since Oswald was a silent film star and couldn’t talk, then nobody could: ‘I thought that was funny, that’s how dumb this is.’
To make up for it, Junction Point brought in comics writer Marv Wolfman (who already has a storied history with both Disney and Marvel in particular). Wolfman helped craft the game’s story and wrote the dialogue for all of the characters who are voiced by their respective Disney voice talent. Returning as the (actual) voice of Oswald is Frank Welker. We later have the opportunity to hear Oswald’s voice very briefly, which to me sounds a bit like a slightly higher pitched version of another of Welker’s famous characters, Fred Jones of ‘Scooby Doo’ (though I reserve the right to regret that description later on). Oswald’s significant other, Ortensia, ‘is a character from start to finish that you interact with a lot,’ though who providers her voice is currently a secret. Gremlins also take a more prominent role in the sequel and are fully voiced, but Spector tells us only that they are voiced by some ‘interesting names.’ It would later be confided in me that one of the mysterious voices is that of actor Cary Elwes (famously of The Princess Bride and recently featured in The Adventures of Tintin).
If speaking weren’t enough, Spector also pronounces ‘Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ as being the first musical comedy video game. He says, ‘much of the story is told through song, so I want all the Gleeks to turn out in force for it.’ While Jim Dooley returned to compose the music for the game (whose tone changes based on the mood of the game), the songs’ lyrics are penned by Mike Himselstein (who we’re told performs double duty as the voice of Yen Sid). How many songs are in the game is a secret (we will later hear one as part of the opening cinematic), but I was told ‘at least five,’ that you will have to play the game through different ways to hear them all and we can expect 1 or two additional songs to debut at E3.
The third obstacle Spector looked to tackle was persistence: ‘If your choices actually aren’t permanent — if they don’t matter — if when you leave a map, the changes you made revert when you come back, play style doesn’t matter as much as it should… every thing you do in “Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” is forever until you decide to undo it… if you erase something, it stays erased. If someone doesn’t like you, they stay not liking you until you change your mind.’
While the game will include familiar places and settings such as Mean Streets, it offers ‘many all new places’ to visit as well as new takes on familiar ones. Whereas in the first game, Yen Sid’s workshop was only seen in the cinematic, it now serves as the training ground for Mickey to explore. OsTown becomes significantly more involved although Spector notes it has since been changed by ‘seemingly natural events’ since Mickey has seen it last. Spector also shows us a still from ‘let’s just say a version of Frontierland,’ noting it was ‘something we wanted to do in the first game… Frontierland has changed more than any other part of the Disney Parks, so there’s plenty of forgotten, rejected stuff to have fun with there.’
A new army has risen in the Wastelands too, a curious hybrid of Blotlings and Beetleworx known as Blotworx. How exactly this new species came about is all part of the mystery surrounding the sequel’s story.
Spector then treats us to the opening cinematic for the game which clocks in at around 4 1/2 minutes and helps to explain what’s been occurring between the two titles as well as introduces us to our first song and sets the initial mood for the game.
‘If “Disney Epic Mickey” was the story of Mickey as a hero, reminding people that he is a video game star,’ Spector says, ‘”Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two” is as much about Oswald and — now that we’ve reminded the world who he is — making him a big star.’
He then introduces Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, to dole out some history on Oswald, how he came to be, how Walt Disney lost control and how Robert Iger bartered for Oswald by offering up sportscaster Al Michaels. She talks about some of the Oswald items she has brought from the archives to share, some of which just recently discovered and never displayed publicly, but her biggest treat by far is being convinced by Spector to screen a copy of ‘Hungry Hoboes’ for the audience of media and Junction Point developers. The 1928 short was thought to be lost for good but was just recently discovered at the Huntley Film Archive of Herefordshire, UK. The only known print of the short went up for auction last December and sold to an anonymous buyer for $31,250 and is now in the hands of The Walt Disney Company.
It’s an incredible thrill to see the short by Walt Disney that only a handful outside of Disney have seen in more than eight decades. It’s an absolutely funny (and sadistic) film loaded with one sight gag after another — let’s just say I learned a whole new way to collect eggs from a chicken.
