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Saturday November 22, 2014
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Thursday November 20, 2014
Artist Rendering of Animal Kingdom's Africa Marketplace
Bill Hader as Fear: The fourth character from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out'
Disney Confirms New Zealand Shoot For 'Pete's Dragon'

Artist Rendering of Animal Kingdom's Africa Marketplace

Disney News - A New Artist Rendering of the new Africa Marketplace has been released which includes a new quick service restaurant, new merchandise locations and a new walkway linking Africa to Asia.



The new area and restaurant, named Harambe Marketplace, is scheduled to open Spring 2015, and will be located between the Kilimanjaro Safari area and Mombassa Marketplace relieving an already very congested Harambe.

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Bill Hader as Fear: The fourth character from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out'

Mashable - Never fear, Fear is here.

We've already experienced Sadness (Monday), Disgust (Tuesday) and Anger (Wednesday) this week. Now, it's time to be very afraid — and that's a good thing because it means we're one step closer to Joy.

So without further aversion, Mashable presents Fear, the fourth of five character posters for Disney/Pixar's Inside Out.



The voice cast of Inside Out shared some thoughts with Mashable about their respective characters. The club's hottest new member is Bill Hader, the voice of Fear:



Is there any reason to be afraid, really?

I play Fear. He's kind of a put-upon, middle management guy. He always seems afraid that he will lose his job, but he is his job, so that won't happen.

Why do you think you were cast to play this emotion?

Because I am in a perpetual state of fear.

Yikes. When's the last time something set you off?

When my daughter asked me where babies come from.

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Disney Confirms New Zealand Shoot For 'Pete's Dragon'

THR - The Walt Disney Studios has confirmed that live-action and CGI film Pete’s Dragon will be filmed in New Zealand from January to April 2015.

Production will be based at Peter Jackson’s Stone Street Studios in the nation’s capital of Wellington.

Pete’s Dragon, to star Robert Redford, Boardwalk Empire actor Oakes Fegley  and Matilda’s Oona Laurence, is the first studio feature to use Stone Street since production wrapped on The Hobbit films. Filming will also take place in several locations around New Zealand including the Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Canterbury regions. Its unclear if Weta Digital, another of Jackson’s companies, housed in the same suburb as Stone Street, will be doing the CGI on the  film.

Bryce Dallas Howard is in talks to join the cast of the film, which is set against the backdrop of loggers cutting down a forest. Pete is a boy whose parents died in car crash, and who has been subsequently raised by Elliot, the titular dragon, who resides in the threatened forest.

“We were searching for a shooting location that captures the wonder and spirit of Pete’s Dragon,” said producer Jim Whitaker. “The New Zealand aesthetic beautifully matches what the screenplay requires, and we’re grateful to receive such tremendous support from the filmmaking community and industry in this country.”

Gisella Carr, CEO of Film New Zealand, the country’s national film office, said the shoot was secured after two years of negotiation. “We’re delighted to welcome back Disney which has such a long history of production in this country,” she said. “It’s great to see the combination of New Zealand’s favourable screen incentives, locations and skill base have enabled such a high-profile production to come here.”

Production on Pete’s Dragon will coincide with another major Disney shoot in the region: Pirates Of the Caribbean 5 is set to go into production in Australia in February.

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Wednesday November 19, 2014
Disney unveils new 'Cinderella'
Rage out to the third character poster from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out': Anger
Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Promote Andrew Millstein, Jim Morris to President
The Secret Danger Of Disney's All-Inclusive Star Wars Universe
Walt Disney considering opening first Disney World in Middle East

Disney unveils new 'Cinderella'

USA Today - It's Cinderella for a new generation. And it's beautiful.

Disney has just unveiled a new trailer and poster for Cinderella, starring Lily James, as young Ella.

(You may know her as Rose from Downton Abbey.)

 

The live-action feature, inspired by the classic fairy tale, is directed by Kenneth Branagh, and also stars Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham Carter.

Interestingly — spoiler alert! — Bonham Carter does not play the wicked stepmother, as you might have guessed. That delicious role goes to Blanchett. Bonham Carter appears as the fairy godmother.

Look for Cinderella to be released through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 13, 2015.

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Rage out to the third character poster from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out': Anger

Mashable - Aaaargh! These Inside Out posters — they just — GAAAAHHH! THEY JUST KEEP COMING!

Yes, let your fury flow today, as Mashable presents Anger, the third of five character posters for Inside Out. If you need a little inspiration, remember that the film's June 19, 2015 release will come two years after the last Pixar movie, 2013's Monsters University. Ah, there's that seeing-red face!

(If what you're feeling is more like Sadness or Disgust, it's OK — we had those on Monday and Tuesday.)

But who wants nuance when you can just rage out? Meet Anger:



 

The voice cast of Inside Out shared some thoughts with Mashable about their respective characters. Here's perpetually outraged comedian Lewis Black, who voiced Anger:

So what's the deal with Anger?

He's angry. He knows the group is well-meaning and they try hard, but they don't get how things should work as well as he does. So he has to stay on top of everything, and the only way he knows how to get their attention, keep it and make sure they get things done right, is by getting angry. He is comfortable with his anger. It makes him happy. But when pushed too far, the top of his head bursts into flames.

Why do you think you were cast to play this emotion?

Do I really need to answer that question?

No, you really don't. So when's the last time you got angry?

When I looked at the front page of this morning’s newspaper. The same thing occurred yesterday morning. And it will again tomorrow. Unless something completely extraordinary happens, and that would no doubt irritate me, too. I’d be ticked off that it hadn't happened sooner.

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Walt Disney Animation, Pixar Promote Andrew Millstein, Jim Morris to President

Walt Disney Animation’s Andrew Millstein and Pixar’s Jim Morris have been promoted to president at the toon studios.

The two executives will continue to oversee business operations and production at the respective companies.

Andrew Millstein and Jim Morris Disney

They report to Ed Catmull, president, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

“We’re fortunate and proud to have an abundance of strong creative leadership at Disney, and Andrew and Jim are two incredible talents that embody the perfect blend of business and artistic focus,” Catmull said. “Not only have they done so much to ensure each of their studios is operating at peak condition, they continually push their teams to new heights of creativity, storytelling and innovation.”           

Millstein most recently was executive VP and general manager of Walt Disney Animation Studios, guiding the division through a creative resurgence which has included the blockbusters “Frozen,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Tangled,” and more recently “Big Hero 6.” “Frozen” is the highest grossing animated film of all time. Millstein joined Disney in 1997 as a production executive in the motion pictures group.

“Andrew’s leadership has been a major factor in the renaissance of Walt Disney Animation and we’re excited to see what wonderful films and technological advancements continue to emerge from that group under his leadership,” Catmull said.

Morris was previously general manager and executive VP of production for Pixar, overseeing the production of features, shorts, DVD content and theme park activities in addition to Pixar’s Studio Tools, systems, development and human resources.

Before joining Pixar, Morris was president of Lucas Digital, where he managed both Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light and Magic.

“I’m continually impressed by Jim’s business and creative acumen,” Catmull said. “He truly understands film production inside and out, and his management of Pixar allows its culture to continually grow, explore new areas and technology, and advance new ways of storytelling.”

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The Secret Danger Of Disney's All-Inclusive Star Wars Universe

io9 - Yes, Admiral. Disney's new "everything counts" Star Wars universe is a trap, one that they are going to get caught in it sooner or later.

Oh, it seems like a good idea — assemble a team to make sure everything works together, and make all the ancillary products like Star Wars Rebels and the books and the upcoming games part of the canon, so Star Wars fans feel like they can't miss them, or they'll be missing something integral, something that may factor into a later movie or some such. At the very least it's a bold way to set the Disney Star Wars regime apart from the old one.

But George Lucas knew what he was doing when he drew a line between the movies and all the other Star Wars shit he was releasing. It has two benefits, the first of which is that it prevented him from being limited by the Expanded Universe when it came time to make the prequels. George always knew he might want to make more movies, and he didn't want to be beholden to some mediocre Star Wars novel or some comic or RPG sourcebook. By separating it into the Expanded Universe, he could ignore anything he wanted, while still accepting as canon anything he liked. This gave him freedom and flexibility.

This about this: At some point someone is going to want to make an awesome Star Wars movie, but it will be contradicted by some crappy novel Disney approved in 2016 or something. By legitimizing everything, they have to accept everything they release, and eventually that's going to get in the way of the real moneymakers, the movies.

Say someone wants to make a Jabba the Hutt origin movie (god forbid). But Disney has already published a book that says Jabba the Hutt used to be a circus clown, because at the time no one that it would be a big deal. So either the movie needs to be scrapped entirely because of one shitty book, or the filmmaker needs to work in the insane fact that Jabba the Hutt was once a circus clown. No halfway decent filmmaker is going to want to be beholden to the lesser Star Wars canon, and it's going to end up being a major problem for everybody.

Which leads me to my second point — at some point Disney is going to approve something shitty. Whether the canon committee accidentally allows conflicting information to be printed, or it just publishes something entirely crappy, like a book that says Boba Fett and Han Solo went to elementary school together or something, it can't possibly maintain perfect quality for the potentially infinite amount of time Disney will be making Star Wars content.

Before, Lucas and fans alike were able to let shitty Star Wars products go (to an extent) by knowing it was part of the Expanded Universe, and thus didn't really count. Now the bad stuff will be just as official as the good stuff, and if Disney wants to take it back for whatever reason, they can't just ignore it— they'll have to think of some insane way to explain it away, or retcon it, or whatever.

Really, making everything official is just an invitation to disaster, with no real potential benefits. I know it may seem like making everything official will make fans want to read all the books and watch all the cartoons and play all the games even more, but… the fans were probably going to do that anyways, and the non-hardcore fans aren't going to be anymore interested in Jabba: The Circus Years whether it's canon or not.

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Walt Disney considering opening first Disney World in Middle East

Jerusalem - Discussions are underway between Egypt, Disney International to open the park, according to country's investment minister.

Disney is considering building its world-famous amusement park for the first time in the Middle East in Egypt, Egyptian media reported.

"There are discussions going on with Disney International to build in Egypt its first Disney Park in the Middle East, similar to Disney France," Ashraf Salman, Egypt's investment minister, was quoted as saying by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Ahram Online reported.

Salman made the comments while attending a live Disney show at the Cairo International Convention Center.

"Having a Disney show in Egypt at the moment sends a message to the world and to foreign investors that Egypt is safe and stable," he said.

