December 11 - 17, 2011
 

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Saturday December 17, 2011
James Frain Joins Disney's The Lone Ranger
ESPN Extends International Rights to NCAA Men’s Basketball

James Frain Joins Disney's The Lone Ranger

Cinema Blend - James Frain’s True Blood character Franklin Mott could probably be described as mentally unstable, to put it mildly. Sure, he came across as dark and alluring at first, as so many vampires do these days, but in the end, he proved to be as menacing as vampires were once more frequently portrayed, with a side of crazy for our entertainment. Since appearing in the HBO series, he’s gone on to take on a number of roles, including NBC’s short-lived superhero drama The Cape, and a part in Water For Elephants. And now it seems he’s set to improve the already strong cast of Disney’s The Lone Ranger.

The Hollywood Reporter posted the news, stating that the British actor has signed on to play the part of “a tough foreman overseeing Chinese and Indian rail workers who works for the story’s chief villain,” played by Tom Wilkinson. Should we expect another evil-crazy performance from him in this? Or just the standard variety villain employee? Frain joins Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter and Wilkinson in the Gore Verbinski-directed film.

Production is said to begin for The Lone Ranger in six weeks and may still be aiming for a May 31, 2013 release date. In the meantime, Frain is also credited for a role in Antonio Negret’s Transit, starring Jim Caviezel, as an action/thriller by Vicky Jewson called Born of War.

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ESPN Extends International Rights to NCAA Men’s Basketball

Bloomberg - Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN sports cable network reached an agreement extending its international rights to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s men’s basketball for $500 million through 2023-2024.

The accord includes 600-plus hours and 300 telecasts of live coverage annually across multiple media on the company’s cable channels and online outlets, according to e-mailed statements today from the NCAA and ESPN, the largest cable sports network.

Prices for TV rights to sports programming have soared in recent years. The National Football League secured a 60 percent increase in its deal with CBS Corp., News Corp.’s Fox unit and Comcast Corp.’s NBC announced yesterday.

The latest agreements also include Internet streaming rights for access on computers, mobile phones and tablets. Fox secured digital rights for its portion of NFL games, and ESPN’s agreement with NCAA includes streaming rights as well.

“This is our most comprehensive agreement yet and ensures sports fans will have access to top-level NCAA athletics across ESPN networks and platforms,” George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, said in a statement.

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Hindustantimes - Veteran Bollywood actor Shabana Azmi will be narrating poems for a kids show on Disney Channel, while comic actor Omi Vaidya of 3 Idiots fame will be lending his voice to a character on a cookery show meant for children on the same TV network. With Christmas holiday season around the corner, Disney Channel has come with two brand new short series – A Poem Is and Tasty Time with Chef ZeFronk. Beginning December 19, these shows will be aired multiple times daily.
 
A Poem Is is an animated series showcasing poems for children and set amidst scenes and imagery from classic Disney films, including Dumbo, Bambi and Lady and the Tramp.

The poems will be narrated by Shabana in Hindi and by actor-director Suhasini Ratnam in Tamil and Telegu.

"Children respond to reading and writing poetry, as it fuels their imagination and creativity and allows them to express themselves. This is a great way to learn, memorise and share. Some of the poems are going to be sentimental and sweet, the kind that will warm a mother's heart, and some of them will be silly and funny to make kids giggle and laugh," Shabana said in a statement here.

`Tasty Time with ZeFronk will encourage kids to cook with their families. Vaidya has lent his voice for the character of Chef ZeFronk, who hosts a fun-filled cooking show for kids and whips up fun and healthy snacks for children.

"Little ones love to watch cooking from an early age. Highlight of the show is that it involves a lot of fun and learning at the same time. Parents will be encouraged to watch the show and cook with their kids," Vaidya said.

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Friday December 16, 2011
TUBACHRISTMAS Coming to Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort
Celebrate the Holidays at the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort
Marvel And Disney Releasing New TOY STORY Comic in March
New Tropical Delectable Dessert at Remy on the Disney Dream
Disney: It's a big world after all
Pepper Market at Disney’s Coronado Springs Tries Out a New Buffet
Disney Junior ushers in holiday season with launch of two short-form animated series

TUBACHRISTMAS Coming to Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort

DisneyParks Blog - Calling all tuba and euphonium players! On Wednesday, Dec. 21, TUBACHRISTMAS will be attempting to set another world record at Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort, and they need your help.

For the past six years, Downtown Disney District has hosted this unique event, in which hundreds of tuba and euphonium players gather to perform holiday music arranged specifically for these instruments. A global phenomenon, the event is held in various locations around the world, including the Kennedy Center, Rockefeller Center, and locations in Canada, Costa Rica and Switzerland. The Disneyland group set the world record just a few years ago for the most tuba players ever participating in this world-wide tradition and is aiming to break the record again this year.

All ages and skill levels are invited to attend – this year, the youngest tuba player will be 8 years old and the oldest will be 82 years old. Event producer and Disneyland Resort Talent Booking and Casting Director, Stan Freese (who has been participating in TUBACHRISTMAS since 1983), says he is drawn to the event for its uniqueness.

“It’s fun, it’s free, and you won’t see something like this in just any shopping mall,” he says. Be sure to keep an eye out for Stan, who will even be playing a solo in the group’s performance of “Silent Night.”

Here are the event details:

  • Downtown Disney District, Wednesday, December 21
  • Registration: 8-10 a.m., in the Downtown Disney District valet parking lot
  • Rehearsal: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., in the Downtown Disney District valet parking lot
  • Performance: 2 p.m., in front of ESPN Zone

And even if you’re not a tuba player, come out and watch this spectacular performance!

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Celebrate the Holidays at the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort

DisneyParks Blog - If you’re looking for even more holiday magic, don’t forget about the Downtown Disney District at the Disneyland Resort! Throughout the holiday season, you can find great treats and activities from La Brea Bakery all the way to Compass Books Café!

Check out all the holiday fun at the Downtown Disney District:

ESPN Zone
Purchase a pumpkin spice cake dessert and receive a complimentary $10 ESPN Zone Arena Game Card!

Limit one per person per day. Offer valid November 14, 2011, through January 8, 2012. Cannot be combined with other offers or discounts. Restrictions apply. Subject to change without notice. Valid at ESPN Zone Anaheim only.

Compass Books Café
Now offering seasonal favorites including pumpkin, gingerbread, eggnog and peppermint lattes. A hot beverage isn’t the same without a treat! Christmas tree sugar cookies are available only for the holidays, while supplies last.

Haagen-Dazs
More holiday beverages and treats are available here, with peppermint and gingerbread lattes as well as peppermint bark – all for a limited time.

La Brea Bakery
The bakery’s seasonal offerings include peppermint cheesecakes in addition to gingerbread and peppermint-flavored lattes featuring Starbucks coffee.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
Decorate a gingerbread house – with special guest Santa Claus – at the Jazz Kitchen’s Ginger Bread Workshop! Reservations are now being accepted, and children under age 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Remaining workshops are December 17 and 18 from noon-2 p.m.

Holiday Dining
Celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Day with dinner in the Downtown Disney District! Participating restaurants like ESPN Zone, Catal Restaurant, Uva Bar, House of Blues Restaurant and Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen will feature special holiday menus with unique dishes. Don’t miss the famous turducken feast held annually at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen!

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Marvel And Disney Releasing New TOY STORY Comic in March

NewsARama - Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the rest of the gang lead readers to infinity and beyond as Marvel and Disney Publishing debut TOY STORY #1 (of 4). Featuring Toy Story characters from the Disney-Pixar films, Toy Story #1 delivers entirely new content and stories to comic fans.
 
