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#CoolestSummer Ever: AmeriCool!

posted on July 3rd, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


To lots of folks, the Fourth of July is one of the coolest times of the year. There are fireworks, icy cold drinks, fun foods and, of course the spirit of America – a spirit that can take on many forms, from ingenuity and tradition to good old-fashioned belly laughs.

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Here are a few AmericFaves, in no particular order of preference:

The Hall of Presidents. Many thanks to those readers who commented on last week’s post (and on all of our posts)! Several of you—including Jason, Eric, Sidney and James’s wife-named The Hall of Presidents as a great place to cool off and enjoy a spectacular presentation in which every U.S. President appears on stage. Thanks for the nice comments about what a great attraction it is!

The American Adventure. This is one of my personal favorites because the voice of Ben Franklin is done the late actor Dal McKennon, who worked on dozens of Disney films, park attractions, TV shows and records. Dal was also the voice of TV’s Archie, Gumby, and on camera played lots of character roles, including Cincinnatus on TV’s “Daniel Boone” starring Fess Parker, and Sam the cook in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Living on the West Coast, it was over 20 years before Dal actually saw The American Adventure. He wept for joy, and the guests who happened to be there that day had the pleasure of briefly meeting him in person.

Muppet*Vision 3-D. And now, for something completely silly. Who else but the madcap Muppets would present a crazy extravaganza like Sam Eagle’s “A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America”, in which what appear to be “it’s a small world” characters and “Babes in Toyland” figures cavort in utter chaos, as Lady Liberty Piggy beams majestically … until … well, you know what went down if you saw it. If not, check out Muppet*Vision 3-D soon!

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. Corn-on-the-cob, chicken, burgers, mac and cheese are national treasures. Whether it’s the Fourth of July or not, this is a great way to meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Chip ’n Dale, hear live country music and watch rope tricks (kind of like “Talent Roundup Day” on the Mickey Mouse Club!). This is an open-air experience with lots of circulating fans to supply the coolness. Reservations for dinner are required, but you don’t have to be staying at Fort Wilderness Campground and Resort to book it. Allow yourself some time to explore the lovely surrounding area, too (don’t forget to look for the Lawnmower Tree).

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream. Walt was called an “American original”; the very personification of hard work, goals and dreams realized (and some setbacks as well). But Walt and his creations are not bound by lines on a map or stars in the sky. His magic really belongs to the entire world. This magnificent journey through his amazing life, career and myriad of creations is sheer joy for everyone to share … makes no difference who you are.

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#CoolestSummer Ever: Magic Kingdom Park Cool

posted on June 26th, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Magic Kingdom Park is a wonderland of pleasant places and experiences waiting to be discovered, and then made into regular visit traditions. When the summer sun is beaming it brightest, every seasoned guest has favorite attractions that are refreshingly air-conditioned and/or cooled nicely with fans and are relatively moderate as to queues (of course, “subject to change without notice” and all that stuff).

Anyway, here are a few super summer “ahhh-tractions”:

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Mickey’s PhilharMagic – What a great attraction for fans of classic Disney and great music! Again, the queue is primarily inside, amid funny “concert posters”, and the show is breezy and thoroughly delightful. (Here’s a bit of trivia: Hollywood studio singer Gene Merlino sings in the chorus of “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly”, just as he did in the original 1953 film!)

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Dumbo The Flying Elephant – Whoever came up with the idea of a circus tent waiting area, complete with benches and plenty of fun for kids, deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, or at least a smoked turkey leg. You’re given a handy device that glows when you can enter the queue, after waiting in air-conditioned bliss. And when it’s time to fly with Dumbo, he tries really hard to catch the breeze as you whirl through the air.

Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor – By midday, who couldn’t use a chuckle or two in a stylish night club setting where Mike Wazowski presents the all-time best of the wincingly worst in super silly jokes and riddles. (My favorite riddle: “How do you know when an elephant has been in your refrigerator?” “He leaves his footprints in the butter!”)