I will later have the opportunity to speak with Cline after the event and ask about plans to release it, but the film has yet to be fully soundtracked and restored, so it may be some time before that will happen. Cline will also explain how most of the films that are recovered tend to be from overseas because they generally didn’t require the films to be returned to the distributor. Also of interest is that while the title card of the film does actually read ‘Hungry Hobos,’ the official title and copyright is for ‘Hungry Hoboes,’ with the Disney Archives at a loss for why the discrepancy.
Spector then re-addresses the group to discuss the ‘couch co-op’ play aspect of the game. ‘The two characters have distinct and unique, complementary abilities,’ he says. Mickey has the ability to use his sketches, paint and thinner, while Oswald has a remote control that allows him to zap enemies and repair and even reprogram electronics and animatronics throughout the Wasteland. Oswald also has ‘helicopter ears,’ which while don’t really afford him the ability to fly, they allow him to glide slowly back to earth, allowing Mickey to hop on for a ride as needed (or for fun). Speaking of sketches, Spector doesn’t mention it, but Mickey has a new one in ‘Disney Epic Mickey 2,’ the fairy sketch, which allows Mickey to make objects light enough to levitate and move through space. Oswald himself has another unspoken talent, the ability to detach his leg and use it as a boomerang to battle enemies.
The split-screen, ‘couch co-op’ play is drop-in, drop-out and is supplemented by AI. Oswald is with Mickey every step of the way, whether there is a second player or not. If co-op play isn’t taking place, Oswald will assist brother Mickey the best he can.
Note no mention of rumored ‘Power of Illusion’ Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Android or Apple iOS devices is made during the presentation.
I now have the opportunity to actually play a demo of the game on all three consoles. Areas to explore include the training level in Yen Sid’s workshop and Mickey’s ‘house,’ OsTown and the 2D transition levels known as the Dahl Engineering Corridors (DECs), so named for noted children’s author Roald Dahl who created the Gremlins and worked with Walt Disney on related projects.
The first thing I notice is how remarkably similar the game play is between the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii. There are some differences of course, the most notable one being the lower resolution on the Wii, which is almost sad after experiencing it on the NextGen consoles. While PlayStation Move support is expected (but not available for the demo), the Wii does have another major advantage in the controls, those being the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers. In fact there is at least one sequence in which Oswald re-programs a device by slowly turning the Wii Remote. On that note, the Junction Point team also brought along working prototypes of an Oswald Remote Control Nunchuck which complements the ‘Epic Mickey’ paintbrush one. Surprisingly, I find the controls on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to be really simple to use and get accustomed to, although I do not like how the crosshairs automatically snap back to the center of the screen when you let go of the analog control, making aiming particularly challenging at times.
The DEC transition level proves to be fun and entertaining enough and is full of Disneyana and tributes to Disney films and characters, featuring everything from a giant Chip head to the judge from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to a Dumbo comic book to Goofy pogs that were part of a one-time publicity event, but reside in the Disney Archives as a result. Here is also a not-so-hidden basketball hoop which is one of the elements that exists in every game by Warren Spector (in ‘Epic Mickey,’ it was in a hidden room).
The co-op play is pretty fun and direct although it appears that Oswald sometimes has an artificial mind of his own within the mode. It may simply be a matter of the game still being developed, but it can usually be easily remedied by dropping out and back in after he sets himself straight. When not in co-op mode, Oswald is on his own and usually does a pretty good job at supporting Mickey, although he sometimes seems a bit bored through the process and will either entertain himself by removing his foot and studying it. On occasion, he will do something that doesn’t quite make sense, although it turns out that he seems to be aware of elements of the game that haven’t quite made it into the demo too.
The automatic camera control seems way more refined for me when I play on the Xbox 360, so much so that it’s almost obvious to me how much better it is, but as time goes on, I start falling out of love with it, often finding myself having to switch to manual operations, either because the automatic system didn’t keep up with me, or I’ve managed to require some odd perspective to complete a task. Often times I also end up with the screen being obfuscated by large polygons I can only presume to be my head. That aside, I find the d-pad manual controls easy to use on the NextGen devices and have little problem managing the camera as I need to do to unlock a Hidden Mickey constellation in the training level.
One other discouraging element, ironically enough, is the voice. The demo environment is so noisy that it was impossible to hear most of the gameplay so I find myself wishing subtitles were at least an option. It is still in development, however, so hopefully they will be added in the future, not just for noisy environments, but for playing with the sound muted in quiet environments and, of course, out of courtesy for the deaf.
