Tag: Fox

Claims and Answers: Three juicy tidbits from the Genting-Fox-Disney lawsuit

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One of my favorite pastimes is having the ThemedReality unpaid interns scour through tens of thousands of financial and court documents, looking for the juicy stuff that mainstream press and other bloggers often miss.

Here are three of my favorites from the Genting lawsuit against Disney and Fox, which should be interesting going forward now that Disney has acquired the Fox subsidiaries that were being sued.

Background in a nutshell:

In 2013, Genting, the owners of the Resorts World brand (which owns Universal Studios Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa under a license from Comcast), announced that it would begin construction on a licensed 20th Century Fox theme park at its Genting Highlands resort in Malaysia.

In 2018, Fox backed out of the project and was sued by Genting, as was Disney, which Genting accused of being the mastermind behind Fox’s decision.

JUICY BIT #1: A respectable themed entertainment design firm didn’t act so respectable (claim #35)

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Genting claims that Fox insisted it replace the vendor working on a Planet of the Apes attraction with “a firm that employed individuals who were already providing consulting services to Fox (either in their individual capacities or as firm representatives).” Genting goes on to state that it discovered the new firm not only lacked experience, but that it “learned that the firm was secretly attempting to partner with third-party vendors and have them submit bids in their own names, while agreeing with them that it would perform the work in a “subcontractor’ capacity.”

What we find interesting is that in its answer to the claim, Fox kind agrees with this last point. “The Fox Defendants admit that Fox recommended that Genting retain a vendor to assist with the Planet of the Apes attraction, that Genting made the decision to retain that vendor, and that Genting subsequently alleged that this vendor had sought to interfere with other potential vendors, and terminated the vendor on that basis. Fox supported the termination and also stopped work with the vendor.”

Who’s the vendor? We don’t know. It’s not mentioned in the court documents so far. Perhaps it will come up during trial, which will either start later this year or some time next year. Genting is arguing that the discovery process could take up to a year, primarily due to privacy laws in Malaysia. Disney believes discovery could be completed by September. In the meantime, I have my suspicions (which won’t be shared here) and have hedged my bets at a Malaysian casino.

JUICY BIT #2: Disney wants none of its intellectual properties near casinos (claim #59)

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The history behind this is a bit completed and involves a pre-exisiting conflict between Disney and Genting over the development of a large scale Resorts World integrated resort in Miami, which I won’t cover here, but likely will in a future piece.

Genting argues: “Having long adopted anti-gambling policies based on its ‘family-friendly’ brand image, Disney has a history of eliminating any ties to gambling held by its acquired companies. For example, on information and belief, after acquiring LucasFilm and Marvel Entertainment, Disney decided to phase out Star Wars and Marvel themed slot machines in the United States. Disney has also used its financial muscle to fight the expansion of casinos in Florida—the hub of Disney’s theme park empire. Disney has, on information and belief, spent tens of millions of dollars in those efforts and at least $20 million dollars in the 2018 election cycle alone to support the passage of the Florida ballot initiative Amendment 3, which reportedly will make it more difficult for casinos—clear competition to Disney’s parks—to be approved by the state. With Fox World located just outside the casinos in the Genting Highlands integrated resort, it comes as no surprise that Disney would, on information and belief, try to kill the Fox World deal in a transparent attempt to ‘protect’ the Disney brand.”

In its answer to Genting’s claim,”Disney admits that certain Disney-affiliated entities have discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements relating to the Star Wars and Marvel franchises. Disney further admits that certain Disney-affiliated entities contributed to a ballot measure committee that supported Florida ballot initiative Amendment 3 in 2018. Except as expressly admitted, Disney denies the allegations in Paragraph 59.”

Now, here’s the problem I have with this particular claim: Genting filed its lawsuit against Fox and Disney on November 26, 2018. On December 6, 2018, interactive VR attraction company The VOID opened its first Asian location at Skytropolis Funland, the new indoor theme park at Resorts World Genting (yes, the resort actually has a second theme park besides the outdoor Fox World Malysia). Opening programs at the new VOID location were none other than Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire and Ralph Breaks VR. Both programs use Disney IP and were developed by The VOID in conjunction with Disney and its subsidiaries. So it makes me wonder how Disney could mastermind a removal of its intellectual properties from a casino resort while allowing the usage of other Disney IP in another location at the same resort at the same time.

