Disney Plans Midnight ‘Star Wars’ Event to Unveil ‘Last Jedi’ Merchandise

Walt Disney Co and major retailers will release the galaxy’s newest “Star Wars” toys at a September 1st midnight event ahead of the holiday debut of the next film in the saga, “The Last Jedi,” company executives told Reuters.

The marketing push called “Force Friday II” is a sequel to an event Disney used to build buzz for merchandise tied to the 2015 movie “The Force Awakens.”

Star Wars products were a big contributor to the financial success of the series reboot. BB-8 droids, lightsabers and other playthings made “Star Wars” the U.S. toy industry’s top-selling property for 2015 and 2016, with $1.5 billion in sales over the two years, research firm NPD said.

Hasbro Inc cited “Star Wars” sales when it reported its biggest quarterly revenue rise in nearly five years for the December 2015 quarter. Mattel Inc also posted a surprise rise in sales for the same period with help from “Star Wars”-based Hot Wheels toys. And at Disney, licensing income from “Force Awakens” merchandise drove record quarterly operating income in the consumer products unit.

Force Friday II will begin just after midnight on September 1st. Lego, Hasbro and others will release the first toys, apparel, books and other products tied to “The Last Jedi,” both online and in stores at retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Amazon.com Inc and Disney Stores.

Disney will incorporate new technology to its “Last Jedi” products like it did with the popular BB-8 droid, said James Pitaro, chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. New products will feature returning characters such as Rey and Finn, plus new ones, and will span a broad range of categories for male and female fans, he said.

“One of our top priorities is to expand the audience,” Pitaro said.

“The Last Jedi,” the eighth installment in the “Star Wars” movie saga that began in 1977, debuts in theaters Dec. 15. Toys typically hit shelves closer to a movie’s release, around four to six weeks in advance.

At the 2015 Force Friday, fans dressed as Stormtroopers and Jedi waited in line for hours ahead of the midnight store openings.

“There was a certain mania that took over,” said Marty Brochstein, a senior vice president at the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association. The excitement around “Star Wars” in 2015 was unique because it had been so long since the last film, Brochstein said.

“It would be unfair to expect the same kind of volume generated this time around by consumer products,” he said, adding it was too early to assess demand.

Pitaro said Disney continues to see “very, very healthy sales” of “Star Wars” merchandise. “We have a lot of confidence we will continue in that direction,” he said.

Disney bought “Star Wars” producer Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion and reintroduced the franchise with “Force Awakens.” That movie became the third-highest grossing ever, selling $2 billion worth of tickets worldwide. Disney also released “Star Wars” spinoff “Rogue One” in 2016.

Star Wars Celebration to Welcome Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson

Huge news from a galaxy far, far away! Some very special guests will be appearing onstage at Star WarsCelebration in Orlando, coming up this April… namely, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson! We’ve been told there’ll be a ton of big surprises—and other special guests on that can’t-miss Last Jedi panel on Friday, April 14—to keep the excitement (not to mention speculation!) bubbling throughout the weekend.

Kathleen and Rian join the already-announced Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett)—who’ll all be signing in the Star WarsCelebration Autograph Hall.

Heading down to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center for all the Star Wars fun? Visit StarWarsCelebration.com for tickets—and check back as we get closer to the event for guest updates, queuing info, and wristband details.

runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series is Back for the Summer

The runDisney Virtual Running Shorts Series returns this summer featuring Disney’s top dog Pluto!

Whether you’re a runDisney enthusiast or a beginner looking to hit the ground running, virtual races are a great way to not only introduce your friends and family to running but also a way to jumpstart your training for upcoming races at Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris.

The second year of Virtual Races will go on sale Tuesday, April 11, 2017. The series includes three 5Ks you can complete from whichever course you choose, whether that’s through your neighborhood, on the treadmill or at your local park. Participants will receive a uniquely designed finisher medal for each 5K completed plus a challenge medal for completing all three virtual 5Ks.

runDisney’s celebratory charity will be Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, who is celebrating 80 years of saving pets in Central Florida. For updates and medal releases, follow runDisney on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Share your excitement using the hashtag #runDisneyShorts. To learn more about runDisney events, please visit http://rundisney.mydisneyresorts.com.

Disney Increases Stake in Disneyland Paris, Offers to Buy Rest

Walt Disney Co. plans to take full ownership of its ailing theme park in Paris to get the resort under control after 25 years of ups and downs at its first and only outlet in Europe.

