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Childhood Dream Come True for This Walt Disney World Resort Cast Member

posted on January 31st, 2012 by David Brady, Senior Writer, Internal Communications

I’m fortunate to meet many different Walt Disney World Resort cast members while writing stories for our internal magazine, Eyes & Ears. Recently, I spent a lot of time at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, which will mark its 20th anniversary Feb. 2.

During my research, I learned that Kyle Raser, the resort’s current manager of Guest Service Operations, had stayed there years ago when it was known as Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort.

Kyle Raser Currently is Manager of Guest Service Operations at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside.

“When I was 14 years old, I lived in Pennsylvania,” Kyle told me. “We were actually supposed to stay at a different resort but because we got so much snow up north we had to change our vacation and the only place available at the time was Dixie Landings. So we came here and fell in love with the place.”

As he explained, “We always say, ‘By chance we stayed here but by choice we stayed here every other year after that.’ My mom and the rest of the family still call it home.”

Kyle First Visited the Resort in 1993, a Year After it Opened, When it Was Known as Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort.

Like many of our cast members who chased childhood dreams or pursued adult ambitions, Kyle joined the company in 1997 when he moved to Florida and went to work at The Disney Store. In 1999, he became a Walt Disney World Resort cast member. He joined the Port Orleans team in April 2010, making it a kind of homecoming.

“Each night when I walk out of the resort and look back at the entrance, I can’t help but fondly remember my first visit to this place and how lucky I am to have come ‘home’ again,” Kyle said.

Kyle Says His Family Fell in Love With the Resort After Their First Visit and Returned Often Over the Years.

Nearly two decades after that first visit, he offers wise advice to the cast members he now leads.

“I always say, ‘Treat every guest like it’s 14-year-old Kyle because you never know if they’re going to come back and work here someday,’” he said. “I like to think that there may be another guest out there who, like me, will be inspired to be part of the future generation of cast members.”

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Filed: Cast Member Profiles, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Aulani Excursions Showcase Hawai‘i With a Touch of Disney Magic

posted on January 31st, 2012 by John McClintock, Disney Public Relations

Although it’s tempting never to leave the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, grounds and adjoining beach, the resort offers an appealing lineup of off-property excursions to illuminate the wonders of Hawai‘i for all ages and tastes. Many of the excursions have been specially designed by Adventures by Disney and feature knowledgeable Adventure Guides weaving stories and magic into the experience.

I haven’t had a chance to experience all the excursions on offer – it’s a lineup that includes Hawaiian cooking lessons, hiking to Waimea Falls, horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch … and I’ve heard especially good things about the Hawaiian Fire Surf School conducted by Honolulu City Firefighters.

I did get a chance to go on a catamaran excursion with some visiting travel writers the last time I was at Aulani, and it was great! We spotted a couple of pods of dolphins (or maybe it was just one playful bunch, trying to fake us out) and, after getting a terrific distant view of Aulani from its ocean side, we went snorkeling a bit further up the coast. The waters off the coast of Oahu offer a sensationally colorful array of fish and other sea life and, while we were snorkeling close to the surface, members of the crew dove deeper and brought up sea urchins, sea cucumbers and an unusually chunky starfish for us to look at.

Catamaran Captain Doug also told us that his craft is rated as dolphin-and-whale friendly, consciously keeping a safe distance from these fun and fascinating creatures while still giving us the opportunity to view them. It’s the kind of thing that helps make a Disney Aulani excursion special.

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Filed: Adventures by Disney, Aulani, Disney Vacation Club

A Disney’s Dreamers Academy With Steve Harvey & Essence Magazine Program Update

posted on January 31st, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

There’s exciting news for some high school students who applied to participate in the 2012 Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine program. The final 100 have been selected and they will head to Walt Disney World Resort in March to get a fresh perspective and jump start on career paths and life! Along with Mickey Mouse, entertainer and program ambassador Steve Harvey has a special message about what the new class will experience while one alumnus of the program says her life changed forever.

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Filed: Community Outreach, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Parks Merchandise Pops For National Popcorn Day

posted on January 31st, 2012 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager

Disney Parks Merchandise Pops For National Popcorn Day

One of the things I remember the most when I first visited Tokyo Disney Resort in 2002 is the various popcorn flavors they served. I was enamored with the honey popcorn that was being offered near the Pooh’s Honey Hunt attraction. I love popcorn (about as much as I love coffee and pie). In honor of National Popcorn Day, I recently strolled through Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see what flavors I could find. As it turns out, there are some unique combinations offered at Disney Parks.

Disney Parks Merchandise Pops For National Popcorn Day

Pre-packaged popcorn is developed by the Consumables team (the same team that creates those delicious treats for the show kitchen locations). The pre-packaged popcorn they offer now has evolved from the traditional cheddar, caramel or kettle popcorn I remember. Today, they offer flavors like Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Mint or Chocolate Caramel. My favorite, however, is the Chocolate Cheddar Caramel popcorn as it is a great mix of sweet and salty. I spoke with Patrice Guy, developer for Consumables, who said that flavor is a test.

