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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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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: It’s a Classic Attraction. It’s Turning 50. ‘it’s a small world!’

posted on March 25th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


To some of us, it seems like only yesterday that Walt Disney first opened one of his best-loved ride-through attractions on April 22, 1964. There are others who have never lived in a world without “it’s a small world.” Either way, our lives are all the richer for it. But like many creative miracles, it almost never came to be.

WED Enterprises, as Walt Disney Imagineering was then known (the letters stood for “Walter Elias Disney”), was feverishly working toward a one-year deadline for three World’s Fair attractions: Progressland, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyway. When the Pepsi Cola Company asked for a fourth pavilion — encouraged by Hollywood star and Pepsi board member Joan Crawford — Walt agreed, once again, that he and his artists would do the impossible and take on this tremendous challenge.

“Walt enlisted Imagineers Marc Davis for figure design and animation, Alice Davis for the intricate international costuming and Claude Coats for the attraction’s overall layout,” wrote Disney Historian Stacia Martin for the book and compact disc album, “Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair.” All are bonafide Disney Legends in their own right, but many fans agree that it is Mary Blair whose visual style is so dynamically showcased in “it’s a small world.”

If you watch the Los Posadas sequence of Walt Disney’s “The Three Caballeros,” you’ll see what some call the “Mary kids.” Take a look at “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan,” as well as the “Johnny Appleseed” portion of “Melody Time,” and delight in her unmistakable use of color, whimsy and humor. Cherished Little Golden Books with Mary Blair’s illustrations are still in print. Her magical handiwork also towers (literally) in the famous mosaic at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s an endlessly fresh look that has inspired generations of admiring artists.

Walt and Mary Blair

Next time you enjoy this attraction, take note of a couple of cool things. In the finale, the young lady doll wearing glasses is a nod to Mary Blair herself. The entire finale scene is done in white because, according to John Canemaker in “The Art and Flair of Mary Blair,” she considered it the most “festive” of colors.

The artists whose musical style most infuses “it’s a small world” are Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, most recently portrayed in the acclaimed film “Saving Mr. Banks.” Before they were involved, the attraction was called “Children of the World,” featuring a series of national songs sung by children. The problem was that the sounds overlapped each other in a confused cacophony.

Walt and Shermans

Stacia Martin continues: “Richard Sherman remembers that the answer ‘came all of a sudden when we said … all these people grow up to be people and start having big differences and defiances and wars … but in the small world of children, everybody loves each other.’” Pretty heavy stuff, but when you focus on the lyrics, which mention tears, fears and division between the people of the world, this seemingly simple song has profound meaning indeed. The attraction’s name became the name of the song, “it’s a small world.”

Another fun fact: if you didn’t know that the yodeler’s voice was done by singer/actress Roberta Shore (“Mickey Mouse Club,” “The Shaggy Dog“) well, neither did she at first. She told me that, years ago, several Imagineers had hired her to yodel (one of her specialties) for a project they were working on. Then she moved on and forgot about it. Some time later, when she bought the “it’s a small world” record album for her kids, she recognized herself. “I was the yodeler!” she recalled. “I thought, so that’s why they asked me to yodel!” Roberta couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be part of such a classic Disney experience, one that has brightened the lives of countless millions.

Roberta Shore and Annette

“Currently, the sun never sets on the performance of this song playing in “it’s a small world” rides in California, Florida, Paris and Tokyo,” wrote Robert B. Sherman in his book, “Moose: Chapters from My Life.” “In fact, it’s the most translated, most performed song in the world.”

Robert’s book reveals a third verse, written at the request of Disney Legend and Imagineer Tony Baxter for the attraction’s 45th anniversary: “It’s a world of wonder / A world of worth / And in years to come / We’ll know peace on earth / We will open our eyes / And we’ll all realize / It’s a small world after all.”

Cheers to the next 50 years, “it’s a small world!” But why stop there? Cheers to the next 350 years—or more.

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Frozen is Now the Coolest Soundtrack on Record!

posted on February 22nd, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Guests have sure been enjoying meeting the sisters from “Frozen” at our parks over the past few months. (Be sure to check out Shawn Slater’s latest blog post for details on when and where you can see them). And something else our guests love about this film is the terrific soundtrack – and if that applies to you, you’ve got to hear about a special version of the soundtrack that’s available for a very limited time.

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Next Monday through Friday only (February 24-28, 2014), if you pre-order either version of the “Frozen” vinyl album listed below, you’ll have a chance to receive one of just 50 copies that includes a signed poster!