“Everyone loves Toy Story, so we’re excited to team with our friends at Disney-Pixar to bring readers all new stories of our favorite characters from these blockbuster films,” said Axel Alonso, Editor in Chief, Marvel Entertainment. “TOY STORY allows us to bring great new material to the market that’s not only perfect for kids, but also a great read for fans of all ages. What’s next for Woody and Buzz in these stories? We can’t wait for you to find out!”

Andy's new puppy, Buster, loves to play with toys — but if Woody, Buzz and the gang can't control the playful pooch, all that chewing and shaking will leave them in a world of hurt! Will our heroes make it through in one piece with batteries intact? Find out this March in TOY STORY #1!

TOY STORY #1
Written by TEA ORSI
Penciled by ANTONELLO DALENA & TERESA QUEZADA-GEER
Cover by MARCO GHIGLIONE & SILVANO SCOLARI
All Ages...$2.99
ON-SALE IN MARCH 2012

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New Tropical Delectable Dessert at Remy on the Disney Dream

Now that I’ve shared with you two of the newest menu items at Remy aboard the Disney Dream, Jamon Wrapped Shrimp and Tomato Ratatouille, it’s time to talk about my favorite – dessert!

Also new to the Remy menu is Tropical Fruit Mousse on Almond Cake. Coupled with apricot sorbet, this colorful and artsy sweet tastes as good as it looks and is the perfect ending to your gourmet meal.

In this video, Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek of Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World Resort gives us a look at the new delectable dessert.

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Disney: It's a big world after all

MSN - Walt Disney (DIS +0.51%) recently announced a big 50% hike in its dividend. While the yield is still only 1.6%, the move shows the confidence of the board of directors in the company's future and that has added to my good feelings about this business.

The long-term payout for Disney is only about 20% of the 2011 free cash flow. So the company could continue to raise dividends over the next few years without any difficulty.

But whether they do or not, this is an interesting well-run business that deserves a place in your portfolio.

The company is basically broken down into five business units. The first is Media Networks which is comprised of Disney and ABC TV and which also includes the valuable ESPN franchises.

With 2012 being an election year, its local broadcaster franchises will do very well from campaign advertising. It has millions of cable subscribers to the Disney Channel itself.

The second unit is Parks and Resorts, which includes the famous Disneyland and Disney World as well as Paris and Hong Kong. This year the company broke ground on a new resort in Shanghai, the first in mainland China.

The company also has two large cruise ships and a total of 42 hotels comprised of more than 36,000 hotel rooms.

Third business unit is Studio Entertainment. This includes their movie production business, Walt Disney Studios, and Pixar Animation (Steve Jobs' former company).

Late last year, Studio Entertainment acquired Marvel Entertainment with its long list of action heroes like Spiderman and the Hulk.

The fourth business segment is Consumer Products. It produces the numerous toys, books, fashion accessories, Disney games, and other related products that emerge from their hit entertainment franchises.

Finally, there is Disney Interactive Media which is comprised of a vast array of web and mobile platforms which distributes the company's content worldwide.

They have the No. 1 Family site along with a number of family oriented gaming sites and video offerings.

Financially, the company is sound. In their recent fourth quarter and full year 2011 earnings statement they reported EPS growth of 24% to a record $2.52 compared to $2.03 in the prior year. Net income for the year increased 21% to a record $4.8 billion.

This is particularly impressive in light of the tough economy we have all been living through. The results will only improve as the economy strengthens.

The company is led by Robert Iger who has brought quiet competence to the executive suite after the tumultuous years under Michael Eisner.

The stock is up 54% under his tenure compared to a 2% rise in the broad market. He's only 60 so hopefully he'll be around for at least five more years.

Despite a post-dividend bump, the stock is selling at 17.5% below its 52-week high of $44.34 and I think we could see a 30% move up over the next year. Buy with a target of $50.

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Pepper Market at Disney’s Coronado Springs Tries Out a New Buffet

It’s only a test, but we expect the new buffet concept at the Pepper Market in Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort might stay. The former “food court”-style dining has been replaced with a concept that suits families and conventioneers – a quick bite and a diversity of flavors.

The restaurant looks the same, but instead of ordering from stations, you now pay a set price and it’s all you care to eat for everything from roast beef (or pork or turkey) to paninis, slices of pizza, pasta, salads and Mexican fare. We paired an enchilada with mashed potatoes, and had the kitchen make us a personal-size pizza instead of just ordering a slice of cheese or pepperoni. Everything is made from scratch, says Chef Stephen Wheeler.

Breakfast is waffles, made-to-order omelets, French toast, biscuits and gravy, pancakes and all the extras to accompany.

The buffet is for breakfast and lunch, dinner is a la carte. Cost is $14.99 for breakfast, $8.99 ages 3 to 11, and $16.99 for lunch, $9.99 ages 3 to 11. Non-alcoholic drink and dessert included.

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Disney Junior ushers in holiday season with launch of two short-form animated series

Business Standard - isney Junior, the learning-focused block for kids aged 2-7 on Disney Channel will usher in the holiday season with the launch of two brand new short-form series – A Poem Is... and Tasty Time with Chef ZeFronk. Beginning December 19, these shorts will play out multiple times daily on Disney Channel. 

Arnab Chaudhuri, executive director content and creative, Walt Disney Television International India, says, "The launch of these new series further demonstrates Disney Junior's dedication to programming that highlights the importance of great, heartfelt storytelling with learning components, including poetry and life skills. Both A poem is... and Tasty Time with ZeFronk are wonderful additions to the already robust offerings from Disney Junior and showcase how Disney’s content strives to entertain and inspire learning while embracing positive values.”
“A Poem Is...” is a short-form animated series showcasing poems for children set to scenes and imagery from classic Disney films including “Dumbo”, “Bambi” and “Lady and the Tramp.” Narrated by award winning actress and poetry enthusiast Shabana Azmi in Hindi and well-known actor, director Suhasini Ratnam in Tamil and Telugu, the series is designed to bring back fond memories of Disney classics for parents and cultivate new ones for kids by introducing young children to the beauty of a poem. Featured poems include works by Robert Louis Stevenson, John Howard Payne, A.A. Milne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among others. 

One of the most versatile personalities of the Tamil film industry, Suhasini Ratnam says, "Children these days know poetry only to score marks in school. This series is about making poetry interesting for them and it's only right that somebody fond of the language does it.” 

Award winning actress and poetry enthusiast Shabana Azmi says, “Children typically respond well to reading and writing poetry, as it fuels their imagination and creativity and allows them to express themselves. What a great way to learn, memorize and share. Some of the poems are going to be sentimental and sweet, the kind that will warm a mom's heart, and some of them will be silly and funny to make kids giggle and laugh." 

Disney Junior will also feature a series of five-minute long shorts, “Tasty Time with ZeFronk” encouraging kids to cook with their families and have lots of fun along the way. Renowned Comic Actor, Omi Vaidya lends his voice to chef ZeFronk who hosts a fun-filled cooking show for kids from his doghouse with his assistant, a songbird named Sue. With the help of his assistant, ZeFronk whips up fun and healthy snacks for kids in every episode. 

Renowned actor, Omi Vaidya says, “Being an ardent fan of the channel since childhood, it feels great to be in a Disney show. Little ones love to watch cooking from an early age and the highlight of the show is that it involves a lot of fun and learning at the same time. Parents will be encouraged to watch the show and cook with their kids.” 

