Tuesday, May 31, 2011

American's Idol and Mickey Mouse Let the Memories Begin

Newly crowned "American Idol" Scotty McCreery takes a celebratory ride May 30, 2011 with Mickey Mouse through Disney's Hollywood Studios. McCreery was honored in a parade at the Disney theme park and performed his new single "I Love You This Big." On Wednesday, the 17-year-old singer was crowned the new "American Idol" on the season finale which was viewed by an estimated 29.3 million people. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Off the Beaten Path at Walt Disney World - The Undiscovered World

[Walt Disney World News] - High-flying elephants and spinning teacups usually take center stage when a guest is thinking of Walt Disney World Resort. But did you know that 9-pound lemons flourish at The Land pavilion at Epcot, or that sunset safaris explore Africa-inspired savannas in the middle of Florida? Guests who take a second – or third – glance will come across countless undiscovered gems within the 40-square-mile Vacation Kingdom.  Here’s a sample of “the unexpected”:

[NOTE: Read this weeks feature story on the free activities "off the beaten path" at Walt Disney World Resorts in A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World.]

Find treasure at The Pirates League at Magic Kingdom – This buccaneer experience in Adventureland features makeovers that turn guests ages 3 and up into savvy swashbucklers.  Guests who want to join Captain Jack’s motley crew will receive a pirate identity, be transformed into a pirate by a sea-sailing Pirate Master and gain access to a secret treasure room. Packages include a sword and sheath, earring and eye patch, temporary tattoo, exclusive pirate coin necklace and a personalized pirate oath. Packages are $29.95 plus tax (407/WDW-CREW).  Pictures and costumes are also available for an additional charge.
Take a spin on a Segway Personal Transporter – The Segway PT, originally the “Human Transporter” first displayed to the public at Epcot Innoventions in 2002, is the world’s first self-balancing personal transporter that uses advanced technology, gyroscopes and tilt sensors to emulate human balance. Guests can put these high-tech machines to the test in two tours offered most days at Epcot and also at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. 
  • Around the World at Epcot is a two-hour tour that allows guests to operate the device throughout World Showcase before the area opens to park guests ($99/person not including tax; tours are daily at 7:45, 8:30,9 and 9:30 a.m.).
  • Simply Segway is a one-hour program that gives guests a product overview, training and indoor riding time at Innoventions ($35/person not including tax; daily at 11:30 a.m.).  For both programs, class size is limited to 10 guests (407/WDW-TOUR).
  • The Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort is a two-hour beginner’s tour that allows guests to experience the outdoors first-hand on a Segway X2 Personal Transporter. The program also includes a product overview and training ($90/person not including tax; tours are daily, 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.).  
Harmony Barber Shop a cut above the rest – Sit back in the barber’s chair and experience a good old-fashioned haircut at Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. Located near the Emporium and with a signature candy-striped pole outside, the shop transports guests to a simpler time when barbershop quartets entertained and getting a haircut was a real treat. Haircuts are $15 for children age 12 and under; $19 for adults; first-come, first-serve.  “First Haircuts,” the establishment’s specialty, treats young’uns to pixie dust, bubbles, Mickey Mouse stickers and an extra-special “My 1st Haircut” set of Mouse Ears; price is $18.

Sunset Safari at Disney’s
Kingdom Lodge offers up-close encounters with exotic creatures
– Guests staying at the lodge can enter a serene animal reserve for an up-close encounter on the Wanyama Safari. Just before sunset seven nights a week, guests board a specially designed vehicle that explores the resort’s three savannas. Guests get picture-perfect views of more than 200 mammals and exotic birds and then partake in a savory South African feast at the resort’s signature restaurant, Jiko-The Cooking Place. The 3 ½-hour experience, including dinner, is $170.  For reservations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, call 407/W-DISNEY.

The Land at Epcot mixes science and entertainment to grow one-of-a-kind plants
– Behind the brightly colored, mosaic façade of The Land pavilion at Epcot sits offices where greenhouse magic takes place. “Horti-tainment,” a mix of horticulture and entertainment, creates some of the most visually interesting fruits and vegetables found under one roof anywhere in the world. Among the highlights: a world-record harvest from a single tomato vine (see below); Mickey Mouse-shaped cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins; 9-pound lemons, and more.

‘Tomato Tree’ sets record with 32,000 tomatoes – The Tomato Tree at The Land pavilion at Epcot has blossomed into a record-setting plant. The tree was recognized as an official Guinness World Record Holder, with a one-year harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes and a total weight of 1,151 pounds. Guests can spot the tree during the pavilion’s Living with the Land boat ride.

