Thursday, 31 May 2012

John Carter of What The Hell Happenned?!?!?!

The following is a post that has been formulating in my head for the past 6 weeks; so I apologise if it's a little out of date topically, it's been a busy few weeks. That said, I think it will turn out to be an interesting post so let's get on with it as it's going to be a long one.


So, John Carter ("JCM") has come and gone from the cinemas and if you are using the 2.5x - 3x production budget ($250m) to break even rule, it did pretty bad at $282m; especially considering the lack of ancillary incomes to supplement it.

This of course is not the first time that Disney has had a movie flop, nor will it be the last. Fantasia, now referred to as "Disney's Masterpiece" was for a long time referred to as "Disney's Follie" after it didn't fair too well in its original 1940 release. The story goes that 23 years later Walt was passed a note during a meeting that Fantasia had finally broken even; and it wouldn’t be until 1969 (after Walt’s death) that the film actually made an official profit.

Lots of people have placed the blame for JCMs failure on different reasons, and I will look at many of them in this post and give my opinions; but overall it's fair to say that a complete mess was made of this film by pretty much every department. And the biggest shame of this mess isn't that Disney lost money, it's just a dent in the money making machine; the biggest shame is that this was a damn good movie that should have been enjoyed by many more people. In fact, the only department that did a decent job was the one that made the film itself; the one headed by Andrew Stanton.

Because the film I saw on opening weekend wasn’t a flop, it was an epic movie with story, action, romance, beautiful art and a strong soundtrack. It felt like watching a sci-fi classic like the original Star Wars, but with far better special effects; yet not to the point where you considered yourself watching a CGI movie. I wanted to see this movie, my wife wasn’t bothered but came because I wanted to, my 8 year son was flat out against seeing it (because he had experienced zero marketing for it to interest him) but got dragged along because we were going. Half way through the film my son lent over to me and whispered “you know how I said I didn’t want to see this fim…… I take it back”. All three of us really enjoyed it; and we encouraged my sister and her family to see it and they enjoyed it too. In fact, I don’t personally know anyone who saw it and didn’t enjoy it. Sure, it’s not a “perfect” movie, are there any? But this really was a 4 quadrant movie (appealing to male, female, young, old), what every studio wants; so how the hell did it fail?

Before we look at the possible reasons though, I should give JCM a rating of my own. As I said, it wasn’t perfect, but there was little I could complain about either; and if it weren’t for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Lynn Collins’ Dejah Thoris would be the sexiest female on the big screen this year. I loved the movie and look forward to seeing it again on BluRay soon; so I give it 9 out of 11 and highly recommend you give it a try when available on home release if you missed it in the cinema.


So, now down to the possible reasons for its failure.

I, like many, heard about JCM a long time ago through the Disney grapevine as news about this being in development broke at the same time that Stanton’s previous project, Wall*E, was opening to rave reviews in 2008. At the time, very little was known other than Andrew Stanton, who was/is part of the Pixar brain trust and till that point had only made Pixar movies, would be directing. It was therefore regarded that whether it was live action or animated, which was also said to be undecided at that time, it would be a Pixar movie.

In January of 2009 it was announced that it would be live action rather than animated and would be a Walt Disney Studios (“WDS”) production and not a Pixar movie as first thought. Unfortunately things started going wrong from almost this point onwards.

According to Disney, the reasoning was quite simple, Pixar makes 3D animated movies, WDS makes bigger budget live action movies; so while the director and creative team may be most known for their Pixar work, it’s all one big company and projects can be moved around to the studio that most fits the project. Indeed this is in tune with the way Disney has often worked; Walt Disney Animation makes the feature length animated movies, WDS makes the family movies and the more risque movies were released under other Disney owned studios like Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures.

The press, however, had a far more juicier spin on why the movie was moved or disassociated from Pixar. According to the press, it was a sign that JCM would break the Pixar success streak, thus showing Disney’s lack of confidence in the project; it was sure to be a flop. Bare in mind of course, that at this point they were only on the second draft of a script. There had been no casting, no location work and not much in the way of development; so if Disney were that afraid this was going to be a flop they could have easily just pulled the plug on the project; they didn’t.

However, this turned out to be just the first salvo in the onslaught the press would rage against JCM. Why? It was an easy target. You see, Ego’s diatribe at the end of Ratatouille has a lot of truth to it; critics love to be able to berate the subject of their coverage, it’s a power trip; and you rarely think of the word “criticism” in a positive sense. So imagine how much these people must want Pixar to finally fail with a movie so they can really dig their teeth in; they begrudge Pixar their unprecedented string of success. And even when they’ve been able to level some criticism against a movie for not being up to the Pixar standard (Cars and Cars 2), the movies have still gone on to be a success at the box office and generate over $2billon every year in merchandise sales. So while they can’t easily bring down a Pixar film, JCM was vulnerable enough and Pixar enough that it could be sabotaged and those who have wanted a pound of Pixar flesh could feel smug in doing so.

