Your Souvenir Guide

Disneyland Ex Machina

Category: The Walt Disney Company (page 1 of 2)

Regarding the Disney Purchase of Lucasfilm

This is what happened the last time George Lucas and Marvel worked in close quarters.

By the way, the narrator of this trailer is my late friend, Gene McGarr. He didn’t write this shit; he just read it aloud for money, “trapped in a world he never made.” Rest in peace, Gene.

All Work and Cosplay

Oh, I just don’t know. I think I understand what Annie Leibovitz and Disney are trying to do with this campaign; it’s a shrewd effort to gain the consumer confidence of the Vanity Fair set, those holdouts who think that Disney entertainment is below them but the cult of celebrity isn’t. Well, if Academy Award-winners Jeff Bridges and Penelope Cruz think this Disney stuff is all right, then I guess I can pop a few antidepressants and take the kids.

Meanwhile, you should know that your children are looking at this stuff and they’re thinking, “Dude, you’re outta your element.”

It’s not that I don’t understand why celebrities would want to play dress-up for Disney and Leibovitz; it’s not like I wouldn’t slap on the phallus and clogs if Disney called and said “We need a Pinocchio for our national print and web campaign … and you’ll be working with the photog that ruined Miley Cyrus for us.” The part that I don’t understand is why Disney is going to this million-dollar effort while their own underpaid staff photographers have captured lots and lots of photos of celebrities goofing off in the Parks for free.

Colbert DCA

Hey there, it’s Stephen Colbert! And he’s in Disney’s California Adventure of his own free will.


Huge Ackman! (The photo is from Just Jared and is used without permission, but I’m pretty sure one of Disney’s press wonks took it.)

Laura Dern

Laura Dern, who continues to make me hotter than Georgia asphalt, at the opening of Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Nicolas Cage Disneyland

Aaaand just like that I’ve reunited the cast of “Wild at Heart.” (On an unrelated note: At least Nic wore a nice jacket, right? Who cares if he combed his hair with his thumbs?) I don’t have to look for a photo of Willem Dafoe riding Dumbo to know that it’s out there.

Mariska Hargitay

Look, it’s Maryk … I mean, it’s Marik-er … It’s that pretty lady from “Law & Order SVU!”

Johnny Depp

Look, it’s that pretty lady from “The Astronaut’s Wife!”

Granted, these are off-the-cuff candids and quickly-posed shots, not the elaborate (I’d say too elaborate) productions that Disbovitz seems to think they need. But these candids have something the Disney Dream portraits do not: a pulse. They’re fun, like the kind of fun one might expect to have in a Disney theme park. They don’t just sit there and congratulate themselves for being something that, despite its elaborate making, has almost no life to it. The Leibovitz photos are so thoroughly refined and processed that no one really needs to be there for it — not the celebrities, whose heads appear to be superimposed even though I know otherwise, and not Leibovitz, who could have easily farmed this entire job out to Disney’s art direction staffers.

So, do they work? Do these photographs make people want to visit Disneyland or Walt Disney World? Do people even realize that they’re supposed to want to do that? Or do they look at these shots and think “Wow, it’s like the orgy scene from ‘Eyes Wide Shut?'” Whatever the case, I’d expect Disney’s marketing army — the people who managed to sell us not one but two god-damned films starring chihuahuas — to come up with something a little less contrived. I don’t have the math on this, but I’d be willing to bet that more people Google the other Disney/Leibovitz collaboration — the one starring Miley Cyrus.

CORRECTIONS SINCE FIRST PUBLICATION: I corrected “Leibowitz” to “Leibovitz” throughout the piece; thanks to constant reader Ginny Morey for the catch. And I accidentally called the photographer “Fran Leibowitz,” which I’ll attribute to “writer’s blockade.”

The Magic of Disney, Now Search-Engine Optimized

There are things I could do to make Your Souvenir Guide more popular. No, no, you don’t need to spare my feelings; I know that no one is reading this. Even the sub-culture of Disney theme park geeks (er, “enthusiasts”) at which this editorial is squarely aimed rarely interacts with Your Souvenir Guide, even when I say something pointlessly inflammatory. (The Disney Cruise Line is floating bullshit.) There are myriad ways to promote a blog, and I should be doing them. I should create a YSG page on Facebook. I should post more often than bi-annually. And I should optimize this content for maximum exposure in search engine results.

