The American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Mauro’s Magical Disney Vacations Airs on Food Network

posted on January 24th, 2014 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


It’s a chilly January just about everywhere – so, we wanted to bring you a little something to warm up your winter – and – pun fully intended – whet your appetite for an exciting vacation at the Walt Disney World Resort soon!

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We recently had the opportunity to host Jeff Mauro, the Food Network’s Sandwich King, and his family here at the resort – and each one really found their Disney Side! And, because cameras caught it all, the Food Network is sharing the whole experience with you tonight!

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With visits to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and a fun-filled safari in Animal Kingdom, the Mauro clan hits the ground running to make this Disney vacation their best yet. In the midst of all the fun, they dine at restaurants throughout the resort, including the new Be Our Guest restaurant, Sanaa, Chef Mickey’s, Victoria and Albert’s and California Grill.

We had a fantastic time filming this special. Jeff met many of our world class Disney Chefs, and even got in the kitchen with some of them. Here’s Jeff with Chef David Njoroge at Sanaa, where he learned to make our famous Naan Bread.

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I’ve never been on a shoot where so much delicious Disney food was at my fingertips. Of course, being a producer and all, it’s my job to sample some of the food.

Okay, that’s a lie. I ate everything.

Hope you’ll tune in to the Food Network tonight at 8:00 Eastern / 7:00 Central, for The Mauro’s Magical Disney Vacation.

Here’s a preview…

Hmmmm. I wonder if I can get priority seating at Sanaa for lunch today…..?

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It’s Disney Cruise Line Week on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

posted on December 9th, 2013 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


Starting tonight, it’s “Disney Cruise Line Week on Wheel of Fortune” and we hope you’ll tune in, because there’s a lot of hijinks on the High Seas ahead!

To whet your appetite for what’s to come, we wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the preparation and the filming of this fantastic week of shows!

I always tell you that I have the best job at Disney and this latest adventure was no exception! I had the extremely difficult and arduous task of having to sail not once, but TWICE aboard the beautiful Disney Dream. (Okay – I lied. Sailing twice in a month? Awesome!)

First, we sailed with some of “Wheel’s” brilliant filmmakers to film scenes of both the spectacular ship and our breathtaking private island paradise, Castaway Cay. Look closely at the backgrounds – you’ll see behind the contestants all week on the show, and you’ll see their stunning work. Here’s a picture of their crew filming on the island.

Castaway Cay

I mentioned hijinks – well, when you hear that word, you probably think there were some, ahem, goofy things going on, and you’d be right. We filmed some very fun vignettes on our second sailing. (Here’s a shot of me giving some “direction” to the Boss – talk about intimidating!)

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Then, of course, it was time to head out to Hollywood to film at “Wheel of Fortune’s” studio. You’ll see how we worked with their fantastic art director – a former Imagineer, by the way – to recreate Castaway Cay right on their Sound Stage!

We’re excited to share a few photos: First, the finished set – don’t these ships look ready to sail?

Disney Cruise Line on the Set of 'Wheel of Fortune' Disney Cruise Line on the Set of 'Wheel of Fortune'

Mickey “overseeing” the Production.
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Goofy and Donald trying to steal “ears” from unsuspecting audience members…
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And the gang arriving for work at the Sound Stage.
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We were also thrilled that a number of cast members from Disneyland Resort attended the tapings, and here they are posing for a picture in front of the famous puzzle board.
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Everything went flawlessly – except for a couple of not-to-be-named chipmunks who were late for their close-ups due to a post-lunch nap. But, we caught up, and we think you’ll love what you see.
Chip and Dale

Enjoy these behind-the scenes outtakes that never made the “final cut,” then tune in to “Wheel of Fortune” all this week – and, buy a vowel!