Tourism to Egypt has plummeted as unrest has riveted the country since the downfall of former president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.

The minister also noted that the tourism sector was bringing in 3.2 percent of the country’s GDP and employing around 12.6% of the labor force, according to the Daily News Egypt website.

Salman added that Egypt is seeking foreign investment by inviting Arab delegations, international companies and hosting international conferences.

Meanwhile, last week, Egypt's Ministry of Tourism launched a training program for drivers of tourists after the government installed Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking on all tourist buses. NOT!

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Tuesday November 18, 2014

Disney emerges favorite cruise line in new US News ranking
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Sold Out for Nov 20
Decking the Halls with Holiday Novelty Items at Disney Parks
Disney Is Building A Gigantic Toy Story Hotel
The second character poster from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out': Disgust
Visions of the Future Spring Up at Downtown Disney


Disney emerges favorite cruise line in new US News ranking

Yahoo News - Need help choosing a cruise vacation? A newly released ranking serves as a guideline to the best ships for different needs and desires, including the best cruise for budgets, families and romance.

After looking at factors ranging from cruise quality to health record and traveler reviews from online review site Cruiseline.com, editors at consumer-oriented site US News ranked brands across five categories.

Leading the charge is Disney, which took the top spot for best cruise line for families and best cruise line in the Caribbean.

Disney has done a stellar job of endearing itself to consumers and becoming the gold standard in cruise lines, topping many a travel list.

This past summer, Bon Voyage magazine gave Disney the top spot in the category of best mainstream line.

Likewise, Disney topped the category of best large cruise brand by readers of CN Traveler magazine.

Earlier this year, the cruise brand also swept the 2014 Cruisers’ Choice Awards, taking the top spot across 13 categories including best ship, best cabins, best dining and best entertainment for its Disney Fantasy.

The US News report analyzed data for 148 ships across 15 major cruise lines.

Here are the winners for cruise line in each category:

Best cruise line for families: Disney Cruise Line
Best cruise lines for romance: Silversea Cruises
Best luxury cruise line: Crystal Cruises
Best cruise line for money: Royal Caribbean
Best cruise line in the Caribbean: Disney Cruise Line

For the full list visit travel.usnews.com/cruises.

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Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Sold Out for Nov 20

The next night for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World, Thursday November 20th is now Sold Out. As of this time Tickets are still available for the following night November 21.

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Decking the Halls with Holiday Novelty Items at Disney Parks

DisneyParks Blog - It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and festive food and beverage offerings and holiday souvenirs are popping up at Disney Parks! Our teams are decking everything from souvenir popcorn buckets to sippers and more.

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Santa’s elves have been hard at work creating these Mickey sipper steins, perfect for sipping hot cocoa or carrying a snack on the go. Twice as nice is the matching souvenir popcorn bucket. Look for these in Disneyland park, Disney California Adventure park and Magic Kingdom Park.

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As part of the Merriest Place on Earth celebration at Disneyland park, look for souvenir soup cups featuring Mickey, Minnie and Goofy ice skating in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. The cups are available at Jolly Holiday Bakery Café and the turkey leg cart near Sleeping Beauty Castle. While you’re in Disney California Adventure park, look for special cone-shaped snowy sippers at the Cozy Cone Motel. Since this is a world where two holidays collide, “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” novelties will also be available through the holiday season.

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Since the holiday season is all about sharing the joy of the season with your friends and family, here’s a peek at the artwork you’ll find on popcorn buckets and souvenirs throughout Disney Parks!

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Disney Is Building A Gigantic Toy Story Hotel

io9 - Now this is a great idea. We have absolutely no idea what Disney's Toy Story-themed Shanghai hotel will look like on the inside, but we're seriously hoping for a toy's-eye view experience.

The official concept art has been revealed for a Toy Story Hotel that will be built in the new Disney Shanghai resort. The exterior mimics the classic wallpaper from Andy's bedroom, and right in the center of the entrance is the classic Pixar ball. Not much else was revealed at the website; the only official details we have is this art and this statement, "The Resort's Toy Story Hotel will transport guests to a world inspired by the toys from the Disney/Pixar series of Toy Story animated films."

Disney Is Building A Gigantic Toy Story Hotel And It Looks Totally Rad

So it could be just about anything, but we're crossing our fingers for a hotel that's built from the POV of a toy. Imagine guests climbing in gigantic chairs, walking under massive table legs, life-size toys sitting up against the walls. It could be a lot of fun.

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The second character poster from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out': Disgust

Mashable - If you've been on the Internet in your lifetime, you're gonna relate.

Mashable presents Disgust, the second of five character posters for Inside Out, which will quite literally bring all the feels when it comes out June 19, 2015. On Monday, we brought you Sadness — but Monday is over.

It's Tuesday. Time to mix in some indignation, maybe a little irritation, a dash of ennui — and voila! Disgust.



 

The voice cast of Inside Out shared some thoughts with Mashable about their respective characters. Here's The Mindy Project star Mindy Kaling, who voiced Disgust:

Mindy Kaling at the Emmy Awards in 2014.

Image: Dan Steinberg/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

Why is Disgust always so, you know, disgusted?

Disgust is very protective of Riley. She has high expectations for everyone around her and isn’t very patient. Disgust is also very put-together because appearances matter to her. 

Why do you think you were cast to play this emotion?

I think [director] Pete [Docter] was thinking, “Who is the prettiest, most judgmental Hollywood actress who also has green skin?” And then he thought instantly: “Mindy Kaling.”

When's the last time you, personally, felt disgust?

When I was typing these answers on my laptop and I noticed my keyboard is jammed with food crumbs, I thought, “Wow, I'm pretty disgusted with myself.”

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Visions of the Future Spring Up at Downtown Disney

DisneyParks Blog - Earlier this fall, we shared the news that two new dining experiences, Morimoto Asia and The BOATHOUSE, are coming to Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort. Today we have a few more updates to share about glimpses of the future that are starting to appear as Downtown Disney continues to undergo its transformation.

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The “Springs Bottling Co.” marquee was recently installed above the future location for Morimoto Asia. The sign is an architectural detail that draws from the Disney Springs design story, which harkens back to Florida’s waterfront towns at the turn-of-the-century. The interior of Morimoto Asia will also showcase the theme and pay tribute to the history of Disney Springs.

Located adjacent to the recently announced site for The BOATHOUSE, the Waterview Stage is now offering nightly entertainment, along with great views of Village Lake. Be sure to pick up a Times Guide for specific showtimes.

Disney Springs

Opening later this month, the Food Trucks at Exposition Park on the West Side will be a permanent home for the owned-and-operated Downtown Disney food trucks. Located along the water, the Food Trucks will serve mouthwatering culinary creations daily, such as chicken & waffles and tandoori spiced shrimp. The area will also offer additional seating for diners as well as shaded areas during the day.

Significant progress is being made on the first phase of Disney Springs known as The Landing. Guests can see for themselves as they stroll along a section of the new pedestrian walkway now open between Portobello and Paradiso 37. Later this month, the walkway will fully open and provide direct access to the West Side.

Speaking of progress, the West Garage (the first of two planned garages coming to Disney Springs) is opening in phases and will be available for guest parking starting on November 20.

It certainly is exciting to watch Disney Springs come to life and I’m eager to see what’s in store in the months ahead.

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Monday November 17, 2014
Mad T Party Steps Out of Disney California Adventure Park and Back Through the Looking Glass November 30
The first character poster from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out': Sadness
‘Big Hero 6′ helps power Disney past $4-billion mark for second straight year
Disney Celebrates Opening of New Performing Arts Center
Disney keeps no-fly zone over parks
What "the worst ride in Disney World" teaches us about media strategy
How Disney's 'Little Mermaid' Turned A Disturbing Fairy Tale Into A Children's Movie

Mad T Party Steps Out of Disney California Adventure Park and Back Through the Looking Glass November 30

DisneyParks Blog - Attention, hatters and hares! Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum have asked me to pass an important message to you … Mad T Party will leave Disney California Adventure park to step back through the looking glass after its November 30 performance.

This is your chance to travel through the Rabbit Hole one more time and experience all your favorite mad things – the White Rabbit DJ, the Mad T Party band and those colorful concoctions. If you’re curiouser and curiouser about what’s coming in its place, stay tuned! We’ll have updates to share with you soon.

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The first character poster from Disney/Pixar's 'Inside Out': Sadness

Mashable - How sad is it that it's been almost a year and a half since we had a new Pixar movie? Whether you're suffering summer-animated-movie seasonal affective disorder or just a case of the Mondays, we feel you.

But take heart, because here's a sign that the plucky desk lamp is bouncing just around the corner: Mashable presents the first character poster for Inside Out, which comes out June 19, 2015 (that's 213 days — yeah, we're counting). And we'll have a new one each day this week, until Joy wraps things up on Friday (because Friday = Joy).



The voice cast of Inside Out shared some thoughts with Mashable about their respective characters, starting with Sadness herself, Phyllis Smith (The Office).

What kind of character is Sadness? Besides being, you know, sad?

Well, my emotion Sadness is fun in a sad way. She is smart and always thinking ahead. Since many of her scenes are with Joy, I usually say Sadness is a ball and chain around Joy’s ankle, and a challenge to Joy.

Why do you think you were cast to play this emotion?

I was told by the producer (Jonas Rivera) that he was watching Bad Teacher and saw me in the lunch scene and knew I was Sadness. He called [director] Pete Docter and said, “I think we found our Sadness.”

When's the last time you, personally, felt sadness?

On a frivolous level when the San Francisco Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs and again when the Giants beat Kansas City Royals in the World Series. On a more heartfelt level, I just lost a dear friend who was 101 years old, but I was blessed by his friendship and knowledge for the past 35 years so that brought me joy.

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‘Big Hero 6′ helps power Disney past $4-billion mark for second straight year

Washington Post - FIVE YEARS AGO, Disney paid $4-billion for Marvel and most of its characters. Now, yet again, that buy has paid huge dividends, as Disney has just topped the $4-billion mark in global box office for the second straight year.

Buoyed by another big weekend from “Big Hero 6″ — the Disney animation based on a lesser-known Marvel comic — the Mouse House reached $4-billion two weeks earlier than last year, reports Variety. Disney had never reached that worldwide benchmark prior to 2013.

“Big Hero 6″ — which grossed $36-million in North America this weekend, to be dethroned by new champ “Dumb and Dumber To” ($38.1-million) — has just rocketed past $100-million mark in domestic gross in its second week, according to studio estimates released Sunday; final numbers are due Monday.