In addition to the fun-filled shows on TV, Disney Junior will soon be available “on-the-go” as a special magazine with tons of activities and stories. This is in addition to a series of DVD content featuring select Disney Junior shows already available at retail. Parents and caregivers can also access loads of games and on-line activities of Disney Junior content online through a dedicated section on disney.in. 

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Thursday December 15, 2011
The Last Photo of Walt Disney at Disneyland Park
Disney D-Tech For the Holidays and Beyond
Vintage Walt Disney World: A Christmas Carol Comes to Disney Parks

The Last Photo of Walt Disney at Disneyland Park

DisneyParks Blog - On this day 45 years ago, the world mourned the loss of one of the 20th Century’s greatest visionaries and most beloved figures, Walt Disney. Just a couple months earlier, in the fall of 1966, Walt had publicity photos taken at Disneyland park. Joined by Mickey Mouse at Sleeping Beauty Castle in the Disneyland Fire Department “Engine No. 1,” Walt was photographed by my former colleague, Disneyland Chief Photographer, Renie Bardeau, who retired in 1998. That day, Renie took what would be the final photographs of Walt Disney at Disneyland park.

Prior to his retirement, Renie told the Los Angeles Times, “There is a little story of when I was shooting that particular picture. It was shot on a Rolleiflex, and there are 12 pictures on a roll. I had shot 11 pictures of Walt at different angles… watching for his smile, watching to make sure Mickey was looking the right way, making sure the (castle) spires weren’t hanging out of Mickey’s ears. Anyway, I had shot 11 pictures, and I had said, ‘Thank you, Walt, that’s it.’ He asked me if I was sure, and I told him I was. He then told me that at the Studio we treat film like paper clips. You shoot, shoot, shoot all the film you need because if it’s not in the can, you will never have it. So he asked me to shoot one more. So, I shot one more and he said, ‘That’s fine, thank you, Renie,’ and he walked away.”

Over time, the photo has become an iconic image of Walt, but few people know that it was the last time we saw him at his beloved Disneyland.

The memorable portrait was recreated for the “Happiest Faces On Earth” photo-mosaic murals featured throughout the park during our 50th Anniversary celebration in 2005. It hung in the foyer of the Main Street Opera House and is now seen by cast members every day as they pass through the lobby of the Team Disney building at the Disneyland Resort.

Every morning when I see it I’m reminded of the rich legacy Walt left the world, and in particular to those of us lucky enough to spend every day at the place he loved so much.

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Disney D-Tech For the Holidays and Beyond

DisneyParks Blog - Last year, I introduced you to the world of D-Tech, the new electronic accessory line created for Disney Parks. Electronic gadgets are at the top of my gift giving list again this year, so I checked in with product developer Kevin-Michael Lezotte for an update.

“We have been thrilled with the response from fans about D-Tech,” exclaimed Kevin-Michael. “This past year, we have tried a lot of new things. We know that guests use a variety of electronic gadgets. That has challenged us to create a variety of accessories to match. I’m happy to say that in 2012 we will be releasing new accessories for the top five smartphone models.”

Kevin-Michael and I walked through the D-Tech showroom to survey newly released items. Following the success of the limited edition iPhone 4 case created for the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, there are two new limited edition iPhone 4 cases created for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort featuring the holiday castles (they also fit the new iPhone 4S).

Kevin-Michael created three new cases featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The sparkly case in the middle has been one of the most popular cases this holiday season.

There are also new iPad cases, laptop sleeves and gift sets that contain both a hard and soft case for the iPhone 4.

Some of those new smartphone cases Kevin-Michael mentioned have already been released including the three pictured above. He also showed me new cases that were similar to the leather iPad cases.

There are two additional cases that fans of Vinylmation may enjoy. They have been in development for about a year and were finally released a few weeks ago. One of the images – the allover pattern – has been used as a header image on the Disney Parks Blog.

If you are looking to give D-Tech items as gifts this year, check out the D-Tech boutique on the Disney Theme Park Online Store – DisneyParks.com/D-Tech.

My Personal favorite at this time is my iPhone cover from the Disney Cruise Line, Captain Mickey.

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DisneyParks Blog - I’m a total sucker for a holiday movie. On any given night, I’ll get invested in some ABC Family holiday flick and forget that I actually have to do other things around my house. But there is one holiday movie that I can watch over and over and over again. It’s a favorite, and of course, was made by Disney (I guess I wouldn’t be talking about it if it wasn’t, now would I?).
 

 
“Mickey’s Christmas Carol” debuted in the U.S. on December 16, 1983. I still watch it every Christmas season, 28 years later! This cartoon short was the first appearance for Mickey Mouse in a theatrical cartoon since 1953, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film in 1984.


 
Back in December 1993, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Scrooge McDuck made appearances at Magic Kingdom Park dressed as Bob Cratchit, Mrs. Cratchit, Nephew Fred and Ebenezer Scrooge.
 

 
And while Charles Dickens’ classic story has been retold many times, I don’t think anyone quite captures the spirit of Jacob Marley’s ghost quite like Goofy.

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Nerd Reactor - If you’re going to be promoting John Carter on IMAX, then you better go BIG, like the poster below. The movie is being directed by Andrew Stanton, the guy who brought us great Pixar films like Wall-E and Finding Nemo, and is based on the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the godfather of all science fiction.
 

 
John Carter is a civil war veteran who gets transported on the planet Barsoom, known to us as Mars. The planet’s atmosphere gives him great powers, like jumping high and strength. It’s up to him to save the day with the aide of Princess Dejah Thoris and his best buddy, Tars Tarkas.
Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) stars as John Carter, Lynn Collins (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) co-stars as Princess Dejah Thoris, and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) is the giant green barbarian, Tars Tarkas (yeah, he sure likes to play green characters). John Carter will jump into theaters on March 9, 2012.

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Disney’s ‘it’s a small world’ Storybook App Now Available on iTunes

DisneyParks Blog - Now you and your family can experience the iconic Disney Parks attraction, “it’s a small world,” anytime and anywhere on your iPad, iPhone or iPod! A new animated storybook app available today on iTunes takes readers on a musical, interactive adventure full of beautiful artwork and, of course, that unforgettable music.

Featuring the original Sherman Brothers’ song lyrics, this simple, poetic story encourages young readers to meet new people, explore new places and discover that it’s a small world, after all. You’ll span the globe, traveling over snowy Russian hilltops, across sunny African plains, and through deep ocean waters.

The Disney Publishing Worldwide team filled the app with special touches, including:

  • Innovative ride-and-explore technology
  • Tap-and-play interactivity
  • “it’s a small world” sing-along
  • Special finale in which readers learn to say “Hello!” in sixteen languages

Click here for more information and to download.

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New Gourmet Dish at Remy on the Disney Dream

DisneyParks Blog - What are your favorite parts of a Disney Cruise? If you follow my Disney Parks Blog posts, you’re probably aware that dining is high on the list for me.

Especially when it comes to dining at Remy on the Disney Dream.

Remy’s French-inspired gourmet menu was created by Chef Arnaud Lallement from l’Assiette Champenoise—a Michelin 2-star restaurant just outside Reims, France—and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World Resort.

By continually adding touches of seasonal ingredients from around the world, these renowned chefs keep the menu fresh and ever changing. In this video, Chef Scott Hunnel shows us one of their latest creations — Jamon Wrapped Shrimp, a mouthwatering Italian-concept dish that is both salty and sweet.