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Making Disney Memories Week on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

posted on January 28th, 2013 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


As you know, Epcot recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Thirty years of making extraordinary memories for our guests. But, we’re not the only ones celebrating a 30-year milestone. So are our friends at “Wheel of Fortune”!
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Well, as you all know, we’re all about the celebrating! And what better way to join in than to bring a BIG dose of Disney magic to “Wheel of Fortune”? So, starting Monday night, it’s “Making Disney Memories Week” on “Wheel”! Coming your way, five fantastic episodes that are loaded with Disney puzzles, prizes, and magic!
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In order to prepare for this amazing week, our planning began months ago! We were thrilled to have Vanna White visit us at the Walt Disney World Resort, the Disneyland Resort and aboard the Disney Dream, as she got to experience New Fantasyland, the Disney California Adventure park expansion, the newest Disney Cruise Line additions… and, of course, spend some quality Disney Time with her daughter! (Don’t be surprised if you catch both of them together on camera during the week!) You’ll see a lot of Vanna’s adventures on the shows next week… But, until then, here are a few shots.


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Now, you know I always like to give you a little behind-the-scenes glimpse of the productions we’re a part of. When you see the shows on the air, a little pixie dust brings Cinderella Castle, Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Disney Dream magically to life. But, the real Disney magic came courtesy of our friends at Disneyland Resort Ride/Show Maintenance, who made actual attraction vehicles from Dumbo The Flying Elephant, the Mad Tea Party and Peter Pan’s Flight available to be part of the show’s set! I can only imagine the sight of them on the back of a truck, cruising up the Santa Ana Freeway from Anaheim to LA! While I don’t have that picture, I’m really excited to share this photo of their arrival at the Sony Studios!
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Some of your favorite Disney friends are part of the week, too. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy all take part in the fun… and, after they were done filming, even sat in the audience to watch! Lightning McQueen even stopped by to get in on the action! (I was really jealous – that guy gets great parking spaces!!)

It was such a fantastic experience being a part of “Wheel’s” 30th, and we’re so excited to share it with you beginning tomorrow night, Monday, January 28, through Friday, February 1st! Please tune in – there will be so many fantastic surprises. Check your local listings. Enjoy the shows… and don’t forget to buy a vowel!

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Attend ‘LIVE with Kelly and Michael’ Tapings at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 22nd, 2013 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


In case you missed it this morning, the Big Cheese — you know, my boss — dropped in to see Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan to extend an official invitation for the show to visit the Walt Disney World Resort in February! That’s right, on Feb. 18 and 19, “LIVE with Kelly and Michael” will be shooting four shows from the middle of Town Square at Magic Kingdom Park!

Attend 'LIVE with Kelly and Michael' Tapings at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort

Exactly a year ago, we had so much fun doing a week of shows with Kelly from Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai’i. We’re so excited that Kelly and Michael will be packing up their families to make some Disney memories here at the Resort — their first official visit here together! And the best part is — you can request tickets to be part of the audience! (C’mon! Can you think of a better reason to book a Walt Disney World winter getaway for a little Disney Time with your family?) Here are all the details: www.LIVEKellyandMichael.com.

The celebrities scheduled to appear are:

February 18, 2013 – Jon Cryer and Kat Graham

February 19, 2013 – Howie Mandel and Gary Allan

February 20, 2013 – Johnny Galecki, Atticus Shaffer and Chris Wallace

February 21, 2013 – Zach Braff and Ne-Yo

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‘My Yard Goes Disney’: Aboard the Disney Fantasy with Executive Producer Jay Shatz

posted on August 12th, 2012 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


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I can hardly believe it … but we’ve come to the end of our second season of HGTV’s “My Yard Goes Disney”!

Over the last two years, I’ve tried to share with you a bit of the magic behind the camera, as we’ve helped the HGTV Designers create these unique backyards. So, for my last Disney Parks Blog post for the season, I wanted to do something a bit different.

