Halloween at the Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney Imagineering’s 60th Anniversary

posted on December 21st, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative center behind Disney’s theme parks, resorts, cruise ships and our other family entertainment experiences, turned 60 this week. Originally established to conceive, plan and build Disneyland, Walt’s “backyard laboratory” now comprises 1,400 Imagineers who carry on a great legacy and commitment to bringing our iconic stories and characters to life in ways that constantly surprise and delight our guests. It’s incredible to think that what began as a small team in a few buildings in Burbank was the genesis of all of our travel and leisure businesses across the globe.

Whether it is the launch of the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, the unveiling of New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom Park or the reopening of Disney California Adventure park with Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, it is quite clear that the imaginative spirit of Disney Parks is as strong as ever. With new experiences planned at all of our destinations, including Shanghai Disney Resort, our Imagineers continue to be a cornerstone for creativity and innovation across all of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

And 60 years later, we feel like we’re just getting started. Please join all of us at Disney Parks in celebrating 60 incredible years of dreaming and delivering the most magical and memorable experiences in the world.

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New Fantasyland Grand Opening Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 6th, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Earlier today, we celebrated a milestone event at the Walt Disney World Resort as we took guests beyond the walls of Cinderella Castle and officially welcomed them to New Fantasyland. It was a star-studded morning with Ginnifer Goodwin from ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” American Idol’s Jordin Sparks and Mickey Mouse helping us do the honors as we marked the grand opening of the largest expansion project in Magic Kingdom Park history.

Tom Staggs With Ginnifer Goodwin and Mickey Mouse at the New Fantasyland Grand Opening Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort

New Fantasyland gives guests the chance to step into the worlds of some of our most beloved animated films of all time, including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. That’s why it was so exciting to have Disney Animation legends Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Jo Anne Worley, Ron Clements and John Musker on hand for the ceremony, as well.

This expansion represents countless hours of work by thousands of Imagineers and cast members, who together are taking Disney storytelling to a whole new level. The results are spectacular and a true testament to the talent of this extraordinary team.

New Fantasyland Grand Opening Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney once said that Disneyland, and by extension all of our parks, would never be complete as long as there is imagination left in the world. That was a promise he made to all of our guests. At the same time, he was charging all of us at Disney Parks to stay true to our legacy of creating experiences that bring our characters and stories to life, helping friends and families make memories that last a lifetime.

I think it’s clear from the stunning work that has gone into every aspect of New Fantasyland that there is still plenty of imagination left in our world.

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New Magic in the Making at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on October 31st, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


From flying over Never Land to taking a spin in a tea cup, Fantasyland has been home to some of our guests’ favorite experiences at Walt Disney World Resort since opening day. So when we set out to reinvent the most popular land at our most popular Disney destination, we knew that it had to be something truly spectacular – and I’m proud to say that New Fantasyland is exactly that.

Last Friday, I toured the construction site as we complete the finishing touches for our official opening on December 6, and while the entire expansion is extraordinary, there are a few aspects in particular that I think will be huge hits with our guests.
Enchanted Tales with Belle in New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park

Part of what makes Disney Parks so special is our ability to connect people with the Disney characters and stories they love. With Enchanted Tales with Belle, we’re doing that in a magical new way. Guests will enter Belle’s cottage, step through an enchanted mirror and be transported to the world of “Beauty and the Beast,” where they’ll help Lumiere, Belle and The Wardrobe recreate “the tale as old as time” by becoming part of the story themselves. Our Imagineers have brought these characters to life in ways that are sure to delight guests both young and old.

One of the hallmarks of a great Disney experience is the meticulous attention to detail that goes into the worlds we create, and the queue for Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid is another fantastic example of “the more you look, the more you see.” Before taking a voyage under the sea with Ariel and her friends, guests can explore the caves and grottos in and around Prince Eric’s castle, interacting playfully with Scuttle and a few of his friends along the way. The rockwork that’s been done is spectacular, and the paintings that adorn the vaults beneath the castle help draw visitors to New Fantasyland even further into the story of the beloved animated film.

