We first reported that Walt Disney World was seeking circus acts for its Storybook Circus portion of the New Fantasyland Expansion a few months ago. At the time, it was noted that solo clown acts were not being sought out, which many misconstrued as meaning clowns were not going to be an element in the Magic Kingdom’s expansion, which officially opens this Thursday, December 6.
Yesterday, the official Disney Parks blog shattered those hopes by announcing that the area will feature a clown act, known as the Storybook Circus Giggle Gang. While the Disney community at large reacted poorly to the news, the sentiment was only bolstered by the Disney Parks blog itself. Receiving relatively few comments, initially nearly half of the moderated comments were negative; at press time, the number has dwindled to nearly one-fourth.
Aside from a general distaste for the choice of entertainment, there is the very real and recognized irrational fear of clowns by millions of children and adults, known as coulrophobia. While specific fears are not broken down, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 14% of 18-59 year olds suffer from irrational fears. While spiders, flying and some others tend to top the list, many respected sources within the psychological field cite coulrophobia as being high on the list. This, of course, speaks for adults, but clearly children must be more open and accepting of clowns due to their child-like behavior, right? Not so.
One oft-cited example as to the extreme of how universally despised clowns are by children is a survey conducted by the University of Sheffield in 2007. The survey interviewed more than 250 children regarding proposed changes to a hospital’s decor. While not intending to single out clowns specifically (the survey consisted of all sorts of possibilities), the researchers couldn’t help but notice that every single one of the children, aged 4 – 16, rejected the use of clowns, with many children cited as referring to the clowns as scary.
Few professions can likely stake claim that they terrify their customers by their very nature of being — dentistry perhaps? Yet it is openly acknowledged and discussed by and amongst professional clowns that there is a large number of the population that — for lack of a better word — fears them. In an article from Psychology Today, titled ‘No Laughing Matter,’ one professional clown is quoted as explaining, ‘to a toddler, there’s nothing funny about a clown — he’s a monster.’
The professional discourtesy does not end there. The website of one professional entertainer, MollieTheClown.com, devotes an entire paragraph to understanding the fear of clowns by both adults and children and how she is willing to adapt to the stituation. And when it comes to the grand-daddy of clown infestations, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, clown-fearing is well known by the profession. In an interview titled ‘5 Clown Questions Debunked From a Ringling Bros. Pro,’ professional clown Frances Tiffin is quoted as saying, ‘You know, we’re all quick on our feet, so we tend to get used to it. But it never came up as a serious thing to think about. Not in a class, but definitely at work. I mean we talk about it all the time. Maybe clown schools should think about adding one. After all, so many of us do have some form of coulrophobia.’ After noting that as a female, she seems to be more approachable to children, she added, ‘I’ve heard a number of guys say that it’s frustrating that kids will shy away from them.’
For most people that fear clowns, there is one simple solution: avoiding them. Nobody who doesn’t like the circus makes a big stink out of it (other than PETA, that is), they simply don’t patronize them. Unfortunately when it comes to the most visited theme park in the world, the choice isn’t as clear. Nor is the Magic Kingdom even remotely near synonymous with clowns in general.
Most articles that attempt to explain why the fear of clowns is so prominent (as seen in Psychology Today, Scientific American, Time, et al.) present a sane argument that children don’t react well to something anthropomorphic, or something that seems like it should be part of their norm, but clearly isn’t. After all, haven’t we all been behind that screaming, tantrum-throwing child that refuses to go near Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World, belonging to the screaming, tantrum-throwing parent that insists they will pose for the photo to make for nice memories? So goes with clowns. As for adults, therapists argue that clown makeup acts as a mask and there is an inherent distrust of someone wearing a mask — that and the obligatory reference to horror films.
But perhaps it is time that Walt Disney World embraces clowns, after all, Universal Studios Orlando has had them for years — as part of its Halloween Horror Nights. Perhaps this is just the second half of the Disney Parks 2013 initiative: ‘Limited Time Magic, Unlimited Terror.’
