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Tuesday January 27, 2014
Disney’s Night of Joy 2015: Artist Update
Monorail Routes Changed for February and March, You've been Warned!
New Merchandise Kiosks Set the Bar High at Downtown Disney
Why Is Disney Trying So Hard to Dilute Its Brand?
The Walt Disney Company Announces Second Startup Accelerator Program

Disney’s Night of Joy 2015: Artist Update

DisneyParks Blog - As we usher in the New Year, I wanted to give you an update on Disney’s Night of Joy 2015.

We are excited to announce the 33rd year for this special event will take place Friday and Saturday nights September 11 and 12 at Magic Kingdom Park.

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Next year’s group of talented artists includes four recent Grammy nominees, who each received two nominations: Night of Joy stalwarts MercyMe, brother duo For King & Country and Central Florida’s own Francesca Battistelli in the “Best Contemporary Christian Performance/Song” and “Best Contemporary Christian Album” categories and Pop Urban Gospel sensation Lecrae for “Best Gospel Performance/Song” and “Best Contemporary Christian Performance/Song.”

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Night of Joy veterans like TobyMac, Skillet and Jeremy Camp will fill the park with masterful melodies along with some great up-and-coming artists like: Seventh Time Down, I Am They and Veridia, who are all new to the event.

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2015’s full lineup includes: (entertainment subject to change)

  • Friday, September 11 - ­ TobyMac, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp, Colton Dixon, Big Daddy Weave, Francesca Battistelli, Rend Collective, and I Am They
  • Saturday, September 12 -­ Skillet, Lecrae, For King & Country, Mandisa, Matt Maher, Jamie Grace, Seventh Time Down, and Veridia

It should be two fantastic nights!

Tickets will go on sale in the Spring. Keep checking back to the NightofJoy.com for all the info.

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Monorail Routes Changed for February and March, You've been Warned!

Disney News - Changes in Monorail route operation coming the following days at these times 11:00am to 7:00pm
February 3 - 5
February 9 - 12
February 23 - 26
March 2 - 5 2015 .

Monorails on the Resort beam stops will be Magic Kingdom, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort ONLY.

Monorails on the Express beam will be at Magic Kingdom, Transportation and Ticket Center and Disney's Contemporary Resort ONLY.

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New Merchandise Kiosks Set the Bar High at Downtown Disney

DisneyParks Blog - Unlike most people, I’m at Downtown Disney five days a week. I get to see the property transform before my very eyes on a pretty regular basis, and I can honestly say that one of my favorite signs of progress is the opening of new venues.

With gifts galore and barware to please every beverage connoisseur, two new kiosks at Downtown Disney have put a big smile on my face; and I’m not the only one … they’ve been hugely popular with guests since their opening late last fall. Aptly named “Sublime” and “Set the Bar,” both venues are located at the recently remodeled Riverboat Square, between Fulton’s Crab House and Portobello.

Find a Unique Gift and More at Sublime

Need to find a unique card with just-the-right sentiment? Or gift a candle that will remind your recipient of you every time she lights it? Searching for a magnet that will make you chuckle? Or a book that’s sure to inspire? Find this and more at “Sublime.” In just a few short months, it’s already become one of my “go-to” stores when I need to find something fun and fanciful.

And while there are also gifts aplenty at “Set the Bar,” I think I’ll opt to keep most of what I buy there for myself, thank you very much. From bottle openers to flasks, shot glasses to copper mugs, this is a perfect perch to find the latest “must-haves” to transform your Saturday-night at-home-cocktail-hour into a truly sensational soiree. (Feel free to add me to your guest list!)

Have you had the pleasure of purchasing at these new retailers yet? If so, let me know which products you loved most … I’m almost due for another shopping spree and I could use a few ideas!

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Why Is Disney Trying So Hard to Dilute Its Brand?

The Atlantic - On Monday, actress Emma Watson announced via her Facebook page that she's committed to starring as Belle in the upcoming live-action Disney adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Yes, that Belle, in that Beauty and the Beast, the film Disney made in 1991. The news comes just before the March release of Disney's live-action Cinderella (directed by Kenneth Branagh) and The Jungle Book (directed by Jon Favreau, due in 2016). All are timeless tales based on stories much older than the Disney canon, but these films are also explicitly remakes, using the same character names that belonged to their animated forbears. In this golden age of franchises, every studio is digging through its greatest hits for material—like Universal's monster movies or Warner Brothers' Harry Potter license. But Disney's move somehow feels more shocking—it's an admission that it can no longer keep such a tight rein on its brand.

A crucial part of the Disney magic has always been its total control over "the vault," its 80-year-old catalog of animated features that are only released for sale for a limited time before becoming artificially scarce again. This policy maintains movies' already-enshrined "classic" status by ensuring that, should someone want to buy Beauty and the Beast on DVD or Blu-Ray, they'd better have $60 to pony up for a used copy. The vault has lost some of its significance as more and more viewers stream movies at home, and last year Disney struck an exclusive deal with Netflix for the rights to some of its library, but even the classic films included there flit in and out of availability.