Each day’s set of 50 albums will have different autographs:

  • Monday 2/24/14 – Oscar-nominated songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • Tuesday 2/25/14 – Oscar-nominated directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
  • Wednesday 2/26/14 – John Lasseter
  • Thursday 2/27/14 – Composer Christophe Beck
  • Friday 2/28/14 – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Choose from two versions of Disney’s “Frozen” limited edition vinyl collectible:

Deluxe Vinyl + Deluxe Digital Album Download
http://www.myplaydirect.com/frozen/deluxe-vinyl-deluxe-digital-album-download/details/29035521
$89.98
Includes an instant download of the deluxe digital album and three 12-inch COLOR vinyl LPs packaged in a stunning double-gatefold, embossed foil jacket with a full-color booklet containing the lyrics and gallery quality images from the film.

Deluxe Vinyl Album
http://www.myplaydirect.com/frozen/deluxe-vinyl/details/29035448
$74.98
Includes three 12-inch color vinyl LPs packaged in a stunning double-gatefold, embossed foil jacket with a full-color booklet containing the lyrics and gallery quality images from the film.

Orders will be fulfilled in April 2014.

“Wait a second, Greg. What are these “vinyl records” upon which you speak so fondly?”

I’ve met young people who have no idea what a “record” is. It’s a round, flat disc with the sound carefully carved into a spiral of grooves. You put a record on a turntable and set it spinning while a tiny needle, attached to a “tone arm,” picks up the groove vibrations and sends them through a sound system to entertain you. Know why we call them “albums?” It’s because early 78-rpm records could only hold about three minutes on each side. An album was literally a book filled with envelopes to store the discs.

12-inch long-playing records or “LP’s” — which could hold about 60 minutes on one 33 1/3-rpm disc — were introduced in 1948. The next year brought vinyl “singles,” 7-inch 45-rpm records that spun upon many an Elvis and Beatles fan’s turntable. Today’s compact discs can hold about 80 minutes of audio. Of course, downloads have a wide range of lengths.

You can still buy brand-new vinyl records — and there are lots of ways to play them. Many of your favorite neighborhood stores and online retailers sell vinyl records. Turntable sales are actually very strong.

Records are remarkable to behold as they spin out their magic. You can look at a record’s surface and SEE the music nestled in the grooves. The grooves pulsate as the needle zooms within them, like a Star Wars X-wing starfighter, careening through narrow canyons to save the galaxy.

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: Kermit Talks about Disney and the Muppets

posted on February 20th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Kermit is one busy frog right now, with Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” premiering on March 21 and a whirlwind of interviews and personal appearances in the next few weeks. But when he heard that we wanted to talk to him about two of his favorite subjects, he dropped everything to talk with us. What a pro!

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GREG: Thanks for seeing us on short notice.

KERMIT: I’m already short, it’s the only kind of notice I do. Seriously, it’s a pleasure to be here! I’ve been a big fan of Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks, since we first opened Muppet*Vision 3-D.

GREG: Today marks a landmark point in history: when the Muppets and Walt Disney Studios joined as a family.

KERMIT: Yeah, that was a great day. Mickey and I have known each other for years. (We’re both members of Fictional Talking Animals of Hollywood.) I was so glad when we finally got together!

GREG: Have you and the gang done anything to mark the date?

KERMIT: Well, Miss Piggy went shopping, Fozzie told jokes, Gonzo got shot out of a cannon and, last I looked, Swedish Chef was being chased down Main Street by an angry lobster. Of course, that’s pretty much what the Muppets do everyday. But it’s still a big occasion for us.

GREG: I was so excited when it happened. I think the Walt Disney Studios and the Muppets are a match made in entertainment heaven.

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KERMIT: We agree, and we’re so excited to be doing another new movie for Walt Disney Studios. It’s coming to theaters March 21st, it’s called “Muppets Most Wanted,” and it features Miss Piggy, me, Animal and the whole gang – plus Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, and more cameo guest stars than you can shake a stick at. (Please refrain from shaking sticks at the guest stars. It makes them nervous.)

GREG: Kermit, I’m a fan of both Disney and Muppets music. I have all your records and of course, I’m as excited about the “Muppets Most Wanted” soundtrack as I am about the movie.

