February 20 - 26, 2011

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Saturday February 26, 2010
Disney workers vote to approve new union contract
‘Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America’ Begins at Disneyland Park
Pixar and Disney animation chief honored with lifetime achievement award
Another Disney Employee Arrested For Indecent Exposure
Why Toy Story 3 still deserves to win Best Picture on Sunday...
James Franco to star in 'Wizard of Oz' prequel

Disney workers vote to approve new union contract

Orlando Sentinel - Members of Walt Disney World's largest union group today voted by a large majority to approve a new labor contract, after months of at-times cantankerous negotiations.

However, leadership of two of the six unions that make up the Services Trades Council decried the vote — a sign that, while the negotiations are over, at least some of the discontent may remain.

Harris Raynor, president of the Services Trades Council, confirmed that the vote passed 4,987-2,099, in what he called "a victory for the workers who are represented by the unions."

The vote was the second for members of the Service Trades Council, a coalition of six unions that together represent roughly 20,800 full-time Disney employees.

Unite Here! Local 362 president Eric Clinton and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1625 president Ed Chambers also confirmed the results.

"We are pleased with the outcome of the vote today," Steve Eisenhardt, vice president of labor relations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement. "Both the voter turnout and the support of the new contract were tremendous."

The contract is similar to one rejected in October by 3,880-3,350 vote. It calls for $650 in combined bonuses for all full-time, non-tipped employees and, for workers not already at the top of their pay scales, annual raises of between 3 percent and 4 percent over the next three years.

The most significant difference in the new contract: Full-time, non-tipped workers earning $8.50 an hour or less would get an extra $100 bonus.

The leadership of four of the six unions that comprise the Services Trades Council have endorsed the contract offer. But two — Unite Here! Local 362 and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1625 — have urged workers to vote against it, arguing that the raises are not equitably distributed among job classifications and they are not large enough to offset rising health-insurance premiums for employees with family coverage.

Chambers, whose union voted about 82 percent to oppose the proposal, said that he was disappointed in the results of the vote.

"Disney was able to divide and conquer the unions," Chambers said. He and Clinton, who also opposed the proposal, accused the other unions of using the possibility of a strike to intimidate workers into voting in favor of the new contract.

"People forgot from the other unions that Disney is the one we should be taking on, not each other," Clinton said.

Raynor, however, pointed to the turnout and size of the majority as evidence that the union's membership had spoken.

"We feel very strongly that this was an extremely democratic vote," Raynor said.


‘Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America’ Begins at Disneyland Park

DisneyParks Blog - If you’re going to get up before the sun comes out, there’s no better reason I can think of than to spend some time with our friend Kelly Ripa on live TV. Kelly was joined in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning by a couple hundred lucky participants at the kickoff of “Regis & Kelly’s Run Across America with Dean Karnazes,” a nearly 3,000-mile run across the United States that began at Disneyland park and will end at Regis and Kelly’s New York studio this May.

Dean Karnazes is a renowned ultramarathon runner who hopes his cross-country run (40 to 50 miles per day!) will inspire LIVE! viewers to live healthier lives. He literally ran across the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty Castle, down Main Street, USA, and straight out to the city street (heading east), all on live television.

For more information about the run, or to track Dean’s progress, check out the LIVE! website. Good luck, Dean!


Canadian Press - John Lasseter's pair of Oscars have a new friend: a lifetime achievement trophy. The Pixar and Disney animation chief received the award Friday night for his dedication to the 40-minutes-or-less medium from Shorts International, an entertainment organization which promotes, distributes, broadcasts and produces short films.

"It feels fantastic because I love short films," said Lasseter. "I love the art form and what it did for me as a filmmaker. I learned so much from making short films. They're these little gems, these fantastic little ideas that are not meant to be a feature film. They're perfect unto themselves. A great short film leaves you smiling and thinking about it."

Lasseter won the animated short film Oscar in 1988 for "Tin Toy," as well as a special achievement award in 1995 for "Toy Story," the first feature-length computer-generated film. The lifetime achievement award from Shorts International may not be his only prize this weekend. He's nominated with the other "Toy Story 3" filmmakers for best adapted screenplay.

"Toy Story 3" is also competing in the sound editing, original song, animated feature and best picture categories. Lasseter is hopeful about it's chances for the top prize, even though the motion picture academy has never bestowed an animated film with the best picture honour. "Toy Story 3" is only the third animated film to be nominated in that category.

"I do believe we will one day see an animated film win the best picture Oscar, and I hope it's on Sunday," said Lasseter. "I think that over time, more and more of Hollywood and the Academy has gotten to know animation. It's exactly the same as live action filmmaking. We tell great stories. We use great actors. We just use a different camera."

Other honorees Friday included director Kenneth Branagh and actresses June Foray and Melissa Leo, who commended short films for keeping her "going many a time when things were quite blue." This year's crop of live action, documentary and animated short film nominees were also recognized during the swanky affair at Soho House overlooking the Sunset Strip.


Another Disney Employee Arrested For Indecent Exposure

WFTV - A Disney employee was arrested for indecently exposing himself near a school, according to officials with the Haines City Police Department.

Officials say 33-year-old Edgar Williams, who is employed by Disney, was caught performing lewd acts on himself in his vehicle on South 6th Street, near the City Community Center and Daniel Jenkins Academy.

Police say they received a 911 call from a concerned resident who saw the man in his car. Police responded and found Williams by himself in his Jeep SUV, watching pornography and engaging in the lewd acts.

Williams was arrested and booked into the Polk County jail. He is being charged with indecent exposure and attempted lewd or lascivious exhibition.


Why Toy Story 3 still deserves to win Best Picture on Sunday...

Huffington Post - Disney spent the season taking a serious shot at Toy Story 3 becoming the first animated film in history to win the Best Picture award at this year's Academy Awards. The campaign centered on a serious of mock posters, with the cast of Toy Story 3 emulating Oscar-winning films that were somewhat unique (IE - The Godfather part II - the first sequel to win, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - the first fantasy film to win, Silence of the Lambs - the first horror film to win, etc). Since they likely already have the Best Animated Film award more or less locked, why not go for the big prize? And, quite frankly, while its chances of taking home the big prize on Sunday are between slim and none, it damn well deserves to win. Not because it would be a groundbreaking achievement, the first animated film to win Best Picture, but because it is the best film of 2010... period.

The film has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8.8 out of 10. It's far and away the best reviewed picture of the year. It has grossed $414 million in domestic dollars and has scored $1.062 billion worldwide. While box office doesn't necessarily equal quality (re - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and/or Alice in Wonderland), Toy Story 3 scored a 3.76x opening weekend-to-final gross multiplier, indicating strong legs. That means audiences liked it, they told their friends and/or came back for repeat viewings. This 'family cartoon' was a more thoughtful and nourishing piece of entertainment than anything else this year. The gang at Pixar somehow fashioned a bitterly haunting Holocaust/Exodus parable while still remaining light on its feet, laugh-out-loud clever, and utterly charming. They completed their unofficial death/rebirth trilogy (along with Wall-E and Up) with style and capped off their signature franchise with a grace and dignity that deserves more than just a polite golf clap. Toy Story 3, was the most powerful movie of the year and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

More importantly, there is a weird catch-22 in the realm of popular entertainment. We constantly whine about the often low quality of mass-market films. Yet, when something comes along that bucks the trend, be it Casino Royale, The Dark Knight, or Toy Story 3, we refuse to place it alongside the more 'appropriate' Oscar bait material, declaring it unworthy by virtue of its original goal as populist entertainment. If we aren't willing to acknowledge when an action film becomes a work of pure art, when a comedy scores on all cylinders, or when an animated film puts live-action dramas to shame, what message are we sending to the studios? We ghettoize our mainstream motion pictures, treat them as less than worthy, and then sit back and wonder why so many of them don't even try to achieve a superior quality. When we thumb our noses at Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, we deserve Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

So three cheers for Disney for going after the big prize. There is certainly a risk, as voters may think that Toy Story 3 has a shot at Best Picture and vote for (the terrific) How to Train Your Dragon for Best Animated Film. It would be nice for for Oscars to actually award the Best Picture trophy to the actual best film of the year more than once or twice a decade. The less we stigmatize popular genres (animation, fantasy, etc), the less we'll be willing to tolerate sub par entries in those respective genres. As for those who bemoan that Toy Story 3 is just a kiddie cartoon, well it's not Pixar's fault that the live-action dramas can't keep up. Let's be honest, animated films have had a superior batting average to any other genre over the last several years, producing varied top-notch entertainments like Spirited Away, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Persepolis, Meet the Robinsons, Ratatouille, Up, Waltz with Bashir, and How to Train Your Dragon. Besides, the usual Oscar bait can have their shot next year. I seriously doubt that I'll be writing a similar article of this nature in February 2012 in praise of Cars 2.


James Franco to star in 'Wizard of Oz' prequel

SIFY Movies -  '127 Hours' star James Franco has reportedly signed on to play the lead role in Disney's 'Wizard of Oz' prequel.

The 32-year-old will reunite with 'Spider-Man' director Sam Raimi for the big budget film, titled 'Oz: The Great And Powerful', reports the New York Post.

He will film his scenes this summer before heading to Broadway to star in 'Sweet Bird of Youth' alongside Nicole Kidman.


Friday February 25, 2010
Opening Dates Are Set For A Soundsational Summer at Disneyland Resort
Tebow Joins Star-Studded Lineup for ESPN The Weekend
Walt Disney World worker's record includes jail time, but no prior rape arrests
Voice of Thumper talks about filming "Bambi"
Epcot Topiaries Go To Infinity and Beyond
Newest Disney Cruise Line Ship and Oldest NASA Orbiter Meet at Port Canaveral
King Triton Joins Cast of Characters at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Thousands of Disney union workers voting today on contract
A Vinylmation Flag Salute at Disney
Organization honors Disney Parks for food allergy awareness
Glass Slippers for Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend
Disney brings training program to Cape Coral

Disney's Honey-Covered 'Winnie the Pooh' Teaser Poster
Disney’s Wild Africa Trek: a pricey thrill
Nancy Kanter Named GM of Disney Junior Worldwide

Opening Dates Are Set For A Soundsational Summer at Disneyland Resort

DisneyParks Blog - As days get longer and the weather gets warmer (well, hopefully!), we are very excited about summer 2011 at the Disneyland Resort. And today I’m thrilled to share the grand opening dates for three new experiences headed your way.

Grand opening June 3: At Disney California Adventure park, get ready for an all-new voyage with one of Disney’s most beloved characters, Ariel. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure will invite guests to take a journey under the sea to experience all the fun and adventures in Ariel’s world. From the great songs to state-of-the-art animatronics and special effects, guests will become a part of her world in a way that’s never happened before.

The Little Mermaid attraction is the next big milestone in the expansion of Disney California Adventure park. “World of Color” debuted last year and continues to wow guests every night with magic that combines choreographed fountains, lights, lasers, music, animation and Disney storytelling. And on the horizon, guests can see the awesome Cadillac Mountain range taking shape as the backdrop to the 12-acre Cars Land, which opens in 2012.

Here’s a first look at the vision Walt Disney Imagineers have for Ursula, who will play a big role in The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.

Across the esplanade at Disneyland park, guests this summer will be dancing to the beat of a whole new parade and jetting off to new galaxies far, far away.

May 27 Premiere: “Mickey’s Soundsational Parade” officially steps off for Memorial Day weekend, with an explosive musical score, thrilling rhythms and bold percussion that will have people dancing to many of their favorite Disney tunes. Look for whimsical float units, live musicians and some of your favorite characters. Mickey Mouse and his pals will be jamming like never before and creating an atmosphere that will be…soundsational!

Here’s a peek at the preparations:

Grand opening June 3: And for those who dare to venture into the deep, dark corners of the universe, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue officially launches in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, taking guests on interstellar adventures to Coruscant, Tatooine, and other destinations in the “Star Wars” galaxy. With the return of favorite Star Wars characters and the addition of more familiar faces and destinations, guests are going to experience Starspeeder travel in an all-new way…in 3D!

You may remember, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue also launches at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort on May 20. May the Force be with you!

Summer Fun: Along with these three exciting additions, guests will find even more fun this summer at the Disneyland Resort.


Tebow Joins Star-Studded Lineup for ESPN The Weekend

DisneyParks Blog - Gator Nation rejoice! Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has just confirmed that he will participate in ESPN The Weekend next weekend at Walt Disney World. Tebow, now with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, will be reunited with former Gators coach Urban Meyer, who previously committed to be at the event.

Just got a peek at the list of big-time athletes and ESPN personalities coming to Walt Disney World for ESPN the Weekend this year and it’s pretty impressive. There are tons of marquee names on the list this year, including Chad Ochocinco (Bengals), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), LaDainian Tomlinson (Jets), Cal Ripken, Jr., (MLB legend), Karl Malone (NBA legend), Mia Hamm (soccer star), Julius “Dr. J’’ Erving (NBA legend) and Urban Meyer (former Gators coach).

In all, more than 35 athletes and ESPN on-air talent will be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the March 4-6 event that’s presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods this year. Check out the complete list of ESPN personalities and sports celebrities expected to attend at espntheweekend.com (Click on Who’s Coming).

But fans will have much more to do than just see and hear their favorite players and ESPN personalities. There’s an interactive ESPN Sportszone area where fans can test their skills at a wide variety of sports, possibly even against one of the many sports celebs. There will also be daily motorcades with athletes, sports trivia game shows with Howie Schwab (Stump the Schwab) and fan Q&As with athletes.

If you’re a sports fan, is there really any other place you’d rather be? Probably not. So, if you want to get up close and personal with these sports stars, just go to espntheweekend.com to get tickets. You can get any last-minute additions to the player lineup on Twitter at @DisneySports and search #ESPNWKND.

And don’t forget to bring your “A’’ game!


Walt Disney World worker's record includes jail time, but no prior rape arrests

Orlando Sentinel - Before becoming a Disney cast member, rape suspect Wilbert Brookins Jr. served time in Maryland jails for theft and driving with a suspended license, according to records reviewed Friday

This week, Brookins, 31, was charged with raping a woman he lured to Central Florida with an offer of cut-rate accommodations at Walt Disney World and free park passes, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

His record of misdemeanors dates at least to 2000, when Brookins was sentenced to two months in jail for stealing, Maryland court records show. A plea-bargain dismissed a second similar charge in that case.

In 2007, he was sentenced to three months in jail for driving with a suspended license. All but four days of the sentences in the 2000 and 2007 cases were suspended, records show.

Additional charges against Brookins alleging disorderly conduct and malicious destruction of property were dropped by Maryland prosecutors in 1999 and 2002. None of his charges involved felony crimes.

Disney declined to say when Brookins was hired to work on the theme parks' reservation staff. Federal law prohibits criminal convictions from being used as the sole reason for an employer to reject a prospective worker's application.

Brookins, 31, was released late Thursday from the Orange County Jail after posting $10,000 bail. He could not be reached at his south Orange home Friday to comment on the sexual battery case.

He is accused of raping a woman in a room at the Disney's Caribbean Beach resort that she shared with her two children. Sheriff's office records state that Brookins booked the victim's room using his "Friends and Family" employee discount after she called Disney reservations two to three weeks ago.

The woman told investigators that the rape happened Tuesday night, after Brookins used his employee pass to get them free entrance to the Magic Kingdom. The woman and her chlidren had arrived at Walt Disney World the same day after driving all night from out of state, the arrest report said.

Sheriff's investigators are checking to see whether Brookins previously used his employee credentials to obtain bargain rooms and free passes for other women.


Voice of Thumper talks about filming "Bambi"

Fox13 - The Walt Disney classic Bambi came out nearly seventy years ago when Park City resident Peter Behn was only four-years-old. As we near the release of the diamond edition of the classic, Behn shares his experience as the voice of Thumper with Fox 13.

Behn's father was a screenwriter in Hollywood when he heard about Disney's new major production and took the young boy to audition for the role of Bambi. The company decided his voice wasn't right for Bambi, but later cast Peter in the role of Bambi's rabbit friend Thumper.

