DISNEY MAKING NEW 'STAR WARS' BOOKS BASED ON ORIGINAL TRILOGY

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Friday April 18, 2014
Disney making new 'Star Wars' books based on original trilogy
Four Seasons Resort Orlando opening at Walt Disney World in August
Disney movie focuses on bears in Alaska
Another Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Disney’s Maker Studios Acquisition
So far, life is good in FastPass+ lane
Filmmaker wants to explore 'dark side' of Walt Disney World

Disney making new 'Star Wars' books based on original trilogy

CNET Disney's launching a set of four new children's books based on the original "Star Wars" trilogy.

In a release Friday, the media giant said the series will hit bookstores beginning in October, with the publication of "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight," by "The Spiderwick Chronicles" author Tony DiTerlizzi. More importantly to "Star Wars" fans of all ages, the artwork will be by Ralph McQuarrie, from concept art he created for the original films.

Other authors include Tom Angleberger, Adam Gidwitz, and RJ Palacio. The series is obviously meant to ramp up interest -- as if it wasn't ramped up enough already -- in anticipation of the release of "Star Wars: Episode VII" in December 2015.

Disney said Angelberger, who previously wrote the "Origami Yoda" series, will write a retelling of "Return of the Jedi," while "Wonder" author Palacio will offer a new version of the original "Star Wars," and "A Tale Dark and Grimm" author Gidwitz will write the kids version of "The Empire Strikes Back."

The books will be published by Disney-Lucasfilm Press. Disney didn't say how much the books would cost. The company hopes the books will continue the longstanding success of previous "Star Wars" books, which have sold 125 million copies and generated 125 best sellers.

On the other hand, there have also been numerous flops in the "Star Wars" literary archives.

Disney purchased Lucasfilm in October 2012 for $4.05 billion.

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Four Seasons Resort Orlando opening at Walt Disney World in August

Orlando MyWay - Four Seasons Resort Orlando opening at Walt Disney World in August

Property features:

- 444 rooms that will offer the largest square footage in Orlando

- All King guestrooms come with a queen-size sleeper sofa bed 

- Many rooms can connect via interior hallway and suites

- Explorer Island: An on-site amusement area for kids that features a five-acre  playground with a 7,590 square foot family pool. Explorer Island also has a  lazy river that winds around a "ruined" mansion, climbing wall, water slides and more.

- Beach volleyball, basketball, video gaming center, outdoor movie nights on the Starstruck screen

- Three Har-Tru tennis courts, a 24-hour fitness center, spa with 18 treatment rooms

- Twice weekly on-site Disney character breakfast with Goofy and Pals, plus on-site Disney Planning Center

- Complimentary Child Care

- Just for Kids Amenity: Child-sized bathrobes and complimentary baby and children's toiletries, as well as cribs, high chairs, playpens, bottles and toys. 

- Complimentary transportation to the main Disney theme parks ( Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) in plush motor coaches.

In addition to the amenities available to the guests, there are also several dining options, including in-room dining, catering and dining at one of the resort's five on-property restaurants.

The resort's executive chef, Fabrizio Schenardi, is currently overseeing the culinary operations. 

"The resort will have so many options," Fabrizio said, "so there is going to be something for everyone to love." 

The five on-site restaurants are:

Capa is a rooftop steakhouse on the 17th floor that features Spanish-influenced cuisine in a romantic setting. Some of Capa's specialties are freshly shucked oysters and Florida seafood as well as small plates and grilled cuts. The restaurant has an open kitchen and wood-burning grill which allows those dining to watch their food getting prepared. There is an outdoor terrace where guests can enjoy views of the nightly fireworks. Capa will serve dinner only and will open in September. 

Ravello is an all-day dining restaurant that serves modern Italian cuisine. During breakfast, guests have access to an omelet station and traditional breakfast favorites. For dinner, Ravello offers fresh pizza and bread from the wood-burning oven, regionally influenced Italian specialties and the open kitchen's pasta bar. Ravello will offer a "Goofy & Pals" Disney Character Breakfast on Thursdays and Saturdays and select Tuesdays during peak school break periods. 

Plancha treats guests with fresh Cuban-American cuisine. It is located at the Golf Clubhouse and features lakeside seating. Signature dishes include the Cubana sandwich, empanadas and a chorizo burger. Specialty cocktails are also on the menu including Mojitos and the Hemingway Daiquiri. Plancha will open in September. 

Lickety Split provides delicious quick bites for guests on the go. Cafe lattes, breakfast pastries, gelato and more will be on the menu. 

PB&G (the Pool Bar & Grill) offers premium American barbecue dishes, including pulled pork, rotisserie chicken, smoked brisket and house-made hotdogs and burgers. There will also be fresh salads, frozen cocktails and an extensive kids' and teens' menu with an array of healthy options. 

Starting rate for a standard king room is $545 a  night and the Royal Suite sells at $12,000 a night.

The Four Seasons Resort is doing more than providing guests with a world-class experience, it is also providing jobs -- 900 of them to be exact.

On April 28 & 29, the resort will host a career fair to bring on 500 qualified employees. 

It will be located at the Orange County Convention Center at 9400 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Fla., 32819

The fair will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 5:30  p.m. each day.

On April 28, the career fair will focus on the following positions: 

- Cooks

- Bartenders

- Restaurant servers

- Pool servers

- Restaurant assistant servers

- Restaurant hosts/hostesses

- In-room dining servers

- Banquet servers

- Banquet set-up staff

- Purchasing/receiving staff

On April 29, the career fair will focus on the following positions: 

- Call center specialists

- Front desk agents

- Concierge staff

- Bell staff

- Door staff

- Recreation/pool attendants

- Children's program attendants

- Spa therapists

- Spa attendants 

- Salon attendants

- Fitness/yoga instructors

- Pool attendants

- Engineering staff

- Security Staff

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Disney movie focuses on bears in Alaska

NBC - Disney is returning to the wild in their new nature movie Bears. Following the success of Oceans, Chimpanzee and others, Bears chronicles a year in the life of a mother bear and her two young cubs.

Director Alastair Fothergill didn't want this to be another nature documentary. He wanted it to be an insightful movie.

"We're making a movie not a documentary," Fothergill said. "Story is everything. We always knew we wanted to follow a mother and her cubs in the first year."

Grizzly bears are considered "threatened" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the conterminous states. Human encroachment on the bear's habitat has been a contributing factor to their population decline and their threatened status.

Additionally, there is a high mortality rate in bear cubs.

"Fifty percent of bear cubs die," Fothergill said.

The film crew was attracted to Sky, the mother bear, due to her relaxed nature. They sought a relaxed bear because they didn't want to disturb the animals during their production.

Dr. Jane Goodall, a Disney ambassador, was able to visit Alaska during the filming. She was able to see the bears in their natural habitat.

"It was completely magical," Goodall said. "It was wonderful to be so close without any fear and with the bears ignoring us completely."

With little interaction with human life, the Alaskan bears fearless when it comes to mankind.

"The bears have no fear when it comes to human beings," Fothergill said. "To be within a meter of a brown bear is breathtaking."

Bears is in theaters Friday April 18. Disney is also donating a portion of every ticket sold in the first week to the National Park Foundation.

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Another Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Disney’s Maker Studios Acquisition

Variety - Maker Studios is the target of a lawsuit by a disgruntled ex-employee who is seeking to block the Walt Disney Co.’s $500 million-plus deal to acquire the YouTube multichannel network.