So why the live-action remake binge? It's not that Disney has given up on animation, although it's refocused its attention from hand-drawn work to computer-animated hits like Frozen and Big Hero 6—a reflection of industry trends more than anything else. Rather, the move is a focused expansion into territory Disney has cautiously explored for years. In 2010, the studio released The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a big-budget fantasy-adventure film vaguely inspired by Fantasia's famous sequence. It bombed, partly because it was hard to tell if it was being pitched at kids or teenagers, and partly because its source material was barely identifiable beyond the film's title.

Disney has made similar mistakes in the past, mistakes that usually fall along the same lines: abandoning what works. After dominating the animated film sphere in the '90s with its renaissance of sorts, the studio started producing more niche non-musicals like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, both of which which tanked, and doomed the tradition of hand-drawn animation. Now Disney has bounced back with the old is new again approach: The Rapunzel retelling Tangled and the Hans Christian Andersen-inspired Frozen both took the classic formula of an established tale, an exotic locale, and some songs, and turned them into smash hits.

The live-action remakes offer a safe road, too, and the Tim Burton remake of Alice in Wonderland and last year's Maleficent had much in common. Neither was well-reviewed, but both earned staggering grosses worldwide by leaning in to the recognizable: big stars (Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie), the imagery of beloved Disney classics, and, of course, a juicy CGI budget. Both films had enough action to expand beyond the constricting label of children's entertainment without entirely leaving that territory behind (both were rated PG, an increasing rarity among big-ticket blockbusters).

But Disney’s live-action approach is more than easy money—it's a way to expand demographics without having to worry too much about quality. Both Disney and its subsidiary Pixar make plenty of children's films that adults can enjoy, but usually to pull that off the movies actually have to be good (for example, Up and Wreck-It Ralph). Remakes allow the studio to avoid that problem. A Cinderella reboot that features Cate Blanchett vamping it up as the Wicked Stepmother can get every generation on board, kids or not. Disney was clearly careful to produce something that would satisfy a wide age range, even parting with the film's original director Mark Romanek because he had too dark a vision in mind.

The Jungle Book will have all the elements that made the original animated work such a favorite—the song "The Bare Necessities," talking animal friends—but it also has Idris Elba voicing Shere Khan and Bill Murray as Baloo, and seasoned action director Favreau (Iron Man, Cowboys and Aliens) at the helm. Beauty and the Beast, which will be directed by Twilight: Breaking Dawn's Bill Condon, can be pitched at the kids who grew up with Emma Watson playing Hermione Granger, the grown-ups who saw Disney's original take in theaters 24 years ago, and everyone else in between. Even Watson had to acknowledge the cross-generational appeal, saying on her Facebook page, "It was such a big part of my growing up, it almost feels surreal that I'll get to dance to 'Be Our Guest.'" She has the right idea, but the wrong choice of word: As surreal as the movie industry may sometimes seem, the reality is much more calculated.

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The Walt Disney Company Announces Second Startup Accelerator Program

Business Wire - The Walt Disney Company (DIS) announced that it is accepting applications for its second Disney Accelerator program powered by Techstars. Disney Accelerator will select a class of 10 startup companies for a three-month mentorship and investment program beginning July 6, 2015 and concluding with a Demo Day on October 6, 2015.

The program is open to technology-based startups with a vision for making an impact on the world of media and entertainment. Participants will be offered $120,000 in investment capital along with mentor support from top Disney executives, entrepreneurs, investors and other notable business leaders from the entertainment and technology communities.

In 2014, Disney launched its first Disney Accelerator with companies focused on a range of products including connected toys, mobile video, STEM applications, social media, advertising technology and more. Disney continues to work with many of the alumni from the inaugural class, which included Choremonster, Codarica, Jogg, Naritiv, Sidelines, Smart Toy, SnowShoe, Sphero, Twigtale and TYFFON.

The 2014 Disney Accelerator class reached a number of significant milestones during the program. SnowShoe secured $2.2 million in seed financing; ChoreMonster and Codarica both launched mobile apps; Sphero introduced its new Ollie product and Smart Toy was acquired by Cartwheel Kids, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of children’s products.

“The Disney Accelerator was born of Disney’s long term commitment to innovation and its position at the intersection of technology and entertainment,” said Kevin Mayer, Disney’s Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Business Development. “The 2014 Disney Accelerator demonstrated that pairing Disney’s creative and business talent with entrepreneurs can produce an energizing and valuable exchange of ideas and promote tremendous innovation. We look forward to working with a new group of start-ups in the months to come.”