The film took two years to record because of the constantly evolving story as it was being drawn. But Behn only participated in eight recording sessions.

The diamond release of the film, coming out March 1, features new perspectives on the creation of the film and how it transformed; a reenactment of story discussions between Disney and animators.

While Behn says he didn't fully understand the importance of his role at the time, he has since realized the experience was extraordinary.

"It is pretty incredible to be part of that legacy," Behn said.


Epcot Topiaries Go To Infinity and Beyond

DisneyParks Blog - The 18th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is less than a week away and today we’re sharing a peek behind the scenes as we work our last few days of magic in the greenhouses. During the annual festival, we fill Epcot with millions of blooms and more than 100 topiaries, many that look just like your favorite characters from Disney animated films.

For the first time, we’re debuting several new topiaries based on characters from Disney-Pixar classics, including the “Toy Story” and “Cars” films. We’ll show you Mater and Lightning McQueen in a future post, but here’s a little video tour shot as we prepped topiaries of Woody and Buzz Lightyear to take their place just inside Epcot’s front gate.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival starts next Wednesday, March 2, and runs through May 15.


Newest Disney Cruise Line Ship and Oldest NASA Orbiter Meet at Port Canaveral

DisneyParks Blog - Guests departing on the Disney Dream voyage yesterday had an extraordinary view of the space shuttle Discovery as it blasted off from the nearby Kennedy Space Center for its final launch.

The mission marks Discovery’s last liftoff for NASA’s oldest orbiter. We captured a photo in Port Canaveral with the newest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet in the foreground so you can also enjoy this unique spectacle.


King Triton Joins Cast of Characters at The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

DisneyParks Blog - King Triton – who is Ariel’s father – has taken his place on top of the main archway in front of the upcoming attraction, The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, in Disney California Adventure park. The statue itself is 76 inches tall. You’ll probably recognize him. He’s the same Triton who once appeared near the Little Mermaid meet-and-greet area in Fantasyland. He was moved when that space became Pixie Hollow. Walt Disney Imagineers knew the Little Mermaid attraction was the perfect new place for him. He even inspired the design of Ariel’s sisters as classic bas-relief figures on the archway’s face. They will complement King Triton on the arch.

Check out this video of King Triton being moved to his new home.


Thousands of Disney union workers voting today on contract

Orlando Sentinel - Thousands of workers at Walt Disney World are voting today on a new labor contract, following months of at-times cantankerous negotiations between Disney management and its largest union group.

It's the second vote for members of the Service Trades Council, a coalition of six unions that together represent roughly 20,800 full-time Disney employees.

The proposed contract before workers now is similar to one rejected in October by 3,880-3,350 vote. It calls for $650 in combined bonuses for all full-time, non-tipped employees and, for workers not already at the top of their pay scales, annual raises of between 3 percent and 4 percent over the next three years.

The most significant difference in the new contract: Full-time, non-tipped workers earning $8.50 an hour or less would get an extra $100 bonus.

The leadership of four of the six unions that comprise the Services Trades Council have endorsed the contract offer. But two — Unite Here! Local 362 and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1625 — have urged workers to vote against it, arguing that the raises are not equitably distributed among job classifications and they are not large enough to offset rising health-insurance premiums for employees with family coverage.


A Vinylmation Flag Salute at Disney

DisneyParks Blog - I love Epcot. I served as an attraction manager for World Showcase East operations in 2003. I had a blast working directly with the International Program Cast Members from Mexico, Norway, China and the United States. I learned much from them, and I still correspond with several of them today. That spirit of cultural exchange was always a part of the Epcot philosophy (even when World Showcase was once planned to be a separate “park” located near the Transportation and Ticket Center). My love for all things international is probably the reason why I love the recently released Vinylmation Flag series so much. I spoke with Caley Hicks, the artist behind this series, about its creation.

“The first figure I designed was the United States flag,” explained Caley. “I thought it would be easy to design but it turned out to be a challenge. I wanted the figure to be authentic like an actual American flag, but getting the flag to wrap around the Mickey Mouse shaped form was difficult. In the end, I think it turned out great but took a little longer than I anticipated.”

This series is similar to other open window box series we’ve released like Vinylmation Sports. The idea was to allow Guests select their favorite country or the country they consider home. The eleven countries of World Showcase were selected as a starting point. The country of Brazil was added as a figure since there are many Guests from that country visit the Walt Disney World Resort.

“I sought to create balance with each figure I designed,” continued Caley. “I think my favorite example of balance is found with the Canadian flag figure. I like how the final version looks balanced with the stripes and the maple leaf.”

Work on this series began in spring 2010. While Caley designed the figures, Lisa Badeen of Cutesters #1 fame created the packaging. Elements from this series were then used as visual displays in select Epcot merchandise locations starting last September.

I asked Thomas Scott, one of the lead designers for Vinylmation, if we will see additional flags added to this series.

“I think it is fair to say that guests will eventually see some flags added,” said Thomas. “I can’t say which countries right now but there are some that are coming.”

I’m hoping for Slovakia (it’s my heritage, but that won’t happen). You can find these figures at select merchandise locations in Disney Parks or via our on-line Disney Theme Park Store. With all this talk about World Showcase, I need to visit Epcot again. If you need me, I’ll be in the Japan Pavilion (my home away from home it seems).


Organization honors Disney Parks for food allergy awareness

Orlando Sentinel - Feb. 10 Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was honored by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network with the FAAN Corporate Leadership Award for its commitment to food allergy awareness, education and management.

Vacations can be a challenge for those with food allergies. At Walt Disney World, lifestyle dining options, or for requests from guests with food allergies or intolerances, there are a wide range of choices, from kosher to gluten and sugar free. In 2009, Disney tracked nearly a quarter of a million requests for special dietary needs and allergies.

With a call three days in advance, Walt Disney World full-service restaurants can accommodate special dietary needs such as allergies to gluten or wheat, shellfish, soy, lactose or milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish or eggs.

"Our parks in the U.S. alone accommodated well over 400,000 special dietary requests from guests last year," said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, who accepted the award.

"And while some places might see this as a challenge, at Disney, we see it as another opportunity to make a visit unforgettable."

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network was established in 1991 to raise public awareness and advocate and education and research on behalf of all those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis. FAAN's membership includes families, dietitians, nurses, physicians, school staff, and representatives from government agencies and the food and pharmaceutical industries.


Glass Slippers for Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend

DisneyParks Blog - This weekend, the Walt Disney World Resort is hosting the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend and runners will have a “Ball” participating in this fairy tale event while attired with tiaras and other Princess accoutrement. I’m always inspired by these athletes with their commitment and perseverance to the sport. Some of my marathon friends have shared amazing stories about why they started running and what it’s done for them. These stories have inspired me to dust off my glass slippers and live the dream.

Well, naturally, as a Dream Maker at Disney Floral & Gifts, I had to come up with an idea to create a memory for them…something enchanting, inspiring and memorable to provide a “crowning” moment. So here’s an idea. After our Princesses cross the finish line and receive their Disney’s Princess Half Marathon medal, they’ll join up with friends and family at a designated area. Well, what if at that location, a friend or loved one could surprise them with this glass slipper, featured on a pillow of flowers? And, to enhance the experience even more, at a later time, the glass slipper could be engraved with the name of the race and date as a keepsake! How fun to be an encouragement to those who have inspired us.


Disney brings training program to Cape Coral

News-Press - A very famous mouse may run the show, but if you are looking for first class training on how to improve yourself or your business, Disney and Mickey have just the program.

And the billion dollar leader in entertainment is coming to Cape Coral. The Disney Institute, the training arm of the Walt Disney Company, will offer a one-day training program, called “Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence.”

The event, which concentrates on Disney’s approach to customer satisfaction, is from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, at the Resort at Marina Village at Tarpon Point.

“This is a great opportunity for southwest Florida business professionals to participate in a Disney Institute experience in Cape Coral,” said Jeff James, vice president for Disney Institute. “It’s a day of Disney training that will offer dozens of easy-to-implement, proven ideas that can transform an organization.”

“We are refocusing our efforts on leadership to be known as the southwest Florida leadership chamber,” said director Bob Knickman, special events director for the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, one of the event’s sponsors. “We wanted to take it up a notch from what we usually do.”

The program, which costs $349 and includes all course materials and lunch, focuses on leadership excellence, people management, quality service, brand loyalty and inspiring creativity.

There are approximately 60 of 150 tickets left, Knickman said, adding the event is attracting participants from Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties.

“We don’t give away all our trade secrets, but we have different things we do from a leadership perspective to ensure cast members (employees) are happy,” said Stacey Thomson, public relations manager for the institute.

Thomson says the program is at the core of what creator Walt Disney wanted. He believed employees should share in the vision and development of the company.

“He kept an apartment in Magic Kingdom and because he was a notorious insomniac, he would walk the streets of Disney USA and talk with the third shift custodial staff,” Thomson said. “The best ideas came from those who had day to day interaction with the guests.”

Institute officials believe the same type of communication can benefit the small businesses of Cape Coral — and there are over 4,000 of them.

“We challenge companies to not immediately say ‘we can’t do that, but ‘how can we do that,’” Thomson said. “Give us a chance, come here what we have to say. We will help you implement skills and ideas for customer service and that will help improve the bottom line.

Cape chamber president Mike Quaintance came up with the idea to bring Disney to town.

“I am excited about this opportunity and how it has been embraced by the community,” he said. “We have never done this before ... but I am surprised about the brand acceptance of the Disney product. They have a basic approach to things.”

The 87-year-old company is all about employees — or cast members to keep with its entertainment theme — who know how to treat the customer right.

“We hire for attitude, not aptitude,” Thomson said. “We may get 200 candidates who have superior resumes, but we have to find the candidate who had the right attitude and fits well in our culture.”

Disney is different. Employees — and there are 120,000 of them worldwide — are not allowed to use cell phones or text in guest areas. No tattoos or body piercings can be visible to the customer.

But Disney does try to treat the employee right, creating break rooms away from the guests with non-Disney-themed music and food. They also have access to computers should they want to look for extra work shift.

“This was all done with employee feedback,” Thomson said. “Even if you have 10 employees, try and give them a place where they can go.”

Employee training also is key, Thomson said. And all employees — from president and chief executive officer Robert Iger — to one who pushes a broom — get the same orientation program, Thomson said.

“Everything is for the guest and to make them happy,” she said.


Disney's Honey-Covered 'Winnie the Pooh' Teaser Poster

FirstShowing - This is such a great poster! Now I want "hunny", too. Disney has unveiled the first official teaser poster via Yahoo for Winnie the Pooh, the charming hand-drawn animated flick hitting theaters this summer. The more we see for this movie, the better it looks. This poster is such a fantastically charming follow-up to that adorable international poster from a few months ago. We've also already seen the first trailer, which looked great, so no more convincing is necessary, I'm pretty much sold. I love how simple yet appealing this poster is, both with a spirit of adventure, as well as the classic Winnie the Pooh charm. Check it out below!

Walt Disney Animation Studios returns to the Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh, the first big screen Pooh adventure from Disney animation in more than 35 years. In this new movie, Owl sends the whole gang on a wild quest to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary culprit. As always, it turns out to be a busy day for a bear who simply set out to find some hunny. Inspired by five of the stories from A.A. Milne's books in classic Disney hand-drawn art style, Winnie the Pooh will arrive in theaters everywhere on July 15th, 2011 next summer. Directing is Stephen J. Anderson (Meet the Robinsons) and former story supervisor Don Hall.


Disney’s Wild Africa Trek: a pricey thrill

Vancouver Sun - I was halfway across the rope bridge, feeling smug that I had made it this far - had even looked down at the crocodile-infested river 10 metres below without being paralyzed by fear - when the bridge started to sway.

I stopped and gripped the rail tightly. "Who’s jumping on the bridge?" I yelled.

"No one is jumping," the guide behind me said. "It’s just a little breeze that makes the bridge move."

The swaying stopped. I stepped over the gap left by several missing planks and onto the next one, and the next, until I reached the other side. Another Disney guide reached out to unhook my safety harness from the cable strung above the bridge, and in a minute I was back on solid ground, disappointed that there were no more bridges to cross.

Walt Disney World’s newest attraction is the Wild Africa Trek, a 3 1/2-hour journey on foot and by truck through the Africa section of Animal Kingdom in Orlando. If you’ve been on the Kilimanjaro Safari, a truck tour through Animal Kingdom’s "savanna," you’ve covered part of the same territory.

The wow factor for this new attraction, which opened in January, is that guests are attached to cables while they stand at the edge of a gorge overlooking a river inhabited by hippos and crocodiles, and to walk across two high rope bridges over that river. It’s a thrill, but an expensive one. The cost is $189 per person on top of park admission.

There were 11 members of the media on this tour. Guides outfitted each of us with a safety harness, plus an ear piece so we could hear them talk, their voices low so they wouldn’t disturb the animals.

Then, to weed out anyone with a poor sense of balance or a paralyzing fear of heights, we all had to walk across a short rope bridge slung one to three metres above the sloping ground. No one hesitated.

After a quick walk along a path open to all parkgoers, we detoured onto a rough, hilly trail through the woods, where we stepped over tree roots and parted branches in front of us as a guide talked about wildlife.

Eventually we emerged onto high ground that overlooks a river about 5 metres below. The guides hooked our harnesses to a metal structure so we could walk to the edge and even lean out without fear of falling. It was a little like being hitched to a heavy-duty clothesline.

Below us, a hippo opened its enormous mouth, demanding more of the watermelon that a park researcher had been tossing down to draw him to this spot. Ducks pecked at bits of floating watermelon. We heard grunts and groans from other hippos upriver, but didn’t see them. After a few minutes of teaching us about hippos, the guides unhooked us, and we walked back to the trail. Usually the trek stops at another overlook, but rain had shortened our outing, and we had to skip it.

The guides’ running commentary included a story - there’s a story behind every Disney attraction - about a washed-out road and a truck that couldn’t get to us, which is why we had to take an alternate route across a pair of rickety rope bridges, whose name, Hatari, means "danger" in Swahili.

The bridges, each about 50 to 53 metres long, are strung on heavy cables, with netting on the sides, wooden planks at deliberately uneven intervals to step on, and netting under the planks in case your foot slips. The harness on the back of each guest’s vest is attached to another cable. It appeared impossible to fall.

I have a moderate fear of heights, and viewed the rickety bridge with trepidation. The crocs swimming 10 metres below in the shallow, boulder-strewn water certainly added to the fear factor. A colleague who had made the trek earlier had told me with a shrug: "This is Disney, after all. You know they’re not going to let you fall."

I took my first step and found there was nothing to it - just watch for the gaps where planks are missing. I kept walking, except for a quick stop to take pictures. At the far end, I stepped onto a wooden platform, turned right and set out across the second bridge, pausing when I felt the bridge sway. At the end, I felt like doing a little victory dance, but restrained myself.

The rest of the trek was tame in comparison. We toured the savanna in a truck and ate lunch on a high knoll with a nice view of the surrounding terrain. We saw elephants, gazelles, sables, wildebeests and an ostrich. The lions, giraffes, rhinos, and cheetah apparently were napping.

The issues with Wild Africa Trek are going to be the price and the 3 1/2-hour length. For $189 - no discounts for kids or Florida residents - visitors get a tour with two knowledgeable guides, use of the safety equipment, lunch or breakfast, photos and a metal water bottle. For a family of four, that’s nearly $800 on top of park admission.

Although the tour of the savanna takes a different route and makes more animal-spotting stops than the Kilimanjaro Safari, the safari is included in park admission, so trekkers may feel that they’re paying for essentially the same truck tour that other parkgoers get for free.


Where: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

When: The tour is offered six times a day and takes about 3 1/2 hours, including check-in.

Restrictions: Guests must be at least 8 years old, 4 feet tall and weigh between 45 and 310 pounds. Each trek is limited to 12 people.

Cost: $189. No discounts for kids or Florida residents.

Information: disneyworld.com.

Tips: Guests are told to empty their pockets and cannot carry anything in their hands. Cameras must be worn on a neck strap or clipped to the safety vest. Free lockers are provided.


