The BLOG FLUME - Not a Lot of Disney

So, what exactly is going on at SeaWorld? What about Cypress Gardens? Does Bonnet Creek still exist? Something new must be going on in Vegas, right? Answers to all that and some GREAT news out of Disney...

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: June 30, 2004 at 1:09 AM

MousePlanet - Jun 28

Bonnet Creek, the patch of land bordering Walt Disney World, is up for sale yet again. I made fun of their luxury resort plans in an earlier Blog Flume, and it appears that I was correct in doing so. Fairfield Resorts does have a timeshare on the property, and a golf course is being built, so maybe there will be a future for the 482-acre parcel of land, but it is a long-distant future, that's for sure.

Orlando Sentinel - Jun 25

SeaWorld Orlando is about 70% of the way to completing its first foray into nighttime spectacular arena. Called Mistify, the show doesn't promise anything groundbreaking as it will feature the already familiar fireworks, fountains and water screens. But it does promise yet another reason for people to hang around the park, which means more traffic throughout their new Waterfront area.

The only problem is Mistify may only be around for summer seasons. Nighttime shows such as this are expensive to run (just check out Disneyland's now-you-see-it-now-you-don't Fantasmic schedule) and if Mistify's cost isn't covered by increased purchases of food and souvenirs, then it may not even be around beyond this summer. But if sales spike, SWO does plan on attempting the show daily.

Orlando Sentinel - Jun 27

Kent Buescher, owner of Cypress Gardens in Central Florida, is bitching about the state of the park he bought. Apparently much of it is falling apart, which explains why it was unable to open in time for the busy summer season. This article has given me some hope for the project, of which regular readers know I have little. Buescher appears to understand that being so near Orlando is not like being in a two-park state like Georgia. He is evidently a very hands-on operator and he has realistic goals for the park, like having Annual Passes in the $60 range. Still, few think the park will be much of a success, if at all. I send Buescher my good wishes; he'll need them.

Las Vegas Review-Journal - Jun 29
Vegas 4 Visitors - Jun 28

All the construction around Caesars has made it a nightmare to walk anywhere in the vicinity of the behemoth casino. Apparently those nightmares are over! The casino's new entrance on the corner of Flamingo and Las Vegas Blvd is officially open. This entrance replaces the endless walkways that always made the casino such a pain in the ass to enter and especially to exit. It is being billed as an entertainment and retail area, whatever that means. Nothing is mentioned other than an indoor/outdoor restaurant and shops, so I am picturing something similar to the entrance to Bellagio or the walkway joining Paris to Bally's. I will check it out this week and let you know.

Meanwhile, up the Strip a bit at Wynn Las Vegas, big things might be happening. Not only will the resort most likely open with FOUR nightclubs (the nightclub wars in Vegas are becoming truly ridiculous), but Steve Wynn has put in a bid for the Las Vegas Country Club golf course just north of his resort. Reportedly, Wynn wants to use the old golf course as an "overflow" course for the brand new WLV course when it opens. The LVCC course has become neglected with all the new nicer courses sprouting up in the area, so I can't understand how people unable to golf on the WLV course would be happy golfing on the LVCC course. Maybe Wynn should open the WLV course early and allow the LVCC members to use it while he revamps the older course. Just a thought.

The Stratosphere has big ideas for the future also. All kinds of remodeling are in store, including a major expansion of the shopping area. Also on the slate is a new erotic musical called Bite. (No, not Bite Me! That's the name of my autobiography.) It is apparently about a vampire searching for his queen and will feature familiar rock tunes. I'm withholding judgment, but it already sounds more interesting than 90% of the T&A shows in Vegas.

Hopefully the Las Vegas Monorail will make the Stratosphere's expenditures worth it, as it is now scheduled to open on July 15. Yay!

Motley Fool - Jun 28

Apparently Disney is fed up with me making fun of their pathetic movie division and is planning on cutting down the number of films it puts out there every year. The article says the studio will cut down from its usual slate of 13 to 16 movies, which I find rather hilarious. Disney released 18 movies in 2002 and 2003, and I am too lazy to find out how many they released before then. But if any year has less than 16, I would be seriously shocked.

