Oct 6, 2015

The Cost of Happiness

With the internet uproar over the recent price increase at Disneyland, I thought it would be interesting to figure out how much it actually would have cost to do a day at the park opening year.

It's actually pretty easy, just find images of the old ticket books and add up the values for all the rides. There were 38 attractions that were either free or required an A, B, or C ticket. A tickets were 10 cents. B tickets cost 20 cents. C tickets were 30 cents. So I made a list of all the rides listed on the tickets added up the values and voila, $6.60 worth of tickets would get you 1 ride on every thing in the park. Plus the $1.00 admission fee and your day at Disneyland set your back $7.60. Of course that is 1955 money. Adjusting for inflation and that comes to $67.58.

Now, you might be tempted to think that this is significantly cheaper than the $99 1 park 1 day pass is now, but this doesn't take in to account the different rides at the park now vs then. The only way I could think of to fairly adjust for this was to set all the ticket prices for today's rides to 1955 ticket values and then adjust for inflation. There are actually 7 more attractions at the resort now, plus two new ticket levels that were introduced in 1959. D tickets at 35 cents and E tickets at 50 cents. Adding all of this up gives you $12.25, and adjusting for inflation gives you $109. So Disney is actually charging $10 less than the actual ride value of the park. Plus, today's park tickets allow you unlimited rides on all rides. You could ride nothing but E tickets all day long and rack up a huge ride value bill easily. The freedom alone carries value on top of the ride value. There are also far more shows now than in 1955 including two parades, fireworks, and Fantasmic!. Those carry value also. Many more food options and higher quality souvenirs as well as better themeing across much of the park and additional acreage and lands. In other words, the single day value of Disneyland today is far higher than what they are actually charging for it making Disneyland cheaper to visit today than it was on opening day.

But, what about DCA and park hopping? Well, if you add DCA in to the mix, there are 66 total attractions today compared the the 38 of 1955. Add up the values and adjust for inflation and you get a single day value of $159. The present day 1 day park hopper ticket is priced at $139. The same intangibles and shows adding value on top of the attractions apply to DCA as well, so you're getting a really great deal.

"But," you are probably saying, "the price increases were heaviest on the annual passports, not the single day tickets! So It isn't cheaper today than it was in 1955 for them!" Let's take a quick look at that. Disney doesn't do some weird math and divide the number of times you visit in a year into the cost of your AP to figure out how much they are making per visit off of you. It's much simpler than that. You take the cost of your AP and divide it by the 1 day park hopper price. That's how many days you need to go to the park to pay for your AP. Any additional visits are free. Here's how that breaks down for each of the new AP levels:

$1,049 needs to go 8 days to pay for itself.
$849 needs to go for 7 days.
$599 must visit 5 days.

If you go more than that minimum number of days on your level of AP, then you are getting in for free all of those days. To word it a little differently, if you paid $1,049 for an AP, then you gave Disney enough money to cover 8 days of you being in the park. Let's say you go once a week, an amount that is completely reasonable for many who hold the high end APs. That's 52 times a year, minus the 8 paid days and you're getting in for free 44 times. If you had to pay for those days in the park, it would cost you $6,116. So instead of having to pay $7,165 dollars to go one time every week, you only have to pay $1,049. You are paying a mere 14.6% of the value of what you are actually getting. By raising the AP price, Disney is basically asking you to cover more of that $6,116 they are losing on letting you in for free. Seems a reasonable request.

So remember, even though it sounds like a massive price increase, the park has significantly more value today than it did when it opened, and the price, adjusted for inflation and accounting for new attractions, is cheaper than it should be. And if you are lucky enough to be an Annual Pass holder, remember, it pays for itself very quickly, and from then on, you technically don't have to spend a dime to enjoy any and all attractions that Disney has to offer. Count your blessings, it could cost you far, far, far more.

(For those interested, here's the raw data charts I compiled to figure this out: Google Sheets)

Oct 30, 2012

The Calories of Horror

Lee Unkrich of Toy Story 3 fame is a big fan of The Shining. The other day he posted a link to a study by The University of Westminster that details how watching horror movies can actually burn some calories. The results were as follows.

Title Calories
The Shining 184
Jaws 161
The Exorcist 158
Alien 152
Saw 133
A Nightmare on Elm Street 118
Paranormal Activity 111
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 107
The Blair Witch Project 105
[Rec] 101

Being the nerd that I am, I thought it would be fun to see which film burned the most calories per minute. Run times on some of these films is longer than others and I wanted to see which film was most effective at burning calories, not just which one was really long.

