Monday, November 17, 2008

Meet Adolfo Procopio

If you haven't checked out my link to Masked Avenger Studio by now... well you should have! Masked Avenger Studios is founded by my friend, and former supervisor, Ruben Procopio. Ruben has had a rich history with Disney Animation Studios as a sculptor, character designer, clean-up lead, animator... you name it he's done it. Ruben started working for Disney Studios at the age of 18 and was trained under Eric Larson, one of the "Nine Old Men."

I knew Ruben had a long history with Disney when I started working with him. But what I didn't know at first was that Disney is a family matter for the Procopio's. As it happens Ruben is a "chip off the old block," the proverbial "apple" that didn't fall far from the tree and Ruben's sister Vivian also worked for Disney for 16 years, first in the IRC (Information Research Library) at Imagineering and then at the ARL (Animation Research Library.)

Meet Ruben and Vivian's father Mr. Adolfo Procopio, master sculptor and Imagineer for over 35 years. The average Disney fan may not know it but Adolfo's creations have been literally staring you in the face for years. Adolfo started at Disney in the 1960's and has had a hand in the creation of Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, MGM Studios, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. Adolfo has contributed to almost every classic Disney ride that we have all come to know and love like the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, The Great Movie Ride (Humphrey Bogart) , American Adventures, America Sings, and Pirates of the Caribbean (just to name a few).

One of the highlights of Adolfo's career at Disney is a portrait of Walt Disney himself. It was created using an old art form where a slab of black granite is taken and using specially tipped tools the surface is hit and tiny molecules are broken off creating a white effect on the marble. The result is like a negative with tens of thousands of little points, all done by hand, that form the final image. The piece was intended as a gift for Walt Disney, it took almost a year to create, but unfortunately Walt passed away before its completion. The Disney family promised to put the piece in a prominent place and it has hung in the entry way of the original Animation building on the studio lot in Burbank ever since.

Our hat's off to one of the untold legends of Imagineering history- Adolfo Procopio. Thank you Adolfo for your amazing work and dedication to all the "Happiest Places on Earth." I know your work will continue to inspire and entertain for generations to come. If you'd like to see more of Adolfo's work there is a great slide show at the Masked Avenger Studio's website.

(Please be respectful of these unique family images that have been shared for this post. No images may be copied, removed, or reused without consent of Masked Avenger Studios. All characters are property of their respective owners.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Inspired By The Past, Optimistic For The Future

I usually don't do posts with links to other blogs, mainly because there are so many good ones and I can never keep up. But there are two posts I read this weekend, and although they are very different in content they seem oddly related. Both encapsulate many frustrations I have with the Disney Parks while also conveying optimism that things can be better.

The first post is from Cory over at Voyages Extraordinaires. It is the one year anniversary of his blog and he has a great post summarizing his goal for the site, you should give it a read:

"The loss of romance and wonder in the world is entirely a matter of perspective. We may opt to be cynical and jaded and believe that the world doesn't have a new trick to show us... or we may come to grasp the great truism that any place you have not actually been to is a blank spot on the map, any piece of information you have not learned is uncharted territory. In the words of our prophet G.K. Chesterton: "The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder."

The second is from Epcot Central it's an "off-the-cuff list of the Top 10 Changes EPCOT Central would love to see at EPCOT -- presented with a hope that you'll share your own additions, and that EPCOT will continue moving forward into a brighter, more exciting future." Go give it a read as well.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Disney recently announced the successor to the "Year of a Million Dreams" (YMD) campaign with "Disney Celebrations" for 2009. I have been a frequent critic of the YMD campaign for various reasons, but with the new "Celebration's" campaign I have to give credit where credit is due.

The new campaign gets you into Disney World or the Disneyland Resort for free on your birthday. There are also other vacation packages/incentives for anniversaries, honeymoons, and graduations etc. Now this is a great campaign idea! It is quantifiable and will not only draw people through the turnstiles as a direct result, but will also lead to a rise in hotel bookings and food & merchandise sales as well.