Disney is acquiring a 9 percent stake in Euro Disney SCA from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. for 2 euros ($2.13) a share, payable in Disney stock. That will give it an 85.7 percent holding, and it’s offering the same price in cash for the rest, according to a statement Friday. The offer is 67 percent higher than Euro Disney’s closing price Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger is doubling down on the troubled resort, which has already been bailed out by Disney more than once. Hurt by sputtering European economies in recent years, the park’s finances were further hit by the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks and challenging business conditions that continued through 2016.

Disney said it will support Euro Disney’s recapitalization of as much as 1.5 billion euros. That follows a 2014 rescue package, when the resort was pledged at least 1 billion euros over 10 years to add attractions and spruce up grounds.

The new plan “affords maximum flexibility to shareholders, addresses the group’s financial needs and reflects its ongoing support for the long-term success of Disneyland Paris,” Disney said.

Shares of Euro Disney jumped 66 percent to 1.99 euros at 3:37 p.m. in Paris, giving the company a market value of 1.56 billion euros. Disney added 0.2 percent to $109.66 in New York Friday for a market value of $173 billion.

The investment marks a deeper commitment by Disney to its global theme-parks business. The entertainment giant opened a $5.5 billion resort in Shanghai last June that drew 4 million guests in its first four months, and is creating new attractions based on hit films. Disney is building “Star Wars”-themed lands at its parks in Orlando and Anaheim, California, and is also on schedule to open an “Avatar” attraction at its Animal Kingdom park in Florida in May.

This week, Disney reported a 13 percent gain in theme-park profit to $1.11 billion, buoyed by higher spending at the domestic and international parks, including a Shanghai resort, which opened in June. Profit at the theme-park division topped earnings from businesses including the cable-TV unit, home to ESPN and the Disney Channel, and its film arm.

The Paris resort’s history includes several financing maneuvers as it has struggled to match the popularity of Disney’s U.S. theme parks. In 2012, Euro Disney consolidated debt from a number of banks into a loan from the Disney company. Prince Alwaleed bought a 10 percent stake in Euro Disney in a refinancing in 1994, two years after its opening.

Euro Disney’s board has expressed its support for Disney’s plan. The board’s audit committee, comprised of independent members, is recommending an expert to deliver a fairness opinion about the offer.

From Bloomberg

‘Happily Ever After’ Nighttime Spectacular Will Debut at Magic Kingdom May 12th

“Happily Ever After,” a new nighttime spectacular that will combine the magic of Disney storytelling, beloved Disney characters, fireworks and so much more, will debut at Magic Kingdom Park on May 12.

The spectacular will inspire guests to seek out and find their own “Happily Ever After” by showcasing some of the greatest adventures Disney characters have taken to achieve their dreams. The show will feature the latest fireworks and pyrotechnics and original animation, plus a heart-tugging original score. And thanks to the inclusion of state-of-the-art projection mapping technology, more Disney characters than ever before will be featured in the show, including moments from “Moana,” “Brave,” “Big Hero 6,” “Zootopia,” “The Princess & The Frog,” “Aladdin” and many others.

The Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace will continue to offer up a scrumptious way to view the nighttime fun as “Happily Ever After” makes its debut.

Rivers of Light Finally Gets Official Opening Date

For more than a year, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has continued its evolution to a day-to-night park by introducing a rich variety of new nighttime experiences – from Kilimanjaro Safaris after sunset and fine dining at Tiffins, to the vibrant entertainment at the Harambe Wildlife Parti and Discovery Island Carnivale. And when the Tree of Life awakens after dark, it is truly a sight to behold!

Today, Disney announced one of the park’s newest nighttime experiences, “Rivers of Light,” will make its official debut on February 17.

Continuing the grand Disney tradition of innovative, after-dark entertainment, “Rivers of Light” combines live performance, floating set pieces, a soaring musical score, fountains and more in a celebration of animals and nature. The story magically unfolds on the broad natural stage of the Discovery River, conveying the uplifting spirit of an ancient and timeless lantern ceremony and filled with symbolism, storytelling and plenty of heart.

FastPass+ is now available for Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  To make dining or FastPass+ reservations for this new show, visit MyDisneyExperience.com or the My Disney Experience app.

And don’t forget that the next step in the expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom – the grand debut of Pandora – The World of Avatar – will take place on May 27, 2017.

Disney Shutting Down Club Penguin and Will Relaunch Franchise With New Mobile Game

Disney will discontinue the Club Penguin subscription social game for desktop and mobile devices, which has been running for 11 years, and at the same will launch a new mobile game featuring the cartoon aquatic birds in March.