After laying the foundation of fears over the studio change, the press then made a big deal over their not being any A List celebrities in the cast; Stanton deciding to give lesser known actors the chance to make a role for themselves rather than casting Hugh Jackman in the title role which had been anticipated. Next came the spiralling costs of the project which no doubt were high; but the press made to sound astronomical. In fact, while this was at the higher end, the budget was not dissimilar to many of the WDS big budget movies of the last few years.

Much of the press buried JCM before it even had a chance, the opportunity to report its failure before it had even been released was prioritised over giving it a fair chance or honest review; and of course, it was always “Pixar’s Andrew Stanton” who was at the helm to get that connection into the bashing.

So with positive press pretty much ruled out, it came down to Disney to promote the film to its target audience. That shouldn’t be too hard though should it? Disney couldn’t have done a worse job if it tried.

Problem No.1, although it was a 4 quadrant movie, the marketing was aimed at none of them. A UK film podcast by a national radio station referred to JCM as “really good for a kids film”; and they weren’t being derogatory, they truly thought that it was supposed to be aimed at kids. The problem with that being that kid’s films don’t usually have a $250m price tag and kids were probably the least marketed to of all the market segments.


In fact, following the studio move, one of the next big news pieces on JCM was that the movie was totally shunned at the major toy fairs with no-one being interested in taking up the licensing. Whether Disney’s demands were outrageous or the negative news already circling the project were to blame is unknown; either way, no toys. This in itself was ridiculous; but not without precedent. Back in the mid 90’s, Disney Consumer Products was so busy with tie ins for Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas that they decided they wouldn’t bother making any merchandise or toys for Pixar’s first movie Toy Story (consider that next time you look in a Disney Store and see the percentages of space needed for the merchandise of the three films). By the time that Pixar convinced them that they at least needed to make a Buzz and Woody doll the lead time was half that of normal toy development and production and Hasbro and Mattel both passed. If Pixar hadn’t gone to lengths and taken the risk along with a small Canadian toy manufacturer (Thinkway Toys), the must have Christmas toy of 1995 would never have been made at all. Unfortunately for JCM, there was no Thinkway Toys; Disney Consumer Products appeared to just give up on it after the first rejections. This was a waste of a huge opportunity, JCM has humans, aliens, dangerous beasts, riding beasts, 1/2 person vehicles, huge spaceships and cities; it should have had an awesome toy line to go with it. What is more, it should have been one of the properties used in the agreement between Disney and Lego as it was a treasure trove of potential Lego sets; but no. On a similar note, where was the computer/console game?? Riding vehicles, spaceships and fighting monsters and armies; sure, its been done before, but that doesn’t usually stop them from making another one.

A fan made Lego cast of JCM; there should have been a real one

The lack of merchandise hurt the movie and not just in supplemental income to the box office (and again, bare in mind that Cars merchandise makes 4 times the box office of the movie on a yearly basis); but in the box office itself. Merchandise is advertising, having a display in the toy isle brings the film to kids attention and makes them want to see the movie. To an 8 year old, having adverts on TV for the merchandise is probably more effective than the movie trailer. As I said at the start, I had to drag my son to see JCM; if there had been Lego sets, he would have wanted them because they were Lego, and then wanted to see the movie because it ties in with his new sets. My son hates scary things, he doesn’t even like the dark rides of Fantasyland; but Lego is releasing a classic monsters set in July and he hasn’t shut up about it since they started posting pictures on their website.

The lack of participation in cross promotions has also hurt Disney in general but could have been of benefit to JCM; especially with the lack of merchandise available. A McDonald's Happy Meal set of 6 characters could have really helped get images and knowledge to both children and adults (as we always end up reading the Happy Meal box while waiting for the kids to finish their food).

No merchandise also meant that there were no displays in even the Disney Stores where Disney could have been advertising the movie world wide. A few weeks back Adam Goodger commented on my JCM t-shirt (one of the few items on the Disney website apart from a mug or mouse mat) that it will probably be a collectible as no-one else will have bought one; and he may not be far off.

So basically, the only kids that saw JCM were the ones taken to it by parents who wanted to see the movie; there was nothing to make the kids a factor in box office.

So, lets look at the adults. While JCM is a 4 quadrant movie, by far the biggest quadrant of appeal is probably males aged 15 – 40; in other words, me.

I first found out about JCM through Jim Hill talking about upcoming projects on the Magical Definition Podcast. Not much was said, mostly that it was Andrew Stanton, it was going to be big budget and that there were fears that it could be a big risk. My knowledge of the movie from any official sources; nothing. In September of 2011, 6 months before release, I was in Walt Disney World and Disneyland; and saw absolutely nothing in any of the parks to market, hype or inform about the movie. I did however see the teaser trailer for the first time on resort television; this one.


 And I quite liked it, it appealed to me; but I still knew nothing about the movie.