I am also happy to hear that Disney has not left the annual pass-holders (AP's) high and dry on their birthdays. If you are an AP there are several celebration options:

-A birthday fun card in an amount equal to the price of a 1-Day/1-Park ticket for you to use on your birthday for merchandise, recreation or fun activities at select participating locations.

-A special birthday FASTPASS® ticket+ for certain attractions at the Theme Park you visit on your birthday.

-Or a 1-Day/1-Park ticket for you to use any time until your next birthday.

The only thing I would add is that there should be some sort of incentive for AP's to visit parks on the opposite coast of their annual passes. If you have a Walt Disney World AP and you want to visit the Disneyland Resort for your birthday, you not only get a free one day ticket on your birthday, but also some sort of break on a hotel or dining package. AP's are the biggest Disney fans and if Disney were smart they'd cater aspects of this promotion for AP's to take an even longer vacation (i.e. spend even more money) at an opposite resort .

While I fear we have passed the point of no return with these annual themed campaigns for the parks and that over time there is a huge potential for them to go down-hill fast, the new "Celebrations" campaign is a great idea and one that will be very successful. It should be a good year for the parks in 2009! I guarantee you it was intentionally not called the "Year of Celebrations" for the sole reason that it will be extended after it proves successful... I can already here it... "the celebration continues!"

And maybe after the Year of Million Dreams is over we will all get one last Dream granted... the return of the Disney Gallery!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Drawings From Imagineers: John Horny

Of all the "Drawings from Imagineers" posts I have done, John Horny is the only one that is still at Walt Disney Imagineering. I met him in the halls after one of the WDI life drawing workshop back in 95' and he was kind enough to show me some of his work for the Disney cruise line that was in development.

John is one of those guys who will go down in the Disney history books as one of the great Imagineers. The last I heard he resides in a certain corner office at WDI that used to belong to John Hench. Enough said... I think so!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Save The Adventurers Club

An Adventure comes to an end, and I don't mean Indiana Jones 4.

I'm sure it's not news to most of you, but I thought it worth mentioning that the Adventurer's Club, along with the rest of Pleasure Island will close on September 28th. The club is themed as a "gentleman’s adventure club in 1937, and every night is 'open house' where they are recruiting new members. Mainly, you!" It is a one-of-a-kind Imagineering creation, and one that is worth saving.

Head over to Save the Adventurers Club ... they have some great photos as well as a petition to save the club. With enough voices maybe Disney will reconsider and
integrate it into the shopping district that is currently on the boards to replace Pleasure Island, or re-imagine it into Animal Kingdom or some other fitting location.

For the west coast, I've always wished Disney would put in an Adventurer's Club into Downtown Disney. Or even better yet, if they are never going to bring back the Tahitian Terrace, they should replace Aladdin's Oasis with a restaurant version of the Adventurer's Club.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Disneyland!

Happy 53rd Birthday Disneyland! I hope when Mickey blows out those candles and makes a wish that he wishes for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln to be brought back... Steve Martin you are 3 years over due.

Friday, July 4, 2008

King of the Castle... or Apartment

Everyday at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom in Florida, "Merlin the Magician selects young squires and ladies from throughout the kingdom for this test of strength and courage. If you succeed in this seemingly impossible task, you will be crowned the new monarch of the realm." And accordingly, the King should get to stay in the castle... or Walt's apartment.

What better way to dole out the grand prize for the Year of a Million Dreams promotion (a stay in the Castle or Walt's apartment for a night) than to award it as part of the Sword in the Stone ceremony? It would be a much more creative, entertaining, and public way to implement the overly advertised yet rarely witnessed Year of a Million Dreams campaign- instead of just having a cast member walk up to and say "You've won a stay in the castle."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Resident Fortune Tellers

I've been fascinated with the old coin operated fortune telling machines ever since I saw the movie "Big" where Tom Hanks pleads to Zoltar to make him magically grow up over night. These machines have a great sense of nostalgia, which is why it's no surprise that Disneyland is the home of two such fortune tellers Esmeralda and Shrunken Ned.

