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These ARE the Droids You’re Looking For!

posted on September 24th, 2010 by Tom Fitzgerald, Executive VP & Senior Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering

Since everything we do at Imagineering starts with the story, it probably comes as no surprise that one of the first things we set out to do with the new Star Tours show was to figure out when our story should take place within the Star Wars timeline.

The existing Star Tours show we internally refer to as “6.5,” since it takes place time-wise after Episode VI Return of the Jedi. Story development for the new show began “a long time ago,” back in 1998, and a story treatment from that year carries the title “Episode 7 – A Star Tours Classic” – referring to the Boonta Classic race that was to be the main feature of the show.

But by the time Episode I hit the screens, we were all anxious to know what would surface in Episode III that we might build on for the show. Naturally, we were then curious how Episode III would complete the series. In the end, after numerous discussions, we decided to place our storyline between the two sets of Star Wars trilogies, giving the project the working title “Star Tours 3.5.”

AC-38 - 'Ace' for short - is one of the latest AC series Tour Droids piloting the Starspeeder 1000

This time period gave our show team the ability to tap into the very best of the Star Wars characters and adventures. But turning the clock back also required some interesting changes for the Star Tours show. The Starspeeder 3000 would need to be an earlier model, the Starspeeder 1000, with a new pilot (especially since Rex, the original pilot, opens the original show saying it’s his first flight!)

Our design team created a new Tour Droid for the show, an AC Series pilot we dubbed “Ace,” with a personality as different from Rex as you can imagine.

We also created a new “spokesbot” for Star Tours, modeled after the WA-7 “Waitress Droid” from the Attack of the Clones. George Lucas suggested the name “Aly San San,” in reference to Allison Janney, the wonderful actress who provides the voice for this new character. We had a terrific time with Allison in the recording sessions for the show – she brought a lot of warmth and humor to the part.

'Aly San San' Star Tours 'spokesbot' will greet passengers next summer in the Star Tours terminal

These are just two of the droids you can expect to see in Star Tours “The Adventures Continue” next year. And in our next blog, I’ll tell you about a droid who really steals the show in the new attraction!

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A Royal Palace at Sea Aboard the Disney Dream

posted on September 24th, 2010 by Jonathan Frontado, Disney Cruise Line

With every passing day the Disney Dream gets closer to its maiden voyage on January 26, 2011.

Today we bring you another insider’s look at the construction of our newest ship, this time we are showcasing Royal Palace restaurant inspired by classic Disney films “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

Disney Dream Royal Palace Restaurant Construction

With meticulous attention to detail, many of the restaurant’s features are modeled precisely from the inspirational films. The Royal Palace’s circular floor plan, fluted columns and iron railing work are all recreated from the “Cinderella” ballroom scene. Wall sconces are fashioned after those seen in “Beauty and the Beast.”

At Royal Palace, guests will feast on a world-class continental cuisine. The menu will include dishes fit for a monarch, including beef Wellington, crowned rack of lamb, king salmon and princess cake. The wine list will feature an excellent selection of Old World wines. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served at this restaurant.

Disney Dream Royal Palace Restaurant Artist Rendering

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Our Haunted Gingerbread House

posted on September 24th, 2010 by Valarie Sukovaty, Disneyland Public Relations

What’s Halloween without at least one spooky (and nostalgic) trip through the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland park?

From Halloween through the holiday season the mansion is decked out in a “The Nightmare Before Christmas” motif for Haunted Mansion Holiday. One of the coolest highlights has got to be the haunted gingerbread house in the mansion’s ballroom. It’s been a fixture since 2001. This year’s design, “Haunted Mansion Tombstone Cake,” is six feet high and four feet wide. (There’s a new design every year.)

For the first time ever the “house” will have animated projections. The projectors are such a new technology that there are only a few in the United States, and some are here at our very own Haunted Mansion! It took three chefs, a team of electricians, engineers and designers to create the tasty (and creepy) “tombstone cake.” And although the house looks decorated with candy, it’s not. All the decorations are actually created from fondant and royal icing.

And yes, it’s haunted. Really. Every year after the gingerbread house is installed and everyone goes home, a gingerbread shingle disappears. I guess one of the 999 ghosts has a hankering for gingerbread. Here are some other fun facts:

  • It took 3 ½ weeks and a total of 213 hours to build
  • It’s made of 60lbs of fondant
  • 30lbs of chocolate (used as glue)
  • 50lbs of royal icing
  • 500lbs of gingerbread
  • The scent of gingerbread is piped into the guest corridor

Enjoy this video of the making of the “Haunted Mansion Tombstone Cake.” Maybe it will give you a few ideas for your own creation.