And then I got to see the JCM segment of the Walt Disney Studios presentation at D23 Expo. While some found it a little long winded, I came out of this presentation really looking forward to seeing JCM. Firstly, it was the first time I really found out what JCM was; that it was by the author of Tarzan, that it was a whole series of books, that at 100 years old and the inspiration of almost all modern day and well known classic science fiction; why hadn’t this been communicated by Disney on a main stream basis?? But secondly, listening to Andrew Stanton talk about the books he loved as a child and how he wanted to make a movie that remained true to them, I could tell the passion he had for the project; and I knew he would be making a good movie.

Andrew Stanton and the Cast of JCM at D23 Expo 2011

From that point on, I saw the released trailers in a new light because I had some idea what was happening and the significance; the problem was, there was nothing in there to educate or inform the vast majority who wouldn’t have a clue. And that is those who actually saw the trailer because unless I sought it out, I saw practically no sign of it.

This is where we get onto probably what I personally believe was the biggest contributor of JCM’s failure; the marketing and advertising was not only not good enough, it wasn’t visible.

The teaser poster was actually pretty cool, it was a simple black and white face and upper torso with the JCM logo in red and as a teaser poster it was sufficient. The only possibly issue with it being that the logo still and always read JCM while the title of the film was changed from John Carter of Mars to just John Carter in May 2011. While this makes perfect sense when watching the movie, from an advertising standpoint, it’s a little odd when your logo and film title do not match.

The problem was, that all the follow up posters were mostly just further teaser posters, none of them felt like the proper movie poster. The catchphrase used “Lost in our world, Found on another” would have been OK if there weren’t any better; but in a film with so much history there was a wealth of better ones that could have been used. None of the posters said “from author Edgar Rice Burroughs” or “from the creator of Tarzan”; none of them stated it was “100 years in the making”; none of them stated “the story that inspired a genre”. For the most part, anyone who saw the poster thought JCM was Prince of Persia on Mars; and that isn’t the impression you want to be setting. But at the same time, it didn’t really matter how good or bad the posters were, because the posters weren’t actually being displayed anywhere. Now obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I’m sure they were somewhere; but seeing as I live in a pretty metropolitan town and work 5 days a week in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world and didn’t see a single poster outside of the cinema; that’s a pretty decent indication of the lack of coverage. I see dozens of film posters every day; they are plastered throughout train and tube stations, they are on the back of bus stops and plastered along the side of the buses themselves; but in the weeks prior and during JCMs cinema run, all the posters and buses were for Journey2 and This Means War; two films on a fraction of the budget of JCM but had far more visible advertising and had a much higher return in the box office.

No, these weren't done by a 15 year old on Photoshop, they were the real posters

The trailers were a similar story, the initial trailer was fine for an initial trailer, it felt like it was a serious film because of the deep, slow music; but gave glimpses that the film could contain much more in action and fantasy. Again the problem was that the next trailers weren’t that great and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks before the film’s release that an action packed trailer was finally released. They did release a 10 minute clip to the internet but it was the first slow 10 minutes that contained little of what made the film awesome; it was all set up. And yet again there were the same problems, the trailers did nothing to educate about the significance of JCM nor were they really geared towards a certain market (although they definitely weren’t designed to attract kids). Disney.com was showing the trailer with an introduction from Andrew Stanton where he gave the important information that the trailers were lacking; but making up for the shortcomings of the trailers from one source doesn’t help the majority of film goers.



 
And much like the posters were invisible, the trailers got zero air play. I watch a fair amount of TV and I watch various channels; I honestly do not remember seeing any of the JCM trailers on TV in that entire period. I know there was a spot for the movie during the Super Bowl in the USA which is considered a big thing and it was a good spot (if you discount the lack of education), but in the UK I didn’t see it get any air time; not even on the Disney channels.


 
The Disney JCM website was a little better. It gives the following synopsis of the movie:

“John Carter the newest movie from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton is an action adventure story set on Barsoom, the exotic and mysterious planet we know as Mars. Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic novel, John Carter is the story which inspired many of the most imaginative and well known Hollywood movies, past and present.”

At last, something that gives a little bit of the information that should have been the foundation of the entire marketing campaign; but how many people would have seen this? Sadly not enough, and how many people would have recognised Burroughs name without the mention of Tarzan? It is obvious that many of those who did see the movie didn’t know about its historical significance because many commented that it ripped off aspects of other science fiction films; where in fact the opposite was true. But without proper marketing it would be easy to not know that and to judge that JCM was the copycat thus devaluing the movie.

Disney could have so easily both gotten around this, educated the public and grown anticipation for JCM by airing 5 minute monologues with world renowned writers and directors who were inspired by the original John Carter stories talking about what JCM means to them. Done well, it could have been a very classy way of promoting the movie through its historical relevance to film.

