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Character Central Anniversary and Updates
DisneyDan  Sunday, January 8, 2017 1:11:24 PM
Hello everyone,

First of all, Happy New Year to you all! Jon and I both hope that the new year started well for you all and that 2016 ended with a bang!

If you are a regular here to the blog, you will know that it is fairly unusual for me to post updates about the internal workings of Character Central, but I felt that today we reached an important point in our history. With us turning seven years old last week, I needed to share with you all some of the things that are coming to Character Central in 2017. Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that I am more than well aware that the site has become slower with time, and that some of you regularly experience time out problems, and get either the Flik or Figment errors. Trust me when I say, these things annoy us, too, and we want nothing more than to be able to prevent those pages from displaying!

A massive overhaul of Character Central is well passed due, and while we have had some upgrades over the past seven years, we both feel that it is now time to completely change the site. Let me lay out some of our plans, which I hope you will agree, are quite exciting!

We want to move away from external image hosting, with all content being directly embedded into Character Central. This will allow the site to run faster and for pages to load all images without having to rely on an external source. One of the main issues we get now is that when the external sources are down, it brings pages on Character Central to a grinding halt while our servers try to locate the files.

We are are going to redesign all location pages to be less cluttered, with less photos, deleting those that are older/no longer relevant. We may be removing many non-Disney locations (such as Universal, Busch Gardens, etc), the Disney Store locations and other redundant content, too.

Removal of dead links and pages that no longer receive traffic, such as the calendar and trip reports pages.

We are going to redesign all character profile pages to provide clearer, more accurate information, removing many duplicate/redundant images, and making it easier to view a character's wardrobe.

The blog will be completely redesigned, and will allow commenting directly on blog posts instead of having to go to the forum to comment (which is how it is now).

We are considering either reducing the scale and scope of the forum, or removing it altogether. This is probably our biggest change, and while we have made many new friends, and undoubtedly brought many fans together over the years, it is simply unsustainable in its current format. We are just two guys, and we don't have a huge amount of free time, and the forum gets a lot of abuse, spam and irrelevant content posted to it that is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor.

Make the entire site mobile friendly, with a design that works on most smart devices.

While the site undergoes this work, there may be days when the site is down completely, links may not work or pages will disappear and reappear. We will try to reduce the impact of this as much as possible, but sadly it will be unavoidable.

You have to understand that all of this will take time, and a lot of patience from both us and you. We really appreciate all of your support, and we couldn't have lasted for more than seven years without you all. We are positive that once we are done with the site, it will be better than ever, and that you will only see that tolerating the "construction" period was only worth it for a cleaner, smoother, over all more pleasant experience.

Finally, since we have so much work ahead of us, and our schedule seems to get increasingly more busy and erratic, I am going to have to abandon some incomplete reports and projects on the site. I know that a lot of you like my trip reports, and I know I am behind on the last few trips, but sadly they are not going to get written at this point. I want to start 2017 fresh, and need to go into the new year and new site without being bogged down with things from months ago. Going forward I will of course continue to post my reports from new trips, but anything that was as of now unfinished, will sadly remain that way.

Have a great day everyone, and thank you again for your support, patience and understanding.

Dan.
Happy 115th Birthday Walt Disney
DisneyDan  Monday, December 5, 2016 8:51:54 AM
Today is 5th December, which would have been Walt Disney's 115th birthday.

Born in Chicago on 5th December 1901 to Canadian father Elias and American mother Flora, Walt found himself growing up in a rapidly changing world. The automobile, electricity and telephones were amongst the new technologies that were gradually altering the way people went about their everyday lives.

Walt Disney - One Man's Dream

Soon came World War I, and Walt found himself too young to enlist - but he found a way!
While away he discovered his talent for drawing, and became known for decorating the helmets his comrades had found, with illustrations.

Walt Disney - One Man's Dream

From there Walt developed his talents further, and found himself creating characters and shorts such as the Alice comedies and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.   [ Read More... ]
Walt Disney World July 2016 Trip Report
DisneyDan  Tuesday, November 29, 2016 10:47:42 AM
Hello everyone,

I realise that this is a little late, but better late than never, right?

Back in July we made one of our several trips for this year to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. As always, we had an agenda for visiting at the time that we did, and filled our short trip with everything that was wondrous and new!

