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May 31, 2006
Researchers Try to Talk with the Dolphins at Epcot
Calvin's got rhythm -- and scientists are excited, since the Disney performer weighs 450 pounds and breathes through a blowhole. A 12-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin living in the backwaters of Epcot at Walt Disney World, Calvin is being taught a vocal form of communication that involves the cadence of his sounds, something that's never been done before with animals, his researchers said. He is one of four dolphins that spend much of the day swimming around Epcot's Living Seas attraction to the delight of customers, then moonlight at Disney as scientific research subjects. Calvin stars in an experiment that has scientists exploring whether dolphins can communicate with language that doesn't rely on the pitch, timbre or intensity of vocalizations -- the variations that humans most typically use to form words -- but on the sounds' duration and rhythm.
Hilton Hotels Corp. announced plans today to build two luxury hotels - one named after the storied Waldorf Astoria hotel - - at Bonnet Creek near Walt Disney World with a combined 1,500 rooms. The two are the latest in a series of high-end hotel projects announced this year in the Disney and Orange County Convention Center area. Construction is expected to begin this summer with opening projected for summer 2009.
Magical Milestones Reflect Continued Success Of Disney's Vacation Ownership Business
Disney Vacation Club, the innovative vacation-ownership program that helps families enjoy flexibility and savings on decades of future vacations to Disney destinations and more than 500 other popular sites around the world, marks two magical milestones this year: the recent "welcoming home" of its 100,000th Member family and the celebration of the program's 15th anniversary this fall. "These milestones mark the latest chapters in this great Disney success story," said Jim Lewis, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Disney Vacation Development, Inc., which manages and operates the Disney Vacation Club program. "More families than ever are discovering the magic of membership."
Malaysia is exploring plans to build the first Disney theme park in Southeast Asia, a government minister said Tuesday. Effendi Norwawi, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of economic affairs, said the government is in talks with Disneyland operators in Japan and the United States to establish a theme park in the southern state of Johor, near Singapore. "We are exploring all our options, including this (Disneyland) because in the southern corridor development, we want it to be a comprehensive and attractive region," he was quoted as saying by national Bernama news agency. "So this will include theme park and other attractions." Effendi said the government hopes for an agreement with Disney, but it is also "discussing with several other parties to get the best option." He did not give details and could not be reached for further comments.
Walt Disney Studios is expecting a big summer with the release of the highly anticipated animated film "Cars" and the next installment in the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. But not all is well in movieland - and changes are afoot. With a decline in DVD sales and the rising cost of making movies, Hollywood in general has been tightening its belt. And now Disney, as part of a long-term review, is contemplating layoffs, looking to rein in costs and rethinking the type of movies it wants to make at its live-action Disney Studios, according to people apprised of Disney's planning.
Broadway is swinging! Disney's newest musical, "Tarzan," had its world premiere on May 10 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in New York City. In the spectacular tradition of Disney on Broadway, the Lord of the Apes joins such stage gems as "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King," and Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida." To get a look behind the jungle vines, we turned to David Henry Hwang, who wrote the book for the show (in stage lingo, the book is the script for the non-musical portion of a musical production). David was part of a stellar creative lineup including Phil Collins, who wrote the music and lyrics, Bob Crowley, the director and scenic & costume designer, and Josh Strickland (Tarzan) and Jenn Gambatese (Jane), the stars of the show. He joined the "Tarzan" team in 2001, but he was no stranger to Disney, having worked on Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida."
More chunks of the Disney empire are being sold off for housing, including a 349-acre parcel going to the developers of the massive Horizon West community in west Orange County. The new Disney land sales also include a 60-acre site south of Seidel Road that would be reserved for a new high school serving the Horizon West area. The Walt Disney Co. reportedly is selling the 349-acre site, set around Panther Lake, north of Seidel and southeast of the Orange County National Golf Center, to Centex Homes. Reedy Creek also is selling a 50-acre tract, south of Seidel and just east of the high school reserve, to Centex. The Disney tract and the two Reedy Creek parcels are about a mile northwest of the official boundaries of Walt Disney World.