In the suit, Andy Faberlle, who identifies himself as a Maker Studios shareholder, claims the MCN and key execs including current CEO Ynon Kreiz “illegally obtained Maker shares and illegally voted those shares in favor of a merger with Disney.” The lawsuit requests that the votes in favor of the Disney deal be rescinded, or – if the deal is completed before resolution of the suit – that the merger “must be unwound.”

In a similar legal move last week, Maker ex-CEO Danny Zappin and three other former execs sought to block a shareholder vote on the Disney acquisition, alleging Maker failed to address charges they made in their 2013 lawsuit that MCN execs and investors illegally issued shares to themselves and diluted the common stock “for their own financial gain to the detriment of other Maker shareholders.” On Monday, a Los Angeles Superior Court denied the request.

Maker Studios declined to comment. Feberlle’s lawsuit was filed April 15 in the same L.A. court. He is represented by Michelman & Robinson, the same law firm that repped Zappin and the three others in the previous suits.

In the company’s April 10 response to the Zappin-led suit, Maker Studios said the claims were “patently meritless” and that the litigation was “a reckless attempt, based on a quixotic personal vendetta, to throw sand in the gears of the (Disney) merger and endanger the interests of all Maker’s shareholders.” According to a source familiar with the deal, a majority of Maker shareholders had already voted to approve the Disney offer around the time of the announcement on March 24.

Maker said its board had decided that because of Zappin’s “increasingly erratic behavior” and past legal troubles, they would be forced to fire him if he didn’t resign as CEO — and that Zappin accepted the severance package offered to him in May 2013. According to Maker, Zappin had said he was “never cut out for the role of CEO” and viewed himself as “a liability going forward.” In addition, the company denied the exec’s charges that he was “required and/or tricked” into selling stock. Maker also disclosed that Zappin had offered to buy Maker Studios in February for $200 million (or sell his stake at a valuation of $400 million).

Separately, Relativity Media on Sunday submitted a surprise bid to acquire Maker for up to $1.1 billion in mostly stock with a cash component, promising Maker execs and creators better financial rewards than Disney’s all-cash bid. On Monday, Maker said the majority of its shareholders had approved the Disney deal, rejecting Relativity’s overture.

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So far, life is good in FastPass+ lane

Orlando Sentinel - After months of chatter about MagicBands and weeks of testing at Walt Disney World, I had my first full day of the MyMagic+ experience.

I wasn't expecting to give a grade of A+ to FastPass+. The Disney system that allows visitors to make reservations for theme-park attractions remains solidly in test mode, and I haven't been eager to wear the MagicBand, which also can be used as a park ticket, FastPass+ organizer, charge card and even hotel key.

In addition, grumpy emails I received about foiled FastPass+ experiences held down my optimism.

But I had no real problems with the system on a recent weekend outing. Maybe I was lucky.

I primarily was interested in securing a reserved spot for Festival of Fantasy, the new afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom. Parade reservations are new to Disney, and I had noticed that it was a hot ticket via the My Disney Experience app..

On Saturday afternoon, I saw that Sunday parade tickets were still available. I snagged one and picked two other experiences. I wanted to see Enchanted Tales With Belle, a charming attraction I hadn't visited since the earliest days of New Fantasyland, and I also selected It's a Small World.

The app assigned me Sunday afternoon times for those selections. I was hoping for earlier, so I considered other options the app presented, one of which wanted to reassign me to the Peter Pan's Flight ride instead. I stuck with Plan A.

This trip was also the debut of my MagicBand. At the entrance to the park, the stretch where the turnstiles previously stood, I had a brief delay when the scanner didn't read my wristband. A nearby Disney employee told me to press the Mickey Mouse icon on the band against the icon on the scanner, and with one more tap I was given the green light.

Once in Fantasyland, there were no issues with my icon-tapping skills. There were a handful of folks in front of me in the Enchanted Tales FastPass+ queue, which bypasses a couple of rooms of the regular — or "standby" — line but includes the areas with the mirror that morphs into a gateway and the Madame Wardobe animatronic. The wait was less than three minutes.

After Belle, it was time to get into position for the parade. A segment of sidewalk near the base of Cinderella Castle was roped off for FP+ users. The posted reservation time for the 3 p.m. parade was 2:45 p.m., but when I arrived, dozens of people were already inside the ropes and seated along the curb.

To me, arriving early defeats the purpose of a reservation, but I guess these people really wanted front-row seats. A Disney worker said they had started allowing visitors into this designated space about 2:30 p.m.

The FastPass+ parade section wasn't crowded. One row of guests stood right by the street while another row stood several feet farther back against a railing. There was ample room to move around, even if you were pushing a double-wide stroller. It's a good spot to take pictures, too, with Cinderella Castle as the backdrop.

Folks without FastPass+ credentials were kept separate from us, and employees monitored that situation. But as the last float approached, I watched a woman jump into the area and dash to the curb. The irritation level increased when she started video-recording the float with her full-size iPad. File that under "inconsiderate tourist."

That incident did not change my mind about the great value of parade FastPassing. The experience was far better than the typical, uncomfortable sidewalk stance usually associated with parades. Disney now offers reservations for the nighttime Main Street Electrical Parade and "Wishes" fireworks, too.

For a finale, my Small World experience went without incident as well, although the FastPass+ wait time neared 15 minutes. The attraction was slammed because Peter Pan's Flight was not operating, and rejected guests drifted across the sidewalk to Small World.

My FastPass+ tryout was fairly uncomplicated, but Disney has plans to address a couple of common complaints. Look for changes to the FastPass limits — it's currently three reservations a day within a single park — to emerge from this testing period.

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Filmmaker wants to explore 'dark side' of Walt Disney World

Orlando Sentinel - Ever want to be part of a Disney production? Well, here’s your chance … sort of.  A new Kickstarter campaign seeks a minimum of $20,000 to produce a documentary about the “dark side of Disney.”

For as little as $10, you’ll see your name in the film’s credits. Pay a lot more and you will get a park pass and the opportunity to drink around the World Showcase at Epcot with the filmmakers . There are a host of other cool thank-you gifts, too, including signed posters by Rolly Crump and more.

New York-based digital filmmaker Philip B. Swift wants to make a film adaptation of Leonard Kinsey’s “The Dark Side of Disney,” a so-called “anarchist cookbook of Disney travel guides” that reveals tips, tricks and even outright scams for Disney vacationers. Kinsey will, according to information on the Kickstarter page, guide the direction of the film.

Swift previously created a full-length documentary called “The Bubble” about the town of Celebration.

So where will the donated funds go?

Well, to start with, research. Research about Disney fans who have “stepped off the beaten path and peeked into the darker corners of Walt Disney World.”

After research, the filmmakers want to pursue various “challenges” chapter by chapter. They’ll want to know the typical things, of course, such as tourist packing tips and where to stay for the cheapest rates and where to get your theme park tickets the cheapest, too.

But other challenges will involve things such as finding the best places to have sex at Walt Disney World theme parks or the best locations to score illicit substances and the best places to get high in the parks.

Of course, there’s equipment to buy, too, and travel expenses. But, if the filmmakers can achieve and surpass their financial goals, they might want to expand beyond Walt Disney World and even explore Disneyland or other far-flung Disney resorts around the globe, according to the Kickstarter page.

The filmmakers acknowledge that the project faces certain risks. But they ask the eternal question: If it was easy, why do it?

No doubt the filmmaker who once animated “Steamboat Willie” had the same outlook on artistic work. No doubt, either, that he’d be aghast to learn about a “dark side” at his Florida resort.

