Walt Disney World May be Planning to Use Driverless Shuttles

Walt Disney World in Florida appears poised to launch the highest-profile commercial deployment of driverless passenger vehicles to date, testing a fleet of driverless shuttles that could cart passengers through parking lots and around its theme parks.

According to sources with direct knowledge of Disney’s plans, the company is in late-stage negotiation with at least two manufacturers of autonomous shuttles – Local Motors, based in Phoenix, and Navya, based in Paris. It’s unclear whether contracts would go to both or just one of the companies.

The sources, who asked not be identified to avoid offending Disney, said the company plans a pilot program later this year to transport employees in the electric-drive robot vehicles. If that goes well, they said, the shuttles would begin transporting park visitors sometime next year.

Currently, there are no plans for driverless shuttles at Disneyland in Anaheim, according to the sources. The reason is unclear, but Florida puts few restrictions on driverless vehicle deployment, while California is overhauling regulations that have been criticized by industry as unnecessarily heavy handed.

Disney did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment. Navya and Local Motors declined to discuss Disney.

A barrage of media coverage on driverless cars over the last year or so has primed the public for their appearance on public roads. Although vehicle manufacturers say individuals won’t be able to buy driverless cars for several years, vehicles are being gradually introduced to the public in limited areas.

Waymo, the driverless arm of Alphabet-Google, has begun offering rides in driverless cars in Phoenix.

Last year, several driverless shuttle companies started testing the vehicles with public passengers in business parks and college campuses in Finland, Singapore, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and other locations.

Autonomous shuttles are bound to be “the first exposure most people have to driverless technology,” said Ben Stinnet, chief operating officer at Auro Robotics, a start-up in Santa Clara, Calif. The company, which is not involved in the Disney deal, is testing small shuttles at Santa Clara University.

Other shuttle start-ups include EasyMile of Toulouse, France, and SB Drive of Tokyo.

Most of the vehicles are shaped like tall bricks on wheels. With plenty of headroom, the shuttles typically can carry up to 12 to 15 passengers. Equipped with cameras, radar and laser sensors, they’re limited in “geofenced” areas – zones where the environment is well-mapped and understood by the vehicles’ artificial intelligence software and hardware.

Though the shuttles are capable of driving 25 mph or more, their speed is usually limited in initial deployments to 5 to 10 mph.

“They should be boring,” said Alain Kornhauser, an autonomous vehicle expert at Princeton University. “Riding in an elevator is boring. It takes you where you want to go.”

Shuttles like those planned at Walt Disney World “are in a sense going to demonstrate to the public that (robot vehicles) really work.”

Walt Disney World is comprised of several theme parks covering vast territory near Orlando. Hundreds of buses, boats and parking lot trams transport park guests and employees. There are also three monorails.

Some Disney watchers see driverless shuttles recapturing the futuristic vision set when monorails were introduced at Disneyland in the early 1960s and Walt Disney World in the early 1970s.

Driverless vehicles “would make transportation at Disney World cool again,” columnist John Frost wrote on the Disney Blog in 2013.

No one’s sure how big the market for autonomous shuttles might be. Driverless technology and app-based on-demand transportation are expected to transform public transportation. But huge questions remain unanswered. Will cities go driverless with their big buses? Or will those be gradually replaced by smaller shuttles driving dynamic custom routes, based on demand?

Kornhauser said transit officials are just beginning to come to grips with such questions.

In the meantime, companies are out to grab a big piece of whatever market does emerge.

Local Motors is building its Olli driverless shuttle on 3-D printers at a factory in National Harbor, Md. It has shuttles running in Berlin and the Washington, D.C., area.

In January, the company demonstrated the Olli on the Las Vegas Strip during the Consumer Electronics Show, and it plans a more permanent deployment.

From The Los Angeles Times

The Music of Pixar Live! Dining Package Now Available

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is now offering a dining package to go with its new summer show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Beginning May 26th, The Music of Pixar Live! Dining Package gives guests reserved seating, along with breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the park’s table service restaurants.