Thr cars of "Cars," the animated Pixar film that opens nationally on June 9, were designed on Route 66. But not entirely - they were also designed at Pixar's headquarters in Emeryville, Calif., where 800 animators and other dreamers work on 3,000 computers inside a former fruit processing plant. But to hear Michael Wallis, a historian of the highways, tell it, they were inspired by research expeditions to racetracks, styling studios and car shows. Inspiration also flowed from the ruins of a Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit and from the Detroit Institute of Arts, with its car-factory murals by Diego Rivera - and from what's left of Route 66, the legendary artery through the heart of the American Dream.
Minnie Indy Charity Race - Indanapolis Motor Speedway
"I'm going to Disneyland!" Those famous words were spoken by Jimmy Bowker, a fourth-grade student from Highland, Ind., after receiving congratulations from Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters for winning the Minnie Indy Charity Race on May 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jimmy was awarded an all-expense paid trip to Disneyland in Southern California to take with his immediate family, and Luyendyk won a $25,000 donation from Disney to donate to a charity he selected, the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Each of the 35 drivers competing in the Minnie Indy Charity Race was awarded $1,000 from Disney to donate to the charity of their choice.
Walt Disney Internet Group and Shanda to Bring Disney Content to China's Online Game
Walt Disney Internet Group and Shanda Interactive Entertainment announced today that the two companies have entered into an agreement to bring Disney's premier branded entertainment content to China's online game industry via Shanda's online game operating platform. The agreement calls for Shanda to develop, distribute and operate an online casual game based on the magical worlds of Disney and featuring some of Disney's most popular animated characters. The game, which will be developed for a broader demographic than traditional online games, as well as China's burgeoning segment of female online gamers, will be available in China for open beta in the spring of 2007.
Led by Master Magician Mickey, an all-star cast of Disney celebrities will step into the spotlight today for the world premiere of Disney Live! presents Mickey's Magic Show. This brand new show, featuring world class illusions and produced by Feld Entertainment, will launch its traveling showcase at the National Theatre in Washington, DC, this evening."Disney Live! presents Mickey's Magic Show gives children the opportunity to believe, to wonder and to imagine a world where anything is possible," said Kenneth Feld, producer of the Disney Live! shows and producer of the most successful live illusion show of all time, Siegfried & Roy. "And, because of our partnership with First Book, not only will our show give families a whole new way to experience Disney magic, it will also give children the chance to discover the magic of reading."
Autodesk LocationLogic Connects Disney Mobile Families in New Ways
Autodesk, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSK), today announced that Disney Mobile will use Autodesk(R) software and professional services to bring their forthcoming Family Locator(TM) wireless location services to market. Disney Mobile is leveraging Autodesk's award-winning LocationLogic(TM) platform and software applications to enable parents to locate their children's handsets using GPS technology. "We selected Autodesk for its corporate strength, software development expertise and long-standing commitment to the wireless location services marketplace," said George Grobar, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Mobile. "Autodesk is a trusted partner in delivering our go-to-market strategy."
El Capitan Theatre Celebrates its 80th Anniversary
Hollywood's legendary El Capitan Theatre gets its 80th anniversary off to a flying start with a special two- week engagement of Disney's Oscar(R)-winning animated classic, "Dumbo," from May 25th - June 7th, it was announced today (5/8/06) by Lylle Breier, senior vice president of worldwide special events for Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. "Dumbo" is celebrating its 65th birthday this year, and a new deluxe "Big Top Edition" DVD release of the film is scheduled for June 6th. For this engagement, a pristine new transfer of the film was made, and it will be digitally projected for an enhanced theatrical experience. Adding to the fun of this special anniversary event will be a live in-theatre appearance by Winnie the Pooh (who is also celebrating his 80th birthday this year), and a showing of the 1966 Pooh animated featurette, "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree."
Energizer Brings the Magic of Disney-Pixar's Cars Straight to Your Home
Starting in May, Energizer is marking the upcoming release of Disney-Pixar's animated feature film, Cars, with new Cars-inspired character car launchers and flashlights. The free collectible Energizer(R) Cars launchers will be available in specially marked packs of Energizer(R) MAX(R) AA eight batteries at participating retailers nationwide while supplies last. The packages will contain one of three Cars characters: Lightning McQueen, Mater or Doc. To further enhance the Cars experience, Energizer is also offering a new collection of Cars-inspired flashlights.