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Country Bear Jamboree – This is a cherished Audio-Animatronics classic, as laid back as an contented ol’ dog taking a break in some cool, shaded grass. Highly recommended if members of your group are starting to get as revved up as long-tailed cats in a room full of rockers. (In my family, moodiness can sometimes also be cured with a quick snack and cool beverage. Not that anyone is ever moody on a Walt Disney World Resort dream vacation. It’s probably just my relatives.)

What are your favorite Magic Kingdom Park attractions for midday cool-downs?

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Playing It Cool at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 12th, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Amid all the excitement of the fun and magic during the Coolest Summer Ever, let’s share some thoughts about all the Walt Disney World ways and wonders we enjoy to keep us cool. You’re probably already an expert on tips for dialing up the fun and toning down the sun, but to get started, here are just a few:

Stay cool inside. Drink plenty of water—even before you get too thirsty. Make sure the whole gang stays properly hydrated.

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Stay cool outside. Wear hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and comfy shoes—shoes that were made for walking. You don’t have to be a runner or jogger to visit your hometown running shoe store (or Fit2Run at the Downtown Disney Area). They’ll help you find shoes that support the way you specifically walk. Just wait until you’ve walked in shoes so comfy, they’re ‘like butter’!

Take a break. Make use of extended park hours and Extra Magic Hours so briefly bid adieu to the parks for an hour or two at your Disney Resort hotel. Take a refreshing “power nap.” Loll around in the pool (staying in the shade as much as possible). Savor a leisurely meal at a Disney Resort restaurant (make reservations soon). When you get back to the parks, you’ll feel as fresh as the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival!

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Write a book. You think I’m kidding, don’t you? Well, we’re very proud of a brand new gem now available in select shops called “My Walt Disney World Travels”. It’s an easy-to-carry spiral bound book with lots of places to jot down the delightful details of up to five Walt Disney World Resort visits. Each of the five visit sections has a pocket for odds and ends that become personal treasures.

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You might ask, “Sure, ‘My Walt Disney World Travels’ is filled with fun, clever things, but isn’t it a kids’ book?” Yes and no. Yes, hand them to the kids when they’re in need of a cool-down break; when they’re asking when their chicken nuggets will be served, or just about to make all the grownups wake up just a little too soon. But why should kids have all the journal fun? The book has a wonderful Mary Blair flair to it, so it epitomizes the pinnacle of style and sophistication.

That reminds me, I’ve got to go jot something down right now! Until we meet here next Friday, what are your tips for keeping cool and comfortable on warmish summer days?

For information on purchasing select Disney merchandise items, call Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477 or send an email to 
merchandiseguestservices@disney.go.com.

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Why Guests Can’t Get Enough of ‘Festival of the Lion King’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on April 10th, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


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There’s something about “Festival of the Lion King“—the music, the performers, the staging and the overall celebratory feeling—that excites guests with every performance.

This magnificent musical tribute to a young lion’s journey of discovery is created in such a way as to keep you engaged in every aspect of the story. As Tara Anderson, show director for “Festival of the Lion King,” stated: “With our production, we don’t tell the story of “‘The Lion King’.” We celebrate the music and the characters of the story. We hit all the beats of the story, but we do it in a very artistic way.”

While some audience members are welcomed to participate, guests can feel like longtime friends in this lush, exotic world. And once Timon takes the stage to lead everyone in “Hakuna Matata”, it’s impossible not to feel drawn into all the magic.

Among the show’s highlights are the very agile and sprightly Tumble Monkeys, a troupe put together by their pal, Timon. The highly-trained acrobats perform Olympic-style feats in sync to a lively jazz medley.

Of course, that cunning, two-faced Scar is also at hand, spreading villainy with his snarky hyena henchmen in “Be Prepared” which features an electrifying fire dance. But love literally soars above it all when the Flying Bird performers, clad in radiant color and plumage, bring “Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ to the highest heights in sheer balletic splendor.

