Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Drawings From Imagineers: Marcelo Vignali

This time we'll have to call it "Drawings from Former Imagineers." Marcelo did this drawing in my book when he had just left Imagineering for Feature Animation to do visual development on Mulan... but I first met Marcelo at the WDI figure drawing workshop. His figure drawings never fail to amaze me.

He is an extremely gifted artist and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet! I was a lowly Junior in High School at the time, and a rather... shall we say "under-developed talent" in comparison, yet Marcelo was always so kind as to go over my drawings and give me pointers.

I'm sure a lot of Disney fans will recognize Marcelo's designs for ToonTown and Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, which are in most of the Imagineering related books. Marcelo also had a hand in such projects as: Blizzard Beach, Tokyo Disney's Winnie the Pooh ride, and the never realized "Disney's America" historical park. He also has a long list of credits with Disney Animation on films like Mulan, Lilo & Stich, Atlantis, and Brother Bear. Marcelo is currently an Art Director at Sony Pictures Animation. Check out his blog for more amazing images here. Thanks Marcelo!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Steampunk Sampler Platter

In the "Steampunk: Nemo's Nautilus" post I mentioned that Disney has more opportunities than it may realize with the Steampunk style/genre in the parks. I'm sure when I use the term Steampunk it doesn't immediately bring to mind a specific visual reference the way mentioning Art Nouveau or Film Noir would. So this post is just a random sampling of Steampunk goodness to get the feel, more specific ideas relating to Disney next time.

-Weta Rayguns, Weta is the infamous Visual FX house based in New Zealand that is responsible for Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Greg Broadmore at the Weta Workshop has come up with this line of Rayguns, or as they have been branded "Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators.

The Raygun website (linked above, make sure you check it out) is an amazing assortment of spoof advertising that is very creative and very Disney-like. They have created enough back story in selling these Rayguns for it's own film. Check out the "spoof-o'-mercial" they made below.

-The Sculptures of Stephane Halleux . I love these designs, they almost read as props right off the set of a stop-motion animation film. The vehicles and characters would easily lend themselves to be interpreted into a Steampunk like ride. There are a lot more amazing designs on the website, make sure to check out the link above.

Random "Objects de' Steampunk:" If it has lots of bolts, gears, gadgets, metal, is steam powered, or requires the use of cool looking goggles to operate- it's Steampunk! (Laptop image courtesy of MonkeyFarm.)

Top Steampunk-esque films... These would be near the top of the list: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wild Wild West, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, City of Lost Children, Back to Future 3, and certain aspects of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hallow.

- The Edison restaurant and bar in Los Angeles (website worth checking out if you can't get to the real thing.) Self described as "a lounge alive with artifacts from it's history as Downtown LA's first private power plant; a celebration of an era of invention and imagination- the blending of science, art, and industry."

There are a many angles that Disney could pursue with the Steampunk genre. There is enough latitude within the style to go in many directions, be it very dark and edgy, or whimsical and very family friendly. I think it's even rich and broad enough to have it's own land.

But, assuming a "Discovery Bay" actually does end up in the Frontierland land area, I hope Disney would at least sprinkle in some elements of Steampunk, if not actually going all out and really sink their teeth into some of the antiquated future themes.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tomorrowland Part 4: Virgin Galactic

Space travel and exploration always comes to mind when you think about the future. When Disneyland opened in the mid 50's the world was mesmerized with the notion of going to space. And this wouldn't be left out of Disneyland. In the 70's the Flight to the Moon/Mission to Mars attraction was added. Over fifty years later the attraction is long gone, as well as the awe and excitement of man's initial efforts into space exploration.

Although the novelty has worn off, there are things to be as excited about, if not more so, than our first steps into space. The means of going into space are quickly changing hands from superpower nations to the private sector, opening the next chapter, not only of space exploration, but also of consumer space travel. With hopes of Tomorrowland returning to its original focus it's time to once again have a ride that captures the imagination and wonder of space travel at Disneyland- Virgin Galactic.

In the not too distant future anyone with enough money will be able to board Virgin Galactic and take a trip literally out of this world. Richard Branson's Virgin Group Ltd is well on its way to making this happen. Commercial space travel is on it's way. Creating an attraction based on this inevitability is a natural fit for a revitalized Tomorrowland. As a woman in the intro video below says "I had two dreams growing up, to go to Disneyland and to go into Space."

If you combined being in a ship, like you are in Star Tours, but put that in a huge encompassing screen, as in Soaring Over California, you could create the most realistic simulation possible- without leaving the ground. Soaring Over California so captures the feeling of flight with it's large scale image, imagine an adaptation of that where you sit vertically in Spaceship One and can look back out of a window at the curvature of the earth.

The ride could be treated literally as Virgin Galactic, assuming a partnership between Disney and Virgin. The whole experience would be that the guest is a consumer space traveler. Maybe even hand out boarding passes and go through and fake x-ray scan while you wait in a line that is a fancy space travel terminal, "Domestic, International, and Orbital flights now boarding!"

Virgin Galactic created this video below to capture just this feeling it's offering future guests. Here it doubles as a perfect pitch for a ride, minus the zero-gravity bit. (Lenthgy video but worth the watch!)

Virgin Galactic really struck me as having the wonder and entrepreneurial spirit that Walt had. I think it would be a welcome addition to a new Tomorrowland. Virgin Galactic represents a bold, aspiring, and uniquely entrepreneurial look at what is possible in the future. Hopefully a ride counterpart would bring back that ideal for Tomorrowland as well.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Cafe DuMonde In New Orleans Square

If you've ever been to the French Quarter in New Orleans, chances are you've been to Cafe DuMonde. It's a small cafe just off of Jackson Square, right on the bank of the Mississippi. It's one of many icons in the city, having been established in 1862. They are open 24 hours a day 364 days a year. They only close for Christmas Day or for a passing hurricane.

Cafe DuMonde serves mostly coffee, assorted beverages, and beignets- which are french style donuts covered with powdered sugar. Its just a quaint little place to hang out any time of the day, especially when its raining.

When I was in New Orleans a while back, I partook of Cafe DuMonde daily. It baffled me that Cafe DuMonde was not included when New Orleans Square was added to Disneyland in 1966. It would be as odd as the Italy Pavilion in Epcot having a restaurant that didn't serve pasta. New Orleans Square needs a Cafe DuMonde.

When Downtown Disney was added, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen was one of many restaurants added as well. At the little Jazz Kitchen Express counter next door you can actually get beignets. They even sell Cafe DuMonde brand boxed beignet mix. Its nice to be able to get beignets somewhere at the park, but it would be more fitting to have an actual Cafe DuMonde inside the park at New Orleans Square.

Not all the ideas on this blog are huge blockbuster E-ticket rides. I'm actually more intrigued by the small things that can be added or changed. Its the little nuances and authenticities that are more or less exclusive to Disneyland, that contribute as much value and charm as the big attractions.