Nancy Kanter Named GM of Disney Junior Worldwide

The Wrap - Nancy Kanter has been named general manager of Disney Worldwide, Disney announced today. Kanter will continue to serve as senior vice president of original programming, under the newly created title senior vice president, original programming and general manager, Disney Junior Worldwide,

As general manager, Kanter will focus on the multi-platform Disney Junior brand and its upcoming 24-hour channel launch. Disney Junior debuted last week on TV, digital and radio platforms. She will report to Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide.

Announcing the promotion, Lightcap called Kanter "a highly respected force in the creative community" who has "invigorated our content development for preschoolers."

Kanter began at Disney in 2001 as vice president, original programming.


Thursday February 24, 2010
New Blooms for Epcot at Flower Fest
Sci-Fi Academy at Disneyland Resort
Disney worker accused of raping woman in Caribbean Beach Resort
Tangaroa Terrace, Trader Sam’s to Join Disneyland Hotel This Spring
Oscars to continue on ABC TV through 2020
Have You Seen Shadow at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort?
More Than Meets The Eye at Magic Kingdom

Disney tests the waters up North
Disney Cruise Line lowers height requirement for Disney Dream’s AquaDuck
Disney Buys Social Network For Kids Togetherville 
Why Disney Bought Togetherville
CD Offers Adult Takes on Disney Classics

New Blooms for Epcot at Flower Fest

Orlando Sentinel - There will be familiar faces at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival this year. Some will have moss, some will not.

Fresh on the scene will be HGTV personalities, including Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder, John Gidding and Ahmed Hassan. The designers will make appearances on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of the Disney World festival, which begins Wednesday and runs through May 15.

But the biggest stars may be at the front of the park: an 8-foot topiary of Woody and 7-foot topiary of Buzz Lightyear of "Toy Story" fame. It's the first time Disney has used characters from that movie as topiaries.

"They are certainly the most challenging and detailed that we've ever done," says Eric Darden, festival horticulture manager.

Woody's form — long, lanky, a bit top-heavy, perhaps — could be perilous. The weight of the topiary's frame and the plant life within created an engineering challenge.

"We had to come up with brand-new techniques just to plant and stuff the guy," Darden says.

The toy cowboy, voiced by Tom Hanks in the films, has a look with a lot of brown, which isn't exactly the color one wants to see in the garden.

"Like all of our great ones, he's a mixture between living plant material and dried plant material," Darden says. Palm fiber makes up his hat, but Woody's hair had to be a different hue.

"We had to come up with a brown-colored moss that we haven't used before," Darden says.

Accompanying Woody and Buzz up front will be Lotso, the villainous stuffed bear in last year's "Toy Story 3." Lotso will be strawberry-scented so that guests will get a whiff of him.

"He's the cutest topiary villain we've ever done," Darden says.

Other new topiaries this year include "Cars" characters Mater and Lightning McQueen, who will appear in the upcoming movie "Cars 2." Guests also can see "Tangled" and Rapunzel represented with "hair" — made of natural material, Darden says — tumbling from a 16-foot tower that doubles as a photo opportunity.

"I think that's going to be one of the displays that at opening everyone is like 'Oh, my,'" Darden says. "Every year there are a couple of those."

Other notes for this year's festival:

•The Festival Center, adjacent to Mission: Space in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion, will now be open every day of the festival. Look for increased foliage and new stages within. It will be home to the talks by the HGTV celebrities as well as the returning Disney Gardening at Home workshops and University of Florida presentations.

"HGTV folks are great and exciting, but we still have the nuts-and-bolts horticulture presentations going on, too." Darden says. "We want to have something for everyone."

•The butterfly garden — now known as Bambi's Butterfly House — is about three times larger than previous incarnations. It's big enough for topiaries, fountains and three times as many butterflies. Its look is completely different and modern.

"The other one, quite frankly, looked like a gazebo-shaped pool. This one is more Epcot-y, if that's a word," Darden says.

•Expect a more populated "floating garden" in the waters between Future World and World Showcase. Epcot will start with 120 of the units, then release 120 more once the threat of frost has passed, Darden says. 

•A presentation near American Adventure will emphasize unconventional gardening techniques. There will be planters made of objects such as bathtubs, kiddie pools and buckets.

"I really think people live vicariously through Disney. Everybody wants a vegetable garden, but not many people do," Darden says. "You don't have to have a half-acre yard to grow things."

See for yourself

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Where: Walt Disney World, off Interstate 4, southwest of Orlando

When: March 2-May 15, park hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Cost: Included in regular theme-park admission. A one-day, one-park pass at Disney is $82 general, $74 ages 3-9.

Phone: 407-824-4321

Online: disneyworld.com/flower


Sci-Fi Academy at Disneyland Resort

DisneyParks Blog - OK, Disney Fans, I received a very important data transmission this morning about a Sci-Fi Academy merchandise pin-trading event taking place on June 24 at the Disneyland Resort. Commander Mickey asked me to share this with as many recruits as possible. So of course, I came to you first!

Attention Recruits:

Commander Mickey here! I’m in need of your assistance. The Sci-Fi Adventure Corps and I have gathered a cosmic amount of strange galactic artifacts and worldly keepsakes from various journeys and Sci-Fi explorations.

My trusty communicator device, R.A.L.F (Reality Alterer with Language Functions) has shared that there are other fascinating worlds and galaxies out there, at our fingertips, containing important information and data from various eras of Sci-Fi movies, books, games and television. The artifacts must be collected, catalogued, traded and studied in order for us to move into other alternate realities from your favorite Sci-Fi adventures and understand the strange alien languages that exist.

Reach for the stars,
Commander Mickey

Recruits interested in attending the Sci-Fi Academy merchandise pin-trading event can join the ranks of Commander Mickey beginning March 1 via DisneyPins.com for an out of this world pin-trading and collecting experience.

Are you planning to join the Sci-Fi Academy ranks?


Disney worker accused of raping woman in Caribbean Beach Resort

Orlando Sentinel - A Walt Disney World employee is accused of raping a single mother he lured to Central Florida with offers of free theme-park passes and bargain accommodations at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Reservations clerk Wilbert "B.J." Brookins, 31, was charged with sexual battery Wednesday, a day after the woman and her two young children arrived from out of state to celebrate her birthday with a family vacation, records state.

The woman accused him of raping her Tuesday evening.

The alleged rape happened after he took her and her children on a free tour of the Magic Kingdom, according to arrest records.

Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said Thursday that Brookins had been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

The sheriff's sex-crimes unit is trying to determine if Brookins used his "Friends and Family" discount to book bargain-rate rooms for other women and used his employee pass to provide them with free admission to Disney theme parks.

"Our investigation into Mr. Brookins is looking into whether he has made similar offers to other guests," sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons said Thursday afternoon. "We want to make sure there are no other victims."

The woman first encountered Brookins two to three weeks ago when she called Walt Disney World reservations to inquire about the costs of hotel reservations and theme-park tickets, according to the sheriff's office.

Brookins handled her call. After hearing she was unemployed and spending her income-tax refund check to take her children on vacation, Brookins sent her a text message telling her not to make a reservation because he would book her room under a "Friends and Family" discount, records state.

Brookins subsequently told the woman he was raised by a single mother and understood what it was like to want things and "had a lot of respect for women," records state. He also promised her there was nothing improper about his offer.

The woman "made a point to tell BJ that she was not willing to trade sexual favors for what he was doing," the report stated. "BJ replied that he 'wouldn't dare think of that."

The family arrived Tuesday afternoon at Walt Disney World after driving all night to reach Central Florida. Her hometown was not released.

Brookins told her to check into the Caribbean Beach Resort under his name, claiming that was the only way she could receive the discount. But she later told him she checked in by herself without any problems.

After helping the family settle in their room, Brookins took the woman and her children on a free tour of the Magic Kingdom, saying he wanted to show her around the theme park to celebrate her birthday, records state.

While riding the park's indoor rollercoaster Space Mountain, the woman told Brookins she hurt her back and wanted to return to the room with her children. He drove them to the hotel and insisted on staying in the room, despite her claims of being tired. He didn't respond to "her hints for him to go," the report stated.

"She closed her eyes and must have fallen asleep because she felt BJ trying to pull her pants down," the arrest report stated.

The woman told Brookins to leave but he declined and she fell asleep. Again, Brookins tried to disrobe her but stopped when she awoke, the report said. A short while later, she felt Brookins sexually assaulting her, the report stated.

Brookins finally left after throwing something in the room and saying, "See you tomorrow!" The woman said she discovered he took $40, her debit card and the key to the family's room, the report stated.

On Wednesday, Brookins showed up with his son at the woman's room and claimed he found the missing debit card in his car.

He then took the woman and her family to Epcot, but left them after signing them in free under his Disney pass, the report stated.

The woman later called the sheriff's office and provided investigators with all of the text messages Brookins sent her, the report stated.

Brookins remains in the Orange County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.


Tangaroa Terrace, Trader Sam’s to Join Disneyland Hotel This Spring 

DisneyParks Blog - Many of you may remember our announcement last spring about the ongoing Disneyland Hotel renovation. This exciting project gives the hotel a retro theme with a contemporary twist and adds historic and nostalgic elements of Disneyland park, circa the 1950s.

In keeping with that spirit, we are excited to announce that this spring Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam’s will open. The tiki-inspired design and storyline for this restaurant and bar were a perfect fit, as they tie in thematically with the mid-century modern architecture of the Disneyland Hotel and the adjacent Dream Tower, soon to be renamed Adventure Tower.

Inspired by Adventurelands from Disney Parks worldwide and the nostalgic Tahitian Terrace restaurant, located in Adventureland from 1962-1993, Tangaroa Terrace will immerse guests in a tropical setting with tiki torches and themed music. The name of the restaurant was borrowed from one of the tiki gods at the Enchanted Tiki Room. The fast-casual dining experience will include island-inspired food and beverages. The new bar, named after Trader Sam, the infamous Jungle Cruise “head” salesman, will open adjacent to Tangaroa Terrace. Trader Sam’s unique lounge experience will include interactive experiences with a bit of Disney magic you won’t want to miss.

These new locations are in addition to the new in-room décor and exterior of the hotel, as well as the new pool, immersive water play area and redesign of the Never Land Pool that will be completed later this year. Check back soon for more details on the Disneyland Hotel renovation project!


Oscars to continue on ABC TV through 2020

Reuters - ABC television will broadcast the annual Oscar ceremony until 2020, extending its current agreement by six years, the TV network and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Thursday.

ABC, a unit of the Walt Disney Co, has broadcast the Academy Awards -- traditionally the most-watched non-sporting event of the year -- to U.S. viewers for decades.

"This contract ensures that the Oscar show will be an ABC tradition for 45 consecutive years," Academy president Tom Sherak said in a statement.

ABC television group president Anne Sweeny said that ABC has aired 46 of the annual telecasts honoring the best movies and performances of the year "so we're thrilled to announce that this tradition will continue."

The 83rd Academy Awards will be aired live from Hollywood on Sunday.

Last year, the ceremony was watched by 41.7 million Americans -- the largest TV audience in five years.

The Oscars are also watched by millions of people around the world under a separate agreement with Walt Disney International, which runs through 2014.


Have You Seen Shadow at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort?

DisneyParks Blog - Earlier this month, my husband, son and I were lucky enough to spend a weekend at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina. Upon our arrival, we were happy to find a very special “cast member” waiting to greet us on the resort’s front porch.

A frequent sight around the grounds of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, Shadow first appeared at the resort during construction in 1996. By opening day, she was part of the resort’s family.

The Resort’s local folklore expert, B’Lou Crabbe, often appears with Shadow and shares her tale with guests. According to him, the pup got her name as a result of her curious and happy spirit.

“She showed up when we were building the resort. We noticed a golden retriever puppy hanging around with some of the workers, getting in to trouble and coming out of it smelling like roses. We named her Shadow, not because of her color of her fur, but because she was more underfoot than your own shadow and the name stuck.”

Today, Shadow periodically can be found welcoming guests with B’Lou on the Resort’s front porch. Guests also can join her on a walk around the Resort during Shadow’s Funny Bunny Hunt, or hear about her adventures at Shadow’s Tale story time. Photos and belly rubs welcome.


More Than Meets The Eye at Magic Kingdom

DisneyParks Blog - (I would like to preface this post with an advance apology for its mildly technical content. Those with an intense physical aversion to science may elect to skip today’s text entirely and go straight to the pretty pictures. No offense taken.)

Just beyond the spectrum of light visible to the human eye lies near infrared light. And though we can’t see it, the silicon-based sensors of many modern digital cameras can. By using a filter which blocks all visible light, you can get pictures that offer a wonderfully surreal view of the world. Foliage and clouds, which reflect infrared light, look ghostly and white, while sky and objects that don’t, go very dark. This is different than far infrared (thermal) photography, which registers heat.

Okay, science is over. Thanks for hanging in there.

Today’s offering is from Magic Kingdom park, though I may very well take my trusty #87 filter through the other parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in the near future.


Disney tests the waters up North

Chicago Sun Times - The Alaskan cruise market has a big-name newcomer this year.

Disney Cruise Line is adding Alaska to its roster with seven-night voyages aboard Disney Wonder from May through August. Ports of call include the state’s capital, Juneau, plus Ketchikan, Skagway and the scenic Tracy Arm fjord. Trips begin and end in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Disney’s Alaskan shore excursions range from a scavenger hunt and gold panning in Skagway to a “dog musher for a day” adventure in Juneau. Would-be mushers take a helicopter over the massive Juneau Icefield, where they’ll tour a sled dog camp and go for a snowy ride through the wilderness.

Disney’s Alaska cruise rates start at $1,249 a person for an ocean-view stateroom, based on double occupancy.

A new “Kids Free” offer allows passengers under 18 to sail at no cost when traveling with two full-fare paying guests in the same veranda or ocean-view stateroom (government taxes and fees are extra). The offer is valid on most Alaska sailings departing May 3 to June 7. Customers should mention or input booking code “KFO” when making the reservation through Disney Cruise Line at (888) 325-2500 or disneycruise.com.


Disney Cruise Line lowers height requirement for Disney Dream’s AquaDuck

Orlando Sentinel - Beginning today, more kids will be able to ride the AquaDuck, the water coaster onboard Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Dream.

MousePlanet.com first reported and a DCL spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the minimum height requirement for kids will drop from 48 inches to 42 inches.

To ride alone, however, the height requirement increases from 48 inches to 54 inches. Also, kids must be at least 7 years old to ride alone. Otherwise, they must ride with someone 14 or older.

The cast member loading the AquaDuck when I rode it last month indicated the cruise line was still tinkering with requirements, largely because without enough weight, the two-person rafts can get stuck in the tubes.

Kids riding solo before me were advised to pull in on the handles and lean back if they found themselves stopped. Don’t worry: This isn’t a common occurrence.


Disney Buys Social Network For Kids Togetherville

The Business Insider - Disney just bought Togetherville, a social network for kids, TechCrunch reports. Togetherville is for kids 10 and under and works like any other social network but under parent supervision and with age appropriate content.

This is almost certainly a smart move from Disney. Their business is taking amazing beloved brands and finding as many channels to distribute them and profit from them, from TV to the web to amusement parks to merchandise. Disney also wants to be a leader online with kids and mothers and this certainly plays to that.

Disney also acquired social games company Playdom, which also makes sense (don't think a Mickey Mouse or Spider-Man or The Incredibles Facebook game would be huge?); the problem for social games company is that they must pay tax to social networks to acquire players. They can hedge that by buying other social networks, which is why we think Zynga should buy MySpace.


Why Disney Bought Togetherville

paidContent - Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) has acquired kids-oriented social network Togetherville, which Techcrunch first reported and confirmed. The purchase falls right in line with two of the priorities Disney set forward at its investors conference last week: dominate the market for websites targeting mothers and their children and maintain high visibility across social media.

Togetherville has been described as “training wheels for social networks,” employing a user interface simple for youngsters not quite ripe for Facebook to interact in a safe environment. The site just launched last year.