The Mouse House acquired Club Penguin in 2007 for in a deal reportedly worth up to $700 million. At one point, Club Penguin had registered more than 200 million accounts on the subscription-based service aimed at young kids; Disney is not disclosing the current number of subscribers.

Club Penguin announced the change in a blog post Monday. According to Disney, it has built an entirely new mobile-only platform for the new Club Penguin Island game, requiring it to retire the system that has powered the legacy service for more than a decade.

The current game will cease on March 29, 2017, and memberships for desktop Club Penguin and the Club Penguin app will no longer be available for purchase as of Jan. 31, at which time paid member accounts will no longer be charged for the service.

club-penguin

Even with the demise of the existing service, Club Penguin promised “an amazing new product, Club Penguin Island” — set to launch in March — that “offers a uniquely penguin experience, with new features and gameplay, making it more fun than ever,” according to the post.

Current Club Penguin players in select territories can preregister their new penguin name on the Club Penguin Island website by Feb. 16. Those who preregister will receive “exclusive in-game rewards” when they log in for the first time.

The cost of Club Penguin has been $7.95 per month (or $19.95 for three months). Disney has not announced pricing for Club Penguin Island, but says it’s expected to be in line with the previous cost of Club Penguin membership or potentially slightly less.

From Variety

Square Enix and Marvel Team for Multiple Games, Starting with the Avengers

Square Enix is working with Marvel on multiple games from the Marvel universe, starting with an Avengers title as the first of its projects. The game is being promoted with the hashtag #Reassemble, and appears to center around the aftermath of the events of Captain America: Civil War, which likely means it’ll either precede or coincide with the next Avengers movie, which is set for release in May 2018.

The Avengers Project Trailer

The trailer basically gives us a look at the battle-worn, discarded equipment of a number of avengers, including Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. It also tells us that Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal are also involved in the game’s development.

So far, we know little else beyond that, but it’s exciting to see a developer like Square Enix get behind a franchise as successful and beloved as Marvel’s.

From TechCrunch

Disney Launches its Own Adult Coloring Book App

Adult coloring book apps are all the rage, and now Disney’s getting in on that action, too. The company has today released its own take on the genre with the launch of the Color by Disney mobile application, and app that lets wannabe artists practice their skills by coloring in templates featuring popular characters and scenes from Disney and Pixar and films.

At launch, there are hundreds of designs to choose from, including more recent movies like “Frozen” and “Moana,” as well as classics like “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid,” in addition to Pixar titles like “Brave” and “Monsters, Inc.”

Wait, did I say this app was for grown-ups? Because this sounds like something the little ones would enjoy…

Nope!  “Color by Disney” is being marketed just to the adult crowd, with the company touting how coloring apps can reduce stress. This claim (which might not be backed by hard science) has already led the App Store to fill with coloring applications in recent months, including apps like Recolor, Pigment, Colorfy, Heycolor, and dozens of others.

The Disney version isn’t all that different from the numerous others already on the market. To use the app, you select your template, your pen type (pencil, crayon, marker, etc.) and your colors, then tap away. The app, however, does include film-inspired color palettes and offers a handful of effects – like adding pixie dust to your creation, for example.

Your work can be then be shared on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or saved to your device.

Color by Disney also offers a subscription service, which delivers unlimited access to the Disney art collection. This service will see new additions weekly, Disney says. Three packages, offered via in-app purchase, are currently available: one week all-access for $2.99, one month all-access for $7.99 or a year all-access for $39.99.

The app is a free download on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Windows App Store.

From TechCrunch

Shanghai Disney Sees Nearly 6 Million Guests in 7 Months

Shanghai Disneyland received close to 6 million visitors in the first seven months of it opening in mid-June, Fan Xiping, chairman of Shanghai Shendi Group, Disney’s Chinese partner, said Monday.

Fan, who is also a member of the standing committee of the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said 5.6 million people had visited Shanghai Disneyland by Dec. 31, 2016.

Eighty percent of the visitors said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their visits, according to a third party survey.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and Toy Story Hotel reported up to 90 percent occupancy. The first-ever Mandarin production of “The Lion King” was staged over 220 times, making it the most-run Broadway musical in the Chinese mainland.

“Both sides from China and the US are satisfied with the park’s performance,” Fan said. “We’ll work together to improve our operational and service standards, to deliver exceptional service to visitors from all over the world.”

Previously, Walt Disney, in its 2016 fiscal year report, said that Shanghai Disneyland received 4 million visitors in its first four months of operation.