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Why you shouldn't worry about Donald Duck groping you at Disney World

Donald Duck groping caseThe case against Donald Duck is moving forward. A federal judge has ruled that a Pennsylvania woman's lawsuit against Walt Disney World can proceed.

April Magolon says that an actor costumed as Donald Duck at Epcot touched her breast and then joked about it in May 2008.

The Donald Duck groping case ruling allows Magolon's civil lawsuit to proceed in Pennsylvania. Disney had wanted it moved to Orlando, where the alleged incident actually happened.

Magolon isn't the first to claim that a costumed character at a Disney theme park intentionally groped her, and she won't be the last.

But this kind of intentional incident is highly unlikely because of the costumes these actors are wearing that restrict their movement and their vision. As John Frost of The Disney Blog puts it:

Many guests get incensed when they wrongly interpret the costumed workers clumsy movements as groping, but it's just not practical for a person to intentionally grope, let along joke about the action afterwords, inside one of those costumes.

Now because of the characters' "clumsy movements," an unintentional touch could happen. There are plenty of awkward Disney character photos to prove that. But an intentional grope? There's no reason to worry that it might happen to you.

Also? The person in that Donald Duck suit is almost always a woman. Sorry if that bursts your bubble, but have you seen how short Donald is? The same goes for Mickey Mouse and many other "male" Disney characters.

[Image credit: Flickr user gwaar]

Skyscraper as theme park: Architect re-imagines thrill rides on a vertical scale

Can you imagine a theme park in the middle of Manhattan? Finding the capital to acquire the land and raise the buildings on it to create the necessary open space would be nearly impossible.

But what if that theme park could be built vertically, as a theme park skyscraper?

Skyscraper theme parkThat's the idea behind architect Ju-Hyun Kim's vertical theme park prototypes. Kim says in order to be eco-friendly and save the world from more sprawl, the theme parks of tomorrow need to be built in the middle of cities:

Instead of sprawling parks with giant footprints, stack the park into a skyscraper. The altitude will only add to the speed and excitement of rides, and the view of the surrounding dense urban environment will be incredible. There'll be so much more to see from the top of the carousel and roller coaster on the perimeter. Best of all, it will be easily reached by public transportation, and the environmental impact will be minimal. Now is the time to build the joyful destination for families' perfect day out at the center of cities.

Kim's vertical theme park would be broken into five sections:
  • Vertigo World, which would include a carousel and observation deck at the top of the theme park skyscraper
  • Fast Land, including a flume ride and a rollercoaster
  • 360 World, with a Ferris Wheel and sky promenade
  • Abyss City, a bungee jumping platform
  • Elsewhere Universe, a geodesic dome with a gravity-free zone
Though very different from Kim's vision, theme-park pioneer Walt Disney also considered building a vertical theme park in a city's downtown. Fifty years ago, Disney was planning a River Front Square on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Louis. The five-story indoor attraction's plans are said to have included a walk-through pirate ship, audio-animatronic exhibits and a haunted house.

But the St. Louis plans for a metropolitan Disney theme park were scrapped, and the second Disney theme park -- the Magic Kingdom -- was built outdoors, horizontally, on part of a sprawling 40-square-mile swampy area now known as Walt Disney World.

You can see all the prototypes from Kim's vertical theme park proposal at ArchDaily.

Universal ride that caught fire will be closed for weeks

Universal ride fireDudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls water ride will be closed for several weeks following a fire at Islands of Adventure on Saturday night.

The Universal Orlando ride will be closed to repair the damage, and to undergo seasonal maintenance, according to Universal. Ripsaw Falls had already been scheduled to be closed for maintenance in a couple of weeks.

About 5:30 Saturday evening, the ride and surrounding Toon Lagoon area were evacuated when clouds of black smoke started billowing from the ride's roof. Forty firefighters called to the scene had the fire under control in about 30 minutes and completely out in about an hour, officials told the Orlando Sentinel.

No guests were injured in the fire, though a few were evaluated at the theme park's first aid station.

The rest of the Islands of Adventure theme park remained open during and after the fire.

