Nov. 24, 2013 | 9:00 a.m.

Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise gets a new jingle

Jingle Cruise
The holidays have finally wound their way into the deepest, darkest jungles … of Disneyland. So, you know, it’s not really that deep or dark. In fact, it’s one knee-slapper after another sprinkled with a bit of Christmas cheer. To help celebrate the holidays, the Happiest Place on Earth has for the first time temporarily rechristened the venerable Jungle Cruise the “Jingle Cruise.” Although not nearly as extensive as seasonal makeovers for rides such as It’s a Small World or Haunted Mansion, the popular Adventureland ride is one of a growing roster of Disneyland attractions that receive the Christmas treatment. The first Jingle Cruise vessel left the docks with a boatload of passengers and new corny holiday-themed jokes in mid-November. The ride, which has undergone minor redecorating — dangling Christmas lights and beige Santa hats for the skippers — will […]
Nov. 13, 2013 | 7:04 a.m.

‘Maleficent’ trailer: Angelina Jolie transforms into Disney sorceress

"Maleficent" (featured image)
The first teaser trailer for Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” has arrived, showcasing just how great the actress looks wearing the signature horns of the Disney sorceress. Due in theaters May 30, 2014, “Maleficent” is a live-action retelling of the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty,” but with a focus on the events that turned the character to the path of evil. The new clip mostly centers on a conversation between Maleficent and the Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), but concludes with what appears to be one of the haunting climatic moments from the animated tale — the wicked conjuror raising a forest of thorns from the ground. Earlier this summer, footage from the film, including a scene in which Maleficent cursed the baby Aurora, was revealed for the first time at Disney’s D23 convention.  “Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always […]
Nov. 06, 2013 | 5:54 p.m.

Disney parks look to video games to step up live-action playtime

Agent P from "Phineas & Ferb" shows himself at Epcot's Germany pavilion as part of real-life game Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. (Disney)
In the late 2000s Walt Disney Imagineers were tasked with solving a problem that doesn’t typically crop up at Walt Disney World theme parks: How do you make the place more kid-friendly? Answer: Give it something that resembles a video game. That initial question led to what is now known as Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, a real-life game that dates to 2009 and has players traversing Epcot’s series of country-themed pavilions to trigger hidden interactions within the park environments. The Florida attraction, said designer Jonathan Ackley on Tuesday, was inspired by the narrative-driven LucasArts games of the ’80s and early- to mid-’90s. “There was the perception at the time that there wasn’t enough stuff for kids to do at Epcot,” said Ackley, a former LucasArts employee. The location-based game has a spy theme and deviates from the international flavors […]
Nov. 06, 2013 | 11:32 a.m.

Thor invades Disneyland with new Treasures of Asgard exhibit

The God of Thunder himself, Thor, was on hand to greet us as we walked through a passageway to Asgard in a new exhibit at Disneyland. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)
In time for this weekend’s release of “Thor: The Dark World,” Marvel is bringing the magic of Asgard to Disneyland in a new exhibit fit for the gods. Thor: Treasures of Asgard is now open as part of the park’s Innoventions display. The exhibit features “artifacts” from Asgard, including the helmet of Loki, the swords of Heimdall and Lady Sif, the mask of a dark elf and even the book that contains the history of Yggdrisil, the world tree that unites the nine realms of Asgard. See photos of some of the artifacts in the gallery above. We assume that Thor needs his hammer Mjolnir, and other famous objects like the Casket of Ancient Winter may be too dangerous to be on display. As part of the experience, participants are told by Odin, ruler of Asgard, about the joint undertaking […]
Nov. 05, 2013 | 6:54 p.m.

Grumpy Cat goes Disney: Online celebs pitch in for new theme park push

Grumpy Cat poses with Grumpy the dwarf at Disneyland. (Disney)
Grumpy Cat was just one of about two dozen Internet stars that turned up at Disneyland in Anaheim Tuesday as part the company’s unveiling of its new marketing push, dubbed Disney Side, which is attempting to harness the power of social media “all stars” to promote the parks. The new campaign is designed to encourage people to express the “Disney side” of their personalities, and includes original contributions from stop-motion Vine animator Ian Padgham, Instagram photographer Lauren Randolph, wacky video personality Mark Malkoff, “CuteGirlsHairstyles” YouTube-r Mindy McKnight, singer Tiffany Alvord, fashionable dog Trotter Pup, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy Zeddie Little and “How to Be a Dad” blogger Charlie Capen, among others. The 24 creators chosen by Disney have a combined fan following of 30 million and have generated an estimated 2 billion views online. “We looked for people with a solid […]
Aug. 10, 2013 | 1:30 p.m.

