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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.


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.


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.”


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?”


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.


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 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 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.


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.”


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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From Outer Space to Disney Parks … Meet the Dads from ABC-TV’s ‘The Neighbors’

posted on December 6th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

What if, instead of riding into the galaxy on Space Mountain, Star Tours or Mission: SPACE, you had next-door neighbors who came from beyond the stars? That’s the idea behind one of today’s most talked-about TV comedies, “The Neighbors,” airing Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT on the ABC TV Network.

Last season, the Weaver family moved into a nice little New Jersey subdivision and all the other residents turned out to be from the planet Zabvron. Now in the second season, they’ve become best friends with Zabvronian expatriates Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Reggie Jackson and Dick Butkus (they’ve taken on the names of the Earth’s finest physical specimens).

Of course, in real life, the stars of “The Neighbors” (and their families) travel into the galaxy by visiting either Disneyland park or Walt Disney World Resort. We chatted with the two TV dads: Lenny “Marty Weaver” Venito and Simon “Larry Bird” Templeman just before they were off to a script reading for the next episode.


Greg Ehrbar: Simon, you really are an alien, right?

Simon Templeman: (laughs) Yes, at least to you Americans! I grew up in the UK in Sussex and came out during a show here in Los Angles and in New York. I met my wife (award-winning actress and Anaheim native Rosalind Chao) when she was an international tour guide at Disneyland. She got to wear the short tartan skirt. I wish I had seen her in that plaid skirt.

Greg: I would just love it if “The Neighbors” went to Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Maybe your TV wife, Jackie [played by Toks Olangundoye], could wear one of those tour guide outfits.

Simon: She’d fit, that’s for sure! But actually, Rosalind and I got married in Malibu, Calif. and we had the reception to our wedding at the Disneyland Hotel. Twenty-five years ago.

Greg: No kidding! Have you guys ever been to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida?

Lenny Venito: I have. I’m from New York, so that’s our “Disneyland,” so to speak. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., in Bay Ridge. You know what, I love going there with my niece — or with any kids, for that matter — because the look on their faces is something to remember. It’s like living my childhood over again.

Greg: What do you like best at the parks?

Lenny: I love all that stuff. I love roller coasters. I love all the fried dough. Big fan of the fried dough. That is my thing. I like how everything is in the shape of Mickey’s head! You get the waffle that looks like Mickey, you get the chocolate thing that looks like Mickey. All I’m doing is eating Mickey all day long and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Greg: (laughs) And you seem like such a sweet guy, Lenny! Now Simon, when you came to this country, didn’t it seem like another planet?

Simon: Yes, and it seems even more so after that conversation! If I get nervous, I still start coming out with English words and phrases, like the “bonnet and boot.”

Greg: Can you tell us a little bit about what’s coming later in this season?

Lenny: Yes, we’re going to see more about the relationship between Reggie — Larry Bird and Jackie’s son — and Amber, the daughter of Marty and Debbie [Jami Gertz].

Simon: Also, we are trying to get as much music into the show as possible. There are so many great singers in the cast, we are trying to integrate that into the show. Since last season, we have learned that everybody wants to be a Broadway star. [You can download songs from “The Neighbors” on iTunes.]

Lenny: Also, Larry Bird recently got a job at a coffee shop called “Tanner’s Beans.” It’s actually named after the assistant to Dan Fogelman [creator of “The Neighbors” and co-writer of such movie hits as “Tangled” and “Cars“].

Greg: One of things my wife and I like about “The Neighbors” is that, as zany and wacky as the characters can be, none of them are portrayed as stupid.

Simon: I think our alien characters, and I’m sure Toks would agree, just don’t have all the information. It’s not that they’re dumb.

Greg: There is a deft and subtle sweetness to the show. It’s one of the nicest sitcoms of its kind that’s been on television in decades.