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Thursday April 17, 2014
‘Maleficent’ Sneak Peek Debuts in Disney Parks April 18
Easter Egg Hunt and Relay at Epcot for Easter Sunday
Disney Meets With Marvel About More Potential ‘Avengers’ & ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Spin-Off Solo Films
Top Five: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Videos from Walt Disney Imagineering
Disneynature's 'Bears' hits theaters Friday
Disney Offers 25% Raise Over Two Years to Florida Workers
Official Disney Fan Club site hints at Disney Infinity 2.0 launch this August
Man to Plead Guilty in Disney Insider Info Case
Can Sony Build a 'Spider-Man' Universe to Rival Disney's 'Avengers'

‘Maleficent’ Sneak Peek Debuts in Disney Parks April 18

DisneyParks Blog - Beginning tomorrow, April 18, guests at Disney Parks on both coasts will be able to enjoy an exclusive sneak peek at Walt Disney Studios’ “Maleficent,” which opens in theaters May 30.

This special extended sneak peek will play daily in RealD 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the ABC Sound Studio and at Disney California Adventure park.

The film stars Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning in the lead roles of Maleficent and Aurora, respectively, and tells the “untold” story of Maleficent and the betrayal that ultimately turned her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge, Maleficent places an irrevocable curse upon the king’s newborn infant, Aurora. As she grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the conflict between a place she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy.

To kick off this special opportunity, Walt Disney Studios just sent us this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film to share with you. Enjoy!

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Easter Egg Hunt and Relay at Epcot for Easter Sunday

Disney News - Epcot will be hosting a Easter Egg Hunt and Relay on Easter Sunday April 20th at the United Kingdom Pavilion.

The Easter Egg hunt will be open to all guests ages 3 to 9, and the Easter Egg Relay for children ages 8 to 12. A smaller Easter Egg Hunt will also be available for younger children, 3 and under.

The Egg Hunts will take place every 10 minutes from 11am to 3:30pm, and the Relay will take place every 40 minutes, starting at 11:40am, the final relay starting at 3:40pm.

Mr and Mrs Easter Bunny will be on hand for meet and greet from 11:30am to 3pm.

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Disney Meets With Marvel About More Potential ‘Avengers’ & ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Spin-Off Solo Films

Indiewire - Everyone wants a spin-off. That’s the talk du jour. It’s not enough to just have a franchise, you need solo films to keep that franchise going and going. It’s the new black: release a movie every other year while the main mothership has its flagship super-movie every two or three years, right? Fox hopes to do the same with the “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” series and Mystique (a mooted spin-off while the super-hero team carries on every other few years). And Marvel obviously already has this plan in place: an “Avengers” movie ever few years and in between them they have their solo character movies, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Ant-Man,” “Thor: The Dark World” etc.

This will be the plan for the next few years up until 2017 when “Avengers 3” comes out (it hasn’t been dated yet, but that’s a good bet). Remember, Kevin Feige recently said Marvel has a loose roadmap that leads to 2028. How do they get there? Well, by introducing new characters in each “Avengers” movie for one. After all, folks like Captain America (Chris Evans) are going to retire soon and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is presumably too expensive to re-up another contract with.

This means introducing new characters into “The Avengers” team, making them integral members for the next installments and then eventually giving them solo movies. So “Avengers: The Age Of Ultron” will already introduce three new super heroes: Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), The Scarlett Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany) and rumors of two more — Black Panther and Ms. Marvel (frankly, three seems like more than enough, and Feige was smart enough to not include Hawkeye in ‘Winter Soldier’ because they already knew it was overstuffed). Will these characters get solo movies? Well, according to Business Week, Disney Chiefs recently met with Marvel to discuss how to keep the gravy train going essentially.

Iger and Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, recently met with the Marvel team to talk about new heroes who will be introduced in Age of Ultron and could be spun off in their own films as well. Iger declines to name them. “The possibilities are endless,” he says.

And of course, when a strategy works, not only does every studio copy it (see How The 'Avengers'-Izing Of Blockbusters Is Killing Movies), but the studio that came up with it just wants to keep rolling it out over and over again (until it fails of course). So this means members of “The Guardians Of The Galaxy” could potentially have their own solo films if that movie takes off (confirming earlier reports).

Iger would like to replicate the success of The Avengers with other Marvel teams. He says Marvel could potentially spin off members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which include Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon, in their own features.

Note, some are speculating that this means a Ms. Marvel movie is coming, but Iger nor Business Week suggest that at all. Furthermore, while the Ms. Marvel character is rumored to be in “Avengers: Age Of Ultron,” one would think if she was going to get a solo movie, we’d likely know who the actor playing her would be by now. And certainly characters like The Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver are bigger. What’s more, Marvel is fairly conservative with these decisions, thankfully. For example, fans would love to see a Black Widow movie (Scarlett Johansson), but Marvel understands she’s a better utility player that works alongside Captain America and a movie based entirely on that supporting character may not work. Same goes for Hulk, who they haven't been in any hurry to go solo with.

Finally, the latest rumor going around today: “42” star Chadwick Boseman will appear in “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” as Black Panther. I’d say take it with a grain of salt for now.

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Top Five: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Videos from Walt Disney Imagineering

DisneyParks Blog - With the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opening later this spring, this week we thought we’d review some of the best video content we’ve shared so far around this attraction.

Just to review, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was Inspired by the 1937 Disney animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – but unlike Magic Kingdom Park’s original Snow White’s Scary Adventures attraction, this new experience tells the tale from the dwarfs’ perspective. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a family coaster with a ‘38-inch height requirement, and will be the final attraction to debut in New Fantasyland as a part of the park’s multi-year New Fantasyland expansion.

Over the past few months, we’ve released several videos that offer looks inside the making of the attraction. Check out some of our favorites below.

  1. Check out a ride-through video of the attraction, which is shown side-by-side with an early CGI rendering that Imagineers used to help design the attraction’s track.

     

  2. Take a peek inside the attraction for a first look at the Dwarfs and the technology used to bring them to life.

     

  3. Yellow Shoes Creative Group shared this CGI video of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

     

  4. Take a look behind the scenes to see how Walt Disney Imagineering created ride vehicles for the attraction.

     

  5. Head onto the construction site with Imagineers Dave Minichiello and Pam Rawlins to learn more about how Mine Train was constructed.

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Disneynature's 'Bears' hits theaters Friday

Orlando Sentinel - The latest Disneynature documentary hits theaters nationwide Friday in time for Earth Day. 

"Bears" tells the story of a mother, Sky, teaching her young cubs valuable life lessons as they live their lives in scenic Alaska. 

The documentary is narrated by John C. Reilly, known for his roles in films like "Step Brothers," "Magnolia" and "The Aviator." Reilly recently provided the voice for the main character in the Disney animated film "Wreck-It Ralph."

"Bear" is a true-life adventure that showcases a year in the life of Sky and her two cubs, Amber and Scout, beginning at the end of winter when the family emerges from hibernation.

As the seasons change, the family must work hard to find food, all while staying safe from rival male bears and predators. 

The film is directed by Alastair Fothergill, who has directed other Disneynature films including "Earth," "African Cats" and "Chimpanzee." Producer Keith Scholey worked with Fothergill on "African Cats," a 2011 documentary about several lions and cheetahs fighting to survive on the African savannah. 

"Bears" arrives in theaters Friday to celebrate Earth Day.

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Disney Offers 25% Raise Over Two Years to Florida Workers

Bloomberg - Walt Disney Co. (DIS) has offered to raise starting pay at its Florida theme parks by 25 percent to $10 an hour over two years, almost matching the federal minimum wage sought by President Barack Obama.