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Hanukkah-Inspired Gifts from Disney Parks

DisneyParks Blog - When the holiday season strikes Disney Parks, the theme parks and resorts transform into a sea of red and green with dazzling, twinkling lights. Amidst this sea of reds, greens and bright lights lays a vivid assortment of blue, white and gold getting ready to welcome the festival of lights, the celebration of Hanukkah.

To commemorate the Hanukkah celebration, Disney Theme Park Merchandise has developed a variety of Hanukkah-inspired merchandise to help guests ring in the wondrous eight-day celebration. With an assortment of home wares and décor to pins and Vinylmation, the Hanukkah assortment at Disney Parks offers a great way for guests to ring in the festive occasion.

A few highlights from the Hanukkah collection include a small serving plate that is perfect to pass around the holiday table filled with tasty, traditional treats. For younger children looking to join in on the Hanukkah festivities, there is a decorative wall hang that represents the eight nights of Hanukkah. It is a great way for family members of all ages to join in the nightly traditions of the holiday.

My favorite item in the Hanukkah assortment at Disney Parks also happens to be the newest! The Vinylmation Holiday 3 mystery series was introduced to Disney Parks in early December and contains a Hanukkah-inspired Vinylmation. The three-inch figure showcases the traditional holiday game of dreidel complete with gelt and symbols to represent the celebration of Hanukkah.

To guests celebrating the festival of lights this holiday season, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah filled with wonder and light!

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THR - Argentine actress Martina Stoessel will play the lead in Violetta, the first original live-action series created by Disney Channel Latin America and Europe, Middle East and Africa, with Argentine tween idol Diego Ramos co-starring, Disney announced Thursday.

The cast will be rounded out by Mexico's Jorge Blanco and Argentina's Clara Alonso - two well-known faces for fans of Disney Channel Latin America, in addition to a dozen actors from around Latin America, Spain, Italy and Ukraine.

Violetta is about a musically talented teenager who returns to her native Buenos Aires after living in Europe. It will be filmed entirely in Latin America and premiere on Disney Channels across Latin America and EMEA in 2012.

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Hollywood Hills - X Factor castoff Rachel Crow reportedly landing a new Disney, Miley Cyrus type show. According to Hollywood Life and their sources, Disney is, apparently, quite happy that Rachel Crow got ousted from X Factor, so they could sink their claws into her, first. Their source claims that Rachel and Disney are already in talks about what would be the best way to market her, and that “Disney wants to develop a show about Rachel. it will be kind of like the Miley Cyrus show.”
 
The source went on to reveal that Disney has big plans for Rachel, even bigger than X Factor could’ve given her, had she won the show. Finally, the source said, “Rachel is beyond talented! She has the potential to be the next Miley, Selena Gomez or even Michael Jackson.
She is an old soul and so incredibly talented!” Wow! Well, congrats to her, I guess.

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Orlando Sentinel - Comedy Warehouse is coming back to Disney World — but for a limited engagement. From Dec. 25 to Dec. 31, the Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special, an improv stage show, will be put on at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

The shows will feature performers who formerly appeared at Comedy Warehouse, which closed along with the other Pleasure Island nightclubs at Downtown Disney in September 2008.

"Everyone in it is a current cast member and did the original Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island," says Reed Jones, creative director. The exact lineup of performers has not been announced yet.

The show is coming to Hollywood Studios as a holiday extra during what is expected to be a busy time at Disney World, Jones says. It will be produced multiple times daily in the ABC Sound Studio building, the spot that has housed the inactive Sounds Dangerous attraction and is next door to the American Idol Experience.

The new production will be similar to the Pleasure Island shows but holiday-tinged, Jones says. The cast will show off the cast's improv skills through skits — or "scenarios" — guided by suggestions garnered from the audience.

"[We're] trying to stay within the entertainment theme whether it's the theme of 'It's a Wonderful Life' or 'A Christmas Carol' or things like that but still utilize modern-day references from the audience," Jones says.

Chris Oyen, who created the original Comedy Warehouse, has been involved in the holiday version.

"We brought him back in to help recreate it with some of the scenarios they used back in the day," Jones says.

The Comedy Warehouse performers are still Disney workers — some located at American Idol Experience, being part of the "Streetmosphere" players at the Studios and other jobs. They have been rehearsing and refreshing memories, Jones says.

"You also have to turn on that set of muscle memory to come up with ideas that fast in that scenario," he says. "It's so cool to watch them back together again. Just to watch the camaraderie and click. That was a pretty special moment in time here."

There will be six shows per day in the 240-seat theater, beginning at 11:30 a.m. They'll last about 20 minutes.

"The old show was longer, but we did less of them," Jones says. "It was more of a longer nightclub experience, and this is more of a show."

Elsewhere at Disney's Hollywood Studios will be another seasonal offering. Three Disney animated works will be shown in the Premiere Theater in the Streets of America section of the park. From Dec. 23 to Dec. 31, guests can watch "Mickey's Christmas Carol," "Phineas & Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas" and "Prep and Landing: Naughty vs. Nice."

Disney started playing Christmas shows during last year's holiday cold snap to give folks a place to warm up, Jones says. He sees it as a spot to relax and recharge, especially for parents with children.

"It keeps you in the holiday spirit. It kind of keeps you in the Disney world a little bit," Jones says.

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Wednesday December 14, 2011
Disney Legend Richard Sherman Shares His Memories of Walt
Disneyland Paris Celebrates the Holiday Season
Youth Super Bowl Champs Crowned at Walt Disney World Resort
Disney VoluntEARS Serve Tamales for Good Cause
RealD Celebrates Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" Theatrical Release in Disney Digital 3D with Special Edition 3D Kids Glasses
Wildlife Wednesdays: Which Giraffe Is Which at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?Disney Parks Chairman Thomas Staggs to Keynote OCBC's 2012 Annual Dinner

Disney Legend Richard Sherman Shares His Memories of Walt

Disney Insider - Many virtues define a true legend, but divine talent is what differentiates "Disney Legends." For the second segment of our "Lunch with a Legend" series, the Insider broke bread with Disney Legend Richard Sherman who (along with brother Robert) was half of the only songwriting-composing team ever to work on staff for The Walt Disney Company. From "Mary Poppins" to "Winnie the Pooh," this award-winning duo is known the world over – if not by name, then by song. Though Richard admits he's shared them a "million times," the master showman was thrilled to recount some of his most poignant memories.

Meeting Walt Disney

"Here's how it all began for my brother Bob and myself ... we were freelance pop songwriters and a little girl named Annette Funicello sang a song we'd written called 'Tall Paul,' which became a really big hit. We started writing songs specifically for her, and had hits with 'Pineapple Princess' and 'Jo Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy' – big rockers back in 1959/1960. Little did we know Annette was Walt Disney's very favorite Mouseketeer ... he listened to all her songs and liked what he was hearing."

Things changed when Walt wanted Annette to sing in a TV movie called "The Horsemasters" since her records were so popular – and requested that the brothers write the song. "Jimmy Johnson [head of the record company] asked if we wanted to give it a shot, so we wrote 'The Strumming Song.' Jimmy liked it, but said Walt would have the final word. We asked 'Walt who?'" After learning that the Walt in question was Walt Disney, Richard wanted to demo the song with a female singer before the meeting, but was told Walt likes hearing things the way they were written.

With trepidation, the brothers brought their song up to Walt's office. "Now picture this ... Walt was sitting behind his desk signing pictures. I'll never forget it because it was our first meeting with the great man. He looked up and asked if we were really brothers because there were a lot of brother acts in vaudeville with people who weren't really brothers. I said 'No, we actually have the same parents!'"