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Monday January 26, 2014
Disney ticket prices to increase again in February
Emma Watson to Star in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’
Hollywood Tower Hotel Authentic Merchandise Drops Into Disney Parks on February 13, 2015
Typhoon Lagoon Remains Closed at Least Until Wednesday
Get a Sneak Preview of ‘Cinderella’ at Disney California Adventure Park
Landspeeder Reward Teases 'Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars'
Governor Awards Disneyland Resort California’s Highest Environmental Honor

Disney Cruise Line Ship Rescues Five Cuban Nationals Sailing In Raft Made Of Metal Barrels

Disney ticket prices to increase again in February

Orlando Weekly - According to the theme park blogosphere, Walt Disney World guests should expect to see a small increase in the price of tickets beginning in February. Nobody seems to know exactly what the new price of tickets will be, but the new pricing is expected to be in place mid-month. 

Disney will also be doing away with the "no expiration" option for ticket holders, which allows guests to keep unused days on park tickets indefinitely. Guests with unused days on multi-day tickets will have to use them within 14 days or lose them for good, reports Inquisitr.

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Emma Watson to Star in Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

“Harry Potter” alum Emma Watson has closed a deal to star in Disney’s live-action musical “Beauty and the Beast,”

The Wrap - Bill Condon (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”) will direct from a script written by Stephen Chbosky, who directed Watson in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Evan Spiliotopoulos wrote the previous draft of the screenplay.

David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman are producing under their Mandeville Films banner.

Watson is set to play Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” which is the latest Disney classic to receive a live-action adaptation following “Maleficent,” “Cinderella” and Jon Favreau‘s upcoming take on “The Jungle Book.”

Watson had previously been attached to star in Guillermo del Toro’s “Beauty,” which the director was developing for Warner Bros. before exiting the project in June, when Disney hired Condon. When WB’s version hit a snag, Disney began to court Watson for its own adaptation with del Toro’s blessing, as the studio agreed that Watson would be perfect as Belle, according to a source.

Watson shared her excitement on Facebook as soon as TheWrap broke the news. “I’m finally able to tell you … that I will be playing Belle in Disney’s new live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’! It was such a big part of my growing up, it almost feels surreal that I’ll get to dance to ‘Be Our Guest’ and sing ‘Something There’. My six-year-old self is on the ceiling — heart bursting. Time to start some singing lessons. I can’t wait for you to see it. Emma xx.”

Disney’s 1991 animated feature “Beauty and the Beast” grossed more than $375 million worldwide and earned a rare Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The timeless tale also spawned a Broadway play.

Best known for playing Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” films, Watson has worked hard to establish herself as an actress outside of the blockbuster franchise. She recently starred in Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”and Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” and she also played herself in the hit comedy “This Is the End”

Watson next stars opposite Ethan Hawke in Alejandro Amenabar’s thriller “Regression.” She’s s represented by WME and Markham, Froggatt and Irwin.

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Hollywood Tower Hotel Authentic Merchandise Drops Into Disney Parks on February 13, 2015

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DisneyParks Blog - Last summer, I gave you a first look at a new merchandise collection called “Hollywood Tower Hotel Authentic” that was inspired by the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction at Disney Parks. Today, I’m excited to announced that this line will drop into Disney Parks starting Friday, February 13 (what a perfect day!). These new products will be found inside Tower Hotel Gifts in both Disney California Adventure park at Disneyland Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort. I recently visited the merchandise presentation offices at Disney’s Hollywood Studios where I found a display of several new items.

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The merchandise presentation team set up a display to show what Tower Hotel Gifts may look like when the product is set. They told me they will be making adjustments to props, fixtures and lighting in the shops to complement the new merchandise.

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Disney Design Group artists were inspired by the Haunted Mansion Authentic program released last year when designing this artwork. You will notice similar design elements such as the use of vintage advertisements. The Hollywood Tower Hotel logo was also included on several items that could have been sold in the hotel gift shop before that one stormy night long ago.

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I love the tote bag that looks like vintage luggage and the bellhop cap is perfect! I was glad to see the bell was updated with new artwork (you can see the difference in this story from July 2013).

Guests will also find new apparel items for adults and kids. My son will be beyond thrilled that there will be a kid’s T-shirt with a character from his favorite episode.

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In addition to apparel and other souvenirs, the Disney pin team will release some new open edition pins as part of this collection.

Finally, I invite you to meet some of the Disney Design Group artists behind this collection on Friday, February 13. This event will be held at Tower Hotel Gifts inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Disney Artists Tyler Dumas, Brian Blackmore, Richard Terpstra and Quynh Kimball are scheduled to attend.

The Twilight Zone® is a registered trademark of CBS, Inc. and used with permission pursuant to a license with CBS, Inc.

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Typhoon Lagoon Remains Closed at Least Until Wednesday

Due to Cold weather and an upcoming Cold front, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park will remain closed until at least Wednesday Jan. 28th. A determination will be made then if the park should open.

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Get a Sneak Preview of ‘Cinderella’ at Disney California Adventure Park

DisneyParks Blog - Disney’s all-new live-action feature, “Cinderella,” arriving in theaters March 13, is inspired by the classic fairy tale and brings to life the timeless images from Disney’s 1950 animated masterpiece as fully-realized characters in a visually dazzling spectacle for a whole new generation.

