10 Amazing Additions Coming to Disney Parks and Resorts

© 2017 Disney
© 2017 Disney

Whether you're a Star Wars fan, a Marvel aficionado, or a Mickey and Minnie purist, Disney Parks and Resorts has just announced new rides, hotels, and attractions that are sure to make your mouse ears perk up. Here are 10 of the most exciting changes announced over the weekend at D23 Expo.

1. A STAR WARS-THEMED HOTEL

That sound you just heard was Star Wars fans across the galaxy warming up their lightsabers. Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek announced plans for a completely immersive Star Wars-themed hotel, where guests are declared citizens of the galaxy the moment they check in. "The story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits," Chapek said. More details, including the opening date, are yet to come.

2. A RATATOUILLE RIDE


© 2017 Disney

A bit of Disneyland Paris is coming to the U.S. In 2014, the Paris park introduced a 4-D attraction where guests "shrink" to the size of Remy, the rat from Ratatouille, and scurry across the floor of Gusteau's restaurant. The ride will make its stateside debut in the France Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase by 2021.

3. A GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY RIDE


© Marvel © 2017 Disney

Sorry, Ellen DeGeneres fans—"Ellen's Energy Adventure" at Epcot will take a bow on August 13. Following the success of Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! ride at Disney California Adventure, Disney has announced a similarly themed adventure for Florida. The new thrill ride will replace the Universe of Energy pavilion, which currently houses Ellen's Energy Adventure. Like the Ratatouille ride, Star Lord and his pals should be ready to escape sometime in 2021.

4. A NEW LIVE ENTERTAINMENT THEATER

To bring more live entertainment to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Disney is building a theater inspired heavily by the Willis Wood Theater from 1920s-era Kansas City, where Walt Disney spent part of his childhood. The building will be located just off of Main Street, USA.

5. "MICKEY AND MINNIE’S RUNAWAY RAILWAY" RIDE


© 2017 Disney

There's another new ride headed to Hollywood Studios—and, unbelievably, it's the first ride at Disney Parks to feature Mickey himself as the theme. The attraction puts guests inside a Mickey cartoon, promising "surprising twists and turns, dazzling visual effects and mind-boggling transformations," all in a new format Disney is referring to as "2 1/2 D."

The new attraction isn't without controversy, though—it's slated to replace The Great Movie Ride, which, with its Grauman's Chinese Theater facade, has been one of Hollywood Studios' visual anchors since it opened as Disney-MGM Studios in 1989.

6. A TRON LIGHTCYCLE POWER RUN

The highest-rated attraction at Shanghai Disneyland is coming to Florida. In "TRON: Lightcycle Power Run," riders will board a train of two-wheeled Lightcycles before heading out to explore the TRON universe. Scheduled to be ready for riders in 2021, the new TRON coaster will be situated next to Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

7. PIXAR PIER

The area at Disney California Adventure currently known as Paradise Pier will go through a Pixar-themed overhaul, with "whimsical neighborhoods" featuring characters from The Incredibles, Inside Out, Toy Story, and more.

8. SKYWAY GONDOLAS


© 2017 Disney

Magic Kingdom-goers who miss the old skyway ride that took weary guests between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland have something to rejoice about. The new Disney Skyliner gondola system will connect several of their hotels with Disney's Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. Though an official opening date wasn't announced, construction is already underway, with insiders speculating at a date as early as summer 2018. Also announced: an Uber-like point-to-point transportation system with a familiar red-and-white polka dot motif.

9. A MARVEL-THEMED HOTEL


© Marvel © 2017 Disney

You’ll have to get yourself to Disneyland Paris to experience this re-themed hotel, which is currently called Disney's Hotel New York. After the overhaul, hotel guests will find themselves transported to worlds including the Avengers and Spider-Man, among others.

10. "IMMERSIVE SUPER HERO EXPERIENCE"

Very little detail was provided on this upcoming project, but we do know that Spider-Man and the Avengers will be joining Guardians of the Galaxy heroes at Disney California Adventure sometime in the future.

BONUS UPDATES

Disney also provided new news on two much-anticipated projects that are currently underway: the Star Wars and Toy Story Land additions. Two rides are on the way to Toy Story Land: Slinky Dog Dash, a family roller coaster, and Alien Swirling Saucers, in which the three-eyed green guys try to capture your rocket using The Claw. The toy-centric addition to the park is scheduled to open in summer 2018.

Construction on Star Wars-themed lands, officially called Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, has begun at both Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim. Both lands will feature a ride that gives guests the opportunity to pilot the Millennium Falcon through a critical mission. Another attraction will give guests the experience of being on a Star Destroyer. Both the Florida and California lands are scheduled to open in 2019. Until then, this fly-through will have to tide you over:

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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