JUICY BIT #3: The Alien vs Predator cruise-ship style dance show (counterclaim #46b)

Dancing_AlienIn its countersuit, Fox attempts to show that Genting did not understand the intellectual properties it was working with. Among its examples: the Alien vs Predator Dance Show.

Fox states: “Demonstrating how little thought it gave to the integrity of Fox’s intellectual property, Genting proposed taking some of Fox’s most significant science fiction film properties— Alien, Predator, and Alien vs. Predator—and using the main characters in a cruise ship-style dance show, featuring a dancing Alien and Predator.”

But in its answer to the claim, Genting says the show wasn’t its idea: “[Genting] never proposed having a dancing Alien or a dancing Predator in a ‘cruise ship-style dance show.’ Rather, it was Fox that suggested ‘a stylized costumed Colonial Marines, Predators, and Aliens dance show,’ including that ‘Predators then perform a ‘dance’ circle outside of the circle of Marines.’ Accordingly, [Genting] designed a show in which the Colonial Marines would simulate action/fight scenes involving two Predators and an Alien. Moreover, it was Fox that demonstrated a lack of understanding as to how its own IP should be represented, as Fox requested significant changes to the show concept it had already approved and its representatives gave conflicting guidance as to what they wanted to see in the show. For example, one Fox representative instructed [Genting] to ‘[a]dd some comic guest interaction between Colonial Marines and guests,’ while a few months later, another Fox representative countermanded that instruction, stating that ‘[c]omedy is off brand from the properties (not comedic movies).’ These types of mixed messages from Fox, along with the aforementioned bad-faith Fox conduct in connection with the approval process—not [Genting]’s actions—caused the delays about which Fox complains.”

Yikes.

ThemedReality’s top three predictions for 2019

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Ducati World, opening 2019 at Mirabilandia, a flagship Parques Reunidos theme park resort in Ravenna, Italy

These predictions are different than the ones posted on the ThemedReality Facebook page, though some of them do tie together. It’s important to keep in mind that although I have my reasons for believing these predictions may likely happen, they are only speculation on my part. If you share any of this info as fact before it becomes fact, that’s all on you. Don’t forget to click the disclaimer tab at the top of the page.

I’ll be traveling internationally for the first couple weeks of 2019 and although I will be conducting work for my clients during this period, I’ll also be giving ThemedReality a break. This means if you email or direct message me any questions or place questions for me in the comments section of Facebook or in a tweet, don’t expect a response until later in January.

That said, it’s time to open the floodgates and let the predictioning commence.

1. SETTLING IN

Disney, Fox and Genting will come to an out of court settlement on Fox World Malaysia. Disney will take ownership of the park, paying Genting a leasing fee on the property. The park will be redesigned by Walt Disney Imagineering to meet Disney standards and will either see a transitional phase to the new look after opening (akin to California Adventure) or Disney will delay opening until new theming is in place. Genting’s Theme Park Hotel will be given a Fox overlay.

2. هاري بوتر

Universal will announce a resort for the UAE. While it will not have any DreamWorks characters due to an existing licensing agreement for the market, it will feature plenty of Minions and the world’s fourth Wizarding World of Harry Potter, first in the Middle East and closest to Europe.

3. MUCHOS MUNDOS MARINOS

Parques Reunidos and SeaWorld Entertainment will merge and be taken private. SeaWorld’s interim CEO John Reilly will be named CEO of the combined company. Don’t think of Zhonghong as being involved – both Zhonghong Zhuoye, which owns 21% of SeaWorld stock and Zhonghong Holdings, which had the exclusive license to build SeaWorld branded parks in Chinese territories, are pretty much out of the picture. With Zhonghong Holdings’ shares now delisted, it appears that Zhonghong Zhouye can use some of those assets to pay off its debt for the SeaWorld stock. It appears the merger is being orchestrated by Hill Path Capital, which owns just over 15% of SeaWorld Entertainment with Hill Path partners on both companies’ boards. In conjunction with the merger, the companies, either independently or as a merged entity, will purchase Argentina’s Mundo Marino (which, ironically, translates into English as Sea World), obtain the management contract for the Schlitterbahn chain of waterparks, and sell SeaWorld’s Texas properties to Six Flags.

A FINAL THOUGHT

While there’s enough evidence to make me believe these three predictions could take place, I cannot guarantee they will. Markets change, politics change, corporate management changes, plans change. Nothing is set in stone.