We all know how they work... you drop in a quarter, they read your palm or consult their cards, give you a little spiel and print you a card with your fortune. Both fortune tellers at Disneyland are really well placed and fit thematically within each land they reside. Esmeralda is an antique fortune teller that sits on Main Street in the Penny Arcade. The beheaded British explorer Shrunken Ned on the other hand, is an Imagineering one-of-a-kind found in the shops in Adventureland. You might even remember Captain Fortune Red who once resided in New Orleans Square?

I'd like to see Imagineering create custom fortune tellers for each land at Disneyland. In Fantasyland maybe the three Fairy God-Mothers from Sleeping Beauty grant you a wish, in Tomorrowland a droid may scan you and give you a piece of sage advice, and in New Orleans Square Calypso awaits to give you and eerie prediction (that you can hardly understand).

But these are Disney fortune tellers they should have greater powers than just prediction. For every hundred or so fortune cards dispensed the deck should be stacked with ones that are redeemable for something, like a fast pass for your entire party good on any ride in that land, a free trading pin, or a set of mouse ears! Or in other words all of the little prizes that are part of the Year of a Million Dreams (YMD) promotion.

I've griped about the YMD promotion before, but my issue is with the way the prizes are handed out rather than the concept itself. Utilizing Disneyland's resident fortune tellers would make winning some of these smaller prizes more surprising and entertaining for guests. It would remove the ambiguity of winning prizes under the current YMD promotion by making the who, what, when, where, and how quantifiable.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Please Remain Seated

Howdie folks! Sorry there has been a lack of posts lately. I've been in a bit of a crunch at work for the last month or so. But, not to fear the worst is over and I promise a bountiful summer at WED Enterprises Blog. Stay tuned for more "Drawings from Imagineers," "Countries I'd Like To See in Westcot," "The Golden E-Ticket," "WED Life Drawing" and much more!

I also plan to start a recurring post-theme on Disney related restaurant ideas. So in the mean time I'll leave you with this amazingly fanciful image of the "Restaurant De La Reserve" in Nice, France- circa 1930 (I think?) It has nothing directly to do with Disney but I must say I wouldn't mind seeing it recreated in a Disney park or Hotel.

See you in the next few weeks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Save the Rain Forest

Most everyone who frequents the Disney Blog-o-sphere is familiar with the "It's A Small World" debacle. If you're not and want the long version, you can read up with the various links to all sides of the issue at the bottom of this post. The short version is that there are rumors of proposed changes to "It's A Small World" which include the adding of Disney characters, the removal or reduction of the Rain Forest scene, and the addition of a tribute to America scene replacing the original finale.

I have many issues with each of these rumored additions, and I don't have time to cover all of them to the degree they deserve.  What bothers me the most is the mindset that the ride is irrelevant to younger generations, and that it is in need of being enhanced in order to resonate with people. I don't understand how the theme of children around the world uniting becomes more relevant to a child riding "It's a Small World" if there are Disney characters in it. It's a non sequitur, much like adding a figure of Captain Hook to Pirates of the Carribean- it's out of place and detracts thematically from the story being told.

Disney's recent history of making attractions more relevant by adding Disney characters hasn't been the resounding success they say it has been. To people like Disney archivist Dave Smith, who site such examples as the updating of the Tiki Room to the "Under New Management" version and the transformation of the "Swiss Family Tree house" to "Tarzan's Tree house," I would ask why haven't those upgrades been made to their various counterparts at the other parks if they are such relevant and successful changes? Is it because they don't want to change the original, classic version or is it because the change wasn't deemed worth adding in the end?

There is a certain percentage of the general public that will never like "It's a Small World" regardless of what is added or changed. You can't please all the people all the time. Case in point, my wife's cousins from Germany, whom, after we lured them onto the ride remarked, "that would have been fun with a shotgun." It's not for everyone, I understand. But to think that it needs a Disney tie-in to broaden the appeal and make it more popular than it has been is myopic.

