DISNEY DEVELOPING LIVE-ACTION 'MULAN'
 

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Monday March 30, 2015
Disney developing live-action 'Mulan'
Disney Awards $4.5 million to Benefit Central Florida Community Groups
Meet Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch - Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron
Discover With Me: Pau Hana Room at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Name Revealed for Baby Rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney developing live-action 'Mulan'

CNN - On the heels of the magical success of Disney's live-action "Cinderella," the studio is eyeing another live-action retelling: "Mulan."

Disney bought a script by writing team Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek that centers on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, the female warrior who was the main character in Disney's 1998 animated film.

Chris Bender and J.C. Spink ("We're the Millers) are producing the new project.

The 1998 film, directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook, followed a young woman who disguises herself as a man so she can take her father's place in the army and go to war. With the help of her trusty dragon sidekick Mushu, she becomes a skilled warrior and, eventually, one of the country's greatest heroines. It earned $304.3 million worldwide, earned Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations and resulted in a 2005 direct-to-DVD sequel, "Mulan II."

Disney has been on a roll with its live-action versions of its classic animated films. "Cinderella," starring Lily James, has earned $336.2 million worldwide to date since hitting theaters three weeks ago. In 2010, the reimagined "Alice in Wonderland" grossed a staggering $1.02 billion and when "Maleficent," starring Angelina Jolie as the iconic villainess, opened in May 2014, it went on to earn a stunning $758.4 million worldwide.

Disney is also making a live-action retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Audra McDonald just joined the cast of the project, which will be directed by Bill Condon. It hits theaters on March 17, 2017. And in 2016 Disney will release a new version of "The Jungle Book" and the sequel to"Alice in Wonderland." Finally, a live-action version of "Dumbo," which will be helmed by Tim Burton, is also in the works.

Best bad guys: The scariest Disney villains

Writing team Martin and Hynek met in high school, among other projects, have written for the Know Theatre of Cincinnati and rewrote a script for Amazon Studios.

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Disney Awards $4.5 million to Benefit Central Florida Community Groups

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DisneyParks Blog - Disney’s “Giving Side” hit a high note in Central Florida today as we awarded more than $4.5 million in Disney Grants that will positively impact the lives of more than 250,000 local children and their families. During a special ceremony this morning that culminated with a blast of confetti, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse helped recognize 102 community groups that strengthen families, bring hope and comfort to children, encourage creativity, promote economic development and meet the needs of diverse communities.

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Taking the stage at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort President George A. Kalogridis and Walt Disney World Resort Director of Corporate Citizenship Nancy Gidusko announced the organizations receiving Disney Grants. The grant recipients, who enjoyed a serenade of hope-filled songs by Disney performers, each received a special “Mousecar” to commemorate Disney’s support.

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Disney also presented the Bob Allen Award — an annual honor that recognizes the creativity and outstanding service of a Central Florida charitable organization — to the Community Hope Center of Osceola County. The nonprofit will use the grant to continue serving local homeless families through case management, life skills training and living essentials.

 Disney Awards $4.5 million to Benefit  Central Florida Community Groups Disney Awards $4.5 million to Benefit  Central Florida Community Groups

From a personal perspective, it warms my heart to know Disney has supported the work of Central Florida’s community groups for more than four decades. Each year, I look forward to the Disney Grants announcement, which gives us the chance to put the spotlight on these dedicated organizations … and all the ways they’re making our community even better.

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Meet Quicksilver & the Scarlet Witch - Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron

Disney News - Stars Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson introduce you to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in a new featurette for Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron"! See them in action when the movie hits theaters May 1.

 

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Discover With Me: Pau Hana Room at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

DisneyParks Blog - Just in time for spring break, the “Discover with Me” series continues with the Pau Hana Room at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa! I enjoy this series because it allows Disney readers to meet cast members from around the resort who will answer guests’ most frequently asked questions. It also provides an insider’s perspective on how to make the most of your vacation to Aulani. Today, meet Tori in the video below and learn what makes the Pau Hana Room a must-see visit during your vacation to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.

 

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Name Revealed for Baby Rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

DisneyParks Blog - Just a few weeks ago, we asked you to help us name the newest female baby rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You spread the message far and wide and over the past week thousands of votes poured in.

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While my vote was for ‘Alora’, I’m excited to announce that the winning name is Kiama! It was the overwhelming majority with more than half of the votes.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the comments section. Some of you shared that you were excited to hear about our conservation work with rhinos and other species around the world. We also learned that many from the city of Kiama in New South Wales, Australia, were excited to see the name of their town as an option. (While I’ve never been to this city in person, after looking at a few photos online, I’d love to visit).

This precious girl will continue to bond and grow with her mom backstage for a few more months, but stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for updates and more information as we near her on-stage debut.

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Sunday March 29, 2015
No News Updates Today

Saturday March 28, 2015
No News Updates Today

Friday March 27, 2015
Much-Anticipated Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Opens at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Jedi Knight and TIE-fighter Pilot D-Tech Me Figures Premiere at Star Wars Weekends Starting May 15, 2015
Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Pins Will Dazzle You

Much-Anticipated Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Opens at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

DisneyParks Blog - Enthusiastic fans of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel are celebrating the soft opening March 28 of the East Coast version. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is located off the main lobby of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort; the adjacent Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace offers views of the marina and Seven Seas Lagoon. Official opening is set for late April, when the coveted Tiki souvenir glassware arrives. (Tiki fans go bananas for the collectible mugs.) As soon as the official date is set we will let you know.

