Destination Of The Week: Colmar, France

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Described as “one of the most attractive towns in Alsace,” Colmar is situated in east-central France, in a border region that was once disputed between France and Germany. It serves as something of a gateway for those seeking to travel overland from France to the Rhine Valley. Colmar is 273 miles from Paris and 73 miles from Strasbourg, France. Colmar’s main draw is its well-preserved and colorful old town. This district is a good reminder of Colmar’s place in a border region, as its half-timbered architecture is noticeably more German than French. Two highlights of a walking tour of the old part of Colmar are the Maison des Tetes (“House of Heads”), so-named because it is decorated with faces; the ancient wooden Pfister House; and the pink St. Martin Church. The Unterlinden Museum is home to a fine collection of old armor, furniture and other items, but its main point of interest is the Isenheim Altarpiece, with its striking paintings of scenes such as the Crucifixion and the temptation of St. Antony. According to Fodor’s, the low rainfall and distinct seasons of Alsace make pretty much anytime a good time to go to Colmar. The city enjoys a snowy, Christmas-postcard atmosphere in winter and golden colors in autumn. The summers are warm and mild, and in spring the vineyards of the surrounding countryside come alive with grape blossoms.

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Disney Announces Infinity Game Toy Box!

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Disney executives just took the stage at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, where they just announced Disney Infinity, a game platform that’s set to launch in June.

The details of the platform are still emerging, but Co-President of Disney Interactive John Pleasants has already shared the big ideas. Infinity will “bring together the best of Disney IP, past, present, and future.” It won’t just be a single game, but rather a “new, interactive gaming platform” — more like a toy box allowing consumers to create the environments and stories that they want. It will be cross-platform, available on consoles, mobile devices, and online, and it will also incorporate physical figurines.

Pleasants said the “play sets” launching in June will incorporate three different Disney franchises: Monsters University, The Incredibles, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The launch will include other, yet-to-be-announced characters, he added.

Disney Chief Creative Officer John lasseter took the stage after Pleasants, where he emphasized the idea of Infinity as a toy box. He said he initially resisted the idea of throwing all of Disney’s characters into in one game, but he warmed up to it when he thought of it as kids playing with different toys.

John Blackburn (yes, there were a lot of John’s on-stage today), CEO of Disney’s game studio Avalanche, offered more details about how it will work. There are two big components to the platform, he said. There are the physical figurines, which you can place on a pad to determine which characters get “teleported” into the game. Then there’s the software, which includes play sets — gaming experiences based on specific franchises. Each play set features game mechanics specifically designed for that universe. The Pirates of the Caribbean set, for example, focuses on sailing between different islands. The environments and characters are still customizable, but they’re meant to be “true to property,” so you won’t see Mr. Incredible showing up in the Pirates set.

Then there’s the “toy box,” an environment for “mashing up” different franchises. In demonstrating the toy box, Blackburn showed off an adventure mode, which introduces players to the basic mechanics, plus a simple logic editor that allows them to modify how the game works using a point-and-click interface. Naturally, both the play sets and the toy box will support multiplayer mode.

Disney is about to give reporters a more hands-on demo of the platform, and I’m also scheduled to interview Blackburn in a few minutes, so I’ll write up my initial impressions in a separate post.