Archive for December, 2010

WDW Today Episode 816 – Cruisin’

by on December 24, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 816 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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BETAMOUSE #45 – Win, Fail, Meh – Part Deux

by on December 23, 2010

betamouse logoA new episode of Betamouse is out, co-hosted by TouringPlans.com developer Henry Work.

Download the episode directly or subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

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He Fights For The Users

by on December 23, 2010

Previously on TRON…

Once upon a time there was a man with two first names.  He wasn’t terribly fond of the first one, so everyone called him by the second, Flynn.  This man loved video games.  So much so, that he owned an arcade, which he named after himself – he practically lived there.  For a job, he worked as a programmer for a company named ENCOM, and he really didn’t like it very much.  So in his spare time he had been programming some video games to suit his passions – a love of motorcycles, tanks, and outer space.  He wanted to start his own company.

Another not quite so nice programmer, Ed Dillinger, figured out what Flynn was doing, and stole his video games.  He presented them as his own to ENCOM, and they put him in charge of the company.  In this position, he developed two programs.  The first was an information hungry artificial intelligence called Master Control Program, or MCP for short – it was good at playing chess.  MCP was a bit of a megalomaniac and felt no connection to any User and therefore unlike other programs it did not have the likeness of it’s creator.  The second program, Sark, who was designed as a guardian (firewall) for MCP, had taken the likeness of Dillinger.

MCP blackmails Dillinger into being his representative in the real world by holding over him evidence of the theft of Flynn’s video games.  Flynn, tries to hack into MCP using his hacker program named Clu, and this causes a security lock down at ENCOM.  A programmer, Alan Bradley, is upset because he’s unable to reach his own security program, Tron, due to the lock down.  His girlfriend, Lora, who has been working on a digitizing laser, leads Alan to Flynn, where they learn of Flynn’s plan to out Dillinger and get him fired from ENCOM.

Alan agrees to help Flynn so he can regain access to Tron, and together they break into  into ENCOM through a “really big door” to retrieve the evidence.  MCP discovers Flynn, and uses Lora’s laser to pull him into the cyberspace world of the Grid.  Once there, MCP turns Flynn over to Sark with orders to place him into the games.  There he meets Ram and Tron, the latter of whom he mistakes for Alan since Tron has the likeness of his creator, Alan.  One thing leads to another and together Flynn and Tron manage destroy Sark and the MCP.  Well, okay, mostly Tron – he does after all fight for the Users.

Did you get all that? Because it’s really hard for me to picture after not having seen the original TRON for about 15 years.  The original TRON came out in 1982 and, while it wasn’t the most successful box office ever, it did okay.  Now it was a science fiction movie, and at the time, teenagers like myself ate it up.  Video games were still coming of age, and everyone who played them fell in love with the idea of being able to enter the game like Flynn did and play from the inside.  I’m sure they wanted to do it without a codgy MCP in the way.

Back then, who’d have thought that 28 years later there’d be a sequel.  It was certainly opened for one, and fans have always wanted one.  But by 2007 most had figured the chance for a sequel was dead.  Then suddenly it leaks out that Joseph Kosinski is heading up a sequel to TRON.  A few months later we learn that Jeff Bridges (Flynn) is in talks to be in the sequel.  And the three year media frenzy ensues.  Many wondered if we’d be TRON’d out by the time it got here.  But here we are in 2010 just one week after the release of the sequel, TRON: Legacy.

We learn that once Flynn ousted Ed Dillinger he became the CEO of ENCOM he set out to use his experiences inside the Grid to try to change the world.  He continued on this course through 1989.  The movie opens with him telling the story of his adventures with Tron to his son, Sam.  He tells of how, along with an upgraded version of Tron and a new version of Clu they set out to create a new version of the Grid.

There was a problem though, Flynn had an obsession with perfection.  Now this is covered briefly in Tron: Legacy, but it is expanded upon in the storyline of the video game TRON Evolution, which is considered to be canon.  The problem was that with his obsession blinded him to the realities that one might learn had they read the poem If by Rudyard Kipling.  Perfection is unattainable.  Unfortunately Flynn learns this too late and a race war begins brewing in the Grid between the Basics – the original User created programs introduced into the new Grid by Flynn, Tron, and Clu – and the ISOs, short for Isomorphic Algorithms – spontaneously created programs that do not stem from Users.

Clu re-purposes an ISO named Jalen into a computer virus known as Abraxus and sets it off to attack Cyberspace with the express purpose of eliminating the ISOs.  Flynn creates a new warrior named Anon specifically to eliminate Abraxus.  Anon manages to derrez Abraxus, and rescue Quorra, but himself derezzes when doing so.  All this is at a price though as Abraxus was merely a distraction for Tron and Flynn meant to last long enough for Clu to form a Coup d’état and take over the Grid.