Lenny: I think you’re right when you say there aren’t a lot like it anymore. You used to have a lot of those family shows where everyone sits down, the parents and the kids and they each get something out of it. My favorite part is that sweetness, that heartwarming feeling you get from some of our shows. There’s an innocence to the Bird-Kersees as they learn about Earth, and to the Weavers as they grow as a family. We’re at our best when that all comes together.

Simon: Yet that sweetness is not too saccharin because of Dan Fogelman and our writers, who are very adept at balancing both. That’s the thing that first drew me to the series. The humor doesn’t feel mean spirited.

Lenny: All I know is that I love being Marty and if they keep letting me do it, I’m gonna keep doing it.

Greg: In other words the show is like butter, like a whole stick of butter.

Lenny: Like butter!

Greg: In our house it’s appointment TV. We all gather to watch it on Friday nights.

Simon: I love that.

Lenny: Family television, man! Let’s keep it going.

Watch brand-new episodes of The Neighbors” Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT on ABC-TV.

Parents note: The Neighbors is rated TV-PG for language.

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Whoopi Goldberg Shares ‘The View’ of a Candlelight Processional Performance

posted on November 8th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Candlelight Processional—the stirring Epcot holiday tradition in which a star narrator performs a reading of the Nativity story accompanied by a 50-piece live orchestra and massed choir—is as magnificent an experience for those on America Gardens Stage as it is for those watching the presentation.


We got the Candlelight Processional narrator’s perspective from none other than Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner Whoopi Goldberg.

Greg: How do you approach the narration of the Nativity story?

Whoopi: I am respectful of it because it’s a wonderful story. The idea that you can tell this story with these choruses behind you thrills me. I know it’s a story that people love and it’s important to people of faith to hear and so I try to be respectful of it as well but I also want to have a little fun with it.

Greg: Do you let the text and music flow through you? Is every performance a fresh experience?

Whoopi: Sure, you can put it that way. Because you are changing choruses after each performance you have to listen how their air is circulating behind you. You feel differently with different people behind you. I try to feel everything. I love my conductors because it’s always fun. I love people singing those traditional songs and I know lots of people wish that there was more of it—more of that kind of traditional caroling going on.

Greg: Isn’t the narration of the text like music, in a way — the rising and falling of the words, the emphasis and tone?

Whoopi: Well maybe, sometimes. I’m never boring when I read. You can say it’s like jazz but you can never perform it as a jazz piece. It’s a traditional piece. In my hands it’s a little less traditional. There are pieces of music I adore.

Greg: We’re so delighted to have you back for the Candlelight Processional. How does it feel to be part of the holiday experience and tradition of so many people?

Whoopi: I don’t know whether you all are aware of this but you know I alternate with Santa Claus with delivering things. We chronicled it in a film called “Call Me Claus”. I like being part of the holiday tradition because it’s a big part of my life and some of the best memories come from the traditions that I grew up with. I like the magic of it and I think as long as you can give the magic of the holidays to children they will always stay children.

Greg: Congratulations on receiving the Excellence in Media Award from Temple University. How do you feel about awards in general — do you have some that have special meaning to you?

Whoopi: All awards have special meaning to me because it means that somebody thought enough of you to go and buy something and say hey remember us because we’re honoring you we think you did a good job with whatever or being a good person. I like them. I think it’s all right to get awards.

Greg: I’ve heard you’re a big fan of classic animation. The great Billie Holiday also loved watching cartoons. Any Disney faves?

Whoopi: Well I’m a big Peter Pan girl. I love Peter Pan. I like some of the newer stuff as well but I like all of the old Mickey. I like a lot of the Fleischer brothers’ things also. I just like the idea that you can make animation. That you can make inanimate objects talk when you animate them. I love that stuff. Anything Disney does, I’m happy with.

Greg: You’ve always got so many great projects in the works. What would you like our readers to get excited about?

Whoopi: Well I hope that everyone has watched my documentary on HBO called “Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley.” I hope that they all go see “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which I’m in, and then I hope they all watch Lifetime, where I’m in “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (2014). And I hope they all lobby to get Pixar to put me in one more thing!