What is most confusing, is that to the fans and people paying attention, the flaws in the marketing where so obvious; so how did none of the professionals spot this? I have read through loads of blog and forum posts from all over he internet and pretty much everyone is pointing to the same problems. Over at www.thejohncarterfiles.com they have made their own trailers for the movie, using a lot of the trailer footage but with splicing in the education aspect that was so sadly lacking; and the results were great. To me, this proves that the film content was there, even the footage chosen to be used in the trailers was good; it was just handled and put together terribly.

The following are trailers that fans have made; compare them to the above ones and decide for yourself which ones compel you to see the movie.





 
The result of this bad and lack of marketing was simple, no-one knew about JCM, it was a complete non entity. While writing this blog post I have been asked by several people what I am writing about; and when I have answered “about why John Carter failed so badly” the reply I got was every time was the same “What/Who is John Carter?”. How a major big budget movie from 2 months ago manages to go by completely unheard of in this day and age is astonishing and really shows how bad the marketing of this movie was handled. Unfortunately, the only exposure many have had to JCM was reading of its failure.

And I wish I could say that this is an anomaly; unfortunately it was the tip of the iceberg; Disney has been leading to a flop like this for a couple of years.

In late 2009, Disney replaced long time Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios Dick Cook with the man given the credit for the High School Musical success Rich Ross; the fans weren’t exactly enthusiastic about this. Rich Ross then brought in MT Carney as President of Worldwide Marketing for WDS; a marketer with zero experience in the movie business having previous marketed packaged goods. It has been a string of failures ever since, each film release further from Dick Cook and his marketing team’s release less successful; and a failure of JCMs size was bound to happen eventually.

Rich Ross and MT Carney; former Disney employees

There are a couple of things to keep in mind out of fairness. Films take a long time to make, so almost all the movies that have been released in the last 3 years were green lit by Dick Cook. So if the film idea was plain bad, then its not overly Ross’s fault, he couldn’t come in and shut everything down. But the flip side of that obviously is that all the films that were great ideas or very good movies weren’t to his credit either; he just administered their release. The movies that Ross green lit are the ones that we will be seeing over the next couple of years; some of which are greatly anticipated.

But films aren’t successful purely based on how good their premise are; there are plenty of mediocre and bad films that do reasonably well and even spawn sequels because they are marketed cleverly or have a very well edited trailer. And of course very good premise films can fail. In this area Ross and Carney are entirely responsible because it is their job to try their hardest to make everything a success whether they green lit the film or not or whether it is any good or not. It could have been the worst film ever made; it was still their job to sell it to us like it was a masterpiece. They had both been in their roles for near and just over 2 years by the release of JCM; they weren’t caught short of time or by surprise, there are no excuses.

For me, the first and last question that has to be answered is; if the director of Finding Nemo and Wall*E had gone to Rich Ross and said that he wanted to make a live action epic movie, which could lead to a trilogy, based on the classic series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs that inspired an entire genre of movie making; would Rich Ross have given the green light. If the answer is yes, then there are no excuses at all that it was green lit by his predecessor; if the answer is no, then maybe he has an out but still should have done everything to make the movie a success. Personally, I think that he would have said yes, but haggled the budget down from $260m to nearer $180-$200. If the movie had been the success it could and should have been, then it would have blown past whatever budget had been set.

But as I said before, lets look at the bigger picture here, because this wasn’t an anomaly.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012 until JCM, Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Feature Animation and Pixar released 14 films; all of which were under Rich Ross’s supervision, 13 after Carney’s employment. They are:

Date
Title
Budget
Box Office
March ‘10
Alice in Wonderland
$200m
$1,024m
May ‘10
Prince of Persia
$200m
$335m
June ‘10
Toy Story 3
$200m
$1,063m
July ‘10
Sorcerers Apprentice
$150m
$215m
October ‘10
Secretariat
$35m
$60m
November ‘10
Tangled
$260m
$590m
December ‘10
Tron Legacy
$170m
$400m
March ‘11
Mars Needs Moms
$150m
$39m
April ‘11
Prom
$8m
$10m
May ‘11
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
$250m
$1,043m
June ‘11
Cars 2
$200m
$560m
July ‘11
Winnie the Pooh
$30m
$33m
November ‘11
The Muppets
$45m
$158m
March ‘12
John Carter
$250m
$282m
(list from Wiki, numbers from boxofficemojo.com)

First of all, let’s get Prom out the of way; this was the only film released in that time period that Rich Ross green lit and was supposed to be his High School Musical for adults; it didn’t really take off.

Joining in April of 2010, I don’t think you can give Carney either credit or blame for Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3, Prince of Persia or Sorcerers Apprentice; however, Rich Ross had definitely been in position long enough to have had some bearing on their success or failure from a marketing stand point; and should have been in the position long enough to have demanded the two Bruckheimer films have some work done on them in the editing room to improve their quality. Funnily enough, there was much less made in the media of the failures of Prince of Persia and Sorcerers Apprentice (both were supposed to have sequels); without the Pixar connection it was far less juicy.

