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Disney•Pixar’s Adventurous New Heroine from “Brave” Is Coming to Disney Parks

posted on March 29th, 2012 by Shawn Slater, Communications Manager, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment


In the upcoming Disney•Pixar movie “Brave,” Merida is a headstrong teenager with a vibrant spirit and a softness of heart, struggling to take control of her own destiny. You’ll be able to discover Merida’s story when “Brave” opens in theaters June 22 and, beginning in mid-May, Merida will be coming to Disney Parks in an all-new character greeting experience.


At Magic Kingdom Park, Merida will appear in Fairytale Garden in a setting inspired by her Scottish Highlands home, where young guests will be invited to engage in archery lessons and other activities until it’s their turn to meet her. Joining Merida are three mischievous bear cubs, whom you’ll learn more about when you see “Brave” in theaters.

To prepare for Merida’s arrival, Rapunzel will be moving from Fairytale Garden April 15, to the Town Square Courtyard (adjacent to City Hall) where she will continue to greet her loyal fans and subjects.

When visiting Disneyland park in California this summer, Merida and the wee, playful bears will find a home away from home near “it’s a small world” in Fantasyland, where guests will also be able to participate in activities inspired by Merida’s story.


According to Creative Director Reed Jones, “These new play and greet experiences at both parks will immerse our guests in ‘Brave,’ giving them the opportunity to be a part of Merida’s Scottish clan. And we’re all excited to have the bear cubs join Merida with their silly antics, creating a whole new way to bring our beloved Disney Characters to life.”

“Regardless of where they find Merida,” said Reed, “Guests are really going to fall in love with her and the bears.”

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Kunekune Pigs Ham it Up and an Artful Pig Paints, All at Affection Section at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

posted on March 29th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

Some rare pigs made their debut late last year at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. And these are some pretty smart swine.

In a previous post, Disney Parks Blog author Jackie Ogden told us about the arrival of the intelligent (and surprisingly agile) kunekune pigs. The pigs, found in New Zealand but believed to have originated in China, once faced extinction. Thanks to breeding and conservation efforts, they have since come back in a big way.

When I heard about these plump pigs in our park (“kunekune” means “plump” in the Mãori language), I knew I just had to meet them.

The Animal Care cast members at Conservation Station work with the three little pigs regularly on a variety of behaviors. This work helps the pigs stay fit, intellectually stimulated and comfortable around guests. They also help teach park guests about the real dangers of extinction.

“Most people have heard about endangered species in reference to wild animals, but many domestic animals are at risk of extinction as well,” Jackie said. “By showcasing rare domestic breeds, like babydoll sheep, Nigerian dwarf goats and kunekune pigs at Affection Section, we are helping our guests learn more about them and how they can help.”

Join me as I experience some of the great work the Animal Care team does with the kunekune pigs. Also, keep an eye out at the end the video for another rare and intelligent pig, an African Guinea hog named Mindy. She loves to paint.

All of the pigs are quite a hit with guests at Affection Section, so be sure to stop in and say hi next time you’re at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Students Celebrate the Opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

posted on March 29th, 2012 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center

On March 29, 1998, 1,300 performers (high school students) representing more than 15 different countries converged in Central Park to pull off one spectacular stunt to celebrate the upcoming opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.


Using “human animation” these performers brought a lion, dinosaur and fire-breathing dragon to life, each spanning approximately half a football field in length at Sheep Meadow inside Central Park. Taking months to choreograph, the stunt aired on “Good Morning America” and the Walt Disney World Easter Parade.


Many props were used to help bring these animals to life including three hundred pom-poms to create the lion’s mane and sixteen spikey flags for the dragon’s back.

And while that lion in Central Park is quite impressive, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the real lion I’ve seen while on my two-week adventure over at Kilimanjaro Safaris.

For more Vintage Walt Disney World posts, see below:

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Red Car Trolley Tests the Track at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Erin Glover, Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort


Clang! Clang! Clang! … went the Red Car Trolley as it started making test runs through Hollywood Pictures Backlot (soon to be called Hollywood Land) at Disney California Adventure park recently. Take a look at these photos from Disneyland Chief Photographer Paul Hiffmeyer!