Television is a hugely collaborative medium. It takes hundreds of people countless hours to create what you see in each of these half-hour programs. That said, I’m sure it’s not a secret to anyone that somebody has to take command. In other words, there needs to be a “Master of the Vessel.” (Hey – tonight’s show is about Disney Cruise Line, so I should use a maritime expression, right?) On HGTV’s “My Yard Goes Disney,” that job belongs to Jay Shatz, the head of JayTV, and the series’ Executive Producer.

As you can imagine, we’ve worked very closely with Jay and his team, and we’ve had an incredible amount of fun making the series. I thought you might like to hear a bit of his perspective about how these shows are created. So, I asked him to share. Jay writes:

Our casting team looks at hundreds of wonderful videos from families, but every once in awhile I hear a scream from their office, “JAY. YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THIS!!” That’s exactly what happened when we looked at the entry video from the Galloway Family following their vacation on the Disney Fantasy. We’ve included their amazing entry video in this episode of HGTV’s “My Yard Goes Disney” – you’ll be blown away at the crafting magic done by Marcy Galloway. She’s a passionate and very talented crafter who not only sews Disney-inspired outfits for the whole family, she also creates some of the coolest Halloween costumes you’ve ever seen.

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Tonight’s episode will take you aboard the newest vessel, the Disney Fantasy, as a Disney Cruise Line-inspired backyard sails its way to the home of a very special family. Marcy was our inspiration to create a backyard makeover that encourages Harlie (6) and Grayden (4) to use their imaginations as they remember their voyage onboard the Disney Fantasy. The kids LOVED the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, went crazy in the Aqua Lab, and most of all, loved the experience of cruising at sea with mom and dad.

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Plus, watch this episode and you’ll see one of my favorite memories of the series: riding shotgun in a follow-up car as a newly restored pirate ship cruised at 45 miles an hour down I-75 towards the Galloways’ backyard!!

This episode is bittersweet for me because it’s our season finale. Over the past 8 months, I’ve had a chance to meet a dozen amazing families and transform their backyards into magical and unique spaces. Each yard and each family is different, but every project is built around the theme of sharing Disney memories with family and friends. Whether it was a cool cabana and pool inspired by Castaway Cay, or a fast moving zip-line capturing the speed of Expedition Everest, each family we worked with wanted (and got!!) a backyard that would become a gathering place to share their Disney memories with the most important people in their lives. As we wrapped up the Galloway shoot and I looked around the yard packed with happy kids and their parents, I felt blessed to share all this wonderful energy with these great families.

“Brandon

And to top it off…..I got to meet Jake the Never Land Pirate!!!! (That’s me in the picture with host Brandon Johnson, and Jake — I’m the one on the right). What an amazing way to cap off an incredible year of “My Yard Goes Disney”!! Thanks to everyone for watching and sharing in these magical experiences. Join us on HGTV tonight at 5:30 pm.

Perhaps my favorite thing about working on this show has been talking with you here each week. And I look forward to sharing more stories on lots of other things we’re working on. Meantime, I’m excited to tell you that our friends at HGTV have decided to continue airing encore broadcasts of “My Yard Goes Disney,” Sundays at 5:30 pm, so keep watching for your favorite families, yards, and Disney memories.

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My Yard Goes Disney: Creating Cars Land

posted on August 5th, 2012 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


Have you visited Cars Land yet? I was so honored to be able to take the Richesons, the family you’ll meet tonight in HGTV’s “My Yard Goes Disney”, to Disney California Adventure park for the grand opening!

Mom is the only lady amongst this amazing, energetic family. The rest are ALL boys! There’s Dad, Daniel, along with sons, Issac and Caleb, and more on the way; about-to-be-born twin boys are just days away! And they LOVE Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, Sally, and everything else “Cars”!

The Richesons Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Cars Land on HGTV’s'My Yard Goes Disney'

Using inspiration from the simply incredible, brand new land at the Disneyland Resort, the HGTV Designers re-created a mini Radiator Springs for this lucky family! You’ll see their very own Tower of Tires, right outside their Luigi’s Casa Della Tires. And the exciting “E-Ticket” Attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, inspired a pretty cool backyard race track of its own!