Toy Story 3 of course was a sure fire success; but by the end of 2010 movies were already starting to under perform. Tangled did well at the Box Office and has of course been a huge success from a merchandise point of view; but at the time the movie was considered a success despite its marketing campaign which you were urged by the Disney community to look past because it so undersold a very good movie. Cars 2 was considered a box office failure, despite making more than Tangled; probably because it was held to the overly high Pixar standards.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was very successful, but there are two things of note. One is that veteran marketing executive Valerie Van Galder was brought in to help with the movie’s promotion; the second is that domestically Pirates 4 was the least successful to date, only achieving 57% of the gross that Pirates 2 achieved. If it hadn’t been for the foreign markets, particularly, China and Japan, Pirates 4 would have been the least successful of the series rather than nearly being the most successful.

Tron Legacy was a disappointment and not even the Muppets could meet its expectations; and while the Tron advertising campaign wasn’t great, the Muppets at least had a lot of exposure and did well enough to warrant a future to the franchise. And the less said about Mars Needs Moms the better; how a movie based on a popular American children’s tale can do so badly says that something is wrong.

In fact, if you look at the box office to budget returns, the average per film for those 2 years was 2.4x and the total was 2.7x; which means that if it is in fact 2.5x – 3x in order to break even; it was a pretty lean couple of years profit wise despite the few huge successes. What is even more interesting is that 2010 did much better than 2011 with a return of 3x for that single year, and the first half of 2010 did much better than the second half at 4x; so that suggests that the residual efforts of the previous administration worked (although 2009 was only a 2.9x) and the new administration’s efforts were degenerative to returns as time went on.

It was a downhill slope and JCM was the unfortunate last victim of Ross and Carney’s inability to make a film successful as shortly after its failure was confirmed, both decided to “step down” from their roles. Obviously the press again were keen to link their leaving to the failure of JCM and thus the failure of Pixar; and it probably was the final nail in the coffin; but there were a lot of nails in there already.

Of course, since their stepping down, we have had the release of The Avengers which any day now will become the third largest worldwide box office of all time (unadjusted for inflation) and will likely make near $1.5bn by the time it is released in Japan in the late summer. In Carney’s farewell email to the company she takes credit for the Avengers marketing campaign (and thus its success) but is that really hers to take? Let me ask you, has the success of the Avengers been due to its amazing marketing campaign?

From my experience the campaign has had many of the shortcomings that plagued JCM. The trailer is much better but I only saw it on TV a handful of times. The main poster is terrible, its like someone photoshop’d it together with no understanding of perspective (Captain America is apparently a giant compared to BW and Fury); but that doesn’t matter as I didn’t see any of them up outside the local cinema. In fact, here I am, again target audience, really looking forward to seeing this movie and I didn’t even realise it came out here in the UK a week earlier than it did in the USA until tweets started coming in from people having seen it. That is how little advertising I saw for it in this country, the date of its release here didn’t get through to me and all the online advertising I saw for it had the American release date.

Nothing for The Avengers or JCM here...

 
or here...

And not here either.

Word of mouth and reviews have all been great and that is always good for success; plus it has been highly anticipated by a large fan group and of course there were several movies that all led to this one. There is also a decent presence in many shops as the action figure, toy prop and Lego range have led a strong presence in shops with toys, media outlets have been pushing any Avenger related DVDs and T-Shirts, book shops have had displays of paper backs and comic book anthologies, and newsagents have a rack of magazines with the characters on the front. The toy range has also given Disney Store the chance to push the movie in store with the trailer on repeat on screens above the merchandise. But to me; none of the above is the result of efforts made by marketing; it is mostly consumer products, the media and other businesses looking to cash in on success and hype and sell related items. I have to say that I think the Avengers has been a smash hit despite another mediocre marketing campaign and not because it was sold well. I know that in the USA, there have been tie ins with products like Dr Pepper; but I haven’t seen anything of the sort here in the UK.


And so coming back full circle, where does all this leave John Carter? Obviously the success of the Avengers will take quite a bit of the sting out of the failure of JCM in the bottom line of the company report and accounts; but that wont do anything for the JCM franchise itself.

We are yet to find out the replacement for Rich Ross so much is still up in the air. My hope is that whoever takes over has either seen JCM or takes the time to view it and comes to the conclusion that something went fundamentally wrong when selling this movie; and that the film itself and potential of the franchise that it could still be are worth pursuing.  The success of the DVD/BluRay release may also have some baring on this, maybe, hopefully, it will find a larger audience in this format than it managed in its theatrical release .