It’s unknown whether the acquisition was set in motion before the shakeup at Disney’s internet division, Disney Interactive Media Group, that saw new leadership come in late last year. But James Pitaro, co-president of DIMG and overseer of its online, mobile and social initiatives, recently noted he was looking to make changes at what’s been called the Disney Mom and Family portfolio of sites, which include FamilyFun.com, Kaboose.com and BabyZone.com.

Putting Togetherville.com in the mix could go a long way toward meeting what Pitaro described as huge demand from advertisers to target users across that range of sites. It will probably also work well in tandem with another Disney acquisition, Digisync, which has been a creative force in making Disney a strong player on Facebook. The firm has been credited with hatching 200 branded pages across Facebook that have netted the company 125 million fans.

It’s a safe bet that Togetherville will likely fall under the oversight of Brooke Chaffin, who was just brought in as senior vice president of women and family by Pitaro, who used to work with her at Yahoo’s media group.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.


CD Offers Adult Takes on Disney Classics

ABC News - From the swingin' piano and horns on Roy Hargrove's "Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat" ("The Aristocats") to Joshua Redman's staccato sax on "You've Got a Friend In Me" ("Toy Story") to Nikki Yanofsky's earnest vocals on "It's a Small World" ("It's a Small World"), these covers are a treat both for children still enjoying the films and adults looking for a little nostalgia with a side of upright bass.

"Gaston" ("Beauty and the Beast") by The Bad Plus, with its bold piano and frenetic drums, is a grown-up take that holds on to the silliness and spirit of the original. "He's a Tramp" ("Lady and the Tramp") is a mixed bag with outsized vocals by Reeves but a tempo just a tad too lackadaisical.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Spalding's lovely gently lilting voice and a tangy accordion spin a dreamy take on "Chim Chim Cher-ee" ("Mary Poppins") with a just-right accent of piano and acoustic 0bass. Its haunting melody lingers and will have you humming it when you least expect it.


Wednesday February 23, 2010
Disneyland Resort Candy Makers
We Are Heroes Dance Crew Continues to Thrill ElecTRONica Crowds in February!
Fulton's Crab House has private space for events
Bonjour, Monsieur Taittinger!
Faces of Germany at Epcot
Disney Performing Arts Announces New Ears for the Arts Campaign
The insider's complete guide to Disney World
Bringing Children and Wildlife Together
Harvey, Symone, Adams to headline Disney’s Dreamers Academy
Disney Institute’s Program Sells Out; Ivy Tech Announces Second Day

Dream Jobs Really do Come True at Disneyland
Disney workers sue over ID-risk threat
Downtown Disney reopens after closure; suspicious object turns out to be GeoCache
Victoria & Albert’s Chef Among Semi-finalists Named Best in South
If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!
Disney’s Innovative Technology for Visually Impaired Guests Earns National Award
The ‘Lion’ Roars Loudest At the Box Office After 13 Years on Broadway
Braves in full-squad workouts at Disney

Disneyland Resort Candy Makers
DisneyParks Blog - Hi, I’m David, external communications specialist at the Disneyland Resort. One of my roles is to produce video segments introducing you to the Resort’s talented cast members and the roles they play. In my eight years here, I have met hundreds of people who bring the magic to life and I look forward to highlighting them in the coming months.

I can’t think of a better team to start with than one I have a particular “sweet spot” for – the candy makers. One of my personal Disneyland park memories is standing on Main Street, U.S.A., as a 6-year-old, watching the parade with a handful of candy from Candy Palace and wondering, “Where did all this candy come from?”

Last week, I had the opportunity to learn how the Resort’s candy makers use their craft to create delicious treats – to be consumed in moderation of course – for millions of guests each year. They took me to three candy-making locations: Candy Palace, Marceline’s Confectionery in Downtown Disney and the main production kitchen backstage at Disney California Adventure park.

The most interesting part of the candy-making process is the level of detail that goes into each piece, making it a unique work of art. Check out this video to get a glimpse at what it’s like to be a candy maker at the Disneyland Resort.


We Are Heroes Dance Crew Continues to Thrill ElecTRONica Crowds in February!

DisneyParks Blog - Only one more weekend to catch the all-girl dance crew We Are Heroes as they take the stage at ElecTRONica inside Disney California Adventure park.

Over the last two weekends, the five extremely talented ladies of We Are Heroes dance crew showed off their unique popping and locking skills twice a night for guests of ElecTRONica. Combining cool electric music from TRON: Legacy, hot dance moves, and of course their own glam style sense of fashion, We Are Heroes created a solar storm of energy that recharged everyone’s circuits. Take a look at this video and you’ll see what we mean.

Sensing the popularity of this hard-working creative dance crew, ElecTRONica opened its portal and welcomed We Are Heroes for a series of high-energy, hard-hitting and visually-stunning performances over three weekends in February. From the reactions of fans (old and new), it is clear these girls are a “must see” dance crew!

So, don’t miss the final performances of –– We Are Heroes — MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew Season 4 Winners — LIVE at ElecTRONica, only at Disney California Adventure park. Twice a night, February 25 – 27.

Check the blog next week as we announce the next dance crew to “rez in” at ElecTRONica!


Fulton's Crab House has private space for events

Orlando Sentinel - There are plenty of options for dining in Downtown Disney, but it is probably one of the most overlooked areas of the Walt Disney Resort for special events and private dining. Fulton's Crab House, for example, offers space for meetings and private events such as wedding rehearsal dinners and other celebrations. The paddle-wheel boat themed restaurant has a panoramic view lake view from the third deck, audio-visual capabilities and space to accommodate up to 200 guests for breakfast, lunch or dinner gatherings.

Banquet menu options range from $30 to $45 per person with a 20-guest minimum. The menus cover choices from continental breakfast to lunches featuring fresh market fish dishes, grilled Angus burgers and grilled chicken ciabatta. For more information, call Fulton's Crab House 407-934-2628.


Bonjour, Monsieur Taittinger!

DisneyParks Blog - What a treat to meet the man behind the bubbly – Clovis Taittinger was aboard the christening cruise for the Disney Dream, and we had the opportunity to talk with him in Pink, the Champagne lounge in The District. Taittinger, one of the world’s finest French Champagnes, created a special label just for the Disney Dream inaugural year.

Aboard the ship, Taittinger is served in all lounges, and the signature cocktail in upscale Remy is topped with Taittinger. In Pink, the ship’s intimate Champagne lounge in The District, the signature drink is Taittinger Prestige Rose, with a pink elephant from the classic film “Dumbo” gracing the bottle.

We met Monsieur Taittinger at Pink. Take a look.


Faces of Germany at Epcot

DisneyParks Blog - I love strolling through World Showcase at Epcot. There’s just nothing like stepping from country to country…becoming completely immersed in each unique culture through its architecture, entertainment, food, merchandise and the many friendly Cast Members who are happy to tell you about their homelands. This week, I wandered into the charming, old-world country of Germany, and was intrigued with the many whimsical details that help create the “face” of this historic place. And as I share a few of the snapshots I took there, my hope is that you enjoy the journey as much as I did…


Disney Performing Arts Announces New Ears for the Arts Campaign

DisneyParks Blog - Anyone who takes part in a Disney Performing Arts program shares a common bond and rite of passage. It takes confidence, character and camaraderie for an ensemble to be able to come together and perform in front of an international Disney audience. As a former participant with Disney Performing Arts, I know first-hand that performing at the Disneyland Resort in California or the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is something that will surely never be forgotten.

I am proud to announce that Disney Performing Arts will now be celebrating and commemorating this momentous experience and shining achievement with the Ears for the Arts badge of honor. Participants in Disney Performing Arts programs, which include performance opportunities, workshops, festivals and competitions, will receive an exclusive Ears for the Arts pin and become a part of an elite group of students.

The first Ears for the Arts recipients at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort were given their pins on Friday, February 11th in a special once-in-a-lifetime ceremony.

Dance students from the Academy of Ballet in Orem, Utah, were honored by Minnie Mouse herself when they became the first West Coast recipients of Disney’s new Ears for the Arts badge of honor. The Academy of Ballet is led by director Tyne Crockett.

Band and choir students from Pittsford Mendon High School in Pittsford, NY, were honored by Mickey Mouse himself when they became the first East Coast recipients of Disney’s new Ears for the Arts badge of honor. The Pittsford Mendon High School groups are led by choir director Edith Rice and ensemble director Mark Puma.


The insider's complete guide to Disney World

MSNBC - If there's such a thing as an archetypal Disney fanatic, I'm pretty sure that I don't fit the mold. I don't own Mickey Mouse T-shirts or have a Disney license plate on my car. There are no movie posters, bobblehead dolls, or other assorted Disneyana decorating my cubicle. But as hard as it is for my colleagues at Budget Travel to believe, I've been to Walt Disney World more times than I can count. In fact, when my family and I try to tally the total number of days we've logged in the parks, we usually start with some complex mental math only to throw up our hands and agree, "A few hundred."

So I guess you could say I know the place pretty well. Add in my family (mother, father, and sister), and we've collectively amassed more than 60 years of park experience. With that kind of dedication comes a little embarrassment and a lifetime's worth of invaluable rules. What follows is my hard-won Disney World wisdom, an insider's manual for first-timers and fanatics alike.

1. Embrace your impulsive side
Disney World's sheer scale can be daunting: four theme parks, 25,000 acres, nearly 500 places to eat, more than 28,000 hotel rooms. Guidebooks often suggest creating a master multiday game plan before hitting the parks. I totally disagree. Rather than sticking to a rigid agenda, my family has developed a simple system: Check the morning forecast. If rain is on the way, we head for Hollywood Studios — it's far and away the most compact of the four parks, and almost all rides and lines are indoors or sheltered. Cloudy days are ideal for Animal Kingdom, since the big cats, great apes, and Serengeti grazers are much more active when the sun is hidden, while Epcot is a must when the mercury is predicted to climb above 90 degrees; many of its top attractions clock in at over 15 minutes, maximizing your precious air-conditioned hours. And for those perfectly sunny days? Magic Kingdom, of course. Blue skies are ideal for carnival-style rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad — not to mention that classic family photo in front of Cinderella Castle.

2. Don't even think about paying for parking
When you're shelling out $82 a day for admission, tacking on another $14 for parking can feel like adding insult to injury. I'm proud to say my family hasn't paid for a spot in years. What many out-of-towners don't realize is that the parking lots at Disney water parks, miniature-golf courses, and the Downtown Disney entertainment district are absolutely free. From those locations, shuttle buses will take you wherever you need to go (note that some routes require transfers). Our all-time favorite spot is an unmarked overflow lot across the street from the BoardWalk Inn. Next to a Hess gas station, the lot is almost always half-empty and is a 10-minute walk to the resort. From there, you can stroll over to Epcot, take a ferry ride to Hollywood Studios, or catch a shuttle bus anywhere else — all free of charge.

3. Ready, set...run!
If you've been to Disney World even once, you probably know that Fastpasses are the single-greatest time-savers ever. They are distributed from special machines at many popular rides, and they specify a time window (essentially a reservation) when you can return and skip the line. The only hitch is that they're limited and first-come, first-served. Every Dec. 26, my family visits the Magic Kingdom with a large group from our neighborhood. To ensure that we all get Fastpasses, our family friend, a special-projects manager at a major computer company, uses his logistics skills to coordinate what I call the "running man" strategy. Because favorites like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain are located far from the entrance, it would be impossible to get our whole party to the Fastpass machines before the best time slots were taken. Instead, we send the fastest member of our pack bobbing and weaving through the crowds to collect passes for everyone.

4. Look beyond the biggies
With top rides like Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (an intense free fall) and Epcot's Mission: Space (a thrilling virtual space flight) commanding hour-long waits, it pays to go where the action isn't. Epcot's Sum of All Thrills is no less exciting than Mission: Space, but for whatever reason, I've never waited more than 15 minutes for it. On a touch screen, guests design their own roller coaster, bobsled course, or jet flight, and then step inside a two-person module on the end of a robotic arm to experience a simulated version of their creation. Another inexplicably empty attraction is Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer Island. The 3.3-acre site is a warren of wooded trails, caves, and circa-1840s buildings. Each morning, staffers hide six paintbrushes on the island, and the first kids to find them get front-of-the-line passes for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain.

5. Drink for free — in eight languages
Disney World isn't exactly known for its giveaways — which is why Epcot's Coca-Cola-sponsored Club Cool is such a score. Located in a nondescript storefront behind Epcot's silver geodesic sphere, Club Cool doles out free samples of eight soft drinks from around the world, including Costa Rican Fanta Kolita, Israeli Kinley Lemon, and Japanese VegitaBeta. Just beware the bitter and syrupy Italian (nonalcoholic) aperitif known as Beverly. It's a doozy.

6. Grab some shut-eye (and a quick history lesson)
During summer's peak, when the Magic Kingdom can stay open as late as 2 a.m., the conventional wisdom is to return to your hotel for a refreshing afternoon catnap or a cooldown by the pool. But really, there's no need to leave the park. My apologies to the Hall of Presidents — Disney's audio-animatronic celebration of the American presidency — but there's no better place for a quick midday snooze. Comfy seats, a long running time (23 minutes), perfect air-conditioned temperatures, and Morgan Freeman's warm narration make for a dreamy combination.

7. Look at the line. Now skip it
Trying to fit all the highlights of a given park into a single day can feel like a race against the clock, so every little time-saver helps. At Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios), Test Track (Epcot), and Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom), riders have the option of queuing up in a dedicated singles line to fill any empty seats that might open up between larger parties. Sure, you won't be able to buy the requisite cheesy souvenir photo of you and your family screaming your heads off, but you'll halve that hour-plus wait time. Multi-kid families have another option, called the rider switch. If one of the kids is too young, short, or scared to ride, one parent-child pair can enjoy the attraction while the other waits by the loading zone. When the riders finish up, the parents can swap positions and the new parent-child team sets off for another run — no extra waiting involved.

8. Squeeze in time for cocktail hour
At a certain point in every young Floridian's life, Epcot graduates from "the educational theme park" to "the park where you can drink your way around the world." Everything from Chinese green-tea plum-wine slushies ($7.50) to icy, blended French Grey Goose citron cocktails ($9) is available in the grab-and-go bars that ring Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. Sure, these drinks are delicious, but there's an even better alternative. For those unconcerned with trying to hit every attraction before the park closes, I suggest setting some time aside to duck into La Cava del Tequila, hidden inside Epcot's Mexico Pavilion. With only 30 seats, the grotto-like restaurant is an unexpectedly intimate shelter from the bustle outside and serves some mean specialties like flavored margaritas (avocado, cactus, jalapeño, and hibiscus), house-made guacamole, small plates like blue crab tostadas, and flights of top-shelf tequila (margaritas from $10, small plates from $6).

9. Buy a souvenir you'll actually want
For years, the most popular souvenirs at Disney World were hyper-collectible but decidedly uncool pins. (That didn't stop me from gathering them by the hundreds.) But now Disney has gone and added a twist: It's introduced a line of souvenirs that are at once cartoonish, crowd-pleasing, and surprisingly hip. With their trademark Mickey Mouse ears, the three-inch-tall Vinylmation figurines (from $10) come in hundreds of designs. You'll find everything from classic characters like Goofy and Pluto to iconic attractions like the monorail and Cinderella Castle. The catch? These pop-art-inspired action figures are sold in unmarked boxes, so you never know which pattern you'll find inside. If you're unhappy with your randomly selected design, most stores keep three options in full view by the cash register, and you can swap yours for one of those backups.

10. Don't skimp on your hotel. I promise you'll regret it
Most people are quick to think you'll get the best hotel deals outside the parks. And while that's probably true — a $35 room on congested International Drive is not unheard of — value-oriented visitors should not rule out Disney resorts. For example, the All-Star (Music, Sports, and Movies — three separate hotels) and Pop Century resorts are just minutes from the parks via Disney buses, and they start at $82 a night (make reservations at disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts). Each is outfitted with oversize props that suit their respective themes. Think 51-foot-tall tennis rackets, a guitar-shaped pool, and pop culture figures like Mr. Potato Head and Pac-Man. If all of this overblown theming comes off a bit kitschy, Port Orleans (from $149) and Coronado Springs (from $154) offer more subtle experiences inspired by New Orleans and the American Southwest. Whichever you choose, I recommend you embrace it — along with your inner kid. At Disney, that's kinda the point.