“The show has wonderful individual elements,” Tara said. “What makes it work is all those elements coming together and being that circle of life.” And that is the feeling that is evoked when you hear the “Circle of Life” being sung and see all the entertainers dressed as the animals take the stage for the finale. Timon then leads everyone in singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with the Tumble Monkeys performing for all.

There are performances throughout the day, so check your Time Guide. You can use your Fastpass+ to pre-arrange times for viewing.

What is your favorite part of the show? Tell us in the comments section below!

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Lucie Arnaz and the Space Mountain Launch

posted on January 8th, 2015 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


You may be aware that Space Mountain celebrates its birthday this month—it’s 40 years young!—as a beloved attraction. But do you know that it’s the oldest operating roller coaster in Florida? Or who were the first two stars to be launched into the Tomorrowland galaxy? Emmy-winning entertainer/producer Lucie Arnaz and Tony-winning Broadway legend Tommy Tune, that’s who.

The Space Mountain grand opening festivities were almost as elaborate as the opening of Walt Disney World Resort itself, so much so that a musical variety special was created for “The Wonderful World of Disney TV” show by Academy Awards producer Marty Pasetta. It was called “Welcome to the ‘World'” because it was the first network TV special to take place at Walt Disney World Resort (earlier broadcasts were either non-network programs or short previews).

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We caught up with the versatile Lucie as she was finishing a triumphant national tour of the hit musical “Pippin.” She was delighted to gab with us about what went on behind the scenes during the opening festivities for Space Mountain, though she hadn’t watched the special in years but got the opportunity recently when Marty Pasetta sent her a copy.

So what was her reaction seeing the definitely-’70s (think groovy fashions and splashy production numbers) show again? “Fantastic!”

And she shared a tasty tidbit with us. Aside from the technicians who tested it out, Lucie and Tommy were the first two people to ever ride on Space Mountain, introducing the country to the soon-to-be fan favorite.

“It was just incredible fun. Nothing like you’d ever seen before. Because it was in the dark! A roller coaster is one thing, but when you were in the dark you couldn’t tell if you were going to go left or right or up or down—it’s like WLLAHH! Just amazing.”

To get the amazing shots needed for the special, more than half a dozen cameras were installed all around the inside of Space Mountain. And what you see is what you get—when you see the stars riding the attraction, they’re actually doing it, again and again and again, until the director was satisfied with the takes.

Or, as Lucie explains it, “We were like, ‘Oh, good! We get to go around again! YAY!’”

The song “I’m Flying” from “Peter Pan” was recorded before the taping and the stars lip synched to it while cameras rolled. They put speakers in the rocket and every time the director yelled “Action!” the song would play and they’d sing along to their vocal track.

Between singing and general screaming while riding Space Mountain, Lucie says her voice was “lost in space.” But she still calls it a “spectacular experience.”

During rehearsals, they’d open the park early for the stars and that took her back to another time. “I felt just like a kid again, back when my mom [TV legend Lucille Ball] used to take us to Disneyland.”

She and Tommy even got the chance to waltz together, by themselves, at night, in front of Cinderella Castle. It doesn’t get more magical than that.

A musical highlight of the show mentioned all the things you could do at Walt Disney World Resort—circa 1975—to the tune of “Holiday for Strings.” It begins with the line “They have a Mickey Mouse, a haunted house” and ends with “Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful, Sleepy, Happy, Doc and … DOPEY!” Incredibly, Lucie remembers the song verbatim and even sang it for us.

The memorable TV special finale was the Space Mountain grand opening ceremony with astronaut Gordon Cooper. And that was no accident. The Mercury 9 and Gemini 5 astronaut served on the Space Mountain creative team as a consultant.

As our conversation wound down, I asked Lucie if she’s had the chance to enjoy Space Mountain here in Orlando since she hosted the special. Her response was immediate. “Yes, yes! Several times since then. I’ve been to Disney World a lot with my kids.”

With all that Lucie Arnaz continues to accomplish, it’s gratifying to learn that she enjoys Disney Parks stuff just as much we all do. Obviously, the Space Mountain show wasn’t just a TV gig for her.