Below are some photos from the event as well the box art and some screenshots from the NextGen and Wii consoles provided to us by Disney Interactive as well as some raw gameplay footage and the game’s announcement trailer.
Lastly, in celebration of the announcement, I would like to offer the opportunity for one Stitch Kingdom reader to receive this limited edition ‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ t-shirt. Featuring Mickey and Oswald against the Texas star, this shirt was produced for the Junction Point development team as well as event invitees. It is sold orange aside from the design and features the ‘Epic Mickey 2′ logo in white on the back. Please note you must be 18+ and a US resident to win.
As D23: The Official Disney Fan Club gets ready to celebrate its third anniversary in the midst of its most exciting year ever, D23 Members and Disney fans are invited to get in on the fun with a special, 23-day Twitter sweepstakes that combines the fun of Disney fandom, history and trivia with the thrill of a scavenger hunt.
Beginning Friday, February 17, Disney D23′s “23 Days of Celebration” invites all Disney fans to help mark the third anniversary of the first and only official Disney fan club. Each day at approximately 10 a.m. Pacific time, D23 will provide a different challenge for the day – and the first person to submit a valid photo that matches the challenge will win a special D23 prize.
For instance, D23 Members and Disney fans may need to raid their photo albums for a picture of themselves in front of a certain Disney Parks attraction, or might be asked to take a digital snapshot with a D23 pin, or wearing a specific item of Disney apparel. Each day will offer a new challenge – and each day will present a new opportunity to win! Fans will submit photos via Twitter by “@ replying” @DisneyD23, including the hashtag #D23Sweeps.
Prizes will include exclusive D23 pins and patches, D23 collectible merchandise, and, on March 10 – D23’s third anniversary – a special prize package.
The task and the prize will change on a daily basis, so be sure to follow “@DisneyD23” on Twitter to keep up with every challenge – and every winner – in D23’s “23 Days of Celebration” anniversary sweepstakes! (Full rules are available at D23’s website, http://www.disney.com/D23.)
‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ with Emmy Award-winning host Meredith Vieira is giving contestants, audience members and one lucky home viewer a chance to escape the winter blues with a trip on Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, which will launch in March, 2012. During ‘Millionaire’s’ ‘Cruise In and Win Week,’ airing January 9 – 13, the specialty prizes will be attached to a question and, if the contestant answers correctly, he/she will win the money attached to the question as well as a three-night preview cruise vacation for four aboard the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.
Also during ‘Cruise In and Win Week,’ audience members will be randomly selected from the in-studio audience and will also have the chance to win a Disney Fantasy cruise by playing just one ‘Millionaire’ question.
Plus one lucky home viewer will also win a trip for four aboard a Disney Fantasy preview cruise through a sweepstakes to be held on ‘Millionaire’s’ website. To enter, visit http://www.millionairetv.com beginning at 12:01 am ET on January 9 (ending 11:59 pm ET on January 13). One entry allowed per person. Must be at least 18 years of age and a U.S. resident to participate.
As the new season of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” draws closer, fans are seeing evil doer, “A,” in the most unusual places: on their bus rides to school, in the clouds, on mountains, in their food and even on their pets!” Inspired by fan photos of these unexpected sightings, ABC Family is launching the “A is Everywhere” photo contest on ABCFamily.com/AisEverywhere and Facebook.com/prettylittleliars beginning Dec. 5, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. PST. The person who submits the photo that gets most votes wins a trip for two to Los Angeles to visit the set of “Pretty Little Liars.”
“Our fans are fascinated by ‘A,’ the mysterious, unidentified villain on the show who leaves messages for our main characters threatening to reveal their secrets unless they do what she—or he—says,” said Danielle Mullin, VP Marketing, ABC Family. “These messages are always signed with a big letter ‘A.’ On our Pretty Little Liars Facebook page, we noticed that fans were posting photographs of the letter ‘A’ as they came across it in their daily lives—emphasizing the fact that no one can escape A’s reach! We decided to capitalize on this organic trend by creating a campaign called ‘A is Everywhere’—a great example of how social media allows us to connect with our fans and build upon the aspects of the show that are truly resonating with them.”