“Big Hero 6″ — executive-produced by Pixar co-founder John Lasseter — has grossed $111.7-million domestically (already cracking the year’s top-20) and $148-million worldwide, as it nears its $165-million production budget.

Disney has been paced this year by two other Marvel properties: “Guardians of the Galaxy” ($331-million domestic; $770-million total) and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” ($260-million; $714-million) — which are the top two films of 2014 in domestic gross. Not far behind is “Maleficent,” the spinoff of the Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty,” which has grossed $241-million domestic and $758-million worldwide.

FUN WITH NUMBERS

* Four of the year’s top-six films in global gross are Marvel properties, including Fox’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” ($746-million) in fourth and Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ ($709-million) in sixth.

* The only film this year to top the billion-dollar mark is Paramount’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” ($1.087-billion).

* “Interstellar” opened to $42-million box-office gross in China, sending its foreign take rocketing close to $225-million, and $322-million total.

* Eleven of the year’s top-12 films domestically have ties to comics or animation — the only exception being the Sony sequel “22 Jump Street” at No. 10.

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Disney Celebrates Opening of New Performing Arts Center

DisneyParks Blog - If you’re a theater lover like I am, nothing beats that feeling of anticipation and excitement as you wait for the curtain to rise. That’s how many of us felt as the stage came to life for the very first time Saturday night, at the Walt Disney Theater at Orlando’s new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC).

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George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort joined local business and community leaders in celebrating the center’s historic Grand Premiere with a glittering gala and the hall’s inaugural performance. A 2,700-seat hall with tiered seating, the Walt Disney Theater is Central Florida’s new home to Broadway-style shows and musical performances. As one of the earliest and largest investors in DPAC, Disney pledged $12.5 million to the development of the center.

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Audiences got their first glimpse of the theater in action during the gala performance, “Broadway and Beyond,” which was developed with the assistance of the Disney Creative Entertainment team. The team also produced the evening’s grand finale – a spectacular fireworks show.

Over the past seven years, cast members from areas such as Walt Disney Imagineering and Creative Entertainment have also contributed in-kind services such as developing marketing materials, producing community events and hosting fundraisers.

So, as we anticipate exciting, inspiring and entertaining performances for years to come, we have one word for our cast members and the Central Florida community partners who made the DPAC dream a reality … Bravo!

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Disney keeps no-fly zone over parks

Fox News - What do the White House and the Magic Kingdom have in common? 

Each is protected by a federally imposed no-fly zone. 

That's because for the past decade, Disney World and Disneyland have benefited from a deal slipped into a 300-page spending bill that designates airspace above both parks as no-fly zones. That means anyone caught trying to chopper into Cinderella’s castle could risk federal prosecution and jail time. 

The no-fly zones were put in place ostensibly for security reasons following 9/11 but have stayed in place in what some say is a cleverly crafted plan by Disney to keep pesky aerial advertisers out of its pristine airspace.

The zones over the Disney parks in Anaheim, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., work the same way as those imposed when the president travels, during air shows and during large sporting events. Only Disney's zones are not temporary. 

Backers of the no-fly zones argue that these areas should stay restricted because of the large crowds they draw. They also say that Disney is a major American attraction that deserves extra attention. 

“We believe the airspace restrictions over large gathering places like sports stadiums and our theme parks continue to make sense for enhancing public safety,” a Disney spokeswoman told FoxNews.com in an email.

Not everyone is feeling the Disney magic.

Critics say the no-fly zones, which cover a three-mile radius in each of the parks, are only in place to prevent pilots from towing advertising banners over Disney. They also say the no-fly zones will do little in the event of an actual terrorist attack.

In 2003, a conservative Christian organization and an aerial advertising company sued Disney over its no-fly zone. In that particular case, the organization wanted the no-fly zones removed so it could fly banners protesting a gay festival being held in the area.

The Virginia-based Family Policy Network claimed that the no-fly zones infringed upon its right to object to the "Gay Days" celebration, but a judge denied their request.

Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy which handled the case for the Virginia group, argued Disney wanted no-fly zones to prevent competitors from advertising and that terrorism fears gave the company the cover it needed to keep its airspace empty.

"We're not advertising; we're trying to reach a specific target audience with a very specific, noncommercial message," Crampton said in court documents at the time. "But Disney and Disney alone has managed to achieve a total ban, effectively, on such speech."

The Disney restrictions have been in place since 2003 when they were tucked into a massive $397.4 billion spending bill. 

An investigation into the no-fly zones by the Orlando Sentinel revealed that Disney’s government-granted security zones put them on par with those for President George W. Bush’s ranch, nuclear submarine bases and military stockpiles of sarin gas.

Richard Daley, Chicago’s mayor at the time, publicly complained that “Mickey and Minnie” got the no-fly designation before downtown Chicago. Since then, Chicago’s no-fly status was lifted. Disney’s remains.

All along, Disney officials have insisted they did nothing untoward. They have denied bending the rules in their favor and refute accusations they aren’t operating on a level playing field. The no-fly zones prohibit planes from flying below 3,000 feet within three miles of the park.

But competing theme parks like Six Flags and Knott’s Berry Farm don’t enjoy the same no-fly perks. 

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents aerial advertisers, has asked the Federal Aviation Administration to cancel Disney’s no-fly zones.

"Disney park officials have wanted to eliminate air traffic over the parks long before 9/11," Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, recently told the Los Angeles Times, asking whether lobbyists were involved in getting the language in the bill a decade ago. 

In 2003, The Walt Disney Company had 13 lobbyists on its payroll. In 2014, that number rose to 18.

When asked recently about Disney, Crampton said the entertainment giant’s arguments grow weaker with time.

“Reading it now, it’s kind of a ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, right?’ reaction,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “In the past 10, 12 years since those cases were argued, we’ve seen no further terrorist attacks of the type that took place at the World Trade Center and no real threat in these fly-over zones. I would say, today, that the case for protecting Disney is even weaker than it was when we argued those cases.”

Multiple calls to the FAA, Six Flags and Knott’s Berry Farm for comment were not returned.

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What "the worst ride in Disney World" teaches us about media strategy

Boing Boing - Foxxfurr's latest article on Disney theme park history is yet another amazing and insightful read that uses the tenth anniversary of Stitch's Great Escape ("the worst ride in Disney World") as a jumping-off point to show how the history of theme-parks, animation, the elusive 5-12 year old boy market, and the entertainment business all influenced one another.

As always, Foxfurr's articles are must-reads that leave you wanting to visit Disney parks with a notebook.

The financial 'afterlife' of films in the theme parks is a very strange thing. Most studio and theatrical films are ephemeral things, and the explosion of the home market has not changed this. Movies like Die Hard are really freaks of nature, evergreen moneymakers. Disney films are traditionally very strong on the secondary market, but when they get into the theme parks they begin to meld and morph into sometimes bizarrely different things.

Take something like the Swiss Family Treehouse, which more people visit in a month than have seen the movie in the past ten years. And yet, it still works and is fully comprehensible to any viewer. This is because the only thing you need to know about the film to enjoy the attraction is right there on the sign - shipwrecked family builds a house. That's it. The attraction allows you to go into the house, and the attraction-tree never really resembled the film-tree in a serious way. The form of the attraction is harmonized with the tie-in film property in a way that has universal, not specific, appeal.

Where Stitch's Great Escape, and all of these movie tie-in attractions in general go wrong, is that they are bound to weirdly specific moments in the narrative of the films to have their effect. Nearly every moment in the attraction is referencing some moment in the film. If you know nothing about Lilo & Stitch besides that it exists, then Stitch's Great Escape is the worst advertisement for it imaginable. It conveys nothing of the tone of the film or the love the character inspires in audiences. Actually, you'd probably correctly infer from the attraction that Stitch is a malicious bastard.

That's probably the real reason Stitch's Great Escape fails to interest audiences, it isn't because of those restraints or that it isn't a ride; that's just shorthand people use to skirt around the real issue, which is that there's no payoff for going to see it. It's a lot of sound and fury for no good reason at all. At least, one could reason if she wished, Alien Encounter was trying to be scary. Stitch's Great Escape has no reason to exist, no onus, besides itself.

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How Disney's 'Little Mermaid' Turned A Disturbing Fairy Tale Into A Children's Movie

Huff Post - Today "The Little Mermaid" turns 25 years old. When it came out, in 1989, Disney had gone three decades without a big hit: "Sleeping Beauty," the last major success, was released in 1959, six years before Walt Disney's death. The studio had spent far too much time without a leader, and there was new generation on the rise -- one that had worked with the animators that came up under Walt, but were equipped with their own set of modern sensibilities. In celebration of the Disney renaissance started under the sea, we spoke to co-writers and directors Ron Clements and John Musker to figure out how they turned Hans Christian Andersen's disturbing fairy tale into a classic children's movie.

With a big pitch meeting coming up, Ron Clements went to the book store in search of his next great idea. He was unfamiliar with "The Little Mermaid" before stumbling upon it that day, and thought Hans Christian Andersen's cinematic writing style would make for a great film as soon as he started reading. That is, until he saw how it ended. "I realized it was an incredibly sad story, with a very, very sad ending," Clements told HuffPost Entertainment.

Andersen's "Little Mermaid" is far more tragic than the story of Ariel that has since left an indelible mark on popular culture. The 1837 protagonist is motivated not only by her attraction to a prince, but the eternal soul that humans possess and mermaids do not. With the help of a sea witch, she trades her voice for legs. Andersen's mermaid must obtain true love's first kiss or the deal will result in her death. She attempts to enchant the prince with her dancing, despite the fact that it feels as though she is stepping on knives. He marries the human princess, whom he thinks saved him from a ship wreck (though, the little mermaid is truly the one responsible for his rescue). She is given the option to murder him in exchange for becoming a mermaid again. "In the end," as Clements put it, "she loses the prince and she turns into sea foam."

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Clements came up with the name Ariel and reworked Andersen's ending for a "gong show" in January 1985. The name "gong show" came from a process Michael Eisner pulled from Paramount: story writers and directors would pitch a series of ideas, and the bad ones would get gonged.

It turns out the story of "The Little Mermaid" who lived happily ever with her prince got gonged at first. Disney was working on a sequel to "Splash" at the time, and they thought it was too similar. Although, a few days later, Clements got a call from the studio, saying they'd like to hear his ideas again. Weeks later, "The Little Mermaid" was green lit. Clements teamed up with John Musker, with whom he'd worked with on "The Great Mouse Detective," and the two got to work envisioning the film that would pave the way for the Disney renaissance.