Take the ultimate divein a 6-million-gallon indoor aquarium with more than 65 species of marine life, including sharks, turtles, eagle rays and diverse tropical fish. DiveQuest at Epcot offers guaranteed calm seas, no current, unlimited visibility, incredible marine life and bright coral structures.  Additionally, you become part of the show. Your family members and friends (with Epcot admission) can view your dive through any of the 56 giant acrylic windows at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Guest must be at least 10 years of age and must provide proof of SCUBA certification to participate. Price of $175/person (not including tax) includes a limited edition T-shirt, refreshments, dive certificate and a dive log stamp.  Call 407/WDW-TOUR for information.

Build your own roller coaster at the DisneyQuest CyberSpace Mountain attraction – Bill Nye the Coaster Guy walks guests through the design process where they choose from three different speeds, three world settings (fire, ice or outer space) and an infinite number of track combinations. The roller coaster of your dreams (or nightmares!) can do flips, corkscrews and even wild maneuvers such as a loop that flies off the tracks. A digital card tracks guests’ personal coasters and the simulator re-creates it both visually and physically. Downtown Disney guests must be 51" to ride, 407/W-DISNEY for more information.

Learn to hula dance at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, where complimentary classes take place most days in the resort’s lobby. Auntie Kaui, a hula dancer and instructor with 50 years experience, leads most of the classes offered Monday through Saturday at 3:45 p.m., and Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon. Weekday classes are geared toward the younger set, with leis and grass skirts aplenty, while the Saturday morning lessons encourage guests of all ages to do the hula shake.  And whether guests stay for five minutes or the full two-hour Saturday classes, they’ll learn a variety of chants and dances from such tropical locales as Hawaii, Tahiti and more.

The Archery Experience at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground – Whether novice or expert marksman, an archery guide offers training and tips on how to hit the bulls-eye. Open to resort guests (ages 6 and up) and non-guests alike, the 90-minute experience costs $25 (plus tax) per person, includes equipment and instruction and can be booked up to 180 days in advance by calling 407/939-7529. Offered Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Merchandise & Dining: 

 New, stylish boutique at Downtown Disney is sure to turn heads – Tren-D at Downtown Disney Marketplace is packed full of retro, urban-inspired merchandise. With its designer flair and eclectic offerings, the specialty store is a one-of-a-kind destination for fashion-conscious shoppers seeking trendy apparel and novel accessories. Offerings include organic loungewear, embroidered handbags, jeweled sunglasses and hip accessories set among stylish art and unique furnishings. The eclectic environment offers a raw and unfinished feel with jeweled chandeliers, distinct fixtures and mod furnishings. Designers such as Kidada Jones, Tarina Tarantino and Roxy showcase their artistry – blending it with Disney-inspired creations.

 New, fashionable Mickey Mouse earhats “all the rage” – Trendsetters and fashion gurus can strut their stuff with new Mickey Mouse earhats that come in a variety of vibrant colors and styles to suit guests of all ages.  In addition to traditional earhats, there are specially designed ears with character-specific themes.  Gal versions don pink veils, jeweled princess crowns or wild cheetah prints.  For the boys, pirate scarves and hoop earrings adorn the headgear, plus Stitch-themed offerings and more.  And with the Create Your Own Ears option, guests can custom design their own pair.  The Mickey Mouse earhats are available in limited quantities at select locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort starting at $11.95.

Creative minds are put to good use at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney Marketplace, where kids can build and customize toys in five uniquely themed rooms. The Build Your Own Mr. Potato Head display has customizable options including Mickey Mouse ears, a sorcerer’s hat and a teacup vehicle from Disney’s Mad Tea Party attraction.  Guests can also enjoy the Build Your Own Lightsaber display, which is a step-by-step “Star Wars” merchandise experience that invites guests to build custom lightsabers with dozens of unique possibilities. It’s the ultimate toy-store shopping experience where kids and families can play and create together.

Walt Disney World guests are put right inside their own fairy tale thanks to the special offerings of the Walt Disney World Florist. From popping the question to a birthday or anniversary to “just because,” the choices are endless.  Surprise moments can be created during a Disney dining experience. A park-goer can return to a guestroom strewn with rose petals. Or a lover can be surprised, during a carriage ride, with a glass slipper – nestled on a pillow made of flowers, ribbons and pearls. Guests can visit www.disneyflorist.com or call 407/827-3505.