And that was the opening chapter for an attraction that is so popular, Space Mountain now exists at every Disney Resort across the globe. So when was the last time you enjoyed a rousing rocket ride to explore the wonders of outer space?

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: An Inside Peek at Mickey’s ‘Boo-to-You’ Halloween Parade at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on October 7th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Under the seasoned auspices of the multitalented, Tara Anderson, Senior Director at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment, ghosts waltz, spirits become more spirited, villains strut their stuff and happy haunts materialize — all on the otherwise chipper, cheery Main Street, U.S.A.

Even if you’ve never met Tara (and she’s super nice), countless Magic Kingdom Park guests (perhaps including you) have cheered the artistry of Tara, along with the creative team, singers, dancers, characters and villains that make Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade one of the all-time most popular features of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Tara sat down (something she rarely gets a chance to do) and told us about her boo-tiful baby.

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GREG: You know this parade backwards and forwards, the way Queen Elsa knows advanced refrigeration. What is the “story” that unfolds as we watch the parade?

TARA: The story of the parade is that Mickey and his Magic Kingdom friends are having a series of parties. So, the first scene is Mickey’s own party. It kind of represents Main Street, U.S.A. because he, Minnie, Donald and Daisy are in a quaint gazebo. He’s invited friends like Snow White, Dopey, Pinocchio, Gepetto, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Aladdin, Jasmine and Pooh. And Pluto has a new costume this year — an adorable lion!

Then the parade takes us to Adventureland, where it’s pirates, pirates, pirates! This year, we put Peter Pan and Wendy and some Lost Boys on the pirate ship. It’s my homage to the scene in the film where the pirates have them trapped and Peter comes to the rescue Of course, we have Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbossa and some crewmembers. That’s our Adventureland salute.

GREG: What songs do we hear during this sequence?

TARA: You’ll hear “Boo To You,” written specifically for the parade. It’s so catchy, we find ourselves still singing this tune to ourselves six months into the next year! There’s no question that every parade really starts with the music. For Hook’s ship, we have “Yo-Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” from Pirates of the Caribbean and “A Pirate’s Life is a Wonderful Life” from Peter Pan.

The next sequence is Liberty Square and Haunted Mansion. It begins with the Groundskeeper and his dog, Jolene.

GREG: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene?”

TARA: (laughs) Oh no, not at all! Our Jolene is actually a rescue dog, which is why none of the craziness going on ever phases her. The gravediggers — known as the Deadly Dozen — and our graveyard float follow Jolene and the Groundskeeper. This year, we doubled the number of dead waltzers.

GREG: I love the dead waltzers. So light on their feet!

TARA: Then, of course, the Hitchhiking Ghosts come along and the Grim Grinning Ghosts.

GREG: And those gravedigger shovels that spark. Is that a special effect?

TARA: Actually, that was a happy accident. We were backstage one night, just walking around a building and somebody was dragging a shovel and it sparked. It was like “Ooooohhh!” and we made it part of the show.

GREG: It’s such a simple thing! Everyone loves the shovels.

TARA: To represent Frontierland, we have a Halloween Hoedown. This year, our cowgirls have new costumes. We decided to give everybody cowboy boots and denim and just rock it out a little bit. The music there is mostly “Ghost Riders in the Sky” with a little bit of “Rodeo” thrown in. Clara Cluck sits up in her barn while Clarabelle Cow calls out the square dance for Chip ‘n Dale, Brer Bear, Brer Fox, Brer Rabbit and the Country Bears — Big Al, Wendell and Liver Lips.

GREG: And as everybody knows, a party is never quite the same without Liver Lips.

TARA: Isn’t that the truth! (laughs) From here, we change things up in the parade a little bit. Our Goofy’s Candy Company truck got an extreme makeover and it’s a new Sugar Rush delivery truck full of candy corn. Wreck-It Ralph rides the truck and Vanellope runs around, being Vanellope. The truck looks like it’s made out of candy. Really cute. Goofy’s Candy Factory is after the Sugar Rush truck.

GREG: Then lots of villains bring up the rear.