Disney presented the proposal yesterday to the Service Trades Council, a consortium of six labor groups, the company and union representatives said. They are scheduled to resume bargaining over a contract on May 28.

The unions, which represent more than 30,000 employees at Walt Disney World near Orlando, asked for at least $10.10 an hour, the amount congressional Democrats and Obama propose as a new U.S. minimum. Starting pay at the Florida parks is now $8.03 an hour, according to Burbank, California-based Disney. That would reach the rate Disney is offering by July 2016.

“I’m very pleased,” Ed Chambers, president of the council, said in a telephone interview. “We’re well on our way to getting a deal done.”

The contract being negotiated covers full-time hourly employees at the world’s most-popular theme-park complex. Disney reported record profit of $6.6 billion on revenue of $45 billion last year from its TV networks, parks, studios and consumer products.

“It is more generous than they have been in the past,” said Donna-Lynne Dalton, secretary-treasurer of the council. “It comes at a cost.”

Disney also told the unions it wants to stop offering pensions to new hourly employees starting in 2016.

New hires would be offered a 3 percent company match to a 401(k)-style retirement plan, said Dalton. The company doesn’t currently contribute to that plan, which is available to employees from bell staff to costumed entertainers, she said.

Union Opposition

Chambers said the union would oppose the pension change.

“This offer reflects our appreciation and care for our cast members and our commitment to providing a leading employment package,” Kim Prunty, a Disney World spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “We look forward to working with the union and engaging in constructive negotiations to finalize and reach a collective bargaining agreement.”

Disney’s last contract with the council took effect in October 2010, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The pact included annual raises of 3 percent to 4 percent for workers who hadn’t already reached the top of their pay scales, as well as $650 one-time bonuses for non-tipped, full-time employees.

Disney’s parks and resorts business, the company’s second-largest division after television, generated operating income of $2.22 billion last year on sales of $14.1 billion.

Robert Iger, Disney’s chairman and chief executive officer, said at the annual meeting in March the company has good relations with its unions and doesn’t expect that to change.

“It is our intention to behave very responsibly and fairly with all of our cast members and compensate them in ways that reflect the value that they create for the company and for our customers,” Iger said.

Disney rose 1.7 percent to $78.95 at the close in New York yesterday. The stock has gained 30 percent in the past year.

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Official Disney Fan Club site hints at Disney Infinity 2.0 launch this August

Polygon - Disney Infinity 2.0, the "latest chapter" of Disney's real-world toy/video game platform, may launch this August, according to a news brief on the official Disney Fan Club D23.

"Disney Infinity 2.0 is coming in August 2014, and a teaser trailer can be viewed at Marvel.com," according to the post recently discovered by Infinity Inquirer. "The teaser promises such Marvel-ous additions to the game as familiar Marvel characters, objects, and vehicles-the possibilities are infinite."

The D23 news brief mentioning the Disney Infinity 2.0 launch window has been pulled from the website since the recent discovery, but still appears in Google's cache (viewed below). According to an invitation sent to Polygon this week, Disney and Marvel Entertainment will unveil a collaboration on "the latest chapter of Disney Infinity" on April 30. Marvel released the "Get Ready to Assemble" teaser trailer for the project last week that mentioned the phrase "Disney Infinity 2.0."

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Man to Plead Guilty in Disney Insider Info Case

ABC News - A man will plead guilty to securities fraud and pay regulators around $801,000 for using insider information to profit from Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2009.

According to the deal filed in Los Angeles federal court Wednesday, Toby Scammell learned from his then-girlfriend, a Disney corporate strategy employee, that Disney would acquire a well-known company she didn't name.

Scammell learned from his consulting company that Disney had previously wanted to acquire Marvel. He bought call options in Marvel stock for around $5,500, and later sold them for $192,000 in profit.

Last month, Scammell agreed to settle a parallel civil case and pay $801,000 to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which will be credited to his fine in the criminal case. He also faces prison time.

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Can Sony Build a 'Spider-Man' Universe to Rival Disney's 'Avengers'

The Motley Fool - Standalone superhero movies have become a relic of the not-so-distant past. The incredible success of Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel films has effectively pushed rival studios to pursue interconnected film universes in order to avoid being left in the dust. Incredibly, the superhero movie boom has shown no signs of slowing down and looks to continue its strength for at least the next decade.

Disney has Marvel movies planned out through 2028, and Fox, Warner Bros., and Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) are all working to establish broader film universes that can generate reliable returns. For Sony, keeping up with its movie studio competitors is a matter of mining and effectively utilizing its "Spider-Man" license. Will The Amazing Spider-Man 2 provide the springboard that the company needs to create a broader film universe and rescue its embattled film division?

Sony needs a hero

Sony's film unit has taken some serious lumps in recent years. The company as a whole is suffering from major liquidity issues, and disasters like White House Down and After Earth prompted calls to spin off its film division. The somewhat disappointing box office returns from 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man led to speculation that Sony might sell the film rights to the character back to Marvel and Disney.

Prior to the release of the reboot, Sony and Disney completed a deal that saw The House of Mouse purchase merchandizing rights for Spider-Man films. While Spider-Man returning to the Marvel banner might have seemed like a legitimate possibility at one point, it's now clear that Sony plans to make even greater use of its license. If Sony sells the rights to the character and his associated universe to Disney, it would almost certainly correlate with an exiting of the film business.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 must justify the creation of a broader universe

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has already released in England to a mostly positive critical reception that portends good things for the future of Sony's expanding universe. While the film will likely garner more negative reviews in the lead up to its May 2 U.S. release, it appears that Sony does not have to worry about the Marc Webb-directed pic being a massive misfire. The movie still has a long way to go before meeting the studio's expectations, however.

The first film in the Amazing series remains the lowest grossing of all the Spider-Man movies, and Sony will be looking for a substantial improvement over the series reboot's approximately $752 million global box office take as an indication that an expanded Spider-universe will do good business.  

Will the latest 'Spider-Man' be Sony's 'Iron Man 2'?

According to reviews of Amazing Spider-Man 2, the film dedicates considerable screen time to setting up spin-offs currently in development at Sony. While some critics have cited this as a weakness of the film, similar complaints were levied against Disney's Iron Man 2 and they certainly had little effect on that film's box office draw or the broader viability of The Avengers universe. Sony has already announced plans to release films based on Venom and The Sinister Six, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 is meant to provide a basic introduction to some of the principal players in those upcoming films.

The universe revolves around Spider-Man

While Venom and The Sinister Six represent smart investments for Sony amid the current box office climate, it remains unlikely that the studio will be able to approach the success of Disney's Avengers. Flashback to the early 2000s and Spider-Man was the biggest name in superheroes, but Sony's license remains limited when compared to the vast expanse of Marvel properties that Disney has access to.

Sony has secured some compelling talent for The Sinister Six in Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti, but the film will likely require a heavy Spider-Man presence in order to draw the audience the studio is looking for. Compare this to a film like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which hasn't needed the help of lead-Avenger Iron Man to achieve highly impressive box office numbers, and it's clear that the strength of Disney's Marvel universe is leaps and bounds above what Sony is working on.

Venom might have a better shot of growing the Spider-universe and establishing its title character as a commercially viable protagonist, but even the eponymous anti-hero's appearance remains strikingly close to that of Spider-Man. Sony's attempts at building a broader film universe remain tightly tied to the famous webslinger, perhaps dangerously so.

Sony's film division desperately needs a big hit...