Yep, even the DVD/BluRay packaging is bad

Personally I would love to see the next chapters of the story made by Andrew Stanton; but as things stand that is probably unlikely unless the next executive has some serious courage. More than likely, even with support from management, JCM is going to have to prove it can be a successful before a second film gets the green light. Thankfully, there is a way this can happen. The success of Star Wars: Clone wars has proved that well made science fiction can be popular for both kids and adults; and Disney has a TV station in Disney XD which is itching for good new content. We are about to get Tron: Uprising, an animated cartoon series which will tell stories set between the original and latest film and hopefully garner enough interest in the franchise to spawn merchandise and enough interest in a third movie. The JCM Universe could easily fit this model too, either in animated or CGI form and preferably voiced by the movie cast. This could potentially even be Pixar’s first animated episodic series which would allow Stanton to remain very close to the franchise; and hopefully with some success, and merchandising, a second movie will be a viable option before the time gap becomes an issue.

Who knows, maybe we will get to see the further adventures of John Carter of Mars; or maybe not. I think JCM will eventually have a cult following as people discover it over the years; I just hope that possibility will be seen and exploited sooner though because I really want to see JCM2.

Speak Soon :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sunday's Stupid Question #6


Honestly, there's a proper blog on the way soonish; in the meantime, its time for another stupid question.

So, the Avengers came out here 3 weeks ago now, and I have seen it every weekend since it's release. I saw it on a Sunday the first week, the Monday (bank holiday weekend) the second week, and Saturday this week. So, this weeks oh so important stupid question; what's your favourite day to see a movie??

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sunday's Stupid Question #5


Yes, I know it isn't Sunday; but it's a bank holiday so its all the same thing.

This weekend was spent at MouseMeets with a lot of friends talking Disney and in absolute hysterics Saturday night over pitchers of alcohol in the local Wetherspoons. And so in honour of that drunken evening, I have the following question to all (but particular those who were there), what was your favourite of the coctail pitchers?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sunday's Stupid Question #4


First off, thanks to all those who answered last week's question.

As I got to see the excellent Avengers movie today I thought I would make today's question Avenger related. While the new movie features Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow; it looks like pretty much every Marvel character has been a member of the Avengers in a cartoon or comic book series at some point including Spider Man, Wolverine and even Venom. You can find a complete list of historic members here.

So the question is, considering there will more than likely be an Avengers 2, which existing super hero in the Marvel Universe would you like to see added to the group??



Speak Soon :)

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Disney Dreams! Becomes A Reality


The start of April saw the debut of Disney Dreams! at Disneyland Resort Paris; the latest in a long line of night time spectaculars in the Disney parks. While there is nothing conceptually new with this production, it is the first time that many techniques used in other night time shows have been brought together to make a totally new experience; and the results are outstanding.

But to appreciate what is new, we must first look at what came before.

Fantasy in the Sky, the first fireworks show started exploding over Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in 1958. Three years after the park’s opening, Walt decided they needed something special in the evenings to keep people in the parks longer and a nightly fireworks show was the chosen solution. Since this time, an iteration of the fireworks show has been a staple of almost all Disney parks around the world on a nightly basis.

Over the years the firework shows have become more and more spectacular and started including lighting, show elements, story and synchronicity to the accompanying music. While they are all enjoyable in their own ways, for me, the best two current firework spectaculars I’ve seen in person are IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot and Magical at Disneyland.

In 1971 and 1972, Disney debuted their second form of night time entertainment in the Electrical Water Pageant and Main Street Electrical Parade respectively. Disney had long done Parades, but these were the first productions created for an evening performance using thousands of small lights to illuminate floats, performers and create simple animations. Both of these original productions are still being presented (although amendments have been made over the years); and newer generations using similar technology have included SpectroMagic and Fantillusion.

The concept of night time spectacular was once again changed in 1992 as Disneyland debuted Fantasmic; a mixture of water, performers, craft, animation, props and fireworks. Being a static show, unlike parades, this was able to involve a higher level of story than any previous night time show but probably the biggest technical breakthrough of the show was the invention of giant screens of sprayed water which allowed animation to be projected onto them and could be turned on and off instantaneously. There are now three version of Fantasmic showing, the original at Disneyland, a slightly less enjoyable version at Disney’s Hollywood Studio and a total reimagining of the show which doesn’t use the water screens at Tokyo Disney Sea.

In mid 2010 Disney premiered World of Color; a new night time spectacular which took the same water screen technology as used in Fantasmic and married it with 1,000 fountains, LED lighting, lasers and fire. Unlike Fantasmic which requires a full cast; this was a return to beautiful visuals set to a classic soundtrack and the results proved hugely successful. While Fantasmic always used fountain technology, World of Color took Disney’s knowledge of how to use it to another level in order to create a show to rival that of the Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel.

In early 2011 another night time show premiered in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The Magic, Memories and You is simply put a projection show; however, calling it that does absolutely no justice to what it actually is. Using Cinderella’s castle in WDW and the Small World façade in Disneyland; the three dimensionally wrapped projected images use the shapes and contours of their canvas to create stunning visuals which defy the mind. While many do not like the photo memory theme of the show, there are few who deny the power of the amazing technology and what it can do.