Angelina Jolie arrives in Anaheim to unveil ‘Maleficent’ at D23

Angelina Jolie is "Maleficent." (AP Photo / Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
“Maleficent” star Angelina Jolie arrived at D23 on Saturday morning, and like the evil sorceress she’s playing in the live-action retelling of the 1959 animated classic “Sleeping Beauty,” she knows how to make an entrance. Clad in a black sweater and black pants, the actress received a standing ovation from the audience, and she described her elation at starring in the film, saying that as a child she had an affinity for Maleficent. “Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite,” Jolie said. “I was terrified of her, but I was also drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. She had this elegance and grace, yet she was wonderfully, deliciously cruel.” Unfolding at the Anaheim Convention Center, the weekend-long D23 kicked off Friday with programming focused around Disney’s upcoming animated ventures. Saturday’s presentation emphasized news […]
Aug. 10, 2013 | 12:51 p.m.

‘Thor: The Dark World’: D23 footage takes Natalie Portman to Asgard

"Thor": Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, an astrophysicist who steals the heart of Norse god Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth. (Zade Rosenthal/Marvel Studios)
Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins took the D23 stage Saturday morning in Anaheim to promote “Thor: The Dark World,” the first of three featured titles upcoming from Marvel to be touted at the expo. Hopkins received a standing ovation from the audience, but Portman and Hiddleston were received almost as warmly, taking the stage after Marvel movie chief Kevin Feige, who presented both the footage from the “Thor” sequel that was screened at Comic-Con International last month and a new scene detailing Portman’s astrophysicist Jane Foster’s first day in Asgard. In the unfinished scene, Jane’s body seems to be having some trouble adapting to the Asgardian atmosphere, and she lies on a table being tended to. Odin storms in, noting, “She is mortal, she does not belong here in Asgard anymore than a goat belongs at a banquet […]
Aug. 09, 2013 | 2:32 p.m.

D23: Imagineer Tony Baxter on his decades shaping Disneyland design

Tony Baxter in 1996 discusses the redesign of Disneyland's Tomorrowland. (Los Angeles Times)
When a young Disney employee in the early 1970s by the name of Tony Baxter found his daily assignments to be lacking a certain luster, he opted instead to devote his time to building a model train. This self-described “little train” would eventually cost more than $15 million to construct. Known today as moderate thrill ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Baxter’s extracurricular hobby would ultimately become one of the premiere attractions at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. It opened first at the Anaheim theme park in 1979. “Going into Big Thunder, I was a kid in a model shop. Coming out, I was a designer,” says Baxter. At 66, Baxter this year has transitioned from his senior executive position at Walt Disney Imagineering into a creative advisory role. Baxter officially will be recognized as a Disney “legend” at […]
July 26, 2013 | 1:28 p.m.

Tetsuya Nomura is ready — at last — for ‘Kingdom Hearts 3” to progress

Concept art for "Kingdom Hearts 3," due in 2014 for next-gen consoles. (Square Enix)
This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details. It’s been seven-plus years since the last core “Kingdom Hearts” game was released in the U.S.  Although there’s been no shortage of spinoffs in the Disney-meets-”Final Fantasy”- role-playing-game series, a 10-year-in-the-making story will finally reach its conclusion when Square Enix publishes “Kingdom Hearts 3″ on next-gen consoles. So how did series architect Tetsuya Nomura know he was ready to start bringing many of the branching plot points outlined in the numerous “Kingdom Hearts” to an end? He just did. “First and most important,” said Nomura, speaking through a translator, “is the determination in my mind. That will launch the project. It’s difficult to explain what kind of determination I am talking about. As you can imagine, expectations by the fans for franchise with sequels go up each time. “Fan […]
July 22, 2013 | 8:30 p.m.

J.J. Abrams not dropping out of ‘Star Wars’ sequel, Lucasfilm says

J.J. Abrams (featured image)
J.J. Abrams is not dropping out of the next “Star Wars” film, contrary to certain online reports. “There is no truth to the rumor,” Lucasfilm said in a statement issued Monday. “J.J. is having a great time working on the script and is looking forward to going into production next year.” “Star Wars: Episode VII” will be written by Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Toy Story 3,” and will be shot at England’s historic Pinewood Shepperton Studios. Disney, which acquired Lucasfilm last year, announced in April it will release a new “Star Wars” film every year beginning in 2015 with “Episode VII,” the first installment in a planned trilogy. George Lucas will serve as a “creative consultant” on those three films, but has no plans to write or direct. In an interview with Hero Complex […]
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