With just under a week before the official grand opening of the New Fantasyland expansion the Magic Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Resort has shared some interesting facts and statistics about the expansion as well as Fantasyland at Disneyland theme parks around the globe.
- Doubles the size of Fantasyland. Originally 10 acres; today’s Fantasyland with expansion: 21 acres.
- Largest expansion in the 41-year history of the Magic Kingdom.
- Between Walt Disney Imagineers and their partners, it took more than 140 disciplines to bring New Fantasyland to life.
- Future additions to New Fantasyland include Princess Fairytale Hall (2013) and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (2014).
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will feature five-car trains that are designed to sway independently as they swing around the track.
- There are over 12,000 “books” in the library at Enchanted Tales with Belle.
- There are 115 windows in the Beast’s Castle.
- The lion-like figures flanking the door at the entrance to Be Our Guest Restaurant were referred to as “golions” by the design team, a combination of goat and lion.
- Figures above the entrance doors, eagles with snake tails, are called “sneagles.”
- The six stone figures on the bridge leading to Be Our Guest Restaurant were all given the name “Frank” during the design phase simply as a way to identify them.
- Centerpiece chandelier at Be Our Guest Restaurant measures more than 12 feet tall and 11 feet wide. It boasts more than 84 candles and more than 100 jewels that hang down to give it added shine.
- At Be Our Guest Restaurant, the delicate Rose Gallery adorned with rose accents, paintings and tapestries, is centered by a music box nearly 7 feet tall with a twirling Belle and the Beast.
- Storybook Circus has set up in Carolwood Park – this name references the steam train that was in Walt Disney’s backyard.
- At the Magic Kingdom Park, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and at the Disneyland Resort, Timothy Mouse carries a magic feather atop the Dumbo attraction. At Tokyo Disneyland, he holds a circus whip.
- A version of the popular attraction “Dumbo” has been included in every Disneyland-style park since the first one in 1955:
- Magic Kingdom, WDW, October 1, 1971
- Tokyo Disneyland, April 15, 1983
- Disneyland Paris, April 12, 1992
- Hong Kong Disneyland, September 12, 2005
- The music heard from the old fashioned calliope in the front of Pete’s Silly Sideshow was recorded from a set of antique circus crank organs owned by a collector in Southern California.
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow resembles a type of sideshow called a Ten-in-One, which traditionally offered a series of acts performing various tricks and daredevil stunts.
- Pete, sometimes known as Peg-Leg Pete, is the longest running continuous Disney character, debuting in 1925 in the Disney short, Alice Solves a Puzzle.
- There are 183 characters in Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. More than 70 percent (128, to be exact) are featured in the “Under the Sea” scene.
- The Audio-Animatronics figure of the sea witch Ursula is 7 1/2-feet tall and 12 feet wide.
If the grand mural in the load-in area were turned on its side, it would reach a depth of more than 14 fathoms.
- More than 20,000 live and artificial plants decorate the attraction, inside and out.
A blooming bounty of festival firsts will welcome Disney guests to the 20th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival presented by HGTV March 6-May 19, 2013 at Walt Disney World Resort. First, the news:
- Epcot chefs will cook up first-time festival food and beverage fun, with special cooking stations offering exclusive-to-the-festival bites along the park’s World Showcase promenade.
- A new circus-like “Land of Oz Play Area,” based on the Disney fantastical film adventure Oz: The Great and Powerful to be released in March 2013, will debut a kaleidoscope of interactive fun.
- Disney topiary experts will grow, shape and manicure a Fab Five Disney character topiary with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck (with Daisy Duck in a cameo) featured in a celebratory floral cookout scene in living topiary color at the park’s front entrance.
- New illuminated gardens in the park’s Future World and World Showcase will cast a colorful glow over each festival evening.