And so now in April 2012 we have Disney Dreams!; a combination of all the special effect techniques that Disney have learnt in Fireworks, Fountains, Water Screens and 3D Projections over the years all brought together in one night time spectacular. What also makes this show special and unique is that Disney Dreams! is the first night time spectacular (apart from a basic fireworks show) that was specifically designed for Disneyland Paris and it’s audience. In the past Disneyland Paris has inherited shortened/watered down versions of the Main Street Electrical Parade from the Magic Kingdom and Fantillusion from Tokyo Disney; and thus while still very good, there was always something missing. Disney Dreams! being specifically designed for Disneyland Paris showcases a lot more European, particularly French and English derived, characters and stories thus making it feel perfectly at home in its setting and with it’s audience.

So as for the show itself, lasting 20 minutes, its half in French and half in English, with narration supplied at the start and finish by Peter Pan and Wendy. A mishap with Peter Pan’s shadow leads to the magic being released from the second star to the right, spilling out over the castle and surrounding area. Shadow is then taken on a magical journey through some classic Disney favourites where he interacts with various characters before it all starts to go a bit wrong with the villains (as these things tend to do) and so Peter Pan and Tinkerbell needs to put the magic back into the star in order to set things straight.

photo from D23 article

As I said before, the sequences in the show, for the most part, are very European affiliated. They are:
   
Character Set Location of Story Author  
Peter Pan Intro & Music England Scotland
Beauty & The Beast France France
Ratatouille France Czech Republic/American
Aladdin Middle East Middle East
Hunchback of Notre Dame France France
Mary Poppins England Australia
Jungle Book Africa England
Tangled
German
Princess & The Frog New Orleans (French Quarter) American
Little Mermaid
Denmark
Peter Pan England Scotland

Anyone for a quick rendition of Sesame Street's One Of These Things (is Not Like The Others)??

Honestly I do not know how Aladdin ties in with the rest of the show from a European affiliation stand point, I can only think it is either to give Adventureland some show time or is for Disneyland Paris' majority shareholder; but seeing as it is one of my favourite sequences in the show, I won't complain too much.

photo from D23 article

What I love about the 3D projection techniques that were created for The Magic, Memories and You in Disneyland and Disney World and now heavily used here in Dreams! is the ways in which they can be used to different effect. In it's most basic form, is can be used to project images onto the castle perfectly wrapping around the shapes so there aren't any gaps in the picture; this is shown in the Be Our Guest sequence and also the Quasimodo sequence where he wraps around the castle turrets. In it's next form it uses the shapes of the castle in order to make the castle appear to be something else, such as Rupunzel’s tower, stone slabs held by monkeys or huge firework rockets. But in my opinion, the technologies greatest use is when it defies the eyes by projecting the castle onto the castle. What do I mean? Well, there are several times in the show where it looks like the castle has been lit up, but it hasn't; what you are actually seeing is a perfect 3D image of the castle in it's normal form being projected onto the 3D castle shape. And because it is just an image, it can then be manipulated with colour or animated with spinning parts or lifted like a curtain which is eye popping when your brain thinks it has been looking at the castle lit up to begin with; these techniques are shown heavily in the Friend Like Me sequence and throughout the show. Having seen The Magic, Memories and You on both coasts I already loved the technology, but I am so glad to see it being used to such dramatic effect in Dreams!

photo from D23 article

I think it fair to say that for the most part of the show, the 3D projections are the main focus of the show (with the water screens for extended viewing) and the fountains and firework elements, while fantastic throughout, are there to enhance the beauty of the show and provide pops and scene climaxes where needed. However the finale to the show couldn't be more the opposite. While many characters make an appearance on the castle through projection, the fountains and fireworks dance to the music in a way that evokes emotion as only Disney can do. We've seen an amazing fountain show in World of Color, and there have been many amazing fireworks shows in the past; the two combined around the setting of the projected upon castle gives a top to bottom field of vision party for the senses (well, sight and sound anyway) that for now only this show provides to this level.

photo from D23 article

Of course, I said "for now", because the 3D projection technology is already in place at WDW for The Magic, Memories and You and fireworks launching pads have long been established at the Magic Kingdom. I can only think it is a matter of time until fountains are installed and a similar show is presented in Florida because, lets face it, why wouldn't they? Disney Dreams! blows the socks off Wishes which has been on the chopping block for some time now, and there is no ideal spot to place the World of Color show at WDW; this just makes too much sense not to do it. But I do not think that is the end of the world for Disneyland Paris because this show is specific to Europe in its focus so I would hope that even if the same mix of technologies does get used elsewhere, the show would be completely different thus keeping Dreams! unique to Paris.

What is also promising is that as World of Color and The Magic, Memories and You have already proved that sequences in these types of show can be dropped and added relatively easily so while I do not see this show getting old any time soon, it can be changed up a little here and there to add new elements or include a Halloween or Xmas element at seasonal times of the year. In fact, much of the early advertising material that has been released for the show features Simba (young and old) which would suggest that there was at one time a Lion King scene in the show; we may see that put back in sometime.


