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.

Apr 19, 2012

The Great Attractor

The Milky Way over Devil's Tower - courtesy {link}
This post is going to be a bit of a departure from theme parks and movies. I got a question on twitter about an astronomical phenomenon and the best way to discuss it was through a blog post. Stick around though, I'm going to try and blow your mind.

The question asked was "What is The Great Attractor?" In order to explain what it is we need to look around our local neighborhood in the universe.

As I'm sure you know, we live in the Milky Way galaxy. It's an average, run of the mill, spiral galaxy about 120,000 light-years in diameter. Remember, a light-year is how far light can travel in one year, or about 6 trillion miles. To put this in perspective, light travels from the Sun to Earth in 8 minutes and makes it to Pluto at its farthest point in just over 6 1/2 hours. Our fastest spacecraft will take 10 years to make the trip to Pluto. The Milky Way contains roughly 200 billion stars and close to that number of planets. It's a very big place. The Solar System lies about 2/3 of the way out from the center in the Orion Spiral Arm. Essentially we are in the suburbs of a very busy city and when you look towards the Milky Way in the night sky, you are looking in towards the bustling downtown.

The Milky Way galaxy itself is part of larger group of 54 galaxies known as The Local Group. We are the 2nd largest member of the group, The Andromeda Galaxy being the largest member at 2.6 million light-years away from us. The Local Group is actually a suburb itself of a much vaster metropolis known as the Virgo Supercluster. This supercluster is made up of about 100 smaller clusters, like the Local Group, and assorted individual free galaxies. It is 110 million light-years in diameter.

Now we come to The Great Attractor. It is a region of space about 250 million light-years away from us that is thought to contain roughly 10,000 times the mass of the entire Milky Way galaxy. That much mass exerts a fairly significant gravitational pull over a large distance. Large enough that it is affecting thousands of galaxies in the region, including our own Virgo Supercluster. Astronomers can measure the distance to galaxies by using something called redshift. It is similar to what happens the the sound of a car as it passes you. When it is approaching you, the sound waves are piling up and being pushed together, causing them to become higher frequency (pitch seems to go up). As it passes and moves away the sound waves stretch out and the pitch falls. Light does the same thing, except when the frequency goes up, the color changes to blue and when it falls, the color changes to red. By measuring the amount of shift in red or blue we can determine the speed and direction galaxies are moving. By further measuring the variations in the speed and direction of thousands of galaxies, an anomaly was discovered and named The Great Attractor. By knowing the amount it was influencing galaxies by we could calculate its mass.

Recently though, studies have discovered that The Great Attractor is not the object that is pulling galaxies towards it as its mass is far less than we originally thought. As our telescopes have gotten better we refine our estimates and understanding. We know now that the object really pulling us is the Shapley Supercluster which sits beyond The Great Attractor a whopping 650 million light-years away. It is the largest concentration of galaxies in the local universe, though not the largest structure by any means.

The Universe is unimaginably vast and full of incredible wonders which we are just barely beginning to gain glimpses of. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and there are trillions of galaxies in the universe. It can be difficult to visualize the extreme scales and sizes involved, but this interactive page does a great job: The Scale of the Universe

Hopefully that answered the question. As with all things science related it probably brought up quite a few more questions in your mind. Feel free to ask any time on twitter (@mycroft16) or via the comments.

Apr 3, 2012

We Blew it as Fans and Missed This Completely!

This summer Disney will be unveiling the newly remodeled entry for California Adventure, Buena Vista Street. Watching the buildings and street take shape has been a lot of fun. Photos and videos from intrepid park guests have detailed the demolition and rebuilding of this area into something beautiful. Disney itself has been showcasing the work through models and videos in the Blue Sky Cellar. I think we missed something in all the excitement though, and it's pretty awesome!

In a very brief 10 second long clip from one of the Blue Sky Cellar videos about Buena Vista Street we can see a projection mapping test on the Carthay Circle Theater model. Here, watch for yourself. Skip to 4:22.

The camera is panning up the model and you can clearly see video being projected on it. An arm is clearly moving on the right side towards the end of the 10 seconds. You can see ceiling lights overhead in the room the test is being shot in and even the shadow of the table the model is sitting on at the beginning.

Disney has been investing a lot of effort into projection mapping recently. The World of Color tour, Let the Memories Begin shows on Cinderella Castle and the it's a small world facade and just this weekend Paris' Disney Dreams show. DCA already has World of Color so I don't expect this to be anything huge like Dreams, just a small, several times a night display, maybe a couple of minutes long. It would make sense to make it about the premier of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs since that is the time period and historical significance of the Carthay. In fact, it actually looks like the arm and peasant sleeve of Snow White being projected in the video clip.

So, if they are planning on doing this, there would need to be a place for the projectors to sit. I am not an expert in setting up projection mapping, but there are two possibilities here. To cover the entire theater facade there are two possibilities:
Three projectors to cover the entire facade
Two projectors may be enough as well
Three projectors seem to offer much greater coverage and overlap, but it might be possible to cover the whole thing with just two as well. Like I said, I'm no expert in setting something like this up and it would depend a lot on the angles between the BVS buildings and Carthay as well as any obstructions (trees, lighting poles, etc). It looks completely doable.

It might be worth watching the construction of the skyline around the circle area for possible projector emplacements. Has anyone noticed anything yet?

This may just be wishful thinking, but it is fairly obvious that they at least had this idea at some point. Whether it is still happening or was just a test that later got canceled, I don't know. I think it could work really great within the theme of the area as a tribute to the movie that made all of this possible and that actually premiered in the locations real life namesake. Here's hoping this actually happens.

Apr 1, 2012

Premier of Disney Dreams - Disneyland Resort Paris

Image Courtesy {link}
Yesterday marked the official opening of the 20th Anniversary celebration for Disneyland Resort Paris. Hard to believe it's been 20 years. I still remember when it opened its gates as Euro-Disney. They've had an awfully hard time of it over there, but they've grown and changed so much though it all.

The nighttime show Disney Dreams is a spectacular addition to the park, rivaling California Adventure's World of Color. Enough talking, here it is:

Best to make it full screen and turn up your volume. Truly an amazing job by Steve Davison and all the creative team as well as the construction crews who installed it. I hope to be able to see this one in person someday. For the time being, a very happy birthday to Disneyland Resort Paris.