Bringing Children and Wildlife Together

DisneyParks Blog - “Come on over and try out a cool wildlife activity!”

This hook, used by our Education Presenter team, encourages families to stop by the Kids’ Discovery Clubs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We have six fun Club sites in each land of the Park for children 5-8 years old, but like most Disney activities, everyone in the family participates.

At each Club location, children try out different activities. They match dinosaur jaws to the correct skull, feel and guess items found in a fallen log, see like a bug, find animals in a backyard, look for animal clues, identify animal calls and introduce the important insects and spiders to guests at the Main Entrance.

The ultimate goal of this top Disney guest team is to share actions that guests can take to help wildlife and wild places. What can children do to help animals? Lots! Try creating a backyard habitat for local wildlife by hanging a bird house, filling a birdbath or planting trees as food sources and nesting sites. Some children enjoy doing homework projects on their favorite animal and then sharing what they learned with classmates. Others may like to join a river or beach clean-up to ensure clean and healthy habitats for wildlife or go on a neighborhood hike to observe wildlife in the area.

But other Disney’s Animal Programs teams join with the Presenter team to share great conservation messages about wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot and in our local Orlando community. In total, Animal Programs teams combined shared 4,746,271 conservation actions with guests in 2010 which is a 20% increase in interactions from the previous year. This number reflects a commitment to the Animal Programs mission statement of inspiring our guests to conservation action.

In today’s high-technology world, we’re trying to encourage children to go outdoors and explore nature. But the competition is tough…video games, computers and TV all compete for children’s time and attention.

Why is spending time outdoors important? Because we know that only if children spend time in nature can they learn to appreciate it and ultimately care enough to save the environment as adults. An interesting quote from the Richard Louv book, Last Child in the Woods, is from a 4th grader who says: “I like spending time indoors because that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” Although I’m not opposed to electrical outlets, nature and technology should have equal weight.


Harvey, Symone, Adams to headline Disney’s Dreamers Academy

Orlando Sentinel - Walt Disney World has announced the lineup of celebrities and speakers for the 2011 Disney’s Dreamers Academy, a four-day event that aims to motivate selected high school students to achieve their personal and professional dreams.

Yolanda Adams and Raven Symone will headline the event March 3-6 with comedian Steve Harvey. Other speakers include Mikki Taylor (Essence Magazine); Ruben Studdard (American Idol); Terrence J (106 & Park); Dr. Steve Perry (educator and motivational speaker0; and Marlon West (Walt Disney Animation Studios).

During the weekend, the 112 students will get to go behind the scenes to learn about several careers at Disney World, such as veterinary medicine (tour Animal Kingdom animal-care facilities); international studies (visit students from other countries working in the international pavilions at Epcot); and entertainment (see what it takes to perform at the American Idol Experience attraction and Disney Channel Rocks! stage show at Hollywood Studios).


Disney Institute’s Program Sells Out; Ivy Tech Announces Second Day

INC Now - After an overwhelming response from the public the April 20th Disney Institute: Professional Development Program has sold out. But Ivy Tech’s Chancellor Jerrilee Mosier says there’s still hope.

Chancellor Mosier made the announcement that a second day will now be offered titled, Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence.

The additional program will take place on Tuesday, April 19 at the Holiday Inn Fort Wayne across from the Coliseum. Details, pricing, and timing all remain the same as the initially scheduled event. An additional 90 seats have been opened for this event.

Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence gives participants the chance to explore proven Disney leadership philosophies that encourage values that produce results and are fundamental for organizations to grow and succeed.

Program registration is $359 per person prior to March 21 (early-bird registration) or $399 after March 21 (regular registration). The price includes all course materials, a continental breakfast, and lunch. Employers sending five or more participants receive $20 off each registration. Ivy Tech alumni, students, and employees will receive a $20 discount, as well.

For more information or to register, go to ivytech.edu/leadership or call Ivy Tech–Northeast’s Workforce and Economic Development office at 260-480-4118.


Dream Jobs Really do Come True at Disneyland

DisneyFan Insider - If you've ever wondered where on Earth you'd find the coolest jobs in the world, the answer is simple: Disneyland! To insure that every visit to the Park is a dream-come-true experience, the Happiest Place on Earth employs thousands of skilled men and women to do some of the coolest and most unimaginable jobs on the planet, many of which only exist at Disneyland. The Insider got the chance to speak with three of the lucky job holders.

Cake Decorator

For pastry artist Sujatha Sownderraj, every day is spent creating "sugar and spice and everything nice." As a member of the decorating team at Disneyland's Central Bakery, Sujatha works on wedding cakes, super-sized gingerbread houses, and more delicious creations. The pastry artists are highly specialized – master bakers create the treats, and it's up to Sujatha and her colleagues to provide the artistic finishing touches with royal icing and other decorative elements. On a busy weekend day, the bakery can produce 12 to 15 custom wedding cakes for couples tying the knot at Disneyland Resort, in addition to the spectacular sweets they create for special events at the Parks.

With her four years of pastry-chef training at Le Cordon Bleu School of the Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California, Sujatha says that decorating – which can be daunting to home cooks – has become second nature. "We hardly ever ruin a cake!" she laughs. "The worst that usually happens is that on a hot day, the frosting might start sliding, so we try to be very careful about keeping the cakes chilled until the last minute."

The bakery also creates the holiday Haunted Mansion Gingerbread House, displayed in the Ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion attraction. Painstakingly created from a detailed design sketch. Each year's gingerbread house is different – and yes, it is made from real gingerbread and royal icing, so it's as sweet as it is spooky! The bakery also decorates a magnificent gingerbread house each year for display at Children's Hospital of Orange Country.

Sujatha says, "We really love our work! It's a great atmosphere, and a very fun place to be." Speaking of atmosphere, isn't all that sugar and spice tempting? Is Sujatha ever tempted to nibble on that gingerbread or tasty cake? Nope – she says she's become entirely immune to the temptation. "You get so used to it that you don't even smell it anymore," she laughs. "But when people come in from outside, they always say, 'Oooh, it smells so yummy!'"

Expert Pattern Maker

Mary Lou Nichols-Cox, Area Manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Costuming, never dreamed she'd work at Disneyland. It's not that she didn't want to, but with her background in the garment industry, she wondered "what would I ever do there?" When the people at Disneyland were searching for an expert pattern maker that she found out about the dream job that was waiting for her.

Mary Lou began her career making costumes for theatrical productions. Then she learned to make patterns on a computer, which was the skill that made Disneyland take notice. As she tells it, "When I got here, we didn't make patterns for operational costumes (the ones you see Cast Members wearing on Main Street, U.S.A.). I implemented the pattern system and entered all of the old costume patterns into the computer, which we now use to maintain costume consistency for the entire Park."

For Mary Lou, the fun starts when she gets to take a designer's vision and turn it into a garment. "I enjoy the challenge of not only making a costume look good on different people, but also making sure it is something they can work in comfortably. Since real people have to wear these to do real jobs, I also have to make sure that they're able to do things like reach over to lock a safety bar without brushing a Guest with their sleeve or having their shirt pull up in back." Mary Lou says the best part "is seeing the Cast Members wearing our costumes and knowing that they're happy wearing them each and every day."

Walt Disney Imagineering

Becoming an Imagineer is the dream of artists around the world – and for Leslee Turnbull, Senior Show Artisan for Walt Disney Imagineering, it was a dream that was inspired by Walt Disney himself. "I am an artist because of Walt Disney," Leslee says. "The original animated movies inspired me and imbued me with an appreciation of art, wildlife, adventure, and fueled my imagination." Her road to becoming an Imagineer began in grade school when she first took an interest in art, which led to a natural progression toward theater, television, photography, and films. But, she says, "I suppose it really began some 30 years ago when I was hired to paint the sets and costumes for the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California."

Leslee has worked on practically every Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure Park attraction that features Audio-Animatronic figures, but she says her greatest joy still comes from maintaining Walt Disney's original ideas and vision. She loves to see new ideas go from the page to reality and takes pride in refreshing original attractions.

Leslee filled us in on some of the changes Imagineers are making to the Rivers of America attraction. "As well as refurbishing existing figures, we have added five new ones, which include deer, elk, and moose. We also have never-before-seen figures such as two mountain lions, an osprey, plus two Native American braves. We are also bringing back mother eagle and her two eaglets, which will live in a redesigned tree and nest where the scratching bear used to be."

When asked to tell us about the oddest thing she ever worked on at the Park, Leslee laughs and says, "That's hard to answer because I have so many of those moments – and I say that in a good way! My co-workers always comment on the body parts I seem to walk around with – like pirate heads or hands. It does look odd if I stop to reflect on it!"

So, why do the Seven Dwarfs happily sing "Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to work we go ..."? It's easy – they must be heading off to work at Disneyland!


Disney workers sue over ID-risk threat

OCRegister - Disney employees filed a class-action lawsuit against the company claiming that employee identification cards expose them to identity-theft risk.

A Disney official had yet to comment about the federal lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, as of 11:30 a.m.

The Walt Disney Co. issues ID cards that are encoded with Social Security numbers, which violates California law, according to the lawsuit. The codes can be read by most cellular phones, including the Apple iPhone and Android devices, according to employees.

“With identity theft such a risk, I was shocked to learn that Disney is exposing our private information so incautiously,” said Jorge Iniestra, a lead plaintiff and cashier at the Grand Californian Hotel, in a statement.

The suit’s backers hope to include all 21,000 employees at the Disneyland Resort, Orange County’s largest, private employer. But the lawsuit could extend to thousands more of Disney employees in California, according to the employees.

Roman Delgado, the business agent for Teamsters Local 495 that represents 3,500 Disney attractions and transportation employees, said he’s heard of no problems related to the identity cards.

Hotel employees, attorneys and representatives announced the lawsuit at a press conference Tuesday in front of the Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim.

Two identity-theft experts had different opinions about the lawsuit: Both said they think Disney should discontinue the practice.

Jay Foley, executive director of the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, said the law clearly states that employers can’t print Social Security numbers on ID cards, but he was unsure about encoded numbers.

“That’s probably something that a judge is going to have to decide,” Foley said. “I would personally say I would not do that to my employees. It exposes them to risk that they don’t need to be exposed to.”

Mari Frank, a Laguna Niguel attorney who is a certified privacy expert, said she believes Disney is breaking the law with the bar codes.

“I’m pretty much shocked how they are doing this,” Frank said. “The Social Security number is key to the kingdom of identity theft.”

The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim includes two theme parks, three hotels and the Downtown Disney shopping-entertainment district. Check back later for updates from the press conference.


Downtown Disney reopens after closure; suspicious object turns out to be geocache

LATimes - Authorities have reopened Downtown Disney in Anaheim after determining a suspicious cylindrical object found near the ESPN Zone restaurant was a harmless geocaching container.

Anaheim police closed part of the retail district Tuesday morning after Disney employees reported finding the suspicious object during a routine sweep. By about 12:30 p.m. the Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad determined it was a geocache site, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn.

Geocaching is a hobby that uses orienteering and GPS devices to hide and seek small waterproof containers known as "geocaches."

Disneyland Resort issued an update via Twitter noting that operations were continuing as normal.


Victoria & Albert’s Chef Among Semi-finalists Named Best in South

Disney News - The James Beard Foundation has released its highly coveted annual list of top chefs in the country and among the semi-finalists for “Best Chef: South” is Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  

Established in 1990, the James Beard Foundation Awards,
www.jamesbeard.org/awards, recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and continue to emphasize the Foundation's mission: to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity.  

To make the list of the best and the brightest talents in the food and beverage industries, the James Beard Foundation annually holds an online open call for entries beginning in mid-October. This year, over 28,000 entries were received, the most in the Awards' history. Semifinalists in 19 awards categories are determined by committee and placed on a nominating ballot. The list of nominees is then sent to an independent volunteer panel of more than 550 judges across the country, who votes to determine five finalists in each category. Results are kept confidential until the winners are announced at the Lincoln Center in New York City in May.  

This isn’t the first time Chef Hunnel has been nominated as one of James Beard’s best. He also got a nod from the Foundation in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for his refreshingly contemporary approach in the kitchen and straightforward cooking philosophy.  

For the past 17 years, Hunnel has drawn national and international applause for his preparation of American regional cuisine with classical influences. During his tenure at Victoria & Albert’s, the elegant, 50-seat restaurant has repeatedly achieved AAA Five-Diamond status – the only restaurant to do so in Central Florida.  

To keep exceeding guests’ expectations, Chef Hummel often takes gastronomic journeys around the world for inspiration and ideas. In recent years, his search has taken him to the kitchen of George V in Paris, truffle hunting in Italy and to markets and restaurants in Hong Kong, Bangkok and London. Those experiences have led to other accolades including Forbes Four Diamonds, the DiRōNA Award of Excellence, Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence and Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon award. 


If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!

DisneyParks Blog - For the fourth year, Disney Parks and entertainer Steve Harvey will host a program called Disney’s Dreamers Academy – this year with new collaborator Essence Magazine. The lucky few students chosen are called “Disney’s Dreamers.”

The program is open to U.S. high school students in grades 9 through 12. Thousands apply each year and 100 students are picked by a panel of judges made up of community leaders, educators, celebrities and Disney executives.

The program is designed to do one thing: remind students to dream BIG! Some past Dreamers have experienced enormous tragedies and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. After the program, past Dreamers have gone on to win college scholarships; garner national awards; and even own their own businesses.

Walt Disney World Resort plays host to the 100 Dreamers for four days – this year from March 3 to 6. You can follow the adventures of the Dreamers and the celebrities in live updates that weekend on Twitter using the hash tag #DDA. Or follow them on Facebook at Twitter.com/dreamersacademy.

Disney’s Dreamers Academy is designed so that the teens can be inspired, discover possibilities and prepare for their future. They receive mentoring customized to their individual interests, participate in interactive workshops and seminars focusing on careers and life enrichment – all sprinkled with a little bit of Disney fun and magic!

We hope the academy inspires and fuels the students’ dreams and is a launching pad for their unique and varied passions. You can help us do that! Jump in, watch them on Facebook and Twitter and give the students your support!


Disney’s Innovative Technology for Visually Impaired Guests Earns National Award

Disney News - Walt Disney Parks and Resorts first-of-its-kind technology developed for visitors with disabilities has received another national accolade. The Assistive Handheld Technology Device for visually and hearing impaired guests earned the American Foundation for the Blind’s prestigious Access Award.               

The nonprofit organization’s Access Award honors companies that foster equality by designing their services for all people. The foundation credited Disney’s Assistive Handheld Technology Device with creating “unprecedented freedom” for guests with disabilities. 


“Too often, swift advances in technology bring the rewards of convenience and entertainment to an eager world while inadvertently leaving those who are visually impaired behind,” said Carl R. Augusto, AFB president and CEO. “Each of this year’s Access Award winners displayed a real commitment to making sure their products and services are equally accessible to everyone. And with the growing number of people with vision loss, focusing on accessibility is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a savvy business decision.”  

Initially debuted by Disney engineers in 2001, the Assistive Handheld Technology Device recently added ground-breaking, Disney-patented* technology that expands guests’ accessibility through audio and visual descriptions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The 7.2-ounce device displays vivid audio narratives and descriptions of popular rides, attractions, and scenery. Utilizing wireless technology, an interactive menu allows users to access diverse information including architectural elements or the location of the closest restroom, and takes pre-programmed actions to fully immerse guests in the Disney experience.
"Working with our own team of experts and industry leaders, we continuously researched and tested new ways to achieve rich visual and audio descriptions for moving rides and outdoor scenery,” said Greg Hale, chief safety officer and vice president of Worldwide Safety and Accessibility for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “The unprecedented technology we introduced last year exemplifies Disney’s long legacy of commitment to innovation and heightens accessibility for guests with disabilities.”  

The ingenuity behind the Assistive Handheld Technology Device has been well-received by guests with visual impairments such as Robyn Walker. "I commend Disney for doing this, I travel extensively and I spend a lot of time looking for things like restaurants and restrooms. This device helped me find things quickly, I am very impressed," she said.  