At the sacrifice of Tron, Flynn manages to escape.  He heads for the Grid’s version of the hills, and basically becomes a zen motivated, Tronified version The Dude from The Big Lebowski.  Now I’m not trying to make light of this, because honestly, I thought it played very well.  In an interview, Eddie Kitsis – writer for Tron: Legacy – mentions that in one of their first meetings Jeff Bridges hands himself and Adam Horowitz some books on Buddhism.  So it’s not surprising that when you put the aged Flynn in a light emitting trench-coat with a light disc that it would come off this way.

I have to say that I’m sort of disappointed with the character of Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund).  I just feel he was really poorly developed.  Not a lot of characterization, and that makes his sudden maturation at the end of the movie seem really odd, when only hours before he storms off on a tantrum causing all sorts of problems for himself, his father, and Quorra.  He causes a lot more havok inside cyberspace then his father ever did, and with much less purpose.  Odd that he’s the main protagonist of the film really.

This is by stark contrast to Quorra, who is just cool on many levels for TRON fans old and new.  She’s a rebel, an outcast, a kick-butt fighter, and knows how to make an entrance.  She is played by Olivia Wilde who you might know as Thirteen from the television show House.  She really helps to make the movie what it is, even though she shows up at least one third of the way into it.

There’s a lot in here for fans of the original TRON movie too.  You’ve got Ed Dillinger’s son Edward as the chairman of the ENCOM board – a potential villain for a third TRON movie.  You’ve got Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role as Alan Bradley from the original TRON and making a brief appearance as Tron.  And all sorts of nifty references to things throughout the movie, especially two references to what is likely to be the next big Disney revival The Black Hole – you get to see a what is either VINCENT or Bob and a poster for the original movie in Sam’s bedroom in 1989.  There are a number of easter eggs hidden throughout.  Including a nod to Blade Runner at the very end.

Overall I really liked the movie.  It held my attention throughout even though I was wondering a lot of the time why it even bothered to reference TRON in the title.  They really could have kept the ties to the original more tenuous, and probably accomplished exactly the same thing this movie managed to.  There was little that hadn’t been covered by movies like The Matrix in the interim.  It has a lot of tasty eye candy – especially the lightcycle battle – but not as much as Avatar.

If you’re looking for TRON: Legacy to be the best movie ever, it’s not.  What it is is a really good sequel to the original TRON.  It’s also a really good science fiction movie hearkening back to the great movies like Forbidden Planet and 2001 where the key protagonist is really just acting out in order to question its own existence and purpose in the universe.  I definitely feel this is one you’ll want to see in the theater, on the biggest screen possible, in 3D.  And as you know from my Tangled review I’m not a super-fan of the overuse of 3D in the movie industry.

What about you? Have you seen TRON: Legacy?  If not do you intend to?  Are you TRON fan?  Or new to the whole TRON mania?  If you did see the movie, what did you like most about it?  Least?  Are you on the Grid?  You’re messing with my Zen thing an that’s just Flynntastic.

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Crowd Calendar Updated To Reflect Park Schedules For July 2011

by on December 23, 2010

With the recent release of Disney’s official park hours and schedules for July 2011 comes the accompanying update to the Crowd Calendar. The calendar now reflects the official hours.

July crowds can be some of the largest of the year. Next to Christmas and Easter, the crowds around July 4th edge out Thanksgiving for the most crowded holiday. The good news is that wait times at the parks are not as bad as the heavy crowds would indicate. Extended hours, summer rain storms and seasonal staff can keep wait times only slightly above average during some days in July. Touring Plans will be essential though, make sure to pick out plans that make the most sense for your group.

If you are travelling in July make sure to check the calendar for any changes. The calendar is subject to change and usually will a few times before July arrives. You can track changes for your trip by clicking on our Crowd Tracker. Visit any day on the calendar and click “Track this day”.

Think of the crowd calendar as an extended weather forecast. The closer we get to the date in question, the more information we have and the more accurate we can be.

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WDW Today Episode 815 – Listener Questions

by on December 22, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 815 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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Rumor: Epcot may open at 8 am on Wednesday, Dec 22

by on December 21, 2010

Word on the street is that Epcot’s Land pavilion, including Soarin’, may open as early as 8 am on Wednesday, December 22 to accommodate holiday crowds. No word on whether other attractions will be open, and nothing official from Disney. Still, it couldn’t hurt to be at Epcot around 7:45 am if you’re already headed there.