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Clements and Musker were willing to rework much of Andersen's story. Although, there were certain elements they felt they couldn't leave behind: the idea of love at first sight and Ariel's loss of voice.

"I know it was controversial," Musker said of their stance. "I know even with the script there were people that really questioned, ‘Can you really do that? Can you have the star of your movie actually lose their voice for a significant amount of time?’”

"It was particularly challenging for the executives reading the script at the time," Clements added, "because a lot of time they don’t read the stage description, they just read the dialogue, and then suddenly she had no dialogue in the middle section of the movie."

"In the movie we also deal with love at first sight, which can be controversial, I guess," he said. "That’s a fairy tale thing that goes back to fairy tales from the beginning. That was a big part of this idea of two people who really have not met each other, but are destined to be together. With slightest bit of interaction, they just know."

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Interestingly enough, in making this disturbing fairy tale kid-friendly, one of the biggest changes they made was creating a more forcefully evil sea witch. In Andersen's story she acts as an enabler, but Clements and Musker knew that Ursula was their chance to create a classic Disney villain.

Once they made that choice, a lot of possible inspiration popped up. In short, Ursula is essentially a mix of Bea Arthur, Joan Collins' "Dynasty" character, Divine and an octopus. That took quite a bit of brainstorming to come together, and the octopus part was only added in animation.

"Ursula started out in different forms," Musker said. "At one point she was a lion fish, and a manta ray, and an octopus, and then as she came to life, that was just cool to see how they could use her tentacles to play the villainess."

He had Bea Arthur in mind for the part. Even though they never got a chance to sit down with her (due to her "Golden Girls" schedule and possibly the fact that she did not want to play a witch), Musker kept her sardonic wit in mind throughout creation.

Divine's name popped up when Musker and Clements presented the character to producer and head of the music department Howard Ashman.

Ashman knew Divine from work in John Waters' films and suggested Harris Glenn Milstead's stage persona serve as inspiration for Ursula. He also immediately made a connection between the sea witch and "Dynasty."

"We described her as vampy and campy, and he was like, 'Oh yeah, she’s like Joan Collins,'" Clements said. "So, when we wrote our script, John was picturing Bea Arthur and I was picturing Joan."

The two got to have a lot of fun in playing up that campy evil gloriousness. They pulled the polyps from Andersen's story (originally guards of the sea witch's castle) and made them condemned mer-folk. Before studio edits, they actually included a character called Harold the merman, who wanted to be handsome, but was fated to life as a polyp after he could not pay Ursula back.

Ashman was also largely responsible for the development of Sebastian, who appeared in early treatments as a crab named Clarence. At that point, he had an English accent. But Ashman knew right away that he wanted to make Sebastian Rastafarian so that he could logically incorporate calypso elements into the music.

Musker and Clements had a stuffy character in mind, and they didn't know how that could work with an "island guy," so Ashman suggested they model Sebastian after Geoffrey Holden.

"The idea was for Sebastian to be a sort of Geoffrey Holden character. Back in the day he was well known as the 7-Up man," Clements said. "Those commercials were he was very expansive and grand, and he spoke in the Jamaican patois. Howard said, ‘That’s what I’m picturing with the crab. He can still be very grand, he’s not just laid back.’”

"Under the Sea" claims that not having to work is one of the main reasons "life is better when you are wetter," an element that has led to backlash condemning the song as racist (with the fish coded as black). Although, Clements and Musker seem surprised by that allegation. "He’s a very hard-working court composer," Musker said of Sebastian. "That never occurred to us, and I’ve never actually even heard that."

Ariel herself underwent quite a bit of transformation from that first treatment. Initially, she was modeled closely after Andersen's little mermaid: shy and passive. The rambunctious curiosity she came to be endowed with originally appeared in the form of a male dolphin sidekick named Breaker, who was cut from the film.

"His was very energetic and adventurous," Musker said. "Then, we got a note in the early development of the script that we had too many characters, so we ended up eliminating that dolphin character and giving some of his personality to Ariel. She became as energetic as the dolphin was."

That helped in modeling Ariel after a rebellious human teen. The artist, Glen Keane, pictured Alyssa Milano when drawing her, though Musker and Clements pulled their inspiration from teen movies. They looked to then-current releases like "Footloose," in hopes of tapping into the modern aspects of adolescence.

"We wanted her to feel like a real teenager, so we looked at movies about teenage girls," Clements said. "She has a grotto filled with human objects, which was a little bit, in our minds, like a teenage girl who has all her posters gathered around."

The sense of rebellion that is almost synonymous with any child's teenage years was very important to the story they wanted to tell. For both Musker and Clements, "The Little Mermaid" is first and foremost about a father and daughter.

"Although, the love story was important, I thought the father-daughter relationship was a key thing really right from the start," Musker said. "It was about stretching boundaries and parents wanting the best for their children but maybe having a different idea about what that is than what the child does."

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While trying to make things relatable, Clements and Musker ultimately set out to create a film that they would watch. "We didn’t think we were making the movie for a bunch of little kids. We were really making it for us and hoping that other people would like it as well," Clements said. "That’s the way to make these movies, to do things that you get moved by or find funny. That’s your best clue as to whether or not it’s working."

Even though it is removed from the tragic origins, "The Little Mermaid," like any Disney movie, has dark and sexy elements that are retrospectively surprising for a G-Rated film.

"We wanted it to be scary. We liked the 'Wizard of Oz' and things like that," Clements said. "I think fairy tales have those dark elements. These films are almost a right of passage. It's a way for kids to process difficult things in the world. There are always light moments along with the dark. To me, it’s sort of a nice contrast."

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Sunday November 16, 2014
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Saturday November 15, 2014
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Friday November 14, 2014
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Thursday November 13, 2014
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Wednesday November 12, 2014
Trattoria al Forno Wines Take Diners on a Trip Through Italy
Disney offering limited time La Nouba discounts
The Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Finisher Medals Revealed
Disney announces new holiday food fest at Epcot
Bette Midler Is Ready For 'Hocus Pocus 2

Trattoria al Forno Wines Take Diners on a Trip Through Italy

DisneyParks Blog - Opening December 18 on Disney’s Boardwalk, Trattoria al Forno promises diners an authentic taste of Italy – from the top of boot-shaped peninsula to the bottom, with classic Italian cuisine — handcrafted mozzarella, fresh pasta and pizzas baked in new wood-burning ovens.

Wine with food is a way of life in Italy, and Trattoria al Forno’s wine list “takes guests on a historic journey through the Italian wine regions,” says Jason Cha-Kim beverage manager for Disney Parks & Resorts.

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“It’s unusual to have a 100-percent Italian wine list,” says Jason, who curated a list of about 70 wines from Italy’s 20 wine regions. The first page of the wine list is a map of Italy with the most famous regions highlighted, such as Tuscany and Veneto, then a few of the regions have bullet points about some of the most important wines and their flavor profiles.

“From Tuscany, we describe Chiantis and Super Tuscans,” says Jason. “From Piedmont, Barolo and Moscato d’Asti . . . and we offer wines from regions that some guests may not be familiar with, so we add a description for every single wine, along with the region and grape varietal.”

Trattoria al Forno will offer more than 30 wines by the glass, starting at $8, and also “quartinos,” which are quarter-liter carafes (about a glass and a half). “This is a great way for guests to try several different wines,” says Jason. “They’re big enough to share, so you can try wines from obscure wine regions.” Wine flights also are available.

“The wine list is like a geography lesson,” he explains, “and the list includes bin numbers for easy ordering.”

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Training the staff has been a fun journey, says Vinnie Tai, area manager for Disney’s Boardwalk food & beverage team. “We’ve been training for three months so that our servers are part of the immersive dining experience of dining at Trattoria al Forno.”

“It’s been a steep learning curve for the staff,” says Jason. “Servers had a week of intensive training with master sommeliers and leading wine educators from Italy – before opening the staff all will have an overview of Italy wine production and a tasting of all the wines on the list.”

Servers and sommeliers will be trained to suggest an Italian wine that matches a commonly known grape varietal from California and around the world – for instance, Italy’s Pinot Nero is the equivalent of a Pinot Noir, and Primitivo from Italy’s Puglia region is similar to a Zinfandel.

“It’s like a trip to Italy, and you don’t need a plane ticket or passport,” says Vinnie. “Our guests will get a true taste of Italy’s finest.” For reservations, 407-WDW-DINE.

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Disney offering limited time La Nouba discounts

Orlando Sentinel - Nouba, the exclusive Cirque du Soleil show at Walt Disney World Resort has announced special offers starting at $54 for adult and $45 for child seats.

This offer is available for performances now through Dec. 19. Guests who wish to have dinner before or after the show can take advantage of La Nouba’s special Dinner & A Show package available now until Nov. 22.

The package includes a ticket to the show and dinner at a participating restaurant of their choice.

Participating restaurants are Wolfgang Puck Grand Café, Planet Hollywood and Splitsville Luxury Lanes. The offer includes one entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage.

Package prices start at $99 for adults and at $89 for children ages 3 to 9. Visit www.lanouba.com.

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The Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Finisher Medals Revealed

DisneyParks Blog - For those training for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend presented by Sierra Nevada Corporation, you might be at that point in your training where you are asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Well today I can show you one reason, the latest edition of amazing runDisney finisher medals.

For the first time I am excited to reveal the inaugural finisher medals for Star Wars race weekend, January 15-18 at Disneyland Resort. This is not a Jedi mind trick. These ARE the medals you’re looking for…

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Star Wars 5K finishers will receive a colorful medallion featuring everyone’s favorite protocol droid, C-3P0. The Star Wars 10K medal is pentagon shaped and prominently features a Stormtrooper.

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The Star Wars Half Marathon medal may test your Star Wars knowledge. Those familiar with Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope will recognize that the medal is influenced by the Medal of Bravery presented to Battle of Yavin heroes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

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For those taking on the Rebel Challenge and running the Star Wars 10K on Saturday and the Star Wars Half Marathon on Sunday, you will take home a third medal to acknowledge your accomplishment. The Rebel Challenge medal features a spinner medallion highlighting the good and evil in the galaxy: Darth Vader representing the dark side of the Force and Yoda representing the light side of the Force.

The Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Presented by Sierra Nevada Corporation Medal Rebel Challenge medal The Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend Presented by Sierra Nevada Corporation Medal Rebel Challenge medal

As Yoda, the legendary Jedi Master would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.” If you do you will claim your inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend medals at the finish line.