The Access Award is the most recent honor bestowed the Assistive Handheld Technology Device. Last year, the technology earned the National Society of Professional Engineers 2010 “New Product Award.”  

“We appreciate the recognition received for Disney’s Assistive Handheld Technology Device, but our greatest reward is continually improving the quality of the Disney experience for guests with special needs,” said Hale. “Guests’ and industry groups’ encouraging response to the device inspires us to spread our technology so it can be emulated beyond our parks.”  

Through patents and licensing, Disney’s technology has helped expand accessibility for a wide variety of retail, commercial and industrial applications. Locations already employing the technology include the World of Coca Cola Museum, The Hall at Patriot Place and Dallas Cowboys Stadium. 


The ‘Lion’ Roars Loudest At the Box Office After 13 Years on Broadway

New York Times - The long-running musical “The Lion King” is the first show to hit No. 1 in Broadway’s weekly box office grosses so late in the life of its run, earning $1,534,779 last week to edge out its closest competitors, “Wicked” and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” One likely factor was Disney Theatrical Productions’ decision to shift the show’s usual Tuesday evening performance to Monday evening, Feb. 14, to capitalize on date nights for Valentine’s Day.

“The Lion King” has run for about 13 years and four months on Broadway. Only six shows have run longer; in order, “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats,” “Les Miserables,” “A Chorus Line,” “Oh, Calcutta,” and the current revival of “Chicago.” According to a spokeswoman for the Broadway League, a trade group that collects and analyzes box office data, none of those six shows ever reached #1 in the weekly box office grosses at a comparable point — or afterward — in the lives of their runs.

The last time “The Lion King” was No. 1 in the weekly grosses was for the performance week ending Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, though the show has gotten close now and then and regularly earns more than $1 million a week.

Produced by Disney Theatricals and directed by Julie Taymor, who is also the director of the “Spider-Man” musical, “The Lion King” also benefited last week from good business among families on school vacation or enjoying the three-day holiday weekend. Both “Spider-Man” and “Wicked” also saw bumps in their grosses last week compared to the prior week, but people appeared to be paying higher ticket prices for “The Lion King.”

For instance, “Spider-Man” had 1,930 seats to sell per performance last week, sold about 91 percent, and had an average paid admission of $104.63.

By comparison, “The Lion King” had fewer seats per performance — 1,677 — and sold about 94 percent of them, but its average paid admission was $121.46, a sign that a good number of people were shelling out money for the $250 premium seats to the production.

“Spider-Man,” which is still in previews as its creators continue to work on the show, sells $275 premium seats, but its producers have also been offering discounts to try to fill some seats that are far away from the stage.


Braves in full-squad workouts at Disney

My Fox Orlando - The Atlanta Braves, who are in their 14th Spring Training season at Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney, began their first week of full-squad workouts.

The team is under new management for the first time since 1990. The Braves added first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez and all-star second baseman Dan Uggla this season. Long-time manager Bobby Cox retired last season, but some regular faces remain, including last years rookie sensation Jason Heyward and 18-year veteran Chipper Jones.

The Braves are holding full-squad workouts each day leading up to the opening of Grapefruit League play this weekend. The Braves first home game at Disney is Sunday, February 27, against the Mets at 1:05 p.m. at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.


Tuesday February 22, 2010
Mickey FASTPASS: Guests Will Be Able To Determine a Time To Meet Mickey Mouse Beginning This Spring at Magic Kingdom
Downtown Disney section closed off as bomb squad investigates suspicious object
Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Lady Foot Locker
Ex Disney secretary Bonnie Hoxie given Mickey Mouse sentence of 4 months
TV Spot for Cars 2
‘Family Fun Weekends’ Celebrate Mardi Gras with New Menu Items
Check Out The New MARS NEEDS MOMS Trailer “Stay Cool”
Is Walt Disney a Stock for the Long Term?
NFL Prospects Fall Victim to Gorilla Prank During Workout at ESPN's Wide World of Sports
Disney Dreams: Sacramento Kings soon to be moving to land of Mickey Mouse?

Epcot’s Pixie Hollow garden opens for guests to meet Disney fairies
Behind the Scenes with SHAG
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Soundtrack to Feature Collaboration With Composer Hans Zimmer and Acclaimed Guitar Duo Rodrigo y Gabriela

Mickey FASTPASS: Guests Will Be Able To Determine a Time To Meet Mickey Mouse Beginning This Spring at Magic Kingdom

DisneyParks Blog - How about this: For the first time at Disney Parks, you’ll have the opportunity to nail down a time for a face-to-face meeting with Mickey Mouse at the Walt Disney World Resort. Beginning this spring, we’ll be offering FASTPASS for Mickey at his new permanent home, Town Square Theater, located inside the current Exposition Hall area at the entrance of Magic Kingdom park.

Once open, it’ll be more than just a new greeting space for Mickey. Imagineers are creating new elements and surprises for Magic Kingdom park guests, including an interactive queue – with an extra touch of Disney magic. Also, during the New Fantasyland construction, royalty will be visiting as the Disney Princesses will be in Town Square Theater to meet and greet their loyal subjects this spring.

How will it work? Magic Kingdom guests will be able obtain a Disney’s FASTPASS specifying a one-hour window when they can return to see the popular character for hugs, photos and autographs – without waiting in the standby queue. This marks the first time the complimentary, computerized service has been utilized for a character meet-and-greet at any Disney Park.

Walt Disney Imagineers are already working to completely transform the space for the new experience.


Downtown Disney section closed off as bomb squad investigates suspicious object

LATimes - Authorities have closed off an area of Downtown Disney in Anaheim while a bomb squad investigates an unidentified cylindrical object found Tuesday morning.

Disney workers found the suspicious object just east of the ESPN Zone restaurant while conducting a routine survey of the retail district and called police about 11:07 a.m. Tuesday, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn.

Police officers couldn't determine what the object was, so they called in the Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad, he said.

The area around the object has been closed off to pedestrians, officials said, and visitors in surrounding businesses have been asked to stay inside.


Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Lady Foot Locker

Friday, February 25 - Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fairytales do come true. One mile at a time.

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend brings women of all ages together to participate in a magical event designed just for them. The Disney Princesses are the inspiration for the weekend's events and will focus on the attributes every princess possesses: commitment, courage, determination, fantasy, perseverance, and strength.

There comes a time in every woman's life when she must blaze her own trail. A time when she has to run, not from an evil stepmother, but to her moment of glory. A day when the true princess inside of her shines through. The time has come for you!

The event will take place at the WALT DISNEY WORLD Resort in Florida on a new date – February 25-27, 2011, and is set to celebrate the women who prove that anything is possible in life's fairytale. 

So, dust off those glass running slippers and get set for an experience nothing short of happily ever after! 

Registration is now open for 2011!

Visit mydisneymarathon.com/Princess to watch video and see photos from last year's event in the multimedia gallery.

Weekend events will include:

  • Disney's Princess Half Marathon - Sold Out!
  • Beauty and the Beast Royal Family 5K - Sold Out!
  • Disney's Royal Family Kids' Races - Sold Out!
  • Disney's Fit for a Princess Expo


Ex Disney secretary Bonnie Hoxie given Mickey Mouse sentence of 4 months

NY Daily News - An ex-Disney secretary cried to a judge Tuesday that she was "blindsided by love," falling for a phony Prince Charming who tried to peddle insider information to an undercover FBI agent posing as a hedge-fund bigshot.

"It was completely irresponsible; it was completely bad judgment," said Bonnie Hoxie who was sentenced to four months home confinement. She had faced four to 10 months in prison.

Hoxie, who copped to conspiracy and mail fraud charges, was also ordered to serve three years probation and 300 hours of community service.

Manhattan Federal Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein agreed Hoxie, 34, had been manipulated by boyfriend Yonni Sebbag into stealing Disney financial secrets. Sebbag then sent e-mails to hedge funds offering to sell the information for cash. The hedge funds contacted the FBI.

"I understand you were in a love relationship that didn't work out," the judge said. "You were vulnerable."

Hoxie had access to the information as the secretary to Disney public relations chief Zenia Mucha.

Before they were busted last May, Hoxie asked Sebbag to buy her a designer pocketbook and designer shoes, according to an SEC complaint.

Her attorney Robert Baum said Hoxie did not know that Sebbag was trying to sell the information.

Hoxie told Hellerstein she now works as a waitress in Los Angeles and is indigent.

The U.S. Marshal service paid for her air fare to New York.


TV Spot for Cars 2

BSCKids - Pixar and Disney released the first TV spot for Cars 2, which opens later this year. The first TV spot for the much waited for sequel is the first step in the film’s promotion. It opens nation wide on June 24th.

I have to say that it looks really cute, and I know that the fans have long waited for. I think Disney and Pixar will both have another huge hit on their hands. I wonder if they will wind up with a Cars 3?

What do you think of the new TV spot? Do you think it sounds as cute as the original, or just a failed sequel? I think it could do as well as the Toy Story series did. I guess we will have to wait to see for a fact if it does well or fails. I do wonder how they come up with the storyline for the sequel. Cars going on a boat to travel over seas is pushing it even for Disney.



‘Family Fun Weekends’ Celebrate Mardi Gras with New Menu Items

DisneyParks Blog - Hopefully you had the opportunity to join Princess Tiana and all of the gang this past weekend as they kicked off the Mardi Gras celebration at “Family Fun Weekends.” If not, you still have two more weekends to “let the good times roll!” In addition to the celebrations, music and dancing, new menu items were rolled out to help add some N’awlins flavor to the festivities.

The Blue Bayou has done the “Crescent City” right with a traditional bouillabaisse. This French seafood delight is filled with lobster, red snapper, little neck clams and mussels all in a savory broth, topped with dipping bread and saffron spread. You can add the perfect finish to your meal by selecting apple fritters a la mode for dessert! Three fresh apple fritters are served with vanilla bean ice cream, dried cherry gastrique and topped with spiced apple glaze. This is a meal fit for a carnival king or queen!

Café Orleans is getting into the spirit of Mardi Gras with their own signature dessert, a Bananas Foster crepe – a handmade crepe filled with sautéed bananas, topped with caramel rum sauce and caramelized bananas. Across Orleans St., French Market will be spicing things up with a shrimp Po-Boy and a Muffaletta sandwich. And don’t miss the Mardi Gras corn chowder at Harbour Galley topped with festive “confetti” corn chip strips, or the Cajun Firefly, Blueberry Blast or Mardi Gras Punch, specialty beverages that contain no added sugar.

There are many culinary delights available for a limited time throughout New Orleans Square, but my favorite is the Mardi Gras “Mickey” Brioche – sweet brioche bread, covered in Mardi Gras-inspired green, gold and purple sugar crystals. This treat, served with a familiar “mouse-ear” twist, is available at Harbour Galley, French Market and Royal Street Veranda.

Take a peek of some of the fun we had this weekend at the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans Square. Then come be a part of the festivities as “Family Fun Weekends” continue Friday through Sunday, February 25 – 27 and March 4 – 6, in New Orleans Square at Disneyland park. Grab your krewe and come be a part of the fun.


Check Out The New MARS NEEDS MOMS Trailer “Stay Cool”

We Are Movie Geeks - Get ready for the mother of all adventures! Check out the third trailer for MARS NEEDS MOMS.


Is Walt Disney a Stock for the Long Term?

The Motley Fool - Being able to retire rich, or at least comfortable, is the goal of almost any investor. However, it's much easier said than done. In a recent Wells Fargo survey, respondents between the ages of 50-59 said that they had, on average, about $29,000 saved up. With pensions all but gone, and social security targeted for cuts in the future, it's hard to count on anyone but yourself. But $29,000 isn't going to cut it for most people, so you've got to get involved in the stock market in order to grow that nest egg. Getting in the game is the easy part; choosing the right stocks is the hard part.

Making prudent decisions
Generally speaking, I look for four traits in a retirement stock:

  1. Valuation: Investors of all ages want to make sure they're not overpaying for a stock, but this matters even more in retirement. Retirees don't have the long time horizon that younger investors have, so it's essential to make sure you don't overpay in the short term.
  2. Dividends: Most retirees need a combination of both growth and income, as they'll be depending more and more on their portfolio to help with everyday expenses. Companies that pay dividends not only offer immediate income, but they've also proven to outperform non-paying dividend companies over long periods of time.
  3. Growth: Investors love dividends, but everyone wants to see their stocks rise over time. Growth can be as big a part of your portfolio as a steady dividend. It's important to note that you don't need a high-flying stock that's going to shoot to the moon; a company that can grow and outperform the market is hard enough to find, so steady growth is highly covetable.
  4. Low Volatility: Retirees want to invest in great growth stocks just as much as anyone else, but they also want to be able to rest well knowing that their portfolio won't be taking them on a rollercoaster ride. At the end of the day, most retirees would rather own a sturdy company that lets them sleep at night than a company that whips up and down with the gyrations of the market.

So how does Walt Disney stack up?
In order to check out the valuation of Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), we don't want to look at only its P/E ratio of 19.3. That may seem expensive, but really we don't know without looking at the ratio in historical context. Over the last five years, Walt Disney's average P/E ratio has been 16.4, which is less than the current ratio. This suggests that investors may be paying more than they've had to in the past, so it's important to find out why the price tag might be a bit higher today.

Walt Disney's dividend yield is 0.9%. This might not seem like a whole lot right now, but that dividend has room to grow, so I wouldn't discount its importance. Getting a dividend at all shows a company's dedication to its shareholders, and that's significant.

Next, we want to ensure that Walt Disney's stock has the ability to rise over the next five, 10, and 20 years. A company that's growing its net income has the best possible chance to see its share price rise over time. Of course, we can't predict the future, but we can look back to get an idea of how the company has performed in the past in order to try to ensure future earnings growth. Over the past five years, Walt Disney has grown its net income by 11.4%. Fortunately, Walt Disney has been able to grow its earnings over the past five years, and that's pretty significant considering all of the market turmoil in the last few years. Of course, this doesn't mean that growth will continue, but it's a great sign that the company can prosper in the face of difficulty.

One of the best measures of volatility is called beta. Beta measures the impact that the movement of the stock market will have on a particular stock. For instance, a beta of 1.0 signifies that Walt Disney will move in tandem with the market; a beta of 2.0 means that the stock will move up twice as much as the general market, and vice versa. In this particular case, Walt Disney has a beta of 1.12, which is pretty low. Generally speaking, I like to see a beta below 1.2 for retirees. In this case, Walt Disney fits the bill.


NFL Prospects Fall Victim to Gorilla Prank During Workout at ESPN's Wide World of Sports

Yahoo Sports - Pranks are as much a part of the NFL locker room as bratwurst is to a Packers tailgate.

Football training coach Tom Shaw's staff at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex gave these soon-to-be NFL rookies an epic prank one week before the NFL combine in Indianapolis, as captured by Anthony Amey of WSBTV.

Earlier in the day, the players were informed that a gorilla was on the loose from the nearby zoo. Check out the video below to see what happened next.



Disney Dreams: Sacramento Kings soon to be moving to land of Mickey Mouse?

Sports Haze - When then California Angels owner Gene Autry moved the Angels to Anaheim in 1966, few people ever thought that the city of Anaheim would become known as a professional sports hub.

However, with the Angels and the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL, the city of Anaheim has indeed thrived as a major professional sports markets, and now, the Sacramento Kings of the NBA could be the next team to move to the land of Disney.

Several reports have recently surfaced that the Kings are indeed mulling over the decision to move to Anaheim, and they would have to make their relocation decision by March 1, according to NBA rules.

David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, also recently stated that he was no longer concerned with trying to keep the team in Sacramento, further fueling speculation about the move.

Stern told the Los Angeles Times, "All I'll say is that we and they have tried very hard over the years to see whether a new building could be built," Stern said at his All-Star news conference.

"And with the collapse of the last attempt, which took a few years, and several million dollars, on behalf of the league I said we are not going to spend any more time on that.

"That is for the Maloofs and the people of Sacramento."

