Monday, February 28, 2011

Tap Resort App for iPhone

My kids showed me this free app they had for their iPod Touches, and I downloaded it for my phone.

It's a fun little app, free (as I said), where you get an island, some "money", and a couple of "attractions", and then you buy restaurants, entertainment, lodging, and luxury items, and upgrade the ones you have over time. The tourists come to your island and spend money at your buildings and attractions, and you collect the coins a couple times a day. Then you can spend the coins you earn from your tourists on either new attractions or upgrading old ones. From time to time you get far enough along where you can then buy a new island and start developing it also. The more value you provide for your tourists, the faster the coins roll in.

Would that it worked this way at Disney, right?


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kevin Yee's MiceAge Article - "Billion Dollar Band-Aid?"

I read Kevin Yee's latest article, "Billion Dollar Band-Aid?", on MiceAge and found it to be thought provoking. Kevin Yee, as almost every Disney nut knows, is a blogger and author who focuses on the Florida theme parks, criticizing what he sees to be declines and praising the things they do right. He's got a bunch of books out (I don't have any of them), and he is a very frequent visitor to those parks.

In this latest entry, Kevin talks about the "NextGen" project, at which Disney is throwing a billion dollars. Yes, that's "billion" with a "b". A lot of money. Yee focuses on one part of this project: the technology to allow visitors to "reserve" their shows and rides from home. In essence, you could get a FastPass reservation in a similar manner to the way you make dining reservations now.

Yee is no fan of FastPasses in general; he knows that guests like it, and he also seems to admit that it works. But the reason it works is because a lot of guests don't know how to use it, or choose not to use the feature of their tickets. As it is, the most popular rides "sell out" early in the day anyway. So if you want to ride, say, Space Mountain, and you don't get to the park early enough, you get to stand in the standby queue. This wouldn't be a bad thing, because the queue is almost a show in itself. But because of the FastPasses, the wait times get incredibly high. 90 minute waits are not uncommon, and I don't care how involved you are in the queue, if you've gotta experience it for that long, it starts to get old. I have really only ridden Space Mountain when the wait times were low, or when we have a FastPass. I watch the people in the standby line stare at me and my two little guys as we walk past up to the entrance. Most of them seem to be groups of teens, and I guess they have each other for entertainment. But some older (as in not teenagers) couples look more than a little bored with the wait.

You can read Kevin's article for the specifics of what direction he foresees these changes taking. You can decide which group you fall into, the "ultra-planner", the "mid-level planner", the "non-planner", or the "local". There's numbers in there about how FP's work now, and how they might work under variations of "Advance Fast Pass" reservation systems.

What I found interesting was where Kevin thought that, given a billion dollars and the mandate to drive attendance to the parks, perhaps the best way to do it would be to install a bunch of new attractions! He says that a billion dollars would give you 20 new 50 million dollar attractions. No, this wouldn't be enough for 20 CarsLands or 20 Everests, but it would be enough for a couple of them along with several smaller attractions of varying quality - A through D tickets, so to speak.

As one commenter pointed out, this approach assumes that the whole of the Billion (with a "b"!) dollars going to NextGen stuff is going to FastPass. In truth we don't know what the rest of the money is going for. Certainly for interactive type stuff at the parks, use of mobile devices for things, etc etc etc. But Yee might respond that no matter what, if they were to invest a billion into increasing capacity at all the parks, it would pay off by alleviating crowding, driving repeat visitors, shortening line times, and pulling people away from 'old' E-tickets to visit the newer attractions.

I for one applaud this approach. We visited Disney World in November, and when we got back, my father-in-law asked me what was there that was new to see. I thought about it. The building we stayed in at our hotel was new, and we had some fun exploring around there in the limited time available for it. We saw the Hall of Presidents for the first time, but it wasn't "new", just new to us. I had never seen the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, so that was new to me, though not to my wife and younger son. We had never eaten at the Tequila Bar in the Mexican Pavilion, nor had we eaten at the Brown Derby. So those, too, were new to us. Of all those things in the parks, only the Tequila Bar was actually new to Disney. Nothing else.

Of course, we also visited Universal's Islands of Adventure, and that was all new to us. And the Harry Potter land was new to most everyone, having only been open a few months. But that's not Disney.

We're probably not going to return to WDW or Disneyland for a couple of years. If we do, it's possible that we may not even visit the Disney parks. We never take any time to enjoy our hotel. We've not been anywhere else in Orlando, and we have a lot to experience at Universal. But if they had new attractions for us to visit, we would certainly be more inclined to spend our time at Disney.

I know that the Fantasyland expansion will add a new restaurant, a couple of brand new ride experiences (the Little Mermaid ride and the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster) and some rethemed older rides. Is that enough? I just don't really know. Maybe it will be enough to entice us to spend a day at the Magic Kingdom. Us and about a million of our closest friends.

But I like the idea of adding new things to experience, and not all of the hotel or restaurant variety. Disney needs to give their guests something new. Not all of them are first time visitors, or even second time visitors. Some of us have been there a whole bunch, and want to experience something new and exciting. And not necessarily on our cell phones.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One more Les Miz - Disney connection

I have one more connection between Disney and Les Miz. British comic actor Matt Lucas performed as the evil innkeeper Thenardier (who also provides comic relief to the otherwise very serious story) in the O2 concert for the 25th anniversary. (He will be playing the role on stage, apparently, in England at the Queen's Theater for a limited run.)

Matt has a Disney connection. From the Facebook Les Miz page:

Matt Lucas is one of Britain’s most successful comic actors and writers. His TV credits include "Come Fly With Me" and the multi award-winning "Little Britain", both for the BBC. His other credits include "Shooting Stars", "Wind in the Willows" and most recently Tim Burton’s film "Alice in Wonderland".