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TouringPlans.com Friend of the Week!

by on December 20, 2010

Here at TouringPlans we’ve made some pretty awesome friends in the Disney community and we’re honored to be a part of them in any way we can. Whether it be a podcast, or a blog, or just a generally awesome idea; we are happy to take part! We’ll be featuring our friends weekly here on the blog to make sure you know what’s going on in their community! These guys are definitely worth checking out.

The Disney Driven Life is a community for “neurotic Disney people” started by our own blogger JL Knopp back in 2009. JL simply started blogging on her hilarious own “neurotic” rituals as she traveled to Disney and what do you know–there were many of us out there that could admit to the same thing. JL evolved from just a blog to leading an entire community where people can “count themselves in” to the madness. I’ve been counted as well! You are looking at a very proud NDI #30. Beyond simply being counted, all Disney fans must check out The Disney Drive Life’s “Sacred Seven” commandments of a Disney trip. You will truly get a laugh and know you have found a community where you can feel at home.

This week on The Disney Driven Life we’re featuring a topic truly unique! The Disney Driven Life community hosted their own Disney Academy Awards! There were a ton of  categories from the best magazine overall to most likely to become a hitchhiking ghost. The community rallied with the voting, hundreds did, and The Disney Driven Life’s official podcast Innermouse then hosted an awards show announcing the winners. The fun doesn’t end there. All of those who won recorded video acceptances that The Disney Driven Life has hosted on their site. How cool is that?

We’d like to personally thank the entire Disney Driven Life community for voting the TouringPlans blog the best overall, the most user friendly and the most visually appealing! We are honored to have you reading and commenting! A special shout out is also in order to our blogger Kristen Helmstetter who was voted Neurotic Disney Person of the year! We are honored to have you blogging for us, Kristen!

Check out our acceptances speeches on behalf of the TouringPlans.com team and thank you to The Disney Driven Life for hosting this awesome awards show!

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WDW Today Episode 814 – A Change Of Heart

by on December 19, 2010

wdwtoday logoEpisode 814 of WDW Today is now available for download here. Join TouringPlans.com owner Len Testa as co-host for a podcast that features many Walt Disney World travel planning tips!

One-click subscriptions to WDW Today:

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D23 Magic & Merriment Reflections (Part II of II)

by on December 18, 2010

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to attend the D23 event Magic & Merriment that took place at Walt Disney World from December 10th until December 12th. To view Part I, click here.

Day Three – Sunday, December 12th

Sunday brunch at the Top of the World Lounge the following morning was our next event. Despite staying at Shades of Green, we had…uhh…magically found our way into this lounge earlier on the trip, and we were enthused about seeing how it would look during the daytime hours. We arrived fashionably (more like inadvertently) late thanks to monorail delays, but luckily that only cut into brunch by about 10 minutes. As soon as we got there, we received a reusable DVC tote with loads of DVC advertising materials. If any of you out there are looking for a confident with whom to share secrets, I suggest steering clear of Disney. I can only imagine how it treats “normal” secrets given its blatant advertising of its “Best Kept” secret.

The food here was delicious and the Top of the World Lounge was a great location. Although it was exceedingly windy outside, the morning views were gorgeous, and the photo op set up with Mickey was a nice touch. My only complaint would be the in-your-face DVC advertising. Between the bags and the subsequent constantly-announced tours, it was a little much. I understand that this was probably part of the Faustian Bargain made in order to secure the exclusive Top of the World Lounge, but if that was necessary, maybe D23 should have looked into getting the California Grill or some other location? Even with the advertisements, this event gets a respectable B.

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

The next event would be one, if not the, biggest events of the weekend for us. The Castle Suite Tour. It would only be fifteen minutes long, but we made the most of that time, balancing the desire to take photos like a madman with the desire to enjoy the experience. Like everyone says, the Suite is surprisingly small. I managed to get some neat photos, too, so I was pleased. The 15 minutes passed in no time, but given that they had to get all of us through in one afternoon, I understand the time constraint. Part of me was hoping at the end of our tour, we would be told we had won a stay in there for the evening, but it was not to be. I guess my only recourse for that is to change my last name to Cruise and have some cosmetic work done. This event gets an A-.

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

The Castle Suite Tour was the last unique event of the weekend. We also were provided Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets for that evening (with “reserved” spots for the fireworks and parade—in terrible locations). For those unfamiliar with this event, the tickets were priced at $235 each, and sold out in a matter of seconds (literally). I don’t think this necessarily speaks to the value of the weekend, as the tickets were so limited that it’s somewhat of an artificial market. Overall, I would not say it was good value for the money, but reasonable minds may differ on that. The event suffered from poor organization and unreasonable waits between events, at times. It was, however, a lot of fun and gave me a new appreciation for some of the D23 Cast Members as it appears most of them have a genuine love of Disney and enjoy their jobs. While the weekend was not perfect, it was pretty good. Hopefully, as these events continue, D23 will fine tune and make them more enjoyable.