Not counting Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony currently has four additional Spider-films in development. Should Amazing Spider-Man 2 fail to substantially surpass the commercial performance of its predecessor, it would be a worrying indication that audiences are less than taken with the rebooted franchise and that the universe built by Marc Webb and company is less than ideal for further expansion. Whether Amazing Spider-Man 2 turns in a performance similar to that of the first Amazing film or goes on to approach the $1 billion mark, the future of Sony's film division revolves around the appeal of the webhead and his enemies.

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Wednesday April 16, 2014
Merlin Presentation I-Drive 360! Click Here
Epcot After-Hours: Think cultural event, not party bar, Disney says
The Seas with Nemo & Friends Earns Praise for Conservation Efforts, Animal Care from Accrediting Association
Disney Just Made History
Walt Disney World Expands Luxury Home Sites Inside the 40-Square-Mile Park
Local mother asked by Disney park employee to cover up at California Adventure
World-Class Accommodations and Dining on a Disney Cruise
Disney's ‘Descendants’ Casts Newcomer Sophia Carson as Evil Queen's Daughter

Epcot After-Hours: Think cultural event, not party bar, Disney says

Orlando Sentinel - Disney World will let visitors linger in four Epcot bars after the theme park closes for the night — for a price.

The Epcot After-Hours Wind Down, debuting Thursday, will offer select drinks and eats for $35 per person from 9:20 to 11 p.m., the period after the “IllumiNations” fireworks show.

“The goal was not for the bar to be open later, but it was for you to be able to take something new or pair something new from a culture that you might not be as familiar with,” said Mandy ÖDigiammarino, general manager of food and beverage at Epcot.

“It’s more of an educational experience than it is a party-bar atmosphere,” she said.

The Wind Down will be at four World Showcase locales: La Cava del Tequila in Mexico, Tutto Gusto in Italy, Rose & Crown Pub in United Kingdom and the new Spice Road Table in Morocco. It’s scheduled to run through Sept. 15.

Disney parks host character breakfasts before operating hours, but this will be the first regular effort to extend sales past closing time.

Other theme parks also offer special food-and-beverage events during operating hours. Universal Studios has the Cinematic Spectacular Dining Experience, with a meal and a prime setting for its nighttime lagoon show, for $44.99. SeaWorld Orlando’s Dine With Shamu, a poolside meal that features whales and trainers, sells for $29.

“The idea that everyone has to leave and you can sit and relax and have the park to yourself for a little while” should appeal to Epcot guests, said Lou Mongello, host of the independent WDW Radio podcast. “You’re paying for the sense of exclusivity and doing something special.”

The $35 fee — on top of regular Epcot admission — may be considered pricey, however, said A.J. Wolfe, who operates the Disney Food Blog, a website unaffiliated with Disney World.

“A lot of people are frustrated by that price point,” Wolfe said. Many of her readers said they would rather spend money in a hotel bar, she noted. But the Wind Down offers another way to enjoy popular spots, Wolfe said.

“It’s hard to get into those places — they’re packed, especially Rose & Crown and La Cava,” she said.

Disney’s goal is to be “culturally authentic” as well as educational, Digiammarino said. The drinks will be tailored to each venue. Guests will have a flight of tequila at the Mexico pavilion, for example.

“Many people think of tequila as a party beverage,” Digiammarino said. “Tequila is very sophisticated — but many of us do not realize that.”

Reservations are required and can be made at disneyworld.com/spring or by calling 407-939-3463.

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The Seas with Nemo & Friends Earns Praise for Conservation Efforts, Animal Care from Accrediting Association

DisneyParks Blog - Earth Month is a time when we give extra thought to how we can protect our planet year-round, including our amazing oceans and marine wildlife. So it is with tremendous pride that I share the news that The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot was granted accreditation once again by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits only those aquariums and zoos that meet the highest standards,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “As a leader in wildlife conservation and animal care, inspiring millions of visitors each year, The Seas is ranked among the best aquariums in the world.”

To be accredited, The Seas underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet ever-rising standards, which include animal care; veterinary programs; conservation, research and education; safety; guest services; and quality of staff.

The accreditation process, which must be repeated in its entirety every five years, includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observed all aspects of the operation at The Seas, and met with and interviewed Seas and other Disney leadership and Cast.

Some of the points of particular achievement noted by the inspection team included:

  • The Seas conservation programs, including its partnership with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and conservation efforts in the state of Florida and beyond.
  • Education programs that address both local and global conservation, including guests with special needs.
  • Excellence in animal care, including enrichment, a strong program of veterinary care and nutrition, and research projects that foster animal health and knowledge focused on animals at The Seas and in the wild.
  • Staff who are dedicated, knowledgeable and exhibit a spirit of teamwork.

Being accredited by the AZA is an important way the team at The Seas with Nemo & Friends shows how much they care about connecting people with animals, and inspiring families and children to protect wildlife and nature.

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Disney Just Made History

Motley Fool - Thanks to the strong box office performance of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is now official: Walt Disney's  (NYSE: DIS  ) Marvel entertainment property is the most successful brand in movie history. With the company's superhero success showing no signs of slowing down, the brand appears to still be in the early stages of its growth cycle.

However, perhaps just as important is that Disney now owns another massive franchise in Star Wars, which just so happens to be the third most successful brand in movie history. As the company prepares to unleash a wave of new Star Wars content, the science fiction franchise may be set to take the crown from Marvel.

In fact, the closest franchises to Disney's two behemoths are Harry Potter and Batman, both of which are distributed by competitor Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) .  With new entries announced for both franchises, the main question for investors is: Can Time Warner ever catch up?

The top five
After a strong showing by the Captain America sequel, Disney's Marvel unit has amassed approximately $2.47 billion in total box office gross. In a very close second is the Harry Potter franchise, which has totaled approximately $2.39 billion. In third place is Star Wars with roughly $1.9 billion, which sits just above the James Bond and Batman franchises. 

The good news for Marvel is that all signs point to not only continued success but also growth. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best-performing post-Avengers sequel for Marvel so far, as the movie represents a 46% improvement over its predecessor in the domestic market. Iron Man 3 grew by 36% and Thor: The Dark World grew by 30%. 

However, Star Wars can overtake Marvel. With the long-awaited Episode 7 entry in the series set to hit theaters in late 2015, Disney has generated a lot of excitement for the franchise. By hiring top talent like director J.J. Abrams and allowing creative teams ample time to develop content, success in the most popular science fiction universe seems almost assured. Additionally, the last live-action Star Wars film, 2005's Revenge of the Sith, performed very well, generating $849 million worldwide. 

Although Disney is currently the king of the box office, you should not forget about Time Warner. The Harry Potter franchise, which is renowned the world over and especially popular among youth and young adults, is making a return to theaters. Time Warner announced that three "megamovies" based on extended canon from author J.K. Rowling are in the works. As prequels, they may not carry the same weight as films featuring the series' titular character, but the movies are sure to excite an already massive fan base. 

Also, Time Warner has been busy trying to directly compete with Disney on the superhero front with a reinvention of its DC entertainment property. The company is pitting its two biggest names against each other in 2016. The much-anticipated Batman vs. Superman movie will go head-to-head with the third Captain America installment on May 6, 2016. Early signs among fans point to a victory for Time Warner in May. 

Bottom line
Disney's media division is firing on all cylinders, as management seems to have found its groove with regard to new content creation. Investors have been rewarded handsomely as shares of the company are up approximately 30% in the last year. Growth is expected to continue as analysts expect the company to increase sales 6.6% and earnings by 19.1% this year. 

