This past weekend Disney held their D23 Expo, a fan biennial event which Disney uses to make make announcements and promote upcoming products. It’s kind of like the company’s own private Comic-Con. The last couple of events have been light on Disney World news, but the 2017 expo was packed with goodies for fans of the Orlando resort.
If you have been following Disney World rumors, none of these announcements were all that surprising. We’ve been talking about Star Wars for years now and last year we were buzzing about a Guardians of the Galaxy project and a replacement for the Great Movie Ride. But the Expo provided additional details as well as confirmation that these things are happening.
Let’s take a closer look at all of this year’s announcements.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… a promising young actor was cast in one of the most coveted roles in Hollywood. The actor was then-unknown Hayden Christensen and the part was future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker. Christensen beat out well-known actors for the lead role in Star Wars: Episode II–Attack of the Clones and at the time it seemed like that might make him a star. In this cover story from the June 2002 issue of Movieline magazine, Christensen talks about what it was liked to be plucked from obscurity by George Lucas.
Last week, in celebration of National Star Wars Day, I ranked the Star Wars franchise from worst to first. As much as I might like to, I don’t get the final say on this or much of anything else. So I asked you guys to share your rankings. For the most part, we agreed more than we disagreed. People generally picked the original movies as their favorites and since George Lucas apparently doesn’t read the blog (yet) no one selected one of the prequels as their favorite movie in the series. It’s time to see how readers ranked the Star Wars movies.
Participation in the Holiday Movie Survey was down from the summer. That may be that readers were too busy to participate. Based on the responses we did get, readers definitely saw fewer movies than they did over the summer which isn’t surprising given that the holiday movie season is roughly half as long. Of the 25 movies included in the survey, readers only ranked seven of them. For the most part, readers liked what they saw. Only one movie received a “thumbs down” from readers, so the rankings will mostly be determined by how many people saw each movie.
With only ten respondents, this may not be scientifically significant, but here are the movies as ranked by readers.
It’s been a little while since we had a Movieline list article. These were a staple of the magazine. Whenever they needed to fill a little space, they’d just start calling around Hollywood until they got a set number of responses to a question. For the December 1996 “Black Hollywood” issue, they asked 65 African-American industry players to tell them about the film that had the greatest impact on their personal lives.
Merry Festivus, elves of LeBlog!
Each year is made up of a series of movie “seasons,” with every production company vying for box office dominance during these peak portions of the cinema calendar. Although there are 12 months in every year, movie theater attendance is, of course, way up during those times of the year when kids of all ages are out of school. Because of this, you’ll see most of the big event movies released in time for extended holiday periods.
Earlier this year, Lebeau and I sat down for a chat about the important releases and trends of the summer movie season, and this time we’ll be covering the same topic as it applies to what we’ve seen in November and December. Come along as we discuss the relative value of this holiday’s offerings and what it might mean for audiences and filmmakers long-term.
These days, you can’t turn around without having Star Wars thrust in your face. Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, we can all settle in for a steady stream of new Star Wars material until even the most ardent fan decides they have had enough. But that wasn’t always the case. After the completion of the original trilogy, Star Wars slowly slipped into near irrelevance. In the nineties, the franchise slowly started to come back to life.
Following the success of Timothy Zahn’s novels, Shadows of the Empire was a multimedia project that included all the products one would associate with a new Star Wars movie except the actual film. There was a video game, novels, comic books, toy lines and trading cards. The Topps trading cards series featured art by acclaimed painters, Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. In the Novemeber 1996 issue of Starlog magazine, the brothers discussed their role in the Star Wars event.
A quick word of warning…The Singing Around the World project is irretrievably silly and sophomoric ….and incomplete. Let it be known that I have no problem embarrassing my self and others and that I had planned to do even more of it! So now that you’ve been warned, let’s dig in!
I told you, didn’t I? Horrifyingly enough, the project was originally conceived as including pretty much every attraction that features a song prominently. In fact, if you know your Walt Disney World jingle history you know that at least one of the songs we sang here is no longer a part of its attraction. Why didn’t we follow through all the way? My travel companions were enthusiastic about the idea, but it really came down to a matter of having enough time. Getting the three targeted shoots done in Hollywood Studios wasn’t hard at all, and we got off to a strong start at Epcot the next day, but as I started to focus on my “Snacking Around the World” videos and the park started to fill up and stuffing our faces became a priority, I went ahead and let a few of the songs slide. Strong light for shooting video was also a concern as night fell and that really cut into the available time for shooting songs the next day in the Magic Kingdom, where we only had from 4pm until whenever it got dark. We just didn’t have enough hours to complete the project fully. With a planned dinner at Be Our Guest and multiple parades/fireworks/shows a priority for the evening I decided to just be happy with what I had…but not before pushing for one last shoot over in Tomorrowland. If you’ve already seen the above video then you know what I’m talking about.
Hopefully everyone watching the video will take it in the good humor it was intended and won’t expect too much from my performance or production values. If anybody feels cheated by the exclusion of “Grim Grinning Ghosts” or “It’s a Small World” or some other classic we didn’t manage to follow through on, well I challenge you to complete the whole project where I failed. I believe in you!
