halloween horror nights universal monsters

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • A new art installation has popped up at Downtown Disney.
  • Tomorrowland is getting a new sign.
  • Halloween information is arriving for both Disney and Universal
  • And more!

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Tom Cruise has always been a risk-taker on the big screen, for good and ill. Lately, the risks he takes center around the physical — the ever-expanding Mission: Impossible franchise is now focused on the question of how far Cruise can push his body for the sake of entertaining the masses. Those risks feel all the more remarkable as Cruise approaches his 60th birthday. (He just turned 57 two weeks ago, a fact that seems…well, impossible.) 

But the more Tom Cruise pushes his body, the further he moves away from the time when his risks were ballsier in spite of not being remotely physical. Just as it’s hard to imagine that Tom Cruise is pushing 60, it’s hard to believe that we’re now 20 years removed from a time when he worked on two massively risky projects that required his mental and emotional chops more than the physical: Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.

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Splash Mountain at 30

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises.)

More than 18 million people visited Disneyland in 2018. The park averages somewhere around 45,000 to 50,000 people a day, though its maximum capacity is nearly twice that number. The attractions that serve as the foundation of Disneyland Park are, by and large, those that arrived in Anaheim well after the park opened 64 years ago, on July 17, 1955. Space Mountain arrived in the mid-1970s, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad showed up in 1979, and of course, the biggest inclusion of all, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is barely two months old. 

But the most curious case among Disneyland’s E-Ticket attractions celebrates its 30th anniversary today. It’s a ride that has been consistently popular for its three decades, at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Like the best of Disney theme-park Imagineering, it’s an attraction that serves as a mix of styles, blended together to create a thrilling headliner. Like Galaxy’s Edge, it’s an attraction inspired by a film. The only difference is you probably haven’t ever seen the film on which Splash Mountain is based. And that’s just how Disney wants it.

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(Revisiting the Renaissance is a bi-weekly series in which Josh Spiegel looks back at the history and making of the 13 films of the Disney Renaissance, released between 1986 and 1999. In today’s column, he discusses the 1992 film Aladdin.)

Walt Disney Animation Studios was riding high at the end of 1991 and into early 1992. The studio had reached a creative height with Beauty and the Beast that seemed impossible just a year earlier. They’d released a film that audiences and critics had adored, and one that had even netted them an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The plan, foisted upon them by executives Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner, to make one film per year was working out even more than the animators could have imagined. 

The studio’s next film would be another big hit, even bigger than its predecessors. And just like Beauty and the Beast, it was amazing that Aladdin got finished at all.

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Rise of the Resistance opening

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Rise of the Resistance gets an opening date on both coasts.
  • That fighting family from Disneyland denies anything happened.
  • A new Pirates of the Caribbean themed frozen treat
  • And more!

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Veronica Mars trailer

It’s become old hat for a cult TV show to get revived in some capacity now, but rare is the TV show that gets two different revivals across different mediums. Veronica Mars is that rare show. First, it was brought back from the dead because of a passionate crowdfunding campaign that led to a movie released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the spring of 2014. Now, Veronica Mars is back again with an eight-episode fourth season airing on Hulu starting on Friday, July 26. Where the Kickstartered movie felt haphazard and mildly uninspired, this revival is incredibly well-written and conceived, a return to form at least as good as the show’s second season.

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The Lion King Review

Criticism is not consumer reporting, despite what some may tell you. If it was, this review of The Lion King  would be exceptionally short. I’d simply point you to Amazon, where you can purchase a digital copy of the 1994 animated film of the same name for roughly the same amount of money as a movie-theater ticket, a drink and some candy would get you for watching a new version of the same story. But criticism isn’t consumer reporting; it’s an attempt to analyze what does and doesn’t work in any given work of art.  To discuss Jon Favreau’s remake of this blend of naturalism and Shakespearean drama, and to briefly highlight how grossly misunderstood and misguided the film is, is no simple task.

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In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Future World is closing down a good chunk of its buildings in September.
  • Disneyland is saying hello to one old-favorite parade, and goodbye to another.
  • And more!

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Beauty and the Beast Revisited

(Revisiting the Renaissance is a bi-weekly series in which Josh Spiegel looks back at the history and making of the 13 films of the Disney Renaissance, released between 1986 and 1999. In today’s column, he discusses the 1991 Best Picture Oscar nominee Beauty and the Beast.)

As the Disney Renaissance hit its first peak in the late 1980s, executive Jeffrey Katzenberg had a mantra when it came to the films that Walt Disney Animation Studios would continue to produce throughout the 1990s: “Bigger, better, faster, cheaper.” The Little Mermaid had certainly achieved the first two goals of that aim, but making low-budget animated films on a tight schedule was a concern for animators. They were laser-focused on the second word of his mantra: “better”. 

After the relative failure of The Rescuers Down Under, Disney Animation wasn’t going to collectively lick its wounds and mope — they were already moving onto the next project. It was, like The Little Mermaid, an adaptation that had been through development at the studio as far back as the 1930s. It was, like The Little Mermaid, a film that would retell one of the most well-known fairy tales ever written. It wouldn’t be cheaper, but Beauty and the Beast was bigger, better, and made on a shockingly fast schedule, to the point where it nearly missed its release date.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Soarin 1

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Soarin’ Over California is sticking around through the summer at Disney California Adventure.
  • Epcot’s getting a new barbecue restaurant.
  • Disney’s Hawaii resort is letting you get close to tropical fish.
  • And more!

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