The Battle For A Diverse Menu In Disney Parks

The ABC Commissary is the usual place were I eat for lunch every time we go to Disney Hollywood Studios. It isn’t as crowded, the food is good, and it in the middle of the park, so I can go straight to some attractions. The theming is quite neutral, something my family enjoys, and there are some costume exhibitions from the ABC shows. During the past three or four years, every time we visit, there’s a new menu in place.

In this place, I would love to get spicy shrimp with fish, a great option from the menu. It tasted really good, being a different style of food for a quick service restaurant. My mom enjoyed a great salad during her meals. The next year, this would all be replaced with the usual meals: cheeseburgers, nuggets, and a less-than-desirable salad.

Why would they change it if the plates were so good? Menu changes have been pretty standard for many restaurants within the park, moving to the usual food options after trying a superior, more varied menu. The American food could be good for US-based visitors, but international visitors (like me) want a break from the hamburger, nuggets, french fries, and turkey legs. Yes, I like all of those, but I don’t want to eat them for four days straight.

When Skipper Canteen opened its door in Adventureland, people were surprised about the varied a menu it had. It looks like the chefs were doing their best at improving the variety of options. It even included arepas, a typical food in Venezuela which I was happy to give it a try. Months later, the menu would change once more, with a more reserved menu. Even though it tries to keep the variety and uniqueness, it still tries to give a safer taste. At least they replaced arepas with cachapas, another typical food common in Venezuela and Colombia.

Management at the parks are missing a great opportunity to give guests some unique meals at quick service and table served restaurants, giving priority to more exclusive offerings. And even though this could make sense from a business standpoint, the truth is that most guests aren’t heading to those exclusive offerings. The parks are the forefront of The Walt Disney Company as a whole and it should be treated as such. Even though it is important to make money, they should at least take some risk in food offerings to see how a restaurant can slowly have a great following.

I miss those spicy shrimps from ABC Commissary at Disney Hollywood Studios. I miss the menu from Pecos Bill, which, in my opinion, had the best hamburgers in the resort (even though tacos and nachos are good from the newest menu). We can get variety from quick service restaurants to table restaurants so all guests could enjoy a great meal around the parks.

What We Can Expect From John Lasseter: The Next 6 Months

After 6 months of uncertainty about John Lasseter’s future, Disney has announced that the creative leader will exit the company at the end of 2018. Lasseter will work as a creative consultant during this time for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Some weeks ago I released an article talking about what we can expect after Lasseter’s leave of absence.With many options for the creative leader, a possible retirement after some clean up time was one of the most expected due to his importance in the company. Disney has decided a nuke and pave, letting him tie some loose ends and groom the next leaders for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation.

What undone projects does Lasseter have? Why does he need so much time to leave the company? After the Roseanne Barr incident leading to the cancellation of her show on ABC, looks like John Lasseter is being given much more time (and compensation) for matters just as worse as that of Roseanne’s. The difference between these two are the roles they have in the company; ABC is fine with the cancellation of a show, but Pixar and Walt Disney Animation can’t run too far without a solid creative leader that keeps the development of future projects. John Lasseter might have a more forgiving exit, but it is for reasons beyond his missteps.

No, I’m not saying his sexual misconduct should be forgiven. The fact that he is taking a year to retire from the company doesn’t hide the fact that he destroyed his entire career and gave uncomfortable situations to several women under his leadership at the animation studio. In fact, it is impressive how this conduct was tolerated for decades from personalities like Steve Jobs, Michael Eisner, Ed Catmull, Alvy Ray Smith, and Bob Iger. This doesn’t include other colleagues such as Pete Docter, Brad Bird, and Andrew Stanton. The details on Lasseter’s misconduct haven’t been fully disclosed besides some unknown sources, but it should be prominent enough for him to leave the company. Was this a problem from the past decade? Or was it just his attitude that was perceived as predatory? Again, I’m not defending Lasseter, but many of the details have been closely guarded by Disney PR, shutting up sources from Hollywood.