Paul also grabbed this shot from inside the trolley – check out these fun ads for some of the food and merchandise locations that will be featured on Buena Vista Street.


The Red Car Trolley, inspired by the historic Pacific Electric Red Cars which once criss-crossed the Los Angeles area, will make its debut on June 15 when Buena Vista Street opens at Disney California Adventure park.

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Visit the Haiti: Garden of Many Colors Exhibit at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Charles Stovall, Public Relations Manager

Well, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, presented by HGTV, is in full bloom! And throughout the festival, we at the Disney Parks Blog will be bringing to your attention to some of the exciting new things for 2012.

Haiti: Garden of Many Colors at Epcot

One of the great horticulture additions this year is called Haiti: Garden of Many Colors. Sponsored by Haiti Originale, the spectacular garden exhibit showcases signature plants, flowers and crops of Haiti and offers information on the cultural heritage, sustainable art and artifacts of the beautiful island.

Sugar cane, mustard, thyme and curly leaf parsley are bounty from the Creole Garden. Guests can also find information on Recyclable Art, Haitian Arts and Crafts, Art in Motion and the Art of Haitian music; and they can purchase Haitian coffee (a major industry in Haiti) and crafts made by Haitian artists.

Haiti: Garden of Many Colors at Epcot Haiti: Garden of Many Colors at Epcot The Creole Garden
Coffee Plants in the Creole Garden Sugar Cane in the Creole Garden Tropical Hibiscus in the Creole Garden
Ornamental Sweet Potatoes in the Creole Garden Basil in the Creole Garden Mustard Plants Grown in the Creole Garden

Located between the Germany Pavilion and the African Outpost in World Showcase at Epcot, the exhibit features a refreshment stand called Bwason Lakay, meaning “Haitian Refreshments” in Haitian Creole, which offers island libations – in both adult and non-alcoholic versions. And speaking of color, the Art in Motion storyboard gives insight into Haiti’s colorful tap-tap buses.

Haiti Originale was formed to help Haitians help themselves by supporting sustainable economic and social development through the promotion of quality Haitian-made products within Haiti and around the world. Their cause mark is “par Haiti – pour Haiti,” which means “from Haiti – for Haiti.”

Organizers of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival have told us that the garden has been a huge success – both with our guests and our cast. At Walt Disney World Resort, we have a large population of cast from Haiti and that speak Haitian-Creole as a second language.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, presented by HGTV, runs until May 20. For more information on the festival, you can check out and continue to check back here for more updates.

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A Personal Look Back: When Major League Baseball Came to the Mouse House

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Gary Buchanan, Social Media Managing Editor

As you read in Darrell’s post, 15 years ago, a new era was launched at Disney Parks when Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex opened at Walt Disney World Resort. To answer the question Darrell posed in his post, I was fortunate to attend the game and watch the Braves and Reds play under the stars. I was asked to jot down some memories that stuck with me from the event — an event dubbed a “Grand (Slam) Opening.”


Even though I was working that evening, I was excited as any sports fan as I walked into the pristine stadium. I bent down and touched the grass in front of the dugout and was instantly reminded of my own Little League days.


I was one of the PR cast members assigned to gather quotes to provide to visiting news media in the press box. I remember talking to legendary Braves manager Bobby Cox in the dugout. I listened as he likened the facilities to a brand-new luxury automobile about to be driven for the first time. I heard the crack of a bat and looked behind me to see Braves star Chipper Jones (pictured above during the evening’s introductions) fielding ground balls right outside the dugout. I remember talking with Braves starting pitcher Greg Maddux as he warmed up in the bullpen. Soon, skydivers descended onto the field and fireworks filled the night air. It was time to “Play Ball.”

A capacity crowd watched the Braves beat the Reds 9-7. Reds outfielder Deion Sanders, one of the greatest athletes in pro sports, holds the honor of recording the first hit, stealing the first base and scoring the first run in the complex’s history. Fred McGriff of the Braves smacked the complex’s first home run that night as well.