Another amazing feature of this yard – one-of-a-kind billboards! As you probably know, the “Cars” films drew inspiration from the legendary Route 66, which was known for many things, of course, amongst them, their famous billboards! When you visit Cars Land, you’ll see some very unique (and clever) ones… so the HGTV designers created an array of signs that tell this family’s story in an extraordinary way! Check them out!

If you haven’t had a chance to get out to the resort to see the latest jewel of the Disneyland Resort expansion, take a great, close-up look on “My Yard Goes Disney” tonight at 5:30 p.m. on HGTV.

Check out these other posts about “My Yard Goes Disney”:

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‘My Yard Goes Disney’: An All-Star Sports Twist on Toy Story Mania

posted on July 29th, 2012 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


One of the hardest questions I get asked around here is, “What’s your favorite attraction at Disney?” (Unfortunately, I was told that an Ocean View Room at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii doesn’t qualify as an “attraction.”) So, I usually follow up with, “Which Park?”

When someone says Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s easy. I love Toy Story Mania. How can you not? Speed, skill, thrills. And I get to break virtual plates, pop virtual balloons, not get in trouble AND don’t have to clean anything up? Count me in!!

You can count the Brown Family in, too, who you’ll meet tonight in HGTV’s My Yard Goes Disney. Aaron and Heather and their kids, Tobey (9), Timothy (5), and Tyler (18 months), love Buzz, Woody, and everything Toy Story! So when the HGTV Designers heard that, inspiration for this backyard makeover came easily!

The Brown Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Toy Story Mania and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort on HGTV’s'My Yard Goes Disney'

Of all the families we featured this season, none was more athletic than the Browns. Huge sports fans, all of them! Then, it’s no wonder that they’re big fans of Disney’s All Star Sports Resort – so much so, that the Designers recreated the Resort’s oversized sports court right in their backyard!

This family had so much fun playing football at the Resort that they were nearly late for their meeting with Buzz and Woody! (And, wouldn’t you know it, Sarge and his men showed up to put these kids through their paces, as well!)

Take a sneak peek at the designer’s out-of-this-world interpretation of Buzz’s spaceship. It’s one-of-a-kind… it’s life-size… it’s got on-board special effects… and you can see it here first.

Join us for all the mania on tonight’s episode of “My Yard Goes Disney!” at 5:30pm Eastern on HGTV.

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‘My Yard Goes Disney’: Creating a Backyard Wilderness Resort

posted on July 22nd, 2012 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


Many of us have spent lots of time exploring the Walt Disney World Resort. There’s so much beyond our fantastic theme parks and water parks!

One of my favorites is what insiders refer to as the “Wilderness Region.” This area is comprised of two unique resort experiences. At Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, guests hike winding paths, explore nature trails on horseback and have the time of their lives in the great outdoors among hundreds of acres of natural beauty. They can enjoy heated pools and a foot-stompin’ heap of recreation activities, including a campfire and nightly movie with Chip ‘n’ Dale. Although the resort is relaxing and quiet, Magic Kingdom Park is just a boat ride away!

At Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, guests escape to the rustic charm of a resort that recalls the majesty of the grand National Park Service lodges from the Great American Northwest.

The Monize family, whom you’ll meet tonight on HGTV’s “My Yard Goes Disney” episode, has the largest backyard the HGTV designers have ever encountered. Brendon and Mimi, along with their two daughters Sulah (6) and Linah (5), are huge Disney fans. And, because they couldn’t make up their mind which resort they love more, the designers used both as inspiration!
The Monize Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge on HGTV’s 'My Yard Goes Disney'

The girls are avid bike riders – in fact, the family love their surrey bike rides throughout the Wilderness Region. So the designers built them an amazing bike path! Have you ever toasted marshmallows with Chip ‘n’ Dale and watched an outdoor movie at the Campgrounds? Well, the Monize family gets their very own outdoor movie theater to make their Fort Wilderness memories last a lifetime!