With Lasseter leaving his position as Chief Creative Officer, many news sites suggested Pete Docter as a possible successor. This information has been stated again recently, but with a minor change; Pete Docter could be the leader for Pixar, but Jennifer Lee (Frozen, Zootopia, Wreck It Ralph) would become the leader for Walt Disney Animation. Separating the leadership from both studios should help in keeping their identities. John Lasseter and Ed Catmull took over the Walt Disney Animation Studios way back when the future for the company’s main asset was uncertain. With a solidified revival era for Walt Disney Animation, the studio already has enough in-house talent to take care of their own projects. While Ed Catmull will keep both studios under his guidance, Jennifer Lee and Pete Docter should be able to handle the creative interests from each studio.

The Pixarization of Walt Disney Animation has been criticized, first burying to the ground the possibilities of future 2D animation because of the box office disappointment of ‘Princess and the Frog’ (because they had enough information to predict that Avatar would dominate the box office for the next 2 months, right? 🤣) Even though Pixar has an usual focus on more mature stories, this has been less than true in the past years. Movies like The Good Dino, Brave, and the Cars show that Pixar also is catering to younger audiences while Zootopia and Wreck It Ralph have a much broader appeal than the usual Walt Disney Animation film. A creative leader for each studio should help in making a clearer line between what makes a Pixar film and what makes a Walt Disney Animation film.

Pete Docter has been a relevant artist for Pixar since the early days of the studio, with a knack for original stories like Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out. In the case of Jennifer Lee, she doesn’t have the experience, but she has been able to help develop stories like Frozen, Wreck It Ralph, and Zootopia, all of them relevant projects of this current revival era. Let’s not forget that a female leader is a welcome addition to the male dominant world of animation.

John Lasseter will stay for the next 6 months as a creative consultant because there is a project close to his heart that appears to be in trouble: Toy Story 4. Lasseter was the person that announced on November 2014 that a Toy Story sequel was in the works for 2018, later rescheduled for 2019. Insiders have said that the movie isn’t in a good ground, without a clear story. Rashida Jones, one of the screenwriters signed for early development, left the project because of creative differences. In the past weeks, it has been rumored that the story has been scrapped completely, leaving the story development group to start all over.

If Lasseter saved Toy Story and Toy Story 2, can he be able to do it again with Toy Story 4? Maybe that is what he hopes for. It is known that full animation on these films begins a year ahead of release, with the tests and pre production already in place. With the TV specials like ‘Toy Story Of Terror!’ And ‘Toy Story That Time Forgot’, Pixar has shown that there’s enough space of ideas for the Toy Story franchise and they are still able to pull off these great projects without repeating themselves. They might be worried because the expectations of every sequel to Toy Story are so high. Each sequel has built upon the original in a way that few franchises achieve to do.

If all of these areas of development are on track and Lasseter focuses solely on fixing the story, he might be able to help the screenwriters, giving him even more time to expand on future films. Early development for projects in Disney and Pixar should create a road map for the new leadership to have something to work with.

Pixar might be on the right path, but the Walt Disney Animation Studio might start to lose its momentum. With a grim horizon after the cancellation of Gigantic, it isn’t clear what is the path for the studio besides Frozen 2. Similar to Pixar, Disney has relied on some sequels that have given them enough time to develop more stories, but there is no clear path for them. It is time that the studio shifts on more interesting storylines that include the Disney touch of fantasy, beloved characters, and a timeless quality. (Because we all know that Ralph Breaks The Internet is going to age really fast.) After all, John Lasseter coming back for a while doesn’t sound as crazy as you might think. It is just one more step to get rid of his toxic behavior while patching up some work so that new leaders can take over Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

What FanDaze Told Us About Disneyland Paris

Over the past weekend, the Disney FanDaze event took over Disneyland Paris. A myriad of long forgotten characters posed for meet & greets such as Hunchback, Milo from Atlantis, Eddie Valiant, Roger Rabbit, Meg, and much more. In short, the event was a complete fan service pleaser for many fans and press invitees. Even though attendance was low, the event had the energy that is seen in more popular parks like Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.

After watching this event, many questions opened up about the overall strategy for Disneyland Paris. Here are some things that were important during this event that showed fans a great, big, beautiful tomorrow.

Disneyland Paris Is Important

Neglected for many years, the company wants to show that the park is important and their focus is to be as top quality as any other park around the world. With further improvements and refurbishments along the way, Disney has made sure that the park starts having much better maintenance compared to its dark past.