One of the most gratifying aspects of this expansion is the way that our new attractions, entertainment, merchandise and food offerings all come together to create a singular experience that is a worthy addition to a park as iconic as Magic Kingdom Park. The result is only possible through the hard work and the collaboration from people across Disney Parks and Resorts, and I am extremely proud of what they have accomplished. We can’t wait to take guests beyond the walls of Cinderella Castle to discover the new stories, new adventures and new magic that will help them make shared memories that last a lifetime.


Keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog and follow @WaltDisneyWorld on Twitter for the latest on New Fantasyland. While you’re on Twitter, join in the conversation by using the hashtag #NewFantasyland.

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Grizzly Gulch Opens at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

posted on July 19th, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Welcome to the new Grizzly Gulch at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

In a spectacular ceremony last week at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, I was joined by key members of the Hong Kong Government as we unveiled Grizzly Gulch, a thrilling and distinctive new themed area that is the first experience of its kind at any of our parks around the world. Also with me for the opening event were Bill Ernest, President and Managing Director of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Asia, and Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Officer for Walt Disney Imagineering.

The second – and largest – area of our multiyear expansion, Grizzly Gulch transports guests to a Wild West mining town that recalls a golden era of hope, adventure and opportunity.

The miners who founded the town back in 1888 did so unknowingly on land with natural springs, resulting in unpredictable geysers and fountains throughout the town that will surprise and delight our guests.

Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine, the centerpiece of Grizzly Gulch at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

The centerpiece of Grizzly Gulch is our E-ticket attraction, The Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. With an innovative new ride system developed specifically for Hong Kong, Guests will take a thrilling adventure on a runaway train that goes forwards, backwards and crisscrosses in and around the entire area.

Grizzly Gulch joins Toy Story Land, the first of the new themed areas in our current expansion, which opened last November and has been a big hit with guests.

While we were in Hong Kong, Bill, Bruce, and I had a chance to do a walk-through of Mystic Point, the third and final component of the expansion, opening next spring.

With music by Danny Elfman, some of our most innovative storytelling ever, and a rich, beautiful setting, I feel confident that this third piece of our expansion will be an instant classic.

Once these three areas are complete, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort will have expanded by roughly 25%, giving guests even more opportunities to create shared memories that will last a lifetime.

Check out these other posts about Hong Kong Disneyland Resort:

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Celebrating the Culmination of a Five-Year Journey with the Grand Reopening of Disney California Adventure Park

posted on June 15th, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Today, we celebrate a defining moment in the history of the Disneyland Resort: the Grand Reopening of Disney California Adventure park.
“Walt

Cars Land and Buena Vista Street are the culmination of a five-year journey that has infused the park with more of our guests’ favorite characters and stories, more attractions and entertainment and more of the creative touches that make a Disney Parks experience truly unique.

These new areas are examples of what we do best — transporting guests to magical times and places where our characters and stories truly come to life. From the rockwork of the Ornament Valley Mountain Range to the hand-laid tile mosaics of the Carthay Circle Theatre, the level of artistry, craftsmanship and attention to detail is spectacular.

As you have seen here on the Disney Parks Blog over the last three days, the Disneyland Resort has hosted tons of media, celebrities and invited guests from around the world to give them an in-depth look at the transformation.

Today also marks the completion of an extraordinary period of expansion across the entire Disneyland Resort. Since 2007, we’ve completed major projects at both the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and have added more than 20 new attractions and shows.

At Disney California Adventure park alone, “World of Color,” Toy Story Mania!, The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Silly Symphony Swings have already proven to be extremely popular, and now Radiator Springs Racers, Luigi’s Flying Tires and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree are exciting additions that give guests even more entertainment options.

I’d like to thank all of the Imagineers, cast members, artists, designers, builders and craftspeople who worked so tirelessly and collaboratively to make this remarkable transformation possible. I’d also like to thank all of you — our loyal guests — who have believed in our dream for Disney California Adventure park and supported us every step of the way.

