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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).

Lucie Arnaz Hosted the Space Mountain Openin Ceremony at Walt Disney World Resort in 1975 Lucie Arnaz Hosted the Space Mountain Openin Ceremony at Walt Disney World Resort in 1975 Lucie Arnaz Hosted the Space Mountain Openin Ceremony at Walt Disney World Resort in 1975

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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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