Disneyland Paris has the unique opportunity to become a great park. Since its original opening, very few has changed about it. Even though it is smaller, there’s room for new attractions and experiences in every land. If Disney is willing, they could make Disneyland Paris just as prominent as Tokyo Disneyland.

European Fans Deserve Attention

Even though Disney made a move on inviting many press groups from the US, this event showed how important it was for them to involve fans from Europe for this event. Disney knows how important a consistent fan base could be, especially for a struggling park like Disneyland Paris. AP’s and recurring guests could help the park have some recurring revenue while they conquest other countries from the European market.

This park has the unique opportunity of being in the midst of the European Union which allows millions of guests to have easier access to the parks and France as a whole.

Events Should Be Really Good

When fans started seeing how many rare characters appeared in the event for meet & greets, it is inevitable to consider even visiting the park for next year’s FanDaze. These events are for the loyal, hardcore fans, but as word of mouth starts building, some people might be interested in showing up with their families. I believe that events give Disneyland Paris a unique opportunity because they are competing with the many tourist opportunities around Paris. A family could visit the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Champs Elysses. They take a rest, go ahead to Disneyland Paris at night and enjoy an event that makes them see the park as part of their visit. Going forward, Disney should consider these opportunities to draw the attention of tourist planners and offer these events for families that want to visit the park but don’t have the time to enjoy a full day experience.

Besides these events for normal tourists, I expect more events coming for the parks to invite more fans to the park. Events related to food, similar to Food & Wine, could be a great opportunity for the parks as well as seasonal events. These efforts bring extra revenue to the park and cater to specific targets within the fandom.

The Next Star Wars Stories

Attention: Spoilers for ‘Solo’ on your way. Proceed with caution!

Lucasfilm has kept its lips tight about the new films after Episode IX, but some projects have slipped through their fingers. The red carpet of ‘Solo’ kept us wondering about what could be next for the galaxy.

The long standing rumor of a Kenobi film heated up with the appearance of Ewan McGregor at the premiere of ‘Solo’. Rumors affirm that the movie is in full pre-production to be filmed after Episode IX. This is a highly anticipated project for many fans, no matter what the box office analysts say. Lucasfilm will not stop at their projects, they’ll just learn about the reception of Han Solo’s story.

Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke have confirmed that they’re signed for three films, suggesting sequels for the beloved scoundrel. With the box office of the movie, this is a far away dream. Maybe these aren’t sequels, but interrelated storylines for other films.

If a Boba Fett movie is also considered, then everything could fit in for the characters of ‘Solo’. Just like the MCU has been able to give Hulk a storyline in several films without making him the protagonist, something similar might occur for the next Star Wars Stories. It makes sense because the ending of ’Solo’ has many loose ends that other creators can pick up. This could create a great strategy for upcoming movies, but I don’t know how it could work. Fans are worried that the films try too hard to keep everything connected instead of expanding the mythology.

After the surprise appearance of Darth Maul in ‘Solo’, many wondered if it could be possible to watch more of Q’ira and Crimson Dawn. Darth Maul is one of those few characters widely beloved from the prequels and his story after The Phantom Menace has just been developed in the animated series (Clone Wars and Rebels). Similar to Boba Fett, it could be an option to develop other character from canon, either animated or live action. (Confession: I want a Thrown live action movie. It would be nuts.)

Even though the rumors lead to most Star Wars stories doing origin movies for certain characters, I also wonder about how they could do some event-based movies like Rogue One. In this case, they could talk about the creation of the First Order, the Republic, the slavery in Kashyyk (Chewie’s home planet), the formation of the Jedi Council, as well as following an unknown character during the Imperial Academy. It would be nice to have some stories about the Jedi, like their expansion throughout the Galaxy or their origins from the Old Republic. I know that many of these options are also great for a live action series, but I’m curious to how they differentiate between stories for the series and stories for the upcoming films.

With the cameo of Darth Maul in ‘Solo’, more possibilities opened for the connections of different storylines and characters. There’s a lot of hope about what Lucasfilm has in store for the fans as they start improving their well oiled production machine to develop movies, series, and books to expand the galaxy.

