MickeyBlog Disney News for January 30th
What’s going on in the wide world of Disney this week? A legend has retired, a dragon has breathed fire once again, and a Nobel Peace Prize candidate has doubled down at Disney Springs. Let’s get you caught up in the latest edition of MickeyBlog News!
Lee Unkrich Leaves Pixar
Did you like Toy Story? How about Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3? Or Coco or Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc.? I’m asking these questions for a simple reason. I’m checking to see whether you’re an admirer of the works of Lee Unkrich.
After getting an ignominious start in Hollywood as an editor on Silk Stalkings (google it, kids), Unkrich joined Pixar and became a story editor on Toy Story. While working with Joss Whedon on the project, Unkrich earned a reputation as a master of storytelling. He became a go-to director at Pixar, ultimately winning Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film for Coco and Toy Story 3.
Sadly, Unkrich’s long and storied career with Pixar has come to a close. He wrote a lovely letter to his “Pixar family” to explain his retirement from the studio. After a quarter-century of constant work, Unkrich desires more time spent with his actual family. He’d also like to spend more time on a few longstanding projects he was incapable of completing while under the Pixar umbrella.
For movie lovers, this news is a huge positive. After all, when Brad Bird did something similar, he created a magnificent film, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and then a love letter to Disney fans, Tomorrowland.
Then, he returned to Pixar to direct The Incredibles 2. Presumably, the door is always open for Unkrich as well. For now, he’d like to go out on his own for a while, which is commendable. In the interim, Toy Story 4 is safely in the hands of Josh Cooley, a rising star at Pixar. He directed Riley’s First Date.
You Can’t Slay a Dragon
Eight months ago, Disney suffered an embarrassing incident. During the Festival of Fantasy Parade, Maleficent the Dragon caught fire. It seems that the fire-breathing dragon suffered an internal leak that caused the fire to start too early. The unfortunate series of events led to fire starting just before the “throat” of the dragon, leading to a hysterical and somewhat frightening visual.
— Alyssa (@alyssa_hendy) May 11, 2018
Well, I’ve got good news for Khaleesi fans. You can’t keep a good dragon down (you’ve been warned, Night King!). Okay, Maleficent is technically an evil dragon, but you get the point. She’s back and scarier than ever! She’s fire-breathing-er than ever before, too.
MickeyBlog was lucky enough to be there for the return of the dragon. You can watch the video of Maleficent’s triumphant return here. Also, if you’re not already following us on Facebook, hit the shiny live button. Our live videos are a great way to get you through a dreary day.
Do You Admire Disney?
Well, you’re not alone. Thanks to a wealth of upbeat news items, The Walt Disney Company’s public outlook is at near-historic levels. A recent survey of “3,750 business executives, directors, and analysts” revealed that Disney’s one of the top four Most Admired Companies in the World!
Yes, a survey performed by Fortune Magazine revealed that only three companies have earned more admiration than Disney. The remarkable part is that the corporations listed ahead of Disney all have market caps of half a trillion or more! The top three is Apple, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway. Disney’s worth less than a third of Berkshire Hathaway yet its overall respect level rivals that of its much wealthier peer.
It’s not just, my friends! Everyone loves Disney!
Speaking of Admiration…
I’m one of those people who watches Top Chef religiously. I’ve even recapped a few seasons over the years. And one of my favorite people in the culinary world is a celebrity chef, José Andrés. In addition to being supremely talented at his craft, Andrés is by all accounts a wonderful human being. Why, he’s even a candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize!
The chef famously supplied millions of free meals to people impacted by natural disasters in Puerto Rico, California, and Texas. He even fed some of the federal employees affected by the recent government shutdown. José Andrés is a hero.
Disney understandably wants to be in business with this man as much as possible. They’ve already developed Jaleo, which will open at Disney Springs in some point soon. Now, Disney’s entered into an agreement to add a Quick Service restaurant called Pepe. It’s the first physical restaurant version of the famous food truck, Pepe. And when you dine here, you can feel good about it, knowing that José Andrés uses his profits to feed the needy.