Let's start with our hotel, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House. We have previously stayed at Kidani Village several times, and of course have visited Jambo House (but up until this trip never stayed there), and while we have enjoyed our stays at Kidani Village, Jambo House is clearly the better of the two.   [ Read More... ]
Breaking News! Massive Expansion and Rebuilding Project Coming to Hong Kong Disneyland!
DisneyDan  Tuesday, November 22, 2016 8:54:09 AM
Hello everyone,

In a bold and and virtually out of the blue announcement, Disney today announced a massive regeneration project for Hong Kong Disneyland.

The most shocking of all the details was by far the revelation of a brand new castle! Yes, you read that correctly - Sleeping Beauty Castle will be transformed into a towering structure, completely unlike what we see there today.

Instead of me paraphrasing everything, I am going to provide the full press release below, followed by the press images. Then I have some additional information from the New York Times, and finally I'll provide my thoughts on it all.

Hong Kong Disneyland Resort (HKDL) announced a multi-year development plan to take the park to a new level of excitement, leveraging some of the most beloved and successful franchises of The Walt Disney Company. Plans include new themed areas, attractions and entertainment, launching almost every year from 2018 through 2023.

Guests will experience Marvel and “Frozen” like never before as HKDL leverages the best of Disney to bring both these world-renowned franchises to life in their own immersive areas. The centerpiece of the park and the gateway to Fantasyland – the castle – will also be transformed to create spectacular entertainment experiences for guests.

“We are more excited than ever about the future of Hong Kong Disneyland,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “We are bringing the best of The Walt Disney Company to this wonderful tourist destination, giving guests from around the world an experience only Disney can deliver and an experience they can only have with us at Hong Kong Disneyland.”

Some highlights of the new experiences that will delight Disney fans and guests from around the world include:

  • An epicenter of Marvel Super Heroes that will continue to unfold. From the launch of Iron Man Experience, the Marvel universe continues to grow at HKDL. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters will be reimagined into a brand new experience for guests to fight alongside the icons of the Marvel Universe. Further, another thrilling attraction dedicated to one of the most popular Marvel franchises will be added to expand the epicenter of Marvel Super Heroes as exciting events unfold in phases.

  • An exciting new “Frozen” themed area where characters and stories from the kingdom of Arendelle will come to life in ways guests have never experienced before at a Disney park. Guests will enjoy two new attractions and be immersed in Arendelle with uniquely themed dining, shopping, and entertainment.

  • A completely transformed Castle and Hub area to showcase brand new daytime and nighttime shows and entertainment offerings that will celebrate every prince and princess who ever wished upon a star and dared to follow a dream. An “Adventureland Show Place,” which invites guests to “Moana’s Village Festival” through a series of daytime entertainment offerings anchored around a lively stage show in a new interactive entertainment environment. In addition to experiencing live shows and immersive Disney storytelling, guests can meet Moana, heroine of the new Disney animated film that will be released globally starting November 2016.

The major development plans extend the excitement and amazing growth at HKDL, as the resort is set to open the eagerly anticipated Iron Man Experience officially on January 11, 2017 and the richly themed Disney Explorers Lodge resort hotel later in the first half of the year.

HKDL has continued to grow since its opening in 2005 and has broadened its appeal to families and young adults as well as diverse markets, including local, mainland China and overseas guests.

The three themed areas launched between 2011 and 2013, Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Mystic Point, have enhanced the park’s attractions and entertainment offerings and boosted the park’s attractiveness to different market segments. In 2013, Mystic Manor was awarded the prestigious Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement – Attraction, the equivalent of the Oscar in the theme park industry. In the following year, the nighttime parade “Disney Paint the Night” was launched and subsequently honored with a Thea Award.

In celebration of HKDL’s 10th Anniversary in 2015, the new stage show “Mickey and the Wondrous Book” and a new walk-through experience “Fairy Tale Forest” were introduced. This past summer, “Star Wars: Tomorrowland Takeover” presented attractions and offerings themed after another classic Disney franchise.

“The all-new developments will further reinforce HKDL’s position as a world-class tourist destination for everyone, including families and young adults, and help build lifelong memories across generations of families,” said Samuel Lau, executive vice president and managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland.