“We introduce new test flavors about twice a year,” explained Patrice. “The Chocolate Cheddar Caramel popcorn is a test flavor and we are unsure if we will keep it. We monitor sales results from new test flavors, so hopefully this one will stay as it is proving to be popular with our guests.”

I’m thinking I need to beg Patrice to keep it (or perhaps I may buy the entire shipment).

New Popcorn Tin, containing three different kinds of popcorn, will soon be arriving at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.

Patrice also showed me a new popcorn tin that will be arriving at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. The tin contains three different kinds of popcorn – caramel, confetti and chocolate caramel. I love the colorful artwork on the tin that features all sorts of Disney characters enjoying Disney Parks (the image above shows both sides of the tin).

New Vinylmation Figures Popping Into Disney Parks Locations in Late Summer 2012

One of the more interesting popcorn-related finds is actually not food but will be Vinylmation. Thomas Scott, a lead Vinylmation designer, told me that the “Disney Design Group artists have re-imagined favorite Disney characters by giving them a hot, fresh look you’ve never seen before.” Apparently, this new kind of Vinylmation will “pop” into locations in late summer 2012.

With all this talk of popcorn, I’m hungry!

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Filed: Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort

Where at Disney Parks Can You Find…

posted on January 31st, 2012 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Have You Seen This at Disney Parks?

If you’ve been wishing for an easier mystery puzzler on the Disney Parks Blog, this may be your lucky week. The big “C” is hard to miss on a stroll around one of our parks but only if you’re looking in the right direction. Have you seen this? Please put your answers in the comments and we’ll update the post with the answer later today.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed: Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Race Report: Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort

posted on January 30th, 2012 by Erin Glover, Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort

New Medal for the Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort

Yesterday morning, I joined more than 12,000 other athletes for the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon here at the Disneyland Resort. Featuring an all-new course and a seriously shiny new medal (see above), the race is the latest in the runDisney line-up.

Fireworks for the Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort

At 5:45 am, fireworks lit up the sky and the race was on! We took off on our way to Disneyland park, where pixie wings and green tutus fluttered all over the course.

Main Street, U.S.A, During the Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort

Disney characters greeted participants throughout the park, including an appearance by the Lost Boys who seemed to have taken over King Arthur Carrousel!

Women of the Red Hat Society Cheering on Participants in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort

As the sun rose over the Disneyland Resort, we made our way through the Downtown Disney District where we were cheered on by a sea of red hats. The lovely ladies from the Red Hat Society had set up a huge cheering section in front of the Disneyland Hotel.

Section of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Downtown Anaheim

From there, we left the Disneyland Resort and headed for downtown Anaheim – a new destination for a runDisney race. Marching bands and cheer squads from local schools were waiting to welcome the race participants.

Characters from ‘Monsters, Inc.’ at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort

After leaving downtown Anaheim, the race headed back to the Disneyland Resort and through Disney California Adventure park. With about a mile to go, we headed through “a bug’s land” toward the finish line.

Did you participate in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon yesterday? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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Filed: Disneyland Resort, Special Events

In Time For Valentine’s Day: A Sweet Meet-and-Greet at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on January 30th, 2012 by Jean Volante, Manager of Dream Making, Disney Floral & Gifts/DEG

Do you remember meeting Mickey or Minnie for the first time? I certainly do. And chances are so do most Disney Parks Blog readers. It’s such a memorable experience that Disney Floral & Gifts has created a special meet-and-greet surprise just in time for this year’s Valentine’s season.

A Personalized Valentine for Mickey Mouse A Personalized Valentine for Minnie Mouse

So, here’s the scoop: The story behind this gift is that Mickey needs your little ones help to surprise Minnie (and Minnie needs your help to surprise Mickey) at Magic Kingdom Park from Feb. 1-15. You see, tucked inside this new offering are essentials for a “sweet” meet-and-greet experience in the parks. And, get this, it also includes a special Valentine, personalized to your little one from Mickey or Minnie; a Valentine coloring sheet they can decorate; and a special invitation to surprise them at the Town Square Theater inside Magic Kingdom Park.

In Time For Valentine’s Day: A Sweet Meet-and-Greet at Magic Kingdom Park

Now, imagine the look on your little one’s face as they present Mickey or Minnie with their colored Valentine they made just for them while wearing their Mickey Mouse ears and BFF light-up lanyard that’s included with this gift! And, not only is it a moment you’ll want to catch on camera, it’s a moment your little one will share with their friends when they get home too.

If you think your little loved one would enjoy surprising Mickey or Minnie with a special Valentine, simply click Mickey’s Valentine Surprise or Minnie’s Valentine Surprise to learn more. Remember, this experience is only offered through Feb. 15.

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Filed: Celebrations, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney Cruise Line Top Five: Adult Activities on a Disney Ship

posted on January 30th, 2012 by Jonathan Frontado, Disney Cruise Line

There’s no doubt that kids will have a blast on a Disney cruise, but a question we get often is “what about adults?”