Title Calories Length(m) Calories/min
The Exorcist 158 132 1.97
Alien 152 117 1.30
Saw 133 103 1.29
[Rec] 101 78 1.29
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 107 83 1.29
A Nightmare on Elm Street 118 92 1.28
The Shining 184 146 1.26
Jaws 161 130 1.24
Paranormal Activity 111 99 1.12
The Blair Witch Project 105 105 1.00

So if you're looking to burn calories the most efficiently by watching horror films tomorrow, watch The Exorcist. It clocks in at nearly 2 calories a minute, just from watching the movie.

Jun 5, 2012

DCA Grand Re-Opening

With the Grand Re-Opening just 10 days away for Disney California Adventure, Disney has been pumping out new merchandise to match the new look of the park entrance. In particular, this new logo blew me away.
Image Courtesy {link} Click image for full size
The park has come so far since its opening day 11 years ago. This poster really captures, in a very classy way, the new feeling of the park while making Walt and Mickey a central focus. There are references to all the lands: Pan Pacific entry gates, Buena Vista Street buildings, Red Car Trolley, Carthay Theater, a plane for Condor Flats, pine trees for Grizzly Peak, World of Color, Screamin` and the Fun Wheel for the Pier, a section of the Cadillac Range for Cars Land. It's subtle and the color choice gives it an antique feel. A massive improvement on the original park opening day poster:
Image Courtesy {link} Click image for full size
It was bright and colorful, but kind of leaves you wondering. There's only one iconic "California" image and that's the Golden Gate Bridge. Strangely, there is a futuristic Monorail coming through it. There is no Disney reference at all in the image except the word "Disney's." It really leaves you wondering what this place is.

The new artwork and merchandise has a quality that has long been absent from California Adventure as well as an intangible "Disney" feel. I am beyond giddy June 15th and what it means for the future of the Disneyland Resort. Finally, the 2nd gate has come of age as a real Disney park. Despite all this talk of the end of construction and the new park opening, this is not the end. Disney will continue to add to, change, develop and modify California Adventure well into the future. This is just the beginning really. And what a beginning it is!

Wreck-It Ralph 1st Image

Click for full-size
So we got our first look at Wreck-It Ralph today. From this image, I'm loving it already. The idea of out of work video game characters is kind of funny to me. It's apparent that the animators and story writers have delved into the world of gaming. The joke on the cardboard sign, "Will NPC in FPS for food" is just perfect. I love the idea of the fuses leading to all the different games in the arcade as well.

For those who don't know, here is the official synopsis:
Walt Disney Animation Studios and Emmy®-winning director Rich Moore (TV's "The Simpsons," "Futurama") take moviegoers on a hilarious, arcade-game-hopping journey in "Wreck-It Ralph." Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," "Step Brothers") is tired of being overshadowed by Fix-It Felix (voice of Jack McBrayer, "30 Rock"), the "good guy" star of their game who always gets to save the day. But after decades doing the same thing and seeing all the glory go to Felix, Ralph decides he's tired of playing the role of a bad guy. He takes matters into his own massive hands and sets off on a game-hopping journey across the arcade through every generation of video games to prove he's got what it takes to be a hero.

On his quest, he meets the tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch, TV's "Glee") from the first-person action game Hero’s Duty. But it’s the feisty misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman, "The Sarah Silverman Program") from the candy-coated cart racing game, Sugar Rush, whose world is threatened when Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade. Will Ralph realize his dream and save the day before it’s too late?

I honestly can't wait for this one. November can't get here soon enough. Quite a risky departure for Disney who normally stick to the princess/fairy-tale style. While this film definitely has a typical Disney plot, the presentation is anything but what we expect from the Mouse. I'm glad they are branching out and exploring areas traditionally left to Pixar. It will be good for them.

May 9, 2012

Tomorrow is Stark's Today

I wrote the following as a post on MiceChat over a year ago (Apr 19, 2011) when the rumor that the Stark Expo would be coming to Disneyland was fresh. Given the huge success of the Avengers over the past two weeks - $744 million so far - it was only a matter of time before Disney announced plans for putting Marvel things in the parks. I'll bet there were quite a lot of phone calls between executives and teams all over the Disney company over the weekend. Indeed, yesterday, CEO Robert Iger announced that a sequel is being planned and made mention that Avengers based attractions are being worked on for the parks. In light of that news I thought it would be good to post this again. At the time I was writing specifically about the Stark Expo, but the sentiments are applicable to all of the Avengers.