The  Music of Pixar Live! will showcase a selection of Pixar soundtrack favorites from Cars, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Toy Story and UP, all performed by a live orchestra. As the symphony plays, giant screens will feature a movie montage, outtakes and interview excerpts with the folks behind Pixar’s captivating music. Character appearances and a sing-along will also be part of the 40 minute show, performed three times per night, in the Theater of the Stars on Sunset Blvd.

Each dining package includes an appetizer, entrée and dessert, along with a non-alcoholic beverage and one guaranteed seat for The Music of Pixar Live! held on the same day.

Reservations can be made now at 407-WDW-Dine or online through August 27, 2017.

The following restaurants are taking part:

Hollywood & Vine

Breakfast – $39 per adult and $25 per child
Lunch – $52 per adult and $32 per child
Dinner – $57 per adult and $35 per child

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Lunch & Dinner – $45 per adult and $18 per child

The Hollywood Brown Derby

Lunch & Dinner – $65 per adult and $22 per child

Ewan McGregor to Star in Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’

Ewan McGregor is in talks to star in Disney’s Christopher Robin.

Disney’s live-action film, which will be helmed by World War Z and Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster, centers on the child from the A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories — but he’s all grown up.

McGregor will play the adult Christopher Robin, who’s lost his sense of imagination and is a businessman focused on work and success.

The studio also is bringing in Oscar-nominated screenwriter Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures) to take a new pass of the script. Alex Ross Perry wrote the screenplay, with Tom McCarthy working on a later draft.

Milne’s Christopher Robin was inspired by and named after his own son, Christopher Robin Milne. He wrote about the character in two books, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928), and other poems. Disney adapted the tales into several animated projects, including the 1988 series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 animated film Winnie the Pooh.

The Jungle Book producer Brigham Taylor is producing the project.

McGregor was most recently seen in Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting and Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson. He stars in the third season of FX’s hit Fargo, which premiered April 19, playing twins Emmit and Ray Stussy. He’s also attached to Drake Doremus’ next film, Zoe, with Lea Seydoux. He’s repped by UTA, United Agents in the UK and Sloane Offer.

Schroeder wrote the script for Fox’s hit film Hidden Figures, which was nominated for three Oscars, including best adapted screenplay. She is repped by Verve and Good Fear Film + Management.

From The Hollywood Reporter

D23 Expo Announces Schedule for Hall D23

D23 recently shared that Disney Legend Alan Menken would perform a one-man concert (twice!) in Hall D23 at D23 Expo. Now, we’re excited to share the full schedule of amazing panels and presentations coming to our biggest D23 Expo stage, Hall D23. Take a look at the lineup below, and learn more about the ultimate Disney fan event here.

John Lasseter D23 Expo

Friday, July 14

Disney Legends Awards Ceremony (10 a.m.)––Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger will kick off this year’s D23 Expo with the special ceremony that honors this year’s Disney Legends Award recipients. See the full list of 2017 honorees here.

Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios (2:30 p.m.)––See what the artists behind these two acclaimed animation studios are dreaming (and drawing) up. With such an exciting lineup of films––Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2, Coco, and The Incredibles 2, just to name a few––we’re sure this presentation will be full of surprises.

Disney Parks

Saturday, July 15

The Walt Disney Studios Live-Action Films (10:30 a.m.)––The wonderful worlds of Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm come together to showcase their exciting slate of upcoming films. At D23 Expo 2015, we got our first glimpses at Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Beauty and the Beast, Doctor Strange, and more fan favorites… We can’t wait to see what’s on deck for this year’s presentation!

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts (3 p.m.)––Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek will take the stage during this presentation to share what’s new and what’s next at Disney Parks and Resorts around the globe.

Alan Menken

Sunday, July 16

A Whole New World of Alan Menken (1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.)––Celebrate the magic of Disney music with Disney Legend and eight-time Oscar®-winner Alan Menken in his brand-new one-man show. Alan will perform his own music and tell tales from his storied career.

Disney Announces Release Dates for Frozen 2 and Live Action Lion King

The Walt Disney Studios has just updated its release schedule—which means it’s time for Disney fans to update their calendars!