KERMIT: I’m a huge fan of Disney music, too. It’s such a part of the magic – just like it is with us Muppets. And I’m really thrilled about the music in “Muppets Most Wanted” – all new songs written by Bret McKenzie, who won an Academy Award for best song for “Man or Muppet” from our last movie. (By the way, if you’re reading this Bret, Miss Piggy says she’ll return your Oscar to you, and I quote, “soon.” Good luck with that.)

GREG: Any chance you could get your pals into a recording studio to do an album of Disney songs?

KERMIT: We’d love to! Of course, Miss Piggy wants to do all the Disney Princess songs. And Fozzie is a major fan of “I Love to Laugh” from “Mary Poppins” and “The Bear Necessities” from “The Jungle Book.” And me? Well, I’d be honored to sing just about any song in the Disney songbook. Just show us the recording studio and we’ll be there!

GREG: Are there any movies or TV shows from the Walt Disney Studios that inspired you in your youth?

KERMIT: Well, on TV, I always loved “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” especially when the color was green. And at the movies, I grew up loving “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Pinocchio,” and more recently “Frozen.” And, naturally, “The Princess and the Frog.

GREG: How about Disney Parks attractions? Of course, we all love Muppet*Vision 3-D, but what are some of your friends’ experiences with attractions?

KERMIT: I guess it’s not fair to say we love them all. But it’s true. Let me see. Well, Miss Piggy loves Sleeping Beauty Castle so much, she tried to sublet it. And Sam Eagle can’t get enough of the Enchanted Tiki Room. (It’s a bird thing.) Fozzie, of course, loves the Jungle Cruise – he always brings a notebook so he can write down those jokes told by the guides. (Funn-ee!)
Gonzo is a big fan of Space Mountain. There’s nothing he likes better than flying through the air in total darkness. And as for me, I’ve loved It’s a Small World ever since I first saw it at the New York World’s Fair. Very catchy tune, too.

GREG: Do you think Walt Disney himself was fond of frogs? What would you say to him if you met him?

KERMIT: Ulp….I’d, uh, probably be speechless. In so many ways, Mr. Disney reminds me of another creative genius who created worlds and imagined wonderful possibilities – Jim Henson. I think I’d tell him Jim was my close friend, and then I know we’d have lots to talk about.

GREG: I can’t wait to see the topiaries of you and the Muppets at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. How did you get Miss Piggy to agree to be depicted in the form of a shrubbery?

KERMIT: She loves it. She loves to be depicted in all media –film, shrubbery, videotape, marble, gold, even chopped liver. If it means being the center of attention, she’s there!

GREG: Speaking of Miss Piggy, are you still dating her, or have you both decided to see other pigs and frogs?

KERMIT: Miss Piggy and I have a complicated relationship – which you can find out more about in “Muppets Most Wanted.” Y’see there’s this frog named Constantine, who looks just like me, but he’s actually the world’s number one criminal and … you should see the movie; it’ll all make sense.

GREG: All of us in the Disney Parks family are thrilled with all of us being part of the same family. What do you see ahead for us in the future?

KERMIT: Well, of course, I’m hoping that we’ll keep doing movies, but I also dream of doing more Muppets attractions, events and appearances in the parks. Topiary is a good start. I hope we can keep going!

GREG: Thanks again for meeting with us, Kermit. My whole family will be in our theater seats when “Muppets Most Wanted” opens next month.

KERMIT: See you there!

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Love is a Song That Never Ends

posted on February 13th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Almost all great relationships have an “original soundtrack.” The two of you have certain songs — even specific parts of songs — that bring you back to the places where you first met, the fun times you had, the tiffs that ended in making up and that “world of laughter and world of tears” that make up a beautiful life together.

Since you’re reading the Disney Parks Blog, there’s a good chance that there might be a Disney song or two on your “soundtrack.” Here’s a quick list of a few tunes that you’ve possibly chosen to make “yours” — or may want to add. Keep in mind that I’m going to leave a lot out, so be sure to add your favorites in the “Comments” section.

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Disney’s “Frozen” is still burning up box office records and the music charts — and “Love is an Open Door” is certainly a new favorite love song. I was just listening to the Deluxe 2-Disc Edition of the “Frozen” sound track and this song (among others) is also sung on the demo recording by the Oscar-nominated songwriting couple themselves, Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. They have excellent singing voices!

At select Disney Parks shops, look for Walt Disney Records’ newest collection of great Disney songs: Disney Classics. It’s a 4-disc boxed set that has lots of tunes for couples, including “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” and “Once Upon a Dream” from “Sleeping Beauty.” I’d also consider these love songs of a sort: “Let’s Get Together” from “The Parent Trap” and “The Ugly Bug Ball” from “Summer Magic” (an offbeat love story in song that was particularly popular in the U.K.). These are all soundtrack and original cast recordings.