Anyhow, the Fool suggests Disney should just lower budgets but increase output. I find this ludicrous. Yes, Disney has had many bloated budgets this year, like The Alamo and Home on the Range, but it also released low-budget flops too, like Raising Helen and Confessions of a Drama Queen. Disney believes fewer films each year will force studio heads to be more choosy, and I completely and totally agree. Better marketing strategies couldn't hurt either.

Readers' Opinions

From V L on June 30, 2004 at 9:12 AM
I have a plan for turning Disney around. It's a rather radical concept. How about spending less money on crap, and more on telling good stories.
From J. Dana on June 30, 2004 at 12:55 PM
Kevin, how often do you get over to Vegas? Your knowlege of the place seems more than just "cursory." I, too, am looking forward to Wynn's new resort. I like the idea that it's going to just stand on its own theme (from what I understand) instead of trying to force something silly. Much like he did with Mirage, a true beauty. FOUR nightclubs? Wow, he's making his own Pleasure Island. That Vampire show does sound cool, too.
From Kevin Baxter on June 30, 2004 at 2:06 PM
I usually get to Vegas at least twice a year, but my sister-in-law's HUGE family lives there, so there have been even more trips the past few years. Plus, I am the type of vacationer who never sits around, so when I do Vegas, I DO Vegas.

As for Disney, I can't fault them for when a movie doesn't turn out as planned. Raising Helen was a good idea, but a movie with the untested Kate Hudson should have NEVER opened in summer. But then Disney has given the green light to very questionable projects, like The Alamo. With fewer films, not only might that disaster not have happened, but it would have also opened a better spot on the calendar for Helen.

From John Franklin on June 30, 2004 at 5:44 PM
Kevin, in this age of DVD's, cable, pay channels, etc., many movies that flop in the theaters normally make up for it through these other routes. Many people may not want to go to the theater to see The Alamo or 80 Days, but will buy or rent the DVD when released.
From Joe Lane on June 30, 2004 at 10:32 PM
You make a decent point, John, that a lot of films that perform poorly in the box office can at least break even or make a fair profit through DVD and video releases. Pay-per-view may feature the movies soon afterwards as well, though it takes a while for a film to show up on even the basic cable stations--and there's also the international releases--where a lot of movies make up the extra cash.

But usually, the thing that makes or breaks a classic is the initial release. No matter how many DVDs are sold, movies like 80 Days or The Alamo may never see the numbers films like Lion King or Pirates saw in their time frames.

The name of the game is quality over quantity. It was the basis Walt built his company on. Now, the Disney market sufferes from oversaturation of poor quality entertainment--with their movies, televison stations and especially their theme parks.

From Kevin Baxter on July 1, 2004 at 1:46 AM
Excellent points, Joe. While kiddie flicks like Home on the Range will most likely make up for its poor box office performance, adult flops like The Alamo or Raising Helen won't necessarily turn into hits once they hit DVD. Losers like The Hulk can often do well in the home market also, but they tend to feature massive extras as a selling point. Special-effects extravaganzas tend to interest movie geeks on DVD. Unfortunately for Disney, they rarely release anything in this vein.
From J. Dana on July 1, 2004 at 10:34 AM
I doubt 80 Days will ever make up its investment. It cost $110 million, plus promotion costs. And it's brought in less than $20 million so far. Disney lucked up, though, because they didn't have to foot the production costs on this one; they had an outside investor. But still, what a HUGE amount of money down the drain. And I doubt they'll make back their investment on the Alamo either...another over $100 million epic that flopped, coming in at $22 million. But, y'know, how many of you actually felt, "Wow, I can't wait to see these movies." Me neither. C'mon, Disney.....a blockbuster might be difficult to predict, but a dud is pretty easy to spot.
From John Franklin on July 1, 2004 at 2:01 PM
I agree that 80 Days (personally, I would reather watch the first 60's version of this movie), the Alamo, (and most likely) King Arthur will take a long time to make their production costs back via DVD, but they still bring in money. After all, how many retail outlets like Blockbusters are there out there that order 30 copies or so per location of each movie? And how much profit is there for Disney per copy sold? As far as Walt Disney is concern, he made his fair number of movies that were flops as well. When was the last time you really wanted to see movies like: Babes in Toyland or The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes or The Monkey's Uncle (the last two starred Kurt Russell-but don't mention these films to him) or The Cat from Outer Space? All of these films were produced under Walt Disney while he was alive or oked by him. Many people said that Walt Disney made bad live-action movies. It is true, Walt made great animated and True-Life Adventure movies.
From Kevin Baxter on July 1, 2004 at 2:03 PM
Disney's movie studio has basically sucked since dinosaurs roamed the earth. But in the early days, a flop didn't lose that much money and kept the Disney name in the public eye. Every time someone saw "Disney's This or That" that person inevitably thought of Disneyland or Walt Disney World or The Wonderful World of Disney. The movie busines has never really been that profitable.