HKDL’s two shareholders – The Walt Disney Company and the Hong Kong Government – have agreed on the development plans, subject to funding approval by the Company’s Board of Directors and Legislative Council for their respective share of investment.

Disney have thus far provided the following concept images for the brand new areas:




















All images (C) The Walt Disney Company and their associates.

There are some very interesting things in these images, which I'll discuss in a moment, but first I also want to direct your attention to a New York Times article from today that states (according to them, at least), that the new castle will stand 197 feet tall, versus the current 77 feet, and will be the tallest Disney castle in the world upon completion. They also suggest that the cost of the park's regeneration will be around $1.4 billion.

So with that in mind, what does all this mean? To be absolutely clear, everything from here on is my own opinion.

First of all, the new hub area is going to be very neat, and clearly they are going for something akin to the area in front of Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland. However, having been to Hong Kong multiple times, and looking at this concept art, it will be very interesting to see how they are going to fit this in exactly. Even if they manage to make it look like the concept art, it'll be very small. I doubt the seating area capacity will be very high at all.

The castle itself is a mixed one for me. Ultimately, it is definitely a good thing that they are making such massive improvements. However, in my opinion, it's a real shame that they have lost such confidence in their own brand that they would go to such lengths. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and it really shows that they are admitting their mistakes. Why didn't they just spend the money to make it awesome in the first place?

The castle show images are also interesting because they give us a glimpse of who we might come to expect in the new performances there. There are two character based images - one that depicts the daytime and one depicting the nighttime. Why these images show us what appears to be two different shows, with two different sets of characters, is not made clear at this point, and I don't think we should read anything into who we see in the images until Disney themselves know exactly what they are doing. However, it is interesting to note the presence of characters such as the Cheshire Cat and Br'er Bear.

The Marvel area looks utterly epic, with the new hangar looking building completely swallowing Autopia and transforming the face of Tomorrowland altogether. Replacing Buzz Lightyear is a smart move, especially since there is one in every park, and the nearby Shanghai has the far superior newer version.

The Moana area is cute, and doesn't appear to envelop anything existing, except perhaps a small water area and some trees. It's a smart move to have an area dedicated to her, and we look forward to seeing it.

The Frozen area looks really nice, and while Frozen is used on overkill these days, I actually have hope that they'll do a real good job of it, looking at the pictures we have so far. Of course, the Oaken's Dancing Sleigh Ride looks completely adorable!

Finally, the it was inevitable that with a brand new castle will come a new nighttime spectacular. Disney seem to be upping their game on nighttime spectaculars all the time, so by the time the new castle is completed, hopefully we see something really awesome there!

Despite some of my slight criticisms (mainly the workability of the hub, and them losing faith in an iconic Disney castle), I am very excited for all these changes. Hong Kong Disneyland is a beautiful park already, and I constantly sing its praises here on the blog and to every Disney fan I meet. Looking around the internet today, though, I see that there is a lot of resentment swirling around already, and, right or wrong, I think that the following perfectly sums up how a lot of people feel.

To rebuild an iconic Disney castle is unprecedented, and virtually unthinkable. Some may say that this investment is just what the park needs - and to a degree they are right. However, perhaps what the park needed was a little love and investment from the beginning though, and not being sold out for a bigger, better park just a few hundred miles away in Shanghai. A couple billion dollars later, and perhaps Disney have realised that money should have gone to Hong Kong in the first place.

Now fans can blame Shanghai even more for US cutbacks... but at least Hong Kong will be pretty, right?

What do you think?

Have a great day everyone,

Dan.
Happy 88th Birthday Mickey and Minnie Mouse!
DisneyDan  Friday, November 18, 2016 7:21:54 AM
Hello everyone,

Today is the 88th birthday of the most famous, most adorable and most popular mice in the world - Mickey and Minnie Mouse! Debuting on this day in 1928, in Walt Disney's classic short, "Steamboat Willie", Mickey and Minnie Mouse are the world's sweethearts, and have captured the hearts and imaginations of every generation since.

