In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Tokyo DisneySea’s expansion is announced.
  • Lightsaber prices at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are out of this world.
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom is getting ready for the holidays.
  • And more!

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With some actors, it’s all in the eyes. Some performers need dialogue to boost their work, and others are able to use their physicality to get across some emotion, whether it’s happiness or sadness or fury or anything in between. But an actor who can just use their eyes to communicate a world’s worth of information is hard to find, and hard to top.

Such is the case with Ian McShane, who’s got himself a couple of major showcase parts out this month that represent the extreme depth he brings to any role, in the gun-fueled fantasia John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and the long-awaited revival of the drama that gave him a breakout part, Deadwood: The Movie.

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Aladdin

At a crucial juncture in the new live-action Aladdin, our eponymous hero is in the puffed-up guise of a fancy prince, supposedly encountering the comely Princess Jasmine for the first time. In reality, though, they’ve met before even as Aladdin is trying to pretend otherwise. In this moment, Aladdin is hopelessly tongue-tied, desperate to please but failing at just about every moment, valiant effort aside. Such is the experience of Aladdin in a microcosm. This film is desperate to please, and trying very hard to do so. And it comes up short almost every chance it gets.

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The Return of Jafar Revisited

The summer of 1994 was a big deal for the Walt Disney Company. Primarily, it marked the release of the studio’s biggest animated film to date, The Lion King, a film with a rocky production history that has become one of their most incredible success stories. But it was a summer of upheaval and major change, both among its top executives and within the studio’s storied legacy of animation. The Lion King celebrates its quarter-century anniversary in mid-June, but another 25th anniversary for Disney animation arrives this week, and we should acknowledge it even if it’s not for good reason: the release of The Return of Jafar.

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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, Spiegel discusses the 1988 Charles Dickens adaptation Oliver & Company.)

When Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Frank Wells joined the C-suite at the Walt Disney Company in 1984, they did so with the intent of boosting the company’s profile, internally and externally. In the mid-1980s, Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios were just about the furthest thing from industry powerhouses. Disney’s theatrical output in the 1980s was meager, with just 28 films overall; it’s the lowest number of films they’d released in a single decade since the war-torn 1940s. But the new executives wanted more films, from more subsidiaries. They wanted Disney to be more than just a family-friendly studio.

Part of the problem is that Walt Disney Pictures was the kind of studio where A-Listers need not apply. Stars in their live-action fare could typically be found on network television sitcoms and dramas, and it was rarer still to find any big names in their animated films. Once Katzenberg and Eisner joined Disney, they were able to expand upon the recently created subsidiary Touchstone Pictures (whose first film Splash served as Tom Hanks’ breakout role and netted an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay) and lure in recognizable actors for mid-budget comedies and dramas, such as Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Ruthless People. For animation, thanks largely to Katzenberg, it took until the 1988 release Oliver & Company for big names to start making appearances.

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Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • You can try an alcoholic popsicle at Epcot.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean is heading back to basics.
  • Get the parking lowdown on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
  • And more!

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The Sun is Also a Star Review

Educational value of its title aside, The Sun Is Also a Star is a fairly limp romantic drama that attempts (and fails) to tie its core relationship to The Way We Live Now. It might seem glib to look at this movie, in which two strangers meet by happenstance and fall in love while spending the day together in a big city, as Before Sunrise for the YA set. But then, the way this film leans on how U.S. immigration policies are actively cruel towards so many people who want to emigrate to the States is in and of itself glib, especially because it feels like an unnecessary crutch to a sappy coupling.

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Disney Parks - Wonderful World of Animation

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Disneyland announces a new annual pass program.
  • Extra, extra: New Magic Hours are coming to Walt Disney World.
  • A Lion King dining experience is on the way.
  • And more!

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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. Today’s column both serves as an introduction to the series, and tackles the first film of the Renaissance, 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective.)

The future of animation at the Walt Disney Company was bleak in 1984. It was a transitional year for the company as a whole, in which Disney narrowly avoided being the victim of a hostile business takeover, welcomed new blood into its executive suite to right the ship, and expanded into making more mature films with the Touchstone Pictures subsidiary. But when Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Frank Wells all joined Disney from rival studios, their arrival didn’t initially suggest a new era of filmmaking and theme-park development that laid the foundation for the corporate behemoth that now owns Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Hulu, and 20th Century Fox.

Their arrival suggested doom and gloom for the studio that served as the true foundation for the company. Because Katzenberg in particular, soon after starting at Disney, was shown a rough cut of the studio’s next animated film. And he wasn’t happy.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

The Rules of Toy Story

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Toy Story Land is getting a BBQ restaurant.
  • Celebrate May the Fourth at the Disney theme parks.
  • The Disney Cruise Line is getting a new captain.
  • And more!

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