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Beginning January 30, guests visiting Disney California Adventure park will have an opportunity to see an extended sneak preview for the film, complete with a magical sequence being shown exclusively in Disney Parks.

This special sneak peek of “Cinderella” will be presented in the park’s Bug’s Life Theater for a limited-time, January 30 – March 26.

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Landspeeder Reward Teases 'Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars'

Forbes - Sightings of Landspeeders in Disney Infinity 2.0, along with the Lightsabers last year, hint at Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars.

The Landspeeder vehicle is available in the current game once you have purchased all the new 2.0 characters and fully leveled them up. While doing this may be a bit on the pricey (and time consuming) side you can also access it via a user generated Marvel Arena toy box available for all users of Disney Infinity 2.0 to download.

In the game the Landspeeder is a single character vehicle that, as you would expect, hovers around the level. It has a hood that opens on impact along with other details like smoke trails from the boosters. Painted in brown it immediate evokes the Tatooine dust of Luke’s home planet and with that what it might look like in cell shaded Disney Infinity form.

Although my kids haven’t seen the first three Star Wars films yet (I started them on Episode IV as any good parent does) they immediately recognized Luke’s iconic vehicle and set about making their own Land Speeder levels. There’s something pleasing about seeing the various Guardians of the Galaxy characters cross over to the Star Wars universe to race a Land Speeder.

There is no official word on whether this year’s Disney Infinity will be based around the Star Wars franchise, with a new film coming out it has to be pretty likely. Add to this a steady drip feed of all things Star Wars and I’d put money on it.

Last year we discovered the Lightsabers in the first game’s Hall of Heroes. More recently we have had a number of Star Wars iOS games, then there was Star Wars Rebels bringing back some favorite characters (Darth Vader, Lando Calrissian), not to mention the awesomely updated Star Wars arcade machine.

Perhaps the better question is how Disney Infinity will handle the different threads, characters and vehicles of the Star Wars universe? As with Marvel there will be an opportunity to cross over characters to the different eras. With the series spanning such a long period of time it also seems likely that we will get different versions of the same character for each age. A ‘young’ Anakin, a Jedi Anakin and a Sith Lord version — although perhaps just one iteration of Jar Jar Bink (if he is included at all).


Disney Infinity Star Wars Items

The final piece of the Disney Infinity Star Wars puzzle is what they do with the toys themselves. The first two iterations of the game have seen the toys remain largely as collectable figurines. With Skylanders, Angry Birds Transformers, and more recently Anki Drive, doing more with the physical product alongside the on screen experience the pressure is on Disney to innovate here as well.

Last year the new game wasn’t announced until after the New York Toy Fair in February, so it may still be some time before we have official confirmation and the first details of what’s next for Disney Infinity.

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Governor Awards Disneyland Resort California’s Highest Environmental Honor

DisneyParks Blog - The Disneyland Resort was honored last week with a Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) for waste reduction efforts. In the last 10 years, the Disneyland Resort has doubled the amount of waste diverted from landfills with the long-term goal of achieving Zero Waste – a designation already awarded to Circle D Corral by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and one of the success stories noted in the GEELA nomination.

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From the 4.4 million pounds of food scraps processed into animal feed annually, to the 20,000 pounds of partially used bathroom amenities collected at Disneyland Resort hotels for Clean the World Foundation, to the donation and repurposing of gently used shoes, costumes, furniture and decorations, and much more – the Disneyland Resort is doing its part to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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The Disneyland Resort also was a 2009 GEELA recipient for sustainable practices, which included the drought-conscious way water-based attractions are drained and refilled working with the Orange County Water District.

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Disney Cruise Line Ship Rescues Five Cuban Nationals Sailing In Raft Made Of Metal Barrels

Inquisitr - According to the Disney Cruise Line Blog, the Disney Magic rescue happened upon a raft floating approximately 23 miles off the coast of Cuba. It was around noon Eastern Time when the Disney Cruise Line ship saw the raft floating and slowly approached it to help.

The raft appeared to be made mostly of metal barrels or oil drums and was soldered together with metal bars. The thin raft had jugs of water and some personal belongings along with the five Cuban nationals.

When the Disney Magic came upon the raft, they slowly pulled up to it and lowered the side door of the ship to access those on board.

One person who was a guest on board the Disney Magic stated that the rafters had been at sea on the homemade vessel for three days before being found.

The Disney Magic was in the middle of a seven-night Western Caribbean Cruise and heading toward Disney’s private island Castaway Cay when it came across the rafters. After a couple of hours on board, the group were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Two years ago, the Disney Wonder actually picked up five migrant rafters who were sailing off of the Florida Keys, per Doctor Disney. The group of rafters were given food, water, and medical attention by those aboard the Disney Cruise Line ship before being turned over to the U.S. Guard.

This has ended up being a rather common occurrence for the ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet.

