Disney To Do A Proto-Westworld With Its Star Wars Hotel

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The big news to come out of the D23 Expo was the announcement from The Walt Disney Company of its plans to build a Star Wars-themed hotel in Walt Disney World. This hotel or resort is not going to consist of just slapping on Star Wars wallpaper and bedsheets into hotel rooms, but an immersive experience for guests. From the moment guests checks in they will be transported to the Star Wars universe while the resort doubles as a massive starship. This will allow guests to have interactive, role-playing experiences as they become part of a Star Wars story.

Imagine going to this Star Wars hotel to cosplay as a Jedi Knight or a Sith Lord and living out your space fantasy. Bob Chapek, the chairman of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, promised that the experience for guests will be “100 percent immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day.” Adding to the immersive experience will be new tech that gives the illusion of being onboard a starship which will feature wandering droids and all the Star Wars creatures and aliens that will excite any fan.

Sound familiar? Just swap out the droids and space pirates for gunslingers and cowboys and you’ve got Westworld. For anyone who hasn’t seen the old movie or the acclaimed TV show on HBO, Westworld takes place in a futuristic theme park where guests are fully immersed in elaborate recreations of the Wild West as they have shoot outs with android cowboys and interact with other Western archetypes that are also androids. The only difference between the two parks is that Disney will be using actors and not androids (that is if you discount the assorted non-humanoid droids who won’t have the level of intelligence as those seen on Westworld). Given time, Disney will be able to replace human actors with androids. After all, they are pushing the envelope with their famous animatronics. Already we are seeing experimental mobile animatronics that can interact with guests at the parks.

This concept is not exactly new. Dude ranches exist, as well as zombie cruises. Universal Studios Orlando has Diagon Alley, which is a richly detailed recreation of Harry Potter’s hidden wizarding alley in London. What also sells the illusion of being in Harry Potter’s world is the Hogwarts Express train ride that transports you from London to the famous wizard academy. Expect that similar technology will be used to showcase epic space scenes outside the hotel’s windows. Not that long ago, there was the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas where guests were literally transported into a replica of the Enterprise and Deep Space Nine and interacted with famous Star Trek aliens. The actors playing the various Ferengi, Vulcans, and Borg always stayed in character while they served cuisine and drinks inspired by the franchise. Disney will probably look to the Star Trek Experience for ideas and inspiration and learn about potential problems.

One thing to consider is that not everyone who visits the Star Wars hotel may not want to be fully immersed in the experience. They can just be companions of more devoted guests who will wholeheartedly plunge into the experience. So how will they be catered? Will the actors simply ignore them if they see the guests are unwilling to play along? That has happened in the Star Trek Experience, which was fine since it wasn’t a completely immersive experience, but won’t this shatter any illusions in the resort?

Also, trying to keep up the illusion will strain logistics, which will translate into increased costs. So, we all know what that means. Yes, be prepared to shell out a substantial amount of money, probably several months’ worth of rent money, to pay for a short stay. But, maybe Disney will feel benevolent and provide coupons and discounts to us poor peons as the slimy lawyer suggested in Jurassic Park. In the end, most of us will not be able to afford to spend time at the hotel, and do not be surprised if visitors are not even allowed into the lobby for fear of disrupting the illusion. After all, how can a serious cosplayer all decked out as an X-Wing fighter pilot enjoy his or her stay in the Star Wars hotel if they encounter not Jawas, but tourists in tacky t-shirts? But, it was expensive to stay at Westworld so a high cost in this coming hotel should not be unexpected.

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If this takes off, no, when it takes off, expect other immersive resort stays and not just Disney. Already there are rumors that Disney’s main theme park rival, Universal Studios Resort, is looking into creating a fully immersive Harry Potter experience, which might include a Hogwarts hotel. Some may complain about this but this competition will induce creativity and maybe make these experiences affordable. In any event, this is exciting development for Star Wars fans as they ponder this resort experience and have something else to anticipate from Disney.

Lewis T. Grove and José Soto

 

 

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Top 10 Summer Movie Seasons

For decades, every summer brings a glut of fun and spectacular films to help us celebrate the carefree days of the hot season. Since the 1980s film studios realized the killing they made at the box office, sometimes for the entire year, with their big-budget, talked-about blockbusters.