Happy 88th Birthday, Mickey and Minnie Mouse!























































Have a great day everyone,

Dan.
News - Disneyland Paris' 25th Anniversary, Princess Elena coming to WDW and Halloween in Shanghai
DisneyDan  Thursday, October 20, 2016 10:16:30 AM
Hello everyone,

A few days ago the Disney Parks Blog announced that following her August debut in her welcome show at the Magic Kingdom, Princess Elena of Avalor will greet guests at the Princess Fairytale Hall from 24th November. Princess Elena will feature on the Cinderella-side of the Hall, with FastPass reservations already available from the start date.

In an unexpected move, Shanghai Disney Resort are currently celebrating Halloween season - but only at Disneytown (their equivalent of Downtown Disney). From just a few days ago until 31st October, you can see Mickey and Minnie in a special show, wearing Halloween costumes, for free at Disneytown. It is great to see that Shanghai Disney Resort have decided to take a seasonal direction, since it was unclear up until now (because the park is still so new) whether they would follow what the other parks around the world do.

The big news of the week is the announcements from Disneyland Paris regarding its upcoming 25th anniversary. In non-character related revelations, there was confirmation of everything that had been pretty much anticipated for months now: a new nighttime spectacular, titled Disney Illuminations; Star Tours - The Adventures Continue; and Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain.
On the character front we also got confirmation of the very-much anticipated parade. Rather simply titled Disney Stars on Parade, it will feature a fire breathing dragon (much like the one from Festival of Fantasy at the Magic Kingdom), as well as using two floats from the old Jubilation parade, from Tokyo Disneyland. These floats are expected to be the Peter Pan and Jungle Book ones. While it was expected that there would probably be a new stage show, they actually surprised us all with announcing two! Very few details are known right now about either, but we do know that the first one, Mickey presents: "Happy Anniversary Disneyland Paris", will feature Mickey, Goofy, Chip and Dale and other Disney stars as they celebrate the 25th anniversary. It is not known at which theatre or in what capacity the show will be held. The second show will be titled The Starlit Princess Waltz, and will feature the Disney Princesses, including Belle, Cinderella, Aurora and Snow White, throwing a majestic ball to celebrate the 25th Anniversary.
Interestingly, the Disney Parks Blog reported a slightly different version of the announcements, and also mentioned decorations, new meet and greets (though unspecified as to what), hotel renovations, a new version of Peter Pan's Flight, and something they name as Mickey's Goodnight Kiss. What this will involve is anybody's guess, but it was included in the section that read, "we will have many opportunities for our guests to see their favorite Princesses and Characters throughout their time at the park", so it sounds as though it will be a character based offering. Finally, the DPB version also appeared to confirm that Mickey and the Magician - the brand new show at the Walt Disney Studios that was billed to end before the 25th started - will indeed remain in place through the 25th anniversary. This will make many fans happy, as the show has been widely praised and is already well loved.

In case you missed them, I recently wrote my trip report for Shanghai Disney Resort, and a guide to Tokyo Disney Resort's 2016 Halloween season, here on Character Central. Click the highlighted text to go to those pages!

Ok, that's all for today! Have a great day everyone,

Dan.
Tokyo Disney Resort Halloween 2016 Guide
DisneyDan  Friday, October 7, 2016 7:40:41 PM
Hello everyone,

This year we were fortunate enough to be at the opening of Tokyo Disney Resort's Halloween season, even seeing the brand new Halloween Pop'n LIVE parade a day early, because of a preview.

I thought it would be fun to put together a short guide of the things you can find at the resort this year for Halloween.

Let's start with the main thing - character entertainment.   [ Read More... ]
Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Eight
DisneyDan  Thursday, October 6, 2016 10:27:55 AM
Hello everyone,

Well, here it is - the final part of my ongoing Shanghai Disney Resort trip report series! In this part I will share with you all our adventures through Adventure Isle, and then give my final, over all concluding thoughts on our trip and the resort.