 
 

Founded by Adventureland’s famous “head” salesman, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto has some similarities to the Anaheim original. But at Walt Disney World Resort, the magical theming reflects its new resort location. This enchanted South Seas hideaway welcomes guests to explore a menu of “magical tropical drinks and food,” and while this new version shares a few cocktails and small plates, Beverage Manager Brad Ward, Chef Lenny DeGeorge, and the Concept Development team have created new menu items just for the Walt Disney World Resort Trader Sam’s.

The famous Trader Sam cocktails, available in Disney collectible Tiki mugs, are a mix of old and new. We won’t share ingredients, but the names might give away the concoctions.

 

Only at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto:

  • Polynesian Pearl
  • Nautilus
  • Castaway Crush
  • Tahitian Torch
  • Dark & Tropical Stormy

Favorites imported from Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar:

  • Krakatoa Punch
  • Uh-Oa!
  • HippopotoMai-Tai
  • Shrunken Zombie Head

And there are Sam’s No-Booze Brews:

  • Schweitzer Fall
  • Skipper Sipper
  • Polynesian Punch

 
 

Small bites are on the menu, with a couple inspired by the Disneyland Trader Sam’s menu – the chicken lettuce cups with hoisin ginger sauce and the Hawaiian poke with Sriracha aioli and wonton chips. New to the Walt Disney World Resort menu are kalua pork tacos with shredded cabbage and pickled vegetables; pan-fried dumplings with soy-sesame dipping sauce; roasted chicken and pork pâté bánh mì sliders with pickled vegetables; salmon oshizushi (press sushi); corn-battered Portuguese sausages with curry ketchup and a Headhunter Sushi Roll.
 
 

The lounge has 50 seats inside and 82 on the patio. No reservations are required.

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Jedi Knight and TIE-fighter Pilot D-Tech Me Figures Premiere at Star Wars Weekends Starting May 15, 2015

DisneyParks Blog - I’m excited to announce that two new D-Tech Me figurines – a Jedi Knight and a TIE-Fighter pilot – are premiering at Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year.

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First introduced in May 2012, Star Wars – D-Tech Me is a 10-minute experience that uses the world’s highest-resolution, single-shot 3D face scanner created by Imagineering scientists with Disney Research labs. The captured image is later sent to a high resolution 3D printer to create the figurine. This year, the experience will be located inside Darth’s Mall, near Streets of America across from Studio Catering Company.

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In addition to the new figurines, we will again offer the Carbon-Freeze Me figurine, Alderaan Princess figurine, and male and female options for Stormtrooper and X-Wing pilot figurines.

For children, the Carbon-Freeze Me and Alderaan Princess figurines will be available in more youthful appearances.

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The Star Wars – D-Tech Me 7-inch figurines are $119.95 each, plus shipping and applicable sales tax. For 16-inch figurines, retail is $999.95 each, plus shipping and applicable sales tax. All participants will receive a specially designed button.

Completed figurines will arrive within 6-8 weeks after the experience if shipping domestically (it takes a little longer if shipping internationally).

Guests can book their experience by calling 407-WDW-TECH (407-939-8324) starting March 26. We will only offer the experience during Star Wars Weekends 2015 (May 15 – 17, May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7, and June 12-14). Guests attending the Galactic Gathering event on May 14 will be some of the first individuals to experience Star Wars – D-Tech Me this year.

Please note: Separate theme park admission required for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. No discounts apply unless otherwise noted. Guests must be at least three (3) years of age to participate in the Star Wars D-Tech Me experience. Children must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age or older during the entire experience. A valid accepted credit card number is required at time of booking. No-shows or reservation cancellations within 48 hours of scheduled experience will result in such credit card being charged a $25 cancellation fee. The experience, due to its personalized nature, is non-refundable and not eligible for an exchange. Certain restrictions may apply. All prices, components and information are subject to change without notice.

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Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Pins Will Dazzle You

DisneyParks Blog - You just had an incredible first look at the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration merchandise coming this May, and here are a hundred more reasons – as there are more than 100 pins (yes, you read that correctly) being released during the celebration.

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Looking to start your very own Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration pin collection? Pin enthusiasts, collectors and traders will find dazzling new starter sets, trading accessories (lanyards, lanyard medals, a lanyard pouch, trading bag), mystery packs, collector’s packs as well as open and limited edition pins, boxed sets, framed sets and more. My own personal tip for you, make sure you get at least one of the Mickey Mouse ‘60’ logo pins.

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Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders, be sure to keep an eye out for a special series of pins created just for you. These dazzling diamond shaped pins will release bi-monthly, beginning in May and feature stained glass and a hinge that opens to reveal beloved characters and attractions. Also available will be a Disneyland Resort Diamond Collection Mickey Mouse pin and lanyard medal. Tip: Remember you must present your valid Disneyland Resort Annual Passport or Premier Pass and photo I.D. at time of purchase.