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The Essential Disney Love Song Collection contains a mix of soundtracks and new renditions of must-have romantic ballads like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “So This is Love” from “Cinderella” and what is probably the quintessential Disney love song from one of the most romantic scenes in movie history: “Bella Notte” from “Lady and the Tramp.”

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The perfect album for those elegant evenings of cheese, wine and gossamer-like reminisces about your last Disney Parks visit together is Classically Disney. This is an exquisite array of Disney hits played by a superb string quartet, including “Someday My Prince Will Come” from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Kiss the Girl” from “The Little Mermaid” and even “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” from Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. While this disc is playing, you’ll almost hear Jeeves, your imaginary English butler, ask, “Would you care to partake of another smoked turkey leg, sir?” or “Shall I scoop out several dollops of Dole Whip for you, madam?”

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Here’s an album I particularly like because, as a music buff, I love all those great studio vocalists and musicians who have sung and played on the best recordings of all time. Many of the best talents in the music business were selected to perform on Happily Ever After (the CD with Mickey and Minnie on the wedding cake).

And one of them is a hero of mine. When you listen to “Happily Ever After” from “Enchanted” on this album, you’ll be hearing the legendary Ron Dante. A hugely successful producer of Broadway shows and superstar recordings, Ron also sings in hundreds of commercials from “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for Coca-Cola to Applebee’s and Dr. Pepper. Best of all, he’s the lead singer of The Archies (“Sugar, Sugar”). Ron is a huge Disney fan just like us, he loves Disney Parks, and even performed the hits of The Archies live at Epcot.

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Many couples share what they call “our song.” For my wife Suzanne and I, it’s “Love is a Song” from “Bambi.” Sweet and simple, it reaches into the heart the way only great music and lyrics can. We wanted it played at our wedding, but since it was a traditional church ceremony, we asked our clergyman to watch the movie to decide if we could use it. Of course, he loved seeing Bambi again after so many years. Not only did a live tenor sing “Love is a Song” in the ceremony, a soprano sang the “Alleluia” and the organ played the “Processional,” both from “The Sound of Music.”

Anyway, “Love is a Song” is available on the original “Bambi” soundtrack album on iTunes, but there’s also a wonderful instrumental version on a disc available at select Disney Parks locations called Instrumental Impressions (and if you happen to be planning a wedding, you can get the same music on a CD called Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings).

“Like the voice of a heavenly choir, love’s sweet music flows on…”

So, what’s your romantic “soundtrack?”

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Disney’s ‘Frozen Sing-Along’ comes to Downtown Disney

posted on January 29th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


What’s even better than watching a hit Disney animated musical? Being part of the music, magic and fun yourself!

This Friday, January 31, enchanted snowflakes will be bouncing over the words to every song so everyone can join in Disney’s “Frozen Sing-Along.” This special event will take place both at the AMC Downtown Disney 12 Theatres at Disneyland Resort in California, and the AMC Downtown Disney with Dine-In Theatres at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Of course, you may not need the snowflakes or the lyrics yourself, because you and the gang have already memorized the soundtrack album! Chances are you won’t be alone. The songs have a lot of fans. There’s nothing like the shared elation and energy of a joyous group gathered to sing their favorite songs as they experience a great musical on the big screen.

“Naturally, I’m a music guy, so I firmly believe that songs and music are at the heart of Disney just as animation, fantasy and theme parks are as well,” said Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, told us. “And it’s true, when you love a song the way people love a Disney song, the words and music take on a life of their own. They live deep inside us and become part of that ‘great music mix’ inside our heads.”

Chris is referring to what I like to call the “mp-ME player.” It’s the cool part of the brain that acts just like a radio tuner and can play our favorites at will. (Seriously, I’ve got dozens of entire record albums cued up on my mp-ME player for when I’m swimming laps, driving in traffic or just need a quick pick-me-up on a busy day.) I’ve got great new mp-ME’s to upload into my head thanks to “Frozen.”

And “Frozen” isn’t just any animated musical, it’s become the biggest Disney animated film phenom of the century. “Frozen” has just become the highest grossing original animated film in history, and the soundtrack album hit Billboard’s number one spot.

“We always have high hopes for all of our new film music, but ultimately the public decides what to embrace,” said Chris. “But even we were bowled over by the response to “Frozen” — as a musical and as a film. Now kids have even more wonderful songs to grow up with, and grownups have new gems to place alongside their other “Best of Disney” favorites.”