The exact cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Disney photo privacy questions raised by new 'Let the Memories Begin' campaign

Disney photo privacy questions raised by new show

Walt Disney World and Disneyland are inviting guests to share their Disney Parks memories in the form of photos, video and stories submitted to a Disney Web site as part of a 2011 marketing campaign called "Let the Memories Begin." Videos shot by Disney visitors are being used in TV commercials for the theme parks.

And a key component of the new marketing campaign starts early this year, when Disney will begin projecting images of guests in the park that day on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World and on It's A Small World at Disneyland.

So, how will those images be chosen, and what if you don't want your larger-than-life likeness shown?

Disney says the up to 500 photos used daily will be provided by Disney PhotoPass Photographers, those guys and gals who stop you and ask to take your picture at various scenic locations throughout Disney's theme parks.

You will be able to opt out and keep your photo out of the nightly show, Disney tells the Orlando Sentinel. That's a smart move for a company using the images in what is essentially another piece of a marketing campaign.

However, on an individual basis, you should know that photos taken of you inside U.S. theme parks are pretty much fair game. If your image winds up on someone else's Twitter stream or Flickr account, there's really nothing you can do.

Some theme parks print a generic "use of likeness" release on the physical ticket you are given; others include it in the terms and conditions you agree to when purchasing tickets online.

But lawyers say that even without some sort of printed photo release, you don't have much recourse if you want a photo removed from, say, someone else's Facebook. With thousands of people taking thousands of photos every day, there's no real expectation of privacy if your face is captured in the crowd.

Disney World says goodbye to Block Party Bash

Disney Block Party Bash

New Year's Day is a day of beginnings, but it marked the end for a Disney World parade. The Block Party Bash ended its run at Disney's Hollywood Studios on January 1.

The Block Party Bash was a rolling parade that stopped for a "street party" a couple of times along the parade route. It featured characters from DisneyPixar movies including Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles.

The Green Army Men from Toy Story served as hosts and narrators of the dance party, inviting park guests out into the streets to dance to "Celebration" and "Shout" along with the characters and Disney dancers clad in technicolor outfits.

Disney announced last fall that the Block Party Bash would be closing in January. It is being replaced by a new parade, the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun!

The new parade debuts Jan. 16. It will include four DisneyPixar characters not currently seen at Disney Parks parades: Remy and Emile from Ratatouille and Carl and Russell from Up.

It is believed that the new parade will use the music from the Pixar Play Parade, which will be put on hiatus for most of 2011 at Disney's California Adventure.

There will be no afternoon parades scheduled at Disney's Hollywood Studios between Jan. 2 and Jan. 15.

[Image credit: Flickr user HarshLight]

Fire erupts at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure

A ride - a water ride, of all things - caught fire at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure on New Year's Day, causing the evacuation of a section of the theme park.

The fire happened around 5:30 p.m., according to Central Florida News 13. No injuries have been reported.

Fire at Universal OrlandoUniversal Orlando officials evacuted the ride, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, as well as the surrounding Toon Lagoon area.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. According to witnesses at the scene, the ride fire started on the roof.

"My source tells me a vendor truck next to the ride caught fire. A tree spread the fire to the top of the ride," according to Brian J. Smith on Twitter.

Smith tweeted the photo used here and attributed it to his sister, a theme park employee.

Ripsaw Falls is one of Islands of Adventure's original rides. It opened with the theme park in 1999.

The ride remains closed, the rest of the theme park will be open during its previously announced operating hours.

Family takes $900 cab ride home in blizzard to end Disney World vacation

cab ride blizzard

After her family's Christmas "dream" vacation at Walt Disney World, Emilian Emeagwali faced a camp-out at the Orlando airport, possibly for days, while the Northeast dug out from a blizzard.

But, she says, she had a physical therapy practice to get back to in Elmont, New York, and she couldn't wait.

So, she switched her family's flights to arrive in Buffalo rather than a New York City airport, and figured when they got there, they would take a bus home.

Of course, when they arrived the buses weren't running, and there was no word when they might start up again. So, Emeagwali opted for a more creative solution. A cab driver said he would take her family home for $1,100. She bargained him down to $900 and then she and her five kids piled into the minivan for the cab ride.

It took 13 hours to make the 400-mile journey during the blizzard. Emeagwali has been hailed by ABC News for her "creativity."

Ummm, yeah. Fortunately, nothing happened to this family and the cab driver on this crazy trek.