To those who use the "Walt Was for Change" arguement... yes, yes, and yes. We all know Disneyland is and was a work in progress for Walt, and that he always wanted it to evolve and grow. But when Walt said those things about Disneyland there was only one Disneyland at the time. Today there are multiple Magic Kingdoms on many continents. There are various "Small World" rides amongst the parks world wide, some of which have already adopted these changes, but there is only one Mary Blair original. Isn't there some room, and value, to preserving some of the things that are unique to Walt's original sandbox?

If I were in charge at Disney I would use the fact that Disneyland is the original, and as such has many characteristics and attractions that are worth leaving untouched as historical centerpieces in the collection of their counterparts. I would use it as a selling point and even quite literally as a marketing campaign.

Related Letters, Articles, and Opinions:

-Animation Community Speaks from Re-Imagineering.
-World of Tears from Re-Imagineering
-Letter from the Blair Family.
-KCRW Interview with Imagineer Kim Irivine.
-Save the Rain Forest web site.
-Letter from Marty Sklar (courtesy of The Disney Blog.)
-Letter from Dave Smith at
-"It's A Sacrosanct World After All" from Your Souvineer Guide.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

iPhone Themepark

You're probably already asking yourself what possible connection can there be with the iPhone and Disneyland? Give me one second... the iPhone is gaining popularity. As time goes by, and various versions are released, I'm sure sales will continue to grow and that the iPhone will soon be as common place as the iPod. Given the close relationship between Apple and Disney, here are four ideas utilizing the ingenuity of both companies: selling Disney themed iphone home-screens, a ride wait-time "web app" for the iPhone, down-loadable park guide maps and show times, and a park hours widget! Here we go in detail...

1.Disney Home-Screen Themes for the iPhone.

People have been unlocking the software on the iPhone and installing among other things, custom created home screens and icons. It's gaining popularity and the themes that people have been creating are very professional looking. Of course it didn't take long for the Disney enthusiasts to have a go at this. It's high time for Disney and Apple to make these available legitimately through iTunes. The character themes are a little much for me personally. However, a friend of mine showed me a theme he had modified from the 1920's "old time" home screen found at iph0nethemepark. I couldn't resist modifying his modification with some subtle Disney touches. Recognize the wallpaper? And who is that predicting the weather in the crystal ball?

2. Disneyland Ride Wait-Time Web App.

A what?? The iPhone and iPod touch have "Web Apps." Miniature internet bookmarks if you will, to loads of handy information like finding local movie times, checking Halo 3 stats, or tracking packages. All this information is updated live to the iPhone. So what's my idea for a Disneyland Ride-Time Web App? Simply put, this on your iPhone:

The capability to check wait times on your iPhone while anywhere in the park! Or anywhere else in the world wishing you were in the park when you see Pirates is only a 5 minute wait.

3. Down-loadable Park Maps.Although not officially put out by Disney, there is a Disney Magic Kingdom Map Web App that is very cool. It gives you maps of all four Walt Disney World parks, you can quickly navigate to attractions and restaurants and give it a tap to see the details. This is a great idea, a digital version of the park guide maps found at the main gate. If I was Disney I would get on this- and quick. I would even take it a step further and have docking stations in City Hall on MainStreet and in Tomorrowland (how appropriate) where guests could dock their iPhone or iPod-Touch and download maps and daily show time schedules straight to their iPhone while in the park.

4. A Park Hours Widget.

A widget, and or web app that gives you daily park operating hours and show schedules at the push of a button on your desktop. There is actually a version of this on the annual passholders portion of the the Disneyland website. Which, by the design of it looks like a wanna-be widget...

...but you have to be an annual passholder and also have to be logged in to get it in this form. Otherwise you're stuck with the general calendar they offer which is a real "site" for sore eyes. Disney needs to get on the widget bandwagon, it's the 21st century guys! Information should be a lot easier to get than that.