Throughout the 75-day garden party, guests will discover festival surprises around every corner including new topiary triumphs, colorful garden displays, a butterfly bounty, HGTV celebrity designers, interactive gardening seminars and whimsical children’s play areas. On weekends, top Flower Power rockers of the 1960s and ’70s will perform.
Every Friday through Sunday, HGTV design celebrities will host Festival Center seminars. During opening weekend, March 8-10, Chris Lambton of “Going Yard” will appear; other designers scheduled to take the stage include Brandon Johnson of “My Yard Goes Disney” and Meg Caswell of “Meg’s Great Rooms.”
Now the details:
- Festival-themed flavors: Guests will discover culinary creations and refreshing libations at multiple festival-themed food and beverage locations. Chefs are tweaking the menu to include backyard barbecue and a variety of garden-inspired and global tastes. Around the World Showcase promenade
- Fab Five topiary barbecue: 14-foot-tall topiary Goofy will bobble an anniversary cake while Donald and Daisy play badminton, Mickey fires up the grill, Pluto swipes a link of hot dogs and Minnie chills out on a colorful blanket of blossoms. At Epcot Front Entrance
- Land of Oz Play Area: This interactive new children’s play zone will feature play systems adorned with giant flowers and designed to stretch kids’ imaginations and muscles. Midway-style games, red-and-white circus-themed tents and the “Oz Movie Garden” of intriguing plants will capture the spirit of the upcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful. Also on tap: fun games, photo opportunities, the “great and powerful Oz’s” crashed hot-air balloon and lush plants inspired by the movie. On the Imagination Walkway
- Illuminated Gardens: Every night when the sun sets, many of the festival’s world-famous Disney topiaries and gardens will twinkle and shine in a new light. Throughout World Showcase and Future World
- Monsters University topiary: Floral representations of Mike and Sulley from the hit Disney-Pixar film Monsters, Inc. and stars of Disney-Pixar’s June 2013 release, Monsters University, will join the festivities as new topiary family members. On the Future World Walkway
- Phineas and Ferb topiary: The popular Disney Channel animated celebs limit their shenanigans to go green for a family photo-op. Behind Spaceship Earth
- “Radiator Springs” interactive play zone: Race car Lightning McQueen and tow truck “Mater” of the Disney-Pixar film Cars 2 will be the well-maintained topiary stars of this play area. On the Test Track Walkway
- Flower Power Firsts: 1970s top disco band The Village People (April 19-21) and 1960s singer-songwriter Tommy Roe (May 3-5) bring on the Flower Power beat when they take the concert stage. At America Gardens Theatre
And a new twist:
- Fawn’s Butterfly House: Eight fanciful fairy topiaries of Pixie Hollow, including Tinker Bell, Fawn, Vidia and Terrence, take over the Butterfly House this year where hundreds of colorful winged beauties flit to life. On the Imagination Walkway
In all, more than 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens, dozens of flower towers and sweeping beds of multi-colored blooms will add floral splendor to the park landscape. Daily hands-on gardening seminars, and other Festival Center events will offer innovative ideas, design tips and gardening know-how to park guests.
The Flower Power concert series kicks off March 6-10 with Micky Dolenz (“I’m a Believer”) and continues each weekend with pop favorites including:
- March 15-17: Chubby Checker & The Wildcats
- March 22-24: The Guess Who
- March 29-31: Nelson
- April 5-7: The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie
- April 12-14: Paul Revere & the Raiders
- April 19-21: The Village People (new!)
- April 26-28: The Orchestra, Featuring Former Members of ELO and ELO II
- May 3-5: Tommy Roe (new!)
- May 10-12: Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
- May 17-19: Starship starring Mickey Thomas.
While Disney guests celebrate spring during their festival visit, they also can explore the reimagined, design-centric Test Track Presented by Chevrolet, the hang-gliding sensation of Soarin’ and other high-tech Future World marvels. In World Showcase, where the spotlight will shine on topiaries of Disney princesses, storybook characters and even pandas and trolls, guests will discover the attractions, shops and restaurants that represent cultures and cuisine of 11 countries.