And, to top it all off, see if you can spot a backyard geyser to rival Fire Rock Geyser, the Wilderness Lodge’s recreation of the famous geyser “Old Faithful.”

Hope you’ll gather round with us tonight for “My Yard Goes Disney!” at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on HGTV.

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‘My Yard Goes Disney’: A Blizzard Beach-Meets-Brooklyn Backyard

posted on July 15th, 2012 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


With summer in full swing, who doesn’t love a visit to a Disney Water Park? My idea of a perfect July day is to spend the morning riding thrilling attractions at one of the parks and then heading off to Blizzard Beach for a splash of excitement!

You love the Disney Water Parks, too? Imagine if you had one in your backyard!
The Thompson Family’s Backyard Gets a Blizzard Beach Makeover on HGTV’s ‘My Yard Goes Disney’

Tonight, on HGTV’s “My Yard Goes Disney,” you’re going to meet the Thompson Family. Maria and Rodney, along with their sons Issac (7) and Alex (4), fell in love with Walt Disney World Resort when the boys were younger. Alex visited Magic Kingdom Park when he was six months old. His parents bought him a plush Mickey Mouse doll that has followed him everywhere they’ve lived, from Puerto Rico to New York City.

Their absolute favorite place is Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. They love the snow theme throughout the park. As a family, they love the wave pool and Teamboat Springs. Rodney’s favorite is the Ski Patrol Training Camp and, no surprise here, Maria loves Melt-Away Bay.

Dad grew up in Brooklyn and doesn’t get to see snow now – except when he’s at Blizzard Beach. When the HGTV Designers discovered that, they knew that this would be the perfect makeover for their backyard. Just look at this snowy landscape they created!

The level of detail is truly extraordinary – right down to my favorite Water Park snack, the Blizzard Beach mini-donuts!

Chill with us on tonight’s episode of “My Yard Goes Disney” at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on HGTV.

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‘My Yard Goes Disney’: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai’i, Inspires a Backyard Retreat

posted on July 8th, 2012 by Tony Shepherd, Producer, Broadcast Marketing


I hope that you, your friends and your family had a fantastic and restful Fourth of July. I was at my favorite Independence Day spot – Magic Kingdom Park here at Walt Disney World Resort! Is there any better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than watching “Disney’s Celebrate America! – A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky”?

Another favorite place of mine is Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai’i. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit this spectacular destination half a dozen times in the last year. (See, I keep telling all of you that I have the best job at Disney!) But no visit was as memorable or as special as my trip there to film with tonight’s “My Yard Goes Disney” family, the Greens.

Titus, Emily, and their three energetic kids, Logan (6), Mia (4), and Andi (2) are huge Disney fans. They’re lucky enough to live not too far from Walt Disney World Resort, so they visit frequently. But their big dream was to visit Hawaii – and when the HGTV Designers saw their backyard, they immediately knew that it would be a fantastic spot to build an Aulani-inspired oasis.

The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney'
The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney'
The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney' The Green Family Gets a Backyard Makeover Inspired by Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai'i, on Tonight’s 'My Yard Goes Disney'

We had the most fantastic time exploring all of the great water play areas at Aulani, hearing the amazing stories of Hawai’i as told by our cast, and sampling pretty amazing Hawaiian food, too! Plus, the family even learned to surf on one of the exclusive Adventures by Disney excursions offered at the resort. You’ll see on tonight’s show that Logan was standing on a surfboard after less than an hour of instruction.

So much of our beautiful resort is captured in the family’s backyard. Take a peek and see if you can spot some of the infamous Menehune that live all over Aulani!

Please join us tonight at 5:30 p.m. EST on HGTV for some Disney magic, with a touch of aloha spirit!

Check out these other posts about “My Yard Goes Disney”:

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