Some release dates are simply worth melting for… Frozen 2 has been scheduled to open on November 27, 2019. Development of the sequel to the blockbuster film from Walt Disney Animation Studios was announced in March 2015, with the Oscar®-winning team of directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho returning to continue the adventures of the characters fans first fell in love with in 2012.

The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau, will open in theaters on July 19, 2019. Actor James Earl Jones is reprising the role of Mufasa in the live-action reimagining of the Disney animated classic, and Donald Glover is voicing the adult Simba in the new film. The savanna and its amazing inhabitants will come to photorealistic life through technology that builds upon the innovative filmmaking audiences loved in Favreau’s adaptation of The Jungle Book.

Of course, those aren’t the only opening dates you’re going to want to circle in red. Take a look at this list for 2017 and 2018—and set those calendar alerts. There’s a lot of popcorn in your not-too-distant future, and there’s always room for surprises, too! Stay tuned to D23 for all of the updates about these films, and more to come in the future.

2017

May 5—Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 26—Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

June 16—Cars 3

November 3—Thor: Ragnarok

November 22—Coco

December 15—Star Wars: The Last Jedi

2018

February 16—Black Panther

March 9—A Wrinkle in Time

April 6—Magic Camp

May 4—Avengers: Infinity War

May 25—Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film

June 15—The Incredibles 2

July 6—Ant-Man and The Wasp

November 2—Mulan (Live-Action)

November 21—Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2

December 25—Mary Poppins Returns

Disney Announces Release Dates for Star Wars: Episode IX and Next Indiana Jones Movies

The Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm announced today two major upcoming release dates.

Star Wars: Episode IX is now set for release on May 24, 2019. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, the film will close out the third Star Wars trilogy.

In addition, the fifth chapter of the Indiana Jones series is now confirmed for a July 10, 2020 release. Both Steven Spielberg, director of every Indiana Jonesfilm, and star Harrison Ford will return.

From StarWars.com

Disney Releases Room Only Discounts and Package Offers at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

Along with the release of today’s Free Dining package, Disney has also released three more offers, including a room-only offer.

Room-Only offer

It’s the perfect time to stay in the middle of the magic! You can save up to 25%* on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights Aug. 1-Oct. 7, 2017 when you book by Aug. 31, 2017.

With this offer, you can enjoy distinctive Disney Resort Guest benefits and amenities – including early access to Disney FastPass+ planning, Extra Magic Hours, complimentary Resort transportation, standard parking and entertaining amenities!

Plus, you can uncover a magical mix of new and unforgettable experiences when they add theme park admission, including Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.

Booking Window: April 24-Aug. 31, 2017

The following room types and Disney Resort hotels are excluded:

  • 3-bedroom villas
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows – Bungalows
  • Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

*The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length-of-stay requirements may apply. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room. Additional per-adult charges may apply if more than two adults per room at Disney Value, Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Offer excludes 3-bedroom villas, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms and the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. 25% savings for select Disney Deluxe and Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts; lower savings may be available at other select Disney Resort hotels.
Travel Window: Aug. 1-Oct. 7, 2017

Enchanted Escape Package

You can enjoy a package that includes a 4-night stay in a standard room at a select Disney’s All-Star Resort and 4-day Magic Your Way base tickets for as low as $1,890.* Sample package price is valid for a family of 4 for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from August 13 through October 5, 2017.

Late summer is a great time for you to sneak in a family vacation at Walt Disney World® Resort. Together, you can explore exciting experiences across all 4 theme parks—and still be among the first to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar, an all-new awe-inspiring land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® theme park.

Book through August 31, 2017.

Are you planning a longer stay or have more people in your party? Check availability for packages that can accommodate other lengths of stay and party sizes.

Booking window: April 24, 2017 – August 31, 2017
(Sunday-Thursday nights)

Travel window: August 1 – October 7, 2017

*Price based on 2 adults, 1 junior (ages 10-17) and 1 child (ages 3-9). The number of packages available at this rate is limited. Savings based on the non-discounted price of the same package. Tickets are valid for one Theme Park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required.

Kid-Size Enchanted Escape Package

You can explore a package that includes a 3-night stay in a standard room at a select Disney’s All-Star Resort and 2-day Magic Your Way base tickets for as low as $938*. Sample package price is valid for a family of 3 for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from August 13 through October 5, 2017, when you book from now through August 31, 2017.

With this offer, you can uncover a treasure trove of fun together, including up-close encounters with Disney Junior pals, sing-along stage shows and more than 80 preschool-friendly attractions.

Are you planning a longer stay or have more people in their party? Check availability for packages that can accommodate other lengths of stay and party sizes.

Booking window: April 24, 2017 – August 31, 2017
(Sunday-Thursday nights)

Travel window: August 1 – October 7, 2017

*Price based on 2 adults and 1 child (ages 3-9). The number of packages available at this rate is limited. Savings based on the non-discounted price of the same package. Tickets are valid for one Theme Park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required.

 

Free Dining Returns for Fall and Winter at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World has released new vacation packages, including the very popular “Free Dining” offer.

A notable change for this year’s Free Dining offer is that Value and Moderate resort stays only qualify for the Quick Service Dining Plan. In order to get the full Disney Dining Plan, guests will have to stay at a Deluxe Resort.

Free Dining 2017 for Walt Disney World Resorts

August 21 through September 30, 2017
November 14 through November 20, 2017
November 25 through November 27, 2017
December 8 through December 23, 2017

Package Includes

  • Room
  • Theme park ticket(s) with Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus Option
  • Dining Plan (Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan with Value and Moderate Resort hotel packages; Disney Dining Plan with Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort hotel packages)

Important Details

  • The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited.
  • Advance reservations required.
  • Tickets and options must be used within 14 days of first use.
  • Children ages 3 to 9 must choose from the children’s menu, if available.
  • Some table-service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase.

Ticket Requirements

  • Minimum 2-day Magic Your Way ticket with Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus Option

Offer Restrictions

  • Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion.
  • Excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities.
  • Everyone in the same room must be on the same package.
  • Offer excludes the following room types: campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Little Mermaid Standard Rooms and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.

Classic Space Mountain to Return to Disneyland June 1st

Get ready to initiate power transfer in 3…2…1… when the classic Space Mountain returns to Disneyland June 1! Just days after we mark the 40th anniversary of this Tomorrowland favorite, space travelers will blast off once again for their intergalactic adventure.

A variation of a concept Walt Disney developed in the 1960s, Space Mountain first opened at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in 1975, and construction on Space Mountain at Disneyland began soon after. The attraction went on to become a guest favorite, seeing special themed versions such as Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and Hyperspace Mountain.

You are clear for launch starting June 1 with the return of Space Mountain at Disneyland.

Alan Menken Will Offer Tales and Tunes at Disney’s D23 Expo

Tony and Academy Award winner Alan Menken will present his solo show, A Whole New World of Alan Menken at Disney’s upcoming D23 Expo. The composer will offer audiences performances and anecdotes capturing his illustrious career July 16 at 1:30 PM and 5 PM in Hall D23 of the Anaheim Convention Center.

The show, written and performed by Menken, will be directed by Richard Kraft, who helmed The Little Mermaid in Concert and the upcoming La La Land in Concert: A Live-To-Film Celebration—both at the Hollywood Bowl.

D23 Expo—billed “The Ultimate Disney Fan Event”—will take place July 14–16. The annual event offers unprecedented access to presentations, experiences, concerts, sneak peeks, and more. For tickets and more information, visit D23.com.

With eight Academy Awards, Menken holds the record for most wins for any living individual. He picked up Oscars for both Best Original Score and Best Original Song for his work on Pocahontas, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. In 2012, he won a Tony Award for his score for Newsies, based on the 1992 movie musical. His additional credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Leap of Faith, Sister Act, and the new musical A Bronx Tale on stage, as well as Tangled, Enchanted, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Galavant on screen.

A Whole New World of Alan Menken received its world premiere in September 2016 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.

From Playbill