Tower of Terror transformation

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • See video of the new Christmas projection-mapping on Tower of Terror.
  • New holiday merchandise is available at the Magic Kingdom.
  • See Disneyland’s playful Christmas nod to the old Skyway.
  • Say goodbye to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.
  • Is Stranger Things coming to Halloween Horror Nights in 2018?
  • Loki is available to meet for the first time in an American Disney park.
  • Get the latest on changes to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Hall of Presidents.
  • And more!

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Thor Ragnarok Comics Changes

Thor: Ragnarok has been a rousing success for Marvel Studios. Commercially, the film cleaned up at the box office on its opening weekend. Critically, it stands as one of the best-reviewed movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with only the original Iron Man rating one percent higher on Rotten Tomatoes.

I grew up reading Thor and other Marvel Comics — I even had a fan letter printed in the back of Thor, Vol. 2 #36 (2001). And while I enjoyed the new movie immensely, I initially had a few qualms about its treatment of the Thor mythos. And not just the comic book mythos, but also the movie mythos. Director Taiki Waititi casually discards much of the God of Thunder’s previous history, jettisoning old supporting characters in favor of new ones…but maybe that was a necessary step to liberate the character.

At the very least, it can be said that Thor: Ragnarok offers a fun, deeply heretical take on what came before it. Let’s address some of the sweeping changes the film has made to the Thor series, and why those changes might have been made. Spoilers follow, of course.

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Universal Japan Parade

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Disney has launched a new line of collectible picture disc vinyl releases with ride music.
  • Mickey Mouse is 88 years young, going on 89. Get details on his birthday celebration this year.
  • See the full LA Comic-Con panel with the man behind all your favorite Disneyland ride vehicles.
  • Universal Orlando may be looking to implement facial recognition technology in the future.
  • Get a look at what’s been called “the most stomach-turning ride ever invented.”
  • Universal Studios Japan announced a Spectacle Night Parade
  • And much more!

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Steven Soderbergh Superhero Movie

When director Steven Soderbergh returned to the big screen back in August, his “hillbilly heist” film Logan Lucky was touted as a comeback, even though he had only been in “retirement” for four years and was actually very busy during that time making Behind the Candelabra and The Knick for HBO and Cinemax. Logan Lucky may have underperformed at the domestic box office, but the movie was reportedly financed through foreign pre-sales and it is still rolling out to international territories.

On Halloween night, the film made its Japanese premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival as part of a special program called The World of Steven Soderbergh. This program also screened other Soderbergh films like Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Ocean’s Eleven. The director’s appearance in stage greetings and Q&A talks during this event yielded some interesting quotes about his body of work, including his upcoming HBO mini-series, Mosaic, which first debuts November 8 as an interactive app.

And will there be a Steven Soderbergh superhero movie? Well, he says he already made one.

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Tommy Lee Jones Coffee Commercials

All my life, I was never a coffee-drinker. I envied the coffee-drinkers. They always seemed so bright and alert. But it was not until I came to Japan and started seeing the weather-beaten face of Tommy Lee Jones everywhere that I suddenly found myself, rather uncharacteristically, having the compulsion to drink coffee every day. Specifically: Boss Coffee.

In Japan, canned coffee is ubiquitous and there are vending machines on seemingly every street corner, so it is fairly common to see ads with Jones’ face plastered across them. This is because Jones is known here for reasons having less to do with his film career and more to do with his appearance as a character called “Alien Jones” in a series of Boss Coffee commercials.

In 2011, a source in Japanese television production supplied The Hollywood Reporter with the information that the actor makes a million dollars for every six-month run of Boss Coffee ads. Talk about U.S. stars cashing in overseas. It’s sort of the real-life version of Bill Murray’s Lost in Translation character filming that commercial where he says, “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” Read More »


In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Watch video of the ubiquitous James Franco invading Halloween Horror Nights.
  • Take a peek inside the revamped Universal Studios’ Classic Monster Cafe.
  • See concept art of Woody’s Lunch Box in Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios.
  • Find out more about what Pixar Fest will entail at Disneyland Resort next year.
  • Get the latest on hotel and parking developments at Disneyland Resort.
  • Legoland is coming to New York.
  • And more!

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Today, a live-action version of Fullmetal Alchemist, based on the popular anime and manga series, made its world premiere as the opening film of the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival. As numerous sites have reported, this film adaptation is unique in that it has eschewed the usual whitewashing in favor of a homegrown Japanese cast. Some have cried foul over this, given the story’s European cultural background. Yet while the original manga volumes have sold over 70 million copies worldwide, Fullmetal Alchemist was written and illustrated by a Japanese woman. In a poll conducted by the Japanese television network TV Asahi, it ranked as the most popular anime of all time in Japan.

In a year when Hollywood has already tied itself up in screenwriting knots trying to justify uploading a Japanese woman’s consciousness into a white woman’s body (see: Ghost in the Shell), it is understandable why Japan would want to be protective of this property and why it would want to maybe tip the balance of racebending in favor of non-Caucasian for once. The issue is more complicated than that, of course, but ultimately, regardless of the politics of its casting, Fullmetal Alchemist has to be evaluated on its own merits as a film.

So how does the film measure up?

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Get a look at concept art for Disney World’s upcoming NBA-themed game complex.
  • See video of Motiongate Dubai’s Hunger Games land and Ghostbusters ride.
  • Tokyo DisneySea is getting in on the Pixar action with a new seasonal event.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland has broken ground on its multi-year expansion.
  • SeaWorld continues to offer a mix of good and bad news.
  • And much more!

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It has been almost a decade since No Country for Old Men, the seismic film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, first went into limited release in the United States. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the winner of the Best Picture Oscar for 2007 is simultaneously steeped in genre tropes and highly unconventional. I still remember hearing the lady in front of me at the local indie theater jeer “That’s it? Boo!” as the closing credits rolled.

In a way, the film’s plot acts as a Trojan Horse, lowering the viewer’s defenses against all things arthouse with an exciting genre premise. A Vietnam vet hunting in the desert comes across the site of a drug deal gone bad. Absconding with a satchel full of drug money, he finds himself on the run from an eccentric hitman who uses an air-powered captive bolt gun to dispatch roadside Good Samaritans and other unwitting marks like human cattle.

If that is all there was to the film, however, we might not still be talking about it ten years later. What gives No Country for Old Men such resonance is what happens when the belly of its Trojan-Horse plot springs open. Then the film reveals itself to be a haunting, literate rumination on mortality, something richer and far more meaningful than the simple chase thriller you thought you were watching. (If you have somehow managed to not see this movie, spoilers do lie ahead.)

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:


We’ve all heard the myth about Walt Disney having his body preserved in cryonic storage. In some tellings, it’s just his disembodied head that gets cryonically frozen. If you came of age in the 1990s, during the Disney Renaissance, you might also be familiar with how a bevy of inappropriate Easter eggs are said to be laced throughout the animated features of that period.

But Disney urban legends go deeper than that. If you go looking for urban legends, prepare to be sucked into stories of scary abandoned theme park islands and mayhem aboard mountain rides, including bared breasts and decapitations. You might also encounter a few fascinating fan theories that will change the way you look at certain Disney films.

Let’s unlock the proverbial Disney Vault and start raiding it for riches in the form of some of the most intriguing apocryphal stories that have grown up in and around the Happiest Place on Earth. This is where The X-Files meets Mickey Mouse.

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