Earlier this week, We looked at an interview with Sigourney Weaver from the August 1996 issue of Starlog magazine. The cover prominently featured a picture of Weaver as Ellen Ripley from that summer’s sequel, Aliens. But what caught readers’ eye was a blurb that seems unthinkable twenty years later. Starlog magazine, a haven for sci fi geeks of the eighties, asked the question “Is Star Wars fandom dead?”
Twenty years later when a steady stream of new movies and merchandise are flooding the market, such a question seems absurd. But a few years after Return of the Jedi was released, the franchise went dormant for a few years. Here is a reminder of those dark days.
Below you will find the introduction for an article I first wrote in May of 2016 detailing my estimation of the Disney movies you should have seen before a Walt Disney World vacation in order to understand and appreciate best what you’re most likely to see there. It is now July of 2017 and there have been enough changes to the parks and resorts that I have decided to update this article. With the exciting new announcements at this year’s D23 convention it should be obvious that these ratings will not hold up for much longer than they did this time. My intention right now is to update these rankings whenever necessary. You will notice that some movies, like Lilo & Stitch and Pinocchio have dropped out of the top 20 while others have jumped up into this list. This is truly a moving target, but those movies are still great and ones I would recommend whether you’re going to Walt Disney World or not.
Recently, a co-worker of mine told me he and his wife are taking their kids on their very first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida this summer. Apparently he’d heard I’m something of an enthusiast on the topic. After a quick rundown of where they’re staying and eating, he expressed some concerns over the quickly approaching date for reserving the family’s Fastpasses and worried that his young kids might be scared of some of the rides (he has a 4-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son). I told him they probably would be a little tentative and suggested that he sit down with them on YouTube to get a preview of some of the attractions he thought they were targeting. I’ve heard from some parents that this has helped to demystify some of the gentle dark rides and can act as a stepping stone for the overall experience. He seemed pretty pleased with this suggestion and I came out of the conversation feeling rather happy with myself. It was a win-win.
Unfortunately, he came back a couple of days later with a completely different problem. He had watched several ride videos with his kids like I’d said, and he hadn’t gotten much feeling that they were frightened by what they saw. But maybe that was because they had spent the entire time asking him who all of the characters were! This came as quite a shock to both him and his wife. After all, they were pretty sure all kinds of cartoons were on in the house on a rather regular basis. But there he was, trying to explain the seven dwarfs, Peter Pan, and even the Little Mermaid to his kids. A cursory investigation of the family’s available Disney movies revealed part of the problem: they weren’t the ones with rides based on them. Frozen had been played past one family member’s tolerance, but that ride isn’t open yet. His son had practically worn out a copy of Pixar’s Cars, but there is next to nothing at Disney World featuring those characters. There was a lot of Disney Jr stuff like Doc McStuffins and Jake and the Neverland Pirates available, which really just covers one stage show and maybe a character meal. He snatched out a copy of Beauty and the Beast and insisted to his kids that they had all watched it together a couple of times. Maybe they had, but at that moment all he was getting were blank stares. “For crying out loud,” he said to me (or something less printable here), “What the heck do they need to see before we leave in nine weeks?!” Clearly, the stress of trip planning was getting to him.
I smiled and told him I’d have a list for him in a day or two, but that a refresher on Beauty and the Beast couldn’t hurt in the meantime. Join me as we look at a big part of that promised list.
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Today’s Disney fans are waiting in anticipation for news on the upcoming Star Wars projects opening in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In 1987, Starlog Magazine published a two-part article covering the first Star Wars attraction, Star Tours. Star tours opened that year in Anaheim and made its Orlando debut two years later. In 2011, both simulator attractions were upgraded with 3-D and multiple scenes that are shown randomly. Here’s a look at the first time Star Wars came to Disney.
The Golden Raspberries started off as an informal joke. Something for a publicist and his friends to do after the Oscars had ended. Over time, it has become and enduring and irreverent tradition. In theory, The Razzies poke fun at the worst movies of the year. But like any awards ceremony, the Razzies frequently make the wrong call. We’re going back and looking at the history of the Golden Raspberry Awards one year at a time.
The twentieth annual Razzies nominated the movies of 1999. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and The Sixth Sense were the highest-grossing movies that year. American Beauty won Best Picture and Hilary Swank won her first Best Actress Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry. The Razzies partied like it was 1999 even though the awards were actually handed out in Y2K. And that meant getting jiggy in the wild, wild West.
The Star Wars bracket game was set up to be heroes vs. villains. In the end, the victory went to the Dark Side. Darth Vader beat out his own daughter to win the title of Ultimate Star Wars Character. He’s definitely one of the most iconic villains in movie history.
That brings this iteration of the bracket game to a close. It will be back next year. I will probably run two bracket games in January just as I did this year. 2015 started off with bracket games covering the movies of 1985 and 1995. That set the tone for a lot of the articles that came out all year long. I’m looking to do essentially the same thing with the years 1986 and 1996.
As always, thanks to everyone who played along with the Star Wars bracket game. Things are going to be a bit hectic for the next few weeks. Updates over the holidays will likely be a bit less frequent. But rest assured Le Blog will be back in full force in the new year. If I don’t see you before then, best wishes!