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New Family Fun at Disneyland: Cars Land and Buena Vista Street Now Open

Buena Vista Street Disney California Adventure

Photo Credit: Disney

Recently, friends asked me about my summer and one of the highlights I mentioned was being invited as part of the media to cover Disney’s California Adventure Park Grand Re-opening , including two new themed lands: Cars Land and Buena Vista Street.  You just have to see it to believe it.



When visiting Disneyland Park, with Cinderella’s Castle and rides from Pirates of the Caribbean to Star Wars, it’s very clear that the park was created so that Main Street USA is the grand entrance and centerpiece that sets the stage for a great park experience. Similarly, with the recent Disneyland Resort expansion, guests enter California Adventure Park on Buena Vista Street, the striking anchor of this new park.  The shops, period costumes and architecture of Buena Vista Street were inspired by the history and experiences of “ Los Angeles in the 1920’s similar to what Walt Disney experienced when he came to America”.



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Disney California Adventure Park New Attraction: Cars Land Opens June 15

***Update’s June 15: Disney’s California Adventure and Cars Land is officially open! I just finished the media event  yesterday so I will be reporting back on all the new attractions soon.



I remember the first time I heard about Disney Cars Land at a media event years ago, I could not wait until the opening to experience the magic of Disney converting a 2D movie (Cars) to a Disneyland 3D attraction. Tomorrow I am heading off to the Disney Cars Land media event to not only learn more about the attraction,  but also (even more fun) to take a ride. Disney Cars Land is located in the Disney California Adventure park and opens to the public on June 15.


Here is a quick video on Cars Land from the Ground up:

Then Cars to Cars Land:


I will be loading pictures to my Disney Cars Land Flickr set and will be thrilled to report back on all the fun after the event which runs from June 13 to June 15.

Beth Blecherman's Disney Cars Land photoset Beth Blecherman’s Disney Cars Land photoset

Disclosure: I was invited to the Disney Cars Land opening event as media and as such media related travel expenses are covered by Disney. My words are my own.


ESRB and SF Giants: Dream Team To Help Parents Understand Gaming Ratings

When it comes to who has influence over my kids,  sports idols rate very high. We are a SF Giants fan family – and my twins were lucky enough to play in 2 years of Little League where there team was called the “Giants”.  So of course the SF Giants have a huge impact on my sons. Their dedication, hard work and teamwork are something I remind my sons to model in their own life. The ESRB is an organization that not only assigns content ratings for computer and video games, but also helps parents understand the content each game.  When I was invited to press event with the Giants and ESRB about a new PSA  (public service announcement) campaign educating parents about the video game rating system – that was a “home run” event for me not only as press but as a parent. Of course, I had to bring my boys with me (it was my own unofficial bring your kids to work day!)..

The PSAs,” which feature the players explaining the ESRB rating system and encouraging parents to use it when buying games for their families, will begin running on television and radio stations throughout Northern California as well as on the video display boards in AT&T Park during Giants home games.”  The representatives at the event were Buster Posey – San Francisco Giants catcher,  Ryan Vogelsong – San Francisco Giants pitcher joined Patricia Vance – President ESRB, Michael Gallagher – President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, Jack Tretton, president and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment, Laurent deToc – Executive Director for North America, UbiSoft,  other ESRB and Giants representatives and Families from Junior Giants.


Patricia Vance welcomed everyone to press event with Buster Posey,  Ryan Vogelsong and reps from Sony Computer Entertainment, UbiSoft,  Entertainment Software Association and ESRB representatives:



Buster Posey shared information about the Giants/ESRB public service announcement:


Ryan Vogelsong also shared information about the Giants/ESRB public service announcement::



The PSA was shown, one of the scenes shows the ESRB mobile app – which I use all the time to help me with finding out ratings information on the go:



The PSA also had Buster Posey and Ryan interacting with the kids with an age appropriate, which is positive reinforcement for kids to play games appropriate for their age:



After seeing them play the baseball video game on the public service announcement, my twin sons of course had to check out the new MLB® 12: The Show™ for PlayStation®3 (PS3™)  game that was set up at the event. That is – after checking out the ESRB rating:



My teen knows that he can play games with the ESRB rating “T” for Teen or below. My 9 year old can play the games rated “E” for everyone. They were both holding pictures of the games as examples, showing off the ESRB ratings on the bottom left:



Then we had the opportunity to head out to AT&T stadium area, one of our favorite places to be because it is where the SF Giants play!:



They gave the press more opportunities to see the games and rating examples:



Then the local mom bloggers got together for a picture: Left to right – Adel Vardell (HappaMama), Beth Blecherman (thats me – TechMama!), Kimberly Kauer Postlewaite (Silicon Valley Mamas), Lia Frietas (Mama’s Starting Over), Patricia Vance (ESRB), Ana Picazo (Finding BonggaMom), Perrin Kaplan (Zebra Partners). On bottom row: Kari Dahlen (The Karianna Spectrum). Taking the picture: Michele Spring Fajeau (Zebra Partners).



My sons were beyond excited when Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants catcher) not only shook their hand but posed for a picture!



Just to “knock it out of the park”, Ryan Vogelsong  (San Francisco Giants pitcher) also gave my super SF Giants fans a handshake and a picture:



The official press release is below. My boys never knew that computer and video game ratings could be so much fun!

Disclosure: This was a press event. All of my words are my own.

Camera used: Pictures taken with Sony Cybershot WX9



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New Release: “Double Fine Happy Action Theater” – A New Kinect for Xbox 360 experience for families

Our family loves our Kinect for XBox 360 as family entertainment with a gesture tech slant. We always enjoy trying out the new activities and games that come out for the Kinect, especially ones for all ages. I just received a press release today of a new activity for the Kinect called Double Fine Happy Action Theater. The 18 new family friendly “arcade” like experiences include jumping in a ball house, hot lava, build an ice cave out of your furniture and wait out a blizzard, become a giant monster and stomp buildings and more. Up to six players at once can play with the experiences that ” intuitively respond to their body movements and react in interesting and unexpected ways”. I can’t wait to try them out.


Double Fine Happy Action Theater Fact Sheet – January 2012
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ESRB Website & Mobile App- Parent’s Best Friend For Video Game Decisions

For parents, the job of helping kids navigate the decision process around whether or not a video game is appropriate is not easy. Online reviews indicate the “maturity” level of a game, while a kid’s peers provide a rating of “cool” or “not cool”, and balancing the two is tricky. As a technology blogger and a mom with a tween boy & twin boys in elementary school, one of my “go-to” resources to learn about video games is the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating and website. They are the wonderful people who create the rating that shows up on video game packaging (i.e. E for Everyone, EC for early childhood, E10+ for children above 10 years of age, T for teen, M for mature).

I had the fabulous opportunity to talk to Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB, while I was at the CTIA wireless conference in San Diego . The conversation with her helped me learn more about the ESRB rating process, enforcement, and resources as well as some of the newer features like the mobile app.

Patricia Vance has an impressive background. She was appointed to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG) and testified before both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on behalf of the ESRB.

Here are some details from the Entertainment Software Rating Board website:The ESRB ratings are designed to provide concise and impartial information about the content in computer and video games so consumers, especially parents, can make an informed purchase decision. ESRB ratings have two equal parts: rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern.”

Vance highlighted that the ESRB was created with parents in mind and funded by the Industry. The ESRB team starts the game rating process by reviewing an extensive questionnaire and DVD created by the video game company. They then meet to discuss a rating. Game Raters follow-up by playing many of the games after they are released, checking for full disclosure of the content during the rating process. As a parent, I am so thankful to have a team putting that much work into understanding and documenting video game rating information.

To make the video game decision process even easier, the ESRB has a mobile app for the iPhone, Android and Windows Phones. This allows parents to review the ESRB rating information even while at the store. So if your child says “Halo Reach has no violence” – you can say “the ratings seem to disagree – and here is why!“.

image from

Here is a video demo of the ESRB mobile apps:

Parents, children and anyone looking at buying a video game should all use the vast resources available on the ESRB website and mobile apps. I know I can not make any video game purchasing decisions without it…