TARA: They get to be the grand finale. They’re singing “It’s Good To Be Bad” around a float carrying the Dead Head Band, and behind there’s the Queen of Hearts, Frollo, Big Bad Wolf and others. They’re on a villain float with Chernabog; we have Maleficent, Jafar and the wicked queen from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” New this year is the Bowler Hat Guy from “Meet the Robinsons” and he’s very, very funny!

GREG: How many months in advance do you start preparing this parade?

TARA: After the current parade has its run, we have a post-parade meeting to discuss successes and opportunities for improvement. Then around February, we talk about the event as a whole and determine what we might want to do in the coming year. If we’re going to revamp a float or create new costumes, they need the longest lead times. This year we started rehearsals at the beginning of August because we opened the party on September 1.

GREG: How does this parade rate on the “Tara Meter”?

TARA: On the “Tara Meter”? I don’t know — I’m not supposed to have favorites among my children! It is certainly one of my favorites. It’s just one of those things where everything came together just right. Yes, we tweak it every year. I love that it has that sort of flexibility to add and take away, but the core is so solid, you can do that.

GREG: It’s sort of like a great Broadway show. It might be revived dozens of times, but there are always alterations, the score changes, the chemistry of the cast varies and scenes are moved around. It’s always fresh.

TARA: Absolutely. And we do that. We want it to be fresh for our new guests and our many returning guests — and we’re grateful that there are so many. We want them to see the things that they’ll remember and want to see again and also be thrilled by new things. That’s why “Boo-to-You” is forever new!

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Celebrating One of Walt’s Major Magic Makers

posted on September 17th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Marc Davis’ Disney career goes all the way back to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” He animated Alice, Tinker Bell, Cinderella, Maleficent and Cruella DeVil. He designed characters for Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise and the fondly remembered America Sings attractions. He was an accomplished painter and a caring, unforgettable teacher.

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Marc dreamed up enough major works to fill several lifetimes. Yet he was definitely not one of those “look at me, I’m so great, blah, blah, blah” kind of people. He was devoted to his wife, Alice (also a Disney Legend who was also a major contributor to Disney history as costume designer for many attractions), dedicated to Disney art and imagination, and, across the board, remembered as a genial, unassuming fellow.

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His admirers include some of the most accomplished individuals in the art and entertainment industry, who along with many of us, were waiting a long time for such a magnificent book as “Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man” to come along. This book is their opportunity to reminisce about Marc for us, and our opportunity to look for hours at each and every vivid image in this new book—many of which seem to jump off the page.

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Imagineering and Disney Legend Marty Sklar expresses his awe at Marc’s work for Disney Parks. Peter Docter, Oscar-winning director of Disney•Pixar’s “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” presents an extensive portfolio of Marc’s concept art and pencil drawings. “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” producer Don Hahn elaborates on Marc’s fine art. Veteran Disney animator and historian Andreas Deja takes us on a tour of Marc’s animal studies. Glen Keane, acclaimed animator of Ariel, the Beast, Tarzan, Rapunzel, Aladdin and others, guides us through Marc’s vast collection of sketchbooks.

And there’s so much more. Walt Disney Family Museum Creative Consultant and historian Paula Sigman-Lowery explains Marc’s fascination with the art and people of New Guinea. Author/filmmaker Mindy Johnson helps us get acquainted with the wondrous Alice Davis. Renowned animation historian and critic Charles Solomon presents a look at the unproduced animated feature, Chanticleer. Award-winning animation director Bob Kurtz recalls Marc’s skill as a teacher. There are even selections from Marc’s unpublished book on how humans and animals move (Parents’ alert: some tasteful nudes in this section.)

You can find “Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man” at select Disney Parks shops now (even though it will not be available to the general public until October 7). Call Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477) to locate it at either Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort.

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Summer Nights to Savor: Epcot Presents a Nighttime Transformation

posted on July 18th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Something magical happens as the sun sets over Spaceship Earth. All of Epcot takes on an ethereal radiance. After all, day or night, you’re under the magic spell of Walt Disney Imagineering at a Disney Park, so evenings bring on their meticulous skills in lighting your way through another chapter of your Epcot “story.”