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Looking for a fun night at home? Invite your friends over for game night and surprise them by playing the Pin Trading Board Game, which takes you along the Pixie Dust Path as you celebrate attractions, films and the magic of the Disneyland Resort. The limited edition pin trading board game comes complete with game token pins/markers (Mickey Mouse, Aurora and the Genie) and a spinner. But you can always add more sparkle to your collection with an additional token set and completer pins. Game on!

That’s all I can share, for now, but there is definitely more headed your way.

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Thursday March 26, 2015
Exclusive Sneak Peek of Disney’s ‘Tomorrowland’ Coming to Disney Parks in April
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, SMS Audio form strategic alliance

'Fancy Nancy’ Set to Become Disney Junior Movie, TV Series
Is Bob Iger Playing It Safe by Keeping Disney in the Fairy-Tale Space?

Exclusive Sneak Peek of Disney’s ‘Tomorrowland’ Coming to Disney Parks in April

DisneyParks Blog - What if there was a place … a secret place where nothing is impossible?

You wanna go? Well, soon you can, when Disney’s riveting mystery adventure “Tomorrowland” makes its debut in theaters. In the meantime, visitors to Tomorrowland at the Disneyland Resort and Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort can catch an exclusive preview of scenes from the movie.

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For a limited time, a sneak peek of “Tomorrowland” will be presented with special in-theater effects at the Imagination Pavilion theater at Epcot and the Tomorrowland Theater at Disneyland park. And at Disneyland, you will also discover an exhibit inspired by the movie, featuring production artwork and props used in the “Tomorrowland” film.

Directed by Oscar® winner Brad Bird and starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney, “Tomorrowland” tells the story of a jaded scientist and an optimistic teen who embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space. “Tomorrowland” features a screenplay by “Lost” writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, from a story by Lindelof & Bird & Jeff Jensen.

The Disney Parks-exclusive “Tomorrowland” sneak peek begins in mid-April at Epcot and Disneyland park. With every second that ticks by, the future is running out, so be sure to take advantage of this special opportunity before “Tomorrowland” opens in theaters on May 22, 2015.

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Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, SMS Audio form strategic alliance

Orlando Business Journal - Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Delray Beach-based SMS Audio LLC have formed a multi-year alliance in which SMS becomes the official headphones of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Disneyland Resort in California.

The financial terms of the alliance were not disclosed.

SMS Audio products, including its Star Wars First Edition SMS Audio headphones, now are available for purchase at select locations throughout Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort.

"Establishing an alliance with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts is consistent with our strategic goal to build SMS Audio into a premiere global audio brand," said Brian M. Nohe, president of SMS Audio. "We look forward to building upon this alliance even further."

As part of the agreement, SMS Audio also will be a sponsor of the Star Tours — The Adventures Continue attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The company's products will be featured at the park’s annual Star Wars Weekends, which attracts thousands to the Central Florida region.

In addition, SMS Audio will be a sponsor of the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend and Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, both at Disneyland Resort.

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‘Fancy Nancy’ Set to Become Disney Junior Movie, TV Series

Variety - “Fancy Nancy” is about to step up her game in a wide-ranging deal with Disney.

Disney Junior has cut a deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books for rights to the hugely successful book series about a plucky little girl who likes to be “fancy” in all aspects of her life. Disney Junior plans an animated telepic and series adaptation, targeted to premiere in 2017. The pact also calls for a host of merchandising tie-ins to be handled by Disney’s formidable consumer products operation.

“Fancy Nancy,” created by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser, has spawned more than 60 books that have sold some 28 million copies. The property has been chased for film and TV adaptations in the past. Shawn Levy and 20th Century Fox had been developing a “Fancy Nancy” feature, with Tina Fey also attached to produce, but the project is no longer active.

Disney Junior chief Nancy Kanter and HarperCollins Children’s Books president-publisher Susan Katz unveiled the deal on Friday. Katz noted that “Fancy Nancy” is marking its 10th anniversary this year.

“We are very eager to give her an even bigger stage on which to perform,” Kanter said.

Creators O’Connor and Preiss Glasser said Disney was a natural partner for the property aimed at kids 2-7, which aims to emphasize the importance of self-expression.

“This is definitely one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. When Robin and I met Nancy Kanter and her team, we knew instantly that Disney Junior was the plus-perfect home for ‘Fancy Nancy,’ ” said O’Connor.

Added Preiss Glasser: “After the thrill of seeing my two-dimensional drawings of Nancy and her ‘world’ come alive in spin-off musicals and ballets, the opportunity to see her animated by Disney is a dream I never would have dared to dream.”

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Is Bob Iger Playing It Safe by Keeping Disney in the Fairy-Tale Space?

Variety - Neuroscientists report that the brains of some lucky people can produce higher levels of a feel-good molecule called anandamide. The upshot: a blissed-out state for those who inherit this delicious genetic mutation.

I think Bob Iger is one of the lucky few. Look at life in Igerville: “Cinderella” is a smash, “Big Hero 6” has grossed more than $630 million globally, and a sequel to “Frozen” will soon go into production, as will a stream of “Star Wars” sequels.

Candidly, good news from Disney is becoming a yawn. I miss the company’s glory years when Jeffrey Katzenberg was suing Michael Eisner, and shareholders were suing the Disney board for approving a $140 million severance package for Michael Ovitz, who’d been fired as CEO after less than two years on the job. It took author and journalist James B. Stewart 572 pages to pull together all the combat for his 2005 book “Disney War.”

