Disney Merchandise and Disneyana message forum modEARator
Joined: April 2003
||Posted: April 11, 2003 11:21 am/pm
Disney debuts Pooh ride and Playhouse stage show to appeal to family audiences.
By MICHELE HIMMELBERG
The Orange County Register
ANAHEIM – The Disney Resort is buzzing, and that means something.
Winnie the Pooh would tell you the buzz means bees are making him more "hunny." But the millions of fans who love Pooh know better; it means Disney is adding more ways to connect with the willy, nilly, silly old bear.
Disneyland debuts The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction Friday in Critter Country. The ride targets young children and their families, extending a trend in the resort's recent capital improvements.
The resort also debuts "Playhouse Disney - Live on Stage!" in California Adventure, drawing on the appeal of familiar Disney Channel television characters, including Pooh. The interactive, music-filled show has been running previews for about 10 days and officially opens Friday with 10 shows a day.
This follows the addition last fall of A Bug's Land, a new area in California Adventure with four child-sized attractions and a water play area.
The opening of the Pooh attraction coincides with the recent release of "Piglet's Big Movie," from Disney's Buena Vista films. With two feature-length films, the theme-park ride here and at Walt Disney World, and every form of merchandise imaginable, Disney is fully leveraging the popularity of the characters in A.A. Milne's "Winnie the Pooh" children's books.
For a Bear with very little brain, Pooh carries loads of appeal. His image shows up on everything from wallpaper to adult T-shirts and the annual list of most popular toys. He began outselling Mickey Mouse in the retail world in the 1990s, and has branched out from books to starring in videos. He's nearly 80 years old, yet he and his friends are as endearing as ever.
Management experts like Roger E. Allen, who wrote a book on Pooh for executives, said he's likeable because he's simple. He's old-fashioned and gentle. His one flaw: a 12-year-old legal dispute over merchandising rights.
Attorneys and owners of the Pooh rights are fighting over as much as $1 billion in royalties from the lovable bear. Disney still says it does not owe royalties on the sale of videos or computer software because those products were not listed in a 1983 agreement with the Slesinger family, which inherited the rights.
It's not a story
That adventure won't interfere with the new attraction at Disneyland.
The ride begins outdoors under a canopy of trees that could be the 100 Acre Wood, if you imagine real hard. It sweeps guests through a Blustery Day - with real gusts - and shows you the wild colors of Pooh's dreams after he tumbles off to sleep. He wakes up to a finale that is typically Pooh, complete with Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and all his friends from the books.
But this is not a bookish experience, says Bruce Gordon, a Disney Imagineer and the attraction's show producer.
"It's not a story about Pooh," Gordon insisted. "We wanted to give guests a chance to be with Pooh. The idea is they've just joined Pooh and his friends, who are off on one of their many adventures. I think we pulled that off.''
A tubby bear, his buddy who never stops bouncing, a donkey who loves to nap and a diminutive pig are the main band of friends in the new attraction. They've moved into Critter Country, replacing the Country Bear Jamboree, in the first classic "dark" ride at the park since Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin in 1994.
Dark rides are short, character-themed rides that use black light to illuminate the fluorescent paint on the scenery. The first ones were a mainstay of Disneyland when it opened in 1955 - Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Adventures and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. They've endured with the help of an overhaul in 1983.
Stuff at Pooh Corner
If you don't get enough of Pooh in the new ride, which features bee-hive vehicles, you can step right into Pooh Corner, a new retail and candy shop. You can also meet the characters, hug them and pose for a photo in a greeting area called Winnie the Pooh and Friends. One of the challenges for Gordon's production team was the vehicle. The Walt Disney World attraction seats four in what looks like a "hunny" pot, but Disneyland needed to increase capacity to six. After drawing several designs that looked too much like a butter dish, they struck on the bee-hive idea.
They also blended the outdoor color scheme to match the mud banks of nearby Splash Mountain and retained the trees. Gordon, in his best Imagineer vocabulary, says they "Pooh-sonified" the area.
With 24 years as an Imagineer, he understands the appeal of Pooh.
"It crosses a wide range of years, from very little kids to teenagers and, even if they won't admit it, adults," he said. "They all love him because he's so reassuring.''
Nancy / Tigger58
~*CM since 1999*~
Disney Echo Disney Merchandise/Disneyana ModEARator