There ya have it, four very "techy" ideas I'd like to see on my iPhone someday. These ideas aren't that hard or expensive to do for a company like Disney... fingers crossed everyone.

Special thanks to J.J. McQuay on this one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monorail News I'd Like To Hear

I was a little slow in hearing the news about Disneyland getting an updated and newly designed Monorail Mark VII, having just read about it on various websites a few weeks ago. The new Monorail designs are great and they really preserve the retro styling of some of the original versions from the fifties and sixties.

But here is some Monorail news I'd really like to hear... "We've connected the Monorail to the parking structure so people can use it for actual transportation!"

Ever since the off-site Mickey and friends parking structure went up, Disneyland has been faced with the task of getting guests to the park gates. It's absolutely crazy that they haven't connected the Monorail to the second level of the parking structure yet. You could have a security check area as you enter the line, board and then get whisked right into the park. No escalator to the tram, tram to the security check area, security check area to the butt of the line to get tickets (whether you need them or not) and finally to a line at the gates that's over 150 feet long. If you have ever tried to go to Disneyland in the summer months you know what I mean, it can take 2 hours to get from your car to Main Street. I'd rather spend a morning at the DMV.

When the Monorail was first introduced it was seriously considered and intended for transportation. There was no walk-way through Downtown Disney that went over Disneyland Drive, so people took the Monorail to get to the hotel. Today access to the hotel is walkable via Downtown Disney, (and likely even desired given the gauntlet of money spending opportunities) while access to the parking structure is anything but. So why not connect the Monorail to the parking structure?

Walt was thinking practically with things like the People Mover and the Monorail. Case in point is the Monorail system in Florida. A working and highly effective mode of transportation that is fun, unlike the cattle drive that is the tram system of Disneyland. "I said please stay behind the yellow line... PLEASE STAY BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE...STAY BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE!!!!... Driver you tram is all cle... PLEASE STAND....." And if you look at the original concept for EPCOT, ("the city" not the park) the People Mover was to be an actual means of getting people out of the urban working center to the residential outskirts of the city. So why not a people mover from the parking structure to the gates of Disneyland?

While I think it's great we're getting a new Monorail, I can't help but feel that it's just one more sign that whomever is making these decisions is very out of touch with the basic ideas Walt had in making Disneyland fun and functional. If the revamp of California Adventure boosts the resorts' attendance to the kind of numbers Disney hopes it will, the problem is only going to get worse.

The Monorail and the People Mover are ideas that have been around the park for some twenty or thirty years plus, it's amazing no has thought of using them to address one of the largest logistical problems facing Disneyland today.

Update 1-29-08: "Mayor of Anaheim Proposes Monorail Funding" this is Disney's chance if there ever was one!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Incognito Is Neat-O'

For various reasons, that I won't bore anyone with, I've decided to go a little more incognito here- at least on the surface. Besides, some scoundrel took the name "Mr. Lincoln" as their XBox Live tag before I could get at it, (which I was highly looking forward to using.) Anyway, it gives me a chance to use it here instead, besides going incognito is kind of fun!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering Marc Davis

This Saturday January 12th, marks the passing of one of the greatest Imagineers and animators of all time- Marc Davis.

Marc Davis' work has withstood the test of time and his creations still hold out as the top attractions at Disneyland parks around the world. The Haunted Mansion is one of the most popular rides hands down. Only to be topped by Pirates of the Carribean, which some 40 years later inspired 3 films that are in ranks of Disney's highest grossing box office ever. Not too bad uh?

Before working for WED Enterprises/Imagineering Marc Davis was one of the "Nine Old Men," Walt's elite crew of supervising animators. He's animated a few characters you may have heard of... Maleficent, Cruella DeVille, Tinker Bell, Sleeping Beauty??

I had the chance to meet Marc Davis and his wife Alice back in 1999 about six months before his passing. He is the only one of the Nine Old Men I have had a chance to meet, but if I had to pick, he would be my first choice. He was kind enough to sign my sketchbook. Talk about an iconic signature to go along with a rich and iconic career!