Did any of you attend the event? If so, what are your thoughts? Have any of you attended a different D23 event? What was your experience with that?

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Foto Fridays – D23 Magic & Merriment Reflections (Part I of II)

by on December 17, 2010

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to attend the D23 event Magic & Merriment that took place at Walt Disney World from December 10th until December 12th. I have had some requests to reflect upon my experiences at the event, so that will be the focus of this week’s “Foto Fridays” blog post. Not really much to do with photography per se, although I did take a lot of photos during the events!

Day One – Friday, December 10th

The weekend began on Friday, December 10th, with check-in and an advanced screening of Archiving the Archives. EPCOT had evening Extra Magic Hours that night, so Sarah and I debated skipping this event altogether. Not only should we have skipped the event, D23 should have skipped it. It was a colossal waste of time and money (supposedly, these events are ‘only’ self-sufficient, meaning the tickets for the events only cost what it costs D23 to hold the events; with around 10 Cast Members standing around for the event, I wonder how it contributed to ticket cost). Check-in started at 8 pm, followed by—get this—an hour and a half “private” viewing of One Man’s Dream. One Man’s Dream is cool and all, but that’s far too long to wander around there. The Archiving the Archives video was mildly amusing, but it was just a basic documentary I could’ve watched at home. There are far better uses of my time at WDW. Overall, I’d give the first night’s event an F.

Day Two – Saturday, December 11th

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

The next day we had breakfast at the Odyssey, which included four presentations. One from German chefs, one from Meg Crofton, one from Grand Floridian pastry chefs, and one about this new bead product made of recycled maps. The presentations by the chefs were by far the most amusing. These guys all had a great dynamic: they had a great irreverent humor, were witty, and generally engaging, all while presenting fun information about their craft. All of the chefs were German, except for a lone Austrian. The Germans taught us valuable lessons, such as how Austrians are not as hardworking as Germans.

Meg Crofton was a bit more cold and mechanical, reading typical PR lines from a teleprompter. I looked high and low for her tail and horns, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Perhaps the podium was blocking the tail. Surprisingly, the guidemap bead folks didn’t come across as a big advertisement. Their project was really interesting, actually. I still have no idea how it relates to Christmas, but whatever. Overall, I would give this event an A-; more food and better giveaways would have been nice.

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

Following this event, we had the day to enjoy EPCOT before Candlelight Processional. It was nice having reserved seats without paying for a dining package, but we certainly still paid for them.

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

After Candlelight Processional, we boarded a secret monorail (okay, charter buses) backstage to take us to the Studios. Once there, we entered the set of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular for dinner. We have always wanted to do one of the on set/in ride dinners, so we were glad that this was included in the event. We went around to various set pieces and took photos around them. We were told not to climb on any of the vehicles for safety reasons. Climb on is not the same as crawl under, so Sarah and I quickly snapped the shot below before any clarifications were made to those rules.

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

Dinner was epic. The food was delicious and the beer and wine were unlimited. Afterward, Chip and Dale came out for photos. When I went up to get my third and final beer, the bartender knew what I wanted in advance. Apparently myself and two other people were the only ones who had anything to drink. I felt a little odd about that, but for the price of the event, I was going to get my money’s worth! Overall, I would give this event a B+; while being on the set was cool, the Indy set just doesn’t strike me as being as immersive as, say the Great Movie Ride. I would have given it a solid A had those spears that pop up from the ground been active. If one of those bad boys popped up, it would’ve soiled anyone going through the buffet line!

Once dinner concluded and the park cleared, we got word that it was time to head to the Osborne Lights for a private showing and behind the scenes information from the show director, John Phelan. I must say, Mouse Fan Travel and WDW Today really spoiled us. WDW Today spoiled us in that John Phelan’s presentation was almost word for word what he said about the Osborne Lights on the podcast. After about 2 minutes of listening to him, we realized this, and decided to enjoy the opportunity to take photos and enjoy the lights sans crowds. Mouse Fan Travel spoiled us in that it delivered a hard ticket event with fewer people crowding the Streets of America. I can see how this event might have been wonderful for those who don’t listen to the podcast or didn’t attend Desserts and Delights, but for us, it wasn’t that unique. Still, that’s our fault, not the event’s fault. I’ll give it a solid B+, with it losing points due to the short time duration.

D23 Magic & Merriment Christmas 2010

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