May the Force be with you.

A limited number of registrations for Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend remain open through groups and charities. For more information on this and other race weekends, visit runDisney.com.

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Disney announces new holiday food fest at Epcot

Orlando Business Journal - If you're already missing the foodie fix of Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort, get ready to stuff yourself like a stocking on Santa's nice list.

As the annual gastrofest was ending on Nov. 10, the Disney detailed a new foodie fantasy with a holiday twist. Tastes From Around The Globe will debut Nov. 28 through Dec. 30 with a selection of international treats stationed around World Showcase. This will be Epcot's third food-related event, which also includes the springtime dining selections at the Flower & Garden Show. If the massive crowds that frequent the other Disney food festivals are any indication, lines will be long and revenue will be bountiful.

Event menu items include the turkey waffle: a sweet potato waffle with roasted turkey and green bean casserole, served at Promenade Refreshments. Other offerings include: French favorite, buche de noel au chocolate (aka, chocolate cake shaped like a log), at Les Halles Boulengerie Patesserie; a Japanese version of fried chicken called teriyaki chicken karaage at Kabuki Cafe; and the Italian sweet bread loaf called panettone and moscatto wine can be found at the Gelato kiosk. There's also Germany's stollen fruit cake, China's kaikouxiao (happy face fried cake) and Norway's rice ice cream — along with gingerbread men, chocolate chunk cookies, sugar cookies and hot apple cider at, where else, the American Adventure.

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Bette Midler Is Ready For 'Hocus Pocus 2

HuffPost - SISTAHS! Let the witch hunt for the Disney executives who have yet to bring us "Hocus Pocus 2" begin.

Bette Midler said during a recent Reddit AMA that she's ready to make a sequel to the Halloween favorite -- and so are Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, who played the other two Sanderson sisters in the 1993 original.

Midler was asked several times throughout the Q&A session whether she'd do a sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court."

That ball was rumored to be picked up by Tina Fey earlier this year when reports indicated she was developing a sequel with Disney. That turned out to be false, which left "Hocus Pocus" advocates still searching for a virgin to light the movie's candle.

But Midler, who also revealed she kept Winifred's teeth as her souvenir from the set, ended the AMA with a clear directive for everyone who wants to see "Hocus Pocus" cast a spell again: "Inundate the Disney company, because I have canvassed the girls and they are wiling to do it, but we have no say in it, so if you want a HOCUS POCUS 2, ask the Walt Disney company. You have been SO adorable. This has been most enlightening. SISTAHS!"

HuffPost Entertainment loaded a cauldron with blood of owl, dead man's toe and green newt saliva to confirm Parker's and Najimy's interest with their reps. As of yet, we're still waiting for it to boil. We'll update you if it does.

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Tuesday November 11, 2014
First Look at the Disneyland Resort for Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration on ABC
George Lucas Has Been Working On A Secret Animated Musical For Disney
Top 10 Beaches for Families to Visit on a Disney Cruise
Disney Reveals Zootopia and Moana Release Dates
A Swell Holiday Collection For Your Home Now Available at Disney Parks
An Unsung Disney Heroine
Disney's Mira Lago purchase may pave the way for development

First Look at the Disneyland Resort for Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration on ABC

DisneyParks Blog - Earlier this week we began production on our annual holiday special for ABC, this year titled Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration. Today we’re giving you the first look at what’s in store Christmas morning from the Disneyland Resort.

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Train took the stage at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle in Disneyland park to perform “Shake Up Christmas.”

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Donald Duck met up with Patrick Monahan and Jimmy Stafford after the performance and we snapped this fun photo.

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Trey Songz then delighted the audience with “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

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Daisy showed up to wish Trey Happy Holidays.

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Over in Disney California Adventure park, Lucy Hale brought holiday cheer to Cars Land with her performance of “Mistletoe.”

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Back at Disneyland park, Trisha Yearwood gave the audience a beautiful rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

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Trisha met two of her biggest fans after her performance, Chip and Dale.

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ABC News Senior Meteorologist Rob Marciano from GMA Weekend joins us as host from the Disneyland Resort this year, and he and his wife Eryn brought daughter Madeline along to meet Minnie Mouse for the first time.

Check back for updates about Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration and don’t forget to tune in to ABC on Thursday, Dec. 25 at 10 a.m. ET, 9 a.m. in all other time zones (check local listings). You can also join the conversation by using the hashtag #DisneyParade.

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George Lucas Has Been Working On A Secret Animated Musical For Disney

Business Insider - This was unexpected.

Disney just announced a new animated musical "Strange Magic" coming to theaters in January that's from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas.  

According to a press release from Disney, Lucas wrote the story and is executive producing. Gary Rydstrom ("Finding Nemo," "Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation") will direct.

"Strange Magic" will include the voice talents of Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, May Rudolph, and Sam Palladio ("Nashville").

Here's the official synopsis from Disney:

“Strange Magic” is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night's Dream.” Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion.

Last week, online rumors thought "Strange Magic" may be a code name for a sequel to Disney's successful hit "Frozen."

The movie will be the first animated picture from Lucasfilm Ltd. since Disney's $4 billion purchase of the company in 2012. 

"Strange Magic" will be released January 23, 2015 by Touchstone Pictures.

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Top 10 Beaches for Families to Visit on a Disney Cruise

DisneyParks Blog - If you love cruising to tropical locations, chances are you also love visiting beautiful beaches. Luckily for you, there’s no shortage of warm sand in the Bahamas and Caribbean where our ships frequent throughout the year. But deciding which glorious stretch of sand is a good fit for your family isn’t always easy.

Our Port Adventures are the best way for your family to experience a hassle-free beach day, and we’ve worked with tour operators to take you to some of the best beaches in the places we visit. Here’s a look at my favorites in 10 of our tropical destinations:

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1. Castaway Family Beach, Castaway Cay (Bahamas)
Most cruises from Florida include a stop at our private island, Castaway Cay, and if you’re traveling with little ones, Castaway Family Beach is the perfect spot for you. The beach is lined with umbrellas, chairs and hammocks for your complimentary use, and the water is sectioned off for swimming, floating and snorkeling. Plus, the Pelican Plunge water slide is within swimming distance from shore and the all-you-care-to-eat lunch buffet is steps away.

2. Blue Lagoon Island, Nassau (Bahamas)
This spectacular private island is just a half-hour boat ride from the port of Nassau. We offer several excursions there with different options for what your family would like to do, whether that’s swimming with dolphins, snuggling with sea lions or swaying in hammocks! The family-owned island has all of the amenities you need, yet it’s set apart by its untouched natural environment and authentic Bahamian experience.

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3. Playa Mia, Cozumel (Mexico)
With its water park, water trampolines and water bicycles (just to name a few!), Playa Mia is an active family’s paradise on the island of Cozumel. The full-facility beach also has plenty of space where you can relax, including lounge chairs both on the beach and by the pool. Our Cozumel Beach Break excursion is a convenient way to get time at this popular locale, with a delicious lunch buffet included!

4. Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)
Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is famous for its long stretch of coral sand and clear blue water, and it’s just a short ride from the port. On our Family Beach Day at Tiki Beach Port Adventure, you’ll have access to full amenities there, including lounge chairs, fresh-water showers, a restaurant and not to mention a gorgeous view!

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5. Magen’s Bay Beach, St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands)
With its calm waters and half-mile stretch of white sand, Magen’s Bay is home to St. Thomas’ premier beach. The beachside café in this untouched environment makes it a great option for families, especially on our Magens Bay Beach Break excursion, which also includes a stop at Drake’s Seat to enjoy the panoramic view of the bay.

6. Orient Bay Beach, St. Maarten (West Indies)
Known as the “French Riviera of the Caribbean,” Orient Bay is the most famous beach in St. Maarten. Adventures like our Afternoon Beach Bash Tour and French Riviera Beach Rendezvous are great options if you want to just relax in this stunning locale. For a more active day, our Family Fun, Beach and Nature Walk adds the option to boogie board and join a guided walk through part of a nature reserve.

7. Isla Verde Beach, San Juan (Puerto Rico)
Isla Verde Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico is especially popular for families with its gentle waves, huge expanse of white sand and access to amenities. If you’re visiting San Juan during your cruise, you can join our Isla Verde Beach Escape or our San Juan Family Beach Day, both including a lunch buffet and the chance to play beach volleyball!

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8. Rose Hall Beach, Falmouth (Jamaica)
Rose Hall Beach in Jamaica is home to several upscale resorts, adding an air of exclusivity to this beautiful stretch of sand. We give Disney cruisers the chance to enjoy time at one of these beautiful resorts on our Resort Beach Break – All Inclusive Port Adventure. Access to the resort’s amenities, including pools, slides and dining, makes this excursion a great day for families.

9. Cane Garden Bay Beach, Tortola (British Virgin Islands)
Tortola’s Cane Garden Bay is considered by many to be finest beach on the island. Restaurants, bars and shops are steps from the beach, making it an ideal spot for families. We just announced Tortola as a destination in 2016 and are working with local operators to develop family-friendly Port Adventures so you can enjoy this destination to its fullest. Stay tuned!

10. Crandon Park Beach, Miami (Florida)
Miami is one of our homeports for cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean, and no visit there is complete without stopping by one of the area beaches. My top pick for families is Crandon Park Beach, located on Key Biscayne in front of a sandbar that keeps the surf calm. This park also has an amusement center, picnic areas and plenty of other amenities for a comfortable family beach day.

All of these beaches are sure to be enjoyed by cruisers of all ages, but later this week I’ll give more recommendations in these same locations for adults traveling without the little ones. Until then, are there any family-friendly beaches in these destinations that you want to add to this list?

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Disney Reveals Zootopia and Moana Release Dates

IGN - Disney has unveiled the release dates for its upcoming animated feature films Zootopia and Moana.

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Both will be released in 2016. Zootopia will open on March 4, 2016, while Moana will come out during the holiday season on November 23, 2016.

Both will be released in 3D.

Zootopia was first unveiled at last year's D23 Expo. The comedy follows fast-talking fox Nick Wilde, who goes on the run when he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. In a light-hearted acknowledgement of real-life animal habitats, the titular city is divided into regions such as Sahara Square, the icy Tundratown, and Burrow Borough, home to a billion bunnies. Zootopia is being directed by Byron Howard (Tangled) from a script written by Jared Bush.

Moana

Moana, meanwhile, was announced just last month. Set in the South Pacific, it follows the navigator Moana, who sets sail in search of a fabled island, encountering sea creatures, underworlds, and all sorts of ancient folklore. It is being directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the team behind Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.

If you can't wait till 2016, Disney Animation's next release is the short film Frozen Fever, which is due out sometime in 2015.

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A Swell Holiday Collection For Your Home Now Available at Disney Parks

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DisneyParks Blog - I’ve seen many items and art designs during my 11 years with Disney Theme Park Merchandise. During that time, there have been a few outstanding items that have caught my attention (I’m looking at you, Disney Centerpiece). Today, I’m happy to share what I think is my favorite art program we’ve ever introduced to Disney Parks – Holidays for Your Home. This nostalgic line of holiday decorative items includes ornaments, pillows, home goods and more. I caught up with the merchandise development team to learn more about the inspiration behind the designs.

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“We’ve been working on this new program for about 18 months,” explained Roger Dressen, merchandiser for seasonal products. “The designs were inspired by a few things from the 1960s, including handcrafted holiday cards sent by the Walt Disney Studios and classic holiday television programming. Lately, we’ve seen a resurgence of mid-century styles in many aspects of design. I grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so Holidays for Your Home is a return to the holidays of my childhood.”

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To create this new art program, Disney Design Group artists, Mike Sullivan and Natalie Kennedy, used a color palette that would simultaneously feel both modern and nostalgic. Packaging and product designs contain certain colors that give items the appearance of being vintage without looking old. Finally, the use of textures and patterns give many items a handcrafted look.

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“One of my favorite items is the woven stocking that was meticulously crafted in North Carolina,” continued Roger. “I also love the glassware box which uses the vintage Disneyland and Walt Disney World logos. The whole design of the box makes the package a keepsake in its own right.”

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The art team included Disney characters as they would have appeared in the 1960s in many of the designs.
“We wanted to capture that retro style, while still making sure that guests could immediately recognize Mickey Mouse,” explained Mike Sullivan, Senior Character Artist with Disney Design Group.

Guests will find Holidays For Your Home items in select merchandise locations at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.

You may also find select products on the Disney Parks online store – DisneyParks.com/Holiday.

I hope you have a swell holiday season this year!

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An Unsung Disney Heroine

Marilyn Sotto surrounded by several of her sketched designs

Marilyn Sotto surrounded by several of her sketched designs

IndieWire - I must confess that I was unfamiliar with Marilyn Sotto’s work until I received an e-mail blast from her devoted nephew, longtime Disney Imagineer Eddie Sotto, about her recent passing. I was so touched by his tribute that I asked if he would allow me to share it with a wider audience on my website, and he agreed. Here it is:

"It’s with great sadness that I pass on that yesterday, October 27, at 4:12 pm, my Aunt, ex Disney Costume Designer Marilyn Sotto-Erdmann lost her fight with Cancer at age 82. 
 
As you may know, Marilyn brought us skills she honed after several decades in the film industry working as an illustrator for costume designers Edith Head, Jean Louis, Norma Koch and others. Her credits are numerous. Classics like Cecil B De Mille's The Ten Commandments, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, A Place in the Sun, White Christmas, Sabrina, and Hud, to name a few. She received screen credit for her design on Man of a Thousand Faces, something actor James Cagney demanded on behalf of Marilyn and she got it. 
 
As a kid, I’d stop and watch her work on Julie Andrews “flapper" getup for Thoroughly Modern Millie Diana Ross’ gown for Lady Sings the Blues, and many others. What an inspiration. Her talents were many; she transitioned to uniform design to bring her Hollywood touch to the opening look of the Beverly and Havana Hilton Hotels in the 1950’s. She went on to write and illustrate her own book on the subject, The Art of Costume Design. The daughter of a portrait and MGM scenic artist, she kept busy in the field of art till one day in 1986, while working on Euro Disneyland, I suggested that Marilyn consider bringing her cinematic sensibility to the costuming being designed for the Paris park, “Auntie Mare” was up for the challenge, showed her stuff, and was hired immediately.

Yul Brynner costume-King and I
 
Many of you knew her and her "bigger than life" passion for design and flamboyant personality. She brought the company and her peers a great passion for what could be, always “pushing the buttonhole” to make the costumes less “uniform"-like and more theatrical to drive the story. It was always about the show. Her work did not stop after Disneyland Paris. She went on to relocate with her husband John to Florida to design Walt Disney World parade costumes, resort and cruise ship attire, Super Bowl spectacles and more. A high point to her was researching ancient animatronic costuming for Spaceship Earth’s recent facelift. She told me that she felt she had come full circle, reminding her of doing the Egyptian garb for The Ten Commandments,  decades earlier. 
Always working, Mare rose to Senior Costume Designer at Walt Disney World, where she could inspire young artists. They can speak to that. One thing that amazed me was how she embraced technology and never allowed her mind to tell her she was too old for something. When she saw that I had given up paper to "draw" on a Cintiq digital screen, she had to have one and demanded she be the first in her department to draw on one. How many people in their 70’s would embrace digital in order to be on the cutting edge? Only a true “Imagineer." Auntie Mare. Eventually she mastered it, others followed suit, and she shared her tips. She retired from a stellar career at the Walt Disney Company after nearly two decades. Even in retirement, Mare never stopped designing and at 82 she was setting the tone for the hosts and hostesses of Embraer Executive Jets. I only hope I can stay that active! 
 
She is survived by her husband John, daughter Cynthia, brother Ed and wife Adrianne, myself, wife Deena and Mare's grandniece and nephews, Brian and Venice."
 
Marilyn Sotto with her 'Man of a Thousand Faces' design
Marilyn Sotto with her 'Man of a Thousand Faces' design

My thanks to Eddie for allowing me to reprint this. I only regret that I never had a chance to meet Marilyn Sotto; she must have been quite a woman. Meanwhile, her nephew has built quite a resume of his own, having designed the Encounters Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport, ABC Times Square Studios in Manhattan, and Main Street at Disneyland Paris, to name just a few of his many credits. He was Senior Vice President of Concept Design at Disney Imagineering and has thirty years of inspired work under his belt. You can learn more about him at sottostudios.com.

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Disney's Mira Lago purchase may pave the way for development

Orlando Sentinel - For years, environmentalists have tried to prevent 3,000 acres of land called Mira Lago, bordering the Disney Wilderness Preserve, from becoming a housing development.

Now, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has bought the property in Osceola and Polk counties with plans to conserve it. Environmentalists hail the purchase as a triumph. It also signals major growth on the way: In exchange for saving Mira Lago, Disney World wants permission to develop up to 350 acres of wetlands during the next 20 years.

Disney's purchase of Mira Lago, said Charles Lee of Audubon Florida, is "going to be a huge conservation victory for Central Florida." Disney's plans for the property include restoring wetlands, starting controlled burns and controlling nuisance and exotic plants. Disney also hopes to enhance upland habitats for the Florida scrub jay and red cockaded woodpecker.

The wetland acreage Disney wants government approval to develop in return is about the same amount as the resort's total wetland impacts during the past two decades, which included development of Celebration and Animal Kingdom.

"Three hundred and fifty acres … is a significant wetlands impact in Central Florida," attorney and conservationist Clay Henderson said. "That's a big number for around here."

Disney did not make executives available for an interview. A spokeswoman said the company wants flexibility for long-term planning, including for new roads. Disney has about 12,000 acres of wetlands on its 45 square miles.

Disney is seeking approval from the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its plans. South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith said regulators want Disney to provide more information on the location of the wetlands it wants to impact. A permit application says they would be across Disney's property to accommodate expansion of theme parks, resorts and "support areas." It does not provide details.

The Disney company bought the Mira Lago site July 31, paying $11.5 million.

The site lies west of the Disney Wilderness Preserve, about 20 miles southeast of Disney World. That nature sanctuary was established in 1992 through an agreement in which Disney bought a former cattle ranch and donated it to the Nature Conservancy. In exchange for that, Disney received regulators' permission to destroy 600 acres of wetlands.

About half of those 600 acres have been impacted so far, Smith said. Disney's newest request would bring the total up to 950 acres of wetlands permitted for development.

It's standard practice, called mitigation, for developers to buy and protect an area of land in exchange for building on wetlands elsewhere.

The 12,000-acre Disney preserve, at the headwaters of the Everglades water system, is widely viewed as an environmental success. Land has been restored to near its original state as it was first described by Spanish missionaries. Nature lovers hike and watch birds there.

Next door at Mira Lago, however, a development group called Avatar Properties had the rights to build about 4,000 homes.

Development would have cut off the paths of wildlife. Environmentalists feared having homes nearby would create pressure to cut back on controlled burns that are critical to the preserve's management.

And "the development that was intended would have actually threatened some of the great wetland restoration we've done on the Disney Wilderness Preserve," said Doria Gordon, director of conservation science at the Nature Conservancy's Florida office.

In 2007, Avatar reached an agreement to negotiate possible sale to the Nature Conservancy. But money for land purchases has gotten tight, and the conservancy couldn't afford it.

Though it does not yet have approval for its plan, Disney decided to purchase the land now to lock in the price.

Disney's permit application to the water management district also seeks to add five parcels totaling more than 800 acres to its permit for potential development. The largest piece, almost 600 acres, stretches from the recently-started Flamingo Crossings hotel-and-retail complex near State Road 429 a mile west to Avalon Road.

Disney said it does not have concrete plans yet for that parcel or the other ones around the edges of its property.

The largest parcel — which includes property owned by Reedy Creek for about 20 years — would be a logical site for another theme park, said Duncan Dickson, who teaches at the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

Disney's long-range plans for years have allowed for a potential fifth theme park, but the company said it does not currently have plans for a new Orlando one. Instead, Disney is focusing on upgrading and expanding its existing parks.

Throughout the property, industry experts say there is potential for much more development, including more hotels and time share resorts. Even new uses such as office parks wouldn't be out of the question, said John Gerner, founder of Leisure Business Advisors in Richmond, Va.

"As long as it doesn't conflict with the quality and reputation of the brand, pretty much anything is possible," he said.

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Monday November 10, 2014
Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6’ Film Leads at Box Office Debut
Walt Disney World Cast Members Transform Main Street, U.S.A., For The Holidays
Disney Film Boss Alan Horn Finds Success After Ouster by Warner
Tastes From Around the Globe at Epcot Holidays Around the World November 28 – December 30
No-fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny
Twelve Favorite Holiday-Themed Gifts From Disney Parks
New hurdle for families in Disney autism lawsuit

Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6’ Film Leads at Box Office Debut

Bloomberg - “Big Hero 6,” Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s latest animated feature, outdrew the Christopher Nolan space adventure “Interstellar” at the box office in an unofficial start to the holiday season.