Hong Kong Disneyland Takes the Right Stand
Have you ever dreamed of retiring and moving to a Disney theme park? Maybe you even hope to work at the parks as you get older. Richard Gerth, the famed greeter at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, did precisely this, making Disney his post-retirement dream job, one he held until he passed away last year at the age of 92!
When Disney park officials evaluate older employees, they face some unusual challenges. Full-time cast members still require benefits and insurance, the latter of which can get extremely expensive for elderly people. Parks in other countries face similar difficulties, but one recently announced changes that could have ripple effects at all Disney parks.
Kong Disneyland had standing rules in place for employees over 60. Their hiring was re-evaluated on an annual basis, giving these workers the equivalent of one-year contracts. Approximately 130 of the park’s 5,000 full-time employees lived under constant fear that they’d have to re-apply for their own jobs. As part of this process, they had to prove that they were still healthy enough to work, a less than ideal requirement for anyone.
Thankfully, park officials have thrown out the new system and introduced a much-improved one. From now on, cast members 60 and over have open-ended contracts. These agreements include no termination date, a drastic change from the previous 12-month contracts. One cast member excitedly relayed to the South China Morning Post that, ““I had planned to stay at home after retiring, but now I can keep working at the park as long as I’m capable.”
Hopefully, this wonderful policy change will get adopted by Disney parks around the world. It would allow many more Richard Gerths to become a part of park visits. These individuals who dedicate their later lives to Disney are heroes who deserve such respect and security in their jobs.
More International Disney News
Let’s close out this week with news items from three different international Disney parks. Disneyland Paris will offer a limited time character breakfast as part of its Pirates & Princesses Festival celebration. From February 12th through April 1st, guests may visit Auberge de Cendrillon in Fantasyland.
Here, they’ll interact with a slew of Disney Princesses! The cost of the meal is 49 Euros for adults ($55.87 in American dollars at the time of publication) or 39 Euros for kids ($44.47). That’s a decent price for a meal that rivals Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom.
Shanghai Disneyland has introduced something more permanent. After 2 ½ years of operation, the park has FINALLY added annual pass options. Guests have literally begged for them since the park’s inception. They’re now available and come in three forms.
The Sunday Annual Pass is precisely what it sounds like, a pass that provides admittance on non-blackout Sundays throughout the year. The Weekday + Sunday Annual Pass covers most but not all of the calendar.
It works for six days out of the week but also has blackout days. Park officials indicate that this pass will be good for a minimum of 250 days per year. Finally, the Anyday Annual Pass guarantees park admission every day of the year.
The prices for these three plans are $192, $237, and $489 for adults. Yes, they’re quite affordable. And to add a bit more worth to the passholder packages, Shanghai Disneyland is building an entire themed land based on Zootopia. This idea has percolated since the movie’s release in 2016.
The premise of an entire world comprised of anthropomorphic animals is tantalizing. It would fit organically with the premise of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, too. Let’s hope that Walt Disney World follows the Toy Story Land pattern of mimicking their Chinese peers with a follow-up construction in Orlando! Details of the current project are scarce, but you can read everything available at the Parks Blog.
Not to be left out, Tokyo Disneyland has something new and delightful at one of their resorts. The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is already famous for its themed rooms. Guests who love Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella already had terrific places to stay. Now, a new Disney princess will get her own themed rooms.
Sofia the First, star of the Disney Channel television series, will get more than just a series of rooms based off of her and her friends. There’s a room service meal, too! The Sofia the First rooms are available for booking starting on February 5th. As you know, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel sells out almost immediately. You should speak with a MickeyTravels expert to get your trip scheduled asap so that you can book a Sofia the First room next week!
Oh, one more thing… Millennium Falcon Smuggler’s Run will have Single Rider lines! YES!!!