To enter the contest, fans can upload their photo of “A” on the ABC Family website, ABCFamily.com/AisEverywhere or the official Facebook page, Facebook.com/prettylittleliars. The photo that gets the most votes wins. The person who submitted that photo will win a trip for two to the “Pretty Little Liars” set (includes airfare and hotel). The top 50 photos will be included in a special edition “Pretty Little Liars” poster. The contest ends January 23rd at 8pm PST.
All new episodes of “Pretty Little Liars” premiere on Monday, January 2, at 8:00 pm ET/PT. Based on the popular Sara Shepherd book series, the show follows four friends – Aria, Emily, Hanna and Spencer – who are being tormented by taunting texts by the mysterious “A” after their best friend Alison turns up dead after vanishing a year before. The texts reveal secrets only Alison would know. In the upcoming new episodes, the girls take matters into their own hands and try to finally put a stop to their tormentor. As relationships are put to the test, new and old secrets are revealed and the stakes are raised higher than ever before as the Liars come closer to the truth.
“Pretty Little Liars” won three Teen Choice Awards in 2010 and 2011 for Choice Summer TV Series, Choice Summer TV Actress – Lucy Hale and Choice Summer TV Actor – Ian Harding. The show also won the “TV You Betta Watch” Award for 2011’s NewNowNext Awards, the “Cast to Watch” for 2011’s The Young Hollywood Awards, and was just named the #1 Television Hot Topic on Twitter in 2011. The series was also nominated for a People’s Choice Award in the “Favorite Cable TV Drama” category.
The show is produced by Alloy Entertainment in association with Warner Horizon Television and is executive produced by I. Marlene King, Oliver Goldstick and Leslie Morgenstein. The series stars Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Holly Marie Combs, Lucy Hale, Ian Harding, Laura Leighton, Chad Lowe, Shay Mitchell and Sasha Pieterse.
During the Monday, November 28 episode of “The Chew,” ABC Daytime’s new lifestyle series announced the launch of “The Chew Holiday Cookie Swap,” a nationwide search for the most scrumptious and unique holiday cookie recipes. Hosted by “Iron Chef America” stars Mario Batali and Michael Symon, “Top Chef” alum Carla Hall, entertaining & style expert Clinton Kelly and health & wellness enthusiast Daphne Oz, “The Chew” brings viewers a daily dose of food, life and fun, along with information on how to live a more full and healthy life.
“The Chew Holiday Cookie Swap” gives bakers across the country the chance to ‘strut their stuff’ and put their sweet and savory culinary creations on national display by entering their favorite cookie recipes at “The Chew” Facebook page: Facebook.com/thechewonabc from Monday, November 28 to December 7, 2011. Star bakers in the making will have the opportunity to enter their recipe along with their photo and a photo of the cookies. As an added bonus, the cookie recipe entries will be visible and available to all viewers to share during this holiday season. From sweet pecan and shortbread creations to downright decadent, double-stuffed chocolate treats that you just can’t get enough of, all original cookie recipes are eligible for submission.
During the week of December 19, five finalists will participate in a nationally televised bake-off on “The Chew” when they’re flown to New York City and given the chance to share their cookie creations with television viewers around the country. Co-hosts Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz will judge the finalists’ cookie creations and choose one grand prize winner who will receive $5,000.
For official contest rules and further information about “The Chew” Holiday Cookie Swap,” visit “The Chew” official Facebook page: Facebook.com/thechewonabc.
Calling all expectant moms! Today the Million Moms Challenge, in collaboration with ABC News, the United Nations Foundation, Disney Baby and Anne Geddes, launched Imagine Me & You, a photo contest to win a trip for two adults, plus baby, to Australia for a photo shoot with world-renowned photographer Anne Geddes.
The contest, which was announced on “Good Morning America” today, Monday, November 28 is designed to celebrate the universal dream that mothers everywhere have for healthy, happy babies who will grow to reach their full potential. To enter the contest, expectant moms in their third trimester can upload a picture of their “baby bump” on www.Facebook.com/millionmomschallenge, along with an original, creative message written on their bellies capturing their wishes and dreams for life with their little one.
America will vote on the images from December 6 to December 15. The three finalists will be announced on December 16. Anne Geddes will personally select the grand-prize winner in January, and will shoot a rare private portrait of the winning mom and newborn in her Sydney, Australia studio.