Earlier this month, the Disney Magic was sailing the same route as a ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. A passenger on the Oasis of the Seas ship fell overboard unnoticed by Royal Caribbean, and was rescued by the Disney Magic as it approached.

The Disney Cruise Line ship was sailing not too far from Cuba and heading to the next stop on their seven-night itinerary. After spotting the Cuban nationals in the raft, it hardly took any time for them to stop, help them, and get them back on their way with the Coast Guard.

The Disney Magic did not miss their next port of call and no injuries were reported.

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Sunday January 25, 2014
Tweeting Live from The Orlando Eye and Universal Studios Orlando
No News Updates Today

Saturday January 24, 2014
Tweeting Live from Disney's Animal Kingdom
No News Updates Today

Friday January 23, 2014
No News Updates Today

Thursday January 22, 2014
Land of ‘Frozen’ Coming to Disney Cruise Line This Summer
More losses for Annual Passholders at Walt Disney World
Discounts for Florida residents at Cirque du Soleil La Nouba
Longtime Disney executive leaving
You’re Going to Be Able to Buy Mickey and Donald Comic Books Once Again
Alan Menken Tells the Stories Behind Your Favorite Disney Classics

Land of ‘Frozen’ Coming to Disney Cruise Line This Summer

DisneyParks Blog - Anna and Elsa’s royal tour of our ships is soon to be filled with even more excitement! Not only is Olaf joining them on all four ships, we’re adding brand-new experiences for the whole family, starting this summer.

Land of “Frozen” Coming to Disney Cruise Line in Summer 2015

Highlights include a spectacular deck party, a new production number in “Disney Dreams,” new character meet and greets, storybook adventures ashore and another way to cool down on Castaway Cay. I’ll share some details on these exciting offerings today, and over the next several weeks, tell you more about what you can expect in summer.

A Day of Frozen Fun, Including New Deck Party

Debuting this summer, on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder sailings to Europe and Alaska, Disney Cruise Line guests are transported to the land of “Frozen” when the ship is transformed into a winter wonderland and a day of frozen fun culminates with an extravagant celebration with friends from the Kingdom of Arendelle. The deck party, “Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa and Friends,” is a family-friendly interactive celebration featuring the famous royal sisters and their fun-loving Nordic companions.

New Production Number in “Disney Dreams”

Our friends from “Frozen” are making their stage show debut at sea in the Walt Disney Theatre aboard the Disney Magic. In our original production, “Disney Dreams … An Enchanted Classic,” Anna, Elsa and Olaf join the line up of beloved Disney characters who together teach a young girl the power of her dreams. Brand-new scenes featuring “Frozen” characters include renditions of three popular songs: “Let it Go,” “For the First Time in Forever” and “In Summer.”

Land of “Frozen” Coming to Disney Cruise Line in Summer 2015

Magical Meet and Greets

In addition to warm hugs, Olaf will be giving autographs and taking photographs with children and families while he is cruising with us. He is joining Anna and Elsa on the Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic for some fun in the sun!

Adventures Ashore in Norway

This summer in Norway, the land that inspired Arendelle from “Frozen,” Disney Magic cruisers will have the opportunity to join exciting new Port Adventures that bring this fairytale setting to life. One signature adventure ashore in Ålesund, Norway, created exclusively for Disney Cruise Line, will immerse guests in the splendor and charm of Norway, with the help of Anna and Elsa, in an enchanting storybook village.

Olaf’s Summertime Freeze on Castaway Cay

We’re cooling down Castaway Cay with the addition of Olaf’s Summertime Freeze bar! Serving non-alcoholic specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups, the creative menu features refreshing beverages such as “Olaf’s Flurry Freeze,” “Sven’s Carrot Delight” and “Warm Hugs.” Olaf’s Summertime Freeze will be near the Pelican Point tram stop by Castaway Cay Family Beach.

With this news, I have a feeling some of you are saying, “Hands down, this is the best day of my life!” Am I right?

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More losses for Annual Passholders at Walt Disney World

Disney News - In a World where most parks give to their Passholders, Disneyworld is taking away. New Updates for Annual Passholders discounts have been changed in the recreational area, effective immediately:

Mini Golf discounts that were 50% have been reduced to 15%. This is for both Fantasia and Winter Summerland.

Marina Boats rentals that were 30% have now been reduced to 15%

What's Next?

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Discounts for Florida residents at Cirque du Soleil La Nouba

Disney News - Form Now through March 28 2015, Florida Residents can purchase Category 3 seating for $49.00 +tax, Category 2 seating for $69.00 +tax and Category 1 seating for $89.00 +tax.

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Longtime Disney executive leaving

Orlando Sentinel - Longtime Disney executive Erin Wallace is leaving the company to join Learning Care Group, which runs La Petite Academy child-care centers.

Wallace, who works in Orlando, has been executive vice president of operations strategy, planning and revenue management for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts since 2009. She oversees functions including attractions, entertainment, lodging and MyMagic+ products and services. She has been with the company 30 years. 