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Disney Parks Teams Up With the Orlando Magic and Amway Center

posted on September 24th, 2010 by Kathleen Prihoda, Manager of Media Relations, Walt Disney World Resort

Like most everyone who lives in Orlando, I’m eagerly counting down the days until the opening of the new Amway Center, which will be home to the Orlando Magic and host to world-class entertainment and sporting events. The Amway Center will usher in a new era for Central Florida and I’m happy to share that Disney Parks will play a supporting role.
Orlando Magic Superstar Dwight Howard Presents Mickey Mouse With a Special Jersey
This morning, with blue and silver pixie dust in hand, Mickey Mouse presented Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard with a “mouse warming” gift in celebration of the team’s new home and a multi-year agreement making Disney Parks a “Champions of the Community” sponsor for the franchise and Amway Center. The Orlando Magic in return gave Mickey Mouse his own jersey emblazoned with the #71, a nod to the year when Walt Disney World Resort opened. Click here to see a video of the gift exchange.

Through the new agreement, Walt Disney World Resort and the Orlando Magic will seek ways to team up for the benefit of the Central Florida community. Considering that both share a focus on improving the lives of children, these efforts have tremendous potential to make an even greater difference for the common good.
Mickey Mouse and Dwight Howard are Buddies
Beyond community outreach opportunities, Walt Disney World will be the “official theme park of the Orlando Magic” and Disney Cruise Line will be the “official cruise line of the Orlando Magic.” Disney Parks will also be the presenting sponsor of the Amway Center atrium, which will be named the “Disney Atrium.” Additionally, Disney will work with the Orlando Magic to develop co-branded merchandise and take advantage of other marketing and community opportunities.

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Mickey’s Halloween Party: Special Photo Locations and Mickey’s Hide-and-Go-Treat Trails

posted on September 23rd, 2010 by Heather Hust Rivera, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company

Pirate Wharf Photo Location
We’ve shared a lot of new information about this year’s Mickey’s Halloween Party, including our most recent post on the cavalcade of Disney characters that is exclusive to this special nighttime event on Halloween night and Tuesdays and Fridays in October.

Today, we’re giving you more news about Mickey’s Halloween Party. There are special photo locations and more treat stations along Mickey’s Hide-and-Go-Treat Trails.

Special Photo Locations: There are a variety of extra photo locations for this nighttime party, including the following:

  • Pirate Wharf at the Frontierland Dock (shown above)
  • Friends from Aladdin – Aladdin’s Oasis
  • Critter Pals – Splash Mountain
  • Winnie the Pooh & Friends – Critter Country
  • Toy Story Pals – Big Thunder Ranch
  • Mickey & Minnie – Big Thunder Ranch
  • Disney Villains – Small World Mall
  • Disney Princesses – Disney Princess Fantasy Faire
  • Disney Fairies – Pixie Hollow

Mickey’s Hide-and-Go-Treat Trails: This year, there will be 8 hide-and-go-treat trails featuring approximately 50 stations with treats. During the 10 nights of Mickey’s Halloween Party, guests will enjoy nearly a half million pounds of candy and healthy treats. Candy includes a mix of chocolates, and examples of healthy treats are apple slices, carrots, raisins and dried fruit crisps.

Tickets for Mickey’s Halloween Party are now available and can be purchased at Here’s an insider’s tip: if you purchase tickets in advance, you’ll get a great discount on select nights. There’s also a discount for annual passholders on select nights.

Check back next week to see a first glimpse of the new dance parties at Mickey’s Halloween Party.

What are you most excited about?

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A Nightmarish Treat!

posted on September 23rd, 2010 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort

New Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Merchandise
Our new Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” merchandise is a Halloween Treat!

I was walking through New Orleans Square just the other day with none other than one of our favorite product developer, Summer Bloomfield.
 New Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Merchandise
As we strolled through Port Royal, home to our Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”and Jack Skellington product, Summer shared with me some of things we can expect to see this fall, including new ladies and men’s tees with fun phrases, embellishments and treatments, fleece and jackets, hats and beanies, souvenirs and accessories, and of course, some decor for your own home sweet home.