I get it - she needed to get home. But, really? Would you risk your children's lives in conditions like that, driving across the state in a blizzard?

I can't imagine that once she got there she could work for several days anyway. Part of the risk of travel is getting stuck somewhere, because of weather, mechanical problems or other unexpected troubles. Maybe, just maybe, the best solution is to accept your situation and deal.

[Image credit: Flickr user Johan Lange]

Chilean miners are going to Walt Disney World

Chilean miners are going to Disney World

"Esteban Rojas, you've just survived 69 days trapped 2,300 feet underground. What are you going to do next?"

"I'm going to Disney Worldl!

OK, so maybe that's not quite the way it happened, but the 33 Chilean miners who survived underground after a mine collapse this year are being treated to a Walt Disney World vacation in 2011.

Disney has confirmed that the miners and their immediate families will be traveling to Orlando Jan. 27 through Feb. 2, 2011. In a nice added touch, rescue workers who helped save the men will get a vacation, too.

"The amazing story of these miners captured the attention of the world for demonstrating the true power and resilience of the human spirit," said Disney President and CEO Bob Iger. "We are proud to welcome these courageous men and their families to the Walt Disney World Resort."

A welcome dinner that includes Disney characters, dancing and Chilean cuisine prepared by Disney chefs will greet the Chilean families.

Over the course of their six-night vacation
, the miners, rescuers and their families will visit all four Disney theme parks in Florida and serve as grand marshals of a parade at the Magic Kingdom.

Mickey Mouse is picking up the tab for the trip, and giving each family a $500 Disney gift card.

[Image credit: Flickr user Rescate Mineros]

Another fatal Disney bus accident

Disney bus accident

There's word this morning that a tourist has been killed at Walt Disney World. The 69-year-old Massachusetts man was in the parking lot at the Port Orleans Resort when he stepped into the path of a Disney bus.

It appears that the bus driver was not at fault and will not be charged. There were passengers on the bus at the time, and none of them were injured. This marks at least the fourth Disney bus accident this year at Walt Disney World, including one in April that killed a 9-year-old boy.

Earlier this year, there were concerns that a computer dispatching system on board the Disney buses, dubbed "Magic in Motion," was a distraction for the drivers, though none of the earlier crashes this year was attributed to the driver being distracted.

Disney acted anyway and altered the system this summer so that the drivers cannot interact with it unless the bus is at a complete stop.

The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating last night's crash, and I'm sure that Disney will conduct its own internal investigation, as well. If there are safety problems found, they need to be corrected.

But it's also time to examine Disney guests' behavior on vacation.

Disney's bus system is extensive. In fact, it's larger than the city bus systems in nearby Orlando and Tampa. The highway system and parking lots there are also extensive - there are 40 square miles to cover and hundreds of thousands of cars travel the roads each day.

Yet, I continually see distracted people in "vacation mode," pushing strollers through parking lots while their face is in a guidebook or map, children running off unattended in parking lots and, yes, people darting out in front of buses and cars and not using crosswalks.

So, don't forget your common sense and safety rules when you go on vacation. While much of Walt Disney World is about the illusion - the "magic" - those are real cars and buses driving around the roads and parking lots.

[Image credit: Flickr user Darren Wittko]

No parades at Disney's California Adventure for most of 2011

Disney California Adventure no parades in 2011

One classic part of the Disney theme park experience - the afternoon parade - will be missing from Disney's California Adventure for most of next year.

The Pixar Play Parade can be seen at the park through Jan. 3, but then it's not expected back until November. The hiatus is a result of a major overhaul of Disney's second California theme park.

The Orange County Register reports that Disney will have roaming street shows, called Pixar Pop-Ups, in the parade's place. The mini-shows will feature characters from popular Pixar movies such as The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc.

The overhaul at Disney's California Adventure is expected to be complete in 2012. Disney is spending $1 billion on the project to makeover the theme park. For most of next year, the major projects will be worked on.

What does that mean for visitors? Lots of construction walls, and temporary closings of corridors, eateries, shops and other venues at the park. While Disney regularly closes rides and venues for refurbishment, these kinds of major interruptions are always a risky business, because many potential visitors may decide to delay a trip to Anaheim until they can see the finished project.

[Image credit: Flickr user HarshLight]

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