“To illustrate the importance of love and family in the earliest stages of life is a message that I stand behind and feel privileged to experience every day,” said Geddes, who has made a commitment to the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child effort to raise awareness about the need to improve the health of women and children in the developing world. “That is why I am proud to be a part of the Million Moms Challenge Imagine Me & You contest.”
Realizing that a healthier tomorrow for our world starts with healthy moms and babies today, the Million Moms Challenge engages millions of Americans with millions of moms in developing countries around issues that affect pregnancy, childbirth and children’s health.
“Mothers around the world look forward to sharing special moments with their babies,” noted Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “But in developing countries, up to 1.5 million newborns die within the first 24 hours – and most of these lives could have been saved with better health care. This contest will highlight those precious milestones in life that partners like the United Nations and the Shot@Life campaign will help make a reality for mothers and children around the world.”
“There is so much we can do together – so many simple ways for us all to link arms to help every mother and child have a chance to lead a healthy life,” said Diane Sawyer, anchor of “ABC World News.” Sawyer will anchor a primetime special on maternal/newborn health that will air December 16 on “20/20.”
Disney Baby, a new brand from Disney Consumer Products, which provides parents with the essentials they need to bond with baby at every stage, is pledging to donate $50,000 to several of the largest NGOs helping moms and babies throughout the world. Each semi-finalist will receive a gift basket of Disney Baby merchandise valued at $500. Finalists will also win a year’s worth of Huggies brand diapers.
“Our goal with Disney Baby is to help moms create magical moments with their babies right from the start. We’re excited to join the Million Moms Challenge, to share those moments with America, and generate awareness for such a great cause,” said Jessi Dunne, executive vice president, Disney Moms and Babies for Disney Consumer Products.
Submissions for Imagine Me & You are open from now until 11:59 p.m., ET, December 4, 2011. Expectant moms in the United States can upload pictures on www.Facebook.com/millionmomschallenge.
This Holiday season, Disney.com invites kids and teens to channel their inner rock star in the U Rock the Holidays event at Disney.com/URock. The online video promotion lets guests create their own music videos from a selection of holiday tunes from Disney artists, then upload them on Disney.com/URock. One grand prize winner will receive a trip to Los Angeles for a rare opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of a Disney music video and meet the artists!
To participate in U Rock the Holidays, Disney.com guests download one of the available :30 song clips, then create and upload their own music videos to the site. The videos will be posted in a gallery on the Disney.com/URock page where guests can then view, comment and “like” the video submissions. For some creative inspiration, guests can check out U Rock the Holidays video submissions from some of their favorite characters including The Muppets, WALL-E, Agent P and Swampy.
This year’s U Rock the Holidays song selections include:
- “Dig Down Deeper” sung by Zendaya from Pixie Hollow Games
- “Winter Vacation” from Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites
- “Naughty Naughty Children (Better Start Actin’ Nice)” by Grace Potter from Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice on ABC
- “Forget You” from Disney’s The Muppets Soundtrack
Additional songs will be released throughout the promotion to keep Disney.com guests rockin’ throughout the holiday season.
Each person who uploads an eligible video will receive the hit Disney Mobile app, “Where’s My Water?” To kick it up a notch, there will be a daily sweepstakes and winners will be randomly selected to receive a Disney prize pack, which will include a Walt Disney Records CD. A final grand prize winner will be selected by Disney.com and receive a trip to Los Angeles to go behind-the-scenes of a Disney music video production and meet the artists. Videos will be accepted from now until 4:59 p.m. (Pacific Time) on December 13, 2011. The winners will be announced in January 2012.
For even more rock star treatment, Casey and Tyler from Disney.com’s Rule the Mix web series will feature a video medley each week on their show, from the best U Rock the Holidays submissions. Rule the Mix is a new weekly show on Disney.com that celebrates entertaining and hilarious videos made by Disney.com guests.
October is in full force in Pixie Hollow and everyone is busy celebrating all the autumn events. The Animal Masquerade has everyone putting on their critterific costumes to trick or treat and players are busy entering the “Sweet Treat Design Contest”!
Have you ever imagined sitting on a cotton candy sofa or looking into a lollipop mirror? Imagine no longer because the fairies and sparrow men in Pixie Hollow all agree that sweet treats aren’t just for eating. Pixie Hollow’s Never Council wants to see how creative YOU can get with edible sweet treats!
