That fantastic plastic hero, Buzz Lightyear, is finally in space for real after launching aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on Saturday. The 12-inch-tall action figure will visit the International Space Station as part of NASA's "Toys in Space" initiative. Buzz will be used to help introduce fun elements from space into science and math classrooms across the country. At the same time, publicity from the mission will be used to promote the official grand opening of Toy Story Midway Mania at Walt Disney World, which also took place on Saturday.
NASA and Disney first promoted the mission earlier last week with the release of a video showing the dramatic nature of the mission:
As the mission approached, Buzz sought some real-life advice about going into space from another famous Buzz:
Now that Buzz is in orbit, he'll stay aboard the International Space Station for a few months, returning to the earth later this fall. Among Buzz's plans are flying in zero gravity and participating in video downlinks from the International Space Station. The "Space Ranger Education Series" (link) will feature several online games at the NASA Web site (link), including a matching game involving the countries partnering on the International Space Station, a game where you attempt to fill the hold of the space shuttle and other space program-related activities. The content was created by Disney's Youth Educational Series to meet NASA's standards.
Over the last 23 years, NASA's "Toys in Space" project has used toys flown aboard space missions to help children learn about scientific and mathematical principles that make the toys work, from exploring potential energy stored in wind-up toys to seeing how toys that depend on gravity function when gravity is not present. It's part of NASA's goals to encourage students to pursue studies in science, technology and mathematics (STEM) subjects, to help sustain U.S. economic competitiveness and technological leadership (as well as providing the next leap forward in technology to keep moving the space program forward).
Walt Disney Imagineering presented three sold-out shows of The Science of Imagineering at New York University's Skirball Center on Saturday as part of the first-ever World Science Festival (link). The festival, which had events spread from last Thursday through yesterday, is intended to “allow science enthusiasts to engage many topics in modern science, while also encouraging those who may be on the periphery of science—artists, students, children, families, policy-makers, and educators—to think about the many ways scientific inquiry impacts their lives,” said Brian Greene, co-founder of the festival. "Our goal is to help shift the public’s perception of science so that more and more people—kids to adults—see science as wondrous, exciting, accessible, and even inspirational.”
That fits in well with the goals of Walt Disney Imagineering, to utilize science to entertain and inspire. It will also help to inspire the next generation of Imagineers. Judging by the number of children who were busy drawing in their new Imagineering notebooks and intently asking questions from the Imagineers at the media reception following the final presentation of the day, I'd have to say that they were very successful.
Some of the presentations showed off technologies that aren't usually seen by guests, while others showed tricks that guests had seen, but not isolated from the attractions that they were seen on. Still others showed ideas that have yet to appear in the parks. Hosted by Scott Trowbridge, Vice President of Creative Research and Development for Imagineering, the event featured presentations on the physics of roller coasters, some sensational air and sound effects, the chemistry behind the colors of fireworks, information on using Global Positioning Systems to track animals in the wild, how to simulate crowd movements using computers, and even more. Lucky the Dinosaur, the first autonomous Audio-Animatronic character to appear in public, also made the trip to New York, interacting with crowds in the middle of Washington Square Park.
Lucky the Dinosaur sports a nifty rain slicker between the occasional rainstorms on Saturday in Washington Park, New York City. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.
This was conceived as a one-shot presentation, but it seems a shame to not give more people a chance to see how the magic is made with science. The future Imagineers will need to come from somewhere, and the more young people that can be inspired to go into science, the better.
We'll have conversations with some of the Imagineers from the media reception, as well as more photos from the presentation, on next Monday's MouseStation podcast.
Get your MousePlanet gear!
The MousePlanet.com store is now open for business (link)! You can get shirts, mugs, hats and even a Teddy Bear! Check it out and show your MousePlanet pride!
Since 2005, Disney's Magical Express has been shuttling passengers between the Orlando International Airport and their Walt Disney World resorts at no charge, with resort check-in and baggage check also available for selected airlines, also for free. The recent decision by many airlines to start charging baggage fees for second suitcases has caused some issues with the system, as it was not designed to handle any financial transactions. The announcement by American Airlines that they will start charging fliers $15 for their first checked bag with tickets purchased beginning June 15 only adds to the problem. [Note: If you already purchased your tickets for your summer trip, you shouldn't be charged, but bring your e-receipt just to make sure).
