April 04, 2014 | 12:46 p.m.

‘Hunger Games’ sequel casts ‘Game of Thrones’ star Gwendoline Christie

Gwendoline Christie plays Brienne of Tarth, whose sword skills and unusual strength and size set her apart from other young maids. Brienne swore an oath to Lady Catelyn Stark to deliver hostage Jaime Lannister to King's Landing in exchange for the safe return of Catelyn's daughters, Sansa and Arya. (HBO; Kevin Winter / Getty Images)
“Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie is joining the cast of next year’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” the final installment in the blockbuster movie franchise. Christie, whose previous screen credits include Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and the BBC children’s series “Wizards vs. Aliens,” is best known for her “Game of Thrones” role. In the lavish HBO fantasy series,” Christie plays Brienne of Tarth, a warrior woman who is better with a broadsword than most of the male knights who cross her path. Christie is slated to play Commander Lyme, taking over the role from “Mockingjay – Part 1″ actress Lily Rabe (“American Horror Story”) due to a scheduling conflict with Rabe’s previous commitment to a production of “Much Ado About Nothing” at Shakespeare in the Park, according to Lionsgate. QUIZ: Test your ‘Game of […]
Jan. 23, 2014 | 11:59 a.m.

Diagon Alley: Universal reveals new Harry Potter plans, Gringotts ride

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will bring even more of Harry Potter’s adventures to life. Guests will pass through London and the brick wall archway from the films into Diagon Alley – a wizarding hub within a Muggle city.  There will be shops, restaurants and a new ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. (Universal Orlando Resort)
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is getting an upgrade. Universal Orlando Resort has revealed new details for its planned expansion of its theme park experience based on J.K. Rowling’s saga — a re-creation of Diagon Alley, the famous shopping thoroughfare visited by Hogwarts students and their magical families before the beginning of every new school term. Diagon Alley also will be home to a new ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, designed to take patrons through the vaults of the famous Goblin bank. According to a release issued by the theme park Thursday, the new attraction will feature a number of shops and eateries from Rowling’s bestsellers about the boy wizard. FULL COVERAGE: Harry Potter through the years Visitors will be able to purchase wands at Ollivanders and Hogwarts uniforms at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, […]
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. 16, 2013 | 8:30 a.m.

Disneyland amps up Christmas with Jingle Cruises, ‘Winter Dreams’

Mickey and Minnie Mouse are wearing their Christmas sweaters, even if the weather is balmy some days. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)
The scattered nature of L.A.’s expansive urban grid is never more noticeable than during the winter holidays. While certain centers festoon the streets with lights and artistically ambitious homeowners create front lawn tableaux, Los Angeles simply lacks the central pedestrian thoroughfares that make Christmas so enchanting in cities like New York and Chicago, London and Paris. But if we don’t have Oxford Street, we do have the Disneyland resorts, where Walt Disney’s initial nostalgic imagining of Americana has become more festive with each passing holiday season. What began in 1956 with a Christmas tree on Main Street and a Santa hat on Mickey has become an increasingly dramatic, and dramatically marketable, Christmas-fication of Just About Everything. The Christmas fantasy parade, the holiday version of “It’s a Small World,” the sudsy snow falling in “Believe,” the Haunted Mansion gone all “Nightmare Before […]
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. 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 […]
May 30, 2013 | 2:05 p.m.

Heading to Disneyland? Beware the Fastpass rules change

Guests wait in line to enter Walt Disney Co.'s California Adventure Park, part of the Disneyland Resort, in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, May 24, 2013. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)
PERSPECTIVE A word of warning if you’re headed for the maddening crowds at the Magic Kingdom this summer – the line situation just took a big step backward. I’m not one to exaggerate, but mapping the human genome was nothing compared with the development of the Disneyland Fastpass, which can cut wait times for major rides by a half or a third. And now a critical benefit of the glory and envy of the civilized amusement park world has been quietly changed for the worse. Earlier this year the Disney time lords apparently decided that when a Fastpass provides a window of an hour to return to your chosen ride it means you better zip-a-dee-doo-dah do so – or else you can kiss that short Fastpass line goodbye and say hello to the hordes in the standby line. MORE: Disney is […]
March 17, 2013 | 7:03 a.m.

Comet Pan-STARRS? Meh. Just wait till you see Comet ISON

Comet Lovejoy in 2011
Comet Pan-STARRS has wowed observers all over the Northern Hemisphere and should continue to be visible, experts say, through the end of the month. It’s not too late to eyeball it — but if you miss it, don’t fret. As far as 2013 comets go, this one was only second best. Coming our way in November is (drumroll) Comet ISON. Don’t get me wrong. Pan-STARRS has been fun. NASA put together a view of the comet worth seeing. It was captured by the STEREO-B spacecraft orbiting the sun and shows a “quite complex” tail as the comet moves between Mercury and Earth.  If you still want to see the comet, as Forbes recommends, your best bet is to go somewhere with the least light pollution possible, then about half an hour after sunset look toward the west. The comet should […]
March 12, 2013 | 4:00 p.m.

Curiosity finds ancient Mars habitable. Now, the bigger question.

The Mars rover Curiosity has accomplished a primary mission objective in discovering that ancient Mars could have supported life. Now, scientists wonder whether they can unearth the story of Mars’ transformation from a wet, possibly life-supporting planet to the red dust bowl it has become.  What happened on Mars? NASA scientists hope to find clues in Gale Crater.  Unlike other parts of Mars, it has been found to have the properties that could have supported life on ancient Mars. The rock recently explored by Curiosity shows “neutral pH, chemical gradients that would have created energy for microbes and a distinctly low salinity, which would have helped metabolism if microorganisms had ever been present,” the space agency says. Scientists were fortunate — and smart — in their choice of Gale Crater as a landing site. But Mt. Sharp was the main […]
March 05, 2013 | 7:40 a.m.

Batman nabs suspect, reveals his true identity: Takeout delivery guy

The Batman of DC Comics, nothing like the 'Batman' who turned his pal in at a U.K. police station
Batman appeared at a police station in England with a criminal suspect in tow, and the world blinked. Batman — otherwise known as Stan Worby, Chinese-takeout delivery man — told a British TV news program that he was “gobsmacked” by the widespread reaction to the Feb. 25 episode. Worby told ITV’s “Daybreak” that it was simply a “practical joke” between himself and the friend he took to the police station. You see, he’d been dressed as Batman for a soccer match at Wembley Stadium.  Note: This was not a Christopher Nolan Batman but an Adam West-style Batman (at left, in case you need a refresher). After the match, a friend asked him to accompany him to the police station to turn himself in. Worby told the Daily Telegraph he’d been trying to “knock some sense into” his friend Danny Frayne, […]
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