When Walt began discussing "The Parent Trap," both brothers immediately knew he was talking about the wrong film. "I was dying, but my brother Bob was brave enough to say that we were there with Annette's song for 'The Horsemasters.' I mean, how do you tell an icon he's telling you the wrong story?" After what Richard calls the most brutal performance of "The Strumming Song," Walt said, "That'll work," and gave them a script to see what they could come up with for "The Parent Trap." Richard and Robert were completely bewildered and thought the worst. "Jimmy said, 'Are you kidding? He bought one song and gave you another assignment!' We didn't even realize he LIKED what we had done. So that was our very first encounter with the man who changed our lives forever."

From there, they went on to write songs for "The Parent Trap," "Zorro," "Texas John Slaughter," and many other films and television shows. "Walt kept giving us assignments – he was testing us. He'd always say, 'That'll work,' and give us another assignment. Jimmy told us to keep'em coming."

"Mary Poppins"

Little did they know their careers would be thrown into overdrive when Walt asked "The Boys" (his nickname for the brothers) if they knew what a nanny was. Their reply? "Yeah, it's a goat! We thought he wanted us to write a song for a nanny goat!" But Walt asked them to read P.L. Travers' book "Mary Poppins," and let him know what they thought. "He threw the gauntlet down and wanted to see what we'd do with it. So Bob and I read these very charming stories, but panic struck when we realized there was no storyline – it was strictly about a nanny who flies in on the east wind, takes the Banks' children on wonderful adventures, and flies out when the west wind comes along."

Not knowing where to start, they selected six chapters to loosely base a story on – and the chosen adventures inspired scenes like "Jolly Holiday" and "Feed the Birds." Richard recalls the follow-up meeting with Walt. "Walt was as excited as we were! He fell in love with 'Feed the Birds,' which became his favorite song. When we were done, he asked to see our notes, which were pretty dog-eared from underlining and highlighting. We gave him our book and then he pulled out his copy. He had underlined the same six chapters – that was gooseflesh time. It really, really was amazing."

Walt then invited Richard and Robert to work at Disney. "We said YES, we'd love to work here! He already had a contract written up and told us we'd have an office down the hall. Walt wanted us to develop the story with screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, but called it our 'backburner project' because he planned on giving us lots of work. And that was the turning point in our lives ... two beloved stories that I vividly recall, and both involved Walt Disney."

Aside from "Mary Poppins," the Academy-Award®-winning duo (they garnered two for "Mary Poppins" alone!) wrote songs and scores for countless Disney classics, including "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," and the "Winnie the Pooh" short films. Though Richard says they were always creatively connected to Walt, their time with him was limited but intense. "We started with Walt in 1960 until 1966. Walt was very, very thoughtful and kind to us ... if he liked what you were doing, he'd never gush. You'd always hear from someone else that he flipped for whatever it was you did. When he died, we worked at the studio for several years, but it just wasn't the same. We've had a wonderful career thanks to Walt Disney."

Richard is currently working on his second album of instrumental music, which he calls a cross between pop and semi-classical. "I've always been a happy person. I'm very positive and so was Walt ... that's what he liked. If our music makes people feel good about themselves and gives them hints about how to act, I think we were very lucky to write those songs. It's a nice feeling to know the rest of the world responds to your material."

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Disneyland Paris Celebrates the Holiday Season

DisneyParks Blog - The holidays are in full swing at Disneyland Paris, which will celebrate an Enchanted Christmas through January 8, 2012.

Special holiday offerings include amazing seasonal décor, meet and greets with Santa Claus and Duffy the Disney Bear, a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Town Square, and much more. The park also features special entertainment, including Princess Aurora’s Christmas Wish, in which Aurora’s three fairy godmothers argue over the color of the castle. The end result? A glittering castle, covered in thousands of lights.

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Youth Super Bowl Champs Crowned at Walt Disney World Resort

DisneyParks Blog - The NFL Super Bowl isn’t until February, but the Super Bowl of youth football was just the other day at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. More than 60 teams from around the country competed for the Super Bowl title. Only one team in each of the four age divisions actually won it, but they all put on a heck of a show. To see what I mean, check out this video of the top 10 plays from the championship games. Who knows? Maybe one of these little tykes will be playing in the real Super Bowl one day.

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Disney VoluntEARS Serve Tamales for Good Cause

DisneyParks Blog - It’s not the holiday season until the smell of tamales fills my parents’ home. It’s a tradition I share with many, and one that Disney VoluntEARS took part in at the Latino Health Access (LHA) Tamalada just last week. The event, which gave its start to LHA, has been driven for the last 18 years by this saying: “We will have a healthier community, even if we have to sell tamales.” And that they have!

LHA sold 3,500 healthy tamales to benefit its diabetes management program and related eye surgeries, which can be life saving. The tamales sold do not contain lard and are made with reduced fat and sodium. This year, Disney donated $10,000 to LHA in support of those efforts and many others dedicated toward improving the lives of children and families in our community. To find out how you can help, visit latinohealthaccess.org.

See my blog post about our participation in this event last year.

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RealD Celebrates Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" Theatrical Release in Disney Digital 3D with Special Edition 3D Kids Glasses

MarketWatch -  Following the success of their collaboration on Walt Disney Pictures' "The Lion King" in 3D, RealD Inc. and Walt Disney Pictures are celebrating the January 13 release of the animated classic "Beauty and the Beast" for the first time in 3D, with limited-edition RealD 3D kids' glasses. Featuring movie-themed colors and images of the film's characters, including the beloved Chip, Mrs. Potts and the Beast, these collectible RealD 3D glasses will be distributed at theatres free of charge with the purchase of a child's ticket to see "Beauty and the Beast" in 3D. Glasses will be available exclusively at RealD 3D-equipped theatres in North America beginning Friday, January 13, while supplies last.

"What better way for parents to share the magical experience of 'Beauty and the Beast' with their kids than to take them to see it in RealD 3D," said Joseph Peixoto, president, worldwide cinema at RealD."

"The feedback we received from parents and kids alike on the 'Lion King' 3D program was extremely positive, so we're thrilled to team up once again with RealD to make the family moviegoing experience even more special with these 'Beauty and the Beast' collectable 3D glasses," added Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Distribution.

Sealed in individual packaging to ensure they are sanitary and of high quality, limited-edition, "Beauty and the Beast" themed RealD 3D glasses are designed to fit children 8 years of age and younger. Standard adult and kids' RealD 3D glasses are also available at theatres throughout North America. Visit www.RealD.com/Beauty3D in the New Year to find a RealD 3D-equipped theatre playing "Beauty and the Beast" in Disney Digital 3D."

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Wildlife Wednesdays: Which Giraffe Is Which at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

DisneyParks Blog - Guests who look closely when they’re on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will notice that there now are two subspecies of giraffe—reticulated and Masai–roaming the savanna. Can you tell which one is which in this photo by Gene Duncan? The answer is at the bottom of the post.

A couple of hints:

  • The reticulated giraffe’s coat features a pattern of very defined patches that usually are orangish brown. The patches are separated by bright white lines, and the lower part of the legs are a lighter color.
  • The Masai giraffe’s coat features jagged-edged patches. The patches are dark brown on a cream background, making the Masai the darkest-colored subspecies.

Here’s some more information about reticulated and Masai giraffe:

  • Reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) are widely found in northern Kenya and in Somalia. The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) can be found in southern Kenya and throughout Tanzania.
  • The reticulated giraffe is more threatened in the wild, with numbers fewer than 5,000. It is estimated that there are fewer than 40,000 Masai giraffe in the wild. Giraffes are threatened by habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, poaching, and human-wildlife conflicts.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund is funding–among its 2011 projects–a project that supports the reintroduction in Kenya of yet another subspecies of giraffe, the endangered Rothschild giraffe.