In World Showcase, young guests can create their own Epcot souvenirs at the park’s Kidcot Funstops. Craftsmen teach the budding artisans how to create one-of-a-kind masks or musical instruments using their own magical touch. Parents and children alike will love to “travel the world” and discover these activity-filled craft areas at each of the pavilions.
Epcot is a World Showcase for art lovers –
Epcot World Showcase has been a “showplace” of nations since its grand opening in 1982. But beyond the pagodas in Japan and the longboats in Norway lies a whole other world: treating art lovers to museum-quality galleries. Current exhibitions are located at Norway, China, Japan, Morocco, The American Adventure and Mexico.  Admission to the exhibitions is included with general park admission.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge houses a diverse collection of African art sure to impress amateurs and aficionados alike. Sculptures and carvings throughout the resort tell stories that help familiarize guests with Africa and its diverse countries and regions. Among the art is the 16-foot-tall Igbo Ijele mask, a piece created and exported by the Igbo people of Nigeria specifically for use in the lodge.

Guests can slurp a sandwich at the 50s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios where peanut butter and jelly take yummy milkshake form. At this fabulous 1950s kitchenette, the servers holler for guests to take their seats among Formica tables, pull-down lamps and knickknacks, checking in periodically to make sure each person eats their veggies and cleans their plate. Wash it down with a PB&J shake.
A popular place to take a break at Epcot is Club Cool, where guests can savor complimentary samples of Coca-Cola products from countries around the world including China, Israel, Italy and Costa Rica.

Coca-Cola products are available for purchase, including Frozen Coke, Style My Coke (contour bottle wrappers) and an array of merchandise.

The Dole Whip, sold at Aloha Isle in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom, combines pineapple soft serve in a delectable swirl with either vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The tasty, fruit-flavored treat can also be ordered with pineapple chunks or as a dole whip float, all sinfully sweet for a mid-day cool-down, and each for $5 or less.

For more information about Walt Disney World Resort, guests can visit http://www.disneyworld.com/ or phone 407/824-4321.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Eat to the Beat" 2011 Concert Series at Epcot Food & Wine Festival

The lineup of performers for the “Eat to the Beat” Concert Series at the 2011 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has been posted on the Disney Parks Blog. There will be several Grammy-winning artists and some new acts for music lovers. This year’s schedule (subject to change) includes:
  • Taylor Dayne: 9/30-10/2/11
  • 38 Special: 10/3-5/11
  • Jon Secada: 10/6-7/11
  • Roger Hodgson formerly of Supertramp: 10/8-9/11
  • Billy Ocean: 10/10-12/11
  • Starship starring Mickey Thomas: 10/13-16/11
  • Sugar Ray: 10/17-19/11
  • The Orchestra starring former members of ELO: 10/20-21/11
  • Howard Jones: 10/22-23/11
  • Boyz II Men: 10/24-26/11
  • Gin Blossoms: 10/27-28/11
  • Sister Hazel: 10/29-30/11
  • Hanson: 10/31-11/1/11
  • The Pointer Sisters: 11/2-3/11
  • Night Ranger: 11/4-6/11
  • Air Supply: 11/7-8/11
  • Richard Marx: 11/9-10/11
  • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: 11/11-13/11
The concerts, which are included with Epcot admission, will be at the America Gardens Theatre stage beginning September 30. Performances will be nightly and of course, this year’s schedule is subject to change.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Star Tours - The Adventures Continue Opens May 20, 2011

WALT DISNEY WORLD NEWS (May 20, 2011) – Star WarsTM creator George Lucas and Disney President and CEO Bob Iger wielded lightsabers amid a legion of stormtroopers Friday to open “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue,” a new 3-D adventure at Walt Disney World Resort.

A cast of hundreds of Star Wars characters and performers – including Anthony Daniels, who has played the golden droid C-3PO since the first film debuted in 1977 – converged on Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the launch of the attraction destined to send millions of guests on virtual journeys throughout the Star Wars galaxy.

Fittingly, the launch of Star Tours anchored the opening day of Star Wars Weekends, a popular event in the park celebrating the Star Wars legacy with special shows, presentations, motorcades and memorabilia. Star Wars Weekends continue each Friday-Sunday now through June 12, 2011.

And on June 3, 2011, “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue” will open at Disneyland Resort in California.

“Star Tours immerses guests into the Star Wars universe like never before,” Iger said. “The innovative technology and storytelling take guests on thrilling new adventures, bringing George Lucas’ iconic characters and locations to life in a completely new way.”