Some summer movies of some years are more memorable than others since those years brought us unforgettable classics or pure guilty pleasures that hold up to this day.

Of course, we’re only halfway through this summer season, but if the buzz holds true then with this month’s upcoming trifecta of Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, this year may become one of the great summer seasons. We’ll find out soon! 😀

Anyway, these are the best summer movie seasons so far. Bear in mind that some seasons on the list may not have great films but they sure are guilty pleasures for some fans or were big hits at the time. Needless to say, the emphasis here is on genre flicks, so films like Top Gun or the Mission: Impossible films won’t be mentioned.

10. Summer of 1990: Arachnophobia; Back to the Future, Part III; Darkman; Dick Tracy; Flatliners; Ghost; Gremlins 2: The New Batch; Total Recall; The Witches

9. Summer of 1987: The Believers; Harry and the Hendersons; InnerSpace; The Living Daylights; The Monster Squad; Predator; Robocop; Spaceballs; The Witches of Eastwick

8. Summer of 2004: Alien vs. Predator; The Chronicles of Riddick; The Day After Tomorrow; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; I, Robot; Open Water; Shrek 2; Spider-Man 2; The Village

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7. Summer of 1985: Back to the Future; The Black Cauldron; Cocoon; Day of the Dead; Explorers; Fright Night; The Goonies; Lifeforce; Return of the Living Dead; Return to Oz

6. Summer of 1999: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me; The Blair Witch Project; Deep Blue Sea; The Iron Giant; Mystery Men; The Mummy; The Sixth Sense; Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Tarzan; The Thirteenth Floor

5. Summer of 2011: Captain America: The First Avenger; Green Lantern; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II; Kung Fu Panda 2; Melacholia; Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Super 8; Thor; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; X-Men: First Class

4. Summer of 1984: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension; Conan the Destroyer; Firestarter; Ghostbusters; Gremlins; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; The Last Starfighter; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Streets of Fire

3. Summer of 2014: This summer had many modern classics and even a few notable stinkers/popular-but-dumb hits like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Other films released that summer were exceptional. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Edge of Tomorrow; Godzilla; Guardians of the Galaxy; How to Train Your Dragon 2Lucy; The Purge: Anarchy; X-Men: Days of Future Past

2. Summer of 2008: The summer that brought us a transcendent super hero film and the debut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus, some wonderful and thrilling eye candy! It was a pivotal summer season since its influence is still felt today. The Dark Knight; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Iron Man; Kung Fu Panda; Hellboy II: The Golden Army; Hancock; The Incredible Hulk; Speed Racer; Star Wars: The Clone Wars; WALL-E; Wanted

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1. Summer of 1982: With masterpieces of genre films that still resonate today, how could this famous year not be the number one summer movie season of all time? If you haven’t seen any of these bonafide classics then what are you waiting for? Blade Runner; Conan the Barbarian; E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; Firefox; Poltergeist; The Road Warrior; The Secret of NIMH; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; The Thing; Tron

How would you rate these summer movie seasons? Are there other years that are worth mentioning? Let us know!

Waldermann Rivera

 

Ten Films To Look For In 2016

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We’re clearly in the decade of the superhero film and this year’s slate of films reinforces that notion. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting genre films that range from fantasy to solid sci-fi. Here are ten films being released this year that are the most anticipated.

10. Passengers: The two superstars of genre films Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence co-star in this film about a man (Pratt) who wakes up prematurely in a generational starship and awakens a second passenger (Lawrence) for companionship. Given its release date and potentially controversial subject matter (the morality of waking someone up in that situation just to cure loneliness), this film may get lost or get moved to a different date. Still, Passengers sounds like a fascinating film worth watching if done right. (Release Date: December 21)

fantastic beasts9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, it’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last few Harry Potter films. Focusing on an adult sorcerer who comes to America and the strained relations between magical and non-magical people (muggles) the trailer captured the mood of the Harry Potter film universe. The question is will it please the die-hard fans who will miss Harry Potter? (Release Date: November 18)

