As you may have read, Disney is christening its newest ship, the Disney Dream, on January 19. As a precursor to the christening ceremony and cruise, a special event was held Tuesday night in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for an assortment of guests, including members of the media, who were also treated to a briefing on what’s new and what’s next in the parks as Disney launches their new “Let the Memories Begin” campaign.
Many of the plans discussed at the briefing were announced earlier in the day, but the briefing, and the subsequent interviews we were able to conduct later, shed a little more light on them.
The briefing began at the Philharmagic Theater, with Al Weiss, president of Worldwide Operations, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Weiss stated that there were more projects in the works than ever before in the company’s history and recapped additions to Disney parks around the world.
Weiss then introduced Walt Disney World Resort’s president Meg Crofton, who officially kicked off the “Let the Memories Begin” campaign by talking about how memories were at the core of everything they do at the parks.
“Ultimately it’s not about the bricks and mortar,” she noted. “Every time we add an element we think about the emotional experiences we’re creating.”
Crofton detailed several recent park additions or new “immersive experiences”, such as the Wild Africa Trek experience which started a few days ago at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She also highlighted such features as the interactive queue area at The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, and the new “Tangled” Play and greet that allows children to play with Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder.
As she revealed that the renovated attraction “Star Tours” would reopen on May 20 – in 3D — Crofton also had the chance to tease the audience a bit. Imposing music from the “Star Wars” films began to play, announcing the arrival of Imperial Stormtroopers and Darth Vader himself. “Now that’s what I call 3D,” Crofton joked as the villain and his entourage strode out of the theater.
Eric Jacobson, Senior Vice President of Creative Development, Walt Disney Imagineering, then took the stage to outline some of the major changes coming to Fantasyland as part of its current expansion project. Some of the changes were previously announced last year, like Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid, but there were several new attractions just announced today.
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will feature first-of-its-kind ride technology that allows the cars to swing back and forth a bit as it takes riders both inside and outside on a journey starring the Dwarfs and even Snow White. The Scary Adventures of Snow White will close as a result, but on its site will be the new Princess Fairytale Hall, which will host a variety of princesses, including the newer members of the royal family, Tiana and Rapunzel. Finally, fans of the gentle coaster, Goofy’s Barnstormer in Toontown will be happy to hear that it is being slightly rethemed, but will still feature Goofy. Redubbed The Great Goofini, . the storyline will have Goofy as a stunt pilot who is part of the Storybook Circus, new home to Dumbo All of these attractions will start “rolling out” in late 2012.
You can watch Deb Wills speak with Jacobson about the Fantasyland changes below:
Alan Bruun, associate creative director at Walt Disney World Entertainment, was tasked with introducing the new 10-minute castle show that is tied to the Let the Memories Begin campaign.
“The Magic, The Memories, and You,” features photos of visitors to Walt Disney World taken during the day, and then projected on the castle in the evening. This basic description, however, fails to take into account the special effects also used to create an almost 3D effect and bring the castle to life.
According to Bruun, as many as 500 photos shot during the day will be projected onto the castle — but these photos are all selected individually, in a process that Bruun says involves as much ‘high touch” as high tech, and then are interwoven into a “story” that tells the guests’ experience.
After dinner in Frontierland and desserts in front of the castle, we had the chance to see the new show first-hand. I was skeptical at first as to whether watching photos of strangers would be entertaining at all. But after viewing the show, I must say I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Some of the special effects are simply amazing, the music is stirring and of course the finale with fireworks is the perfect end to any show. I don’t want to ruin all the surprises, but if you don’t mind spoilers, we recorded the show here:
Tomorrow is a whole new kind of experience for me, as we take to the “high seas” and I get my first taste of cruising on the brand new Disney Dream! We’ll have lots of photos and hopefully we’ll get the chance to write a bit, if our luck with the internet holds out.
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