Todd Martens

May 12, 2015 | 4:45 a.m.

D23 Expo: ‘Disneyland: The Exhibit’ takes a ride through 60 years of history

The original Abdominal Snowman animatronic created for the Matterhorn Bobsleds, first added to the ride in 1978.  (Disney)
Here’s a challenge: Try to condense 60 years of Disneyland history into a single museum-like exhibit. That’s the test facing Becky Cline, Walt Disney Archives director. She’s putting the finishing touches on “Walt Disney Archives Presents — Disneyland: The Exhibit,” which in August will attempt to encompass the theme park’s past six decades for D23 Expo, Disney’s biennial fan event. Now factor in that for many of the Disney fans attending D23 Expo, there is more than one Disneyland. There’s the Disneyland that opened to the paying public July 18, 1955, on a plot of land in Anaheim about 27 miles from downtown Los Angeles. This is the Disneyland that contains American cultural landmarks such as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the Mad Hatter’s spinning teacups. It’s the Disneyland that Walt Disney himself set foot in, and, as this very newspaper […]
May 09, 2015 | 8:47 a.m.

‘Royals,’ from ‘Threes’ creator Asher Vollmer, challenges lowly peasants

"Royals" has players trying to be king of queen. (Asher Vollmer)
THE PLAYER Asher Vollmer helped make one of the most popular games of 2014. “Threes” has been downloaded more than 1 million times and was blessed by Apple as the mobile game of the year. It’s the puzzle game at its most elegant, owning an invitingly crisp design and requiring little more than basic mathematics and casual swipes of the finger. Now the Westside-bred 25-year-old has a new game. But “Royals” is nothing like “Threes.” To start, it is designed to be difficult. Vollmer, in fact, tells people it’s impossible. It’s not, but if you try it your character will perish in minutes. Chances are, you will never be a royal — in life, or in Vollmer’s game. But at least it won’t cost you much. It’s essentially free. Vollmer is asking players to pay what they wish. Why free? […]
May 07, 2015 | 11:22 a.m.

D23 Expo: Marvel, ‘Star Wars’ films to be showcased at Disney convention

The ever-expanding portfolio of Team Mickey Mouse will be showcased at this year’s D23 Expo, the all-things-Disney convention presented by its official fan club, D23. Disney confirmed Thursday morning that upcoming films from the Marvel and “Star Wars” universes will be previewed at the August convention. Additionally, fans will get a peek at what’s to come at Disney theme parks, no doubt a look at the “Avatar”-inspired land under construction in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom but perhaps some news on a much-anticipated Star Wars land (Hero Complex’s fingers are crossed). Tickets for the D23 Expo are currently on sale, with single-day passes for adults starting at $67 (cheaper for D23 members). A three-day pass for the Aug. 14-16 convention at the Anaheim Convention Center currently runs $196 for adults, with prices set to rise after June 30. The D23 Expo was last staged in Anaheim […]
May 07, 2015 | 8:45 a.m.

Nintendo, coming to a Universal theme park near you?

“Nintendo Land” is already a game, but soon it may be a place you can visit. The house of Mario is teaming with Universal Parks and Resorts to bring Nintendo characters and Nintendo-themed experiences to Universal parks. The two companies released a joint statement on Thursday that promised “immersive experiences” that will include “major attractions” at Universal parks. Universal wholly owns Universal Studios Hollywood in the Los Angeles area as well as Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Fla. Additionally, the company, via licensing agreements, has parks in Sentosa in Singapore, and in Osaka, Japan, the latter the closest Universal park near Nintendo’s home base in Kyoto. There was no time frame given and no real hints as to what those “immersive experiences” may be, but the use of the words “major attractions” implies that rides are to come. “More details will be announced in […]
May 01, 2015 | 6:20 p.m.

‘Marvel Universe Live!’ stunt show stays true to ‘Avengers’ film franchise

'Marvel Universe Live!'
“You don’t need to wear that.” Madison Embrey, who plays the tough-minded “Avengers” pal Maria Hill in the traveling “Marvel Universe Live!” show, noticed me struggling with my seat belt. I had arrived at the Forum on Thursday to experience what it feels like to be an Avenger. This weekend, as “Avengers: Age of Ultron” commandeers control of American movie palaces, “Marvel Universe Live!” has parked itself at the Inglewood arena, where Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, Spider-Man and more Marvel faces will punch and prance their way through a two-hour stunt show. My hope was to learn how to fire an arrow like Hawkeye. Instead, a souped-up car awaited me on the arena floor. The producers wanted to throw me into the deep end of the thrill-ride spectrum. Adrenaline first, skills later. Embrey was to be my copilot […]
April 26, 2015 | 10:00 a.m.