"That's a big loss to them," said Lee Cockerell, Walt Disney World's former executive vice president of operations.

Wallace's departure comes a few weeks after Meg Crofton, who leads operations of U.S. and France resorts, announced her decision to retire June 1. Disney has not yet announced replacements for Crofton or Wallace.

More changes could come in the parks-and-resorts division as well. Chairman Tom Staggs is considered a potential successor for Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger when he retires in 2018.

Wallace, daughter of a painting contractor who worked on Magic Kingdom buildings, started with Disney as an industrial engineer.

As tourism slumped In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Cockerell said Wallace was part of a team that focused on operational issues such asa plan for advising guests who had booked hotel rooms that it had cut back on park hours, Cockerell said.

In 2009, Wallace moved into a new position overseeing operations strategy and planning for the parks and resorts.

Wallace will relocate to Michigan to become chief operating officer at Learning Care Group, the nation's second-largest for-profit early-education and child-care provider.

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You’re Going to Be Able to Buy Mickey and Donald Comic Books Once Again

TIME - Timeless Disney icons are to reappear in comic stores around the U.S. starting this April.

IDW Publishing, one of the largest publishers of comics in the U.S., will use its license to the perennial Disney favorites to reprint translated versions of classic Disney comics that were originally published in foreign languages overseas, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

First will be Uncle Scrooge No. 1, followed by reprints of erstwhile titles Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Walt Disney Comics and Stories before July.

All of the comics will be adorned with new covers themed after Walt Disney resorts like Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland.

San Diego-based IDW also holds licenses to publish comics and print spinoffs from franchises such as Star Trek and Doctor Who. Although Marvel Entertainment, owned by Disney, boasts exclusive rights to Disney theme park-related characters, IDW has the right to classic Disney icons.

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Alan Menken Tells the Stories Behind Your Favorite Disney Classics

TIME - If you’ve ever loved a Disney song, chances are 65-year-old Alan Menken wrote it. With Oscars, Grammys, and Tonys to his name, he’s now set his sights on TV with ABC’s medieval musical comedy Galavant (which concludes Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC). EW asked the legend to recount the stories behind some of his most iconic songs.

“Part of Your World,” The Little Mermaid (1989)
“There had never really been an ‘I want’ number before in a Disney film. Subsequently everybody at Disney would ask, ‘Where’s our “I want” moment?!’ But it’s that important moment where you engage the audience in the quest of the central character so you know what you’re rooting for. We jokingly used to call this one ‘Somewhere That’s Wet,’ like ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ [from Little Shop] but underwater. My favorite part is that motif [that sounds like] water flowing, which beautifully set up the tone and became the central theme. We knew the whole score was going to a Caribbean place, so we toyed with the idea of reggae [for the rest], but we landed on calypso because it’s poppier and more interesting. Sebastian is more of a Trinidadian crab than Jamaican, certainly more of a Harry Belafonte type.”

“Belle,” Beauty and the Beast (1991)
“The story behind this is that Howard Ashman was HIV-positive and wasn’t telling anybody—he had been very quiet. And here we had written this crazy seven-minute opening number that was much more ambitious than anybody had asked for, and I remember his fear [about everything] in that moment. I remember Howard was very, very reluctant to send it out, thinking that we were going to be laughed at. He delayed sending it for two days. Finally, of course, we sent it, and Disney loved it. You didn’t open an animated movie with a seven-minute number, but it redefined the form. We wanted to keep it very classical Mozart, very She Loves Me, with a quiet opening—’Little town, it’s a quiet village…’ And then it explodes. ‘Bonjour!’” [Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to Ashman, who died eight months before the film’s release.]

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Wednesday January 21, 2014
Disney files construction permits for Avatar-themed land under code name Morpho
Shops to soon Open at The Landing in Disney Springs
Measles Outbreak Includes 5 Disney Theme Park Employees

Disney files construction permits for Avatar-themed land under code name Morpho

WESH 2 - Builders working on Disney's soon-to-come Avatar-themed land have filed mysterious paperwork involving the project.
Insiders said workers filed a "notice of commencement" under the code name "morpho." They said it is Disney's way of keeping project details a secret.

Ground was broken a year ago for the new Avatar attraction in Animal Kingdom.

Disney released the project's first renderings in October, which include a 3-D ride through the land of Pandora.

"This is going to be an attraction kind of like Soarin at Epcot or like the Simpson's ride at Universal where you have multiple levels of ride units in front of big IMAX-style screen," said Rober Niles, with Theme Park Insider.

The new attraction is expected to open in 2017.

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Shops to soon Open at The Landing in Disney Springs

The area formerly know as Pleasure Island, now the Landing in Disney Springs will soon have some shops opening in the coming weeks. Below are some of the stores Opening:

APEX by Sunglass Hut - Range of high end sunglasses with a focus on sports from the Luxotica group, including Ray-Ban ,Oakley, Maui Jim and more.