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Your night for spectacular attractions and entertainment

Even if you’ve never visited Epcot before, try to picture it all in your mind’s eye. The sun is disappearing into ribbons of gold and red clouds as you enter Test Track. Your vehicle speeds to a furious pace. It bursts from the show building and zooms you around the track, the lights of Epcot flashing in all directions. You take in a few more attractions and it’s off to World Showcase. Each pavilion is bathed in its own special glow.

This is a particularly special night for you. Magical things await, things you’ve never experienced before and they each involve tasty treats. But it’s still a little early and you’d like a quick meal now, so you enjoy fish and chips at the United Kingdom pavilion (nothing seems to compare to them).

Your night for IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party

World Showcase Lagoon shimmers in the evening lights, as if in anticipation of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth — the nightly fireworks, laser and music extravaganza. Here’s the nice part: You’re assured a wonderful view because you’ve booked the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party. In addition to experiencing the show from a fantastic vantage point, you’re going to enjoy delectable desserts served with coffee, tea or even a sparkling wine.

Mmm. The chefs have outdone themselves on this evening’s dessert masterpieces. Food always tastes better when they make it. How do they do it? Even though you shouldn’t, you decide to fill another dessert plate with those little chocolate thingies — so soft, so rich. Better save some room though. There’s more to enjoy later.

As the IllumiNations finale fills the entire sky with the glorious spectacle that could only happen at a Disney Park, you breathe a contented sigh. Because you also booked the Epcot After Hours Wind Down, you don’t have to make your way to the exit with the throngs of other guests.

Your night for Epcot After Hours Wind Down

For this, your first time to try this brand-new Epcot experience, you’ve chosen Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion as your restaurant. The buzz has been good. As a fan of tapas, it’s the chance you’ve been waiting for. (Incidentally, you might also want to visit Spice Road Table at other times of the day. If you happen to be a Walt Disney World Passholder, you have another reason to visit: a 30% discount off the regular menu now through September 17, 2014!)

A sense of calm falls over you as the cast members welcome you. Warm, friendly conversation murmurs in the elegant, intimate Spice Road Table dining room, where you are seated with a lovely view of World Showcase Lagoon. Since Epcot After Hours Wind Down includes a wine flight, you are presented with three superb international wines, each with its own flavors and scents of fine fruits and spices. You sip a little of each, comparing the “personalities” of each wine.

Three hot, tempting tapas are placed before you. Tonight, one of them is a lamb slider. Lamb has such a delightfully distinctive taste — and this is a fabulous way to enjoy it. Two petite Moroccan Lamb Sausages are completely different from the sliders but equally superb in preparation and presentation. But your favorite is the Harissa Chicken Roll, a blend of exotic spices of the east with chicken nestled in a light crusty roll. There’s no hurry. You savor each morsel, the wine cleansing your palate between every few bites. Authentic music plays in the background. The stars shine over Epcot through the picture windows. A great way to top off the evening.

Perhaps most comforting of all is your leisurely stroll along World Showcase promenade, the desserts, tapas and wine adding a light spring to your step. It’s just you and a handful of other delighted guests — ambling through the peaceful pavilions toward Spaceship Earth in the distance. It’s as if this world is here just for you.

And you know what? It is.

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Oscar-Winning ‘Frozen’ Songwriters Enjoy a Heart-Warming Visit to Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 21st, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


They’ve been called “Cutest Couple Ever.” They’ve won the Academy Award for “Let it Go,” part of a musical score that has already become the stuff of legend. The New York home of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez is laden with awards — including the Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy (making Bobby an “EGOT,” a person who has won all four awards).

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So, what did they want to do next? Go to Disney Parks!

Kristen and Bobby are firm on a very important point. No amount of fame and acclaim can compare with the love of friends and family (they just welcomed a little nephew into the fold last month). Clearly they’re having as much fun seeing their daughters react to Disney magic as they’re enjoying it themselves (I feel the same way about my kids, just like my father did about me).