Once a haven for grown-ups looking to dance the night away, Disney's Pleasure Island is morphing into a place where Mom, Dad and the little ones can feel comfortable -- but the wild uncle is still welcome. The transformation, part of a revamped night-life strategy for Walt Disney World, is not just an image makeover. Bulldozers are involved. Disney is tearing out bridges, building a bigger, more prominent new bridge, knocking down two outdoor music stages, cutting a building in half, leveling a hill, opening up vistas of the lake and getting away from the back-alley warehouse-district look. The goal is to merge Pleasure Island more with the other two districts of Downtown Disney -- geographically and in appeal.
Entertainment Giant Earns $733 Million in 2nd Quarter
The success of ABC-TV shows such as Desperate Housewives and the unexpected hit High School Musical on the Disney Channel helped hike Walt Disney Co. profit by 12 percent during the first three months of 2006. Disney's theme parks helped too -- despite troubled performances in Paris and Hong Kong -- according to the second-quarter financial report Disney filed Tuesday. The company offered diluted earnings of 37 cents a share, compared with earnings of 31 cents a share for the second quarter of the 2005 fiscal year. Also for the quarter, which ended April 1, Disney reported profit of $733 million, up from the $657 million that the company earned in January, February and March of 2005.
Winnie the Pooh has joined the Queen in having an 80th birthday portrait. Jane Bown, who photographed the monarch earlier this year in celebration of her 80th, was given exclusive access to Britain's beloved bear at Hundred Acre Wood in Sussex. Ms Bown, a distinguished octogenarian herself whose previous subjects have included Sir Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Muhammad Ali and Samuel Beckett, said: "It was a happy experience and I was totally enchanted by him."
For Platoon Sergeant Craig T. Silva, SFC, US, Multi-National Division, Baghdad, even the torrential rains and brutal dust storms in the Iraqi desert can't keep him from enjoying a little Disney magic. Silva, who is the Platoon Sergeant for GIS (Geospatial Information & Services) Section at a Division level, keeps a copy of author Lou Mongello's 2004 book, "The Walt Disney World Trivia Book," close at hand to remind him of the good times he spent with his family at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
For 10 years Disney and McDonald's appeared to have a beautiful billion-dollar marriage. Happy Meals bore little figurines of Nemo, Mr. Incredible, and Peter Pan. But no more. This is one relationship that's ending because of the children. Disney is not renewing its billon-dollar, cross-promotional pact with the fast-food giant, which ends with this summer's release of Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The reason, in part, say multiple high-ranking sources, is the family-friendly entertainment giant wants to distance itself from fast food -- and its links to the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Shareholders of Pixar Animation Studios Inc. Friday voted to approve the company's acquisition by The Walt Disney Co. for $7.4 billion in stock. The vote makes Pixar a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney and makes former Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs Disney's single largest shareholder with about a 7 percent stake. Jobs was named to Disney's board as a non-independent member. He had already said he would cast his Pixar shares, which represents 40 percent of the company's outstanding stock, in favor of the merger. Shareholders met briefly in San Francisco to ratify the deal. Under the plan, Pixar shareholders will exchange each of their shares for 2.3 shares of Disney stock.
At 9:02am May 2, 2006 Disneyland lived up to its reputation as "The Happiest Place on Earth" as it welcomed 12-year old Emmalee Mason of Colorado Springs, Colorado, as she became the honorary two-billionth guest to visit a Disney Park (nearly the combined populations of China and India). Citing the two-billionth Disney Park guest is just one of the highlights of 2006 as the global 50th anniversary celebration of Disney Parks around the world continues. Throughout the year each Disney resort will unveil more new innovative attractions and spectacular entertainment designed to appeal to guests of all ages with immersive experiences that only Disney can provide.
Disney Online Delivers First-Ever Yearbook Showcasing A Year Of Magical Memories
Disney fans can now preserve last year's most magical memories in one special collection. Disney Online, in partnership with Disney Publishing Worldwide, announced today the release of the Disney Insider Yearbook: 2005 Year in Review, a lavish, 170-page commemorative edition that captures major milestones and events with colorful photos, behind-the-scenes coverage, and commentary from Disney's most influential insiders. In addition, fans who purchase the hard-cover edition will receive a special edition DVD loaded with 150 minutes of exclusive interview footage with the book's editors, interactive trivia questions and video highlights from 2005.