Art of Shaving - A high end shaving and grooming supply store.

Chapel Hats - Hats and headwear.

Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC - A gluten-free vegan bakery from the creator of BabyCakes NYC.

Havaianas - Designer flip-flops, including a station where Guests can create their own flip-flops.

Sanuk - Creatively inspired shoes.

Sound Lion - Headphones, ear buds, speakers, wireless music players and other digital sound and music products.

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Measles Outbreak Includes 5 Disney Theme Park Employees

AP - A recent measles outbreak traced to Disney theme parks in California includes five park employees who were infected, officials said Tuesday.

Of the five employees at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, three have fully recovered and returned to work, and two remain off, said Dr. Pamela Hymel, the chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

All of Disney's "cast members," as it calls park employees, have been offered immunity tests and vaccinations since the company first heard of the outbreak Jan. 7, Hymel said. Those who have been in close contact with infected employees are put on paid leave until their immunity can be established.

Several dozen measles cases have emerged in California, four other states and Mexico in the outbreak linked to December visits to Disney theme parks in Orange County.

Oregon became the latest state affected Tuesday when state officials confirmed that a Eugene man in his 40s had contracted the disease after visiting Disney parks.

Orange County has confirmed 18 cases there in the past month, though six were not connected to the theme parks, said its health agency spokeswoman Deanne Thompson.

At nearby Huntington Beach High School, at least 23 unvaccinated students have been sent home after a student was confirmed to be infected with measles.

Students without a measles vaccination were told to stay home until Jan. 29 to avoid a spread of the disease that has symptoms including fever and a blotchy body rash.

State law requires schoolchildren to get vaccinated to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, but parents can get an exemption by signing a personal belief waiver.

Many parents who reject vaccines or delay them fear there are links between the vaccines and medical conditions such as autism. Numerous studies have dismissed an autism link.

"It is at large in the community now, and particularly infants too young to be immunized, people with other health conditions and, of course, people who aren't immunized need to be very concerned," Thompson said.

She added that unvaccinated people "really should rethink that and consider getting vaccinated."

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Tuesday January 20, 2014
Disney May Signal in Coming Weeks Who Will Succeed CEO Bob Iger
Splitsville Hits a High Note with New Saturday Night Bands at Downtown Disney West Side
Disney Abandoned George Lucas’ Ideas for the ‘Star Wars’ Sequels

Disney May Signal in Coming Weeks Who Will Succeed CEO Bob Iger

The Street - The longest-running saga at the Disney isn't related to its movie studio or its most profitable unit, the sports juggernaut ESPN. Instead, employees and shareholders of the world's largest entertainment company are riveted by a single question: who will be its next chief executive.

It's a debate that's been swirling inside Disney for a few years as executives sift through the occasional ambiguous signal from its rigorously tight-lipped leadership. True to form, Disney's annual proxy statement, which was issued on Friday, offered few, if any, clues.

Chairman and CEO Robert Iger hasn't offered much fodder for speculation either, though company executives have hinted privately that the Burbank, Calif.-based company may name a chief operating officer within the next few weeks.

Whoever is awarded with that position will likely be viewed as the probable successor to the 63-year old Iger, who is expected to remain in the top post until 2018, when his current contract extension expires.

The horse race is generally assumed to be between two of Iger's top lieutenants, the company's chief financial officer, Jay Rasulo, and former CFO Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Most insiders believe Staggs has the inside track.

A Disney spokeswoman had no comment.

Pressure will be intense on whoever is chosen to run the company given that it has performed remarkably well during Iger's tenure. Total shareholder return has skyrocketed by 317% since Iger was named CEO in 2005, the company said in its proxy. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index's total return has been 95% during that period.

Staggs and Rasulo took similar paths to the top at Disney. Both moved from Disney's highly regarded strategic planning operation to become CFO, and then gained operating experience by running theme parks, Disney's second-largest unit. Rasulo joined the company in 1986, Staggs in 1990.

In 2010, Iger switched the two men's jobs, moving Rasulo to CFO and Staggs to the parks. Rasulo also supervises Maker Studios, the YouTube video network that Disney acquired in March for about $500 million.

Insiders say the two executives have sharply different personalities. While Staggs is considered more personable, Rasulo is viewed as more intense.

A few years ago, the two spoofed their supposed rivalry during a meeting of investors. Before Staggs' presentation, the company showed a video with Staggs piloting one of Disney's new cruise ships. Rasulo, who developed the cruise business, was in the video waving from shore with a Mai Tai in hand.

Whoever wins the race will help run a company remade to fit Iger's vision. Under Iger, Disney has had a growing emphasis on technology and international business and a single-minded expansion of brand names such as movies featuring a stable of characters from Marvel and Pixar that Disney exploits in its merchandise, theme park and other businesses.

Disney is expected to release its first Star Wars movie in December. It's soon expected to announce the opening date for the $3.7 billion Shanghai Disney Resort that may open later this year or in 2016.