The contest, which runs until noon on November 1st, invites Disney Fairies Fans to design and share any Pixie Hollow home item inspired by an edible sweet treat, with the grand prize winner receiving a designer’s dream.
Enter NOW for a chance to win the ultimate designers dream grand prize which includes:
- A real-life Disney Fairies furniture set including a Disney Fairies canopy bed, desk, nightstand and bedding set
- Their design made available as a seasonal tinkering blueprint in Pixie Hollow for all players to enjoy
- 1 One-Month Pixie Hollow Membership Card
Ten first prize winners will receive 1 One-Month Pixie Hollow Membership Card and a Tinker Bell Vinylmation Bakery Series 3” Figure. To enter the “Sweet Treat Design Contest,” fans can submit their design and entry form either by U.S. Mail or by Internet via http://pixiehollow.go.com/contests_home.html.
This past Sunday, the Japan Society in New York City held a one-day animated short film festival titled ‘Films for Hope’ in order to benefit those affected by the devastating earthquake on March 11. The centerpiece of the festival was a joint presentation of Dai Soto’s Five Numbers and Disney/Pixar’s La Luna, which is the short that will open alongside Brave on June 22, 2012. A presentation and brief Q&A session with La Luna writer and director Enrico Casarosa was also offered following the screening.
According to the official synopsis, La Luna is the timeless fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family’s most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions?
Even though the film was screened at a panel during the 2011 Disney D23 Expo, I was unable to attend it and so this was my first time seeing the short and the only thing preventing me from saying it was worth the wait is the constant nagging, desire to see it again and wishing I had seen it again before and can see it again now — I can only assume those of you that have already seen it know what I’m talking about. It’s a visually stunning, enchanting piece that delivers its message quickly, clearly and quite sweetly, in a way that will make you want to watch it over and over.
Casarosa, who grew up in Italy but lived in New York City for many years, has a strong connection to Japan, who he says inspired the film along with Italy, where it takes place (although it quite literally could take place anywhere). As a child in Genoa, he was able to watch much of the animated shows being produced in Japan on local television. Although it took many years to realize it, he credits Japanese animation and Hayao Miyazaki in particular amongst his influences in the medium. There is even an homage, or ‘love letter,’ to Miyazaki in the short, where gravity temporarily loses its old on protagonist Bambino.
Via a presentation laden with hilarious sketches, photos, footage, concept art and more, Casarosa took the audience through the process of directing his first film at Pixar, from conception to completion. With his directorial debut being a short, he said the go-to analogy for most is to say to him ‘so they’ve handed you the keys to the little car,’ to which Casarosa counteracts with ‘it’s still your first car,’ although he noted he much rather prefers sea planes, so he switched the analogy to that and took us through the sea plane construction process as it applied to a Pixar Animation Studios short.
For Casarosa, who set out to create a modern fable, the story began with heart — a personal and emotional story, that’s ‘fantastic.’ For Enrico, it was memories of growing up in Italy with generations in his family being in disagreement with each other (demonstrated in sketch form through the use of perennial visual aid, minestrone soup). For the fantastic element, Casarosa found inspiration Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince and the books of Italo Calvino in addition to Miyazaki. The goal for his story was to create a ‘Moon myth, rooting it in something personal and familiar.’
Once the idea is formed, the first step is to pitch it to Mary, Kiel and Karen, the development team at Pixar Animation. Then the idea progresses as ‘you tell it on your way to work, then on break, then at home — too much.’
From there, it progresses to the storyboarding process which starts with image boards in watercolor. ‘I don’t write on the computer,’ he later explained, ‘I write with images.’ A sketch showed Enrico frenetically pitching the story to a completely calm and relaxed Lasseter (in truth, traditional storyboarding has been replaced with a proprietary package known as ‘Pitch Docter’ — a nod, to Monsters Inc. director Pete Docter). Lasseter had but a couple of notes, the primary one insisting that this would be the boy’s (Bambino) first time with his father and grandfather at work, so that the audience experiences it with him, a plot point that Casarosa had not originally considered. Lasseter also influenced the character design, but I will address that later on.