Answer: The reticulated giraffe is in the forefront of the photo. The others are Masai.

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Disney Parks Chairman Thomas Staggs to Keynote OCBC's 2012 Annual Dinner

MarketWatch - Orange County Business Council (OCBC) is proud to announce that Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, will serve as Keynote Speaker for the 2012 Annual Dinner. The Annual Dinner, presented by Bentley Prince Street and Kaiser Permanente, will take place on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

The theme of the 2012 Annual Dinner is "Nothing Rhymes with Orange." In keeping with this theme, Staggs will share his perspective on a unique Orange County success story that gave rise to a new concept in family entertainment that has been embraced around the world. The Walt Disney Company, like many global companies, has roots in Orange County and reflects the innovation and creativity that flourish in the region. Orange County is home to industry leaders in the fields of sports and action apparel, video gaming, medical devices, and international trade. Orange County's strategic location near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, robust workforce and cultural diversity contribute to the region's long history of forward-thinking innovation.

OCBC's Annual Dinner brings together more than 700 business and community leaders and elected officials for one of Orange County's most anticipated events. During the Annual Dinner OCBC will recognize outgoing 2011 Chairman Eddie Northen of UPS, and install the 2012 Board of Directors, led by incoming Chair Julie Miller-Phipps, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Kaiser Permanente Orange County.

Staggs presides over Disney's worldwide travel and leisure businesses, which include 11 theme parks at five destination resorts in the United States, Europe and Asia; a top-rated cruise line; a popular vacation-ownership program; and award-winning guided family adventures to destinations around the globe. Staggs assumed his current role on January 1, 2010.

Prior to his tenure as chairman of Parks and Resorts, Staggs was most recently senior executive vice president and chief financial officer of The Walt Disney Company, where he oversaw the company's worldwide finance organization, corporate strategy and development, brand management, acquisitions, corporate alliances, investor relations, treasury and risk management activities, controller functions, information systems, corporate responsibility, real estate and taxes.

Staggs played an important role in a wide variety of Disney's strategic initiatives and corporate transactions, including the acquisitions of Capital Cities/ABC, Pixar Animation Studios and Marvel Entertainment. He also led the Company's efforts to drive greater cost and capital efficiency throughout the organization and was instrumental in the development and implementation of well-received company-wide environmental and healthy food policies.

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Tuesday December 13, 2011
Disney Dream ship among top hotels
Take a Peek Inside Disney Story Rooms at Walt Disney World Resort
Goofy Dreams of Snow at Disney Parks
Music on Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom Park
Disney XD's Sitcom 'Pair of King' To Resume Production for Third Season
Why Disney is a real antidote to the blues

Disney Dream ship among top hotels

MLive - The grand sense of arrival each time you pass into the lobby of a hotel is thrilling. It’s curiosity you feel when opening your guestroom door for the first time, followed by a moment of either relief or renewal, and a rush to the window to open the drapes and check out the view or climb onto the balcony. You are suddenly lord or lady of the manor, surveying your new, temporary domain.

I check into and visit dozens of hotels each year, typically peeking at most amenities, activities, nooks and crannys. I find there are hotels that are destinations themselves.

At the close of each year, I review my notes and nominate some of the properties I have experienced in order to select a hotel of the year.

What are my criteria for deciding? It’s not terribly scientific. It’s mainly whether I felt a tinge of pain at the time of departure, wondering whether I’d ever have the pleasure of returning. It's knowing I just spent a few of some of the best days of my life in an efficient, quality place. Most of all, was it memorable?

Past yearly awardees have included the Kahler International, in Rochester, Minn.; Grand Del Mar, near San Diego; Doonbeg Lodge and Golf Club, in County Clare, Ireland; and Captain Lord Mansion, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

This year's nominees included Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, with secluded, slope-side, lift access and fine dining in Vail, Colo.; Hyatt Lost Pines Resort’s western-style adventure in Austin, Texas; Great House Inn in Cardiff, Wales, which has housed Prince Charles in cozy fashion; and the artistry, luxury and culinary craft of the Mediterranean village-style Pelican Hill Resort and Spa, in Newport Beach, Calif.

This year’s winner is Disney Cruise Lines’ new Disney Dream.

The ship’s art deco, three-story atrium is as glamorous as any lobby you’ll ever sweep into, immediately transporting you to the golden age of hotels and ocean liners. You will swear you’re seeing in sepia-tone!

Fourteen decks of fun (including a thrilling and fun top-deck “AquaDuck” water coaster) depart from Port Canaveral, Fla., on three-, four- and five-night itineraries to Nassau and Castaway Cay -- a pristine private Bahamian island Disney owns. Massive, old Hollywood-style theaters provide Broadway-quality shows, and Disney pirates dance on deck under an explosion of fireworks at sea.

Supervised teen-only and pre-teen or toddler clubs allow parents time away to enjoy adult-exclusive dining or sophisticated themed nightclubs, cocktail lounges or romantic moments peering out at sea. Entertainment for all ages is constant, but so is sedate seclusion.

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Take a Peek Inside Disney Story Rooms at Walt Disney World Resort

DisneyParks Blog - I love starting the week off with a video update on one of our exciting new projects. This week, it’s a look inside the Disney Story Rooms offered here at Walt Disney World Resort.

As you can see in this video, the existing Pirate Rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort are a great place for tired scalawags to rest their heads. Royal Guest Rooms, which are scheduled to open in February at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, include nods to some of Disney’s most beloved princesses. These rooms start at $189 per night and are already available for booking.

The next phase in Disney Story Rooms will debut at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, which is set to debut in phases beginning with the “Finding Nemo” courtyard in May 2012.

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Goofy Dreams of Snow at Disney Parks

DisneyParks Blog - When you dream at Disney Parks, most anything can happen. Always in the holiday spirit, Santa Goofy dreams of starting his own snowfall. Can he? Let’s take a look.

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Music on Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom Park

DisneyParks Blog - Few places reflect that great American spirit of optimism and achievement like Main Street, U.S.A., and one element that truly sings out to me is the live entertainment that thrives there. Turn-of-the-century ragtime piano music underscores the sense of energy and enthusiasm that Main Street, U.S.A., embraces for all who visit, and just outside of Casey’s Corner, it is performed every day, to everyone’s delight.

What a treat it was to happen upon one of our talented piano players recently as he was transporting our guests to a different time and place by virtue of the nostalgic and rousing music he was performing. Do yourself a favor next time you are in Magic Kingdom Park and boogie on down to Casey’s Corner for a hot dog and some of the finest toe-tapping ragtime piano you will ever hear. Trust me on this.

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Disney XD's Sitcom 'Pair of King' To Resume Production for Third Season

TVbytheNumbers - The hit Disney XD comedy series "Pair of Kings" will resume production for a third season and popular actor Adam Hicks (Disney XD's "Zeke and Luther," Disney Channel's "Lemonade Mouth") will join the cast as a new character, a long lost brother, added to the story of the unusual island of Kinkow, it was announced today by Adam Bonnett, Senior Vice President, Original Series, Disney Channels Worldwide. "Pair of Kings" will continue without the character Brady played by Mitchel Musso. The actor, singer/songwriter will continue his role as the voice of Jeremy Johnson in Disney's Emmy Award-winning series "Phineas and Ferb."