Toy Story Land And The Despise Of Kiddie Rides

On June 30th, Toy Story Land will be open for guests in Disney Hollywood Studios. This addition adds two brand new rides to the park: Alien Swirling Saucers and Slinky Dog Dash Coaster. Toy Story Mania will be refitted into the new land, with a different queue. Kiddie rides have always been look down by many fans, especially in the past decade. Some arguments that Toy Story Land is a cheap expansion could be understood, but it begs the question: why are kid rides unjustly maligned when Disney parks should have activities for everyone?

In many ways, the additions to Toy Story Land will be the first real attractions for smaller audiences in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Besides these attractions, the live shows and The Great Movie Ride (currently being replaced by Minnie and Mickey’s Runaway Railway) were the only experiences they could go into, some of them considered intense for small kids.

Toy Story Land is a needed addition for guests looking for their kids to do something they could enjoy. It still questions why fans were so mad about it. Isn’t Dumbo considered a classic even though is a ride for small kids? The same occurs with many classic attractions.

Even though it makes sense that hardcore fans are mad about sudden budget cuts from the original concept art, this is a common thing that happens with projects. Many elements and buildings from the original concept art were completely removed, including a cowboy area (resurfaced in Shanghai Disneyland’s version) and Al’s Toy Barn. Even though these elements weren’t particularly needed, they would give the special touches of theming that fans wanted.

This could be a case of time budget instead of money budget. Toy Story Land expands an already attraction lacking park, giving more rooms for the upcoming guests of this summer. This major expansion will also be key in dealing with the 2019 crowds expected for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. Simultaneously, Imagineers are surely doing the best they can to open Mickey’s Runaway Railway as soon as they can. If this attraction uses the same ride vehicles as The Great Movie Ride, it could have enough hourly capacity (2400 guests per hour) to keep the crowds moving. For an attraction that is right in the entrance of the park, it will help with the bottlenecks expected from Galaxy’s Edge.

In many ways, this is more a case of Disney being smart about opening a major expansion rather than just budget cuts. These things are common in the parks due to the size and scale of the projects, but with the internet we are more conscious of these situations because we can compare between each concept art that Walt Disney Imagineering shows us during D23 or any of the press releases.

The fact that Imagineer are doing kiddie rides doesn’t mean they aren’t focused on theming or other E Ticket attractions. First, the attractions from Disney Hollywood Studios are not off-the-shelf rides, which has been a common practice in other versions of Toy Story Land around the world. Second, they have done a great job at theming, including Wheezy as an Audio-Animatronic at the end of Slinky Dog Dash Coaster and Mr. Potato Head possibly coming back to the queue of Toy Story Mania. They do care. It isn’t easy to keep up with so many projects, dealing with the current expansion of the Parks division that includes merchandising and consumer products.

Kiddie Rides are a necessity for a family oriented theme park, as Walt Disney always wanted it to be. Maybe Toy Story Land will not be a flashy addition compared to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge or the upcoming attractions for Epcot, but it sure will be an addition that brings great moments and emotions for the little kids that love the Toy Story movies, just as those who grew up with Woody and Buzz like me.

John Lasseter: 6 Months Later

A few days before the premiere of Coco, John Lasseter announced his 6 month leave of absence due to sexual misconduct, a shocking move to many Pixar fans but a well known problem in the industry. Pixar, a male dominant studio, had already known of some problems that women had about Lasseter ’s behavior. What was once a friendly approach during the early days of the studio became a problem that John had to face.

Six months later, we haven’t heard a thing about John Lasseter coming back. Will he retire? Should he come back?

We still don’t know much of the details behind the management of the studio, but what could be an opportunity to change leadership or a moment to highlight females in the studio has been more of a silent calm. Have women at Pixar being heard? These two problems, leadership and gender equality, need to be balanced if the studio wants to move forward. Lasseter ’s leave of absence could have been more catastrophic, but Disney appears to have had a plan to deal with the collateral damage. A complete shake up isn’t expected if the problem is only one person, but it will be interesting how Lasseter fits within Pixar after the allegations.