After a recent refurbishment at its Studio Backlot Tour, guests at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida now have the opportunity to preview a prop from the upcoming action adventure film, The Lone Ranger, from Walt Disney Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer.
The prop featured in the attraction, which takes guests ‘behind the scenes’ the world of filmmaking, appears to be the top portion of a courthouse which has seen better days, bears only a hint of what it once proclaimed: ‘Justice for all.’
From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, the filmmaking team behind the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, comes Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ The Lone Ranger, a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice — taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.
The Lone Ranger also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter and will debut in theaters on July 3, 2013.
The brand-new ‘The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow’ Pirates of the Caribbean experience began operating in soft opening mode this morning, allowing the first guests to visit the high-tech show and enter the world of the popular film franchise. The attraction, which will officially open on December 6, 2012, is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, in Soundstage 4 (between Toy Story Mania! and the Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream exhibit.
Like its predecessor, the Chronicles of Narnia experiences, the show begins in a pre-show area, in which a talking skull a la the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, introduces the show and questions the integrity of those waiting to go inside and join Jack Sparrow’s crew.
For the main show, guests enter a large room which is decorated with various props along the sides and features a large scale model of the Black Pearl which serves as a portion of the show’s projection screen. Using Disney’s high-resolution, projection mapping system such as the one used in ‘The Magic, the Memories and You’ and ‘Celebrate the Magic,’ the now floating skull invites the pirate pledge holding the iron key (chosen prior to the show) to ‘insert it into the treasure chest’ (the child really just holds it up) and the show begins. From here, the audience journeys through each of the films in an immersive show that involves physical and lighting effects in addition to the projections: from a skeleton army to Davy Jones to the Kraken and more, the lifelike projections also appear to literally fly off the screen along the back of the wall to over the Black Pearl and other objects inside the room. Eventually Captain Jack Sparrow himself appears aboard the ship and, after defeating Davy Jones, leads guests through the pirate’s oath in a way that only Jack Sparrow can.
The show is billed as interactive, but it’s really only in the vein of television shows like ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates’ as guests are encouraged to engage in activities such as yelling out phrases and stomping their feet.
Below is our video of the full experience as well as a brief look at some of the props which include many from the films such as Elizabeth Swann’s corset, the ‘Pirates – Ye be warned’ sign and more, along with many sight gags such as my favorite, the pirate who died by cannonball.
As you can see from the video, the best view may actually be towards the right side of the room as you enter, with the starboard side of the ship still in complete view.
We also have some photos from around and inside the attraction, but bear in mind the show building is very dark and time inside is limited, so the quality isn’t as great as it could be.
Walt Disney World has published its guide to annual passholder discounts online at WDWHolidayGiftGuide.com which gives interactive access to its 28 page guide of savings during the holiday season.
One of the actual items featured in the publication is a gorgeous Epcot ‘Holidays Around the World’ ornament (pictured, left) which will be available in Santa’s Village at the American Adventure pavilion.
Arguably much the rest of the publication is fluff and the bulk of the savings appear to be with shops at the Downtown Disney District where 10% – 20% off merchandise seems to be the norm, but it also appears that there are some real bargains to be had.
One example is at the Richard Petty Driving Experience where annual passholders are able receive an additional two laps during an exotic car driving session for free (for a total of 8 laps), which is estimated to be a savings of $130.
As a hint, if reading the publication online appears to be difficult, you can right-click on any of the pages and view them individually as an image. The online viewer does allow you to left-click and zoom in/out, but the right-click is a more direct method.
A new post on the official Disney Parks blog teases what appears to be the Flying Dragon puppet/vehicle that was spotted during testing earlier this year at Minter Field Airport in Shafter, California. Using blurry video footage, the video appears to spotlight the vehicle and in fact the post does tease that it involves a dragon of some sort, noting some of which even breathe fire, which the Disney flying vehicle reportedly does.