Casarosa talked about how scratch (temporary) voices are generally used alongside the story reels, but quickly moved on to the actual casting process and the struggles they had with the use of gibberish in lieu of dialogue, even though the film would arguably have worked just as well without any vocals at all. They first called on John Gilkey of Cirque du Soleil fame; Gilkey had worked with Pixar before on Ratatouille to work out some of the pantomime. Showing footage of Gilkey performing opposite Pixar’s Bob Peterson, Enrico explains that it wasn’t living up to his expectations, but after considering passing on the idea on gibberish altogether, they found animator Tony Fucile to ‘voice’ Papa and actor/storyteller Phil Sheridan to voice Nonno. Casarosa recalls Sheridan’s initial offer: ‘with teeth or without?’ They went without.
Casarosa then moved on to the character design and showed several pieces of concept art from fellow artists such as Robert Kondo, Katy Wu and Daisuke ‘Dice’ Tsutsumi. Dice, who had worked with Enrico at Blue Sky on films such as Robots, was ‘such a friend,’ that he began creating illustrations for the short before it had received the green light.
Seeking a 1920s-1930s feel of Mediterranean peasants/fisherman, Casarosa explained his intent for Bambino to have a large head with large eyes, so that he is open to the world, ‘looking around’ with child-like wonder. Papa, however, is physically opposite, set in his ways. Italian actor Massimo Troisi was used as reference for big, over-the-top gestures while actress Giulietta Masina served as the real-life inspiration for Bambino.
Not wanting to place an emphasis on facial features, Casarosa felt using facial hair would be a simpler, less expensive way to animate the film — something he learned quickly wasn’t the case. ‘We had Toy Story 3 technology, we wanted Brave technology,’ he half-joked, referring to the technological advances made since the short was animated. He showed test footage of grandfather/Nonno from when they were ‘about 70% there’ speaking with his eyebrows and beard moving rather dynamically. With the idea of facial hair, Casarosa saw the opportunity to make a successful visual gag involving the older generations’ tools. It was Lasseter’s experience as a sweeper at Disneyland that influenced the specific look of broom-bearded Nonno whose broom (and beard) have a distinct look as a result from constant use.
For the look of the film, Casarosa looked for ‘stylized reflections, naturally simple and naturally beautiful,’ using texture as the key word (Casarosa later explained that ‘a glow is never just a glow — I want it to have texture). Support came in the form of watercolors by Greg Couch and a pastel by Bill Cone that operated as the film’s backdrop (Cone also provided the color script for the short). They went to shoot reference video for the moon’s reflection upon the water on a lake at John Lasseter’s home. The moon was full, but was not visible from where they were, so they walked away with no footage, but ‘it was great team building.’
For the boat, the team went to Genoa in Italy to visit a boat building company called Cantiere Navale Topazio, where Casarosa recalled hearing an older, traditional builder complain about how newer boats made of fiberglass lacked soul. Casarosa wanted the boat to feel as it had been handed down through generations, so he decided that it had received at least three coats of paint through the year and they mimicked the real world process they had seen by painting each plank individually before mapping it to the boat, a process that worked so well, they applied it to other elements in the film. For the stars in the film, Casarosa envisioned they were frosted candle lights, each dimming with age, and the overall sensation that they were effectively tiles as they moved around, producing noise.
Another crucial element in the production is, of course, the crew. Casarosa gushed over the group of animators and filmmakers he worked with on production of the short, using a company pasta sauce competition, inspired by the film, as an example of the camaraderie, though he fell short attempting to explain how a Spaniard had won. Casarosa offered a special note of thanks to film composer Michael Giacchino, who was ‘very patient’ and ‘bombarded with strange, Neapolitan music.’
Casarosa closed his presentation with the film’s message, which he hopes will deliver a positive influence on children: ‘Trust your inspiration. You can stand on the shoulders of tradition and still find your own way;’ for adults, he hopes that it helps remind them of what it was like to view the world with the eyes of a child; and as for his own family, he just wants to let his father and grandfather he doesn’t want to pick sides and loves them both.
One interesting note to close on is just how personal the film truly is for Enrico Casarosa. With the hopes to inspire to find one’s own way in the world, it wasn’t until his early 20s that Casarosa decided to enter the field of animation; until then, he was an engineering student.
To enter the giveaway, please visit our sweepstakes page on Facebook. The contest will run through September 30, 2011, after which one person will be chosen at random to receive the poster. The contest is open to residents in the United States, aged 13 and up.
And if you look hard enough, you just may also catch a glimpse (or two) of the moon in it as well.