Joe and Gavin Maloof, who have owned the Sacramento Kings since 1999, have tried and failed to secure a new facility for the Kings in the city of Sacramento, and attendance at their current facility, the Power Balance Pavilion, has decreased dramatically in recent years. The Kings have also been one of the NBA teams that has consistently lost money over the past several seasons.

Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli has also graciously offered to help the Kings in their wish to move to Anaheim, offering to help cover relocation costs for the Kings and to fund a $100 million loan for money owed by the Kings to the city of Sacramento.

Fans in Sacramento are desperate to keep the team in their home city, buying up eight billboards across the city to implore the Kings to stay, and also buying up more tickets in hopes of generating more interest.

However, their efforts may be in vein, as the Maloof brothers have publicly remained silent about their intentions. However, with the latest collapse of a proposed new arena in Sacramento that was backed by Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star, the Maloofs know that they will have an arena in place and ready for them in Anaheim, the Honda Center.

The decision by the Maloof brothers to move the Sacramento Kings is due one week from today, so while Kings fans are doing everthing they can to keep the team from moving, time may be running out, and Anaheim could indeed become one of the leading sports meccas in the United States.


Epcot’s Pixie Hollow garden opens for guests to meet Disney fairies

Orlando Sentinel - Though it may look like part of the preparations for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, the outdoor meet-and-greet area for Disney Fairies is not seasonal.

Tinker Bell and her friends were relocated from the Magic Kingdom to the new Pixie Hollow garden after Mickey’s Toontown Fair closed Feb. 12. Pixie Hollow, which is located between Mouse Gear and the Kim Possible booth, opened mid-week last week.

Guests can meet Tinker Bell and her fairy friends daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. The current schedule, which is subject to change, shows four fairies on guest-greeting duty:

9:30 a.m.: Tinker Bell and Terence

10:10 a.m.: Rosetta and Vidia

10:50 a.m.: Tinker Bell and Terence

11:30 a.m.: Rosetta and Vidia

12:10: Tinker Bell and Terence

12:50 p.m.: Rosetta and Vidia

1:30 p.m.: Terence

2 p.m.: Tinker Bell

2:40 p.m.: Rosetta and Vidia

3:20 p.m. Tinker Bell and Terence

4 p.m. Rosetta and Vidia

4:40 p.m. Tinker Bell and Terence

5:15 p.m. Rosetta and Vidia

There are two queues for Pixie Hollow garden — one for Tinker Bell and Terence and one for Rosetta and Vidia — which should help cut wait times for guests wanting photos with specific fairies.


Behind the Scenes with SHAG

DisneyParks Blog - Back in January, I had the chance to familiarize you with the artwork of SHAG. SHAG’s retro inspired art has been found in Disneyland Resort for quite a few years and was recently introduced to Disney Cruise Line for the Maiden Voyage of the Disney Dream and to Walt Disney World Resort for our 40th anniversary.

SHAG recently set sail with us on the Disney Dream and while onboard, my friend John caught up with him to learn more about his creative method and inspiration. Take a look at this video to get a behind the scenes look at SHAG as he showcases his latest artwork and talks about his artistic style.


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Soundtrack to Feature Collaboration With Composer Hans Zimmer and Acclaimed Guitar Duo Rodrigo y Gabriela

PRNewswire - One of summer's most highly anticipated blockbuster movies, Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" features original music by Academy Award®-winning composer Hans Zimmer and a first-time collaboration with the internationally acclaimed Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela.  Walt Disney Records will release the soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides May 17, 2011.

"We'd always felt it a creative necessity that the 'Pirates of the Caribbean 4' score have an original sound all its own and to distinguish itself from the first three films.  With the inspiring addition of Rodrigo y Gabriela's unique artistry under the direction of maestro Hans 'Long John' Zimmer, this iconic score franchise take its next step forward with an imaginative, fresh and individual new sound," says Mitchell Leib, President of Music and Soundtracks for the Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Group and Disney Music Group.  

Hans Zimmer is one of the film industry's most respected and sought-after composers with a career that encompasses more than 100 film and television scores.  An Academy Award® winner for his score for The Lion King, Zimmer has also received eight additional Oscar® nominations for his work including Inception,  Sherlock Holmes, Gladiator, The Thin Red Line, Rain Man, As Good as It Gets, The Preacher's Wife and The Prince of Egypt.  Other recent credits include Rango, The Dark Knight and Batman Begins.  Among his many honors, Zimmer has also won two Golden Globes® and three Grammy Awards®.

Rodrigo y Gabriela are considered the premier guitar-playing duo in the world.  They have sold over one million albums, have sold out arenas and headlined festivals worldwide, and in 2010 they were invited to share the stage with Beyonce for a state dinner at the White House. The collaboration with Hans Zimmer is their first film score-an exciting and defining moment in their career.  Their willingness to explore musical expression and to embrace new sounds irrespective of fashion or trends, as well as their point blank refusal to be pigeonholed as any particular genre, is the very foundation of Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Rob Marshall, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" captures the fun, adventure and humor that ignited the hit franchise—this time in Disney Digital 3D™. Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed adventure. Crossing paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Penelope Cruz), he's not sure if it's love—or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the "Queen Anne's Revenge," the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't know whom to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica, with whom he shares a mysterious past. The international cast includes franchise vets Geoffrey Rush as the vengeful Captain Hector Barbossa and Kevin R. McNally as Captain Jack's longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs, plus Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a mysterious mermaid.

Walt Disney Pictures' and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," with screenplay by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, suggested by the novel by Tim Powers opens in theaters May 20, 2011, in Disney Digital 3D™.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides original motion picture soundtrack will be available wherever music is sold on May 17, 2011. For more information on Walt Disney Records' releases, please visit Disney.com/music, become a fan at Facebook.com/disneymusic or follow us at Twitter.com/disneymusic.  For more information on Rodrigo y Gabriela, please visit www.rodgab.com.


Monday February 21, 2010
One President’s Day at Disneyland Park
Disney Studio All Access offers video on demand
Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Ear Hats
Marvel and Disney Publishing Worldwide to Launch DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS Magazines
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at “Disney’s Believe” – the New Musical Aboard the Disney Dream
"ESPN The Weekend" at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Celebrating Presidents’ Day at the Hall of Presidents at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Bill Nye The Science Guy visits Epcot on Wednesday for National Engineers Week
Disney casts musical pilot 'Madison High'
Disney Releasing Straight-to-DVD ‘Cars’ Spinoff ‘Planes’
Nowhere is there a more happier crew
'Octonauts' Journey Across the Atlantic
Bookworms are Buzz-ing with toy joy at latest Disney graphic novel

One President’s Day at Disneyland Park

DisneyParks Blog - This is a fairly well-known photograph of former President and Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower which was taken at Disneyland park in 1961 during a visit with their grandchildren. Being one of only five former U.S. presidents to visit us so far, it’s to be expected that a photograph of this kind would become familiar over time. So what would the chances be that, nearly 45 years later, we would discover more pictures from this memorable day in our history?

In preparation for our 50th anniversary celebration in 2005, I uncovered a photo negative from this visit that I had never seen before. No one I shared it with had seen it either. It is similar to the black and white photo I had seen for years, only this one was in color.

Here is that rarely seen photo of Ike and Mamie meeting the press outside the Disneyland Fire Dept. Every time I see “Engine No. 1” in the park, I think of President Eisenhower and this photo.

Another photo we discovered around the same time was one that has likely never been released, as the former president appears slightly blurry in it, but I thought this seemed like a good time to share it. Taken at the Main Street Station of the Disneyland Railroad, this photo also features his granddaughter Mary Jean and grandson, David; the namesake of the presidential retreat, Camp David.

President Eisenhower was an admirer of Walt Disney and once described him as someone “who has spread more understanding of the fun-loving American than anyone else and has brought joy to the hearts of many people, both young and old.”

He also saluted Walt for his “contribution to the pleasure and understanding of the world community and your genius as a creator of folklore has long-been recognized by leaders in every field of human endeavor including that most discerning body of critics, the children of this land and all lands. As an artist, your work has helped reveal our country to the world, and the world to all of us. As a man, your sympathetic attitude toward life has helped our children develop a clean and cheerful view of humanity, with all its frailties and possibilities for good.”


Disney Studio All Access offers video on demand

Digital Trends - Disney will be the latest content company to cash in on the video-on-demand game. According to the NY Post, the beloved producer of children’s movies is developing a new service, offering in-home movies to its audience. Disney will introduce Studio All Access, allowing users directly buy and watch content from the couch on a variety of devices. Disney also signed new agreements with Redbox and Netflix, which will both shell out more in order to carry Disney DVDs.

As DVD sales continue to sag and even Redbox will make the jump to digital rentals, it’s only natural for producers to consider the in-home outlet. At a recent investor conference, Disney president of distribution Bob Chapek acknowledged his company would find a new way to offer its content. “Our research shows that one of the biggest segments of the audience that’s interested in home premiere are families with very young kids who can’t make it to the theater given the age of their children.”

Disney has been progressively moving toward streaming content recently. Last years, theaters were slighted by Disney’s choice to restrict Alice in Wonderland’s time on the big screen in order to release it on DVD sooner. But pressure from on-demand movie services is only increasing as more and more content providers begin offering the service, and profit is on the line.

The content provider has had a sporadic relationship with technology. It has been offering its ABC television programming on Hulu, but released its iPad app before Hulu Plus was introduced – which has its own iPad app. The movie studio basically made its own iPad app obsolete even before it made its tablet debut.


Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Ear Hats

I love looking at maps. I could spend hours tracing roads and planning imaginary trips to destinations unknown. A favorite souvenir of mine from a 1988 family trip to Florida was a stylized cartoon map of Walt Disney World. I hung it on my bedroom wall to help me stay connected between Disney trips. One of my all time favorite vintage Walt Disney World maps is from the 1970s. Drawn in a cartoon style, the map featured an overview of the Magic Kingdom area (complete with resorts never built). So what does this have to do with 40th Anniversary ear hats? Imagine my delight when I discovered that 1970s map printed on the underside of the 40th anniversary limited release ear hat. I spoke with Mark Seppala, Disney Design Group Artist for headwear, about the map’s inclusion.

“The map seemed like a perfect fit for this anniversary hat,” explained Mark. “It was added to the underside of the hat via a sublimated printing process. I particularly like how the map shows the once proposed Mediterranean Hotel.”

Mark began work on the hat in Spring 2010. Following a trend of other collectible hats, it comes packaged in a deluxe, satin lined hat box. The outside of the hat box uses the previously discussed 40th Anniversary collage designed by Natalie Kennedy. There are a few extra surprises besides the map that Mark added to this collectible hat.

“The original idea was to have an embroidered logo on the front of the hat,” continued Mark. “I asked Megan [product developer for headwear] if I could make a cloisonné logo instead. She loved the idea!”

Mark is no stranger to working in cloisonné. He spent several years designing cloisonné Disney pins during the early days of Disney Pin Trading at Disney Parks. Mark also shared there are three unique fabric patches that come packaged with the limited release hat.

If you are looking for a more simplistic way to commemorate the 40th Anniversary via your head, there is an open edition hat that is just as festive.

This open edition hat also has some three-dimensional features including a patch and two mini-buttons. My favorite detail is the “trifecta of awesomeness” (see above) – the Orange Bird, an Epcot Center button and Dreamfinder with Figment in a row!

I asked Mark about his first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort.

“I first visited Walt Disney World in 1973 with my Mom,” said Mark. “I had finished serving in the Navy and came to Florida on vacation. The thing I remember the most was looking down Main Street, U.S.A., and seeing Cinderella Castle. I couldn’t believe how big the Castle was!”

These hats are available in a variety of merchandise locations throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.


Marvel and Disney Publishing Worldwide to Launch DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS Magazines

Media Connection - Marvel and Disney Publishing will debut DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS, a new monthly magazine featuring some of the most popular characters from the acclaimed Disney/Pixar films. Intended for readers of all ages and priced at $5.99, the first issue will hit stores in May 2011.

Each issue of the magazine contains 96 full color pages of content, including a mix of brand new stories, classic adventures, puzzles, games and more. Featuring characters from Disney/Pixar’s hit movies Cars, Cars 2, The Incredibles, Toy Story 3, and more, DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS will be available at bookstores, retail chains, comic stores and more. The series debuts with DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS: Cars Magazine #1

“We’re excited for the launch of DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS, teaming with our friends at Disney/Pixar to bring some exciting new material to fans all over the world and introducing a whole new generation to comics,” said Axel Alonso, Editor-in-Chief. “We’re committed to providing a great product and ensuring these books are available in locations that parents and kids frequent. The Disney/Pixar library includes some of the most popular characters of all time, making DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS exactly the kind of comic magazine that kids and parents have been demanding!”

Rev up those engines and join your favorite characters from CARS in DISNEY*PIXAR PRESENTS: Cars Magazine #1 as Lightning McQueen organizes a charity race for young cars with special needs, but he didn’t invite Piston Cup champion Chick Hicks. The snub gets Hick’s competitive juices flowing, and he’s out to show McQueen a thing or two about racing! Will Hicks ruin the good nature of the Radiator Springs Rally Race? Find out this May everywhere books and comics are sold.


A Behind-the-Scenes Look at “Disney’s Believe” – the New Musical Aboard the Disney Dream

What is Disney best known for? That’s right…its family entertainment, including the unrivaled Broadway-style musical productions you’ll find aboard Disney Cruise Line!

Honoring the recent addition to our fleet, the Disney Dream, I would like to tell you about “Disney’s Believe.” This original musical, created exclusively for the Disney Dream, headlines the repertoire of stage spectaculars presented in the Walt Disney Theatre.

“Disney’s Believe” introduces you to Dr. Cornelius Greenaway, a brilliant botanist obsessed with his work. You’ll also meet his imaginative and spirited daughter, Sophia, who is heartbroken because her father overlooks her birthday while being preoccupied with cultivating his precious plants.

Sophia then makes a special birthday wish…and POOF! Genie from Disney’s “Aladdin” magically appears in Dr. Greenaway’s garden to teach him a valuable lesson about what’s important in life.

This exciting production features more than 20 of Disney’s most beloved characters who help Dr. Greenaway reconnect with his daughter. Here’s a glimpse at some of the cast.

I don’t want to spoil all the surprises awaiting guests in “Disney’s Believe,” so you’ll have to sail with us to experience the entire show! In the meantime, check out this behind-the-scenes look at the preparation that went into bringing this new story to life:

Do you want to see more? Check back next week for some fun facts about “Disney’s Believe” and to see clips from the show.


"ESPN The Weekend" at Disney's Hollywood Studios

WFTV - Marquee stars from the NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA, plus well-known ESPN on-air personalities, are headed back to Walt Disney World Resort for the eighth annual Dick's Sporting Goods presents ESPN The Weekend -- a sports-themed weekend March 4th through 6th where fans have a one-of-a-kind opportunity see and hear many of their favorite athletes and ESPN personalities.

This year's lineup at Disney's Hollywood Studios features more than 35 athletes and ESPN stars, including former University of Florida football coach and current ESPN college football analyst Urban Meyer, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco, N.Y. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, NBA Hall of Famer Julius "Dr. J" Erving and MLB Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., plus former NFL star Derrick Brooks, ex-NBA great Alonzo Mourning and current Orlando Magic players.

Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, hosts of the popular "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show, return as co-hosts of the event, and will broadcast live March 3-4 from ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney. They will be joined by several fellow ESPN personalities such as "The Herd" host Colin Cowherd, "Monday Night Football's" Ron Jaworski and MLB analyst Nomar Garciaparra.

Additional ESPN personalities include, Tedy Bruschi, Linda Cohn, Herm Edwards, John Kruk, Karl Ravech, Bobby Valentine and Trey Wingo.

Other athletes expected to participate are Donald Driver and Greg Jennings (Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers), Anquan Boldin (Baltimore Ravens), Brandon Jacobs (NY Giants), Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh Steelers), Darrelle Revis (NY Jets), Bart Scott (NY Jets), Roddy White (Atlanta Falcons), DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers) and Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys); Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain (NY Yankees); Frank Thomas and Bernie Williams (MLB legends); Mia Hamm (U.S. Women's soccer legend); Karl Malone and Gary Payton (NBA legends); and Tony Dorsett and Mike Singletary (NFL Hall of Famers).