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Sights & Sounds of Disney Parks: Clang! Clang! Clang! It’s the Trolley with a Special Summer Song

posted on August 14th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Every time you visit Disney Parks, you participate in a story with a beginning, middle and end. One of the most delightful of these beginnings is the series of Magic Kingdom Park “welcomes” that start your day of enchantment.

The first “scene” in your story occurs before park opening. You look up at the Main Street, U.S.A., train station and see colorfully costumed Disney cast members performing a song called — what else — “Welcome.” (You can get this song on the “Four Parks, One World” official Walt Disney World Resort CD album, available in select shops.)

Mickey Mouse and his friends, including characters from favorite Disney animated features, ride into the station aboard the Walt Disney World Railroad for a hearty “hello” before you — and they — head off for a day of Magic Kingdom Park fun.

Once you’ve entered Main Street, U.S.A., you can feel the anticipation and excitement as everyone heads toward Cinderella Castle — and the attractions that await them on all sides. But if you linger a little, you might see and hear the next “welcome moment,” an appearance by Dapper Dans, crooning a ditty or two aboard a trolley.

You might decide to shop for a few minutes. At this hour, you can breeze through the Emporium, savoring the pleasant music in the air.

Clang! Clang! Clang! It’s the Main Street Trolley Show at Magic Kingdom Park with a Special Summer Song

At 9:30 a.m., the talented troupe of performers that you saw on the train station, some now toting pic-a-nic baskets, merrily moving down the street on their trolley. The song you hear is — of course — “The Trolley Song,” one of the “Great American Songbook” hits that Judy Garland sang in the movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

The trolley comes to a stop and the dancers leap onto the street. They launch into a special summertime song, “Things Are Gonna Hum This Summer.” The leap, whirl and twirl with such unbridled elation, it’s as if you’ve stepped inside one of those happy, peppy movie musicals from the good ol’ days. The trolley makes two more stops for similar performances in order to delight more Main Street, U.S.A., guests. Such happy peppiness should be shared with as many folks as possible!

As “The Trolley Song” fades away, you’re off to enjoy your Magic Kingdom Park day — maybe with just a little extra spring in your step. You smile in recognition of one of those wonderful little touches that add up to an unmatchable Disney Parks day.

Look below for more from the “Sight & Sounds at Disney Parks” series:

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All the Birds Sing Words and the Flowers Croon…Coast-to-Coast at The Enchanted Tiki Room

posted on June 25th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

George’s delightful post about the anniversary of Walt Disney’s original Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland park inspired us to give a shout out to the fans who “sing like the birdies sing” here in sunny Florida!

The attraction at Disneyland park was the very first to feature Audio-Animatronics characters—over 150 of them! When Walt Disney World Resort opened its version, entitled “Tropical Serenade,” it also included the Sunshine Tree Terrace. Both were sponsored by the Florida Orange Growers, who teamed with the Walt Disney Studios for a national promotion. One of the benefits of this project was a Disneyland Storyteller record album with songs by the Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers. Both the advertising and the LP record featured the first Disney Character created especially for Walt Disney World Resort: Orange Bird.

Throngs of admirers turned out when our fine-fruited friend made his triumphant return appearance to the Sunshine Tree Terrace last year, a short time after The Enchanted Tiki Room also returned in a revised version of its original glory.

All the Birds Sing Words and the Flowers Croon at Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room

The songs in the present Magic Kingdom Park edition include the classic, ultra-catchy “Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki Room,” also by the Shermans. Another is a pop hit from 1932 known as “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing.” The grand finale is “Hawaiian War Chant,” written in the 1860’s by Prince Leleiohoku and became a hit on records and movies when it was revised and reintroduced in 1936. Probably its most famous version is also the silliest one, by Spike Jones and His Slickers.