Eleven months before the launch of the final Apollo mission, in a January 1972 interview on DC area radio station WMAL, the great Werner von Braun made a profound statement: “I’m convinced that before the year 2000 is over, the first child will have been born on the moon.”

The Other Side of the News: A very Asia-centric end of November 2018 edition

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Fox World Malaysia. Photo credit: Danny Yap
This just in from Asia….

Back in December last year I wrote about the Disney acquisition of FOX:

One of the biggest unknowns surrounds the Fox World theme park currently being built at Resorts World Genting in Malaysia. Construction is well underway, but would Disney allow a Fox-only theme park operated by a company that operates a Universal Studios-licensed park in nearby Singapore to exist? I expect that over the next six months, we’ll find out the fate of the Malaysia park – if it will continue as is under its current contract, or if Disney will sink its participation in the project faster than the Titanic attraction going into it, causing Genting to seek out another (or multiple other) studio(s) to partner with.

Well, it took a little longer than that as today Genting filed a lawsuit against Fox and Disney for many alleged acts of evil deedery. Click here to read the initial filing. I’ll share more about the case as the courts make more available.

Meanwhile, in Asia….
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Wang Yonghong’s photo in the China Rich List 2015. Credit: Forbes (he was worth $850 million at the time)

It appears that Wang Yonghong remains in self-imposed exile in Hong Kong. He’s the owner of Zhonghong Zhuoye Group, the majority shareholder of Zhonghong Holdings, in case you didn’t know. I’d say he’s also the majority shareholder of SeaWorld Entertainment, but things are afoot behind the scenes that I’m not yet ready to discuss. Statewide, while Yoshi Maruyama retains the position of Chairman of the Board at SeaWorld Entertainment, it appears that he is no longer doing so as President of Zhonghong Americas LLC.

As for Zhonghong Holdings, the stock delisting process started on Friday, November 16 and will be completed on the final trading day of the year, December 28. A government mandated meeting with creditors that had been scheduled for November 16 has been postponed indefinitely due to Zhonghong just not having the documentation and analysis ready to deal with the hundreds of parties that filed against the company as creditors.

And now, a short break for a behind-the-scenes look at how rumors become news.
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The internet is full of passionate people. When that passion conflicts with statements on the internet, the outcome resembles a rabid raccoon stuck upside down in a trashcan full of cocaine. Although I know a Loro Parque staffer I was speaking with was joking about the name, I figured what the hell, and posted this photo on Facebook with the caption, “Newly released photo of Baby Ingrid at Loro Parque.” 43,000 views and 28 followers banned.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Welcome to the funhouse known as ThemedReality.

Two executives within a company involved in the proceedings told me that Six Flags was in talks to purchase all or or part of SeaWorld Entertainment. I was given permission by these individuals to post this information on grounds of anonymity. I was given additional information confidentially by these sources, but I adhere very closely to my six rules, so don’t expect those juicy tidbits to be shared until they’re public record.

The first thing I did after speaking with these executives was to attempt to contact the corporate PR directors at both chains for comment. I didn’t receive a response from either and made the decision to post the statement on the Facebook page and monitor feedback.

Now, if you look at the disclaimers that appear on both this blog and its accompanying Facebook page (in the Our Story window), you’ll see that:

. . . READERS ARE ADVISED TO CONSIDER STATEMENTS MADE BY ANONYMOUS SOURCES AS SPECULATIVE

Within an hour after posting, a follower of ThemedReality who happens to be a self-proclaimed expert on orca captivity, and who operates a website with the domain www.fromthedolphinspointofview.com, decided to tip off a reporter with the Orlando Sentinel. Although the reporter appears to have looked at the Facebook page, she never contacted me (though I must credit her for attempting to contact the theme park operators). Neither did individuals reporting on my post for the Orlando Business Journal and Orlando Weekly. In journalism, contacting a source before running a story is called due diligence and it’s part of the vetting process.

Yet, although this practice may not be the norm in Orlando, once the Sentinel article had hit the newswires and become international news, I was contacted by a number of major publications from the US, Canada, and the UK (it’s not that hard to contact me, even if it’s through a Facebook or twitter instant message). I explained to these reporters how this was a non-news story, that it should be considered nothing more than rumor, and a statement too broad and ambiguous to accurately interpret. They all agreed and it did not run in those publications.