8. The BFG: The latest genre offering from the master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is based on a Roald Dahl fantasy book of the same name about a girl who befriends a friendly giant. It may be off putting to some fans who may want a genre film from Spielberg with more heft, especially those aching for the long-delayed Robopocalypse. However, it’s a Steven Spielberg film and he is arguably the greatest living director around, so The BFG is something worth checking out. (Release Date: July 1)

7. Deadpool: After a long gestating period deadpool poseand a terrible debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with the Mouth gets his own solo film. Thanks to a tireless campaign by star Ryan Reynolds and others, 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the film last year and soon we’ll see if the efforts were worth it. Everyone involved promises that Deadpool will be a no-holds-bar, in-your-face but most of all, a faithfully violent interpretation of the Marvel Comics mercenary with the superhuman healing power thingy. (Release Date: February 12)

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars anthology film comes out a year after the mammoth return of the space fantasy franchise. Eager to cash in on their billion-dollar franchise purchase Disney will increase the Star Wars movie presence with this prequel of sorts that is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story details the effort of a team of Rebels out to steal the plans of the Death Star. (Release Date: December 16)

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5. Suicide Squad: A film that expands the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), focuses on a group of captured supervillains sent out on a deadly mission by the U.S. government. Highlighted by a Batman (Ben Afflec) cameo and Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and guaranteed scene-stealer Jared Leto as the new Joker, Suicide Squad will explore a darker corner of the DCEU as it gives audiences a unique spin on superhero films. (Release Date: August 5)

suicide Squad

4. Doctor Strange: The second MCU release for 2016 is already making waves on the Internet ever since we got our first glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios is known for not resting on its superhero laurels and Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like an exception based on released concept art, which is quite eerie. Now forging a new storytelling avenue, that of the mystical and horror realm, this live-action presentation of the Marvel Comics character will hopefully be another hit for Marvel Studios. (Release Date: November 4)

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3. Independence Day: Resurgence: Finally after twenty years, we’re getting the sequel to Independence Day, the smash hit of 1996. Reuniting most of the original cast and newcomers like Liam Hemswoth, director Roland Emmerich picks up the alien invasion story twenty years after the giant alien motherships nearly destroyed humanity and the world. Now armed with hybridized alien tech, humanity, led by Jeff Goldblum, prepares for another confrontation with the aliens when they return to our solar system. (June 24)

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eagerly awaited ever since this film was announced back in 2013 during Comic-Con, it’s the first live-action meeting between Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and it looks like a monumental event! Not only does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boast the first encounter between the two but it also has the debut of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and a new Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The last character may not thrill fans who aren’t too keen with the casting of Luthor, but Affleck’s once-controversial casting has won over many fans. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU will boldly engage the MCU in the Superhero Film War. (March 25)

batman meets superman

1. Captain America: Civil War: The epic throwdown between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the centerpiece in the third Captain America film. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics’ mini-series Civil War, this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, promises to be as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the last Captain America film. But that’s not all Captain America: Civil War has going for it. The film will also feature the MCU debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Marvel’s flagship hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland) himself. Still, with all this going for Captain America: Civil War can the Russo Brothers beat the director sophomore curse that has plagued the second MCU films done by veteran directors (see Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau)? On the other hand, the Russo Bros.’ Captain America: The Winter Solider was one of the greatest superhero films ever made and showcased their talents as directors so they should be able to repeat their success. (May 6)

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Other noteworthy genre films coming out this year include: The 5th Wave (Jan. 22), another young-adult sci-fi film about an alien invasion; Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jan. 29), Dreamworks Animation’s martial arts, talking animal saga continues with Jack Black; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5), adaptation of the horror romance of the same name; Midnight Special (March 18), delayed from last year about a father on the run with his superpowered son; The Jungle Book ( April 15), Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic; X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27), apthe sixth X-Men film brings back the rebooted franchise and a new slate of characters, including a mighty foe; The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (June 10), this sequel directed by James Wan reunites the stars from the first frightfest, but many wonder if it can be as scary as the first one; Finding Dory (June 17), Pixar’s sequel to the classic underwater animated film looks just as magical and colorful as the forgetful Dory goes missing; finding doryWarcraft (June 10), director Duncan Jones hopes to beat the video-game movie adaptation with this epic-looking fantasy adventure; Ghostbusters (July 15), a controversial, all-female reboot/remake of the beloved, comedic paranormal hunters; Star Trek Beyond (July 22) the terrible trailer with its Beastie Boys music dampened expectations for the latest Star Trek film, but it could be better than the trailer lets on; The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), David Yates directs this jungle epic starring Margo Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard as the title hero; Pete’s Dragon (August 12), a remake of the Disney classic about a boy and his oversized but cuddly dragon; Gambit (Oct. 7), another live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic book character starring Channing Tatum; and Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21), stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch/Aguilar, a master assassin in this long-awaited, video-game adaptation.