If Lasseter understood the consequences of his behavior and he is willing to fix the culture within the studio, then his return could be welcomed as long as he understands that it is time for new leadership to take over after cleaning up the mess. Moving the chess pieces to a different direction before his return would show outsiders a good sign. Even though John Lasseter is the main person, this doesnt mean there couldn’t be other misconducts from other people of the studio. Lets hope it isn’t the case.

The Disney-Pixar brand hasn’t been affected by this situation. The move of leaving right before being caught and being clear about his actions allowed for the press to talk for some weeks as some other personalities told their side of the story. Two weeks after the press release, most critics and insiders went silent. They were too occupied giving critical acclaim to Coco. Audiences acknowledged the problem, but they didn’t attack Pixar or other talent from the studio. Yes, Pixar is aligned to Lasseter ’s DNA, but it has proven that their projects are done with a massive group of talented individuals.

People still expect the Incredibles 2. Coco still became a highly acclaimed film. The shadow of Lasseter wasn’t enough to tarnish decades of storytelling excellence.

Will John come after or before Incredibles 2? We don’t know. Pete Docter is mentioned as a posible replacement, but no confirmation has shown. With Lasseter leaving the directorial helm for Toy Story 4, many have expected a complete retirement. It still begs the question of who will handle his leadership. Whether it is by adding more women to the Brain Trust, choosing a new Chief Creative Officer or with a return from Lasseter, Pixar has to show that it learns from its mistakes because the main problem is how management accepted this behavior for so long.

Negativity in Star Wars Fandom

Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they had to deal with the raising eyebrows of long time fans of the famous galaxy from far, far away. It happened first when they cancelled The Clone Wars TV series in favor of Star Wars. Then, fans had to deal about their favorite Star Wars novels being stripped out of canon, adding them to what is now known as Star Wars Legends. This community also raged when the company didn’t consider any story ideas from George Lucas for Episodes 7 to 9 (later to be found false, as many elements have appeared). But the single biggest rage appeared in the form of “The Last Jedi” haters, blaming Rian Johnson to have ruined their childhood, boycotting the review metrics from Rotten Tomatoes, striking against Luke Skywalker’s portrayal.

It is hard for me to know if this kind of negativity skyrocketed with the Lucasfilm acquisition, as many fans also raged during the prequel era, but it has slowly caught fire in such a way that it feels toxic.

The next target for these haters is “Solo”, opening in theaters May 25. Even though the film hasn’t even been widely released, with a premiere in May 10, individuals have already found their way to express their irrational opinions.

“Solo” has already a rough start, with a complete directorial turnover and rumors about Alden Ehrenreich’s difficulty to perform the smuggler we all know(which aren’t really true). The marketing team has done a great job at changing this perspective with several stories, trailers and teasers. Most recently, Billy Dee Williams (who portrayed Lando Calrissian in the original trilogy) was invited to the premiere and Harrison Ford did a surprise appearance to Alden Ehrenreich in a recen interview. Donald Glover has already become a main influencer in attracting people to the theatre seats, as well as the enthusiasm from director Ron Howard and screenwriters Lawrence and Jon Kasdan.

These efforts don’t seem enough for the already negative fans. Groups in social media have been vocal about boycotting “Solo”. These people, who had a love for the franchise, have decided to bury it instead of understanding that maybe they might not like the movie, but they still enjoy other areas of fandom. As a recent Star Wars convert, one of the things I love the most about Star Wars is that you can be interested in very niche topics or specific merchandise, giving room to many fans with different ways to express their fandom. But the hater seem to forget this aspect altogether.

The reactions from the unhappy fans reflect a world were we just moan about stuff we don’t like, even though there will always be things we don’t enjoy in the world. Lucasfilm has done the difficult job of refueling the franchise with new series coming up, the sequel trilogy, a theme park area, new books, and more. They are doing the best to move forward while many fans are holding them back.

Maybe this negativity is a very loud minority, but it is affecting the landscape of the franchise. Let’s just hope they consider the potential of a brighter future, just like Marvel fans have experienced a Renaissance they never thought of in their wildest dreams. “Solo” promises to reunite the fandom as a palate cleanser from “The Last Jedi”, but it will be a difficult remedy to swallow if the fans are already hesitant to give it a try.