One of the more interesting comments I found on a discussion thread accused me of panicking when I wrote two additional Facebook posts – one breaking down and analyzing the statement and the other disclosing that I do not own stock in either company – a preemptive move as the non-news mainstream media spread rumor had now bumped up share value at both companies. While this individual may call it panic, I call it being responsible. But I’m thankful for the hyperlinks in his comment to my posts. I learned a long time ago that the more people you piss off or get to ridicule you, the more likely it is that someone opposed to your stance will link to your post. And more links = more hits. It doesn’t really help me out financially. I’m not making $58,200** doing this. I’m not running ads on the blog (if you see ads, the money goes to WordPress), and I’m not in it for the notoriety. After all, this blog and its Facebook page are nothing more than my personal opinion and observations (it’s in the disclaimer), which is why, for the life of me, I have no idea why this small little blog nobody’s ever heard of recorded 72,000 hits in the first ten months of the year. Someone must be reading.

So now, this thing’s gone national. There’s analysis on message boards, videos are being made, and even the Motley Fool’s weighing in. What I found most interesting in following this is how many people took the statement verbatim. Everything I read was off the mark – with the exception of analysis by the website Behind the Thrills, where I’m an occasional contributor. The site’s owners were kind enough to not only contact me, but to enter into lengthy discussions about what I could share with them. But as strange as this might sound, the bloggers that took their information from or plagiarized Behind the Thrills still got their facts very wrong.

So how can this be?

Without breaking confidentiality, I can share one of the techniques I use when researching a personal blog post or a professional article that I’m writing for the day job. Often, it’s a matter of reading between the lines, looking at how words are grouped, and finding the message that isn’t on the surface.

In the Facebook post, I wrote:

Reliable sources inform me that Six Flags Entertainment Corporation is in talks to purchase all or part of SeaWorld Entertainment. More as details become available.

I never mentioned who Six Flags was in talks with.

Now, in all fairness, if Six Flags, SeaWorld, or another company involved contacts me and states on the record that talks never took place, I will gladly post a correction. But three weeks after the initial posting, that has yet to happen.

Finally, in Asia…..

Osaka has been named the host city of the 2025 World Expo. Congratulations!

The blog Disney and more writes that this is huge news for Universal Studios Japan, located in Osaka, and very bad news for Tokyo Disneyland. I couldn’t disagree more, and here’s why.

The error lies in a gross misunderstanding of the business of world’s fairs and their impacts on local tourism economies. Whereas Olympic Games welcome the majority of their visitors from foreign territories, World Expos invite local populations to see the best that other countries have to offer.

For the 2025 Expo, organizers anticipate just over 28 million visitors – 3.5 million from foreign territories and 24.7 million from Japan. Japanese are very loyal to the Tokyo Disney Resort and it’s highly unlikely that a visit to Osaka would result in not visiting Disney, rather that Disney would be scheduled for a different trip. Many of these local visitors will be visiting the Expo on a day trip basis (Osaka is only 3 1/2 hours from Tokyo via bullet train), and therefore will probably hit Expo but leave Universal for another holiday.

As for foreign visitors, based on travel patterns from past world expos (and most of the foreign visitors to Osaka are anticipated to be from the Asia-Pacific region), they are expected to make multi-day, multi-city trips involving the Expo along other cities and attractions across the country, including Disney.

Another important factor is the kind of visitor to World Expos, which tend to be multi-generational families, and both Disney and Universal have figured out how to cater to that demographic. So, based on visitor composition, it could go either way based on preference – and the same problem exists in Japan as in the Southern California and Orlando market for families with limited time – Mickey Mouse and Wreck-it Ralph or Harry Potter and Nintendo?

**$58,200 is how much the US government paid an orca expert for a few months of research that was ultimately canceled. I’ll explain how and why in a future post.

From Miami to Malaysia, Disney’s Acquisition of Fox Will Change the Face of the Attractions Industry. Presented by Mr. Sparkle and The Secret Lab.

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I’m going to approach Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox through speculation – a speculation based on past business decisions by Disney involving other acquisitions and the company’s history of handling synergistic branding over the past three decades (something I first started studying in the mid-90’s when a Disney marketing executive pointed out during a presentation that a banner for Tarzan at the X-Games was strategically placed to appear in a brief shot in the IMAX film Ultimate X).