Robots and women share the battlefield in ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 3’

"Call of Duty: Black Ops 3" boasts cybernetic-enhanced soldiers. (Treyarch / Activision)
This post has been updated. Please see below for details. The future-set “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3” makes some bold predictions about combat in the decades to come. Soldiers, for instance, will be outfitted with robotic arms, giving them super-human strength. Additionally, women will be just as prevalent on the front lines as their male counterparts. The Treyarch-developed “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3,” due Nov. 6 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, is the first in the blockbuster franchise to allow fans to play as a female character for the entirety of the campaign. Or even play as a whole mini-squadron of women, as “Black Ops 3” will blur the lines between single and multiplayer games and allow up to four people to play the campaign cooperatively via an online connection (or play split-screen with a friend). It’s a […]
April 26, 2015 | 8:18 a.m.

‘Orphan Black’: The Castor clones ignite a battle of the sexes

Tatiany Maslany faces new threats in the third season of "Orphan Black." (BBC America)
Reality came to “Orphan Black” this past week. On the surface, this is a show about clones. Yet as Tatiana Maslany’s Sarah Manning has uncovered the secrets that led to her creation in a corporate lab, “Orphan Black” has alluded to sociopolitical themes that touch upon religion and civil liberties. Among the threats leveled at Manning, however, none may be as chilling as those circling around her at the start of Season 3. Since its inception, “Orphan Black” has dealt with the power divide between men and women, chronicling via science fiction how one’s status throughout life is determined pre-birth. Manning has spent the past two seasons fighting for her identity, her daughter, her ability to be a mother and her right to know her sisters. This year the BBC America’s “Orphan Black” has received an infusion of men, and they’re […]
April 24, 2015 | 11:32 a.m.

Telltale Games teaming with Marvel Entertainment

Telltale Games is working with Marvel Entertainment on a new video game series. (Telltale Games)
Having proved it can effectively adapt a comic into a game with its work on “The Wolf Among Us” and “The Walking Dead,” the Bay Area’s Telltale Games is increasing its comics’ portfolio. Telltale has partnered with Marvel Entertainment for a game project to be released in 2017, the company revealed Thursday night in San Francisco. Little is known about the game, including its title, at this point beyond the year-long release window. Telltale has won acclaim in recent years for its narrative-focused games that emphasize dialogue rather than action. They’re episodic, with each chapter generally able to be completed in two or three hours, and are leading a movement that brings games closer to interactive television shows. Additionally, Telltale’s work with Robert Kirkman’s ‘The Walking Dead” and Bill Willingham’s Vertigo series “Fables,” on which “The Wolf Among Us” is based, focused on original […]
April 23, 2015 | 8:30 a.m.

‘Con Man’ from Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion finds a home in Vimeo

Con Man
There was a brief moment for potential awkwardness at last week’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. On the third night of the fan convention during a Q&A with Mark Hamill, an audience member had a request. She wanted to hear about the most uncomfortable run-in Hamill had with a fan. The actor, known best for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films, didn’t throw anyone under the bus — at least completely. “You’ll meet someone and he’ll say, ‘I invited you to my 11th birthday, and you never wrote back,'” Hamill said. “I say, ‘I’m sorry. How old are now?’ And he’ll go, ’33.’ Wow, that’s 22 years of hatred building up.” But to hear at least one veteran of science fiction tell it, the oddest moments at fan conventions are not the ones generated by those who […]
April 19, 2015 | 2:17 p.m.

Star Wars Celebration: Tattoos, a convention tradition

Vinny Romanelli of New York City gives Angela Byrd an angelic R2-D2 tattoo at Star Wars Celebration.  (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
“Star Wars” fans, if this weekend’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim is any indication, are a patient lot. Thousands camped out Wednesday night to be in the same room as director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and lines to buy exclusive convention merchandise could stretch up to three hours. That’s about how long, for instance, it took me to purchase a wall clock in the shape of Salacious B. Crumb, the rat-like pal of Jabba the Hutt in “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi.” Others waited an hour or so to purchase ornaments. Some waited for love (speed dating sessions for men seeking women were booked by Friday morning, dashing my hopes of a “Star Wars romance) and still others waited hours for a glimpse of new video game “Star Wars: Battlefront” or a chance […]
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