I don't know what role he played in Alice In Wonderland. I have the movie on BluRay but haven't found the time to watch it. But there it is - another connection, however meaningless, between my favorite musical and my favorite company.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Changes over there at the left...

I changed things up a bit on my blog list and my favorite internet spots. On the Blog List, I like to have blogs that are frequently updated. On the Favorite Internet Spots list, I have good blogs and sites but not ones that are necessarily updated routinely.

(The exception to the rule is "Disney and More" which is a great site but for some reason "My Blog List" wouldn't accept it.)

I "demoted" Disneyology and Disney's Folly to the Internet Spot list since they haven't been updated in 3 months. I "promoted" Disney Daddy to "My Blog List" because there are always some neat updates, especially his "Tip Tuesday".

I like to use my own blog as a starting point for my own Disney blog reading. I think I have some really interesting blogs listed there, and I can see what's new at the sites with a glance. I don't have to visit the sites if they haven't updated since my last visit.

The blogs I have listed there are all very interesting and worth your time.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Les Miz - Disney Connections

I've been in my Les Miserables bunker for a few weeks now. Besides seeing the stage production as it swings through Chicago, I've been watching the DVD of the 10th anniversary concert, and PBS showed the 25th anniversary concert on Saturday night.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it's my favorite musical, and as I was watching it, I mentioned to my wife and kids that it has a couple different connections to Disney. First, Cameron Mackintosh produces it, and he is also involved as producer for Disney's Mary Poppins stage musical.

But the Disney crossovers that I was pointing out to my family were two of the female leads in the 10th anniverary DVD. First, the role of Eponine is sung by actress/singer Lea Salonga. Ms. Salonga first came to attention in the title role of Miss Saigon, then went to play the role of Eponine on Broadway. Disney used her to supply the singing voice to Aladdin's Princess Jasmine. Then she also sang the on-screen songs for Fa Mulan in both Mulan and in the straight-to-video release Mulan 2. Her duet with Brad Kane on the song A Whole New World is one of the most powerful songs in Disney animation history, in my opinion.

The other tie-in is actress/singer Judy Kuhn, who voiced the role of Cosette on Broadway and in the 10th anniversary concert. Ms. Kuhn provided the singing voice to Pocahontas in the movies Pocahontas and Pocahontas 2 (also a straight-to-video release). Ms. Kuhn also had a cameo appearance in the recent film Enchanted, where she played a pregnant woman with kids.

Ms. Salonga went on to play the role of Fantine in the later New York production of Les Miserables. Ms. Kuhn replaced Ms. Salonga in that role, and played it until the show closed in 2008.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dearth of Posts...

I haven't felt much like posting here recently - nothing seems to strike my fancy since I read the book by Steve Alcorn (that I blogged about in a couple of recent posts).

Been reading a bit, and not Disney related stuff. I just finished The Big Short by Michael Lewis, which discusses the story behind the subprime mortgage crisis that ended up almost bringing down all of the big financial houses on Wall Street, and would have, had the government not stepped in and guaranteed the losses and purchased all the crappy loans from them. I blogged it about it on my Journalscape blog; if you'd be interested in reading about it, here's the link.

I also read CJ Box's western, Below Zero. In this one, a pair of men, accompanied by a teenaged girl, go on a killing spree across the country, and the pattern of crimes makes no sense. That is, until you know what to look for. Joe Pickett is Box's game warden detective, and is involved because the teenaged girl is texting his daughter, and identifying herself as their adopted daughter April, who they believed was killed in a confrontation between the FBI and a group of survivalists (to which her natural mother belonged). Good mystery. I'm currently reading his next book, titled Nowhere To Run.

I've also been distracted by the opportunity to go see Les Miserables as it swings through Chicago on its 25th anniversary tour with a totally new production. It's my favorite musical (yes, I like it more than Mary Poppins) and I've missed seeing it in recent years. I got piano music of Les Miz songs recently and have been playing the heck out of them, trying to get up to speed. (My sight reading had gotten really bad from years of not doing it but I've been improving as I play along with my kids' piano lessons.) I blogged about the experience at the musical here on my Rambler blog.

Nothing in the world of Disney or theme parks has grabbed me of late. Hopefully it will again, and then my blogging will start again... I know I didn't follow through with my intention to post a photo summary about the Harry Potter ride at Universal, but I just haven't really felt like doing it, and it's getting more distant from my memory as time passes.

Till then, this will have to do.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

D23 Magazine here

On Tuesday, before the great blizzard of 2011 hit the midwest, the mailperson brought me my D23 magazine! She delivered it right to the door, because it was a pretty big box instead of the usual Fed Ex-style envelope. That's because it contained a couple of nice member gifts: A D23 watch, and a D23 luggage tag.

Okay, the luggage tag isn't that great...but for me it's useful because one of our old Disney luggage tags sort of got ruined on our last trip to Florida. So this one will serve nicely as a replacement. But the watch is okay. I'm sure it's not an expensive thing, but it's nicer than your average gift.

I haven't gotten into the magazine yet. Tuesday night was too busy, with kids coming home from school early and then the blizzard hitting. Wednesday was occupied with digging out, and again, not a lot of time for the magazine. (Plus I was reading one of my son's books, something called The Mysterious Benedict Society, a pretty good young adult book.) So I hope to get to it this weekend perhaps. Or perhaps not. There's a little bit of stuff happening this weekend, too.

Let you know when I finally get to it and if there's anything that provokes a blog entry.