The film, which introduces Marvel comic-book characters to the big screen, collected $56.2 million on its debut, beating projections. “Interstellar” gathered $50 million to take the second slot in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales for Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures, according to an e-mailed statement from Rentrak Corp., at the low end of expectations.

“Big Hero 6” marks the latest success from Walt Disney Animation, which made “Frozen” last year. Its win furthers a pattern of animated films beating acted films in direct matchups. With the two biggest openings since summer, the films gave moviegoers an early taste of the holiday season that starts with the next “Hunger Games” on Nov. 21 and can generate 20 percent of the annual box office.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays as two very different newcomers top the chart with their massive debuts,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “If the estimates hold, this will be only the fourth time in box office history that two films have debuted on the same weekend with over $50 million.”

“Big Hero 6,” which cost $165 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, had been forecast to generate $51 million on its debut, according to Boxoffice.com. The animated “Wreck-It Ralph,” also from the studio, earned $49 million in its debut in November 2012.

The projections for “Interstellar” were varied. Boxoffice.com expected a $66 million opening, while the studio said tracking showed $50 million to $55 million. Last year’s outer-space hit “Gravity” opened in October with $56 million.

No film has had a better opening than “Big Hero 6” since “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” pulled in $65.5 million on the weekend of Aug. 8-10.

“Big Hero 6” is based on an obscure Marvel Comics series and reinvents one of the hard-edged characters, the robot Baymax, into a lovable blimp-like sidekick. The film is a comedy adventure about the special bond between Hiro, a prodigy, and Baymax. When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo, Hiro and his band of friends become a six-pronged group of high-tech heroes.

The film is directed and written by Don Hall, the writer of Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and “Tarzan,” and co-directed by Chris Williams. Baymax is voiced by Scott Adsit and Hiro by Ryan Potter. It was well received by critics, generating 97 percent positive reviews, according to the website Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates responses. Baymax was praised by Betsy Sharkey in a review for the Los Angeles Times.

“This towering, huggable, robotic bag of air and brains steals the show and probably seals a franchise,” Sharkey wrote. “Baymax, who looks like the love child of the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Man, also represents another interesting evolution in the kind of animation we can expect from Disney.”

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Walt Disney World Cast Members Transform Main Street, U.S.A., For The Holidays

DisneyParks Blog - Have you started decorating your home for the holidays yet? Our Holiday Services department works year round to make sure that everything is ready to be installed at each park and resort here at Walt Disney World Resort.

Last week, they completed an overnight installation of holiday decor at Magic Kingdom Park – just in time for the park’s first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party of the season.

With the park’s new daily procession, Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, and it’s sizeable floats that make their way down Main Street, U.S.A., some of the holiday decor had to be reimagined for this year. Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look!

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Disney Film Boss Alan Horn Finds Success After Ouster by Warner

New York Times - Alan F. Horn was pushed out by Warner Brothers in 2011 after a celebrated run as its film chief — too old, too out of touch, he was told. Toddle off into a happy retirement, he was advised. Read a book.

Since then, Mr. Horn, 71, has achieved something rare in show business, if not in business over all: He has rewritten his own ending.

Mr. Horn in 2012 became chairman of Walt Disney Studios, which he has helped turn into Hollywood’s most formidable movie operation, at least in the eyes of Wall Street. At a time when investors dismiss most film companies as footnotes, Mr. Horn’s studio, which includes Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, on Thursday reported a record $1.55 billion in profit for its last fiscal year, up from $661 million in 2013.             

Over the weekend, “Big Hero 6,” Disney’s animated follow-up to “Frozen,” was No. 1 at the domestic box office, taking in $56.2 million to rout the space epic “Interstellar.” “Maleficent,” starring Angelina Jolie, was the No. 1 nonsuperhero movie of the summer, taking in $757.6 million worldwide. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a Marvel film, ranks as the year’s No. 1 movie over all, with global ticket sales of $768 million.

Moreover, Disney’s pipeline is overflowing with potential blockbusters. Disney will release 21 big-budget movies in the next three years; it released 13 in the last three.

Three “Star Wars” films and three “Avengers” sequels are on the way. Pixar is working on “Finding Dory” and “Toy Story 4.” Disney’s live-action label, which was floundering with bombs like “John Carter” when Mr. Horn took over, has a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a follow-up to “Alice in Wonderland,” which took in more than $1 billion in 2010.

“Hiring Alan was the equivalent of a team signing the greatest free agent on the market, and we were very lucky that he was a free agent,” said Robert A. Iger, the Walt Disney Company’s chief executive.

Mr. Horn was initially reluctant to speak to a reporter, arguing that attention should instead go to people like Alan Bergman, the studio’s longtime president. When Mr. Horn relented, he did not want to discuss his forced departure from Warner, which has struggled lately, and he played down his role at Disney. 

“I’m just a janitor with a reel of keys,” he said, shifting uneasily in a navy blue pinstriped suit. Continuing the metaphor, which he said he learned while serving in the Air Force in the late 1960s, Mr. Horn explained that “each key belongs to a different person here” at Disney Studios. “Sometimes all they need me to do is empower them and act in service of them. Every once in a while there is a mess, and I try to help.”

Overly humble? A bit. No film goes into production at Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Lucasfilm without Mr. Horn’s input. He is deeply involved with marketing, distribution and, at times, casting and editing. He also oversees the studio’s music label, a Broadway division and, with Mr. Bergman, Disney Movies Anywhere, an industry-leading effort to prod consumers to replace their DVD libraries with digital ones.

But Mr. Horn’s job requires him to strike an unusual balance between contribution and intrusion. Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm operate semi-independently. They were stand-alone companies with distinct cultures before being acquired by Disney, and each is run by a forceful personality with decades of experience.

Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, for instance, began her producing career in 1982 with “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” and has been nominated for eight best picture Oscars. So while she reports to Mr. Horn on “Star Wars”-related matters, he most definitely does not micromanage her. “These people have earned the right to make their own creative decisions,” Mr. Horn said.

He likens Marvel and Pixar to city-states: Pixar is Athens, where “they hug each other all the time,” while Marvel is Sparta, filled with “very tough customers.”

Still, they listen to him. “Lots of our characters are engaged in physical battle,” said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, “and Alan at one point said, ‘If these characters are always getting beat up, and no one gets hurt, what are the stakes?’ That kind of perspective is crucial to us.”

Mr. Horn’s own résume is remarkable — even if he did oppose the crude “Hangover” series, which ended up taking in more than $1 billion for Warner (and providing the out-of-touch narrative that cost him that job). His film credits range widely, including “When Harry Met Sally,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Dark Knight” and the eight-film “Harry Potter” series. He also has an M.B.A. from Harvard.

“It’s true that people don’t turn to me when I talk and think, ‘Why is he giving me a suggestion? What does he know?’ ” he said.

His predecessor could not say the same. Trying to more tightly focus the studio around brands, Mr. Iger in 2009 installed Rich Ross, a star television executive, as chairman. Mr. Ross slashed and burned through the studio’s dead wood, laying off employees and reorganizing departments. But ultimately Mr. Ross could not hold his own with artistic giants like John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, and was removed.

In an interview at the “Big Hero 6” premiere last week, Mr. Lasseter said he “greatly values” Mr. Horn’s storytelling input. “Alan is that fresh set of eyes that helps us clarify and connect parts of the story,” he said. “He has the best common man point of view in Hollywood, and I mean that in the best possible way.”

One example: While watching an early cut of “Frozen,” Mr. Horn worried that Anna, one of the princess sisters, would confuse and annoy viewers if she was both engaged to Prince Hans and flirting with the burly Kristoff. The scene was changed.

Mr. Horn has the most involvement with Disney’s slate of live-action films; it makes about five a year. When he arrived, the studio had just suffered a $200 million loss on “John Carter” and production was underway on “The Lone Ranger,” which resulted in a $150 million write-down.

Rolling up his sleeves, Mr. Horn oversaw an extensive reworking of “Maleficent,” coming in on the weekend to sit in the editing room. He replaced a director already hired for a live-action “Cinderella” and vetoed the studio’s candidates to play the title role, instead giving it to Lily James, best known for playing Lady Rose MacClare on “Downton Abbey.” “Cinderella” is to be released on March 13.

But he notably did not replace the studio’s executive team.

“People had already been through a lot of change, and instability leads to insecurity, which can be death to a creative enterprise,” he said. Mr. Horn recently gave multiyear contracts to Mr. Bergman, president; Ricky Strauss, chief marketing officer; and Sean Bailey, president of live-action production.

If Mr. Horn has an old-fashioned sensibility, and he does, it suits Disney, which does not make R-rated movies and whose executives work in a building held up by the Seven Dwarfs. (Literally.) Mr. Horn, who grew up on Long Island, said he was always a Disney fan: When he proposed to his wife, Cindy, he did it with a pewter Bambi figurine with a ring tied to its neck.

“I particularly like working 50 feet from Bob Iger, the head of the whole darn shooting match,” Mr. Horn said. “At Warner, all the big bosses were in New York.”

Mr. Horn has committed to remain Disney’s movie chairman through 2018, when he will be 75. “I think that will be it for me,” he said. “I like that end.”

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Tastes From Around the Globe at Epcot Holidays Around the World November 28 – December 30

DisneyParks Blog - It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Holidays Around the World at Epcot where the World Showcase countries reflect the seasonal traditions – including tastes of homelands far, far away.

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Starting our stroll at Promenade Refreshments, try the Turkey Waffle – a filling sweet potato waffle with roast turkey and green bean casserole (all-in-one holiday dinner). Then head to Canada for pecan-maple bark, a nod to our Northern neighbor’s bounteous maple sugar production. Next door in the United Kingdom, it’s hot applejack cider with whiskey and a blend of seasonal spices – sip while you listen to stories of Father Christmas.

France sweetly celebrates with the classic bûche de noël au chocolate (chocolate cake shaped like a log) at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, and glace au apin d’epices (gingerbread ice cream) at L’Artisan des Glaces. More sweets at Morocco’s Juice Bar, where honey walnut baklava is on the holiday menu and a Moroccan drummer reflects on family traditions commemorating the holiday of Ramadan.

Japan adds teriyaki chicken karaage, a Japanese version of crispy fried chicken bites with teriyaki sauce, at Kabuki Cafe, and you can hear the story of the hollow-round Daruma doll and the Japanese customs of the New Year.

Up next, American Adventure, with freshly baked gingerbread men, chocolate chunk cookies and sugar cookies, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and peppermint bark at the Sugar and Spice Holiday Bakery (perfect snacks for the Candlelight Processional). Look for Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations throughout the holidays, plus our favorite Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers.

At Italy you can meet La Befana, the kind-hearted witch who arrives on the eve of the Epiphany to grant gifts to good children – like panettone, the sweet bread loaf served at the Gelato kiosk, along with sweet moscato wine and ciocolata calda (hot chocolate).

In Germany, listen as Helga tells the story of the first Christmas tree as you nibble on stollen fruit cake and sip glühwein (hot spiced wine). China is serving kaikouxiao (happy face fried cake) at the Joy of Tea kiosk, where nearby you can watch the agile Monkey King celebrating Chinese New Year.

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Learn about the Christmas gnome in Norway and indulge in the traditional rice cream at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (so popular they leave it on the menu year-round). Finally, in Mexico try the sweet tamales at La Catina de San Angel as you celebrate with Los Tres Reyes Mago, the three kings, as they tell of their journey and traditions.

Then take another lap around the World Showcase Lagoon to burn all those calories – ‘tis the season!

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No-fly zones over Disney parks face new scrutiny

LA Times - The "Happiest Place on Earth" has some of the strictest airspace in America.

One day last month, an odd pair of security alerts appeared on the Federal Aviation Administration's website, reminding pilots that they are not allowed to fly into two areas in Southern California and central Florida.

The sky over Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando is "national defense airspace." Intentionally violating Mickey and Minnie's airspace, the alerts warn, could result in interception, interrogation and federal prosecution.

These no-fly zones are known as temporary flight restrictions, like the ones that surround the president when he travels or those put in place above Ferguson, Mo., during protests over the summer. Wildfires, air shows and large sporting events regularly get temporary flight restrictions.

Yet there is nothing temporary about the restrictions over the Disney properties. Such limits do not exist over competing theme parks such as Universal Studios or Knott's Berry Farm.

The Disney restrictions have been in place since 2003, thanks to a provision quietly slipped into a massive congressional spending bill weeks before the Iraq war. Defense and counter-terrorism officials did not appear to ask for the Disney protections, which were instead urged by at least one Disney lobbyist, according to an Orlando Sentinel investigation in 2003.

The restrictions effectively ended a war between Disney and aerial advertisers who had buzzed over the parks for years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The FAA's leader, Michael P. Huerta, testified before Congress last year that if not for the 2003 law, he would eliminate no-fly zones over Disney properties. An FAA spokeswoman said last week that the agency also would like to take a closer look at no-fly zones over sporting events, which were made permanent by the 2003 law.

Defenders of the zones have said the Disney parks merit special protection because of their importance to American culture and the large crowds they draw. Critics say that the zones, which each cover a three-mile radius, would be useless against a true terrorist attack and that the restrictions instead mostly harm pilots who tow advertising banners.

"Banner towers used to make money with their banner tows around Disneyland; now they're not allowed to. ... People can't take aerial photography shots," said Mark Skinner, owner of Anaheim Helicopters. But "you can fly [around] Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags, no big deal," he said.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., nearly 100 aerial advertising firms went out of business after Congress codified the no-fly zones over the Disney parks and sporting events. (Pilots have been especially critical of the sporting event no-fly zones, which may last just a few hours but are implemented thousands of times a year.)

Craig Spence, vice president of operations and international affairs for the association, said the restrictions served no real security purpose.

Skinner said even if terrorists attacked Disneyland, no one was actively patrolling the park's airspace. "If something bad were to happen, how quickly could they get something up there? Not quick enough," he said. "A plane can cover three miles in literally a minute."

Richard W. Bloom, director of terrorism, intelligence and security studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., said although the no-fly zones were "certainly not foolproof," they "definitely have a deterring value" as one of many layers of security designed to protect American airspace.

A Disney spokeswoman said the no-fly zones protected the public. "We believe the airspace restrictions over large gathering places like sports stadiums and our theme parks continue to make sense for enhancing public safety," Cathi Killian said.

When the no-fly zones were approved, however, some of Disney's public remarks suggested the company was not solely concerned about terrorist attacks.

"The sole and exclusive motivation for seeking these restrictions is for the safety and enjoyment of our guests," Disney spokeswoman Leslie Goodman told the Orlando Sentinel after the restrictions were created. But Goodman added that "enjoyment" included keeping out "banner ads from trial lawyers" and pilots "buzzing the parks."

The no-fly zones have been challenged in court, without success.

A Christian group, the Family Policy Network, sued the government in 2003 to allow a pilot to fly a banner that read "Jesus Christ: Hopeforhomosexuals.com" over Walt Disney World during Gay Day. In its court filing, the group argued that the no-fly zone was unfair because Disney didn't own the airspace and that other theme parks or potential terrorism targets, such as downtown Chicago, didn't have similar zones.

In response, government attorneys mounted a strident defense of the Disney no-fly zones, saying terrorists could plow planes into crowds of tourists, drop bombs on them, or spray them with chemical or biological agents.

"No building or wall protects bare flesh from the impact of even a small plane. No window or duct tape protects lungs from the invasion of airborne chemicals or germs," wrote two federal attorneys, one from the Justice Department in Washington and the other an assistant U.S. attorney in Florida. Disney's place in the American psyche, they argued, warranted the three-mile protective space.

A federal judge threw out the Family Policy Network's arguments, writing that combating terrorism required "unquestioning adherence" to Congress' action.

More than a decade later, the attorney who fought the Disney no-fly zone, Steve Crampton, chuckled when he was reminded of the government's arguments. "Reading it now, it's kind of a 'you've got to be kidding me, right?' reaction. Give me a break," said Crampton, chief counsel for the American Center for Constitutional Rights.

"In the past 10, 12 years since those cases were argued, we've seen no further terrorist attacks of the type that took place at the World Trade Center and no real threat in these fly-over zones. I would say, today, that the case for protecting Disney is even weaker than it was when we argued those cases," Crampton said.

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Twelve Favorite Holiday-Themed Gifts From Disney Parks

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Now that the holidays have returned to Disney Parks, I wanted to share my 12 favorite holiday-themed gifts from Disney Theme Park Merchandise.

  1. Disney Character Nutcrackers – We’ve carried Disney character nutcrackers for a few years at Disney Parks. This year, we introduced some new sizes for figures, ranging from 5-inches to 36-inches.
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  1. Holiday Sweater T-Shirts – Building on the success from last year’s sweater T-shirts, the softlines team has four new designs including one inspired by characters and icons from “Star Wars.”
  2. Retail MagicBands and Accessories – If you are visiting Walt Disney World Resort this holiday season, look for holiday retail MagicBands and accessories such as MagicBandits. The Olaf MagicBand has an edition size of 4,000 while the Mickey and Minnie Mouse MagicBand is a limited release item. Guests must present one of the following for the MagicBand to be linked to at the time of purchase: valid theme park admission, Memory Maker card or an active MagicBand.

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  1. Disney Pins For the Holidays – Disney pins make a great stocking stuffers. This year, I love the Disney Resort snowflake pins which will be released at each Disney Resort Hotel at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts starting November 13.
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  1. Disney Ear Hat – Celebrate the season with this Disney ear hat complete with festive, fuzzy plush ears and glittering polka dots.
  2. Disney Gift Card Holders – Disney Gift Cards make great gifts and wrapping them is even easier with these two gift card holders.
  3. Spaceship Earth-Inspired Mickey Ornament – The seasonal team released several Mickey Mouse icon ornaments this year including one that looks like Spaceship Earth in Epcot. Hooray for Christmas Future!
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  1. Disney Parks Christmas Train Set – I’ve loved trains since I was a little boy. This Disney Parks Christmas train set is pretty amazing as it includes a locomotive, four train cars with animated character surprises, plus over 20 feet of track!
  2. Wayne and Lanny Plush Set – In recent years, I’ve enjoyed watching the adventures of Wayne and Lanny in Disney’s “Prep and Landing” during the holiday season. Now, they are plush set.

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  1. D-Tech on Demand Holiday Cases – D-Tech on Demand, my favorite boutique inside the Marketplace Co-Op at Downtown Disney Marketplace, will have new holiday designs. Guests can create custom and personalized cases for iPhone 4/4S, iPhone 5/5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy SIII and Samsung Galaxy S4. Look for cases for iPhone 6+ and Samsung Galaxy S5 later in November.
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  1. Holiday Apparel – I already mentioned the awesome holiday sweater T-shirts but I also liked these two items. The pajamas were inspired by the retro-looking Holidays For Your Home collection.
  2. Countdown to Christmas Calendar – Milk chocolate every day until December 25. Sold!

Find these items and more in select merchandise locations at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. You can also find select items on online at DisneyStore.com/Holiday.

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New hurdle for families in Disney autism lawsuit

Orlando Sentinel - group of families suing Walt Disney Parks and Resorts over its new policies for people with disabilities, such as autism, has suffered a setback.

The plaintiffs must file individual lawsuits, a federal judge has ruled.

The lawsuits was moved to Orlando federal court recently from California. Judge Anne Conway said late last month the plaintiffs' claims are too diverse to handle in one lawsuit.

"The developmentally disabled Plaintiffs face differing cognitive impairments — ADHD, autism, Down syndrome, etc. — and their symptoms manifest in different ways and in response to different stimuli," Conway wrote. "Some of the families appear to own Disney annual passes, and encounter (the new policy) frequently, while others claim to have visited a Disney park on only one occasion. The common law allegations are similarly diverse: some families bought one-time-use tickets, sustaining economic damages of only a few hundred dollars, while other families own Disney time shares or annual passes, or spent thousands of dollars on a Disney vacation. Some Plaintiffs visited Disneyland, in California, while most visited Disney World, in Orlando."

The original lawsuit had 26 plaintiffs from 14 families. Thirteen of the families can file individual lawsuits by Nov. 21, Conway ruled. The attorney representing the families, Andy Dogali, wanted to add dozens more plaintiffs. They all must file individually as well.

The suit alleges that Disney's Disability Access Service, which began in 2013, discriminates against autistic children because it no longer allows them to go to the front of lines. It gives them a return time instead.

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