In case you missed any of the previous parts, I have provided the links for you, below:

Shanghai, September 2016 Trip Report on Two Lost Boys
I shared my experience travelling to Shanghai, arriving at the airport, getting to the resort, and then visiting the Disney Store in the city.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part One on Character Central
In part one of my main Disney report I shared with you all of our experiences at the two Shanghai Disney Resort hotels, Disneytown, and character dining at Lumiere's Kitchen.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Two on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at Mickey Avenue, with over 230 photos of all the details on the little entrance street to the park.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Three on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at the Gardens of Imagination, Mickey's Storybook Express parade, the Golden Fairytale Fanfare castle show and the Ignite the Dream nighttime spectacular, with over 210 photos of all the details.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Four on Character Central
In this report I shared with you the futuristic world of Tomorrowland, with over 150 photos.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Five on Character Central
In the fifth part of my report, I shared with you our time at Enchanted Storybook Castle and the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, with over 140 photos.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Six on Character Central
In the sixth part of my report, I detailed our adventures through Fantasyland, with over 210 photos.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Seven on Character Central
In the seventh part of my report, I detailed our adventures around Treasure Cove, with over 120 photos.

Entering Adventure Isle from the Gardens of Imagination we are welcomed by a fairly large welcome sign overhead. If we enter from over by Treasure Cove, there is just a small sign on the right hand side to denote our transition from one land to the next.

  [ Read More... ]
Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Seven
DisneyDan  Tuesday, October 4, 2016 10:26:03 AM
Hello everyone,

In this seventh installment of my Shanghai Disney Resort trip report, we are going to explore the town of Treasure Cove. In case you missed any of the previous parts, I have provided the links for you, below:

Shanghai, September 2016 Trip Report on Two Lost Boys
I shared my experience travelling to Shanghai, arriving at the airport, getting to the resort, and then visiting the Disney Store in the city.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part One on Character Central
In part one of my main Disney report I shared with you all of our experiences at the two Shanghai Disney Resort hotels, Disneytown, and character dining at Lumiere's Kitchen.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Two on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at Mickey Avenue, with over 230 photos of all the details on the little entrance street to the park.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Three on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at the Gardens of Imagination, Mickey's Storybook Express parade, the Golden Fairytale Fanfare castle show and the Ignite the Dream nighttime spectacular, with over 210 photos of all the details.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Four on Character Central
In this report I shared with you the futuristic world of Tomorrowland, with over 150 photos.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Five on Character Central
In the fifth part of my report, I shared with you our time at Enchanted Storybook Castle and the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, with over 140 photos.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Six on Character Central
In the sixth part of my report, I detailed our adventures through Fantasyland, with over 210 photos.

Leaving Fantasyland behind us, we enter the port town of Treasure Cove, filled with pirates, scallywags, ships and adventure at every turn! When approaching from Fantasyland, you will find yourself on more open pathways with lots of surrounding green spaces. If you approach from the Gardens of Imagination, you do get a nice welcome sign - and some more pathways.

  [ Read More... ]
Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Six
DisneyDan  Monday, October 3, 2016 10:45:01 AM
Hello everyone,

In this sixth installment of my Shanghai Disney Resort trip report, we are going to explore the magic of Fantasyland. In case you missed any of the previous parts, I have provided the links for you, below:

Shanghai, September 2016 Trip Report on Two Lost Boys
I shared my experience travelling to Shanghai, arriving at the airport, getting to the resort, and then visiting the Disney Store in the city.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part One on Character Central
In part one of my main Disney report I shared with you all of our experiences at the two Shanghai Disney Resort hotels, Disneytown, and character dining at Lumiere's Kitchen.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Two on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at Mickey Avenue, with over 230 photos of all the details on the little entrance street to the park.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Three on Character Central
In this report I took an in-depth look at the Gardens of Imagination, Mickey's Storybook Express parade, the Golden Fairytale Fanfare castle show and the Ignite the Dream nighttime spectacular, with over 210 photos of all the details.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Four on Character Central
In this report I shared with you the futuristic world of Tomorrowland, with over 150 photos.

Shanghai Disney Resort, September 2016 Trip Report - Part Five on Character Central
In the fifth part of my report, I shared with you our time at Enchanted Storybook Castle and the Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, with over 140 photos.

Standing with your back to the castle, facing into Fantasyland, you discover that the view isn't quite the same as the other parks. There is no Castle Courtyard, Carousel or Sword in the Stone (the Carousel is in the Gardens of Imagination, as I discussed in a previous post). In fact, you have to make a right or a left to get anywhere else in the land - and in this instance we are going to turn left.

  [ Read More... ]
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