What I do think this show has done is made Disney fans around the world look up and take notice of Disneyland Paris; even maybe as far as spurring a few to visit. Very rarely do you hear much buzz from the non European fans about Disneyland Paris, the last time I remember hearing any jealousy over a Paris only attraction being the Crush Coaster, but this show has made fans all around the world take notice. So what we have here is a game changer, one that has really upped the value of a day at Disneyland Paris. Night time spectaculars at Disney Parks are things people remember and talk about; they are a distinct memory. You always hear about Fantasmic, IllumiNations, Main Street Electrical Parade or more recently World of Color; I really think that this year, Disney Dreams! will be added to that list of iconic Disney shows.

There are already some great videos online of the show, I highly recommend these:

DLRP Magic - Opening Night
DLRP Magic - World Premiere
Inside the Magic - Debut Evening
YouTube - World Premiere

You can also find a whole bunch more photos here:

Photo Magiques


I thoroughly look forward to seeing it in person in June. So what do you think of this new show??

Speak Soon :)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sunday's Stupid Question #3


First off, thanks to all those who answered last week's question

This week I'm going to circle back to the Where's My Water mobile app that I blogged about. So the question is, do you prefer the Swampy or Cranky levels??


Let me know and I promise there are some proper blog posts in the works, they are just taking longer to finish that planned.

Speak Soon :)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunday's Stupid Question #2


First off, thanks to all those who answered last week's question. If you didn't and you want to weigh in on this very important topic, you can find it here.

Now onto this weeks oh so important question that requires serious debate.

I was watching Ratatouille the other day, and one of the previews on the DVD was for Wall-E. If you remember, during the previews/adverts the Pixar logo lamp's lightbulb went out and was replaced by Wall-E. After this Wall-E knocked over the R of the logo and so replaced it himself.


So, this week's highly stupid question is, should Wall-E replace the R permanently?

Your thoughts??

Friday, 13 April 2012

FuseMP Food Blog – Chinese/Italian Fusion

Ok, here’s something you probably weren’t expecting to appear on this blog; it’s Cooking with Fuse!!

While I don’t in any way claim to be an amazing chef, I can cook a few things quite well, and I do a killer BBQ spread and make awesome roast potatoes. However, I do have one dish that I put together which I love eating and I don’t think I unknowingly stole from anywhere; so I figured I would share it with the world (or at least those who read this).

Again, I am not a chef, so this doesn’t involve a lot of seasoning or making things from scratch; but it’s yummy. Unfortunately the dish doesn’t have a name, so if you can think of one, please post a comment with it below; and yes you can pun Fusion with Fuse-ion.



Anyway, this is the end result. It’s chicken and pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce on tagliatelle. As I said, nothing too complicated, and most people could just best guess make it straight away; but here’s the instructions anyway because otherwise this would be a really short blog post.

Ingredients:
Chicken (diced) – I use 750g, but make a sensible amount for the mouths to feed
Jar of Sweet & Sour Sauce – Yes, its that simple, not even sauce from scratch (I use low calorie sauce, but full fat is probably tastier)
Pineapple (cubed in juice) – Yes, I use Dole because it makes me think of Dole Whips (you knew there had to be a Disney reference in here somewhere), one 350g (drained) can seems to work well with 750g of chicken ratio wise
Fresh Egg Tagliatelle – I just prefer fresh over dried, 300g works well ratio wise with the other ingredients
Spray Oil (not pictured) – or whatever you use for non stick purposes



Preparation:
I personally try and get any fatty bits of the chicken but that’s up to you. Drain the can of pineapple into a bowl but DO NOT dispose of or drink the juice, you will need it later.



Step 1:
Put a pot of water on heat as this will need to be boiling later.
Put a wok on heat to warm up

Step 2:
Once the wok is suitably heated, add spray oil and throw in the chicken; keeping it moving while it browns. Once browned, reduce the heat dramatically and allow the chicken to cook through. Stir occasionally and I often cover it at this stage too keep the juices in the wok which also prevents any sticking. Cook for around 6-8 minutes depending on the size of your pieces; they should be pretty much cooked through but definitely not ready to eat.


Step 3:
Drain. Add the pineapple and simmer for a few minutes allowing the pineapple to brown..


Step 4:
Add the sweet & sour sauce and stir, then pour in about half to two thirds of the pineapple juice and stir again. You can then dispose of any pineapple juice left by whichever means you find preferable (mine is by drinking it).


Step 5:
Let the sweet and sour sauce simmer for about 3 minutes, while stiring, and then add the tagliatelle with a little oil to the (by now) boiling water. Stir both for another 3 minutes.


Step 6:
Serve
 

And there we have it, nothing too special but it's YUMMY!

Let me know what you think (especially if you make it)

Speak Soon :)