If some of the voices in The Enchanted Tiki Room sound familiar, they are. Thurl Ravenscroft plays Fritz, voice of one of the singing busts in the Haunted Mansion (look for the organ with his name in the interactive queue). He voiced, among hundreds of things, Tony the Tiger and sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

Disney historian Jim Korkis recently told me that legendary Hollywood “ghost singer” Bill Lee is also in the Tiki Room cast. Bill sang off-screen for countless movie stars, from Christopher Plummer in 1965’s “The Sound of Music” to Yogi in 1964’s “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear.”

Another Tiki Room alumnus who sang in the Yogi feature is Ernie Newton, who voices Pierre in the attraction. And playing José and Michael are two Disney Legends from the beloved Disneyland park stage musical, Golden Horseshoe Revue: Wally Boag (the master comedian who mentored Steve Martin) and Fulton Burley, the celebrated Irish tenor.

I always get a kick out of the exit song, a parody of “Heigh-Ho” that basically tells us to go away in an entertaining way! My favorite line is “Don’t stop to look / Or read a book!”

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A Floridian’s Top 10 for a Disney Summer: Discover Some Walt Disney World Resort Summer Favorites

posted on May 16th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

This summer is like no summer before with the promise of adventure through our upcoming Monstrous Summer, a handful of secrets you may not know, and awesome out-of-the-park activities that you absolutely must check out. Join me on a ride through the entire Walt Disney World Resort and let’s explore some of the most fun summer adventures both inside the theme parks and out:
A Floridian's Top 10 for a Disney Summer. Discover some Walt Disney World Resort Summer Favorites

  1. Walt Disney World Resort will be kicking off Monstrous Summer with an all-nighter at Magic Kingdom Park. Come by on May 24 and help us charge up with scream energy to power Magic Kingdom Park for an entire 24 hours!
  2. If all-nighters aren’t your thing (heck, who doesn’t love to sleep in), don’t worry. A lot of the Monsters University students will be setting up shop around Disney’s Hollywood Studios to meet their biggest fans all summer long.
  3. Amid all this monstrous excitement, look for the “Monsterail” as it zips around in scare-riffic style. Text your favorite joke and see if it gets into the show at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at Magic Kingdom Park. And make a note to see Disney•Pixar “Monsters University,” premiering June 21 at the AMC Downtown Disney 24 Theatres at Downtown Disney West Side!
  4. Get ready to take a swim without setting foot in the water! Visit New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park and check out Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. You’ll be delighted with a lineup of familiar characters and favorite nautical songs.
  5. Since you’re already in Magic Kingdom Park, make sure to track down a secret frosty treat, the Dole Whip! Dating back to when Walt first opened Disneyland park, the Dole Whip is an elusive pineapple-flavored ice cream concoction that you can only find in a few locations worldwide!
  6. Sometimes summer weather is best served inside a relaxing (and not to mention air-conditioned) lounge. Soothe away your stresses with one of the many spa treatments at Senses Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort to conquer the dog days of summer.
  7. With the kids’ summer break looming, a night out at Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney is the perfect escape. Roll your way through a few frames and some fresh sushi in this beautifully styled restaurant, lounge and bowling alley.
  8. What fun would summer be without a trip to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park? Enjoy steep drops and adventurous water rides. Sometimes a lazy river can’t match the huge thrill of a plunge down Summit Plummet!
  9. Make some time in your schedule for a lap around Test Track Presented by Chevrolet at Epcot. You’ll cool off with speeds up to 65 mph and the gusts that come with them as you tear through the newly re-imagined track.
  10. The perfect way to end a perfect summer day is with a perfect summer night! Visit one of our nighttime fireworks spectaculars that you’ll find in Magic Kingdom Park and Epcot.

*Theme Park hours are 6 a.m. on May 24 to 6 a.m. on May 25, 2013. Subject to capacity restrictions. Select attractions, entertainment and services will be available. Valid Theme Park admission required.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: An Artist’s Journey from Disney Parks to Oz

posted on March 8th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

One of the things I love about Disney’s “Oz The Great and Powerful“, which opens nationwide in theaters today, is how the citizens of Oz worked together to make magic happen.