With eye-popping digital video leveraging Dolby 3-D to deliver a vivid and realistic visual experience, a dramatic musical score and motion simulator-based technology, guests are immersed in a Star Wars adventure like never before on a theme park attraction. Walt Disney Imagineering worked with Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Industrial Light & Magic – the groundbreaking visual effects division of Lucasfilm – to bring the out-of-this-world attraction to life.

Star Tours, which had thrilled Disney guests since the 1980s, was “powered down” in 2010 so Disney’s Imagineers could begin work on the new attraction.

In “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue,” there are more than 50 story combinations, so guests can find new adventures each time they experience the attraction.

Utilizing the random story combinations, the Starspeeder spacecraft embarks on a wild adventure, visiting several planets made famous in the Star Wars films. Among the locations that might provide haven from the Empire’s pursuit are the icy planet of Hoth, the lush jungles of Kashyyyk and the underwater Gungan world on Naboo.

And along the way guests may encounter Star Wars characters that offer to help (or hinder) their journey, including Yoda, Admiral Ackbar, Darth Vader and Boba Fett. “Skytroopers,” a legion of stormtroopers created just for the Star Tours attraction story, might even join in the chase.

In fact, guests will never know where the Force will take them. Flights are now departing during regular operating hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Updated Enchanted Tiki Room will replace "Under New Management"

Walt Disney Imagineering announced earlier today at D23’s Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th event that The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) at Magic Kingdom Park is already undergoing changes behind closed doors that will reshape the attraction into a version reminiscent of the original show.

Enchanted Tiki Room: Classic Attraction Transforms This Summer

The Walt Disney World attraction, originally called Tropical Serenade, has been entertaining guests since the theme park’s opening day on Oct. 1, 1971. Its winged hosts, Jose, Fritz, Pierre and Michael, led 200 other birds, tikis and flowers in an entertaining musical Polynesian revue. Tropical Serenade was reshaped into The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management) in 1998, with the addition of Iago (from “Aladdin”) and Zazu (from “The Lion King”).

The attraction was based on Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which opened at Disneyland park in 1963. Its debut marked a huge milestone in Disney history, becoming the first attraction to ever feature Audio-Animatronics figures – a breakthrough that took 10 years to develop.

The latest version of the attraction, which will be called Enchanted Tiki Room, will debut at Magic Kingdom Park later this summer. Be sure to check the Disney Parks Blog for future updates on the attraction’s progress.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Insider Tips for Dining with Disney Characters at WDW

Disney Parks Food Writer Pam Brandon posted this summary to the Disney Parks Blog.

So many favorites, so little time! Dining with the beloved Disney characters is a fun way to get up close and snag some fantastic vacation photos – and have a delicious meal too.

Here are some of our insider tips for navigating. And, please, share your tips with us too.

  1. We strongly recommend reservations far in advance – but if it’s last minute, it’s worth a try to stop by the restaurant and inquire.
  2. If you’re planning breakfast, go early – or go late. It’s a great way to wake everyone up and be ready to take on the attractions with a full tummy, or to miss the busiest times (and maybe have a little more time with the characters).
  3. Don’t forget an autograph book for the kids!
  4. The characters make a stop at every single table. They will get to yours. 

And suggested venues:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

AMC Dine-In Theatres Takes Center Stage at AMC Downtown Disney 24

A New In-Theatre Dining Experience with a Menu of Choices
Opens May 16 at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