There is mounting evidence -- at least among those who know Disney's inner workings -- that its board may not be confident that either man has been sufficiently groomed to take over the top job soon. The board has twice extended Iger's contract, pushing his retirement from 2015 to 2018.

"The Board believed Mr. Iger's continued leadership would be uniquely valuable through both the first several years of operation of the Shanghai Disney Resort and the Company's launch of the Star Wars franchise," the board said in the company's proxy.

"The Board's decision to explore this extension was strongly supported by the confidence Disney's shareholders have expressed in Mr. Iger's leadership and his track record of performance."

In the coming weeks, Disney watchers can only hope to get more clues about Iger's successor.

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Splitsville Hits a High Note with New Saturday Night Bands at Downtown Disney West Side

DisneyParks Blog - In early November, Splitsville Luxury Lanes quietly introduced a new offering inside their venue – live bands on Saturday nights. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I only recently had the chance to experience it for myself. Three months after the first band took the stage, I can attest that “quiet” isn’t an adjective I’d use to describe it—it’s loud, bright and totally fun!

On the night I visited, The Jimmy James Band covered everything from The Beatles to Taylor Swift. Taking requests and encouraging guests to sing along and get out on the dance floor, the high-energy enthusiasm in the air was contagious. My party of four was perfectly positioned to catch every shake of the tambourine, and when the bass guitarist came on the floor to rock with the crowd, I was just inches away!

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Of course, we bowled, too. And had dinner. And drinks. With three sushi lovers and a full-throttle carnivore, our table was covered with edamame, a variety of rolls, and the Bacon Cheeseburger. Oh, and let us not forget a few Frozen Schooners – I really do think Splitsville serves the coldest beer in town! The only downside? The food was so good that everyone missed my strike.

With a new year here, Splitsville is rolling into 2015 with even more enhancements. Their menu now includes Crispy Wings, a Sushi Tuna Rice Bowl, a Foghorn Burger, Steak Alfredo and a California Crunch Roll. New drinks include a Cinnamon Toast Colada (I’m so regretting not trying that one during my last visit!) and Sangrita (Margarita meets Red Sangria). They recently expanded their first floor Bullet Bar, too, so there’s more space than ever to catch your game, people watch, or – my new favorite – enjoy live music on Saturday nights!

Want to check out the bands during your next West Side visit? The Jimmy James Band, Blonde Ambition or another guest group will perform 9 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. every Saturday night. There’s no cover charge and there are plenty of tables, bar seats and lanes on the first floor with great views of the stage and dance floor. To guarantee a spot and reserve a lane, contact kingpin@splitsvillelanes.com or call 407-938-PINS; for dinner only.

Now, more than ever, Splitsville really is my favorite Downtown Disney West Side spot to “Roll In & Rock Out!” Would you agree?

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Disney Abandoned George Lucas’ Ideas for the ‘Star Wars’ Sequels

/FILMS - In the years to come, we’ll certainly learn more about the behind the scenes development of the new Star Wars movies. But, for now, the public narrative is as follows. George Lucas was quietly developing Star Wars 7 when he decided to sell Lucasfilm to Disney. He passed along his outlines and work on the movies, which screenwriter Michael Arndt began adapting. J.J. Abrams came on board as director, but he and the writer didn’t see eye-to-eye. Arndt left the project, Abrams took over writing duties with Lawrence Kasdan, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens went into production.

The rumored disagreement between Arndt and Abrams was over Lucas’ vision. Apparently, Lucas and Arndt wanted Episode VII to focus more on the younger characters, while Abrams wanted the younger generation to be secondary to the old guard like Luke, Han and Leia. We still don’t know precisely how that balance worked out. In a new interview, Lucas himself admitted Disney abandoned his Star Wars 7 ideas, adding fuel to this fire.

George Lucas On The Star Wars Ideas He Sold to Disney.

And here’s the quote:

The ones that I sold to Disney, they came up to the decision that they didn’t really want to do those. So they made up their own. So it’s not the ones that I originally wrote [on screen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens].

That sounds very much like the narrative described above, the one we’d heard rumors of everywhere. That Lucas wanted to put his characters – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa – in the background and give the fans something new. The Force Awakens certainly seems to do that, with new characters Finn, Rey, Poe, and others, but they’ll be co-starring with the older characters in this first chapter, leaving the story open to the younger generation going ahead.

To be fair, if this is all true, I don’t think J.J. Abrams or Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm, are the bad guys. Lucas might sound upset and while his idea to go young is admirable, there really was only one shot with the older actors. The fact Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew and the rest are alive and well now is something Abrams obviously felt he needed to take advantage of. Someone, probably Rian Johnson, can always make a new Star Wars movie with new characters. But there was only a small window to make one final adventure with our old heroes. Decades from now, we’ll probably be quite happy for that. And we’ll get to see more hints of Lucas’ vision.

Anyway – it’s a pretty startling revelation from Lucas. What do you think of the quote?

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