Finley, China Doll, Tinkers, the Quadlings, and others are characters you may not recognize now but will soon seem like old friends. They, along with beloved Ozians like the Munchkins, make a difference, regardless of their size or the size of their contribution. While those in power may boldly lead, inspire and make heady decisions, every person everywhere may also affect the world in a positive way as well. (It was one of the messages in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, too.)

Some people can change entire “worlds” in a more literal way. Art director Arte Contreras created magical settings for Disney Parks years before he was selected to be one of the two assistant art directors for “Oz The Great and Powerful”, led by Production Designer Robert Stromberg (two-time Academy Award winner for Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” and James Cameron’s “Avatar“).

While studying architecture in college, Arte met and worked with his mentor, Eddie Martinez Sr. A retired Imagineer who helped design Epcot, Eddie’s many accomplishments include painting the portrait of Walt Disney with his characters, which became a U.S. postage stamp. “Eddie took me under his wing,” said Arte, “and introduced me to his friend and mentor Herbie Ryman – a Disney Legend and one of the original Disneyland park designers.

“Both Eddie and Herbie worked with, and were mentored by, the great John DeCuir Sr., three-time Academy Award-winning Production Designer for numerous movie classics, such as “The King and I”, “Cleopatra” and “Hello Dolly!”, I feel blessed and fortunate to be associated with such a talented legacy.”

Arte’s prior realization of believable yet fantastic places in Disney Parks was one of the reasons he is a perfect fit in Oz. When he was with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment as an art director, he designed Disneyland Resort parade floats and Disney Afternoon Avenue, which was the precursor to Mickey’s Toontown. He worked on live shows as well, including “Belle’s Bookshop” – a show pre-dating the Broadway musical – and was involved with the design of Fantasmic!

After working in Walt Disney Imagineering on designs for Disney California Adventure park, Tokyo DisneySea and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Magic Kingdom Park, Arte’s career took him to other entertainment venues, live shows and the Emmy-nominated Disney’s Greatest Hits on Ice. “There is something special about doing a project for Walt Disney Pictures that takes place in a fantastic place like Oz,” Arte said. “I prefer doing things that lean toward fantasy. It allows you to take existing architectural styles and artistic motifs and add flares of individuality.”

“When I joined the Oz production, a lot of the sets had already been fleshed out. Rob started out with an affinity and appreciation for Walt Disney’s original classics. We went to The Walt Disney Archives to see the actual animation artist’s cel paintings from “Dumbo“, “Pinocchio“, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and others. This was the inspiration we used to create much of the fantastical world of Oz.

As art director on Glinda’s courtyard, for instance, I oversaw all construction and made sure we had the right colors and textures, as well as a lot of ornamental detail that accentuated and complimented Glinda’s character. Rob envisioned the courtyard as an iridescent, art nouveau French chateau that reflected her strong yet feminine personality. I sketched a lot of doors, railings, topiary and other architectural and sculptural details.”

Arte and his team created scale models of each set once a design was approved. The graveyard was a large model,” he recalled. “It’s an American Victorian hybrid with the flare of Tim Burton (whom Rob had worked with on “Alice in Wonderland”). When I was designing the gates, the tombstones and the entry gargoyles, I used Alice and the Haunted Mansion attraction as my inspiration.”

Tinker’s was the third main set that Arte was asked to design and art direct. “This set appears toward the end of the film, in which a plan is formulated to save the Land of Oz from evil,” he said. “The setting has an intricate and mechanical theme. This set brought to light an interesting coincidence – Rob and I found out that we worked together on a project in 1993 and never knew it. He said, “I want you to design Tinker’s and I want it to look like that project we did 100 years ago with heavy wood grain, kinetics—turning cogs, gears and pipes – with a Disney-like Fantasyland feel.”

During the filming of “Oz The Great and Powerful”, people would come up to me on Glinda’s courtyard set and say, ‘This feels like a Disney Theme Park!’ I would smile at the compliment, giving credit to my Disney roots – this background that helped me channel that Disney magic to a very magical Disney film.”

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