All this musical success couldn’t happen to a nicer couple. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are relishing the glitz and excitement of having a smash Disney musical feature — and they’re especially glad to share these moments with their two young daughters, Anna and Katie (who add their talents to the film). Plus, in addition to the “Frozen Sing-Along,” there’s serious talk of a Broadway stage production of “Frozen.”

Oh, and then there’s a little thing called the Academy Awards. If you’re like us, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, rooting for the Lopez’s “Let It Go” to win the Oscar for Best Original Song! (Inside joke: Bobby and Kristen like to call their friend Chris “Gandalf’,” because he’s such a mysterious, wandering being of untold wisdom.)

No matter how any of the ol’ awards turn out, the Lopez family, and all of us, are the real winners, rich with the treasure of great new Disney music that will go on to delight generations to come.

Tickets are on sale now for Disney’s “Frozen Sing-Along” at AMC Theatres box offices and at your favorite movie ticket site.

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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: If I Can runDisney, Chances Are You Can, Too

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


Runners at Walt Disney World Resort

For most of my young life, I had been out of shape. Doctors always recommend proper diet and exercise. I grew up in an “eat this, it will make you feel better” home where exercise was grocery shopping.

But I always wanted to know what fitness was like. I began trying various types of exercise and activities, and though I enjoy quite a few of them, it was running that seemed to work best for me. There isn’t a lot of equipment except shoes. The correct shoes are essential. I asked friends and read a few books about it. Starting with one mile, I worked up very slowly. I had never realized that exercise like this could relieve stress and clear my head.

In about six months I got up the courage to run some 5K races. They’re a little over three miles. Could I think about a marathon? C’mon … who was I kidding? As it turned out, I joined a local running group affiliated with Olympic medalist Jeff Galloway and learned that mere mortals like me could run longer races, even marathons.

Through his books and personal appearances, Jeff dispelled the myths about running:

MYTH: People really shouldn’t run long distances.

JEFF GALLOWAY: According to anthropologists, that is how we survived. The need for running and walking are embedded in our genetics and biomechanics. By gradually going from walking into running — and adding walk breaks — you can adapt, rebuild and become more efficient at any age. The simple training plan of walking breaks during a run greatly reduces body stress and the risk of injury.

MYTH: You need Jack Skellington’s physique to run a race.

JEFF: At the Walt Disney World Marathon and other events around the country, you’ll see every body shape you can imagine. Anyone starting an exercise program MUST check with their physician first and then get the proper training. That’s where run/walk/run comes in. It allows the cardiovascular system to gradually adapt without becoming overstressed.

MYTH: Running is bad for your joints.

JEFF: Neither I nor my orthopedic consultants could find a single study proving that running harms your joints. That applies to everyone, including folks who might not resemble what some might perceive as the typical runner.

MYTH: Running means sprinting until you can’t stand it.

JEFF: That wasn’t even done in the first Olympic marathon in history. At the 1896 Olympic marathon in Athens, all the competitors walked for significant portions.

MYTH: Running through Disney Parks is no big deal.

JEFF: Not only do you see a lot of the main Walt Disney World Resort locations, you also see really interesting, behind-the-scenes glimpses that most never see. Nighttime races offer yet a different kind of magic. It’s like getting a special key to the kingdom.

MYTH: Greg couldn’t be a runner.

ME: It’s been 20 years now since I became a runner. As they say on TV, individual results may vary, but I’ve run 11 full marathons, three triathlons, countless 5Ks, 10kK and half marathons. I even proposed to my wife after running a Walt Disney World Marathon! (She said, “Yes.”)

To see if running is for you, visit runDisney.com/training to get the basics, like training schedules for each race. Then check out the best single guidebook for all runners — Galloway Training Programs. It goes into detail about what to do when preparing for all of the runDisney events, like what to wear, what to eat, etc.

Throughout the year, visit runDisney.com for info on the wide variety of magical events. When you choose one, be sure to mark your calendar for the day registration begins, because they can fill up fast.

Even if you decide that running isn’t your cup of tea, you’re invited to Disney’s Health & Fitness Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to enjoy exhibits, demonstrations and more. You might even meet Jeff there! Admission to the Expo is free during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Click here for more information about upcoming runDisney events.