Some merchandise has already started hitting the shelves, which is why I wanted to make sure that you had the latest and greatest information, and of course, got a peek at some other things coming your way.

This year, when two holidays collide, they’ll do so in style! So don’t miss out and hurry baaaack…to Port Royal in New Orleans Square.

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Disney Guests Become Stars of TV Ads, Castle Show As Walt Disney World and Disneyland ‘Let the Memories Begin’

posted on September 23rd, 2010 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

As you just learned during our live coverage out of New York City, Disney Parks has officially launched “Let the Memories Begin” – our special celebration of family vacations and magical memories. And yes, you’re going to be the star. For the first time, your home videos and snapshots will be featured in Disney television ads and other print and online communications.
Let the Memories Begin
To kick things off, we’ve launched It’s a new destination where you can upload your Disney vacation memories captured in photos and videos and share with the world. And getting started is easy:

Simple, right? So, what should you submit? Your favorite memories – whether it was a first meeting with a Disney princess, a laugh-filled Splash Mountain ride or a magical moment around a holiday fireplace when mom and dad surprised everyone with a “We’re Going to Disney!” announcement – We’re looking for videos and photos that capture your never-to-be-forgotten experiences. Take a look:

And there’s more – beginning in January of 2011, you’ll also become the star of a nightly spectacular at Disney Parks. Photos of magical memories made in the park during the day will be projected that night on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World and “it’s a small world” at Disneyland Resort. Pretty cool, huh?

In both locations, Disney PhotoPass photographers will provide images of guests shot during the day to be shared on the icons. While we’re still working on the show details, producers estimate as many as 500 photos will be shown in each location every day.

So, let us know about your favorite Disney memory and share it at

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Update: Watch ‘Let the Memories Begin’ Announcement

posted on September 23rd, 2010 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Update: September 23: Did you miss today’s live coverage of the “Let the Memories Begin” announcement in New York City? We’re sharing it again – click the video player below to see it.

It’s time – we’re ready to raise the curtain on some exciting plans at Disney Parks and it’s something you’ll certainly want to check out. Our live stream of the special announcement begins right here on the Disney Parks Blog today at 12:45 p.m. EST.

We’re also providing live updates from the New York City announcement on our main @DisneyParks Twitter account and the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Facebook pages.

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Survey: What Makes Family Vacations Memorable?

posted on September 23rd, 2010 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Today in New York City, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs shared new plans for the Parks, Resorts and Disney Cruise Line in 2011.

Leading up to today, Disney Parks commissioned the most comprehensive survey on vacation memories ever undertaken. Travel trend watcher Ypartnership surveyed 3,600 Americans and Canadians about what makes today’s family vacations memorable for both parents and children and there’s some interesting findings we can share with you now:

Survey: What Makes Family Vacations Memorable? Survey: What Makes Family Vacations Memorable? Survey: What Makes Family Vacations Memorable?
  • Nine out of 10 parents said they planned their vacations with the express hope that they would result in a lasting family memory.
  • More than two-thirds of family travelers say they think back “often” or “very often” on their favorite vacation experiences.
  • Digital photos represent the most popular way to memorialize vacation memories today, cited by 82 percent of respondents.
  • The most positive vacation memories are associated with vacations that include both parents and siblings.
  • Traditional photo albums remain the preferred method of sharing vacation memories, but 45 percent of family vacationers now post vacation content on social media sites.
  • One out of five family travelers share the events that make the memories “real time” as they actually occur.

Here’s an interview with Ypartnership CEO Peter Yesawich who shares more insight into some vacation memory trends.

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Live Coverage of Disney Parks Special Announcement

posted on September 22nd, 2010 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Disney Parks

Have you heard? We’re unveiling some exciting plans for Disney Parks in New York City in less than 24 hours. And you bet we’ll be announcing some good stuff that you’ll want to know about. So, on Thursday we’re offering live coverage of the event here on The Disney Parks Blog. You’ll be able to watch and interact in real time as we raise the curtain on what’s coming. We don’t want to give away any of the surprises but expect to see a few faces you’ll instantly recognize along with Disney characters and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs.

The live stream begins on September 23 at 12:45 p.m. EST. We’ll also be providing updates on our @DisneyParks Twitter account and Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Facebook pages. See you back here tomorrow afternoon.

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