"Pair of Kings" centers on teen brothers whose lives change dramatically when they inherit the throne of the island of Kinkow, home to many quirky inhabitants. It is Disney XD's second highest-rated series in Total Viewers, Kids 6-11 and Tweens 9-14 and season to-date, has increased its ratings by 14% among Kids and 21% among Tweens 9-14.

In making the announcement, Bonnett said, "Adam's comedic talent will add a new dimension to an already successful series and we're eager to introduce the new character to our viewers." He continued, "Mitchel is a part of our family and for him, it will always be about versatility and doing different things on an artistic level. We have tremendous respect for his talent and we thank him for his contribution to the series."

Mitchel Musso said, "Since I was 12, Disney Channel has been an extended family to me and I want all of my friends there to know that I appreciate the opportunities that have come my way and I look forward to focusing on acting and music projects that are in development and sharing the news with my fans around the world soon. I wish the cast, producers, and crew nothing but success on the next season of 'Pair of Kings.'"

Production will resume in February with Hicks joining the "Pair of Kings" cast: Doc Shaw, Kelsey Chow, Ryan Ochoa and Geno Segers. This year, "Pair of Kings" was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Cinematography for a Multi-Camera Series and for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.

For three seasons, Hicks starred in the Disney XD comedy series "Zeke and Luther" and also starred and has songwriting credits in the hit Disney Channel Original movie "Lemonade Mouth." He has performed and collaborated on three Disney XD music videos, "Happy Universal Holidays," the hip hop spin on the classic song, "In the Summertime," and the remake of the MC Hammer hit, "U Can't Touch This." Among his other acting credits are "JONAS L.A.," "That Was Then," "The Funkenhousers" and "Titus."

"Pair of Kings" was created by and is executive-produced by Dan Cross and Dave Hoge. Matt Wickline is the executive producer. Leo Clarke is the producer and Don Beck is the consulting producer. "Pair of Kings" is produced by It's A Laugh Productions, Inc.

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Why Disney is a real antidote to the blues

sofeminine - It was almost a year since my Dad had passed and I was feeling pretty down. I was also a brewing cold. It was a cocktail for an Elizabeth maelstrom.

As usual my poor beau weathered the storm - me tossing and turning all night, waking up with a start and waking him up with soul searching questions.

The next day we were meant to be going to Disney courtesy of a major French TV station. That morning I did a Sarah Bernhardt and refused to go and promptly buried my head into pillow.

My beau snapped me out of my tizz saying I’d miss the chance to go on Space Mountain. I then doped myself up on paracetamol and we headed to the pink castle in the sky and fuzzy land of Mickey.

We arrived and all our troubles fizzled away. Disney brings out the child in everyone. You can't help breaking out into a huge grin walking down Main Street - little girls with Mini Mouse ears, Mummies skipping along with their otherwise fractious sons and Dads chomping on toffee apples.

Whatever the ride you lose yourself. It's A Small World magics you into mini forms of every country. Star Tours zooms you into space. Then there are the high octane rides that send you into oblivion. Vertical drops in the Tower of Terror and Aerosmith rollercoaster that gives you a proper adrenalin high.

Of course my practical beau did remind me that our day of dreams was because we had fast pass access to all the attractions. The regular punters had to queue up to 2 and a half hours before they had any fun. There was nothing anti-depressant about that experience. Shivering in the cold whilst irascible kids moaned. I felt terribly guilty as we overtook rows and rows of bored queuers and like a Disney princess was escorted directly on to the ride.

There were also the isolated reality moments- my beau and his daughter had come across a little 6-year-old chap who had been told to stay in the same place whilst his aunt went on the adult rides. Otherwise there would be hell to pay, the little fella told us.

We also heard couples come to Disney with their kids yet leave them behind at the crèche whilst they had all the fun.

How could you come to a kid’s kingdom and not experience it with them?

Lunch was also fairytale-like. Photos with Santa Claus amid a deluxe buffet with every possible cuisine. It was a small world after all! A make up artist then adeptly painted my face.

As dusk was falling it was time for lighting of the giant Christmas tree. Perfectly symmetrical cone shape with perfect presents and perfect lights. And because it was Disney snow started to fall from the sky as Minnie and Mickey skipped around to heart rendering carols.

It warmed the cockles of your heart - I had not been this moved since I watched Elf the film (the scene with the Claus-o-meter that made everyone believe in Father Christmas again). We were with my beau's daughter and her little friend and we felt like a family.

Maybe myth and illusion but in Disneyland anything is possible. Sadly it was time to go and we all decided we wanted to live there forever. I could actually quite easily see myself as a character - in my dreams Mary Poppins, in reality more like Timon the meerkat.

As we were leaving there was a little boy sobbing at the park gates. His mum was trying every possible trick to persuade him to go home. He cried out that he had not finished. I felt the same. I did not want to return to the cynical city. I wanted to have hugs from Pluto every morning. In fact I could have done the whole day all over again. The following day I was still in a gorgeous haze.

Whatever it was, the Disney dust takes you to a place somewhere over the rainbow and there is nothing quite like it.

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Monday December 12, 2011
California Dreamin’ for a Disney Cruise Aboard the Disney Wonder
Another Incredible Photo of the  Disney Fantasy
D23 Brings Magic and Merriment to Walt Disney World Resort
Name Tags for Our Four-Legged Disneyland Resort Cast Members
A Disney-Style Super Bowl with Disney Institute

Disney’s Playdom launches social game Gardens of Time on iPad
For Disney, a Younger Princess
Disney Institute Updates Bestseller Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service
Mitchel Musso is Leaving Disney XD’s “Pair of Kings”

California Dreamin’ for a Disney Cruise Aboard the Disney Wonder

DisneyParks Blog - Are you California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day?

From stunning views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco…

…to sunny weather and miles of sandy beaches in San Diego.

It’s no wonder that a Pacific Coast cruise aboard the Disney Wonder is one of the most popular Disney Cruise Line itineraries in 2012. And with a departure from Los Angeles, this cruise is a great excuse to spend a little more time with Mickey at Disneyland Resort.

There’s no doubt the seven-night Pacific Coast cruise takes guests along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

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Another Incredible Photo of the  Disney Fantasy

Disney Cruise Lines - Here's another incredible photo of The Disney Fantasy under construction in Germany.

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D23 Brings Magic and Merriment to Walt Disney World Resort

DisneyParks Blog - This past weekend members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club enjoyed two full days of holiday happenings at Walt Disney World Resort during the club’s annual Magic and Merriment event. In fact, the event was so popular in past years that D23 doubled the capacity this year by offering the event two times. And the excitement was capped with a royal engagement.

The merriment kicked off inside World Showplace at Epcot where guests were treated to presentations that offered an insider’s look at the holidays around the resort. Imagineer Alex Carothers and Holiday Services manager Lisa Borotkanics revealed some of the secrets to transforming Walt Disney World Resort, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, and the Disney Cruise Line fleet into wintery wonderlands. Walt Disney Archivist Steven Vagnini looked at the history of the Candlelight Processional at Disney Parks (later that day, guests enjoyed reserved seating to see the spectacle for themselves). And Disney Legend Kathryn Beaumont (who gave voice to Wendy in “Peter Pan” and Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”) talked about her history with Walt Disney working with Walt on 1951’s Walt Disney Christmas Show.

Imagineer Gary Landrum explored the creation of the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite – and the following day, guests all received a tour of the rarely seen accommodations. It was inside this regal room that D23 Member Amanda Richards received a royal proposal from her now-fiancé, Ben Doughan. Congratulations!