On the other hand, Time Warner has struggled. Shares are up only 5% in the last year and the company's projected growth is weak; analysts expect it to decline 8% in sales and only increase earnings by 4% this year. 

Although Time Warner seems to have the content to remain a viable competitor long-term, Disney is where the growth is currently. If you're looking for a top-tier media play, take a closer look at Disney.

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Walt Disney World Expands Luxury Home Sites Inside the 40-Square-Mile Park

THR - Golden Oak at Walt Disney World and Resort - a 980-acre, VIP gated residential community located inside the iconic theme park's massive 40-square-mile land (about the size of San Francisco) -- is expanding its neighborhood. Debuting in 2010, it marked the first time Disney offered its longtime fans the opportunity to live inside the park in million-dollar homes. When fully completed in the next few years, Golden Oak will comprise eight neighborhoods with approximately 400 homes. Forty of the current 100 available home sites have already been purchased by residents that include CEOs and NBA athletes (Disney declined to comment on names.)

The development, sprawling with parks, gardens, priceless sculptures and nature preserves, offers homes that range from $1.8 to $6 million. All are custom built, and new residents can choose from a select group of seven homebuilders to customize their homes from existing templates (or they can hire their own architect and designers to build a home from the ground up). Homes can also come fully furnished. While the first home was purchased in 2011 and only a handful were available since debuting in 2010, the resort community now offers 100 homes in four neighborhoods.

The newest area, called Marceline (named for Walt's Missouri hometown) is coming to the market with 56 home lots that average one-quarter acre. The homes are built with stone, copper and clay (there's no faux or veneer), and the styles range from Mediterranean to Caribbean themed. Most homes include an outdoor space with plunge pool and built-in hot tub, in addition to a separate guesthouse. There are subtle design nods to Disney characters, like a Mickey Mouse head marked into stonework, which avoids overt branding.

Golden Oak homeowners have a dedicated service team, like concierge and security, and access to the recently opened Summer House ($15,000 annual fee). The clubhouse is designed to feel like a Tuscan villa with clay-tile roof, fountains and plenty of low-key outdoor space. Also included is a bar, restaurant, lounge with high ceilings and 103-inch TV screen, outdoor pool courtyard with wetlands backdrop and 17,000-square-foot fitness center. Residents will also have privileges at Disney attractions, including a family pass for the first three years, door-to-park transportation services and additional guest passes.

Golden Oak residents will also have access to the new, 440-room Four Seasons Orlando, specifically the four restaurants and the Tom Fazio-designed golf course. Slated to open this summer, Four Seasons Orlando will be the resort's most luxurious hotel option (currently it's Grand Floridian) and, at 23 acres, it will also the be the biggest resort at Walt Disney World. The outdoor pool area will include an adults-only pool and a five-acre "island" with a lazy river, recreational facilities, like a climbing wall, and a 3,000-square-foot game building. The 17th floor bar and Spanish-style steakhouse will sport the best views for Walt Disney Resort's legendary fireworks. August bookings are now available.

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Local mother asked by Disney park employee to cover up at California Adventure

ABC News - A local family's first trip to the Disneyland resort in Anaheim was marred, they say, by a comment made by a park employee. A Tierrasanta mother contacted 10News to say she was asked by a park employee to cover up because of her clothing.

"This was our first family vacation and for me, it was ruined," said Melissa Behnken, whose husband is in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

A week later, she is still in disbelief.

"This gentleman out of nowhere comes up to me and just says, 'You need to pull your top up,'" she said. "I was looking at him like, 'Excuse me? Are you serious?'"

Behnken said the elderly male park employee was dead serious. She says he added, "'This is a family park. You are showing too much.'"

It happened at the front gates of Disney's California Adventure Park. 10News asked her to wear the same shirt again during an interview on Tuesday. Behnken showed 10News in photos that it was the same outfit she wore to the park last week.

"My husband just got back from deployment," Behnken said. She had waited a long time to make the trip.

Even her 9-year-old daughter Hailey could not believe what she heard that day.

"I heard him say to put on a sweater or to pull her shirt up," Hailey said.

Behnken said, "I guess women with large chests are expected to wear turtlenecks their whole lives."

She said she filed a report with guest relations at the park and then filled out a formal complaint online once they returned home.

Behnken is seeking an apology and hopes the park employee will not do the same to other women.

"Maybe they need to do more exclusive training on what is OK to say to people that come there," she said.

10News reached out to Disneyland but did not receive a comment. Late Tuesday afternoon, the family said that after 10News asked for that statement, a spokesperson for Disneyland called the family to apologize for the attendant's behavior.

According to Disneyland's Website,  their FAQ's section states that there is a dress code:

The parks are a casual, family-oriented environment. We suggest you dress comfortably, wear good walking shoes and check the local weather report before you leave for the parks.

Ensuring that the parks are family friendly is an important part of the Disney experience. In that spirit, we ask you to use your discretion and common sense. Attire that is not appropriate for the theme parks (and which may result in refusal of admittance) includes but is not limited to:

  • Adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character
  • Masks (unless you are dressing up for a particular event)
  • Clothing with objectionable material, including obscene language or graphics
  • Excessively torn clothing
  • Clothing which, by nature, exposes excessive portions of the skin that may be viewed as inappropriate for a family environment
  • Tattoos that could be considered objectionable, such as with obscene language or graphics

A Guest is allowed into the parks if her or his hair (or make-up, if applicable) has been made to resemble a Disney Princess or character (for example, after a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover) provided the Guest is not also wearing a costume or clothed to look like the character.

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World-Class Accommodations and Dining on a Disney Cruise

DisneyParks Blog - When you think about what sets Disney apart, what is it that comes to mind? My guess is that most of you will agree it’s attention to detail. No matter where you vacation with Disney, it’s easy to tell right away the thought that’s put behind even the smallest of things. It’s what we call “magic in the details.”

This month we shared with you some of the magical details you’ll find on a Disney cruise, from dazzling entertainment for the whole family to activities catered to kids and adults. Today, take a closer look at the world-class accommodations and dining you can expect when sailing with us.

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Disney's ‘Descendants’ Casts Newcomer Sophia Carson as Evil Queen's Daughter

The Wrap - Upcoming Disney Channel original movie “Descendants” has found Evvie, the daughter of the Evil Queen from “Snow White.”

Newcomer Sophia Carson has been cast in the starring role, TheWrap has learned.

The Florida native has guest-starred on Disney Channel's “Austin and Ally.” She also has a guest-starring role on the upcoming MTV comedy “Faking It.”

Carson, who's currently attending the University of California, Los Angeles, is a dancer and singer in addition to being an actress. She's currently signed with BMI as a singer/songwriter and is working on songs with Hans Zimmer's production team.

Set for a 2015 premiere, “Descendants” will introduce the teen offspring of its greatest villains. The children, though, are beginning to question the family business.

Carson joins already announced cast members Dove Cameron as Mal, the daughter of Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty”; Booboo Stewart will play Jay, the son of Jafar from “Aladdin”; and Mitchell Hope has been cast as Ben, the son of Belle and the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Emmy-winning director and choreographer of the cable channel's “High School Musical” franchise, Kenny Ortega, has been tapped to direct. Casting is currently underway.

Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott (“The Starter Wife,” “Runaway Bride,” “Desperate Housewives”) are writing the script. Mark Hofeling (“Teen Beach Movie,” “High School Musical”) will head production design, and Kara Saun (“Project Runway,” “America's Best Dance Crew”) will oversee wardrobe design.