[Walt Disney World News] – AMC Theatres® (AMC), a leading theatrical exhibition and entertainment company, announced today that guests will be able to watch the latest movies while enjoying their favorite food and beverages at AMC Downtown Disney 24 located in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort. AMC Dine-In Theatres, the only theatre of its kind in the Orlando area, debuts at this location May 16 and combines restaurant cuisine and cocktails with AMC’s noted immersive movie theatre experience and hit movies.
“We are excited to present AMC Downtown Disney as another one of our flagship AMC Dine-In Theatres,” said Gerry Lopez, chief executive officer and president, AMC. “Since the launch of this concept, we’ve received tremendous feedback from our guests about the enhanced experience and variety of food and beverage options. More than 90 percent of our surveyed guests who attended a Dine-In location said it met or exceeded their expectations.”
AMC Dine-In Theatres offers a meal-and-a-movie option and a bar and lounge.
Dine-In Theatres (six auditoriums at AMC Downtown Disney):
  • Casual, in-theatre dining
  • Upgraded, comfortable reserved seating
  • Table-top dining
  • Seat-side service and a personal call button that discreetly alerts a server
  • An extensive menu including a wide array of entrees such as an enticing selection of quesadillas, burgers, flatbread pizzas, grilled sandwiches, house specialties, as well as appetizers and deserts
  • A wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic specialty drinks, beer and wine
  • Fork & Screen guests must be at least 18 years old unless accompanied by a parent or guardian
MacGuffins® Bar & Lounge:  
  • A full-service bar and lounge area inside AMC Downtown Disney 24
  • The perfect place to hang out with friends before the show or discuss the movie after it ends
  • Named after a term coined by famed filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock
  • Features a variety of beer, wine, cocktails and the full Dine-In Theatre menu, including appetizers and desserts
  • MacGuffins Bar & Lounge guests must be at least 18 years old; minors accompanied by a parent or guardian (at least 21) are welcome
AMC Dine-In Theatres at AMC Downtown Disney 24 pricing:
  • Ticket prices range from $6-13, depending on day of week and showtime, for the Dine-in Theatre experience.
  • Menu items start at $6.59-8.99 for appetizers and adult entrees range from $8.59-11.99.
  • Specific pricing information, including value pricing and senior/student pricing, for the Dine-In Theatres at AMC Downtown Disney 24 can be found at www.amctheatres.com/dinein (click on the Downtown Disney 24 link).
AMC Downtown Disney 24 also offers 18 traditional auditoriums featuring stadium seating, the innovative Marketplace concession area and an ETX auditorium. ETX includes a 20-percent larger screen, 3D technology, digital projection and an upgraded sound system. Specifically, the digital projection system produces images at a higher resolution than HD and there are nearly twice as many audio channels compared to typical auditoriums.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fun Revs up at Downtown Disney During Car Masters Weekend May 13-15

[Walt Disney World News] Classic cars will meet their match as star racecar Lightning McQueen, pal Mater and master British spy Finn McMissile from Disney-Pixar's upcoming animated motion picture "Cars 2" race into town during Car Masters Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort May 13-15, 2011. Car lovers will delight in a weekend devoted to all things cars, with activities from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at Downtown Disney West Side:
  • Muscle cars will line the Downtown Disney promenade alongside the largest life-sized, radio-controlled replica cars ever built--which bring their big-screen "car-acter" counterparts to life for fans to meet face to face.
  • Pixar Animation Studios' "Cars" Franchise Guardian and resident car expert, Jay Ward, has been tapped to judge the Classic Car show which takes place on Saturday and Sunday.
  • NASCAR fans can get a peek at Richard Petty's racecar on display inside RIDEMAKERZ at Downtown Disney.
  • The family-friendly weekend will feature special Disney-Pixar "Cars 2" merchandise --including new RIDEMAKERZ models -- and bonus entertainment.
  • The 2006 Disney-Pixar "Cars" film returns to the big screen with a limited engagement viewing at AMC Pleasure Island 24 Theatres throughout the weekend. Moviegoers can even catch a glimpse of the new movie trailer from "Cars 2," which gets the "green flag" on June 24, 2011, presented in Disney Digital 3D and IMAX 3D® in select theaters.
BEACH KING: The "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" of NASCAR lore is among the classic cars on display at Downtown Disney West Side during Car Masters Weekend May 13-15, 2011. During the early years of stock car racing, the Hornet dominated the oval tracks -- including the sand at Daytona Beach.

State Farm brings Disney-Pixar's "Cars 2" adventure directly to fans with the "Agents on a Mission" tour, showcasing cars modeled after their big-screen likenesses. Guests can check out the cars and take part in a variety of "Cars 2"-themed activities, including a video kiosk, e-photo opportunities, games and giveaways. They can also enter the "Agents on a Mission" sweepstakes, which features 18,000 prizes, including a new car.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ariel's Undersea Adventure Construction in Time Lapse

CLICK HERE: http://www.youtube.com/embed/XFvF64pYRUk?fs=1

[From Disney Parks Blog] We love time lapse footage around here! It shows how much progress we’re making! In this time lapse you’ll see the façade of The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure in various stages of construction. You’ll notice at the beginning of the video – over to the right of the screen – the Palace of Fine Arts rotunda, originally the entrance to the former “Golden Dreams” attraction. Walt Disney Imagineers incorporated it into the new architecture. As the video progresses, you’ll see King Triton placed atop the arch, surrounded by relief carvings of six of Ariel’s six older sisters: Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attina, Adella and Alana. The architecture is modeled after buildings found on boardwalks at the turn of the century, and was created using new digital 3D technology. Enjoy!