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Taking a Tour of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle Theatre – Opening June 15 at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on March 7th, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs Behind the Construction Walls at Disney California Adventure Park for a Hard-hat Tour of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land

Yesterday, Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and I stepped behind the construction walls at Disney California Adventure park for a hard-hat tour of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, two of the most significant elements that will cap off our multi-year expansion of the park. Led by the extraordinary team of Imagineers working on this project, Bob and I were completely blown away by the level of artistry, creativity and attention to detail of the work done so far and can’t wait for all of our Disneyland Resort guests to finally experience it firsthand.

Our day started on Buena Vista Street where we rode the iconic Red Car Trolley, explored the storefronts that line the street and then continued on to the Carthay Circle Theatre, the new icon of Disney California Adventure park. This new entrance to the park will transport guests to a romantic, idealized version of 1920s Hollywood when Walt and Roy Disney first arrived in California to begin their careers as filmmakers. Buena Vista Street will be the perfect place for guests to shop and eat, watch the parade, or just sit and soak up the atmosphere.

Then we headed to Cars Land, and when we got to the entrance of this all-new, 12-acre land, Bob and I both stopped to simply take in the stunning view before us. From the majesty of the Ornament Valley Mountain Range in the distance to the craftsmanship of each of the buildings in Radiator Springs, Cars Land is going to be a truly spectacular addition to the park.

Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs Behind the Construction Walls at Disney California Adventure Park for a Tour of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land

We wandered down Route 66 looking at all of the familiar hot spots from the films that are just about complete – Ramone’s House of Body Art, Flo’s V8 Café, the Cozy Cone Motel and Luigi’s Casa della Tires, just to name a few. We ended the tour with a test ride on two of the new attractions in Cars Land, Luigi’s Flying Tires and Radiator Springs Racers, which are both going to be huge hits with our guests.

Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs Behind the Construction Walls at Disney California Adventure Park for a Test Ride on Radiator Springs Racers

As we approach the finish line of our expansion of Disney California Adventure park, I am extremely proud of the passion, creativity and innovation that have gone into this entire project over the last several years. When we’re done, this park will be a testament to what we at Disney Parks do best – connect our guests to the iconic stories, characters and music they love…making memories that will last a lifetime.

And now for some big news – I’m pleased to officially announce that the grand opening of Cars Land, Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle Theatre will take place on June 15, 2012! Stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more details.

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Disney Fantasy Christening Ceremony in New York City

posted on March 2nd, 2012 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Tom Staggs, Mariah Carey, Bob Iger and Mickey Mouse at the Christening Ceremony of the Disney Fantasy

It’s hard to believe it was just over a year ago that we launched the Disney Dream. And yet here we are, marking another significant Disney Cruise Line milestone – the christening of the Disney Fantasy.

Neil Patrick Harris at the Disney Fantasy Christening Ceremony in New York City

During a star-studded celebration in New York Harbor last night, Disney President and CEO Bob Iger and I were joined by the ship’s godmother, Mariah Carey, and of course, Mickey Mouse, to do the honors and officially welcome this stunning new ship into the Disney family. As if Mariah and Mickey weren’t enough star power, Jerry Seinfeld, Neil Patrick Harris and Nick Cannon were also on-hand to help us commemorate this momentous occasion.

Now that the ship has been christened, the Disney Fantasy and her phenomenal cast and crew will head south to the ship’s new home in Port Canaveral to prepare for the upcoming Maiden Voyage on March 31.

Building the Disney Fantasy truly was a labor of love. As with the Disney Dream, our Imagineers worked closely with the team at Meyer Werft Shipyard in Germany to construct this spectacular addition to our fleet, one that builds on the creativity, innovation and artistry that are hallmarks of the Disney Cruise Line. I’d like to again thank the thousands of Imagineers, designers, artists and craftspeople who worked so tirelessly for more than two years to bring the Disney Fantasy to life.

The Fantasy has some favorite elements from the Disney Dream, like the AquaDuck and our enchanted artwork. And since guests aboard the Fantasy will spend more time with us on longer, seven-night itineraries, our Imagineers mixed in some new magic, like our two new Broadway-style shows, “Disney’s Wishes” and “Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” and the AquaLab, a brand-new water play area for the entire family.

With the addition of the Disney Fantasy, our fleet of ships has doubled – giving us the ability to offer more destinations and flexibility to our guests around the world than ever before. But more importantly, it gives us the opportunity to do what we do best… connecting friends and families to the Disney stories, characters and music they love to help make memories that last a lifetime.

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Tradition and Magic at the Grand Opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa

posted on September 23rd, 2011 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Last night, in a ceremony filled with Hawaiian tradition and Disney magic, Bob Iger and I had the privilege of officially opening Aulani, our new resort and spa on Oahu. We shared the stage with dozens of Hawaiian performers, scores of Aulani cast members and of course, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to celebrate another milestone in the incredible story of Aulani.

Tradition and Magic at the Grand Opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa

With invited guests, local Hawaiian officials and members of the media in the audience, the Grand Opening Ceremony took place on the beach of Aulani’s lagoon with the resort itself serving as the backdrop. It opened with an “oli pale,” a Hawaiian blessing, which was followed by a powerful performance by drummers, dancers and singers, including Keali’i Reichel, one of Hawai`i’s most popular artists who wrote a beautiful chant specifically for Aulani.

Then came time for the official dedication of the resort so Mickey and Minnie joined Bob and me onstage to do the honors. To symbolize the joining of the Hawaiian culture and the magic of Disney, we placed some sand from our beach into an ‘umeke, a ceremonial wooden bowl, and mixed it with – what else – some pixie dust.
Tradition and Magic at the Grand Opening of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa
From the very beginning we have committed ourselves to ensuring that Aulani embraces and celebrates the unique Hawaiian culture and traditions. We are grateful for the warm welcome we have received from the local community and I’d like to thank the Imagineers, cast members, construction teams, local artists and everyone who had a hand in bringing Aulani to life. Their passion, commitment and talent can be seen in every detail of this spectacular resort and I can’t wait for our guests from around the world to experience it themselves.

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Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

posted on September 20th, 2011 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

I’d like to thank all of the Disney Parks Blog followers who left comments or sent in questions regarding our AVATAR announcement today. We got a lot of great questions and while I won’t be able to answer all of them, I’ll do my best to get to as many as possible.

1) TIMING

We got quite a few questions about the timing of our first AVATAR experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including this one from Adam, “Any idea when the experience will be open to guests?”

We’ve just begun the design phase on our Animal Kingdom project and we expect to begin construction in 2013. From start to finish, a project of this size and scope takes about 5 years to design and build. We can’t give you an exact date but we know that when it’s complete, it’s going to be a truly unforgettable experience.

2) IS THIS A PARK EXPANSION OR WILL “LAND” REPLACE SOMETHING?

Several of you asked a similar question, including Doug from Utah – “Will it replace any existing attractions in Animal Kingdom, or will it be built in a new parcel of land within the park’s boundaries?”

Well, Doug, we’re just beginning the Blue Sky process so I don’t have much to share about how we are going to execute our vision for our first AVATAR land but we’re focused on this being an important addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I look forward to sharing more details as our plans progress.

3) SPECIFIC ATTRACTIONS

Jenna from Winnetka, Ill., asks, “What types of attractions will be in AVATAR land?”

This was hands-down one of the most popular questions we got and understandably so. While we’re still in the very early stages of design and planning, we expect this land to be anchored by multiple attractions, entertainment, merchandise locations, restaurants and other immersive elements. Our AVATAR lands will give guests the chance to see, hear and touch the world of Pandora and we can’t wait to dive in with James Cameron and his team as we create new experiences that will delight and thrill our guests.

Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

4) FILM IS PG-13, HOW DOES THIS MATCH W/FAMILY-FRIENDLY PARK?

Some of you, including Logan in Carnesville, Ga., asked about whether AVATAR was a good fit for a family-friendly brand like Disney.

Thanks, Logan, I appreciate your candor in asking this question. At its core, AVATAR is a film that embraces strong, positive themes of family, loyalty, living in harmony with nature and belief in oneself – all values that we share at The Walt Disney Company. You can be sure that these are the same themes that we will explore throughout our AVATAR lands. They will be places where friends and families can spend time together getting lost in a fantasy world, one of the true hallmarks of any Disney theme park experience. And with two sequels in the works, we feel this is a creative property whose potential is limitless.

5) AVATAR AT OTHER DISNEY PARKS?

We got several questions about whether there will be AVATAR experiences in parks/sites other than Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Kyle from Ontario asks, “Are there plans to add Avatar attractions at any other Disney parks?”

Well, Kyle, the only land we are announcing today is at Walt Disney World Resort but AVATAR is a possibility at any of our other locations. The first film AVATAR is a franchise with massive global appeal and its success at the box office both inside and outside of the U.S. – I should also note that as we determine our future locations, we look forward to working with our international theme park partners as our plans evolve.

Answering Your Questions About AVATAR at Disney Parks

6) ATTRACTION THEMING

Many of you, including Justin from Orlando, want to know, “How does AVATAR fit in with the Disney theme?” and more specifically, how does it fit in with the Animal Kingdom?

As I mentioned in a previous answer, AVATAR is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages. With its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty, it’s a great fit for the Disney brand and our parks.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the perfect place for our first AVATAR land because at its core, the park gives guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in whole new ways. With AVATAR, we’ve found the perfect opportunity to let our guests explore one of the most compelling mythical worlds ever conceived. Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.

7) WHY BUY SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEA INSTEAD OF LETTING WDI COME UP WITH SOMETHING?

Some of you asked why we would choose to collaborate with an outside partner rather than use our own Disney characters and stories to expand the parks. We are as committed as ever to creating attractions and entertainment around favorite Disney characters and stories – with Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park and our expansion of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park being two great examples. At the same time, we like to look beyond our own walls at non-Disney properties, like STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES, creating some of our most popular attractions. At the end of the day, we are focused on creating a great experience for our guests and I truly believe that this unique partnership with James Cameron and AVATAR gives us an entire world of imaginative creatures, fascinating locations and intriguing characters with which to do that.

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Special Thanks to D23 Expo Attendees

posted on August 19th, 2011 by Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


Thanks to all of you for your responses. Your passion, energy and affection for our parks and resorts is the reason we do what we do so I appreciate your feedback. I know many of you were hoping for announcements regarding new projects from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, especially at Walt Disney World Resort, so I wanted to take a moment to address those comments.

The projects we’ve already announced represent the largest period of growth ever in Disney Parks’ history. We’re working hard to create new and exciting experiences for our guests around the world and while the timing isn’t always right to announce another big project, we like to use opportunities like the D23 Expo to update fans like you on the great progress we’re making. We have several incredible projects currently in the works and look forward to sharing more information with all of you in the weeks and months ahead, including new details regarding Downtown Disney in Florida.

Greetings from the D23 Expo! Earlier today I shared the Anaheim Convention Center stage with Disneyland President George Kalogridis and some of our senior Imagineers for a behind-the-scenes look at several of the incredible projects currently underway at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. As many of you know, we are in the middle of the largest expansion period in our history so while we didn’t have time to talk about everything, we were able to update some of our biggest fans with the latest news from Walt Disney World, Shanghai Disney Resort, Aulani and Disneyland Resort.

For the D23 members who were able to attend the show, I want to thank you for the incredibly warm welcome that our team received. If you weren’t able to make it, we hope you enjoy the highlights from the presentation posted here on the Disney Parks blog.

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