In the interim, Disney and the resort check-in service operator, Bags Inc., had worked out a deal with the airlines to waive luggage fees for those passengers who opt to use the remote check-in service. However, that agreement ended yesterday. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel on Friday (link), guests now have to call a Bags Inc. phone center to pay the necessary luggage charges over the phone in order for their bags to be transported to the airport.
A more permanent solution is under development, with Disney weighing several possibilities, according to the article. Meanwhile, other resorts that charge passengers for a similar service have been charging the per-bag fees for months, since they are already equipped to handle payments at the check-in desk.
We hope to have more information on this issue in our Park Update soon.
We had reported a couple of weeks ago that it was rumored that George Lucas would be making a surprise appearance at Star Wars Weekends in conjunction with a trip to check on the progress of the next version of the Star Tours attraction. In a blog post last Thursday, MousePlanet's Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix found confirmation of the Star Tours 2.0 aspect of the rumor.
Though it's been rumored for ages that Disney wanted George Lucas to create a new film for the Star Tours attraction, and though there have been signs (link) that at least some work was being done on that project, Disney has kept mum on the subject.
But today CNET reported (link) that Hayden Landis from Industrial Light & Magic will be working on the Star Tours 2.0 film:
Next up for Landis is another nostalgia-oriented project—a redo of the Star Tours ride at Disneyland. The big question...will Captain EO make a comeback?
Critics may scoff and dismiss this news as "just another overlay" rather than a brand-new Disneyland attraction, but I'll take what I can get.
We've recently come across even more information hinting at Disney's focus on shining the apple to better lobby LucasFilm for the rights to the upcoming live-action Star Wars-based TV series, so this is definitely a rumor to keep your eyes on.
A recent report on the Blue Sky Blog (link) hints that Fantasyland will see the addition of a new attraction in the next few years, the first new "E-Ticket" ride at the Magic Kingdom in a very long time. The usually reliable Honor Hunter is reporting that the back part of the park will be receiving an exact duplicate of "The Little Mermaid" attraction currently being designed for Disney's California Adventure.
Anything can happen between now and any announcement being made, but Hunter's sources have been very accurate in the past. We'll have to wait to see how this one turns out.
Help us keep our menu listings up to date!
Did you know that MousePlanet now has menu listings (link) for all theme park restaurants at Walt Disney World and many resort restaurants? You can help us keep them up to date! Send your photos, scans or other copies of restaurant menus (no fair copying from other Web sites) to email@example.com (link). Please note that there is a 5 MB limit on total attachments in a single email.
…Balderdash, Hogwash ... or Backwash? We're hearing stories of a sewer backup and overflow near the Adventurer's Club on Pleasure Island early last month that caused a lingering odor near the downstairs exit from the club. It has all been taken care by now.
…The Flower & Garden Festival ended yesterday.
…Gay Days will be held this week. If you're looking to avoid the crowds, here's where they'll be:
For a limited time, MousePlanet discount ticket partner Orlando Fun Tickets is currently offering a free upgrade to a 5-day Park Hopper pass when you purchase a 3-day Park Hopper. Check out the special offer or any of the other great prices on tickets at OrlandoFunTickets.com!
Free dining plans are available for Disney Visa cardholders and the general public. The plans are the same; the only difference was the start date for booking the package. The packages are good for most nights August 24 through September 20, and must be booked by June 22. Packages may be booked for a minimum of three nights and a maximum of 14 nights. Availability is limited and certain restrictions apply.
Existing reservations may be modified to include the free dining package if available. The deal is not only for a free standard dining plan, though. You can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan and/or the Wine & Dine option and get a credit equal to the cost of the standard dining plan ($37.99 for ages 10 and up, $9.99 for ages 3-9) off of the enhanced plan.
For the Disney Visa package (reservation deposit must be made with a Disney Visa card), use the following codes:
Booking codes for the general public are:
Passholder rates are available for the summer. You can book both room-only and Disney Dining Plan packages. Rates are valid for stays with a check-in date between May 26 and August 2, and can be booked from now through the date of arrival.
The booking codes for phone reservations are:
Note that Small World agents have run into difficulty with the ADS code for phone reservations with dining, but have found an alternate code to use. If the code doesn't work for you, try code CSS.
The booking codes for online reservations are:
(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)
Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.