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Disney’s Songwriting Mom & Dad

posted on December 9th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Even as it begins to add its magic to your neighborhood theater, Disney’s new animated feature “Frozen” is already getting critical raves and Oscar buzz, particularly for its marvelous new songs.

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You’ll be delighted to learn “Frozen’s” songwriters, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are not only among today’s top Broadway (and now Hollywood) composers, they’re also a doting mom and dad — and huge Disney Parks fans. In addition to “Frozen,” they wrote the songs for the 2011 Disney animated feature, “Winnie the Pooh,” “Finding Nemo—The Musical” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot!

We caught up with Kristen and Bobby just as they were on their way to take their young daughters Anna and Katie (both of whom also can be heard in Frozen) to Disney California Adventure park to see “World of Color — Winter Dreams,” the new holiday edition of the nighttime water spectacular hosted by none other than Olaf, the lovable snowman from “Frozen.”

Greg Ehrbar: “As Disney fans yourselves, it must be surreal to hear your songs on Disney Parks attractions, films and now ‘Frozen.’”

Kristen: What’s funny, and I think helpful, is that we consume more Disney stuff than we create. Bobby keeps buying “Frozen” merchandise and filling our entire studio with all-things “Frozen.” Every day I ask, “Okay, what did you buy today?” and he says something like, “I got the two crowns!”

GREG: “’Finding Nemo—The Musical’ has such great songs. I love listening to the sound track album [available on iTunes]. The songs you both write so well have strong, memorable melodies. They’re very hummable and like the Sherman Brothers’ songs—and I mean this in the best possible way—they’re what folks call earworms, those tunes you can’t get out of your head.”

Robert: “Well, as a songwriter, one of your dreams is that people would be forced to listen to your song for a constant loop all day long! That’s basically what it means to get a song into an attraction, right?” (laughs)

GREG: “I recall that Walt Disney said something to the effect that ‘songs were the things that the people took with them after they left the theater.’”

Kristen: “Chris Montan [President of Walt Disney Music], who’s been doing this kind of thing very successfully for a very long time, was the person we looked to as our guide, both melodically and structurally. We called him ‘Gandalf’ because this was an epic journey. We really had to get that ring of Mordor and we had a very small window of time. Neither of us had ever done this kind of thing before, so we would turn to Chris.”

Robert: “And like Gandalf, he had a number of projects that he was doing at once so we didn’t always have him.”

Kristen: “Right. It was as if he’d have some sort of ‘Balrog’ thing to take care of and would have to be away … but upon his return, he would be ever so much stronger.”

(They both laugh.)

Kristen: “…and so then, we finished the film!”

GREG: “You seem to have very eclectic tastes. The variety of styles in your songs for ‘Frozen’ reflect that.”

Kristen: “Definitely. I would say I have a little more of a foot in the top-40 world than Bobby, but he loves some of the classic pop hits and he’s a huge Billy Joel fan. That’s how he gets the girls. That’s how he got me.”

GREG: “When you take the girls to Disney Parks in Florida and California, what are the must-see attractions for you?”

Kristen: “Well, the Finding Nemo ones, of course!”

Robert: “That was the one that really established us as a family of Disney Park goers. When our daughter was between the ages one-and-a-half to two, she spent pretty much that time at Disney. So we were a tried-and-true Disney family by the end of that. We always try to go to Expedition Everest in Florida, that’s our favorite coaster-type ride.”

Kristen:Star Tours.”

Robert: “Oh, definitely every time, Star Tours.”

Kristen: “And there’s so much great music at Epcot.”

Robert:Soarin’.”

Kristen: “Soarin’ is amazing. And I love the Spaceship Earth music as you head up into space.”

Robert: “We go to ‘it’s a small world’ every time. That’s a song that rings true with us. As songwriters we see it as the happiest song ever, but when you hear Richard Sherman play it softly and soulfully…”

Kristen: “…it’s a prayerful piece.”

Robert: “Yeah, how deep it is. The whole thing is a beautiful experience.”

Kristen: “I was a huge fan of the original Journey Into Imagination song, too.”

Robert: “We love The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, we love it all.”

Kristen: “Oh, and let me tell you something else, Greg. Just for fun I have an app on my phone that shows the Disneyland ride waiting times. Every once in awhile I’ll be in a meeting or something, and I’ll just go on the app and see that it’s 90 minutes to get on to Radiator Springs Racers, or it’s five minutes for Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, or – ”

Robert: “– and I’m married to her.”

Kristen: “It does sound corny but it’s true—we remind ourselves everyday to be mindful of being grateful to be in this position.”

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