For first-time Disney cruisers, that question is answered pretty quickly upon boarding. The adult-exclusive activities are abounding, so you can imagine it wasn’t an easy task to narrow down the “top five” adult activities on a Disney ship.

But here it is, a video showing the adult fan favorites for what to do when cruising with Disney. Check it out and let us know your favorite activities for grownups.

See more from Disney Cruise Line’s “Top Five” video series:

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Meet the First Mom to Represent Disneyland Resort on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel

posted on January 30th, 2012 by Michele Himmelberg, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort

As a mom, I know moms rely on other parents to get information they can trust, especially when it comes to family fun. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to the first “Disneyland” mom on the Walt Disney World Moms PanelAmanda Ficili. She and Ari Krell (you’ll meet him later) were selected to be the first panelists to answer guest questions about the Disneyland Resort.

Amanda Ficili, the First 'Disneyland' Mom on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, and Her Family at Disneyland Resort

You can tell by Amanda’s smile, this is a girl who likes to have fun – especially at Disney Parks. She grew up on the East Coast and frequently visited Walt Disney World Resort. Now she lives in Northern California and calls Disneyland Resort her “second home.”

Amanda usually visits with her husband and young daughter, a little princess who has inherited her parents’ fascination with Disney magic. She and her husband are self-proclaimed “Disney foodies” and, if you like to shop, Amanda’s your girl for discovering treasures at Downtown Disney.

Q: What’s it like to share your passion for Disneyland with visitors to the Moms Panel?
A: It’s an honor to represent the Disneyland Resort. I believe Disneyland is the ultimate vacation destination. When road-trip time rolls around, it’s a no-brainer … I’m going to Disneyland!

Q: What’s a tip for families visiting from outside Southern California?
A: Staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel keeps the magic alive for your entire visit. You don’t realize what a difference it makes until you’re there. And be sure to enjoy the new pools and spectacular Monorail slide at the Disneyland Hotel.

Q: How can I make a Disneyland vacation more affordable for my family?
A: I have been to Disney on almost every imaginable budget, and I’ve enjoyed every visit. Be sure to always check for current special offers and vacation package deals. Staying steps away from the magic can be more affordable than you may think.

Q: Tell us some of your favorite food topics at Disneyland Resort.
A: There are so many! Romantic dinners at Napa Rose, character dining at the Resort hotels, birthday celebrations, Blue Bayou Restaurant – plus all the special treats.

Tell us what you would ask Amanda at

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Filed: Disneyland Resort, Vacation Planning

Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World

posted on January 30th, 2012 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer

“Better-for-you” options at five mini shops serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is the overarching theme of the new Landscape of Flavors food court still being tweaked for Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, opening in May. The new restaurant will be adjacent to the lobby.

'Better-For-You' Options Will Be Available at the Landscape of Flavors Food Court at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World

“The idea is that you customize your choice,” says Chef Ed Wronski, Director, Food & Beverage Concept Development, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “From burgers to pasta, salads, ethnic flavors, omelets, even parfaits and gelatos, everything is made fresh as you order.”

There’s a big focus on beverages, too. Fresh fruit smoothies are made to order, ditto for lemonade and pomegranate limeade. They’re stocking organic teas, beer (including gluten free), wine, coffee and juices. You can get a plain cup of coffee or a French vanilla or mocha iced. And half bottles of wine are paired with cuisine from the food shops.

We got a sneak peek at the menu, and here are some of the highlights:

  • The Soup-Salad-Sandwich Shop lets you create your own salad (with beef or chicken) and offers a caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on focaccia, or a Buffalo-style turkey sandwich with arugula and a blue cheese-Buffalo sauce-mayo spread. Both are served with delish house-made potato chips.
  • The World Flavors Shop adds Indian-African flair to breakfast, too, with scrambled eggs, tandoor potatoes, Portuguese sausage, slab bacon and a mini-naan; or a veggie flatbread sandwich on naan with cauliflower, spinach and paneer. Lunch and dinner is a choice of tandoori chicken or shrimp, Mongolian beef with vegetables, mahi mahi, Portuguese sausage or roasted acorn squash served with sides and naan bread.
  • The Pizza Shop features make-your-own pasta, cheese and pepperoni pizzas and meatballs on ciabatta bread. Room delivery is an option, too.
  • The Burger Shop includes a breakfast burger with chicken breakfast sausage, cheese and scrambled eggs on a multi-grain bun, and a steak-and-eggs breakfast burger with a burger topped with fried eggs, cheese and bacon. Besides the traditional burgers, lunch and dinner includes a surf and turf burger with crab cake and fried popcorn shrimp, and a pastrami cheeseburger topped with pepper jack cheese and a slice of fried green tomato.
  • The “grab ‘n go” Market Shop offers drinks, yogurt, bagels, pastries, gourmet cupcakes, cookies and gelato.

The food court will be part of the Disney Dining Plan, details to follow.

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Filed: Disney Dining, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort