Splash Mountain at Disneyland Park

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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Believe in the Magic of Oz…See it in Bloom at Epcot

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

The marvelous land of Oz has captured the imaginations of people for over 100 years. Chances are good that this wondrous place has sparked your imagination, whether you’re a school kid, bank teller, rocket scientist—or a horticulturist like Eric Darden.

Eric is the Manager of Horticulture for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. This year, the event is presenting one of the most ambitious dreams that Eric, his team and his fellow Disney Parks cast members have ever made come true.

“The Land of Oz Garden is one of the biggest single areas we’ve ever created for the Festival,” said Eric. “It starts in the ‘Kansas’ section, where kids can play midway games in the tents.”

In Walt Disney PicturesOz The Great and Powerful” — which opens today nationwide — you’ll see Kansas in black and white, Oz in dazzling color and all in three-dimensional RealD splendor (at select theaters). But at this new Epcot garden, of course everything’s blooming in full color — from the ring toss game and fun mirrors to the Baum Circus tents (named for L. Frank Baum, author of all 14 original Oz books).

“As you walk along, you’ll seem to travel through Oz, where the kids can enjoy the large playground,” explained Eric. Newly designed, this playground sparkles with details that celebrate the film. As the kids play, grown-ups will appreciate the nearby shaded chairs. Look on the other side of this area and you’ll see that it’s actually themed to the Wizard’s deflated hot air balloon!
The Wizard’s Deflated Hot Air Balloon in The Land of Oz Garden at Epcot
A dazzling array of unusual flowers and plants suggest the setting of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Oz The Great and Powerful,” including a bed of yellow pansies arranged to resemble a very familiar brick road—plus some dazzling red glass poppies. These amazing creations were prepared especially for The Land of Oz Garden by artist/sculptor Craig Mitchell Smith using his own elaborate technique of cutting, heating, shaping and reheating each flower—a process that takes four days per poppy!

Now through May 19, 2013, The Land of Oz Garden is just part of the overall new excitement at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. “Now we have great food and beverage options at twelve Garden Marketplaces,” says Eric. “Now it’s all tied together—from the garden to your table—better than ever.

“And we’ve placed plenty of character topiaries all over Epcot. There’s a picnic scene at the front entrance, with Minnie sitting on a blanket, Donald and Daisy playing badminton and Goofy is about to drop the cake! Mickey is grilling hot dogs—though unbeknownst to him, Pluto has already taken his share.”

Over at Showcase Plaza, you’ll see Mike and Sulley as they will appear in the eagerly awaited Disney•Pixar movie Monsters University. “Almost all of our gardens are now beautifully illuminated at nighttime, so you can make it a complete day and night visit,” Eric adds. “We’ve brought back the butterfly garden, HGTV celebrity designers and Flower Power Concert Series. We couldn’t be more excited about what we have to offer this year.”

For more information, visit EpcotInSpring.com.

Entertainment subject to change without notice.

Read on for more updates about the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival:

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Fantastic Food Marketplaces Are the Newest Festival Attractions at Walt Disney World Resort!

posted on February 19th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

This year’s Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is bigger and better than ever — with gorgeous new gardens and whimsical new Disney character topiaries, plus new Garden Marketplaces serving up tasty culinary creations. And this year, look for topiaries and select gardens to be lit up at night! All this and more gets underway starting March 6, 2013.
Culinary Creations at the New Garden Marketplaces for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

From the bounty of the garden to your table

Twelve new Garden Marketplace locations will sprout up around the promenade, offering culinary creations and special libations inspired by the gardens at World Showcase.

“Our horticulture team recognizes that our guests are curious about where their food comes from and how it is grown,” says Michael Jenner, Park Event Content Development Operations Manager. Garden Marketplaces are a great opportunity for discovery, as guests are able to sample some amazing dishes and learn how to incorporate their own garden harvests into their meals at home.”

“We had been planning to do something like this for many years, and the 20th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is the perfect opportunity,” Michael explains. It became a reality thanks to Walt Disney World Resort guests like you. Last year, just one experimental marketplace was so overwhelmingly popular, it “grew” this year to a dozen different areas with a wide variety of offerings.

It looks good enough to eat!

Each new marketplace will have two small gardens in front of them filled with plantings to match the host of food and beverage (many nonalcoholic) selections. For instance, the garden at the front of World Showcase Plaza will have blueberries growing to tie in with the Blueberry Wine. The garden near the Canada Pavilion will feature pineapples to match the Pineapple Upside Down Cake that you can purchase.

“I don’t think many guests have actually seen pineapples growing, and that should be a treat,” adds Michael. “We will also have ‘TRYit’ opportunities at these marketplaces to encourage children and adults to sample some out-of-the-ordinary delights like Watermelon Salad with Pickled Red Onions, BW Farms Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Reduction.”

Many of these creative menu selections were developed by Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann, who made sure they would be “tapas-size” items, so that you will be able to explore multiple choices.

Don’t forget the new garden passport!

“We will offer guests a special passport with one page per Marketplace,” said Michael. “It will list the plants and other information so that guests can check off what they tasted, write notes and even get it stamped for free, like a field journal.”

One of the most popular marketplaces is sure to be at The American Adventure Pavilion. A huge smoker will be rolled onto the stage to barbeque brisket and pork. Guests can top off that meal sample with a glass of Mama’s Little Yella Pils from Oskar River Blues in Lyons, CO (Czech-style Pilsner), or Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco, CA (India Pale Ale), or just a delicious Rocky Road brownie.

Oz, monsters and lights into the night

There’s so much to see, do and taste during the 75-day garden party! Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival surprises are around almost every corner.

There will be new topiary creations, including a salute to Disney•Pixar “Monsters University.” You’ll find whimsical children’s play areas, the newest being The Land of Oz Garden, inspired by Walt Disney Pictures’ “Oz The Great and Powerful.” Look for a butterfly bounty, HGTV celebrity designers, hands-on gardening seminars and more. On weekends, rock to performances by top Flower Power Concert Series rockers of the 1960s and ’70s.

And the fun won’t end when the sun goes down — almost all the gardens will now be gorgeously illuminated for the first time, making the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival a complete delight, day and night.

For more information, visit EpcotInSpring.com.

*Entertainment subject to change without notice.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: What’s it Like to ‘Be Our Guest?’

posted on February 19th, 2013 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

We asked Ted Robledo, Senior Concept Designer, Walt Disney Imagineering, to give us the exquisite details you’ll experience when you enter Beast’s Castle to experience Be Our Guest Restaurant. So much more than just a dining location, this amazing place at New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom Park echoes the way Belle herself must have felt when Lumière tipped his cap and proudly presented her dinner and so much more.

Like every Disney artist since Walt himself, Ted told the “story” of Be Our Guest Restaurant so vividly, his description took on a life of its own. We could imagine it all, as if it had come from a storybook. Let’s begin now…
Be Our Guest Restaurant at New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom Park

Once upon a time, but not too long from now, in a fantastic new land within a magical kingdom, a glistening landscape unfolds before you, where elephants fly and mermaids sing. Your gaze is suddenly transfixed upon a mysterious castle in the distance.

Your instincts are correct — it is indeed Beast’s Castle on a snow-capped mountain peak. Could this really be the place where the tale took place? The story of a young beauty, a fearsome yet vulnerable creature and the love that drew them together? You decide to investigate.

As you move along the path leading to the castle, you somehow know that it must be the Beast’s family property — two ruins flank the original gateway that was likely set up by his ancestors. More and more hints of this become evident — gargoyles on lampposts and suggestions of royalty in the intricate ironwork and stone carvings — as you cross a bridge over the river below.

Tall ornate gates, adorned with the family crest, remind you of the moments in which both Maurice and Belle ventured onto the Beast’s property. Reaching the grand entrance, you sense some of the same foreboding they must have felt, or are you just startled by the horned “guardians” around this massive front door? Are these imposing sculptures some kind of animal, or a combination of several birds and beasts?

Above the double doors is a stunningly beautiful tile mosaic, telling the story of how the Prince came to be cursed to remain a beast unless he finds true love before the last petal falls from the magic rose. Now, standing in the foyer, ominous stonework Minotaurs, half-bull and half-man, hold up a giant archway — within which you perceive a sculpted relief suggesting the agony of the Prince’s transformation amid a motif of dragon tentacles and that all-important rose.

So, the castle itself is, in effect, telling the story to you, step by step. But that’s just the beginning. Through the foyer, you come to the grand hallway, flanked on either side by suits of armor. There’s something magical about them, but you’re not quite sure why…is that a parlor up ahead? Yes, it is a room of welcome, where a traveler might be brought in to seek shelter and enjoy the bounty of its pantry and kitchen. You admire the tapestries and spot a large chair that sits by a fireplace. Is this where Belle treated the wounds of the injured Beast?

There seem to be several places where you might savor the marvelous creations of the castle chefs — or are they cooked up by a hidden, enchanted living stove and kitchenware? Perhaps the most opulent is the Grand Ballroom. You cannot believe you’re actually here, in a setting inspired by that iconic movie scene in which Belle, dressed in a gorgeous golden gown, appears for her evening with the Beast. You’re now completely immersed in the world of the tale.

Magical surprises seem possible in every corner of the ballroom. Most dazzling are the glittering chandeliers, one of which looks as if it leapt off the movie screen. In the distance through the windows, the first snow is falling on the rolling countryside under a starry sky.

By now you’re not sure if the unforgettable music is playing in your head, your heart or throughout the castle, but you’ve now found yourself in the exquisite Rose Gallery. Woven in rose images, you admire paintings of the characters you love from the story, some sprawling as tall as eight feet.

The music you “felt” as well as heard was coming from a truly marvelous music box in the middle of the gallery. Crafted of exotic wood with meticulous detail in gold leaf, this immense handcrafted musical marvel was surely, you surmise, a wedding gift from the ingenious inventor Maurice. Roses wind their way throughout this entire room in all the architectural ornamentation.

Every story has a dramatic high point. You’ve decided to explore the West Wing. It is a moody, foreboding place, where draperies hang in tatters and the painting of the young prince has been slashed in anguish. But in the corner, the enchanted rose itself sits under a glass bell jar. What will happen as each petal falls? Will love triumph?

You are certain that you will find your happily ever after at Be Our Guest Restaurant, not only through the extraordinary experiences and magical surprises that you’ve encountered and enjoyed, but again through the castle’s own astonishing enchantment. For this castle is able to share with you one of the most wondrous powers of all — the gift of unmatchable storytelling.

Call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463) up to 180 days in advance for table-service dinner reservations at Be Our Guest Restaurant. Lunch is quick-service and does not require reservations.

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: What Do the Toyland Soldiers Have to Do with the Land of Oz?

posted on December 23rd, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

The Toyland soldiers in either Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort holiday parades are a “must-see.” Watching them on our annual Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade is very cool, but experiencing them in person is even more amazing.
Walt Disney’s 'Babes in Toyland' on Blu-Ray

They’re exactly like the toy soldiers in Walt Disney’s “Babes in Toyland” (which looks dazzling in its new Blu-ray release). In the big battle sequence, Tom Piper (Tommy Sands) leads the soldiers to defeat nasty Barnaby (Ray Bolger) and prevent him from marrying Mary Contrary (our beloved Annette Funicello).

The “March of the Toys” was directed by Disney Legends Bill Justice and X Atencio. They also directed the “Spoonful of Sugar” special effects in “Mary Poppins” — so look for the soldiers there, too, leaping into a toy box.

The legacy of “Babes in Toyland” began with its first stage production in 1903. The producers were looking for another show to be as big a hit as their other musical extravaganza, which was based on L. Frank Baum’s book, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Ironically, Babes in Toyland was the enduring hit, and its Victor Herbert/Glen McDonough songs became standards. In 1934, producer Hal Roach cast Laurel and Hardy in his movie version of “Babes in Toyland” — which, with Walt Disney’s approval, included a “Mickey” character and the Three Little Pigs in the cast.

Just a few years later, Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was a worldwide sensation. Its success inspired MGM to produce a live-action answer of sorts to Snow White, right down to Walt’s innovative use of songs to advance the story. That was 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Judy Garland.

On live stages almost everywhere, “Babes in Toyland” evolved from one century to the next, as the characters, storylines and songs got mixed, matched, added and subtracted depending on the productions. In 1954 and 1955, TV viewers watched live TV broadcasts of “Babes in Toyland,” co-written by Neil Simon. Shirley Temple starred in the first color TV version in 1960.

There was even a disco version at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1979! Nevertheless, dedicated groups of artists keep the original Victor Herbert operetta available to new generations — like the Comic Opera Guild of Michigan, which produced four different cast albums of Toyland between 1976 and 2004.

“Before Walt Disney chose ‘Babes in Toyland’ as his first musical, he dreamed of making an Oz movie,” says Disney historian Jim Korkis. “Walt wanted to combine live action with animation for an Oz feature in the 1930s. When the Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers became stars in the late ‘50s, Walt cast many of them in The Rainbow Road to Oz. If you watch the Disney Treasures DVD entitled ‘Your Host, Walt Disney,’ you’ll get an idea of what it might have been like.”

Walt Disney’s 'Babes in Toyland' Toy Soldiers from Walt Disney’s 'Babes in Toyland'

Ultimately, Walt didn’t make either Oz film, but during the 1961 holiday season, his “Babes in Toyland” premiered in theaters. And the first “official” Disneyland Christmas parades also appeared, featuring floats based on the toys from the movie — including the toy soldiers, designed by Bill Justice himself.

Today, Walt Disney’s distinctive, iconic Disney “Babes in Toyland” soldiers remain a fixture in Disney Parks all over the world. No Disney movie has quite the influence on Disney Parks holiday tradition as “Babes in Toyland.”

Next year will bring the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Oz, the Great and Powerful” in theaters — and the appearance of the Oz garden during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. It’s been over 100 years and these magical, unpredictable worlds just keep on crisscrossing!

Look below for more “Sight & Sounds at Disney Parks” posts:

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Sights and Sounds at Disney Parks: Last-Minute Disney Holiday Music Gifts

posted on December 22nd, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

As Santa’s clock counts down to his big day, I always say there’s nothing like the gift of music (ask people who know me… I really say that). The best thing about music is that you can fill a room with it so everybody enjoys the gift together!
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The big news this year is that, for the very first time, a brand-new musical gem has been performed and recorded especially for The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Much in the tradition of Walt and his animators blending music with state-of-the-art visual wizardry in films such as “Fantasia“, the team at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment has crafted this new version of “Winter Wonderland” to make the most of everything those millions of lights can do.

This magnificent, dynamic new rendition was arranged and conducted by veteran Music Director Dan Stamper of Entertainment, whose massive worldwide list of contributions to Disney Parks shows, parades, fireworks spectaculars and big-city special events could fill a website in itself!

“This was an especially unique project,” Dan told me. “It really required those of us who were familiar with what these lights could do, so we would make the most of all the abilities we have with light movements special effects.

“Basically, I wrote the arrangement in ‘layers’ of sounds, so they could come in gradually, then build and build. It’s funny how things like this come together! It just seemed to evolve.” The resulting musical production is unlike any other version of “Winter Wonderland” you’ve ever heard, conceived with every detail of these amazing light displays in mind.

Keep your fingers crossed: Dan is hopeful that there might be more specially-created pieces like “Winter Wonderland” added in the future to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, in addition to great holiday songs from hit albums.

One of these songs is performed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (whom you may have seen live during their recent Epcot Eat to the Beat Concert Series gig). The song, “Christmas is Starting Now,” is from “Disney’s Phineas & Ferb Christmas Vacation”.
Disney's Phineas and Ferb Holiday Favorites

“That was the first song ["Phineas & Ferb" co-creator] Dan Povenmire and I wrote for the TV special,” said Story Editor/Scriptwriter Martin Olson. “It set the tone for the rest of the songs. “We first wrote it as a pop tune, then Dan and [Series Original Music Composer] Danny Jacob adapted it to a Big Band arrangement with a live performance in mind.” The song is included on the “Phineas & Ferb Holiday Favorites” album—as well the lovely “That Christmas Feeling,” sung by Martin’s daughter Olivia, who voices Vanessa on the show.
Disney Channel Holiday Playlist Album

New this year is the “Disney Channel Holiday Playlist” album, featuring today’s hottest young Disney Channel Original Series stars, including Ross Lynch of “Austin and Ally“. You’ll be able to see him perform “Christmas Soul” on the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade on ABC-TV.
Disney's New Holiday Album Featuring Mickey and Company- Disney Jingle Bell Fun

There’s also a new holiday album starring Mickey and company called “Disney Jingle Bell Fun”, a collection of favorite songs with fresh, new arrangements of fun songs from your favorite pals, plus fantastic performances by outstanding vocalists.

“Winter Wonderland” is available exclusively as a download from iTunes or Amazon. All the other albums are available on CD at select Disney Parks shops, retail and online stores and by download.

Happy listening!

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Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks: Jodi Benson Adds Glow to Candlelight Processional

posted on December 12th, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

Experiencing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot is something special to guests who behold it, the massed choir and 50-piece orchestra performing the music, and of course each A-list celebrity narrator who dramatically interprets the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke, the story of “Silent Night” and the classic essay, “One Solitary Life.”

For Disney Legend Jodi Benson in particular, the Candlelight Processional reaches deep into her heart and soul. “It’s one of my favorite things to do,” the Tony Award-nominated star told us. “I get to combine all the ‘parts’ of me reading a story with an incredible impact on my life; not just words on a page, I’m speaking truth for my life and of course, I’m quietly singing along.”

Holidays Around Walt Disney World Resort in the 1980s

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Candlelight Processional narrator? For Jodi and the other celebrities, the first day at Epcot begins with “blocking.” “You get up onto the stage, learn your entrance and exit, work with your script, do a sound check with the microphone and go over the lighting cues,” she explains. “You get your whole dry run.

“Then every day around 3 o’clock in the afternoon—and I love this part—you do a meet and greet with the student choir and Disney Cast Members. They ask questions and maybe sing for you. So, when you’re all there on stage, you’ve established a bond. You do that every day you’re here, three shows a night.

“Each time that you perform the words, you can approach it from a somewhat fresh approach. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the choir and the symphony. Music is such a big part of my life and they are all fantastic.”

During the remainder of their Walt Disney World Resort visit, Jodi and her family enjoy the four theme parks as much as the rest of us. “We are ‘Park-a-holics!’ We really are! We do it all. My kids are big thrill riders, so we hit those as many times as we can. And of course, I have to see all the shows!

“You know, it’s kind of funny. You would think that after all these years, why don’t we just visit here and kind of ‘hang out’? But every day, off we go to the parks. I’m there all the way up until about 2:15, then I run back to the room to prepare for the show. After the fireworks, I put on my comfy shoes and we do more park hopping. It is kind of crazy! This year, we were beyond excited to see everything, especially because of New Fantasyland.”

In addition to being the voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Jodi’s iconic performances include nods to the golden age Disney heritage. She voiced Lady in “Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure”; Anita in “101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure”; and played “Sam” on camera in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Enchanted.”

Many fans believe that Jodi provided some of the greatest (and funniest) moments in the Disney•Pixar Toy Story movies, in which she’s the delightfully lilting voice of Barbie, along with Michael Keaton voicing Ken. Incidentally, back in 1994, the America Gardens Theatre was enhanced to its present grandeur to present the live musical show, “The Magical World of Barbie.” Jodi was delighted to recently discover that she and Barbie have the same Epcot stage in common!

And of course, in practically every form of entertainment, Jodi continues to bring her acting and singing talents to our favorite mermaid. As you can imagine, it’s exhilarating—even a little overwhelming—to be the voice of someone who touches so many lives. “It’s a huge responsibility to maintain the character’s integrity, to represent that character well and to make sure you take the time with those who have a connection with the character. Sometimes I stop and have a ‘WOW!’ moment, thinking about the ‘big picture.’”

It’s real. And Jodi Benson wouldn’t have it any other way. “Whether I am on stage at Epcot, in a recording studio, homeschooling my kids or in a church building, it is the same ‘Jodi.’ They’re all me. And I love getting to be with people that are young at heart. That is why the match with Disney is so perfect for me. I feel that it was planned for me, long before Disney ever came into my mind.”

Read these posts for more from the “Sights & Sounds at Disney Parks” series:

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New Album Captures the Perfect Tone for Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on November 1st, 2012 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group

In the wake of the extremely popular “Music from Cars Land” album, another new CD comes out November 6 that has already become a favorite among Disney cast members. “The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle” offers, for the first time, sparkling jazz versions of great Disney songs, selected from the soundtrack of the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge at Disney California Adventure park!

New Album For Carthay Circle Restaurant, 'The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle'

“We really wanted to capture music across all generations and breathe new life into treasured and familiar songs,” said John Dennis, Director, Music Production, Walt Disney Imagineering, who is music supervisor and producer of the new album. “Everyone involved wanted to allow the variations to weave a different tapestry for our guests.”

Even though several of the songs were created after the themed 1937 setting of the restaurant, the smooth, evocative jazz approach is right at home in the period. But choosing from the voluminous catalog of Disney songs was a daunting task. In cooperation with Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music, these are the eclectic, wide-ranging gems they mined for a fresh, yet classic, jazz approach:

1. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes (from “Cinderella”)
2. Be Our Guest* (from “Beauty and the Beast”)
3. Ev’rybody Wants to Be A Cat (from “The Aristocats”)
4. Winnie the Pooh
5. A Whole New World*** (from “Aladdin”)
6. Alice in Wonderland
7. He’s a Tramp (from “Lady and the Tramp”)
8. Can You Feel The Love Tonight** (from “The Lion King”)
9. If I Didn’t Have You** (from “Monsters, Inc.”)
10. Married Life*** (from “Up”)
11. Some Day My Prince Will Come (from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”)
12. You’ve Got A Friend In Me* (from “Toy Story”)

*Best Original Song Academy Award nominee
**Best Original Song Academy Award winner
***Best Original Score Academy Award Winner

Not only does the CD feature some of the most beloved Disney songs with an upbeat, sophisticated twist, but this timeless collection also creates an ambiance that allows the listener to feel like they are in another time and place.

“Did you know that the selection of music actually changes from the downstairs to the upstairs?” fellow Disney Parks Blog writer Michelle Harker asked me—and I did not know that! “Guests on the first level will often hear these pieces represented by an ensemble trio, while those dining in the restaurant upstairs, will enjoy the same music but in a variety of light jazz piano tones.”

John is quick to point out the musical virtuosity behind this music. On piano is the album’s arranger, Bill Cantos, who has worked with a “who’s who” of the music industry, including Herb Alpert, Lani Hall, Elton John, Phil Collins, Bob Dylan and Burt Bacharach. And while we’re name-dropping, the album was produced by 11-time Grammy nominee Bill Schnee—who has helped such stars as Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston to Gold Record awards—and Todd Homme, a longtime music supervisor/producer of music for Disney feature films as well as award winning films such as “Almost Famous,” “Catch Me if You Can” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

Both Bills, as well as every musician you’ll hear, are among the most sought-after music names in Hollywood, heard on countless movie and TV soundtracks, as well as best-selling recordings. You can catch a glimpse of them making this music in Valarie Sukovaty’s “Cue the Dining Music at Carthay Circle Restaurant” post.

Here at Disney, we’re no strangers to hyperbole, as you probably have noticed. But in the case of “The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle,” everyone involved has become especially attached to the quality and magic of these performances. “I’ve already been told things like, ‘I play this over and over and never tire of hearing it,’” says John. “Best of all, this CD is the perfect way for parents to introduce their children to jazz music. I feel so privileged to have been part of this project—and that’s probably one of the best reasons.”

Look for “The Circle Sessions: The Music of Carthay Circle” beginning Tuesday, November 6 at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, and at nearby locations such as Elias & Co. and Off the Page in Disney California Adventure park. (And if you like this album, allow me to also recommend the landmark “Dave Digs Disney” by the iconic Dave Brubeck Trio, one of several albums that paved the way.)

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


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