First thing to understand is that often Disney will purchase a company for certain, but not all, of its assets. This usually entails the entire company being dissolved and key assets, especially technology, being integrated into other Disney divisions. Dream Quest Images, renamed by Disney as The Secret Lab, is an example of an entire company that was dissolved. Lucasarts is an example of a dissolved division of an acquired company.

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Ice Age themed hotel room at Alton Towers Resort

Within Fox, two particular divisions come to mind as candidates for dissolvement. First is Blue Sky Studios, the animation house behind the Ice Age and Rio franchises. Blue Sky is not as strongly marketed an animation studio as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, or even Universal’s Illumination. This is partially due to Fox having concentrated its marketing and distribution efforts on DreamWorks Animation pictures once it acquired distribution rights to that studio’s films. Ultimately, Blue Sky is more valuable for its intellectual properties than for the studio itself.

If Disney opts to continue producing animated films under the Peanuts or Dr Seuss animated franchises as begun by Blue Sky, it will need to consider that other theme park companies hold the licenses for those brands.

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The other unit that will likely be dissolved is FoxNext, a newly created division of Fox overseeing gaming, virtual and augmented reality, and location based entertainment, including theme park development and attraction licensing. The division will likely be discontinued as much of what FoxNext does is already handled internally by several existing units within the Walt Disney Company.

Porting Fox IP into the Disney parks, I expect the following:

Most Fox properties will show up within Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, Disney California Adventure, and Walt Disney Studios Paris, unless they can be thematically linked to an attraction or land at another park.

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Make sure to take the escalator ride to Epcot’s newest attraction – a branded logo.

Blue Sky properties Ice Age and Rio will likely find homes within Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Those two parks will also see a National Geographic branding overlay as Fox holds majority control over National Geographic Partners and its branded attractions, including the new Ocean Odyssey that just opened in New York’s Times Square.

Existing Blue Sky licenses to third parties, such as Merlin Entertainments and SimEx-Iwerks, will need to be reevaluated.

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This is not the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. It’s a typical night at Universal Studios.

Over the past few years, Fox has had a successful partnership with Universal on Halloween Horror Nights with such franchises as Rocky Horror Picture Show, Aliens v Predator, and American Horror Story. With the purchase of Fox, Disney now has enough horror franchises to hold two events at each of its American resorts each year – one a traditional family festival at one park and the other another park for more mature guests, allowing the Disney resorts to compete against leaders in the theme park haunt market within their regions, such as Universal, Cedar Fair, and Six Flags.

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Artists’s conception of Miami Wilds theme park. Also planned were a waterpark, entertainment district, resort hotel, and I’m pretty sure I saw youth soccer fields in the blueprints.

Disney will likely announce that it is pulling out of Miami Wilds, a $930 million Fox themed resort located next to ZooMiami. The project has been delayed for some time due to concerns over endangered species on the property. The cancellation of the project will have an adverse effect on the Miami Seaquarium, which was purchased by Parques Reunidos at the same time that Fox won the rights to build its resort. Miami Wilds, designed by Hettema Group, was to be managed by Parques Reunidos, which would have brought the company $5 million on average in management fees once its theme park and waterpark were fully operational. With Miami Wilds no longer in the picture, Parques Reunidos will need to re-evaluate its plans for the Florida market.

There is the possibility that as the Miami Wilds waterpark was themed to the Ice Age franchise, elements of its design could see new life as an overlay of Disney’s existing Blizzard Beach waterpark.

Marvel is a given. Except in Florida.

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Mr. Sparkle. No relation to my theater major sister’s cat.

The Simpsons is a different issue, with Universal having invested heavily in Simpson-themed lands in Florida and California. However, the lucrative franchise will likely find its way to Disney’s overseas parks, such as in Japan, home of Mr. Sparkle.

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A recent photo of Fox World in Malaysia, located at Resorts World Sentosa. Sorry, that’s the home of this casino company’s other theme park – Universal Studios Singapore.

One of the biggest unknowns surrounds the Fox World theme park currently being built at Resorts World Genting in Malaysia. Construction is well underway, but would Disney allow a Fox-only theme park operated by a company that operates a Universal Studios-licensed park in nearby Singapore to exist? I expect that over the next six months, we’ll find out the fate of the Malaysia park – if it will continue as is under its current contract, or if Disney will sink its participation in the project faster than the Titanic attraction going into it, causing Genting to seek out another (or multiple other) studio(s) to partner with.