WME and Asensi Management represents Carson.

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Tuesday April 15, 2014
Unique Perspective of Belle’s Village at Magic Kingdom
Festival of the Lion King New Home
Maker Studios Says Disney Acquisition Is Approved by Shareholders, Who Reject Relativity Bid
Rave Reviews for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland
Disney's Contemporary Resort Hosting Religious Services Easter Sunday
Celebrities Help Announce Disney Junior’s Give a Book, Get a Book and a Donation of up to 1 Million Books

Unique Perspective of Belle’s Village at Magic Kingdom

DisneyParks Blog - This week’s photo of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was snapped from a unique angle – as if the Mine Train Cart was rushing down the first drop toward Belle’s Village.

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Festival of the Lion King New Home

Here's a look at the new home of Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom. Disney went with a African fortress look since the new home will be in the Africa section of the park. As we pan over to the left, in the second photo,  you can see the wall extension by the water way. As we get to photo three we see another structure which falls into Avatarland territory, is this a structure for Avatarland? and if so what is it? If not then its part of Africa but nothing that was ever mentioned in the original plans to extend past Festival of the Lion King. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.







A closer look at the structure.

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Maker Studios Says Disney Acquisition Is Approved by Shareholders, Who Reject Relativity Bid

Variety - Maker Studios said Disney’s $500 million-plus offer for the YouTube multichannel network has already been approved by the majority of its shareholders — leaving Relativity Media’s eleventh-hour opposing bid dead in the water.

“As per the announcement made on March 24, Maker Studios has entered into a merger agreement with The Walt Disney Co.,” a spokeswoman for the MCN said. “The agreement has been approved by Maker Studios’ board of directors and the majority of its shareholders and is expected to close in the next few weeks, subject to regulatory approval.”

Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media on Sunday submitted a surprise bid to acquire Maker. Under the proposed transaction, Relativity was offering up to $1.1 billion in mostly stock with a cash component, promising Maker execs and creators better financial rewards than with Disney’s cash bid of up to $950 million. Jefferies & Co. was Relativity’s banker advising the studio on the Maker bid.

In a statement, Relativity exec VP David Shane said, “We made a compelling offer and believe Maker Studios, its employees and its roster of talent would have greatly benefited from Relativity’s platform, its entrepreneurial approach and promising growth potential. We will continue to aggressively explore future opportunities that align with our strategy to accelerate digital content creation and distribution.”

Also Monday, the Superior Court for the State of California in L.A. rejected a request by Maker ex-CEO Danny Zappin and three other former execs seeking to block the scheduled April 15 shareholder vote on the Disney acquisition.

Zappin and the others last summer sued Maker Studios, alleging breach of contract and fraud over Zappin’s “ousting” as chief executive and that Maker Studios board members and officers “illegally issued shares to themselves and diluted the common stock for their own financial gain to the detriment of other Maker shareholders and take control Makers’ board so that they could ‘rapidly create a “liquidity event”‘ so that they could sell Maker and obtain significant returns on their investments.” The court on Monday denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order, which sought to halt the Maker shareholder vote on Disney pending the disclosure of “material” information about the prior lawsuit.

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Rave Reviews for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland

DisneyParks Blog - I recently asked Disneyland park guests to review the newly refurbished Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. While it was the return of a Frontierland favorite for some and a pioneer trip on the train for others, all passengers agreed it’s still the “wildest ride in the wilderness.”

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Disney's Contemporary Resort Hosting Religious Services Easter Sunday

Disney's Contemporary Resort will host religious services on Easter Sunday, April 20th, in the Fantasia Ballroom.

Service Schedule: 
Catholic Mass – 8:00am and 10:15am. 
Protestant Service – 9:00am. 

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Celebrities Help Announce Disney Junior’s Give a Book, Get a Book and a Donation of up to 1 Million Books

DisneyParks Blog - Disney Junior announced its new Give a Book, Get a Book program in a big way this past weekend, as Disney Junior stars Ariel Winter and Tim Gunn (of “Sofia the First“) and David Arquette (of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates“) performed a storybook reading at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Anaheim, Calif.

Through Give a Book, Get a Book, Disney will partner with First Book to provide for the donation of up to 1 million books to U.S. communities in need, and also present families with free digital books from Disney Publishing Worldwide. The program includes a redemption code offering a free Disney Digital book and a way for families to experience giving back by donating books to the community of their choice after purchasing a specially-marked Disney Junior book or product.

Families and children gathered around at the Disneyland Hotel to listen to the celebrity readers. They also enjoyed hearing a story read by LeVar Burton, children’s literacy advocate and Cofounder and Curator-in-Chief of the award-winning Reading Rainbow app. Burton spoke about the importance of building literacy and of storytelling in the digital age.

Storytelling is the foundation of Give a Book, Get a Book, designed to inspire parents and caregivers to spend time each day sharing stories that help develop the critical thinking, vocabulary and language skills a preschooler needs. The initiative includes public service announcements, interactive Radio Disney events, and free story time events at Boys & Girls Clubs of America Disney Store locations, starting April 21.

Details are available at the new website, giveabookgetabook.com. Families can find online activities there and also access resources that promote the value of storytelling.

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Monday April 14, 2014
Relativity Says It Can Top Disney’s Bid For Maker Studios
The Other side of the Mountain
New runDisney Anniversary Medals Revealed
Polynesian Resort Progress on DVC/Villas Project

Commemorative Merchandise for 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios May 1st
Disney and Marvel unveiling Disney Infinity collaboration soon
More Info on Epcot's 'After Hours Wind Down'
Lori MacPherson to Leave Disney as Studio Restructures Home Entertainment Group
Kissimmee man dies after crash on Disney property

Relativity Says It Can Top Disney’s Bid For Maker Studios

Deadline - Is $1B in stock from Relativity worth more than $950M in cash from Disney? That’s the proposition Relativity is offering online multichannel company Maker Studios today. It sent a letter of intent last night that it says “is superior to the current offer from Walt Disney” that the Maker board accepted last month. The plan developed with help from Jefferies and Barclays includes $500M in Relativity shares, $400M in stock when Maker hits “certain financial milestones,” plus $100M in stock to go to “key talent and executives” who also “are not existing stockholders of the Company.” Relativity says that both it and Maker “are natural partners” because both “share a commitment to challenging the status quo, breaking down old models that don’t work and inventing new ones that do.” Disney believes that the deal it struck with Maker last month — $500M upfront and $450M with milestones — is binding, so we’ll see where this goes.

The proposal does not appear to be directly related to an effort by former Maker execs including co-founder Danny Zapplin to persuade the LA Superior Court to block the deal with Disney. The application for a temporary restraining order wants to put things on hold while the plaintiffs try to demonstrate that  current Maker execs are “skimming tens of millions of dollars for themselves by kicking back to the other stock adverse to the common shareholder.” Disney isn’t named as a defendant in the matter.

Major studios are becoming interested in YouTube-oriented multichannel online network companies including Maker Studios which targets millennials with more than 55,000 channels that attract 380M subscribers and 5.5B views per month. For example, last year DreamWorks Animation paid $33M with another $117M in potential payments for AwesomenessTV, and Warner Bros recently led a funding round for Machinima. But many investors are wary about the business models; YouTube collects a big chunk of the ad sales. When Disney announced its plan to buy Maker last month Cowen and Co’s Doug Creutz questioned why the entertainment giant “couldn’t have build something themselves for less money” since Maker “generally does not internally develop shows, but instead signs personalities with established shows to contracts.”