This latter process is called “search-engine optimization”—SEO for short—and it’s killing English as you know it. I don’t fully understand SEO, but I do know that it requires the writer to use keywords in places that keywords wouldn’t usually go. If you want people to find your unofficial Disneyland theme park blog, you need to use that phrase as often as possible. Under the terms of SEO, the new headline for this entry would be:

Unofficial Disneyland theme park blog: Disney applies SEO practices to its theme parks

I’d need to put “unofficial Disneyland theme park blog” in the first sentence of the piece, as well. SEO isn’t an art, it’s a science, and not even a noble science, like distilling gin or playing “Angry Birds.” SEO is rude, crude and in yo’ face. And I’m far behind the times in not adopting it, seeing as Disney has been using something like to name all its new attractions over the past few years.

Consider. Until recently, Disney could name its attractions however it wanted, without regard for the thematic source; a dark ride based on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? could be called  Roger Rabbit’s Toon Car Spin, and a dark ride based on a Toy Story character could be called Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. It was enough to use the name of the character in the attraction name; the kids could figure out the rest.

Recently, though, Disney has been leaving nothing to chance. They’ve begun to stick the name of the source material right at the front of the attraction name. If they feel there’s more to be said—if “Monsters Inc.” doesn’t fully describe the experience of an attraction—they add a clumsy subtitle.

Toy Story Midway Mania

Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek

Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue!

Now, I’m just a freelance journalist untrained in the Imagineering arts, but it seems to me that with but a couple of exceptions, very few of those names make sense if you haven’t seen the movies they’re based on. (Believe it or not, there are still people on this planet who have never seen a Pixar film. Yeah. I know, right?) I could get worked up about this, or I could offer my help — and that’s what I intend to do, right now. I won’t tell Disney how to fix these attraction names to make them more attractive to the ear, but I will optimize every other attraction in the Parks so these new attractions don’t stand out as much. Here’s are a few examples of the SEO modifications I’ve conceived thus far:

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs Scary Adventures

Finding Nemo: Themed Science Exhibit with Aquarium

Star Wars The Clone Wars Episode 3.5: Star Tours 2

Song of the South Splash Mountain (please visit

Pirates of the Caribbean: Captain Jack Sparrow Shows Up Three Times

Ratatouille France

Toy Story: Toy Story Midway Mania!

Next week, I’ll explain how every bathroom at Disney’s theme parks could be improved with the addition of character photo locations. I swear, this stuff comes to me in dreams.

Shake It Off, Little Fella

Heh, heh. This is “Splat!”, by Jason Freeny. I’d wear this on a t-shirt to the Parks and by God I would have your scorn, because in my mind Mickey Mouse ceased to be interesting shortly after Walt Disney stopped voicing him. Cute? Sure. Friendly? You bet. Human? No. These days, I regard the Mouse as I do a Coke bottle—a masterwork of American design, whose contents are now too saccharine for my tastes.

It’s time for Mickey Mouse to go fishing or something (seems I once saw a cartoon in which he did just that), and allow Wall-E or Ariel or even that heart-faced nonstarter Duffy to be the face of the company for a while. I know Disney’s trying to make the Mouse more contemporary by stamping him into Kid Robot-like collectibles and mussing up his hair in video games, but they’re only strengthing the character as a commodity; they’re not making him any more human. (Confession: I own a few dozen Vinylmation figures. That’s less due to my affection for Mickey Mouse and more to my appreciation of these street art-like subversions of a popular form. I might have been tempted by miniature Coke bottles, similarly painted.) But when a Jason Freeny slams Mickey into a wall and rorschachs him, at least we’re made to recognize that the Mouse isn’t invincible—and we wonder how he’s going to get out of that nasty fix, just as audiences did when Walt was still speaking for him.

Modern-day Mickey Mouse shouldn’t be trapped in his own mythology, fighting the same, safe malevolence he’s been vanquishing these past fifty years or so; he should be fighting to keep Peg Leg Pete from foreclosing on his home, sluicing buckets of water out of his waterfront shack, pounding the pavement looking for work. That’s the kind of scrapper we need right now—a Mouse with real problems and the wit and savvy to beat them back.

I like to think that Disney will eventually get it. “Epic Mickey” underperformed badly not because the game was poorly-conceived (and I know that Broke Hoedown disagrees with me in this), but because we weren’t ready to take Mickey back as a living thing. Removed from the context of the original shorts—which Mickey has been for years—we don’t know who he is or what he wants. We know only that he’s good-looking and that he seems a nice enough guy, like Keanu Reeves. We’re going to need more than that if we’re going to accept him as an everyman. He has to face discrimination, stare down bullies, and have his 80-year childless courtship of Minnie Mouse savagely questioned by the punditocracy. He needs to overcome. I like to think that John Lasseter and Bob Iger know this, and are trying to think of the best way to pull it off.

If you ask me, the best way to get Mickey Mouse out of his lethargy is to smack him into a wall. Do horrible things to him, and let him figure out how to fix them. That’s Storytelling 101, right there … and it’s where the Mouse came from, so he’ll know his way around. Remember that Mickey Mouse’s first seafaring job wasn’t captaining a floating theme park; it was piloting a broken-down steamship, and only for a hot second before being sent to the galley to peel potatoes.

We’re only captains for moments in time, Mickey. Mostly we’re peeling ourselves off of brick walls, saying okay, so that happened. Now what?

Ten things Disney could have done to geek up without buying Marvel


By now we’ve all heard that Disney is buying Marvel Entertainment, home to two dozen popular superhero characters and three thousand near-anonymous dregs. My Facebook friends list is awash in the blood of comic book geeks slitting their wrists in anticipation of the inevitable Wolverine/Bambi team-up.

Here’s what I think will happen to Marvel’s properties under Disney’s cape: next to nothing.

To my mind, the purchase of Marvel is one of the few missteps the Mouse has made under Bob Iger’s reign. Disney isn’t getting a hell of a lot for its money. The theme park rights to the characters will continue to be held by Universal. And the movie properties that Disney could use to keep Bruckheimer on the lot — Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man—will remain the properties of Sony, Fox and Paramount well into the forseeable future. (According to Variety, Fox’s deal allows them to keep the film rights to Fantastic, X-Men, Daredevil and Silver Surfer in perpetuity, just as long as they keep making the films. For Disney’s purposes, that means forever.)

Buying Marvel was an audacious move on Disney’s part — if you can’t lure the Comic Con geeks to your tweenaged-girl fairyland, just buy ’em. But it may not have been the right one. Superhero films are big-money gambles — you can’t make one for under $150 million and if it doesn’t make half that money back in its opening weekend, you won’t see profit for years, if at all. And Disney doesn’t have the big names to play with — I mean, they may be able to develop a Runaways franchise or get the publishing side to start up an Incredibles title, but I think that’s it and that’s all. Four billion dollars spent to wait out contracts and to see if Avi Arad and Jerry Bruckheimer will duke it out in Thunderdome.

I can think of ten ways off the top of my head that Disney could have spent that money to win tweenaged boys and geeks — ways that build on existing assets. Maybe I’m right; I’m probably not. Still, you can’t deny that these things would make you happy:

1. Remake Condorman with Sam Rockwell or Patton Oswalt. Only, y’know, better than the first time.

2. Revisit the Oz books. The two-decade-old Return to Oz is only now beginning to find its cult audience. Give the stories to Henson’s crew, to Tim Burton or to your own animators, front them $150 million and let ’em rip.

3. Lock down two more Tron films now. You’re going to have a Matrix-sized hit with Tron: Legacy, and probably a Rebooted and Revelations-sized critical and commercial dropoff with the sequels — but they will still make you a lot of money if you move fast.

4. Own your steampunk heritage. 20,000 Leagues! Island at the Top of the World! Atlantis! Fast-track these reboots and remakes while the goth kids are still wearing top hats and rust-colored leggings.

5. Put a billion into updating f–king EPCOT, already. Fill it with the cool hi-tech, geek-geared shizzy that appeals to readers of Wired. Every geek kid has geek parents that will fly halfway around the world to see the world of tomorrow.

6. Give Javier Grillo-Marxuach a deal and let him do something wonderful. You worked with him on The Middleman, a series that is now finding its audience on DVD. By the time he gets around to making a nice, cheap Middle-movie, the demand for it should be strong.

7. Bring back Duck Tales. Hew closer to the Carl Barks stories and cast Billy Connolly, the ne plus ultra of gruff but jocular Scotsmen, as the voice of Scrooge. I don’t know if that’ll bring the tween boys to the yard, but also, I don’t care. Bringing back Duck Tales is something Disney should already have done. ‘Cos I miss it, that’s why.

8. Make a movie based on Split Second, the car-chase video game you’re working up for the XBox 360. Stuff blows up!

9. The Disney Princesses: Teach them kung-fu and arm them with wrist-holstered blades and pistols.

10. You’ve got Nathan Fillion and Morena Baccarin on the lot working on Castle and V respectively. Marvel favorite Joss Whedon has worked with Disney on Atlantis and Toy Story. Do the math.

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