Why the Stark Expo Belongs in Tomorrowland
The more I think about this, the more it makes real and actual sense... and I'm talking "Walt" sense here.
"A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying man's achievements... A step into the future with predictions of constructive things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals, the atomic age, the challenge of outer space and the hope for a peaceful and unified world."
~Tomorrowland Dedication Speech
"Now it is time for a preview of the world of tomorrow. We step into the future and find fantastic atomic-powered machines working for us. The world is unified and peaceful, outer space is the New Frontier. We walk for a time among the strange mechanical wonders of tomorrow, and then blast off on a Rocket to the Moon."
~Walt Disney, 1958 Audio Tour of Disneyland
At first glance, some of this stuff may sound antiquated and old, but in all reality, we're not really there with most of it. Sure, we have nuclear power plants, but I would hardly call this the "atomic age" as many people are afraid of nuclear power and there are plenty of not so peaceful uses for it. Our use of atomic energy is not very mature and there is a lot of room for growth and development to a point where our devices are atomic powered.

The world is far from unified or peaceful; and though since 1958 we have made some pretty amazing progress towards that goal we are far from fully achieving it. We're still Europeans, and Americans, and etc... rather than Humanity. Idealistic? Maybe, but that was Walt's stated and intended purpose for Tomorrowland. "New frontiers in science, adventure, and ideals" are the exact words he used. I don't think he meant anything like a Utopian Society, but one in which we all at least get along and have worked out the issues between us. That is an attainable goal and one that would have far ranging benefits for everyone.

The challenge of outer space has also not really been met either. Yup, man has walked on the Moon. Of the billions of people who have lived on this Earth, of the nearly 7 billion currently living, only 24 have ever set foot on the moon. I would hardly consider that meeting the challenge of outer space. That's a brave first step, after which we fell down and crawled around on the floor for the next 40 years. In ten years we went from no space program at all, to walking on the Moon. In the 4 decades since then, we haven't left low Earth orbit. It's like we stepped out into the darkness and were frightened by what we saw and now we won't leave the warm comfort of our own planet. Since when has humanity feared things? We are driven by our desire to explore and discover. That is what humanity does best. We look at the impossible and we find ways to make it happen anyway. We see the moon and we decide we want to go there, so we do. We have set foot on a small stone a skip away from the shore. There is a whole ocean out there to explore and we've barely left our sandy little beach. It would be like Columbus, Magellan and de Gama being scared to leave port. They pushed the boundaries of what people thought was possible. They set out into the unknown facing incredible danger and very probably death. Look what they discovered. Whole continents and wondrous new things. We have the same opportunity. The push out into space has incalculable benefits to all of humanity. The technology it takes, the science, the bravery and leadership... all of it benefits us all and ties into the other goals of Tomorrowland: uniting humanity, truly harnessing and using the power of the atom, advancing science, setting out on the grandest adventure human kind can imagine, strengthening our ideals.

Now, what does this have to do with the Stark Expo?
"Stark inventions were first displayed at the World Expo in 1941. In '54, my Father returned to Flushing Meadows, Queens to show off the new tech he used to defeat global tyranny. This was the first ever Stark Expo.
In the decades that followed, my Father invited the world's greatest minds to contribute to the Expo and put to task corporations to create better living for all. When the 1974 Expo closed, we lost that glimpse into humankind's amazing future." ~Excerpt, letter from Tony Stark regarding opening of the 2010 Stark Expo

That sounds remarkably like what Walt wanted for Tomorrowland, doesn't it? Bringing together the best and brightest of humanity to promote peaceful uses of science and technology. To promote our exploration of the frontiers of space, the peaceful uses of atomic power, to shape the future of humanity for the unified and peaceful better living of all people.

Just as the world of Iron Man "lost that glimpse into humankind's amazing future" when the '74 Stark Expoclosed, so to did our world lose that glimpse when Tomorrowland lost its direction.

Tomorrowland's problem has long been one of keeping pace. The future changes so quickly in the short term. You try and predict things out a few years and within months, that has changed. Tomorrowland, since about the mid 70s has stopped dreaming big enough. It became What's-About-to-Happenland. More recently it became In-Stores-Nowland. In order to keep Tomorrowland relevant for quite some time to come, Imagineers must dream big, and then admit that even that isn't big enough. The task they have is to dream crazy, dream insane. They have to push the future out to a point where near term changes in technology won't affect the vision.