Until now. DVDs have finally brought some major profiteering to the movie business. Disney once ruled the videotape market, as family films tended to be the only films you could buy at a reasonable price. But with immensely cheap DVDs and all the extras that come with them, Disney has lost some serious market share here. Time Warner is king of the mountain now, and their library runs the gamut.

Disney has to keep an eye on what it gives the green light to. Home on the Range will undoubtedly make money one day, but I agree that The Alamo never will. And if Disney keeps giving the go-ahead to iffy projects like that, as well as continuing its horrendous cheapquel machine (supposedly a direct-to-DVD sequel to Chicken Little is already being planned), then they should scrap their studio altogether. As a theme park fan, I'm sick and tired of the profits from the Disney parks being funneled back into losers like the studios and ABC instead of into the parks like they should be!

From alex morehouse on July 1, 2004 at 6:17 PM
I heard on Headline news that Disney is going to stick with box-office franchises like "Pirates Of The Caribbean." Here is an idea: breathe life into some old characters.

I came up for an idea for a sequal to "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in which I call "ToonTown Madness." My cast of live-action stars would be Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller from "Dodgeball." For voices, I would cast Lindsay Lohan ("Mean Girls"), Alfred Molina ("Spider Man 2"),Jack Black ("School Of Rock"), Will Ferell ("Anchorman"), Uma Thurman ("Kill Bill Vol.1 and 2), and Pierce Brosnan (007). Give me your two cents on what you would like to see for a sequal!

From Kenny Hitt on July 1, 2004 at 7:22 PM
From steve lee on July 2, 2004 at 9:40 AM
Actually, there already was supposed to be a PREquel to Roger Rabbit called "The Toon Patrol," that would have shown Roger and company during WWII. It never came together, unfortunately (details on it can be found in Chris Gore's book "The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made." To avoid making that a plug, I'd recommend going to the bookstore and skimming that particular section (it only runs about three pages).

But isn't there still some negative energy between Amblin and Disney? If that's the case, you may as well hang up that phone.

I'd like to see something in that vein, though - an animated (or live-action/cartoon mix) that functions like the game Kingdom Hearts where the characters from different films can interact (not at all unlike what they do on the House of Mouse show, although that's not a great example).

Oh, and I didn't realize 80 Days hadn't scraped up $20 million yet. Gosh, Fahrenheit 9/11 made that in its opening weekend (OH WAIT - Disney didn't release that one, did they?)

From alex morehouse on July 2, 2004 at 9:53 AM
Another idea for a franchise that I'd like to see from Disney is bringing the T.V series "Digimon: Digital Monsters" to life. After all, Columbia has Spider-Man, and Disney owns Saban Entertainment, so I say why not? They could make 4 films out of the first season, each with a budget of $94 Million, shoot them all at the same time like "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy over a pre-production period of 20 months. They could shoot it all on location in Japan, use japanese actors, and make the special effects more cool and awesome than hokey, unlike what they did with "Around The World in 80 Days" (shudder). It could result in Disney's most successful movie franchise!
From J. Dana on July 2, 2004 at 10:20 PM
My two cents worth...I'd sooner swallow pencils than see a Digmon about your major flops. The time for the Digimon craze has long left us...
From Themepark Guy on July 7, 2004 at 7:34 AM
Per your earlier question regarding Bonnet Creek. I actually drove onto the property last night when I was on Disney property- Looks pretty bleak. One Fairfield resort is open, the second looks close to completion-hard to tell how close they are. But after that, just a lot of plowed over grass, with a stagnant, green colored canal as the centerpiece.

It is a strange development overall, but even stranger in the context of the Disney property. Event the entry signage is kind of weird-hard to explain.

I know FR are aggressively marketing the property, and I am sure that smart,savvy investors(?) with a LOT of vision will fill the void.

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