Fifteen years later, a lot has changed. Cox and Maddux, both future Baseball Hall of Famers, have retired. McGriff, who hails from nearby Tampa, also has retired. Sanders was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2011. The Reds shortstop in that 1997 game, Barry Larkin (pictured above, prior to the inaugural game), will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. And just last week, Chipper Jones announced his retirement at the very same stadium he helped open 15 years ago.

The biggest changes, though, have come with the growth of the sports complex. Now known as ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, there are more sports, more fields and courts, more athletes and more competitions than ever before. Athletes of all ages come every year to “play at the next level.”

I can only imagine what memories young athletes have when they train and compete at the 270-acre facility. For me, my greatest memory was 15 years ago as I watched the boys of summer first play in Mickey’s backyard.

If you were at the Grand (Slam) Opening in 1997, be sure to let us know in the comments.

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Name That Disneyland Resort Costume

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Erin Glover, Editorial Content Director, Disneyland Resort

Okay, Disneyland fans – it’s been awhile since we’ve had a new “Name that Costume” challenge so I’m starting you back again with an easy one. If you spotted me at the Disneyland Resort in this costume, where do you think I would be?

Name This Disneyland Resort Costume

Think you can name that costume? Leave your guesses in the comments and I’ll be back later with the answer.

UPDATE: This costume is from The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure park.

Costume Development Project Manager Clare Gee explained that the inspiration for the costume came from the large mural that guests see when they are boarding the attraction, which was designed and painted by Imagineer Larry Nikolai.

Costume Designer Matt Davidson designed The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure costume with colors and a nautical theme that would complement the art that would be seen behind the cast members.

“The design is nautical and whimsical with touches of gold and many shades of blue,” Clare said. “Many details are evident in the anchor buttons, stitching detail and trident patches.”

But I have to say, my favorite part is the hat!

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A Toast to 15 Years of Wild and Wonderful Sports at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World Resort

With the swing of a bat, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort officially opened 15 years ago today. It was an Atlanta Braves spring training game under the lights against the Cincinnati Reds that featured the likes of superstar Deion Sanders, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former All-Star Fred “Crime Dog’’ McGriff.

Were you there?

Back then, the place was called Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. But over the last decade and a half, the venue has undergone extraordinary growth, including being re-imagined with the ESPN brand, and today stands as the leading multi-sports venue in the nation for youth and pro athletes.

In all, more than 200,000 athletes, coaches and fans visit the 270-acre complex each year to compete in more than 350 different events, which over the years have included Tampa Bay Bucs training camp, the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, the Major League Baseball Draft, the World Cheerleading Championships and the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

To mark today’s 15th anniversary, here’s my unofficial look at some of the most memorable moments in the sports complex’s history:

AAU Boys Basketball Super Showcase and National Championships return to Disney and feature a host of future NBA stars, including preps Al Jefferson, Glen “Big Baby” Davis and O.J. Mayo (pictured). Coaches attending include Roy Williams (North Carolina), Bill Self (Kansas), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Billy Donovan (Florida). National Consortium for Academics & Sports (NCAS) inducts Muhammad Ali into its Hall of Fame. Celebration at the sports complex includes special ceremony renaming Victory Way to Muhammad Ali Way for the day. Legendary sports journalist Dick Schaap serves as Master of Ceremonies. Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex Grand Opening includes a Major League Baseball spring training game - the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 9-7, in front of a sellout crowd of more than 10,000 at the Baseball Stadium. Reds outfielder Deion Sanders records first hit, steals first base and scores first run in the history of the sports complex, while Braves slugger Fred McGriff hits the ballpark’s first home run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp marks the first NFL preseason training camp in the history of Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The Bucs’ new era under first-year head coach Jon Gruden started at Disney and ended in January 2003 with a Super Bowl title in San Diego. The Bucs conducted joint practices on Aug. 9-10 with the Miami Dolphins (incl. Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor and Zack Thomas) in the outfield of the baseball stadium. The joint practices attracted a stadium record 12,550 fans. The inaugural World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), featured many of the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories for the first time ever. Disney’s Wide World of Sports hosted one of four Round 1 pools (six games). The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and Italy participated at Disney. Players included David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Piazza and Andruw Jones. A host of sports’ biggest stars help kick off the opening of the newly re-imagined ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. More than 50 athletes and ESPN personalities, including Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, NFL all-pro Chad Ochocinco, softball star Jennie Finch and former LPGA great Annika Sorenstam, walk the “green carpet,” and attend the special grand opening event that also included a Harlem Globetrotters game, MLS exhibition game and a special Atlanta Braves evening practice. Special guests also included Florida governor Charlie Crist, ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer and Disney Sports Senior Vice President Ken Potrock.
Disney Sports launches runDisney, which encompasses all six current Disney marathon and half marathon weekends. The series creates a unique series of destination races that offer one-of-a-kind running experiences over each weekend. The runDisney series also names former Olympian and endurance expert Jeff Galloway as the official training consultant. The ESPN Innovation Lab officially opened at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The lab is used to develop new products for television broadcasts and is the official 3D broadcast development hub for ESPN. Soccer Player Lionel Messi Kicks Off a Game with Mickey Mouse
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a fitness activity with local children at the Magic of Healthy Living event at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The event celebrated the First Lady's 'Let's Move!' initiative and recognized Disney's efforts to promote healthier lifestyles among kids and families. Orlando Magic Training Camp brings Coach Chuck Daly’s squad to Disney’s fieldhouse prior to the Magic franchise’s ninth season. Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and Horace Grant highlighted the Magic roster. The Magic returned to train at Disney in 2003. The Tampa Bay Rays hosted the first of two regular-season series at Champion Stadium (the second one was in 2008). In 2008, the Rays swept the Toronto Blue Jays (6-4, 5-3, 5-3) to improve their record at Disney to 6-0 and went on to reach the team’s first-ever World Series.
NBA Pre-Draft Camp is held Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in 2007 and 2008. Potential top draft picks – including future MVP Derrick Rose – are involved in drills, games and physical exams under the watchful eye of representatives from virtually every NBA team and the league office. Among the well-known names were Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Larry Brown. On the heels of recruiting Lebron James and Chris Bosh to join him in South Florida, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade visits the complex, and plays in a special 3-on-3 basketball game with AAU girls’ basketball players and Mickey Mouse. PGA TOUR mega-star Tiger Woods conducts his first-ever Tiger Woods Youth Foundation golf clinic at Disney’s Wide World of Sports as one of a handful of events that took place just prior to the Grand Opening of the complex. During the event, Tiger provides instruction to 150 junior golfers from Tampa and Orlando. He also receives the key to the City of Orlando from Mayor Glenda Hood.

See the posts below for another look at just a few of the past events held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

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Inside the Disney Fantasy: AquaLab

posted on March 28th, 2012 by Jason Lasecki, Public Relations Director, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures By Disney, Disney Vacation Club

I got the chance to preview the brand-new play area on the Disney FantasyAquaLab – and it is just as fantastic as I imagined! Kids were splashing and squealing with delight, plugging leaky pipes and geysers, and enjoying the thrill of not knowing where the water would come from next!

In this video, Walt Disney Imagineer Peter Ricci shows us the ins and outs of this fanciful new water play area, including some of the hidden ways your kids might get soaked.

Take a look at more of the fun you can expect when sailing on the Disney Fantasy:

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Looking Good for the Mad T Party in Disney California Adventure Park

posted on March 27th, 2012 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort

First things first… there’s a party getting ready to happen at Disney California Adventure park. Not just any party – a Mad T Party! So of course, I want to make sure you are ready to rock the moment you hit the street.

While I can’t show you everything, I can definitely tell you about it, as well as give you a quick look at some of the art that you will see on select tees and fleece for men, women and kids.


Now as some of you know, accessories are the key to any good look, and our product developers have been hard at work making sure that you’ll be styling. From sheer scarves inspired by the art and graphics of Mad T Party, to novelty headwear including Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat fascinators, glow-hawks and light up rabbit ears.

Other tricks up our sleeves are fedoras, gloves, drink ware and other fun glow merchandise. I certainly won’t be lying to you when I say… it will light up your night. I know that some of you are asking yourselves, “Are there pins?” Keep an eye out for the logo pin which will debut in early summer, and something else to keep in mind – a ‘wonderland’ of pin offerings themed to this interactive new party will be available in September.

So don’t be late – find the time to swing by or it will be off with your heads!

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