These days Disney War has become Disney Love. Wall Street venerates Iger for shelling out $15.4 billion to acquire Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel — deals initially criticized as “too rich.” Disney’s new world order consists of superheroes and fairy tales.

Why invest in live-action gambles like “John Carter” or “The Lone Ranger” when a mere $100 million can resuscitate a foolproof property like “Cinderella” — one that has been regularly recycled since George Melies’ version in 1899? How can you lose with “Frozen 2,” when its first iteration grossed $1.27 billion worldwide?

To be sure, a studio cannot sustain itself solely on remakes and sequels. Even old Walt himself expressed disdain for the latter. And Disney production chief Sean Bailey stresses that he’ll continue to foster two or three movies that he (unfortunately) calls “brand deposits” — lower-budget pictures that will hopefully embellish the Disney name, and may create a new cycle of sequels.

Perhaps the “Star Wars” sequels represent “brand deposits” as well. “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” arrives in December. The next, “Episode VIII — Rogue One,” is considered the franchise’s first true spinoff, and will be released May 26, 2017. Disney executives, not surprisingly, are far more eager to talk about the “Star Wars” product (and Pixar’s two originals — June’s “Inside Out” and November’s “The Good Dinosaur”) than the two remaining megabudget shoots that are also on the assembly line — a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie and “Tomorrowland,” a brand known only to theme park regulars.

These latter two films represent enormous investments of as much as $400 million, so it’s easy to see why Disney feels far more comfortable in Fantasyland than in Tomorrowland. “Fairy-tale space is our arena,” Bailey told the Wall Street Journal recently. And “Cinderella” represents as safe an occupant of that space as one can imagine.

While Iger likes to gamble big on acquisitions and play it safe on product, his company is so vast that he cannot totally avoid the world of risk. His multibillion-dollar gamble on a theme park in Shanghai continues to stretch out in terms of schedule and cost.

And then there’s the issue of the Disney image. How big is too big? How pervasive can the company’s product become before the inevitable resentment sets in? And how expensive can that product become, and still be affordable to consumers? With Disneyland prices jumping yet again this month, parents will need a surge of anandamide to survive the damage. And Iger has first dibs on that stuff.

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Wednesday March 25, 2015
New Menu to Debut at Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Is Disney opening a boozy, jungle-themed restaurant?
Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event Details Revealed
Can Disney Get Away With a $20 Cronut?
Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care
What Will Drive Growth For Disney's U.S. Resort Operations?
Art In The Garden Returns to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 27-29, 2015
Disney Magical Express contractor files layoff notice for 204
Loki brings mischief to 'Disney Infinity'
Disney Cruise Line to Sail First-Ever British Isles Cruise in 2016

New Menu to Debut at Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

DisneyParks Blog - Guests of Disney’s Hollywood Studios will want to “take five” at Studio Catering Company to check out the tasty new menu.
 
 New Deli Sandwich at Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios New Braised Pulled Brisket Sandwich at Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The first new entrée is a braised pulled brisket sandwich with Munster cheese, arugula, and a creamy horseradish. If you are looking for a hearty sandwich to keep you full between takes (or attractions), try the Deli Sandwich with ham, salami, pepperoni, Provolone cheese, creamy pesto spread, pepper relish and Balsamic glaze.

 New Vegetable Wrap at Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios New Panini at Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Guests looking for lighter fare will love the vegetable wrap with garlic herb spread. My favorite of the new entrees? The Panini with turkey, Swiss, Provolone and honey mustard with tomato basil soup.

There are also two new sides available, in addition to French fries and apple slices, guests will also have the choice of house-made chips and tomato basil soup.

These entrees join other new menu items throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner recently added gourmet macaroni and cheese—one featuring buffalo chicken and crumbled blue cheese and the other featuring barbecued pulled pork and crispy onions to the menu. The barbecued pulled pork wedge salad with bacon, roasted corn tomato salsa, crispy tortilla strips, cheddar, and jalapeño ranch dressing at Fairfax Fare is also not to be missed.

That’s a wrap!

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Is Disney opening a boozy, jungle-themed restaurant?

Fox News - Adult visitors to Disney World may soon have another place to let loose in the Magic Kingdom.

A new eatery with jungle themed décor is set to take over the space previously occupied by the Adventureland Verandah.

While rumors of a new restaurant have been making the fan blog rounds, Disney just recently  filed a new permit confirming its new intention for the seasonally used space. Located near Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride, the eatery may operate as a continuation of the ride experience—with fictional boat operators acting as servers on the side.

The restaurant is tentatively called “Skipper’s Cantina” and will likely feature counter service for lunch and table service for dinner—similar to the “Beauty and the Beast”-themed Be Our Guest Tavern. Currently, Be Our Guest is the only dining establishment in the Magic Kingdom that serves alcohol, prompting many to wonder if Skipper’s will also be offering adult diners the chance to indulge a Mai Tai or two.

But a tropical restaurant is not the only new food offering in the Orlando park’s arsenal. Downtown Disney now has a food truck park and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto is planning to open a two-story, pan-Asian dim sum eatery this summer.  

The new jungle-themed restaurant could be as open as early as November 2015.

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Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event Details Revealed

DisneyParks Blog - Great news, Disney fans! The merchandise event team just revealed details about their special Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration kick-off event taking place May 20-21, 2015. What will it entail? Shopping, seminars and entertainment are in the mix, but here’s the breakdown on everything else.

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Diamond Package – $100

Event admission includes panel discussion, signings and other entertainment and activities as follows:

  • Merchandise Pick-up & Event Store Shopping
  • Merchandise Artists & Authors Signings
  • Silent Auction
  • Trading Area
  • Entertainment/Panel Discussion – “Disneyland Dreamers & Doers” with Mouseketeers Bobby Burgess and Sherry Van Meter, among others

Other event offerings include:

  • ONE (1) Commemorative Disney PhotoPass Digital Download
  • TWO (2) Commemorative Gifts
  • First opportunity to pre-purchase select Diamond Celebration-themed merchandise via the Random Selection Process. View Merchandise Catalog here.

Tickets for the Diamond Package are $100 per person and are limited to availability. No discounts apply.

Reservations for the Diamond Celebration Merchandise Event will be accepted only via DisneyParksMerchandise.com beginning Thursday, March 26, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific Time). Tip: Only one (1) Guest per reservation is allowed. It will be necessary for each Guest to register individually.

So join us as we reminisce amongst friends, share cherished memories of the first 60 years and look forward to the next dazzling decades of our beloved Resort.

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Can Disney Get Away With a $20 Cronut?

Daily Finance - It's been 13 years since "The Simpsons" poked fun of Disney's (DIS) in-park pricing. Homer Simpson scaled the Disneyland wall, only to find that a churro would set him back $14. It was all in good fun: A Disneyland churro was just $3 at the time. However, we've finally hit the point where the family entertainment giant may be trying to charge $20 for a cronut at its most popular theme park, and Homer Simpson is nowhere in sight.

Disney began serving breakfast over the weekend at Be Our Guest Restaurant, the Magic Kingdom eatery themed to "Beauty and the Beast" with three richly detailed dining rooms. The meals are all priced at $19.99 for adults, and one of the entrees just happens to be the flaky croissant doughnut confection that was created two years ago at New York City's Dominique Ansel Bakery.

To be fair, it's more than just a croissant doughnut. The fried delicacy is topped with banana caramel sauce, pastry creme and chocolate ganache. The stiff $19.99 price also includes a breakfast beverage of choice and a plate of assorted pastries shared at the table.

However, at the end of the day, you know how this is going to play out. The court of public opinion will overlook the cronut artisan toppings and included extras. It will be all about the Mickey Mouse company trying to collect a nearly $20 ransom for a cronut, adding to the lore that will seem more real than Homer Simpson's $14 churro.

Captive Audience

Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida also made waves in pricing news last month when it boosted the price of its one-day ticket to $105, up from $99. It became Disney's first U.S. theme park to charge more than $100 for a single-day admission.

One would argue that Disney's pricing -- whether we're talking about dolled-up croissant doughnuts or just the cost to enter a park -- has gotten out of hand. However, success has a funny way of silencing the folks shaking their heads.

Disney doesn't break out attendance counts at its theme parks, but that doesn't stop third-party researchers from doing exactly that. Themed Entertainment Association's estimates find that attendance at Disney's Magic Kingdom rose 6 percent in 2013 to 18.6 million, making it the most visited theme park on the planet.

It's a safe bet that last year was even better. Disney bragged about record results at its Florida properties through 2014, and revenue at the media mogul's theme parks division posted a 9 percent year-over-year increase in its latest quarter. With the economy humming along and gas prices low, there's no reason that 2015 shouldn't be another record-breaking year for Disney World.

Try the Gray Stuff, It's Delicious

A big reason for the recent spike in attendance at the Magic Kingdom is the park's expansion. The gated attraction's New Fantasyland area opened two years ago, complete with a couple of new rides and themed experiences.

A major part of the buildout is the Be Our Guest Restaurant. It has proven immensely popular, and not just because it's the only place in the park that serves alcohol (during the dinner seating). The lines are long for lunch, and the reservations-only dinner offering typically has to be booked months in advance unless someone lucks into a cancellation. Opening the eatery earlier in the day as Disney started doing this past weekend to entertain breakfast-hungry guests is a no-brainer. More people will get to experience the unique restaurant.

The media will gravitate to the hefty prices. Folks will argue that Disney has finally gone too far and that guests won't pay $20 for a croissant-doughnut served with a beverage and a sampling of breakfast pastries. However, guests will, just as they continue to come despite the annual admission price increases. Disney usually knows what it's doing, and that's why the country's most expensive traditional theme park is also the most visited. Be our guest, indeed.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

DisneyParks Blog - I am honored to announce that Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge were granted official accreditation once again by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The AZA accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards in animal management and care. Late last year, we hosted an AZA inspection team who assessed everything from the enrichment our animals receive (that stimulates their natural behaviors and provides them variety in their daily routines), to our veterinary program, our conservation and research and education programs, as well as our safety policies and procedures, security, physical facilities, guest services and the experience and quality of our staff. They look at everything from each part of the operation not only in animal care but from food and beverage to merchandise. It’s quite the process!

 Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

After this review, the AZA Accreditation Commission deliberated and shared their decision to accredit Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge this past Sunday.

Being accredited allows us to create and continue to nurture our relationships with other accredited organizations to work toward a common goal of conservation and saving species.

Here are some of the wonderful and humbling comments AZA left with us:

  • “The level and commitment to animal care sets the gold standard for our community. Veterinary, nutrition, training, browse program and enrichment programs are state of the art.”
     
 Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are Committed 'Gold Standard' Care Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are Committed 'Gold Standard' Care
  • “The keeper staff is professional, passionate and engaged.”
  • “Overall safety culture is extraordinarily strong across the organization, and staff training exceeds all expectations.”
  • “Disney’s Animal Kingdom staff has been successful in making conservation a key value of The Walt Disney Company. The current positive impact and future potential of this change cannot be overstated.”
  • “New interpretive programs, including Wilderness [Explorers] and Wild Africa Trek, add both breadth and depth to program offerings.”
     
 Wilderness Explorers at Disney's Animal Kingdom Wilderness Explorers at Disney's Animal Kingdom

They also recognized the amazing amount of work going on with our upcoming expansion and praised our efforts to maintain a strong focus on animals, nature and conservation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

 Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care Wildlife Wednesday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Set ‘Gold Standard’ for Animal Care

Renewing our accreditation also speaks to the importance we place on connecting kids and nature. Both the park and resort provide a quality experience to learn about animal and conservation in a fun, engaging environment.

Congratulations to the Cast of Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge once again.

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What Will Drive Growth For Disney's U.S. Resort Operations?

Forbes - Disney’s U.S. resort operations have been trending well for the past few years. The company currently offers around 31,000 guest rooms in its U.S. theme parks. Hotel operations primarily depend on two factors, occupancy rate and average per room spending. Disney has seen a steady growth in room spending over the past few years led by a better macro-economic environment and development of new rides at its theme parks. However, the occupancy rates have declined since the recessionary period. While we expect the occupancy levels to stabilize around the current levels, room spending will continue to grow at a steady pace in the coming years. On that note, we discuss below the trends in Disney’s hotel operations and what will drive its growth in the coming years.

We estimate revenues of around $52.65 billion for Disney in 2015 and EPS of $4.90, which is in line with the market consensus of $4.46-$5.08, compiled by Thomson Reuters. We currently have a $105 price estimate for Disney’s shares, which is close to the current market price.

Disney currently offers more than 31,000 rooms or 10 million room nights annually in the U.S. The room revenues for Disney’s hotel properties have been on an uptrend over the past few years, increasing from a little over $1.80 billion in 2010 to $2.50 billion in 2014. This can largely be attributed to a steady growth in average room spending, which increased from $227 to $283 during the same period. However, occupancy rates have declined since the recessionary period and are still below the pre-recession levels. The figure was around 90% in 2007 and it stood at 85% in 2014. Going forward, we expect the occupancy rates to stabilize around the current levels and room spend to grow to around $400 levels by the end of our forecast period. This will translate into hotel revenues $3.50 billion and an estimated EBITDA margin of 34% for Disney’s hotel and parks will translate into EBITDA of $1.20 billion, representing around 5% of the company-wide EBITDA. The contribution will be slightly higher if we include Disney’s international hotel operations.

Growth In Theme Parks Attendance Will Drive The Demand For Disney’s Hotels

One of the most important drivers for Disney’s hotel operations remains its theme parks. Disney is the largest theme park operator in the world, attracting over 132 million visitors in 2013. The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida remains the most visited theme park in the world with 18.6 million visits in 2013, representing year-over-year growth of 6%, according to the latest data available with the Themed Entertainment Association.

The attendance at Disney’s U.S. theme parks has also been on an uptrend and went up from 70 million in 2009 to 77 million in 2014. This growth was driven by an improvement in the U.S. economy and Disney’s investment in new attractions within its resorts. We believe these factors will continue to drive visitation in the coming years. The company is currently developing Avatar Land based on the hit movie Avatar at the Animal Kingdom park. It will also bring Star Wars and Frozen attractions into its theme parks. The new rides and development help attract repeat visitation to the theme park. Given these trends, we estimate the attendance will grow to 80 million in 2015 and over 100 million by the end of our forecast period. The attendance growth at the theme park will also drive the demand for Disney’s hotels located in these theme parks.

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Art In The Garden Returns to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 27-29, 2015

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DisneyParks Blog - I’m happy to announce the return of Art in The Garden to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. This annual artist showcase will be held from March 27-29 in several areas throughout World Showcase. Here is a brief listing of which artists will be featured during this year’s event.

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Guests can meet David Doss and Greg McCullough on the World Showcase Promenade from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day. David will release one of his newest images featuring Olaf enjoying summer, while Greg will have artwork featuring Winnie the Pooh and Friends.

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In the Puffin’s Roost at Norway Pavilion, guests can meet Larry Dotson from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. each day. I love his artwork featuring the Stave Church from the World Showcase Pavilion.

Artist Reinhard Herzog will be in Glas Und Porzellan at Germany Pavilion from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day. Known for creating amazing glass-blown keepsakes, Reinhard will release two new ornaments that resemble a bride and groom. He will also have other glass-blown items available for personalization during the event.

Finally, while not art related, I encourage you to attend the free cooking demonstrations held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Port of Entry at the entrance to World Showcase. The 15-minute demos begin at 3:00 p.m. each day and offer guests an opportunity to meet a Disney chef.

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Disney Magical Express contractor files layoff notice for 204

Orlando Sentinel - About 200 contractor employees that run Disney’s Magical Express are facing transition as a new company takes over the contract on June 1.

Orlando-based Bags Inc. won a new contract with Disney in competitive bidding recently, displacing Aircraft Service International Group.

The Magical Express service provides motorcoach and baggage transport from Orlando International Airport to Disney hotels and resorts.

According to sources close to the situation, it’s expected that Bags Inc. will rehire most or all of ASIG's former employees, but neither company commented on details of the plan on Wednesday. ASIG filed a notice with the state of intent to lay off 204 employees by the end of May.The layoffs are related to transportation and warehousing at 6190 Cargo Road.

The express service itself has been in big demand lately. In 2014, the Sentinel reported that traffic aboard the express service rose 3.3 percent in 2013, the biggest jump in five years. That was nearly 2.3 million passengers from OIA in 2013, about 73,000 more than the bus service transported in 2012.

The service is more likely to be used by travelers on a tight budget, who are more likely to forgo renting a car in favor of riding Disney's buses.

A spokeswoman for Disney Cruise Line said the company declined to comment on the new contract. Attempts to reach ASIG for comment were not successful. A spokesman for Bags Inc. confirmed that the company was assuming the new contract, but declined to comment on how many ASIG employees would be rehired.

Bags Inc., founded in 2009 by CEO Craig Mateer, has grown rapidly. The company says it now operates in about 250 U.S cities, with 1,000 employees, and handles more than 5 million checked bags annually. It provides valet service for travelers, delivering luggage to homes or businesses within 100 miles of an airport, at a rate of $29 per bag or $39 for two bags.

Bags Inc. headquarters is in South Orange County near the intersection of Interstate 4 and State Road 528 (Beachline Expressway), at 6751 Forum Drive.

According to ASIG’s website, that company provides services at 89 airports in North and Central American, Europe and Asia. It is an affiliate of London-based BBA Aviation, which also has an office in downtown Orlando.

Reservations for Disney's Magical Express are made with booking agents for Walt Disney World hotel reservations, or when booking Disney World hotels online.

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Loki brings mischief to 'Disney Infinity'

USA Today - Gamers can finally get their hands on everyone's favorite trickster god tomorrow.

Loki, Thor's brotherly nemesis and cinematic Avengers villain, is coming to Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes as a playable character — fans can buy the figure (Disney Interactive, $13.99) of the Marvel Comics icon as well as the high-flying Falcon, and then take them to their consoles to play in the Avengers-specific play set plus user-created and downloadable Toy Boxes.

As Disney Infinity moved to its 2.0 version last year and added Marvel characters to the line of Disney cartoon classics, fans asked for a clear differentiation between the characters and their moves, "and it's something we paid a lot of attention to and made them very special for both Loki and Falcon," says executive producer John Vignocchi.

Loki especially brings a lot of different moves to Infinity gameplay. His Chitauri scepter — familiar to anyone who saw Tom Hiddleston's villain start an alien invasion in The Avengers — allows him to shoot projectiles while on the ground or hovering, while his block move is quicker than other characters and creates a distortion effect that makes him hard to track.

The master of mischief also boasts a special move where he can become invisible and place decoys around him, which comes in handy during "capture the point" games.

"He's a pretty well-rounded character," Vignocchi says. "It'll take a different type of player to truly master him but once they do, I think they'll appreciate how powerful he is."

Infinity's design team worked closely with Marvel's chief creative officer Joe Quesada and others to come up with a Loki that was true to fans' vision of him from the comics and movies but with "distinctly an Infinity style," says Vignocchi.

Though he exudes sneakiness, the Loki figure's pose is different than one normally sees with the character. There were a couple reasons for that, Vignocchi says: Loki was originally designed to be interacting with the Frost Beast diorama that came with a PlayStation 4 collector's edition of Disney Infinity 2.0, plus the game company also had to take into account the Loki toy not breaking through the plastic on his pack.

"We have some huge characters and in some of the early pose explorations we did not only for the scepter but for his horns, they would actually be coming through the dimensions we had available," Vignocchi admits.

"I don't think people ever consider the fact that as we're designing these characters, making them fit into the packaging is also a key component."

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Disney Cruise Line to Sail First-Ever British Isles Cruise in 2016

DisneyParks Blog - Yesterday we revealed our 2016 summer sailings, announcing our first-ever British Isles cruise, plus ports of call in more than 15 European countries! In addition to the British Isles, our tour of Europe includes cruises in the Baltic, Norwegian Fjords, Iceland, Greek Isles and the Mediterranean. Pretty incredible, right?!

 Disney Cruise Line Charts New Course for British Isles

Our 12-night British Isles voyage on the Disney Magic departs from Dover, England, visiting destinations in Scotland, Ireland, France and England. I can’t possibly highlight all of the cool things you’ll experience on this cruise, but here’s a sampling:

  1. The majestic beauty, iconic castles and Highland culture of Scotland
  2. The merry, cosmopolitan city of Dublin, Ireland
  3. The culturally rich and romantic Paris, France
  4. The birthplace of the Beatles and the British Invasion in Liverpool, England
  5. The charming countryside of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands

Of course Europe isn’t the only awesome locale we’re taking you to in the summer of 2016. We’re also revisiting favorite destinations elsewhere around the globe including Alaska, the Caribbean and the Bahamas. In this video, Cruise Director Brent gives us a sneak peek at where you can sail with us next year …

For more details, check out the Itineraries and Ports for 2016 page of disneycruise.com, and get ready to book this Thursday!

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Tuesday March 24, 2015
A look inside Disney's Polynesian Village Bora Bora Bungalows

A look inside Disney's Polynesian Village Bora Bora Bungalows

DisneyParks Blog - When talking about the soon-to-open Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, the newest Disney Vacation Club property at Walt Disney World Resort, it’s hard not to gush on and on. These 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom over-the-water accommodations offer sleeping room for eight, a private deck complete with an individual plunge pool, a full kitchen, gorgeous décor, views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Magic Kingdom Park area, in-mirror television in the master bath, a washer and dryer in each unit, gated boardwalk access and other fun features. I really could go on and on (and on).

But they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and this is certainly one time I have to agree. And, thankfully, I don’t have just one picture to share with you today, I have many.

Let’s start with the boardwalk and front porch leading into a Bungalow. Notice the handcrafted wind chime.

 A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

Once inside, you’ll find two bedrooms, both offering Mary Blair-inspired bed throws. The second bedroom also offers a sleek surfboard headboard and a fun window seat that’s perfect for relaxing.

 A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

The master bedroom offers a door to the deck, where you’ll find these (oh so comfy) chairs. Plus, not only is the master bathroom gorgeous, it features an in-mirror television!

 A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

The living room offers furnishings with a mid-century modern flair. And the full kitchen comes complete with a table seating eight.

 A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

Oh yeah, and did I mention the plunge pool? You’ll be able to watch (and listen to the soundtrack thanks to the piped-in music) the Magic Kingdom Park fireworks from here.

 A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows A Look Inside the Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

I don’t want to give everything away, but I will leave you with a few more images highlighting just some of the fun touches that will be found throughout the Bungalows when they open next week.

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Monday March 23, 2015
Photo Progress of The Polynesian Village Resort at WDW
First Look at Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise
Information on Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Marvel Store Coming to Downtown Disney
Six-Course Dessert Experience at Remy on the Disney Fantasy

Photo Progress of The Polynesian Village Resort at WDW

Disney News - Below are several photos of the state of the Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World including the patio of Trade Sam's, The Main Themed Pool and the water features of the main entrance.

Trader Sam's Outdoor Patio
 
 
 
 
 
 

Main Themed Pool
 
 
 

The Water features on either side of the main entrance
 
 

As recently as This morning the tiki inside the lobby on top of the waterfall rock has been added.

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First Look at Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration Merchandise

DisneyParks Blog - We only have a few months to go before the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration begins. Is everyone as excited as I am? It was so tough to decide what to show you for a first look. So, I thought I would take you behind the scenes, into our Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration showroom, where you can see for yourselves some of the amazing items headed your way this May at the Disneyland Resort.

 

There’s so much more to see, so keep watching here for Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration merchandise updates. 

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Information on Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Disney News - Former Arcade turned to Popular Lounge, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, Opening Soon will serve Food and Drinks mostly specialty drinks and appetizers. 

Trader Sam's is expected to have Daily Hours of 4pm to midnight with Guests 21 and Over after 8pm. 

The line up of drinks includes 12 specialty cocktails, a rum flight, a variety of Beers and Wines and a Kona beer flight. Also 3 non-alcoholic drinks will be available. Most drinks will come in souvenir tiki glasses.

Foods will include pork tacos, chicken lettuce cups, Sushi Rolls, fried Portuguese sausage bites, dumplings with sesame soy dipping sauce, and tuna poke. No Word yet on the famous Fried Chinese Long Beans made popular at Trader Sam's in Disneyland. 

Available seating indoors will accommodate 50 Guests while the Outdoor Patio will have seating for 80 Guests.

There is no Advance Reservation for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

Tiki Lovers, Adventures and Pith Helmet Wearers Await the Grand Opening

 

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Marvel Store Coming to Downtown Disney

A Marvel Store will be Opening in Downtown Disney's West Side replacing The United World Soccer Store. The Disney Operated Store will be selling Marvel Merchandise.

An Opening Date has not yet been announced.

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Six-Course Dessert Experience at Remy on the Disney Fantasy

DisneyParks Blog - Okay dessert lovers, after you watch this next video, you’re going to be craving something sweet. Disney Parks Blog author Salah talks all about our new dessert experience at Remy on the Disney Fantasy, an event that features not one, not two, but six amazingly delicious desserts. It’s times like this one that I wish you could taste something just by looking at it, don’t you?

 

Next time you’re onboard, I hope you’ll dine with us at Remy. Whether it’s for Petites Assiettes, dinner, brunch or dessert, you’re sure to have a dining experience unlike any other!

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Sunday March 22, 2015
No News Updates Today