They need to portray a world in which we have put aside differences and are working together. It is amazing what we can accomplish when we come together and bring our differing points of view to bear on a problem and compromise to find a solution. The very forces of nature tumble before us when we do. They need to portray a world where we have found ways to solve our energy problems. They need to portray a future where humanity has spread outward from our home planet to conquer our Solar System and maybe even other planetary systems, travelling over vast interstellar spaces.

Just as the fictional character Gustav Tinkerschimidt provides a fictional world in which to build the story of Paradise Pier, the fictional Tony Stark provides an entrance to a place where we can glimpse the fantastic and amazing future of our species.

Science fiction has long been a driving force behind science fact. Many scientists were inspired by Flash Gordon, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. They saw these amazing places and things and wanted to make them real, to discover what was out there. Tomorrowland used to represent this, but in recent years it has become representative of what we ARE doing. Through the fictional world of Tony Stark, it can once again be made to represent our bright future, to inspire adults and young children alike to become the next generation of scientists and leaders.

While Tony Stark may be a comic book character, he resides in a world of science fiction. His character is as flawed as any human. However, as with most comic book heroes, he makes mistakes and learns from them. He grows and attempts to become better. To make right the wrongs he sees in the world around him and leave it a better place than he found it. Comic book heroes are often ordinary people who do extraordinary things because they have to, because they are there at the time and no one else will. These sorts of ideals and drives are represented in Disney (and Pixar) films as well. The hero who makes a mistake and has to rise above themselves to put it right. The one who sacrifices themselves in order to save another. The ordinary doing something extraordinary because they have to.

I think many of the negative comments about this possibility stem from the fear of having Iron Man stomping around Tomorrowland. I don't think Disney would do that. A decade ago this would have been believable. The people in charge now seem to have a much better grasp on brand and how to properly use it. I see the Stark Expo being used as a "world" only. A place in which to set this glimpse of the future of humanity that allows for it to be as fantastical as it is fictional and yet still able to show where our real future may lead us.
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." ~Walt Disney
Tony Stark had the courage to stand up and change the course of his future and by so doing, change the course of many others. His character represents that courage which resides in all of us to change the future and make it better. That courage and joy and enthusiasm within is one of the things Disneyland represents and embodies most strongly. That sense of adventure, exploration, discovery, fantasy, dreams; all of them come together in Disneyland. Nowhere can that be more evident than in Tomorrowland.
"And now, it is an honor to continue the legacy of [dear old Uncle Walt] and re-open the Expo to explore the technological wonders that will enhance lives everywhere. Please join us [...] to experience the exciting world of tomorrow today." ~paraphrased excerpt, letter from Tony Stark regrading opening of the 2010 Stark Expo

May 6, 2012


Comparison of Full Moon at Perigee vs. Apogee (Courtesy NASA)
Sorry for another non-Disney post. I promise, I'm working on a park related post but this whole "supermoon" thing is bugging me. For those that didn't hear, last night's full Moon occurred at the same time as the Moon's closest approach (perigee) to Earth. On average, the Moon is 238,855 miles away. Last night, it was only 221,800 miles away. Now 17,000 miles closer may sound like quite a lot, but when you are talking about something that is a quarter of a MILLION miles away, 17,000 is really small.

I decided to do some math and see just how big a difference there was between the April and May full Moons.

Distance to April full Moon: 222,645 miles
Distance to May full Moon:  221,800 miles

That is only an 800 mile difference! That is less than the diameter of the moon (2,158 miles)! So why was no one talking about how huge the April full Moon looked? Because the media called attention to the fact that the May 5th/6th full Moon occurred at its perigee (April's did not even though it was a similar distance at time of full) and mentioned that this would cause it to look a little bigger. People went outside with what is called an Expectation Bias. Essentially you see what you expect. People expected the moon to look bigger and so the saw it as bigger.

If you do a bit more math and determine the angular diameter (like on a protractor) of the full Moons from April and May, you end up with a difference of 0.002 degrees. From Eastern to Western horizons, the sky is 180 degrees wide. If you cut it in 180 equal parts and then cut 1 of those in 2000 equal parts, last night's full Moon was a mere 2 of those (two thousands of 1 degree) larger. If you had pictures of both and put them side by side, you could see the difference, but lost in the vastness of the sky, with no reference frame to compare it too, you can't actually see that small of a difference.