The blog entry also links to a new tumblr account which chronicles these so-called dragon sightings (not really), but perhaps what’s most interesting about the tumblr’s posts is that they are tagged with New Fantasyland, indicating that the flying dragon puppet/vehicle may soon be making its public debut over the skies of the Enchanted Forest in the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.
It should come at no large surprise that when the newly revamped ‘Test Track,’ as presented by Chevrolet, makes its official debut on December 6, that cast members will sporting a new look to go along with it. And true enough, as depicted here, not only will that be the case, but there will be little mistake to which attraction a Test Track cast member serves, provided the temperature is above 80 degrees.
A concerned, anonymous contributor has provided us with this image, which demonstrates both the male and female versions of the costume (which appear to be identical, save for the baseball cap), along with the optional, innocuous (and rather ambiguous) outdoor winter wear which would look fairly contemporary if the early 1990s should ever decide to return.
Walt Disney World Resort guests will experience the thrill of designing their very own virtual vehicle – then putting their design through its paces – when the re-imagined, multi-sensory Test Track Presented by Chevrolet grand re-opens Dec. 6, 2012.
The iconic Epcot attraction, a new collaboration between Chevrolet Design and the creative team of Walt Disney Imagineering, celebrates how meticulous design not only shapes the look of Chevrolet cars and trucks, but drives their performance on the open road.
For inspiration for the project, Walt Disney Imagineers made numerous visits to Detroit, collaborating with Chevrolet designers and touring the inner sanctums of Chevrolet’s design studios.
“As storytellers, to be able tell Chevrolet’s design story was fun for our Imagineers,” said Eric Jacobson, senior vice president of WDI. “Chevrolet designers come from the same creative roots as Imagineers. Test Track Presented by Chevrolet will become, for Epcot guests, an exciting part of their visit to Walt Disney World Resort.”
Amid upbeat music, eye-popping lighting effects and a collection of Chevrolet concept cars and model vehicles, guests themselves will become automotive designers – and peer into the future of personal transportation in the process.
“Through an enduring partnership, Chevrolet and Disney continue to inspire generations to imagine the impossible and innovate,” said Chris Perry, vice president, U.S. Marketing, General Motors. “The re-imagined Test Track reflects the personality and values of Chevrolet design and offers guests a behind-the-scenes look at a discipline that drives our business. This first-of-its-kind automotive design attraction represents the best of Chevrolet design and Disney innovation.”
Test Track guests enter an all-new, interactive pre-show area – completely retooled and re-imagined from the garage-like testing area of the former GM Test Track. The sleek new “Chevrolet Design Center” invites guests to create their own virtual custom-concept vehicle. Car design wannabes will get to shape their own virtual car, truck or crossover vehicle and learn how their design choices perform against four important attributes:
At design kiosks, rows of touch screens become canvasses for guests to try their hand at design magic. Here, they can virtual-draw – maneuver their vehicle design by shape, length, width and engine size. Once they create the design of their dreams, guests complete their creation with even more choices. They can make a design statement with an expressive front grill, order up wheels by size and style, add paint and other graphics and trick out their vehicle – top to sides, front to back – with the latest accessories. Then comes the crowning touch of their design – adding Chevrolet’s world-famous bowtie logo.
Their virtual Chevrolet vehicle complete, the adventure then shifts into high gear as guests – armed with a card encoded with their personal design that travels with them – board their 6-person “SimCar” ride vehicle. Ahead: a thrilling journey into a dazzling multi-sensory digital experience as guests put their personal design through a series of performance tests – the exhilarating heart of Test Track Presented by Chevrolet.
Along their route, riders experience changing terrain and extreme conditions as their designs are scored for Capability, Efficiency, Responsiveness and Power. How does their design stand up on the challenging hills, switchbacks and straight-aways of the Test Track circuit? How well does it navigate through bumpy roads, icy conditions, turn-on-a-dime curves and other surprises? Their design skills are put to the test – at speeds of up to 65 mph.