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The Other side of the Mountain

Disney News - As we wait for Disney World's latest attraction to open, one can only wonder why it's taken so long? Yet at the same time we can finally say, 'New Fantasyland is complete' So as we wait for news on an Opening Date lets take a look at the other side of the mountain, Seven Dwarf's Mine Train that is.



Embankment curve.



Imagineers doing a walk through and the track to no where.



It's all in the Details.

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New runDisney Anniversary Medals Revealed

DisneyParks Blog - As runners start to plan their fall and winter race schedules, we thought it would be fun to provide some extra motivation and reveal a little “bling.” Disney Yellow Shoes Art Director David Brotherton has been busy designing two amazing finisher medals to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon and the 10th anniversary of the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.



The Wine and Dine anniversary medal captures the essence of the race with color and design, and features a spinner at the heart of the medal. One side represents the tradition of past medals and is inspired by Spaceship Earth, while the other side showcases chef Mickey on the run. A fitting reward to those taking on the sold-out half marathon in November.



Registration for the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon presented by Cigna opens on April 22 and we are thinking this Goofy Challenge anniversary medal might be just enough to get some people thinking a little, well, Goofy. After all, running a half marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday puts you in a unique category. Looking at the medal there is no doubt we are celebrating the 10th anniversary. Featuring traditional Goofy colors, this medal also has a spinner in the middle. One side celebrates the accomplishment of the half marathon, and when you spin it, Goofy turns upside down and lets you know you added on another 26.2 miles, a grand total of 39.3 miles over two days. Goofy.

runDisney is proud of all our finisher medals and think these anniversary medals will excite our runners and be something they will be proud of earning when they cross the finish line.

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Polynesian Resort Progress on DVC/Villas Project

Disney News - We gave it a name today and it is The Big Kahuna Grand Tiki Villas and until we get an official name were sticking with that. We counted ten and as many as twelve of these little beauty's coming along. If you look closely you can see workers inside giving you an idea at how big they really are.





Roof lifted by crane.



This shot is from the monorail.

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Commemorative Merchandise for 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios May 1st

DisneyParks Blog - I recall first visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1990 during a family visit to Walt Disney World Resort. Since that time, I’ve spent many days at some of my favorite attractions like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and One Man’s Dream (I practically lived at the latter while serving as a Walt Disney World Ambassador during the 100 years of Magic Celebration). I also have many fond memories of taking my children to Sci-Fi Dine-In Theate Restaurant, or enjoying the Cobb salad (my favorite!) at the Hollywood Brown Derby. With Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ silver anniversary on May 1, we have created several new items to mark this occasion.

Disney Design Group artists Thomas Scott, Costa Alavezos and John Henselmeier collaborated on the logo design. John told me that the archway near the Disney Junior – Live on Stage! attraction served as their inspiration. Costa contributed the character sketches that remind me of the vignettes found on that archway.



We will release shirts for adults and kids including a classic, black polo-style shirt (I know a few readers have requested such a thing). Guests should also look for a messenger bag, a key chain, and a 12-inch, pre-dressed Duffy the Disney Bear.

The Disney pin team has also created a collection of pins to celebrate this anniversary. You may recall seeing a sneak preview of a jumbo-sized pin back in January. There will also be a limited edition “I Was There” pin, an Annual Passholder exclusive pin and a few other items like a starter set.

My favorite pin item is the limited release, mystery pin set that contains a host of characters dressed in various costumes. I love seeing the vintage-looking Donald Duck, Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. Two randomly selected pins will be found in each mystery box.

All of these items will be released when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens on May 1, 2014, in Soundstage 1. This temporary merchandise shop will be located between Studio Backlot Tour and Toy Story Midway Mania. All items will be available while supplies last.

The Disney Parks online store will carry the four shirts pictured in this story from May 1-5, 2014. The shirts will ship in 6-8 weeks once orders are completed (express shipping is not available). To order the shirts starting May 1, please visit DisneyStore.com/ParkEvents.

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Disney and Marvel unveiling Disney Infinity collaboration soon

Polygon - Disney and Marvel Entertainment are set to unveil a collaboration on a Disney Infinity project later this month, according to an invitation the companies sent to Polygon today.

The invitation, which you can see below, is for a media event scheduled to take place April 30 that will show off "the latest chapter of Disney Infinity." There's no word on whether that refers to a new game or an add-on to the existing title, which launched last August.

Marvel released a brief teaser trailer for the project last week.

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More Info on Epcot's 'After Hours Wind Down'

Disney News - More information has been given about Walt Disney World's latest offering, The Epcot 'After Hours Wind Down' The following may be available and is subject to change. Rose and Crown at the UK has not forwarded any information at this time.

La Cava de Tequila Wind Down
May include Acapulco-style Shrimp Cocktail and Tostadas paired with a Tequila or Margarita Flight

Tutto Gusto Wind Down
May include traditional cured meats, cheeses, and Italian Antipasti paired with Italian wine flights

Spice Road Table Wind Down
May include Lamb Sliders, Chicken Rolls, or Moroccan Sausages paired with a White or Red Wine Flight

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Lori MacPherson to Leave Disney as Studio Restructures Home Entertainment Group

Variety - The changing of the old guard continues to take place inside Hollywood’s homevideo divisions.

Lori MacPherson, a 23-year-vet of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, is leaving the company as executive VP, global product management at the end of the month.

MacPherson was instrumental in helping grow Disney’s Blu-ray business, digital copy and loyalty programs. Her role at the company was expanded in 2010 to include managing physical and digital Disney, Pixar, Marvel, DreamWorks, ABC, ABC Family and Disney Channels properties, along with developing new business opportunities.

Her departure comes as Disney is in the midst of restructuring not only its homevideo operations, overseen by Bob Chapek, president of distribution for the Walt Disney Studios, but also the rest of the company’s divisions as part of a cost-cutting move.

MacPherson is the latest senior homevideo exec to leave their studio after Mike Saska opted to retire from Warner Home Entertainment as executive VP and general manager of theatrical new releases after nearly 20 years. Saksa opted not to stay with the company earlier this week.

Saksa had overseeen the domestic release campaigns of more than 700 titles since 1995.

The news of MacPherson and Saksa’s departures were first reported by The Wrap.

As digital and international sales start to play a larger role in driving the bottom line for Hollywood, studios are looking to bring in new blood — especially execs with overseas experience — to run their homevid groups.

In December, Sony ousted its home entertainment chief David Bishop for Man Jit Singh, who has run Sony Pictures Television’s networks business in India since 2009. Bishop had been president of the division for eight years.

In February, Universal replaced its homevideo chief Craig Kornblau, who had been with the company for 16 years, with Eddie Cunningham, who served as president of Universal Pictures International Entertainment for eight years.

Universal merged its home entertainment division with its digital sales group last year.

And in March, Matt Brown, executive VP, worldwide commercial for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, was also let go as part of that studio’s corporate restructuring.

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Kissimmee man dies after crash on Disney property

Orlando Sentinel - A 64-year-old Kissimmee man suffered a medical emergency while driving on Walt Disney World property last night, crashed into a guardrail and died at a nearby hospital, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Robert Benedek was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital Celebration Health.

According to the highway patrol, he was driving west on Epcot Center Drive near World Drive about 8:40 p.m. when he had a medical emergency – authorities did not provide details.

His vehicle then went onto a shoulder, where his front right tire hit a guardrail. Benedek was able to stop his vehicle. Medical personnel took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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Sunday April 13, 2014
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