José Soto

D23 Expo Highlights: Star Wars, MCU, Theme Parks & More

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Disney had their own version of Comic-Con this past weekend with their D23 Expo held in Anaheim. As can be guessed, the convention was related to all things under the Disney umbrella and what’s coming up. The highlights from D23 Expo dealt with exciting theme park and genre film developments.

Star Wars

Many fans were disappointed that there wasn’t a new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but were titillated with the reveal of a Drew Struzan movie poster for the film and an official cast photo for the first Star Wars Anthology film Star Wars: Rogue One. There was also confirmation that Colin Trevorrow, the director of the mammoth hit Jurassic World, will direct Star Wars Episode IX. But the juiciest revelations had to do with the expected and highly anticipated Star Wars Land to be built in Disneyland Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm and all of its intellectual property from George Lucas a few years ago, fans have impatiently waited for some kind of expansion of Star Wars in the Disney parks beyond Star Tours. Yes, the famous simulator ride had been updated with new, random scenes recently, but aside from Jedi Training Academy and the popular Star Wars Weekends, it seemed as if Disney hadn’t really paid a lot of love to its newest IP acquisition. Meanwhile, its rival Universal Studios Orlando stunned and dazzled Harry Potter fans with its meticulously developed Harry Potter lands in their parks.

That all changed with the announcement. Finally, Disney will have a worthy answer to Harry Potter with an equally revered IP. The Star Wars Land (note: it wasn’t called that in the announcement) will be 14 acres, which will feature a cantina and an immersive Star Wars environment on a new planet similar to what Universal did with Diagon Alley and Hogswart. There will be two new E-ticket rides, one will allow visitors to pilot the Millennium Falcon (most likely some kind of simulator ride), while the other will be based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There will be another update to Star Tours that will include a destination from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, an updating of Jedi Training Academy, and an interactive experience called Star Wars Launch Bay. This attraction will be in pavilions in both parks that will feature meet and greets, exhibits and stores, of course. The only drawback to these ambitious plans is that when it came to the time table for all of this the only answer was “coming soon”. Just thinking out loud here, but Disney should take heed on how quickly Universal builds its new attractions. Some of us would like to have something open before this decade ends!

Marvel Cinematic Universe

strangeThe two items that are keeping fans salivating had to do with Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange. With the latter, Marvel Studios guru Kevin Feige introduced concept art (Doctor Strange begins filming later this fall) that featured a classic look for the sorcerer that includes his red cape and Eye of Agamotto. A trailer for Captain America: Civil War was unveiled, which, of course, no one that didn’t attend D23 Expo could see. There are tons of fake “leaked” trailers out now on YouTube and the smattering of legit ones are taken down too fast to bother linking to, but rest assured as soon as its released to the masses, you can see it here. Based on the descriptions, it sounds like an awesome film and it could be part of the reason why DC/Warner Bros. moved their own superhero civil war flick to another date.