The complete list of ESPN personalities and sports celebrities expected to attend is detailed at www.espntheweekend.com (Click on Who's Coming).

For the first time in the event's history, several popular sports team mascots will participate in the event, including the Phillie Phanatic (Philadelphia Phillies), Albert E. Gator (University of Florida), the Penn State Nittany Lion, the Oregon Duck, Homer The Brave (Atlanta Braves), Captain Fear the Buccaneer (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Sebastian the Ibis University of Miami.

In addition to athlete appearances, ESPN The Weekend will feature on-site telecasts of popular ESPN programs (beginning Thursday, March 3) at Disney's Hollywood Studios and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney, including "Baseball Tonight," "First Take," "Mike & Mike in the Morning," "NFL Live" and "Friday Night Fights;" motorcades and Q&A sessions with athletes and ESPN personalities; Inside ESPN sports shows with commentators and athletes; and the ESPN Sports Zone interactive area where fans can interact with their favorite sports stars. There will also be Atlanta Braves spring training games taking place at ESPN Wide World of Sports, including a March 3 game against the Tigers that airs on ESPN with new "Sunday Night Baseball'' crew Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Valentine.

To find the latest updates on Twitter for ESPN The Weekend, go to @DisneySports and search #ESPNWKND.

LIVE ON-SITE BROADCASTS AND STAGE SHOWS ESPN will present live telecasts -- including "Baseball Tonight," "First Take" and "NFL Live" from a set in front of Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat on Hollywood Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Park guests will have a chance to appear on-air via crowd shots while watching the programming on video screens. Popular ESPN Radio shows "Mike & Mike in the Morning" and "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd will be broadcast live from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex March 3-4.

ESPN SPORTS ZONE INTERACTIVE AREA The ESPN Sports Zone will give guests of all ages the opportunity to test their skills at a wide variety of sports. MLB-, NBA-, NFL- and BASS-themed interactive areas within the Zone will have fans swinging for the fences, shooting baskets and throwing passes, as well as Dick's Sporting Goods' Sports Caravan, a multi-sport interactive area.

ESPN RADIO'S MIKE & MIKE HOST "ULTIMATE GUY'S WEEKEND" ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" will broadcast live from ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Thursday and Friday, March 3-4 (6-10 a.m. ET). Co-hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will also host the "Ultimate Guy's Weekend" during ESPN The Weekend, including activities such a round of golf, Friday Night Fights, a clambake and much more. ESPN Radio's popular morning-drive show launched in January 2000 and today is heard (and seen on ESPN2) by more than 12 million listeners each week on more than 350 stations nationwide.

YANKEE LEGEND TO PERFORM NIGHTLY Four-time MLB world champion turned classical guitarist Bernie Williams, who closed out last year's event with a live performance on "Baseball Tonight," returns and will perform all three nights at the Sorcerer Hat Stage to close out the day's activities. The former New York Yankee outfielder, who plays and composes his own music, has released two albums, The Journey Within and Moving Forward.

FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will host its first-ever "Friday Night Fights" on March 4, with six professional bouts planned for the Jostens Center. The marquee event features two undefeated fighters, NABF Light Heavyweight Champion Ismayl Sillakh (14-0-0) and challenger Yordanis Despaigne (8-0-0), headlining a series of bouts scheduled to air on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET.

5K ROAD RACE AND FUN RUN The Champion 5K at Dick's Sporting Goods Presents ESPN The Weekend returns for its third year at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday, March 5, at 7 a.m., challenging runners along the course with ESPN and sports trivia and will feature athletes and ESPN personalities, including Jay Crawford, Dana Jacobson and Trey Wingo. The 5K will benefit The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and all participants will receive a T-shirt and finisher's medal. There will also be a Fun Run for kids at 8 a.m. To register, visit runDisney.com.

TICKETING AND ADMISSION Event activities are included in regular admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Walt Disney World innovative ticket pricing system, Magic Your Way, provides guests with the opportunity to customize their vacations and Florida residents can save on tickets all year long. Separate tickets must be purchased for events at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.


Celebrating Presidents’ Day at the Hall of Presidents at Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Happy Presidents’ Day! To celebrate today, we thought it only natural to give a behind-the-scenes look at one of our original Magic Kingdom park attractions – The Hall of Presidents. If you’ve never been, it’s a multi-media presentation based on United States history. At the center of the story are the presidents, all of whom are showcased in the form of lifelike Audio-Animatronics figures.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin helped develop the show with Disney Imagineers and gives a look at what makes this attraction so inspirational.

Is this one of your favorite attractions? If so, here are a few fun facts:

  • The animated Lincoln figure debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
  • Every president – life-sized, three dimensional and fully animated – who has served the nation appears on stage in the form of an animated figure.
  • The pre-show lobby features presidential portraits, display cases filled with personal artifacts of presidents including Gerald Ford, Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and George Washington, and large display cases exhibiting dresses and personal objects worn by several first ladies, including Edith Roosevelt (Teddy’s wife), Elizabeth Monroe and Nancy Reagan.
  • The Hall of Presidents building recalls the Federal-style civic buildings of Philadelphia.
  • The theater seats 700 guests, with expanded seating areas for guests using wheelchairs.


Bill Nye The Science Guy visits Epcot on Wednesday for National Engineers Week

Orlando Sentinel - Bill Nye The Science Guy will headline this week’s celebration of National Engineers Week at Walt Disney World.
Nye, the mechanical engineer with a passion for science who is known for his television series and children’s books, will have presentations at 11 a.m., noon, 1 and 2 p.m. Wednesday in Innoventions West at Epcot. Nye is a Disney Educational Productions programming host and currently co-stars with Ellen Degeneres in Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot.

National Engineers Week, which shines the spotlight on math, science and engineering, is Feb. 21 to 25. Speakers from Raytheon, Underwriters Laboratories, Liberty Mutual, Reedy Creek Fire Department and Walt Disney Ride & Show Engineering also will be hosting presentations on how engineering turns ideas into reality at their venues in Innoventions Plaza. Sessions are expected to last 5 to 10 minutes and are appropriate for kids and adults. Topics include “Dancing Spaghetti,” “Polishing Pennies,” “Choke the Smoke” and “Outrageous Ooze.”

Sessions run continuously from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily — except for those by Nye. Admission to engineering presentations is included in regular Epcot admission.


Disney casts musical pilot 'Madison High'

Digital Spy - Disney Channel has announced the cast for its upcoming musical comedy pilot Madison High.

The storyline revolves around High School Musical drama teacher Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) relocating from East High to Madison High.

At the new school, Ms. Darbus will work with a group of students trying to build a "revolutionary theatre program", which includes creating an original musical production based on the students' own lives.

The cast for the pilot includes 15-year-old Luke Benward as a motocross racer called Devin Daniels who is looking for a new hobby, and Leah Lewis, 14, who plays a previously home-schooled tennis star named Peyton Hall. G Hannelius, 12, will play a "precocious starlet in the making" called Wednesday Malone.

The pilot will also include four original songs, including one written by former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi.

Production is scheduled to begin next month for a potential premiere early next year.


Disney Releasing Straight-to-DVD ‘Cars’ Spinoff ‘Planes’

ScreenRant - Disney has plans to release a straight-to-DVD spinoff of ‘Cars’ called ‘Planes.’ Don’t worry Pixar fans, it’s a DisenyToon Studios release.

Pixar Animation Studios is the closest you can get to a sure thing in Hollywood. Since the company released Toy Story in 1995,it has put out nothing but hits, raking in loads of money and earning numerous Academy Award nominations in the process.

Critically speaking, the worst movie Pixar has put out over the last 16 years was Cars, and that was still a generally enjoyable and extremely well-made movie (not to mention one of the biggest box office successes the studio has put out).

Anyone familiar with Pixar knows that the studio’s success comes from its commitment to sound storytelling. How often in Hollywood do you find yourself actually debating whether or not the second or third film in a franchise is the best? Most of the time, sequels stink. And yet, with Toy Story 3, Pixar had one of the best films of 2010. In short, the studio just plain “gets it” when it comes to good movies.

So, naturally, when word came out last summer that Disney was releasing a direct-to-DVD movie called Planes, that would be a spin-off from Pixar’s Cars, many fans were apprehensive. Essentially, people were worried that the studio was going down the path of cash over quality by releasing a spin-off instead of a theatrical release.

Well Pixar fans, you can breath a sigh of relief. Yesterday, Disney sent-out a press release talking about Planes in greater detail. While Planes is inspired by Pixar’s Cars, it will be produced by DisneyToon Studios, the department of Disney responsible for other straight-to-DVD films like Bambi 2: Back With a Vengeance (just kidding).

Planes will come out on DVD and Blu-ray in spring 2013.


Nowhere is there a more happier crew

Boston Globe - ‘Practically Perfect’’ is how the seemingly heaven-sent nanny Mary Poppins describes her character, when challenged by her querulous new charges at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. You could dispense with that qualifier for the show itself, which is making its Boston debut at the Opera House as a touring production. It is perfect. Drawing on the 1964 Disney movie but surpassing it in artistry and subtlety, this “Mary Poppins’’ is family entertainment of the highest order.

MARY POPPINS Musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film, co-created by Cameron Macintosh with book by Julian Fellowes, original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe

Directed by: Richard Eyre. Co-director and choreographer: Matthew Bourne. Set and costumes, Bob Crowley. Lights, Howard Harrison.

Presented by Broadway Across America, through March 20. At: Boston Opera House. Tickets: $30-$140. 800-982-2787, www.broadwayacross america.com/boston

If your memories of the movie aren’t the fondest (it was awfully hyper — indeed, proto-psychedelic, with its mix of live action and animation), it may help to know that this version is more of a character study, though one lavished with splashy production numbers. Drawing on a broader assortment of P.L. Travers tales, Julian Fellowes has fashioned a funny yet insightful script, and the interpolated songs — clever concoctions by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (the team behind “Honk!’’) — up the ante dramatically.

Playing Bert, the chimney sweep and jack-of-all-trades who seems to have a history with the mysterious Mary, Nicolas Dromard immediately sets a tone of relaxed camaraderie; he’s a warm, guiding presence, not a cute-at-all-costs Cockney clown. And Steffanie Leigh, the newly appointed Mary Poppins — she assumed the role only a few weeks ago — is a marvel. Always leading with her chin (in such a way that she must look down her nose at all she surveys), this Mary appears to be silently savoring some private joke — something along the lines, perhaps, of “what fools these mortals be.’’

Because this is a household which, despite its superficial propriety (designer Bob Crowley has devised an ingenious set that unfolds like a Victorian pop-up book), is courting long-term disaster. Paterfamilias George Banks (Michael Dean Morgan, pinched, with the pallor of library paste) is so focused on getting ahead at the bank that he ignores his touchingly eager-to-please wife (Blythe Wilson) and two desperate-for-attention children (on opening night, Paige Simunovich and Cade Canon Ball). They’ve become brats, pure and simple. If Mary hopes to improve their prospects, she’ll need to do a lot more than rein in their behavior. All-out family therapy — by means of an across-the-board attitude adjustment — is in order.
But first some fun: an expedition to the ordinarily boring park, where this time the marble statues come to life (Garett Hawe is all Nijinskian liquidity as the water god Neleus); preparations for a tea party that go hilariously awry (the kitchen spectacularly implodes, but Mary is magically able to set it aright).
Not so fun is an expedition to Father’s workplace, a black-and-white trompe l’oeil vault populated by bent-over scribes, and “Playing the Game,’’ a nocturnal rebellion fomented by mistreated toys. The latter scene is downright creepy, even more harrowing than an ensuing visitation by Mr. Banks’s hilariously horrible former governess, a.k.a. the “Holy Terror’’ (Q. Smith, acing a forte soprano glissando). Given these possible scare factors, plus the play’s fidget-inducing length (nearly three hours), you might want to leave your really little ones home. Six or so on up (you best know your child) might be a sensible guideline.
But for those who get to go, thrilling memories are in store: of a colorful candy emporium that also deals in words (what would “Mary Poppins’’ be without a salute to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’’ here performed with ever-accelerating precision choreography?), and a tap extravaganza set on a twilit rooftop. Amid all the stage magic, Mary Poppins’s final departure makes for a memorable closing image. We can only hope — for future audiences’ sakes — that she’ll soon be back.


'Octonauts' Journey Across the Atlantic

IFTN - Brown Bag Films’ IFTA nominated animated series, ‘The Octonauts’ is to air on the Disney Channel’s Disney Junior Channel across the US following a deal between sales agent Chorion and Disney. Brown Bag films are currently in development with a second series of the show.

‘The Octonauts’ launched on Cbeebies in the UK last October and centres around a team of undersea explorers based in ‘the octopod’ who are in search of adventure and fun. The series will air in the US in early 2012 joining the group’s other pre-school animation, ‘Doc McStuffins’ which is currently broadcasting on the Disney Junior channel.

Director of the first series of ‘The Octonauts’, Darragh O’Connell is aware of the huge effect this new move from Disney will have on the show’s audience. “The Disney Junior channel has a penetration of about 55 million homes in the U.S.”he explains. ”And the fact that ‘Doc Mc’ will be showing too is fairly amazing!”

Chorion has sold the animated shows to several other international broadcasters including RTÉ, TF1 in France, ABC in Australia, Discovery Kids in Latin America, MNet in South Africa, Yoope in Canada, RTP in Portugal, Disney in Japan and Truevision in Thailand.

“It’s just so funny because we went into production on ‘Octonauts’ without a U.S. broadcaster signed on, which is strange,” he tells us. “ And it was only when people saw what it was going to look like that the offers started coming in.”

A second series of the show is currently in development and Darragh tells us production will commence in May 2011. A director of the first series, Darragh will take on the role of executive producer for the second series with the director TBC. Gillian Higgins, producer of the first series will return to produce the second series.


Bookworms are Buzz-ing with toy joy at latest Disney graphic novel

Grimsby - The  toys are back in town!

Hot on the heels of the first Toy Story book, you can now add the action-packed Toy Story 2 Disney graphic novel to your ever-expanding collection.

Kids of all ages will go to infinity and beyond in their bid to catch up with Woody, Buzz and friends.

While Andy is away at summer camp, cowboy Woody has been toy-napped by Al McWiggin, a greedy collector and proprietor of Al's Toy Barn.
In an all-out rescue mission, Buzz and his friends Mr Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Rex and Hamm spring into action to rescue Woody and prevent him becoming a museum piece.

They must find a way to save him before he gets sold on and whisked away to Japan.

Introducing Jessie the yodelling cowgirl and Stinky Pete as two of the other toys in danger of being exported, Toy Story 2 is every bit as good as the first Pixar classic.

The heart-warming plot explores the toys' experience of being played with and loved by a child, only to later be rejected when their owner grows up.

To celebrate the release of the latest Disney graphic novel, we visited West Marsh Children's Centre in Macaulay Street, Grimsby, where staff and children donned Woody and Buzz fancy dress outfits for us.

Raven Gloyne, 18 months, became a mini Woody in a cowboy hat and checked shirt.

Her mum Toni of Armstrong Street, Grimsby, said: "We've been collecting all the Disney graphic novels.

"Raven loves looking at them because they're so bright and colourful.

"We'll definitely be adding Toy Story 2 to our collection."

Poppy Kinnear, 15 months, became a mini Buzz Lightyear in a metallic space suit.

The children's centre's parental engagement worker Rachel Grayson and training coordinator Jane Burkitt dressed up as life-size Toy Story characters.

Rachel said: "We often dress up as characters for the children.

"They all love Disney."

Lasso your copy

To get a copy of the Toy Story 2 graphic novel, simply take the coupon that will be printed inside tomorrow's Grimsby Telegraph and present it, along with £3.49, at any of our participating local stores.

If you miss a your copy of the paper, don't worry. Just into the Grimsby Telegraph offices, in Cleethorpe Road, where we have plenty to spare.

And, next Tuesday, make sure you pick up your coupon for the next novel in the series, Prince Of Persia.


Sunday February 20, 2010
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