“The Dream Suite was more magical than I expected,” said D23 Member Debbie Bingham who had traveled from New Jersey to attend the event. “It was even more impressive after hearing the presentation the day before where the Imagineer described all the details.” Guests also got a glimpse backstage, visiting the Holiday and Scenic Services buildings as well as the Parade Barn. “It doesn’t ruin the magic,” added Debbie’s husband Gary. “It makes it even more impressive.”

Also included during the weekend were Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and a spectacular holiday feast at Disney’s Animal Kingdom after the park had closed to guests. While Magic and Merriment marks the end of another year of extraordinary experiences, D23 has unveiled an impressive slate of events for 2012 that will bring Disney delights to D23 Members across the country. Stay tuned for even more exciting announcements coming soon from D23: The Official Disney Fan Club regarding exclusive events, opportunities and benefits just for D23 Members.

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Name Tags for Our Four-Legged Disneyland Resort Cast Members

DisneyParks Blog - Those of you who are regular visitors to Disney Parks know how to spot a cast member: by their costume (obviously), by their smile (it’s hard not to be happy working here) and by that one indispensable piece of attire – their name tag.

As we’ve learned in previous posts about the Circle D Corral, its four-legged residents are just as much cast members as myself and my bipedal colleagues. So naturally these cast members have their own name tags.

The photo above shows some of the Circle D horses’ name tags, which are used on this board to show where each horse is throughout the day. It helps the human cast members at the corral easily locate the horses.

But it’s not just the horses who have their own name tags. In the photo above, you can see some of the name tags for the Circle D goats. (Side note: If you haven’t seen the video Heather shared of the baby goats born at the corral last year, stop what you’re doing and watch it here right now.)

These are just the name tags at the Circle D Corral, though. Some of these cast members have name tags displayed where guests can see them when they are in Disneyland park.

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A Disney-Style Super Bowl with Disney Institute

How, exactly, do you get 20,000 employees to deliver an exceptional customer experience?

You can start by looking to Disney, which is exactly what the NFL’s Super Bowl team is doing in preparation for the big game taking place in Indianapolis in February. As Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of events for the NFL, said to USA Today this week: “Nobody’s better at it in the world than Disney. You see that any time you go to their theme parks. They’re very customer-oriented.”

Disney Institute is in the second phase of a three-part engagement with Supovitz and his Super Bowl team to help implement Fans First, an initiative designed to improve the fan experience – from airport, to parking lot, to stadium seat and back. The secret lies in the upfront training. Everyone (from manager to front-line worker) has to be on the same page and has to have the same customer-focused goal. It’s similar to the approach we use in Disney Parks around the world.

The end goal? Make all Super Bowl fans feel like VIPs.

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Disney’s Playdom launches social game Gardens of Time on iPad

GamesBeat - Gardens of Time, the most successful Facebook game created by Disney’s Playdom, is launching today on the iPad.

The launch is a major one for Playdom, since the Palo Alto, Calif.-based division wants to replicated the success of the social game on mobile platforms, which are expected to be a significant avenue of growth for social games. The game has been successful because it was the first major “hidden object” game on Facebook. In such games, which are popular on casual game web sites, players search for objects in a scene.

The game launched in April on Facebook and it became one of the most popular titles on the social network. More than 5 billion hidden object game sessions have been played to date, and the game hit a peak of 17 million monthly active users and 4 million daily active users. The game now has 9.1 million MAUs and 2.1 million DAUs, but it is still Playdom’s most popular game on Facebook by far.

The iPad version of the game is integrated with OpenFeint, Game Center, and Facebook. That means that the developers have tried to make the game as social as possible, so that the title can spread in a more viral fashion.

In Gardens of Time, players join the Time Society, an elite group of time-traveling detectives. They explore vibrant hidden object scenes throughout history to guard the secrets of time travel and preserve history’s flow. As players find objects, they earn coins, the games currency, and collect ancient artifacts to personalize a garden that you can show off. As your garden grows, so does your reputation and you can unlock more travel spots.

The game is social because you can interact with other players, challenging them to high scores where you find objects on a time limit. You can send gifts and visit neighbors and compete in a “best garden” contest. John Spinale, senior vice president of social games at the Disney Interactive Media Group, said that Gardens of Time is perfectly suited for the tablet experience and the company sees a chance to engage with millions of players on the go on the new platform.

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For Disney, a Younger Princess

New York Times - The Disney princesses exert a powerful hold on the imaginations of many girls, influencing everything from how they play to what they wear. Some parents think they can also send the wrong message to girls — that life isn’t complete without Prince Charming, for instance.

So how will a new Disney princess aimed squarely at preschoolers go over?

This week the company plans to announce “Sofia the First,” a television movie and series centered on a girl princess. It’s a first: Disney’s princesses until now have all been adults (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and so on).

“Sofia the First” will play on both Disney Channel and Disney Junior, a channel aimed at children ages 2 to 7 that is set to make its debut in the coming months. The company’s hope, of course, is for the character to spawn all kinds of consumer products. It’s a solid business bet; the Disney Princess toy line generates about $4 billion in annual retail sales.

But Disney is also keenly aware of the potential for criticism and emphasizes that “Sofia the First” will focus on learning and what it says are age-appropriate themes. Lessons will include the importance of getting along with siblings and how to be a kind and generous person.

Sofia will have “plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes,” said Nancy Kanter, general manager for Disney Junior Worldwide, but episodes will teach viewers that “what makes a real princess is what’s inside, not what’s outside.”

Ms. Kanter said Disney had high hopes for the series, partly because focus groups reacted with “uniform positivity.” “We saw girls have an instant relatability to this character,” Ms. Kanter said. “If kids relate to what they watch — if they can put themselves in that world — that’s where real learning can start.”

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Disney Institute Updates Bestseller Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service

PRNewswire -  In honor of Disney Institute's 25th anniversary, Disney Publishing Worldwide has released an updated edition of Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, the quintessential guide to Disney's legendary customer service. Authored by Disney Institute and writer Theodore Kinni , the updated book outlines how customer service continues to provide a competitive edge for a company that has experienced significant growth over the last decade.

Exceeding expectations rather than simply satisfying them is the cornerstone of the Disney approach to customer service. Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service outlines how Disney theme parks and resorts consistently deliver quality service to tens of millions of guests each year. Disney Institute, the professional development arm of The Walt Disney Company, helps organizations adapt these proven Disney principals in service as well as leadership, management, creativity/innovation and brand loyalty to positively impact the bottom line.

"For years Disney Institute has introduced business professionals from around the world to the strategies and practices that are core to the world-renowned success behind the Disney brand," said Jeff James , vice president for Disney Institute. "This updated edition of Be Our Guest presents those classic service principles in a new and exciting way."

In the last 25 years, tens of thousands of professionals from more than 45 countries and scores of industries have participated in Disney Institute programs. Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service highlights the success these companies have achieved after adapting some of the key processes and best practices that have made Disney a trusted and revered worldwide brand for more than 85 years.  

For more information on the programs and services provided by Disney institute, please visit disneyinstitute.com. 

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Mitchel Musso is Leaving Disney XD’s “Pair of Kings”

Modoration - Disney star Mitchel Musso is moving on from Disney XD’s “Pair of Kings” to focus on more adult Disney projects, says TMZ. Reportedly, his recent DUI is what accelerated the decision.

Mitchel was arrested in October for a DUI. He plead ‘not guilty’ on Friday.

Mitchel will finish up one more season of Pair of Kings and then move on into more adult projects.

 
Sunday December 11, 2011
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