Now some people went out and saw the Moon as it rose and are right to claim that it looked significantly larger. This had nothing to do with the Moon being at perigee though. The atmosphere is only 65 miles thick directly over your head but when you look at the horizon you are looking through several hundred miles of air. Light bends when it travels through air of differing temperatures. This is what causes mirages. When the Moon is near the horizon, it must travel a long way through many layers at different temperatures and this distorts the moon, kind of like a lens, making it look much bigger. This can be seen quite often around Halloween as part of the "Harvest Moon." When the moon rises overhead and is travelling through much less air, it returns to it's normal apparent size.

Now in November we will have the opposite, a full Moon and apogee (furthest point from Earth). The difference between that full Moon and last night's will be about 14%. That amount is definitely noticeable, but again, because both won't be side by side, you won't notice it in the sky.

For those who would like to do the math themselves, the formula for angular diameter is:
ς = 2 tan-1 (1/2 d/D)
ς is the angular diameter in degrees (sigma)
d is the diameter of the object
D is the distance between you and the object

Apr 24, 2012

Save Main Street From Swing

Image Courtesy {link}
Given the furor that this is creating across the fan boards I figured I'd chime in on it.

As you've probably heard, Disney will be closing the Carnation Plaza Gardens next week to re-theme them to a medieval village square for the Princesses. The stage that has been used for swing dancing for many long years will remain, but be re-themed. Once this area is complete, the swing dancing will indeed continue in this area.

I'm pretty certain that 99.8% of Disneyland's guests don't really care, but the self proclaimed "hard-core" fandom is raging about this. There are complaints that the stage is a hugely historic location given that many famous Jazz artists have performed there including Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Still others complain that changing this area to match Fantasyland is an invasion of theme upon Main Street. Yet another oft seen complaint is that the swing dancing will be out of theme with the new area itself, the only valid concern here.

Here's how I see it. The swing dancing has always been out of theme here, if you count this area as part of Main Street at all. Swing dancing began in 1926 in Harlem at the Savoy Ballroom. Hot Jazz and Swing Jazz were newly emerging music forms and quite popular to dance to. In 1928 at a dance contest in New York City, one of the winners coined the name "Lindy Hop, " in honor of Charles Lindbergh's "hop" across the Atlantic, as an off the cuff name for his fancy footwork in response to a reporter's question. The name stuck and Lindy Hop became the first swing dance. Later the name was changed to the Jitterbug. Main Street USA represents a turn of the century, small mid-west town's main street. As such it is decades and  miles removed from the world of swing. Swing did become popular across the country but not until the 30s and 40s.

On top of this, the Carnation Plaza Gardens are located in the Hub, not on Main Street. In fact, they are on the far side of the hub with the entrances to two lands, Adventureland and Frontierland, intervening. The Hub is an area where many themes meet and co-mingle. You have the Astro Orbitor, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the Tiki Room, Jolly Holiday Bakery, etc all existing in this area together. There really isn't a theme here at all. Calling it Main Street is no more valid or true than calling it Tomorrowland. It is simply the Hub. As such, there really is no theme and extending the Castle theme out behind trees and on the far side of the moat river can not be considered a thematic invasion at all. Even under the strictest of interpretations. In fact, looking at park maps throughout the years, this area has been listed as belonging to both Fantasyland and to Frontierland at times.

Really, the only valid concern is that having swing dancing in an area themed as a medieval town square is breaking theme. However, even here I would advise caution. We do not yet know what the final layout or look of the area will be. Nor do we know if there is a planned change of decor for the dancing. In fact we know next to nothing about this whole project. All we have are less than a handful of concept art sketches. Making such harsh judgments at this stage of things is completely impossible. Expressing concern or worry is another matter and completely understandable. Unless you are a member of the team working on this, or have regular access to the inner sanctum of Disney Imagineering, we simply do not know enough to make informed judgments.

We can say a few things with certainty though. 1) If you believe that the area belongs to Main Street, then the swing dancing is horribly out of theme. 2) If you believe that the area isn't part of Main Street, but part of the Hub where themes collide with impunity, then the swing dancing is perfectly okay, but you must also believe that it is okay for Disney to change the theme of the gardens without breaking thematic rules.