The fun and excitement continues in the post-show area.
Scoring their design. Guests get to compare their car’s results to that of a baseline SimCar – and also see how they performed against their fellow “designers.”
At a digital driving table laying out a road course, guests can race their virtual custom-concept vehicles against other guests’ designs, over changing terrain and encountering extreme conditions.
Brand-new car designers can create their own commercial – starring their virtual car.
In another experience, guests get to pose with actual Chevrolet vehicles. Through green screen technology — with a few taps on their touch screen – guests can suddenly find themselves posing with their Chevrolet on the lunar surface, arcing across the galaxies, navigating the bright-white of a polar landscape or other thrilling scenes. The images become easily sharable on social media, sending virtual postcard greetings to family, friends or co-workers back home.
New and concept Chevrolet vehicles are laid out showroom-style. Guests can get behind the wheel of Chevrolet’s latest models. Chevrolet product specialists are on hand to answer any questions.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one: When is a character not a character? When they’re an ‘experience delivery system.’ Get it? Okay, maybe it’s not that funny, or clever, but according to a patent application for a system known as ‘Managing Experience State to Personalize Destination Visits,’ it’s the future truth — and it’s a key element to the MyMagic+/My Disney Experience coming to the Walt Disney World Resort as part of its NextGen experience.
Though it lacks any shocking revelations, the patent application answers one of the most forefront questions since information began pouring in since we began sharing information about the project. Completely apart from FASTPASS+ which is available to families just as the regular FASTPASS system is, this is more in line with the “it’s a small world” real-world avatar; the question being if there are multiple people entitled to a customization, how does Disney decide who gets it?
And so then you have this: the Experience State Management System. And it goes a little something like this.
First, the familiar. Guests will have the reusable and personalized (for an upcharge) MagicBand which uses RFID technology and serves as the key to virtually everything from unlocking hotel room doors (for which Disney is aggressively updating all the locks systematically as you read this) to holding park admission media (though both of these are optional depending on the circumstances) to holding access to FASTPASS+ enabled attractions. Readers, however, will be installed virtually everywhere and it is no gross understatement to suggest that the system is capable of identifying guests virtually anywhere in the parks. We also know that with the readers being able to identify guests as they enter attractions, it also potentially provides supplementary information to a cast member who can now greet a guest by name and/or wish them a happy birthday even if there’s no button, congratulate them on their graduation, or any other possible celebration imaginable, so long as it’s noted in their CRS database.
That’s where the ESMS really comes in because it too will have access to all of this information and not only will it be able to see what entitlements a guest is set to receive, it will obviously be able to record and reference entitlements already distributed. Therefore it can use its guest history to decide who amongst a group of guests will receive the special attention at any single experience, be it within the same family or amongst different groups as well. For example, an attraction could be configured to wish someone a happy birthday when it detects them in a group. But what if there’s two guests celebrating a birthday that day? Maybe one of them was already recognized for it earlier in the day, so the system will decide to honor the other guest. There are several other factors it can consider, or if it determines there is a statistical tie, it can make a random decision to skew the numbers going forward. The system will also use biological information such as age and gender to determine which experiences will be available for a particular guest.
Aside from a talking character (note we do not say face character) being able to greet guests by name upon entering a room, several other potential uses are suggested by the patent application. Special upcharge experiences include birthday acknowledgements, or a pirate experience in which the guest will be acknowledged automatically throughout the parks as being a pirate in any number of ways including visually morphing the guest into looking like a pirate, being dressed like a pirate, etc. The same technique could be applied to make the guest appear to be most anything such as a movie star or athlete.
Although the patent application doesn’t explicitly mention it, the ESMS is also likely to play a role in Achievements, which we also previously spoke about to some extent.
For further reading, you can view the patent application in its entirety here.