Theme Park News

The other major announcement regarding the Disney theme parks was that Disney’s Hollywood Studios will build a Toy Story Land for the young and young at heart. At 11 acres, this land will have two new rides (a spinner ride and a family coaster), expand Toy Story Mania, which is probably the best news because the wait times for that attraction is beyond ridiculous (and frankly not worth the wait). No time frame was given as to when this will happen. But based on the other big construction needed for Star Wars Land, Disney might as well shut down Disney’s Hollywood Studios until all of this is finished. They may finish ahead of schedule that way, make fans even happier, who will more likely spend money sooner.

toy story land

Speaking of slow construction, the Avatar Land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is still chugging along. At least with this expansion we have an actual opening date (2017). For anyone that doesn’t know, there will be two attractions based on Avatar, one is similar to the popular Soarin’ ride and will allow visitors to fly over the skies of Pandora, and the other attraction will be a boat ride.

iron man ride

Here’s some news that will rankle North American Marvel fans, Hong Kong Disneyland will have an Iron Man ride. Similar to Star Tours, the Iron Man Experience will feature the Golden Avenger facing off against the forces of Hydra in Hong Kong. Sounds great for anyone who has an updated passport and the money and time to burn. Look, we understand that there can’t be any Marvel rides in Walt Disney World, but couldn’t they have this slotted for Disneyland? That agreement between Disney and Universal only applies to rides east of the Mississippi.

Upcoming Films

Disney had presentations for its upcoming film slate and the announcements were fast and heavy. New animated films include Gigantic, Moana, Zootopia, live-action versions of Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell, and The Jungle Book, a remake of Pete’s Dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Alice Through The Looking Glass. Part of the presentation focused on Pixar, which showcased The Good Dinosaur and announcements for Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, Coco (based on the Dia de los Muertos festival), and Toy Story 4. This fourth film in the franchise will be more of a love story and will be about Woody looking for his lost love Bo Peep. The Pixar stuff is exciting except for the third go around with Cars. But marketing types at Disney would disagree with that!

release schedule

All these announcements and presentations at D23 Expo confirm that Disney isn’t resting on its laurels. The next few years will be exciting times for fans, at least when it comes to films. The theme park components will pay off at a much later date.

 

Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley Opens At Universal Studios Orlando

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The big news regarding theme parks of course was the July 8 opening of Diagon Alley, the new expansion of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando. Based on the popular Harry Potter book and film series Diagon Alley is an immediate hit with parkgoers and Harry Potter fans. The newest land added to Universal Studios Orlando consists of the hidden wizarding alley found in London, England. Adorned with cobblestone streets and maze-like alleyways and streets, Diagon Alley boasts several shops and as the centerpieces Harry Potter And The Escape From Gringotts ride and the Hogswarts Express train that connects Universal Studios Orlando with Islands of Adventure.

After the runaway success of Islands of Adventure’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an expansion was fastracked by Universal Resorts. But instead of just encroaching the faithfully recreated Hogsmeade village into other areas of Islands of Adventure, the innovative idea of putting the expansion into Universal Studios Orlando was utilized instead.

Expressway To Both Parks

100_2309The expansion can be found next to Disaster! at the area where the old Jaws ride was located. Visitors coming to the area will first see a replica of a section of modern-day London complete with a train station that leads to the Hogwarts Express and the magical Knight Bus featured in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. To gain entry to the train ride, you need a two-park ticket otherwise you are forced to remain in Diagon Alley and vice versa. The train itself is a perfect rendition of the one seen in the Harry Potter films and can accommodate large amounts of passengers.

Once assigned to a roomy cabin, the first thing that strikes the eyes is the passenger-side window that is actually an HD screen showing a brick wall with steam rolling about. On the aisle-side of the cabin, the windows are frosted. After the train leaves, passengers can look out the window and see the London cityscape and surrounding suburbs, but with signs of the malicious Dementors afoot. Meanwhile on the aisle-side of the cabin, silhouettes of Harry Potter and other characters are seen walking back and forth. At one point the Dementors invade the train who are seen as silhouettes, but are quickly dispelled.

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After a few minutes the train reaches Hogsmeade (and shortly before, Hagrid himself appears outside the window striding a flying motorcycle) allowing passengers to disembark onto Islands of Adventure. If you want to go back to London and Diagon Alley, you have to leave the station (which is next to the twin rollercoaster ride Dragon Challenge) and get back on line with your two-park ticket handy. On the way back to London, passengers will witness magical creatures like the hippogriff and centaurs trouncing around the forest surrounding Hogsmeade. Either route provides a nice, comfortable ride between the parks. The character silhouettes and the passenger windows certainly add an interesting touch to the experience. Even though it isn’t an E-ticket ride, Hogswart Express is a novel way to transit the parks. Continue reading