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As Kristen says in the video, “We’re Disney people!” They’ve got an especially warm attachment to the first stage musical they worked on together, Finding Nemo—The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom — as well as The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot, which features their song, “In the Big Blue World.” They told me about their Disney fandom in this interview.

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By the way, have you checked out the Limited-Edition color 12” vinyl LP album version of the “Frozen” soundtrack?. It’s available here. I love to shine the two blue discs and the crystal engraved disc up to the light — that is, when I’m not listening to them!

You can find the compact disc soundtrack of “Frozen,” as well as the Finding Nemo — The Musical cast album at select Walt Disney World Resort shops (or by calling Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477).

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Here, There and Mary Blair

posted on June 16th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Raise your hand if you grew up enjoying your Disney favorites through the magic of Golden Books. Did you wear them out like the rest of us did? Have you shared several of them with successive generations?

You’re in good company. So did animation giants such as “Brave” co-director Brenda Chapman, “Toy Story” art director Ralph Eggleston, “Monsters, Inc.” and “Up” director Pete Docter, “Beauty and the Beast” animator Glen Keane and “Lilo and Stitch” director Chris Sanders, as well as master illustrators Peter Emslie and Russell Schroeder.

Like Disney Theme Parks movies and music, you didn’t just stare passively at Disney Golden Books — you entered them and lived in their world. And you can do it now in the new book, The Art of Disney Golden Books.

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In this sumptuously illustrated book, renowned animation author and historian Charles Solomon takes you through decades of fascinating history of Golden Books, including its long association with the Walt Disney Studios. He also lovingly elaborates on the masterful elements that make each selection so outstanding, with exclusive commentary from Disney and Pixar artists, past and present. It’s like taking a tour with a learned guide and a coterie of seasoned experts, who explain the how and why of the tones, colors, textures and other details.

These artists and filmmakers are quick to share their enthusiasm for the “who’s-who” of great Disney artists, including several whose work added magic to Disney movies, books — and even theme park attractions for over 75 years. The paintings of watercolorist Gustaf Tenggren, for example, helped inspire the overall look of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” film in 1937 as well as the attraction, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in 2014!

“I can’t tell you how many times Mary Blair comes up in discussions, or an illustration somebody saw in a Golden Book,” says “Up” Producer Jonas Rivera in this book. “They really are a source of a lot of the color, inspiration and storytelling here at Pixar.”

The beloved Mary Blair seems to become a stronger creative influence with every passing day. You may have read about her on the Disney Parks Blog in connection with the 50th anniversary of her favorite project, “it’s a small world.” Mary illustrated Golden Books too, one of which so enchanted First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as she read it repeatedly to her daughter Caroline, she wrote to Mary personally expressing sincere thanks.

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In addition to finding The Art of Disney Golden Books in select Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort shops, you’ll also want to pick up the shiny new edition of John Canemaker’s bestseller, The Art and Flair of Mary Blair. This Disney fan favorite tells the story of how Mary captured Walt’s imagination for decades, leading to groundbreaking design and color styling for “Alice in Wonderland“, “Peter Pan“, “Cinderella” and such classic short cartoons as “Susie”, the “Little Blue Coupe” and “The Little House”.

Included in this lovely book are photos of Mary’s eye-popping paintings and collages for “it’s a small world” and even scenes of her creating the famous tile mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. So, that’s two great books available at the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World shops, or by calling Merchandise Guest Services at 1-877-560-6477.

Mary Blair’s artwork is like Disney Parks visits — you can’t get enough of them! So if you are planning to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum at The Presidio in San Francisco, you’ll want to marvel at the massive exhibit Magic, Color, Flair: The World of Mary Blair, now through September 7, 2014. If you can’t make it out there in person, the next best thing is getting the gorgeous book with the same title. It’s filled with its art treasures selected by exhibit curator John Canemaker and can be found at your favorite book store or online retailer.

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Filed: Art of Disney, Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort